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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

What's On Your List?

I need to do a Christmas update, and I will get to that perhaps tomorrow, but today i wanted to touch base with those of you out there who read. I've been trying to plan out some reading for the beginning of the new year. Maybe it's just the clean slate a new year gives us, but I like to start the year with a new book -- which usually leaves me reading frantically at the end of the year to finish what I'm currently reading, which this year is Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith. In the new year I intend to read Red Square and Gorky Park, also by Smith . I think all three will be the start of a new bag of books to sell at Half Price. On Friday, however, I am planning to start Hot, Flat and Crowded by Thomas L. Friedman, and then will move onto his other four books: The World Is Flat, Longitudes and Attitudes, The Lexus and the Olive Tree, and From Beirut to Jerusalem. And since I got the new Dan Brown book for Christmas, I'll also read all five of his books this year. It's only a start, so far, but setting out books to read is kind of like making a pact with yourself to get through the list. So I ask anyone reading this, what's on your list?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Thank you, Tales and Tails!

I was out and about all day yesterday with a friend at the Chicago Christkindlmarkets, and then spent today taking my friend to the airport after watching numerous weather reports and then getting myself ready to fly out tomorrow. So I finally had a chance to start surfing around to read all the blogs. I checked out my somewhat local friendly neighborhood greyhounds at Tales and Tails ( if you don't know them, go give them a visit ). I found they gave me an award! I am grateful and humbled.

I'm supposed to give this to 15 blogs, and there are so very many blogger friends I've found over the past several months, so I'm passing this award to:

The Daily Puglet
Through the eyes of Tweedles
Brutus the Frenchie
Little Miss Pearl
Hank and Molly
Stella, Gunther and Betty
Yoda and Brutus
Sophie and Dixie
Mister Bean
Jemima Jones

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Holiday Travel

Sunday night I returned from my Thanksgiving trip to Florida. My drive back was uneventful, even though I had to plan a bit to make sure I hit certain cities at certain times. Whenever I drive to and from Florida I normally do it on a weekend, travelling on Saturday and Sunday with a night over stop in northern Georgia. Traffic is lighter, there's not as many trucks, you don't have to worry about rush hour traffic. There is, however, one drawback to that strategy in the fall/winter: football. Since I don't really follow college football much, I didn't realize that the Georgia Dome in Atlanta was hosting the Alabama / Florida game on Saturday. And, oh, yes, my hotel for the night was about an hour north of Atlanta! But the game started at 4:00 and I made my way right through the city on Interstate 75 at 4:45 -- with everyone already at the game! Traffic was thankfully light. The next day I knew I would be hitting some NFL cities: Nashville, Indianapolis, Chicago...... The Titans played the Colts in Indianapolis, so going through Nashville was no problem, and I managed to arrive in Indy just about at half time (I was listening to the game on the radio), so once again everyone was already at the game! Arriving back in Chicago around 5:00, the Bears' game was well over so football traffic wasn't an issue. I just ran into the regular city traffic through downtown that is always crazy no matter the time or day. I do learn a lot, however, in my holiday travels. As soon as you hit northern Florida, you can buy oranges and tickets to the Florida attractions; there are a lot of hand-made pecans for sale signs along the roadside in Georgia; once you get a certain distance south, there are a lot a lot of fireworks signs; McDonalds and Starbucks are your friend -- clean bathrooms and coffee, all in one stop; it helps to remember to pick up napkins with your beverage, especially if you don't have any in your car; singing along to loud, enthusiastic music gets you strange looks from other drivers but sure keeps you awake and passes the time; mileage signs are a rough guesstamit - I somehow gained and then lost 4 miles somewhere in Tennessee or Kentucky just like magic; no matter how hard I try, it still takes me a half hour to unload the car when I get home; and I learned something new this time when I stopped for milk and salad before going home (my philosophy has always been if I have to go home and out again, it's just not going to happen) -- Sunday night grocery shopping in my new neighborhood is a very bad idea because everyone, yes everyone, is doing the same thing.

