Wedding

Made a road trip to Florida last week, for my nephew’s wedding.  I met the photographer prior, and didn’t want to be “that” uncle, so I didn’t pull my camera out of the car ’til after the wedding.  I did sneak one of the bride’s side of the wedding party, on my phone.IMG_20191228_112601093-02.jpeg

The road trip down and back was fun, with two stops in North Carolina, one in South Carolina, and one in northern Florida, all to see various family members we haven’t seen in years. After the wedding and reception, most of the bridal party climbed a tree for pics. The bride is very fond of climbing, and the venue, Chisholm Park, in St. Cloud, FL was alongside a beautiful lake, with trees, covered in Spanish Moss, and roaming Sandhill Cranes.

IMG_20191228_133609858.jpg

I grabbed the camera after the reception and took some pictures of the cousins and my girls, but WordPress is compressing them funny, so I’m gonna have to upload thoseto Flickr and link them from there. Another job for another day, I suppose.

Here’s a fun one of my second daughter, Sam, from my phone, though.

IMG_20191228_133104156-01.jpeg

…and one of Sam and Grace in the tree, as well.

Grace 2

Happy New Year, to you all!

 

 

College Milestone

My second daughter, Sam, finished her last final exam today, completing her bachelor’s degree. She’s already in the process of applying to masters and doctorate programs. You can imagine, we’re very proud of her.

FB_IMG_1576273480870.jpg

Amps and Guitars

I’ve been going through the house, looking for stuff I might not have had the heart to get rid of the last couple years. Stuff that was Danny’s or that he and I worked on together but that will never again see use with him gone. A month or so ago, my focus fell upon an old bass amp I had picked up as part of a trade for a motorcycle.

IMG_20191208_183139152_BURST000_COVER_TOP.jpg

Since he was the only bass player in the house, and it hadn’t been touched for at least two years, it appeared as likely a candidate as any. I opened it to see if any dust had accumulated that would need to be cleaned out prior to selling it. Inside, I found a folded piece of paper with just a few hand printed words, “I cleaned it already. Danny.” What an amazing and unexpected gift! I got it put back together and fired it up, but since I’m no bass player, I plugged in the acoustic Gibson a friend had gifted me last Christmas, just to see if the amp was still in working condition. Turns out it’s a pretty good amp for an acoustic guitar, even if that’s not its original purpose. I sure could use the space, but maybe we’ll let it stick around for a while.

In a completely unrelated story, ten or so years ago, my wife picked me up a beautiful archtop, acoustic/electric. If you’re as old as or older than me, you’ll remember the style Chuck Berry and Chet Atkins played.

IMG_20191208_184217276_HDR-01.jpeg

I’ve always loved the guitar, but it simply wouldn’t stay in tune. I did some research and found out that before you start making adjustments or replacing expensive parts, you may be able to fix that problem by spending a few extra dollars to put on a higher quality set of strings. I had been using the cheapest extra light strings I could find, so a few months ago, I stopped at the local music store and found a higher quality set. I also went a couple thousandths heavier, as I’ve gotten used to playing super heavy strings on my acoustic. Being the cheapskate I am, I wasn’t going to simply replace the old ones, while they still had life, so I just left them on, and the new strings sat in my basket of guitar stuff. I was playing around with my acoustic last night, and set it down and picked up the archtop, because it has a lower action and I wanted to play some finger picking stuff. After playing a really nice guitar with really good strings, the really nice archtop with crappy strings was noticeably inferior, so I decided it was time to restring. New strings, tuned, stretched a bit, then tuned again, and not only does it stay in tune, it sounds amazing. It’s like a new guitar. Honestly, supposing I could put crappy strings on a nice guitar and not degrade its performance, was pretty dumb. I had so much fun, my wife finally came out and threatened violence, if I didn’t put it away and come to bed.

Now, if I could just learn to make it sound like music…

June Is Busting Out All Over

Can it be we’re almost halfway through June already? We’ve had amazing weather, with only a few of our normal hot, humid, spring days. The variation from cool and dry to hot and humid, though, has made for beautiful skies to look at while I deliver chicken feed in the evenings. I always struggle to capture the detail in the sky in the same shot with the gorgeous evening light. Last Thursday night, there were beautiful rainbows on and off, as the storms came and went and the sun popped in and out from behind them. Looking for a good vantage point to capture the whole thing, I passed this lane, then stopped and backed up to get the shot just right. I really wish I had had a real camera, but the cell phone seems to have been going all out to get the job done.

img_20190613_200609379-01

My youngest, Isabel planted some seeds last year and assumed they simply hadn’t come up. I went out the other day to get some mint leaves for the tea and saw this wonderful, black hollyhock. I didn’t know what it was, so in researching, I found out, you generally plant hollyhock one year, then don’t get a flowering plant ’til the second season.

img_20190613_172012926-01

We got so busy, we ended up hiring another night shift driver, so now I at least have a little company working through the nights. It really does make a difference.

img_20190613_184330376-01-01

Delivering to one of the farms where they raise the pullets until they’re old enough to lay eggs, I found this old farm house covered in ivy.

