Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving and Shopping

Over the past few weeks there have been different lists of retailers going around on social media, A list of those retailers  that will be open for shopping on Thanksgiving Day and another of those that will be closed.  This information has been shared and shared and shared in an effort to get us to boycott those stores that believe that consumerism is more important than time spent with friends and loved ones.  Until this morning, I was on board with not giving in to the rampant consumerism, exhibited by shopping on Thanksgiving Day,  in our country - not that I had any plans to shop today, but I was willing to commit to spending my money only with those stores that remained closed today when I was ready to shop.  So what changed?

As we headed to church this morning, I was especially thankful that in a few hours I would be sharing a home cooked meal with my whole family.  I was keenly aware of the fact that many people would not be spending their Thanksgiving that way.  Too many people are lonely and have no one to call family or even friend.  Too many people have no means with which to prepare a Thanksgiving meal.  For many people the holiday season is marked by sadness and despair rather than joy and hope.  These are the people who volunteer to work on holidays such as today.

For those who have no family or friends, working on holidays is a way to conquer, or at least dull a bit, the loneliness that today could bring.  It is a way to be out among people,  sharing in the excitement as the Christmas season officially gets underway.   The good wishes that are exchanged between customers and employees may be the only thoughtful words that these people hear today.

Some people may choose to work today to earn money to pay their rent in a few days, or put any meal on their family's table, or buy that one special Christmas gift for their child.   It is quite the conundrum that society has created for itself.  In an ideal and compassionate world,  today would be a paid holiday for all retail workers and public Thanksgiving tables would be available and open to anyone who wished to eat in communion with others.  Maybe someday...

Until then, remember that you do not know the story of the person who checks you out at Target, or finds the correct sized shirt for you at Macy's, or prepares your order at McDonald's.  You could make that person's day with a smile and a genuine "thank-you."  Isn't that what today is about, giving thanks?

I still am not going anywhere near a store today, but I have softened my rather judgemental attitude toward stores that are open and the people who have chosen to shop.  It is always advantageous to be able to look at multiple sides of an issue and at least try to understand the perspective of both parties. I think that today I matured to that point at least on this issue.


I am thankful to have shared a meal and the afternoon with my family.

This year, Weber smoked the turkey and Brooke prepared everything else.  My only responsibility was the mashed potatoes.  Well, and cleaning.  There is a real possibility that the amount of dog hair that I vacuumed up outweighed the turkey!

It is a long sad story, but we are without a dishwasher right now while we wait for an ordered part to come in so that it can be repaired.  This is probably the worst week of the year to be in this situation!  Brooke has been good all week about washing dishes as she goes.  After dinner this afternoon, Weber washed, Jason dried, and I put away.  With a little team work, it all went quickly and smoothly, with the exception of the one broken bowl.  :-)

With all of the terrible, scary, ugly, painful things that are going on in the world right now,  we all need to remember to count our blessings.  We need to give thanks for what we have and we need to makes sure that we tell those close to us that we love them whenever we have the opportunity.  Nothing is certain in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those in the U.S. and to those of you who don't celebrate this holiday, I pray that your day was blessed  and for that, you are grateful.

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Whirlwind Week

The past week seems to have flown by!  Last weekend we were in Baltimore because I had a NOAH board meeting.  Though it was a quick trip and I had little free time, I enjoyed the getaway and change of scenery.  Weber and I did have a bit of time to wander around Baltimore's Inner Harbor on Friday afternoon before my meeting began at 6.

It was interesting to see another lightship.  My dad was instrumental in restoring a similar one, The Overfalls, in Lewes, DE.

We didn't have time to do the on board tours of the Chesapeake or any of the other boats in the harbor. That will have to wait until our next trip to Baltimore.

U.S.S Constellation, constructed in 1854

Below is a seriously blown-out image of the Constellation.  I forget to check my camera settings before I shot the image.  It is so "not right", but there is something kind of magical about it that I like. Don't ask me why.

We had a nice lunch at an Irish pub overlooking the harbor.

After lunch and a little bit of shopping, where Weber got a new hat, we headed back to the hotel to rest a little before my meeting began.

The Friday night meeting only lasted about two hours.  It was during that time that the horrific events in Paris took place.  We emerged from the board room to see the chaos unfolding on every TV in the hotel.

While we were touring the city in the afternoon, we passed by the World Trade Center in Baltimore.  In front was a piece of mangled steel, a remnant of the devastation from the terrorist attack on the The World Trade Center in New York.

I had no idea when I took this photo that in only hours terrorists would again strike in one of the world's major cities.  We flew home early Sunday morning.  The security lines were long and slow at the airport and there seemed to be more TSA agents than usual.  I suppose this could have been my imagination or perhaps a coincidence.