Thanksgiving 2009: 9 stops for gas, 2 quarter pounder meals, one roast beef sandwich, 2 dollar menu sundaes, 2 Mccafes, 4 Starbucks, 6 states, 4 days camping, 3 dogs camping, 4 days of turkey leftovers, 3 college football games, one day at Disney, one trip to the beach, one day at Ikea, 3 Christmas concerts, two nights at Comfort Inn, spending time with crazy family -- priceless!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Being Thankful

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, a time to reflect, a time to remember and mostly a time to give thanks for all that we have. I am thankful for many things, mostly my family and friends, both real and online, I'm thankful for the bounty of the harvest that provides wonderful meals, I'm thankful for safe travels that let me get together with family and friends, I'm thankful for success stories, like Walter and Ace, I'm thankful for health and happiness, I'm thankful for all the blessings I've received this past year even in a difficult economy. It's times like this, when we sit back to think about it, when we really focus on what's important, that we realize that life isn't so much about the big screen TVs, the fancy cars, the fancy jobs, the luxury homes. It's about the connections we make with others, the humanity that we touch and that touch us. And I thank each of you that have read my humble little blog and reached out that hand (or paw) of friendship. It means the world to me!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I've Been Given an Award!

Wow, I've been given the Circle of Friends Award by Sugar. What a great honor! Thank you! If you don't know the cutest Golden, go visit Sugar's blog:

Here the terms of this award:
1. Publish a post on your blog - referring who awarded you.
2. Share 5 things you like to do
3. Share or pass this award to 10 friends.
The five things I like to do.....
1. Read
2. Travel
3. Spend time with family
4. Make plans and study up for a furry addition to the family
5. Read my friends blogs!
The 10 friends I'm awarding this to are......
Brutus the Frenchie and
Arlo the Pug and
Coco at the PUGnetwork and
Benny and Lily at Doggy Days and
Salinger at Multum In Parvo...with a Cinnabon Tail and
Stubby at Life of Stubby and
Tweedles at Through the Eye's of Tweedles and
Puglet of the Daily Puglet and
Fulmer the Pug and
Oisin the Pug and
Mister Bean of A Little Pug in a Big World and
Harry Pugalicious and
The whole Pug Posse and
Yoda and Brutus and
Well, hey, I've never been really good at following the rules! So if you come by and read this post, take the award and leave a reply so I can come visit you! And our circle of friends continues!! :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Not Entirely Wordless Wednesday

May we all take each day as a precious gift, use it wisely, savor it, go slowly and consciously through it, but always going forward, may we recognize the small treasures of the day that make it special, may we find something each day to be thankful for and may we bring out the best in ourselves to meet each day.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


In Florida, a man tried to steal a ferret by putting it in his pants. A witness confronted him in the parking lot and the man held the unhappy ferret up to the witness's face. In addition to theft, he's being charged with branishing a "special weapon" -- the ferret!

In New Jersey, a manatee was found in waters by an oil refinery. Since the water's too cold for a manatee in that area, he's being flown to Florida. I hope he doesn't get a middle seat -- I'm sure he'd use both of the arm rest!

36 inches of snow in the Denver area -- really? In October? I guess there's an advantage to living in the middle of the country after all.

A British couple, sleeping on their yacht, were taken by Somali pirates. I still think I deserve royalties -- they were all stealing my story!

U2 is planning a July 2010 concert in Soldiers Field again. Chicago Bears' groundkeepers are already planning the resodding of the field after the concert.

Bad economy? Then why are full face Halloween masks, the kind that cost upwards of $250 a piece, selling like crazy?

Americans Against Taxes on Food is running a commercial against proposed new taxes on "juice drinks and soda." And just what is of nutritional value in "juice drinks and soda"? You call that food?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Where Did All This Stuff Come From:

I've been doing some cleaning around the condo. That's what I do when I don't really want to do the homework I should be doing. I have an annotated bibliography due a week from Monday, a 2-3 page response paper due before November 16th, and a final paper of a "significant" length due by November 23rd. So while I've been pondering what to do my final paper on (I'm leaning toward Dante, but not sure exactly which direction to take) and looking up potential articles for my biblio, I've been cleaning. And like everytime I do some massive cleaning I get overwhelmed by all the "stuff" I have.

This time I've been going through my books. I love my new Ikea bookcase and have been sorting through my books to organize them. I've pulled out a couple hundred books (I think) to read and then sell. And I've walked past piles of other things that have gotten left undone. There's a lot of stuff in our lives that when we're honest with ourselves we can admit we don't really need.

In these tough economic times, people have cut back and changed their buying habits. But as a result many businesses are having a tough time and laying off more people. Why does our life, our very society, revolve around buying things we don't really need?

