I was busy with to-do's when Tom said the magic words Wednesday evening: Painted Bunting. That's all it took to get me to trade the vacuum cleaner for my camera and join him on the front porch.
We sat in rocking chairs angled toward the bird feeder. For more than an hour we sat and rocked and watched and laughed and whispered.
We're easily entertained.
Then he left to go hunt snakes and snapping turtles and I sat there alone until the no-see-ums started biting my ankles. It was too dark for any more photos, anyway.
I learned a lot sitting there. Birds are big chickens, for one thing. Well, I already knew that from past porch-sitting-bird-watching experiences.
But what I didn't realize until yesterday evening is that bird parents celebrate empty nests much like human parents. The Buntings chased each other all over the woods, taking turns to stop by the feeder for a snack (keeping a watchful eye on us, of course.) The Cardinals and Mexican Jays did the same thing.
I suspect they were exhilirated by the sheer freedom and sense of success an empty nest symbolizes!
Here are a few highlights seen from my rocking chair on the front porch...
A movement in the woods caught my eye - a bunny!
I also spotted these squirrels playing in the distance.
A solitary daisy decorating my front yard.
At 8 o'clock at night it finally dropped below 100 degrees.
And now, the star of the show... Mr. Painted Bunting
Mrs. Painted Bunting was harder to catch... she didn't trust us at all.
This one is still a bit of a mystery. Perhaps a house finch?
Mr. Cardinal... the biggest chicken of them all. I'm sure this is not his best portrait.
Mrs. Cardinal was pretty shy herself.
But Baby Cardinal had some attitude!
The Mexican Jays used to be big chickens, too, but they were bold Wednesday evening. Maybe they've finally gotten used to me.
A drop of sunset gold splashed onto a bit of the woods...
It just added to the magic of the evening.
"In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence" - Robert Lynd
I was born and grew up in a town nicknamed Stink-a-dena on the Houston Ship Channel. In December, the blue northers pushed the scent of the paper mill onto our street.
I still connect that smell with Christmas.
The plants lining the ship channel paid tons of property taxes, so we had great schools. That's one reason our parents moved there. The other was money.
Good wages. Good benefits. Good schools. What more could you want?
I'm not complaining. I'm really not. I'm grateful, although it's a conflicted feeling inside of me. I lived in a great neighborhood, went to exceptional schools, have priceless memories, and treasured lifelong friends.
I eventually went to work at one of the new chemical plants myself, which, along with his GI Bill, provided Tom the means to get his degree.
But I quit as soon as I could and we found a way to move from the area. I wasn't homesick a day, except for the sight of my parents and siblings and many friends we had there.
The best thing, besides the change in scenery? My kids' asthma faded away like a wisp of steam from a boiler stack.
"That's the smell of money." It's a common phrase in my hometown, and it's true. The trade-off wasn't worth it to us, even right now when we're so broke.
But I would never criticize my friends and family who still work in those chemical plants, or others around the world, because the truth is, all of us depend on the products they're producing, and we should be grateful to them.
My niece shared a song on my Facebook wall today about chemical workers. It's what triggered this post - she said it reminded her of me. In some odd way, it makes me proud. Thanks, Carol.
Without further ado, here's The Chemical Worker's Song...
Several months ago, on a slow Saturday at the winery bistro, I waited on a man and his wife. The man had a Nikon, so of course I started asking him a jillion questions and talking photography.
Their son had gotten married that weekend, so I gave him my email address and he sent me the link to the photos he took (fantastic!) and some websites to check out for posting pics, etc.
Well, this past Saturday Steve (that's his name) dropped in for lunch and a photography shoot. He sat by a window and was able to snap images of some hummingbirds that never stay put long enough for me to grab my camera and capture.
It was a busier Saturday than the first so we didn't get to talk shop as much, but it was still fun seeing him in person again.
Isn't it amazing how friendships are born?
From work I drove straight to my writing critique group meeting. I finished my latest chapter too late for everyone to critique this time (the key thing is I finished it!), but I benefit just from meeting with these women and sharing critiques of their works.
Three of the members were pitching their works-in-progress at the Writer's League of America conference and couldn't make the meeting; before we left we heard via phone that all three had been asked to submit chapters to agents! I'm in good company, that's for sure. (I hope they let me keep meeting with them!)
From there, I headed to a concert-in-progress by Duck Soup. Our school's previous band director, Les Huff, is a member and I had yet to hear him play in this band. I finally made it!
The place was packed and I had fun listening, snapping a few photos, and dancing in place from the sidelines, but even more fun when I met up with Les' wife and made it out to the dance floor during the last set.
That's Les on the end. Don't let all the gray hair and bald heads fool you... these guys can rock!
Here's a better one of Les. Notice the trumpet at his feet? Multi-talented!
The dance floor was packed, with all ages represented...
(I'm not going to say where they were playing because this restaurant, previously one of my favorites and one I've given tons of free publicity in the past, has decided to put a minimum tab of $50 on all outside seats during these concerts. So I won't be eating there anymore or mentioning them on my website.)