Despite the uneasiness in the world, Monday morning came and we routinely started our school week like every other one this semester.  When I got to school, however, my students were not interested in analyzing Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata or writing four-part chorales; they wanted to talk about what was going on in the world.  My job is to educate; sometimes that means setting aside my own lesson plans and "teaching" something different, something that would never be included on any course syllabus. I can answer the students' questions about what chords Beethoven is using, or how to avoid parallel fifths in part writing, but I cannot answer, "Why did this happen in Paris?" or, "Do you think we are on the verge of a Third World War?"  I don't know.  For the duration of that discussion, my students and I were on equal ground, no teacher and students, only people waiting, wondering, and praying about what the future holds.

All week long, the flags on campus that flew at half mast were a constant reminder that we are a grieving world.

On a different note, here is a twirl and haiku from this week...

"The Kiss"

Carefully chosen
To express the hidden me
Words and images.

The cat has decided that the puppy is no threat to her.  Honestly, Piper has absolutely no interest in Frankie.  Though Frankie will never admit it, I think that hurts her feelings a little bit.  With all of the unrest in the world, it is comforting to have peace at home!

Little, dog, big dog, medium dog, and cat happily co-existing!

And the week ended with me making pumpkin butter, a sign that the holidays are fast approaching as pumpkin butter is one of those things that I seem to only make around this time of year.  For the recipe, visit

Despite all of the ugliness in the world right now, there still exist many reasons to be thankful.  This week I am thankful for safe travels, caring students, loving family and friends, my four-legged furry family members, a forgiving heart, time to make pumpkin butter, and hope.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

More Thoughts On Time

When time is a day
Rather than twenty-four hours,
It's measured in calm.

KEB 11/11/15

Today's prompt "Twilight"

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

First World Problems

So the worst thing that some folks have to worry about these days is the fact that Starbucks has removed any "Christmas" symbols, like snowflakes and reindeer, from their holiday cups.  One militant Christian posted a viral video online saying that this is because Starbucks "hates Jesus."  I'm fairly sure that snowflakes and reindeer are not signs of Jesus.  And even if they were, why does it matter what is on your coffee cup?  My understanding of Christianity is that Jesus is supposed to reside in our hearts, not on a paper coffee cup, especially a coffee cup that will,  minutes after being paid for, be tossed in a trash can only to be replaced later by another such cup.  Maybe this is why Christianity is making such a bad name for itself right now.  People treat God, Jesus, and their faith like they treat their coffee cups; as disposable.  For a little while people feel all warm and fuzzy inside and then they discard the cups and don't think about them again until they need to feel good again.  This whole debate/discussion/tantrum about the red cups is ridiculous.  I am almost ashamed to have even mentioned it.  It does, however, give me an introduction to my own first world problem of today.

On Tuesdays i only teach until 1:30.  With the addition of Piper to our family, we make sure that someone comes home every day at lunch to let her out.  Since I had a relatively short teaching day, I figured I would come home and do some work from home this afternoon, though I had also entertained the idea of a nap first.  This is one of those stories about the best laid plans...

While I was walking home, Weber called to tell me that there was a possibility that we had no power at home.  How did he know being that he was at school?  Our thermostat is hooked into the wi-fi, which requires electricity.  When the thermostat goes offline, it sends and email notification.  Sure enough, when I got home, no power.  I figured that was a sure sign that God wanted me to take a nap since with no power, I could not do any work on the computer.  (I have a desktop, not a laptop so battery power was not an option.)  Cool!  A forced nap.  And then the problems started...

I'll just have some lunch first.  Since I'm going to lay down, I don't want anything super heavy...maybe a couple pieces of toast.  Oh wait, I cant use the toaster.  No big deal.  I'll have a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.  Get the bread.  Go to the fridge for the jelly.  It is really dark in here!  Where is the jelly?  The fridge is stuffed full since it is early in the week so most of the weekly groceries  have not yet been eaten.  Fumble around feeling for the right sized jar in the place where I last remember seeing the jelly.  Success!  Next to the pantry for the peanut butter. Wow!  I sure wish we had a window in the mudroom. It would make it slightly better than impossible to things in the pantry.  Fortunately, the pantry is well organized so the peanut butter is easy to find.  Voila!  Sandwich now made.

I just need some iced tea to drink.  Back to the fridge only to discover that there is none there.  I didn't miss it in the dark.  The big bottle would have been right in the front.  Not a problem.  I'll get a new bottle from the pantry.  It will be warm, but I'll just have it over ice.  Oh.  No I won't.  I can't use the ice maker to dispense the ice.  Forget it.  I'll have a Diet Coke; the power hasn't been off long enough for the cans in the fridge to get warm.  

Lunch was good.  Now time for my nap.

Gather up the puppy so that we can curl up in the recliner together.  That way she doesn't have to go back to her crate but I know she, and all the shoes and socks in the house, would be safe.  Ready.  Set. Go.  Push the button to recline and nothing.  Oops. We now have a recliner that is electric.  No reclining happening right now.  The puppy and I move to the couch.  In Piper's opinion, the couch is not a suitable nap location so we give up on sleeping and go sit outside on the patio.

The temperature here today was perfect so the lack of heat or air conditioning caused by the power outage was a non issue.  I had  a reasonable lunch, much more than many people get  to eat in a day or maybe even a week.  I had running water and a flushing toilet. My cell phone was charged and handy to keep me entertained.  And I was surrounded by three loving dogs.  Life was good.