So I'm going to try -- I admit I may not succeed -- to simplify my life, to empty my life of unnecessary things that hold me back, and tie me down. Into this life then I can bring someone, not something, that I can love and care for and treasure more than any possession. I can bring a little four footed sweetie into my life and blog about her and her antics rather than feel tied down by my "stuff."

Friday, October 9, 2009

Happy Birthday, Bo!

"'Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo's birthday." Barack Obama said that was how he was greeted this morning by his daughter Malia. I had heard on the radio that i wake up to that he had won the Nobel Peace Prize. What I just learned is that it's Bo's birthday! Yep, that is important stuff!!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Split Second of Fame

Have you seen the new Fruit Loops commercial? It's touting the fiber in the cereal. No, I don't eat Fruit Loops and I don't intend to, but I do like the commercial. I saw it for the first time a few days ago. I saw it again today. The best part is the first split second of the commercial. Look to the left, on the couch, with the tongue action going. :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

New Bookcase Coming

One of the first things to be moved over to my new condo last year were some of my books. A dear friend gave me a Target gift card that I used to buy two new bookcases and a TV stand (and only had to chip in $12 myself!). When my furniture was moved over, a large wall unit book shelf and a regular size bookcase came with and were soon filled with books.

Yes, I'm a book geek, having roughly 2,200 books which includes textbooks and travel guide books, but the collection also includes many novels, books on history, science, philosophy, political science and law. Needless to say, it was quite a job getting the whole collection moved over, even if the move was only 16 miles.

Tomorrow, a friend is picking up yet another bookcase for me at Ikea and will kindly do the assembly work. This may not be my last bookcase, but it is yet another small detail that will make the condo feel more like a home.

Several years ago, a friend mentioned once that he never felt at home when he moved until he built some bookcases for the place. I think I feel the same way about having bookcases in the house, though I couldn't build them if my life depended on it! Some people have all sorts of seasonal decor, some people lots of dishes, some people collect and display things in a curio cabinet. For me, it's books.

What little detail makes your house feel like a home?

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Letting Go

Yesterday my DVR stopped working. I got this message out there that said it was unavailable or had been disabled, contact your cable company. So I did. I called and they tried to send the box a message but that didn't work. So today a technician is coming out to see if he can get the DVR going again. If he can't, he'll have to replace the box which means that nearly 100 hours of movies, specials and TV episodes will be lost.

As I started to think about the possibility of losing all those good viewing hours, I realized that most of it will be on again: I have nearly 20 movies from HBO or Showtime or TCM that will probably be on again at some point (I detest watching movies with commercials since they just gut the heck out of them). Also the TV episodes will no doubt be on again, though it will make for a difficult season without the premieres of House and Heroes. There were two series that I don't know if I'll be able to retrieve again, both from PBS: Guns, Germs and Steel (based on Jared Diamond's book) and The Supreme Court.

The technician is coming between 1 and 4, and I don't know if I'll lose everything. But I've prepared myself and in some ways it's liberating. I won't feel as if I have all these things to watch right now, it won't be a burden to have so much to watch. Sometimes a fresh start is a good thing.

I found a quote that sums this all up rather nicely, and I leave it for you. It's by Mary Manin Morrissey: "Even though you may want to move forward in your life, you may have one foot on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today?"

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Chill is in the Air

As I look out the sliding glass door in my condo's living room, I see the bright green leaves of the trees across the street beginning to turn yellow. Last fall, when I was in the process of moving my things in, I didn't see the incremental changes in the leaves. Now that I'm living there full time, I can see the colors change. Mother Nature has once again taken her paintbrush out from the drawer, dusted it off, and is beginning to get creative.

Soon the tank tops and thin tee shirts will get moved to the closet, making way for the sweaters and sweatshirts and long sleeve tees that are a part of the winter wardrobe. School has started and old routines are new once again.

The days are still warm, but the evenings have a definite chill in the air. The sun is setting earlier now making the days a bit shorter and the evenings just a bit cozier curled up at home.

The seasons change and the cycle continues and though I love the spring and summer with their promise of new growth and the delivery of warm, sunny days, I also love fall with its colorful trees and cool, crisp nights. Leave the cold north, some tell me. We don't have snow and ice, they say.

But aren't the worst days of winter the reason we can appreciate those promising spring days? How can we know the beauty of a field full of spring flowers if we have not also known the desolation of a grey winter's day? It's hard to really appreciate things we see every day, even though we might try very hard to make a point of noticing. Do people in year round warm weather climates notice a nice summer day?