Sunday after Mass Tom and I drove to a friend's house to help her celebrate her birthday, which was actually today (happy birthday, Leslie!)
Fajitas, birthday cake, and friendship - the perfect ending to a beautiful weekend.
(Today Tom and I went hunting snakes - but I'll save that for another post.)
Hope your weekend was filled with music, friendship, and things that bring a smile to your face!
I slipped through the trees on the narrow deer trail as quietly as possible to check on the mama duck and her duckling this morning. At first glance, the pond was empty.
But earlier this week it appeared empty, with only a lone feather brushing the shore. I thought for sure something bad had happened to them, but the next day I checked again, hope still alive in my heart, and they came swimming out from the side of a small hill that blocked a portion of the pond from my view. Whew!
So this morning when I came upon the empty pond, I didn't jump to tragic conclusions. I knew she might be hiding to see what kind of intruders were heading her way. Within a few minutes, she and her baby glided out onto the pond.
I guess she knows the dogs and I are harmless.
That's pretty dang sweet!
Here are a few other sweet!s from my past week...
Sunday: hearing Spirit in the Sky and Bang a Gong played on the car radio in one day; spending Father's Day with your dad; seeing 2/3 of your kids in one day
Monday: sleeping in and going on a long walk with your husband and puppies; watching birds and wildlife around a pond in the woods
Tuesday: spotting the mama duck and duckling you feared had met foul (fowl?) play; raindrops on your shoulders; a glimpse of the Great Blue Heron gliding past your window while you work; taking a step and seeing dozens of tiny frogs hop in all directions; wisps of pink clouds at sunset; listening to the wind play the chimes on your front porch
Wednesday: waking to the sound of rain, and hearing it off and on all day long; joining with others in prayer for a friend
Thursday: a sister's love; meeting friends for lunch; your puppy finally eating dinner after skipping two meals and worrying you half to death; enjoying the sunset from a porch swing, listening to David Gray
Friday: your old puppy ready for a walk first thing in the morning and eating all of his breakfast; discovering a beautiful blue and black butterfly inches from you; playing your drums for the first time in a few weeks; actually accomplishing what you hoped to and still getting to bed before midnight
Saturday: the mama duck and her duckling still alive and well; a beautiful blue Mexican Jay standing still in the open long enough for you to capture a photo; shade in a Texas summer
I hope your past week and the one ahead overflow with sweet! moments of your own!
I sat on the porch swing this evening listening to David Gray and watching the cardinal couple dine at the feeder. Just as the sun slipped below the trees, I felt myself slipping, too, into worry about the future.
But right away I hit the brakes and scrambled back up to reality. It hit me that I was sitting in what used to be a future I worried about years ago. Over and over again, most likely.
And I was fine. Broke and unsure of what was ahead, but overall fine. At least in that moment, I sat on a porch swing of a dream-come-true home, healthy, knowing my kids are relatively okay and that I have friends and family and really, really good credit.
So I stopped worrying about what was around the next curve and just enjoyed those moments.
There's been so much going on, so little going on. Words are getting tangled up in my mind, but I'll try to give you an update...
Max barely ate last night. Didn't eat anything this morning. Stayed in his doghouse all day, refusing to go down to the pond with me and Belle for a swim this evening.
My heart was breaking. He's old, and I know it, but I hate having to face it.
I fixed his dinner and called him as usual, although I really didn't expect him to respond. But he did. And he actually ate almost all of his food. Sure, I held the bowl for him while he laid in his dog bed, but we do what we have to do, don't we?
And then he barked ferociously and ran off into the woods chasing something with Belle.
I was happy again.
It rained yesterday.
I didn't go out and dance in it, but I was tempted. I'm pretty sure my crape myrtles were dancing.
The sun came back out today, and I admit I was happy to see blue sky and fluffy white clouds. But I do hope the rain comes back soon.
Do you remember Haley, the neighbor dog with a heart of gold who was hit by a truck or something but survived because she's a rock solid pit bull?
Well, she's also a little creepy, too, like Cujo, in that you'll look up and she'll suddenly be sitting there, silently staring at you.
That's what happened this evening. But I was happy to see her because she doesn't actually live next door anymore. The son, her owner, flew the nest to a house of his own.
I've missed Haley. And I think she missed me, too. After I snapped this photo, she came over to see me, tongue hanging out.
Then she waded into our creek and ate some frogs.
Three pennies and a nickel sit on a shelf in my closet. Alone they wouldn't buy much, but they're worth more than their monetary value to me. Each one appeared on the ground in front of me a few weeks ago, whispering "In God We Trust" at a time when my heart was dragging behind me. Five coins in one week reminding me to trust God.
I heard "trust" whispered to me all that week from quotes, fortune cookies, songs, emails. Soft reminders that lifted my heart.
And then the next week, just when fear of the future began sprinkling seeds of doubt, everywhere I looked I read "Courage!"
...and love, the greatest of all.
On my quick trip this past Sunday to spend Father's Day with my sweet dad, I noticed this heart-shaped reminder resting on their front porch.