IMG_20190605_190111186_HDR-01.jpeg

We have done a lot of planting this year, but everything that is flowering so far is stuff that reseeded on its own from last year.

img_20190613_171748946-01

I’m not sure why, but my flowers really do bring me a lot of satisfaction, even when they come up on their own.

img_20190613_171725806

For Father’s Day, Sunday, I woke to a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon and scrapple, cooked by the girls. I then was presented with an amazing triple chocolate and orange marmalade cake, made by Samantha and Grace, and finally best of all, an electric guitar. The story behind the guitar really made the day. Apparently, Sandra and Danny had done the research and bought all the tuners, the neck and the electric bits and pieces two years ago. Sandra had started making the thing, learning to use the jigsaw and router along the way, but couldn’t bring herself to continue after we lost Danny. Finally, a couple weeks ago, she decided it was time to try, and she has been industriously routing and assembling, wiring and soldering, finishing and polishing wood in all her spare time since. It will need a few tweaks before it is just right, but early Father’s Day morning I was presented with a homemade guitar that was the joint effort of my oldest daughter and my late son.

IMG_20190617_141512501.jpg

 

Theses & Prom & Flowers, Oh My!

It’s almost 90 degrees outside. The two youngest are swimming. Tina’s coming home from work. I’ll be heading off in a couple hours to feed the chickens. Grace is at a friend’s Memorial Day party. Sandra’s relaxing, and Sam and her friends will be over before long for dinner. I’m sitting in front of the computer in a quiet dining room wondering where the winter went.

FB_IMG_1558986636330.jpg

Grace and her boyfriend, Will went off to prom a couple weeks ago, with a bunch of their friends.

FB_IMG_1558986623296.jpg

It seemed like they had a good time, and the property where they gathered beforehand was simply beautiful.

img_20190415_165332599

I’m not a big fan of sitting through huge graduation ceremonies, but I was tickled I got to go to an event I really did enjoy. I got to hear Samantha and three of her classmates presenting the results of their theses. It was a lot of information, but Sam’s presentation evidenced her hard work and preparation and stood far above the rest. I was a very proud father that day.

img_20190525_172553515_hdr

I was puttering around with the two youngest, last Saturday, and at a junk store, I came across this bike. It was the twin of my grandmother’s old three speed. When I outgrew my first bike, I graduated to this, same color, seat and everything. I was so small, when I wanted to stop, I had to jump down between the seat and handlebars to get my feet on the ground.

img_20190525_171016864_hdr

The girls wanted to visit both Oxford and St. Michaels, while we waited for Tina to get off work. It had been a long time, but they were excited when I remembered we could cut twenty miles or so off the trip by using an old ferry. Ferry service here was started in the 1600s.

img_20190525_162544841_hdr

We saw a beautifully restored, old Volvo station wagon. The Oxford style picket fence with the hole in the top is a design from our own small town, Oxford, MD.

img_20190524_200156946_hdr-01

Spending closse to 60 hours a week feeding the chickens allows me to see some beautiful skies..

img_20190524_173642198_hdr-01

I don’t even have all my flowers planted for the season, but already, the perennials are giving us their beauty.

img_20190523_172034554_hdr-01img_20190523_172050671_hdr-01img_20190523_172010889_hdr-01img_20190523_171946355_hdr-01img_20190520_165834718-01img_20190520_165741067img_20190520_165706629

I had a procedure on my elbow last week, to reduce the pain and inflammation from a fifteen year old injury. I’m not certain it went well, though, as it has hurt more since the procedure than it ever did before. Here’s hoping it’s just in the process of working. Oddly, in the same time period, I seem to have started getting noticeably more clear headed, for the first time since losing Danny.  Time marches on, and seems to bring at least some distance and perspective.

Spring is rushing toward summer, but  despite the drudgery of work and the difficulties life brings, each day seems full of beauty and the company of friends and family, if only you take a little time to appreciate them.

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.

DSC00170

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.

DSC00136

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

FB_IMG_1552879051055.jpg

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

DSC00116

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

FB_IMG_1552277455425.jpg

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.

IMG_20190303_103733192.jpg

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.

IMG_20190303_105407799.jpg

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.

fb_img_1553909473186-1

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.

 

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.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jmK4CBpuLFiNhVaJo4xkd3qw6BfWjwm8/view?usp=drivesdk

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.

Ivy

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.

RedShoulder

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.

suphomie1

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.

IMG_20180824_180333563-01.jpeg

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.

IMG_20180811_192704596-01.jpeg

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.

FB_IMG_1536991180348.jpg

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.

IMG_20190131_153831863-02.jpeg

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.

IMG_20190131_153749664-01.jpeg

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.

Screenshot_20181218-002756-01.jpeg

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.

013-01.jpeg

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.

IMG_20190107_072139115_HDR-01.jpeg

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.

FB_IMG_1548507264267.jpg

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.

FB_IMG_1547346321967.jpg

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.

FB_IMG_1548113967932.jpg

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.