I think Mother Nature has given a special gift to those of us who live in a northern climate. She's given us a yardstick, she's given us a way to see how each day stacks up against each other. She's given us a means of appreciating the everyday around us.

So as summer draws to a close and autumn takes its place, I'm not sorry to see the seasons change. I know I will look out on a grey, cloudy, snowy, cold day and remember the warmth of the sun, the brightness of the sky, the freshness in the air. And when that day comes around again, it won't be just another day of the week. It will be special.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

Okay, I admit football isn't my favorite sport (I think that is reserved for hockey and maybe baseball as a close second), but it's hard not to get excited about a brand new season, with a brand new quarterback, playing an age old foe! Tonight it's Bears/Packers, baby!!

On another note, I'm not sure how many people out there watch Oprah. I don't, normally. But here in Chi-town they run a repeat of the morning's show after Nightline, so it airs around 11:00 pm. Sometimes when I have the TV on for background and catch part of the news and then get distracted, I'm aware of the time when I see Oprah come on. Anyway, the other day I saw part of her season opener. She had shut down Michigan Avenue one day last week -- yep, the Magnificent Mile, all of the street in front of that retail bliss tied up by the Oprah people. That alone was cool to see, but what was really fun was this:

This fun Flashmob was awesome! And yes, tonight's gonna be a good night!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

On the Road Again

Travel is hard. You have to pack up whatever you think you might need into a small suitcase, consider if you need to pack fluids in those 3 oz containers if you'll not be checking luggage, wear appropriate clothes for the trip (too hot or too cold on the plane? non binding slacks, especially for long flight), go through security in stocking feet making sure you've worn "airport socks" (aka socks without holes!) get wanded at airports with bored TSA agents (happened to me in Cody, Wy. 6 TSA agents, 5 passengers at the time = bored TSA agents; it also makes Cody one very secure airport!), find food at the airport past security, find coffee at the airport past security, find the restroom hopefully past security (if not, repeat the going through security step), hope your flight is online (especially if you have a connecting flight), line up for the "cattle call" airline and find a seat that you can call home for the next few hours or so, shove your carry on in the overhead bin, wait for the 10,000 feet ding before turning on your ipod (though if something the size of a postage stamp can hamper an airplane we've got big trouble!), hope the guy next to you doesn't encroach on your space (I may be small but I paid for my seat just like he paid for his!), listen to the weather report from the cockpit for your arrival city, listen to the Southwest flight attendents sing their version of the "Rawhide" song, land and then watch the plane drive the rest of the way to your arrival city because the landing strip is remote, watch as 90% of the plane gets on their cell phones the minute wheels are down, watch as 90% of the plane unbuckles their seatbelt before reaching the terminal, wait patiently as everyone stands up to leave when the doors haven't opened yet, walk out of the gangway into a strange airport and try to find signs directing you to the restrooms and the baggage claim, find the right carrousel for your flight, grab your bag and heave it off the belt, find the airport exit and hope that your ride hasn't forgotten about you!

Yes, travel is hard, but it is also rewarding. Travel allows us to expand our world, to see things we've never seen, to have experiences we've never had before. It's a way to see far away family and enjoy the celebrations that go with it. It opens up your mind to other cultures, other ways of doing things, to rituals and traditions that are foreign to you. And it reminds us that we are constantly learning new things, that education doesn't stop at graduation, that there's a whole world of things we don't know. But travel is one small step toward changing that ignorance.

My travel won't be exotic, but I'm sure I'll learn something new because every time we travel, even to a place we've been before, something has changed, or we find something we missed the last time. My travel won't be long, just a week, but there will be a while when time has slowed and it seems like a day can last forever and then there will be those days that fly right by.

So where would you like to go, on a fantasy trip? And what would you like to see or do there? Can you dream? If you can, you can make it happen! Bon Voyage!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

So starts "A Tale of Two Cities" by Charles Dickens. It continues, "it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way - in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. "

This time of year, the end of August, just five days from Labor Day weekend seems like it fits that quote. It falls between summer and winter, between the carefree days of summer and the start of a new school year, between health and illness, between life and death. It is a time to reflect back, to look forward. I know this is usually done in January, the month named after the Roman god Janus who had two faces, one to look back and one to look forward. But there doesn't seem to be real change on January 1st. All the changes are arbitrary, man made. Summer to autumn is a change that has been going on for a long time. It's time to revel in the last days of the growing season, to enjoy the warmth, and it's the time of harvest, the time to prepare for winter, and it holds both seasons close.