The events of the afternoon did make me think about how much I take for granted every day - the ability to make a piece of toast whenever I want it, with either peanut butter or jelly atop, an ice maker, my beloved recliner, my computer.  How silly is it to "miss" such trivial things?

About as silly as is it to miss snowflakes on a disposable coffee cup!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A Vase, Photoshop, and Rumi

Today's Capture Your 365 photo prompt was color.  I love color!  This should have been so easy for me.  I am discovering though, that the prompts whose subjects are those about which I feel deeply connected are the one's that are most difficult for me.  I suspect that I over think them.

I finally decided that i would buy some colorful flowers this afternoon at the grocery store and photograph them in a colorful hand blown glass vase that Weber and I got while we were in Vermont on our honeymoon.  That was a great plan until I forgot to but the flowers.  The vase is pretty in its own right so I decided to photograph it empty.  I gave it my by shot (pun intended), but the photos did absolutely nothing for me.  I decided to see what would happen if I played with some fun techniques in Photoshop.  This is what I got.

I feel like the Photoshop Twirls are the photographer's answer to drawing mandalas, a practice which I also enjoy.  I simply went through a process with this and waited to see what emerged.  I must admit that I was surprised but the image that resulted here.  To me it looks like two hearts joined with a cross at the center.  That pretty much sums up my relationship with Weber and since the original image was that vase that we bought on our honeymoon,  the whole mood seemed to come together.

The quote from Rumi also seemed perfect.  Every day I am thankful for the person with whom I share my life, but today I am particularly thankful for his support of and inspiration for all of my creative endeavors.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Thought for Today

Most of my thinking happens on a yellow legal pad.  I am thankful for those yellow legal pads that help bring my thoughts to life!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Thankful To Be Grateful

Sunday began November and the season of Thanksgiving.  I love this time of year - the falling leaves, the cooler temperatures,  big pots of warm soup, and the flannel sheets back on my bed.   I also like the idea of being intentional about giving thanks, but, it's confession time, I don't really like the Thanksgiving holiday.  It always seems like way too much work resulting in way too much food for way too little enjoyment.  By the time we get everyone's "one favorite" Thanksgiving dish on the menu it seems that we end up with enough food to feed eighty rather than the eight of us.  And of course I feel obligated to taste at least o little bite of everything and before I know it I have "tasted" way more than I needed or wanted.  Over the years I have tried to find ways to simplify the Thanksgiving feast, but none has been particularly successful.

In an effort to perhaps prepare myself a little better spiritually for Thanksgiving Day,  I decided to take time each day during the month of November to acknowledge something for which I am thankful.  I started on Sunday by first considering what it means to be thankful.  I realized that in my own thinking and writing, I tend to use the word "grateful" more often than "thankful."  This sent me on a mental expedition in search of what the difference between these two words is.  I had a hard time coming up with something concrete ton my own hat distinguished the two, so I turned to the dictionary.  I was surprised by what I found.

Thankful is defined as "pleased or relieved" and  grateful as "feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness."  These definitions seem to have totally different connotations, yet each definition also gives the other word as a synonym.  It is the word "relieved" used in the definition of thankful; that feels a bit odd to me.  Even when I do choose to use the word "thankful" rather than "grateful," it is never because I am in need of expressing relief.

I am thankful for my family.  I am relieved  by my family.  This doesn't even begin to make sense.  I am grateful for my family.  I am  appreciative of my family.  I can live with the latter.

Thinking on these two words has done nothing to help clarify for me the distinction between them or their proper usage.  Fortunately, it is only November 5th.  Perhaps by the end of the month I will have better sense of each.  For now, I am thankful that there is no reason that I have to be clear on the subtlety of these words and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue pondering what is most certainly an extremely important concept, I'm sure.

Here are the things that in these first five days of November for which I am thankful/grateful.

November 1: I am grateful for who I am.  I have lots of imperfections, but they all contribute to making me who I am.  I am blessed by my family, friends, and by the work that I do.  I do my very best to be in a light in my small corner of the world, but I also strive to keep that light from shining on me.

November 2: I am grateful for the newest member of our family and for Brooke's help in training and loving this little pup.

November 3: I am grateful for a peaceful backyard where the dogs can play and I can kick off my shoes and relax.

November 4: Though the time change leaves me little light for photography when I get home from school, I am grateful for the quiet of the long dark nights.

Grateful for the calm
Of the dark and quiet night.
Day's long lullaby.

November 5: I am grateful for comfortable clothes - my duck jammies, a sweatshirt, Crocs, and tie-dyed socks.  I am also grateful for a husband who loves me even when I am wearing duck jammies, a sweatshirt, Crocs, and tie-dyed socks.  I am also thankful for that husband who, after dropping me off at school at 7:15 this morning, went home to get my lunch that I forgot and brought it to me on his way to school.

I need to remember that often the little things are the big things and the big things are just little things.