I have watched a little this weekend of the memorial services for Edward Kennedy. The passing of the last Kennedy son of his generation is a time marker. I've not followed his career much, but knew of some of his problems from news reports. Yet I heard a report during these last few days that I had not heard before. We had all heard about Chappaquiddick, but how many had heard of Jessica Katz, a little girl dying in a Russian hospital, that was brought to the US through Kennedy's intervention? She's now working in New York to help find homes for the homeless. There was bad, but there was also good. And so the story continues.

My extended family lost Cesar, the cocker last year, Scooter the beagle mix in February and Abby the yellow lab in July. Cesar was the only dog I know who would beg for salad. I remember when Scooter was a puppy and came to visit, still sporting her little pink stitches from being fixed. I will always remember Abby picking up all five dog bowls after dinner during a family get together in San Antonio. And while it's sad, there's joy, too, to meet the new additions, Shiraz the beagle/Brittany mix, Belle, the new yellow lab puppy, equipped with sharp puppy teeth, the energy of youth and the attention span of a fly, and Ziva, the rescued poodle puppy who is a scaredy-chicken but is as cute as a button. There was bad, but there was also good. And so the story continues.

Walter the pug was injured last month, still struggles, goes to therapy, trying to get whole again. But in that time, how much good have we seen? The healing blanket, the Indy bloggers package, the latest package from Loren, all the good wishes and support for someone most haven't met. There was bad, but there was also good. And so the story continues.

We are ready to flip the calendar to a new month, just like changing from one day to the next. This is a time of change. A chill is in the air (okay, it's not supposed to be in the 50s in Chicago in August, but that's a whole other story!), new notebooks are in the stores, football preseason is in progress. This change doesn't have to be in the superlative. It doesn't have to be the best, or the worst, but most things in life seem to be a little bad and a little good. And maybe we really can't know the good, appreciate the good unless we also know a bit of the bad. It makes the good just a little bit sweeter. And so the story continues.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Birthdays, Gotcha Days, Every Day is a Celebration!

Today is a friend's birthday. I have talked to her for 8 years, but met her in person for the first time last summer. I know she's most likely doing something with her family today, but knowing her, she's doing the work, the hard stuff. That's just the type of person she is. But it's still a day to celebrate her arrival into this great big world, and even though it's not an anniversary of when we first "met," it's a good day for me to acknowledge how much better my world is because she came into it 8 years ago.

So isn't every day a celebration of sorts? Isn't there something special you should be remembering? It doesn't have to be the exact birth date, or gotcha date or anything. Those are just our time markers. But they provide us with a moment to remember to celebrate the joy, the friendship, the love that is there all the other 364 days of the year, too. It's that joy and friendship and love that sometimes gets lost in the every day world (grocery shopping, laundry, running here and running there, obligations and registrations). So we take that special day to remember and restore and refresh. It takes special days like this to make our life whole again. In between all of the bad things that go on in the world and all the pain we see, it's the good points we focus on that make all the difference.

What's your celebration today? :)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Can't But Make You Smile!

Have you seen this picture of the squirrel who popped up in a couple's Banff vacation pictures? They had set up the camera on a tripod and the guy then got in the picture with the girl, and began taking pictures. They had one of those little remote clickers and took a few pics of themselves when the little critter got curious and checked out the camera and then popped up just as the camera clicked. Now there's a whole slew of pictures with this photogenic little guy! Go squirrel crasher!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I Hold You In Contempt

I have often felt that so many people today are unnecessarily mean. I'm not talking only about heinous crimes such as murder or animal cruelty, but the average everyday things people do that they really shouldn't do in a civilized society. You've seen it, I'm sure: the person who cuts you off in traffic because he refuses to wait his turn, the parents at the holidays pushing and shoving and potentially hurting someone in a rush to get a scarce toy, the check out clerk who talks to the clerk at the next register while ringing you up and totally ignores you. These are not exactly crimes you'd jail someone for, but you'd sure like them to act a little better.

I bring this up because yesterday's paper had a column that started out about a judge who held a court spectator in contempt because he (the spectator) yawned loudly. This judge apparently has the highest rate of finding people in contempt in the county. Maybe this shows that the judge "goes too far in pursuit of order in his court. Or maybe they are evidence that [he] is an admirable defender of civility inside one of our most important institutions."

The author of this article, Barbara Brotman, who also writes the outdoors column for the paper (with some good hiking ideas in the area!), wanted in on this action.

"That driver who forced me onto the shoulder as i tried to merge into his lane on the Eisenhower (expressway)? You, sir, are in contempt of court!

"The people yakking through an entire Grant Park Orchestra performance in Millennium Park? Comtempt of court!

"The owner of the SUV hogging two spaces in a packed parking lot? Contempt!

"Tailgaters, cell phone shouters, car music blasters -- I'd jail 'em all.",0,4263603.story

So are we lacking civility as a society? Have we become so narcissistic as to totally ignore the impact we have on others? Are our lives so busy that we can no longer take the time for small acts of courtesy to strangers?

I would like to think that I see the positive side of people, that there are just a small percentage of people who are mean and nasty and uncivilized. But every once in a while I think it's all going to hell in a handbasket. (Were DID that phrase come from!?) Then something happens, something positive and good and uplifting.

That's when you realize there really are disability lawyers out there who really are working to give the weak and broken their day in court and a fair and just settlement, there really are people who care about the environment and encourage people to leave less of a carbon footprint without making them feel as if everything they've done so far is completely wrong and stupid, there really are nurses out there who care for patients and will endure long and trying days making them feel more comfortable, there really are people out there willing to walk for three days to raise money to help find a cure for breast cancer, even if they don't have a family member who's been affected, there really are organizations out there that rescue animals who are abandoned or the victim of cruelty and make sure these least among us have someone looking out for them.

There's better people out there than maybe this city girl would think, sometimes. There are still those for whom the word civility isn't obsolete. And maybe being held in contempt wouldn't be a bad way to make sure the rest get the message. Either that or have them write "I will not be mean" 1000 times!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Air Show Madness

Yesterday I walked to the lake in time for the really cool acts in the Air and Water Show. I got to see a coast guard helipcopter doing a water rescue, got the daylights scared out of me by an F16 flying directly overhead, loud, fast, and smooth, saw the Thunderbirds doing incredible fly bys. I saw a lot of cool planes, got a little toasted, walked home, ate, showered and crashed!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Off to the Woods

Later today I'm driving off to Madison, Wisconsin to meet a friend for a nice dinner tonight, and then a bit of hiking tomorrow. We'll be hiking in Dodgeville, Wisconsin at Governor's State Park.

I live in a big city, surrounded by brick and concrete, with traffic noise and people noise. Most of the time it's okay for me. It makes me feel less lonely to know there are other people around. Even the thump thump of the guy upstairs when he's home is reassuring. But sometimes, every now and then, it's nice to get out and enjoy some peace and quiet, away from the bustling crowds, away from the noise, away from the city life.

Out there, in the woods, is nature, what the original explorers first saw when they came to this big continent. Oh, yeah, it's been moderized (thank goodness there are bathrooms, however rustic, in the park), and non native plants and flowers are found, but it's vastly different from the view out my windows and I'm going to enjoy a little change of scenery for a day or so.

Still I know coming home will be sweet, as it always is when traveling. It's not that I haven't enjoyed getting away, seeing other things, tasting other flavors, but home is...well, home. But it's good to refresh, to refill myself with what's out there. And so a "nice trip to the forest," will recharge my batteries, refresh my soul and yes, make me yearn for home, and my couch and my fridge, but it will also make me a better person, better able to face another week!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Life Appreciation, Day One

A couple years ago, there was a "Life Appreciation" meme-like thing going around here, so I thought I'd bring it back once again. Life gets busy and we forget the little things that can make us smile, that can make us forget the bad things in life, that can make our day brighter. So for today, post about nature, something recent that made you smile, that amazed you, that made you realize there's more to this silly world than your work-a-day life. It can be a story, a picture, both, whatever you want it to be.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I Am a Part of All That I Have Met

I've been part of an internet community for 8 years now, an X-Files community-- a community that still exists in one form or another for a television show that went off the air 7 years ago! But this community is remarkable in more ways than just still exisiting. People are still meeting each other, traveling to strange places for the first time and meeting an online friend. Friends that have left the show's community remain friends through discussion of real life events.

I've met several of the online friends from the X-Files community, even had several of them come stay at my house. These are real people, with real everyday concerns, with lives that exist outside of their online persona. And they've now crossed the line. They are no longer just "internet friends." We've laughed, and talked well into the night, we've shared meals together and gone to church together. We've hugged, greeting each other at the airport with signs, waved goodbye at airports as they pass through to the other side of security. They have become real life friends.

Recently, I've followed a community that exists in the PugBlog world. Groups of pug owners, yeah, those funny looking little comedian dogs who can grab your heart as quickly as they grab a dropped piece of food, get together for pug meet ups -- people and pups getting together. They provide support, especially when someone is injured or sick (check out Walter the Pug's blog responses, they exchange gifts that sometimes include treats and stuffies.

Finding friendship online isn't so unusual. Keeping it, and having these friends cross that line -- the line that says be careful who you meet, be careful what you wish for, be careful what people will think of you -- is a treasure. To my online friends who became real life friends, thank you for crossing that line. And whether we stay in touch, or drift apart as the years go by, you will always be a friend in my heart, just like the two friends who lived down the block when I was a kid. I only knew their first names, they moved away somewhere and I haven't seen or heard from them since.

Everyone you meet, real or virtual, leaves an impression on you. They help make you. How much more powerful is it when someone takes that leap of faith and crosses the line. In the poem "Ulysses," Tennyson says "I am a part of all that I have met." How many more people have become a part of me since I've found kindred souls online? I can only hope that in some small way, I have touched them as well.

Friday, April 3, 2009

April is the Cruelest Month

So wrote T.S. Eliot in "The Waste Land." And it seems to be true. Today, in Binghamton, NY, a gunman killed 14 people at an immigration center, some of whom were taking their citizenship test when they were shot. Two years ago in April, 33 people were killed on the campus of Virginia Tech. And nearly 10 years ago, in late April of 1999, 12 students and a teacher were killed at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado.

But it's not just April. In February last year, five customers and employees were killed in a robbery at a Tinley Park, Illinois Lane Bryant store. In December of 2007 a gunman killed eight people in a Von Maur store in Omaha. And the list can go on and on and on.

The reporter on the news today said that this type of tragedy is an American signature tragedy. Gun violence doesn't need to be dramatic multiple killings either. In Chicago this school year, 20 Chicago public school students have been killed, 18 the result of gun violence, most of them one at a time over the course of seven months.

I don't even pretend to have the answers, but I do have a lot of questions. Why do the simplest arguments need to be resolved with a gun? Why are so many innocent bystanders killed? When did human life become so disposable? Why is it so easy to obtain a handgun legally? Why do proponents of handguns object to delays for background and criminal checks on gun purchasers? And what can be done to stop this killing?

I don't have answers to these questions or any others, but I do know something needs to be done about this. Something needs to be done to stop the killing, to make lives count, to make the lives lost not be for nothing, but perhaps a catalyst for change, for a better way. Life, in April or any other month, doesn't need to be cruel. There has to be a better way.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Darkness or Light

This week's Gospel included the most quoted line in all of Christendom: John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. But Father Ralph focused on lines that came after that: For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but He sent Him that the world might be saved by Him... This is the judgment, that though the Light has come into the world, yet men have loved darkness rather than the Light, for their works were wicked.

But nobody really wants to hear the Good News or the good news, do they? We really do prefer the darkness, don't we?

Open a newspaper, turn on the TV news, open a news webpage, and the headline will most likely be bad news. I just opened up and the main headline was "Fourth Oakland officer dies after shootings." Every so often there's a story on the evening news that is uplifting and positive, but that is the exception rather than the rule. And any news editor will tell you they are giving the public what they want.

And we stop to look at car accidents, slowing to crane our necks to see what's happening. We can't take our eyes off the major bad news stories (consider the massive coverage of the tsunami and Hurricane Katrina a few years back), we remember where we were for major tragedies (individuals from previous generations remember exactly where they were when they found out JFK was shot, for some it's the Challenger disaster; do you remember where you were on September 11th?) It's all the negative things we remember and use to mark history.

So are we part of the problem? Are we so ready to condemn (or be condemned) that we don't allow ourselves to be open to be saved? I certainly don't have the answer, and am also guilty of looking at the bad rather than the good.

Maybe we can take a moment out of our lives, just a moment every day to part the positive, to point out the good, to encourage it, even. So what in your life today is good? What did you read in the paper, or see on TV that is positive? What today renews your faith in the goodness of people? Let's be part of the solution. Let's make that one small step to acknowledge the positive, encourage the good. It really is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. It's spring, it's daylight savings time, it's the time of renewal, and dusting out the old cobwebs and starting fresh.

So light that candle, renew your life. Whether you are religious or not, it's worth a try to renew your spirit.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

The day after Thanksgiving I left for Budapest. The "Christmas Markets" trip was nice, Prague was great, but it was winter. It was cold enough for hats and gloves and sturdy shoes or boots. And that is how December began. When I arrived back home, there was snow on the ground, a chill in the air, and signs that winter had settled in for a long stay. A week and a half later when I left for Florida for Christmas, it was -3, and the Bears were scheduled to play the Packers that night at Soldiers Field. My return was greeted with a 40 degree day, sunshine and blue skies. It seemed as if we were getting a rather late and rather chilly "Indian summer."

Then the whole thing tanked. While we had quite a bit of sun in January, the temperature never really got that high. It probably stayed mostly in the single digits or teens, reaching the twenties maybe a few times. Maybe. It snowed, and snowed, and snowed, never all that much each time, but it's piled up and the damage to the streets (some of which were never really fixed last year) only became evident when the city plows went through. The snow was pretty, at first. White, fresh, glistening. Only we all know snow doesn't stay that way very long. It turns off-white, then dusty white, then contains streaks of black (and perhaps even yellow) and finally turns into a dirty mess on the side of the roads and walks.

Today, most of that changes. Today, the temperatures are enough to melt most of the snow. Today we can see green peeping through. Oh, sure, there is still dirt. What landed on the snow now lands on the sidewalks and streets as the snow melts. And everything is wet, puddles everywhere. But the sun is out, the temperature is 58. It feels like spring is coming.

I know it's just February, and early February at that. But we've turned the corner, so to speak. The sun is higher, it's at a better angle for the Northern Hemisphere to get the light and warmth. The melting snow gives us the promise of something better to come, even if it's probably a couple months away. We've made it through the worst of it, our minds tell us. We've made it through the bone-chilling cold days of January, the month that seems to go on forever. We've made it through the days that come and go without hope, without promise. We're on the other side of that hill now, still with a ways to go, but past the roughest parts. And we know that for a fact. This coming week, pitchers and catchers report to spring training. It's that yearly sign that we're over the hump, past the worst winter can throw at us, on the downward slope of that nasty pile of snow going toward spring.

Yes, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. It needs a few good rains to clean up the crud, but it's coming, sooner than we think, when the dream begins again, and a young woman's fancy turns to baseball once more.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Neverending Story

Since I haven't updated this journal in so long, I decided to take a look at it and do a little redesigning. Like everything else in life, it needed an update, a new look, a fresh face. It may change again, at another time, it may look totally different. But making these changes in this journal, as in life, is sometimes necessary.

And that brings me to my New Year's resolutions. It's a time to say I, too, want an update. I, too, want a fresh face, a new look for the world to see. The changes don't always last, the traditional ones keep coming back every year: lose weight, eat healthy, exercise more. The lack of success in one year doesn't eliminate the possibility of change in the new year, so we keep including these resolutions.

Some may say it's foolish to make the same resolutions year after year after year when there's very little, if any, progress made on them. But is it foolish to try? Is it foolish to want to be better? Aren't we all just fallible humans who are just trying to go forward? And what is the alternative if we don't try? Do we give up?

In our own personal progression, our own growth, trying is necessary. It's a sign to ourselves, a sign to everyone else, that we want to improve, we want to make ourselves better, we care that our world be a little better. We may not always succeed. We may fail horribly. But maybe, somewhere along the way, we achieve a little victory that makes it all worthwhile. Maybe we learned something about eating better. Maybe while we still eat things we know we shouldn't, we've started to buy more locally grown foods, and thereby helped local farmers stay in business. Maybe we're walking to the store, getting exercise and creating less emissions into the air we breathe. Maybe we're carrying our own cloth bag to the store to get our junk food, and eliminating all those plastic bags.

Success isn't measured by how many of our resolutions are kept. Success is measured by those little steps, those small gestures that don't seem to mean much if taken alone. Success is measured by the fact that we keep making resolutions, that our will is there to be better, to improve ourselves and our world. My New Year's wish to you is that this neverending story continue and blossom and thrive. For if we stop, if we give up on improving ourselves, all is lost.