And then on the drive home...
...black-eyed susans and new grass flourished beside the charcoaled trunks of pine trees near Bastrop, victims of the fires that swept through last Labor Day weekend.
From the ashes, life arises.
Whispers of hope.
This is my command - be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ~ Joshua 1:9
Foremen who stole from the company. Welders who smoked pot in the weld-out yard. A warehouse worker who bragged about being high on Vicodin. A co-worker nicknamed "Moo Cow", who carried a gun in her purse before it was legal and had a tattoo when they were still edgy.
Port-a-potties so nasty I would call in sick if I thought I couldn't hold it for my 10 hour shift.
I only worked construction two months, but the impact was indelible, as you can see. I learned what I didn't want to do the rest of my life and what kind of person I didn't want to be and who I didn't want to associate with, and had clear reasons why.
But without those two months, my scholarship in chemical engineering and handful of semesters in college alone wouldn't have landed me my next job at DuPont as part of the start-up team of plant technicians.
For me, that job was supposed to be temporary - I always planned to go back and get my degree - but somehow thirteen years drifted by.
And then I quit. I stayed home with my kids, intended to publish essays and articles and books, go back to school and get my degree. Instead I wrote a little here and there, mostly for local papers detailing the Cub Scout Pack's latest accomplishments. I volunteered at the schools and for our church and our community and the kids' organizations. I did go back to school off and on, taking only one class a semester so it didn't interfere with being a mom or building our house or my volunteer work.
And I discovered that intoxicating and addicting world of part-time jobs, full of flexibility and diversity ... a trade-off that was worth the low hourly wages to me.
But twenty years, exploding property taxes, and three kids through college later, it's time for me to find an actual steady-paycheck, paid-time-off kind of job. A real career.
So I've spent hours and hours over the past couple of weeks thinking about where I'd love to work, filling out applications, trying to manipulate my eclectic work experience to fit the position at hand, coming up with creative ways to say "Although I've never..." and "Despite not having a degree..." and convincing arguments on why I'm the best one for that particular job.
And I can't help but believe something will pop up, something that I've been preparing for my entire life without being aware of it. Is that naive, to think so?
I hope not. But I don't really care.
(Would you believe I made more money when I was twenty than these 'dream' jobs I'm applying for offer? And some of them even 'prefer' a four-year degree. Ah, the things we take for granted when we're young...)
A truly rich man is one whose children run into his arms when his hands are empty.
Happy Father's Day to all of you fathers.
I'm traveling today, making a one day trip to spend Father's Day with my Daddy, so this was a repost from last year featuring my three favorite fathers - my sweet Daddy, my remarkable father-in-law and my wonderful husband Tom, father of my children.
I'm blessed to still have all three in my life.
For those of you who can no longer wish your daddy "Happy Father's Day" in person, I'll give mine extra hugs and whisper a prayer for you and yours.
I'll also send you over to read Jennifer's beautiful words on love and fatherhood and imperfection at Ripplespeak... "there you are... i see you."
One morning a few weeks ago, eyelids drawn against the assault of bright light, I felt my way into the bathroom and turned on the water to wake up my face.
Up popped something from the drain which made my eyes fly open without the water: a scorpion, moving fast.
I guess cold water wakes them up, too.
How I wish I could tell you I scooped him into something and released him outside with a scolding about being in the house. But I didn't. It was just too early to think beyond that heart-stopping moment. I grabbed my sandal and, well, I'll spare you the gory details.
We've heard scorpions travel in pairs, so I kept my eyes open for its mate in the house, but I never saw another one... until this past weekend. On Sunday, my oldest was gathering his things preparing to head back to his place. When he moved Miss Josie's dog kennel, it revealed a small black scorpion - in attack mode, no less, at being discovered.
It, um, died soon afterwards.
A few hours later I received a text that another scorpion had hitched a ride on their cooler back to their apartment! A cooler that had been sitting on my kitchen floor all day. I didn't have to ask about the fate of that one.
If you're inclined to judge us for being so callous, take a look at this photo of a scorpion eating a Daddy-Long-Legs later that same night... and imagine it in your bathroom sink or inches from your foot.
Now, do you really blame me?
This one was only a couple of inches long. Tom was feeding the dogs when he spotted it outside. After he snapped several shots, I grabbed the camera and took a few more. We're sick that way.
Anyway, you can imagine my surprise when I stepped into our front bathroom yesterday morning and discovered this in the toilet bowl...
I was really expecting a scorpion!
The poor little thing was shivering, trying desperately to keep its head above water.
Thank goodness Tom was home. He grabbed a plastic container, scooped Mickey up, and released him in some shade outside. He was a kangaroo mouse, not the typical house mouse, so we figure he just slipped in through an open door in search of water.
We hope so, anyway.
But I totally understand why you're reconsidering your visit to me this summer, at least until we get some rain to relieve the drought. It's been a little crowded around here for my comfort, and I'm sort of used to all of these critters.
I even discovered this guy crashing on a photo frame in the front hallway. He was quiet and kept his spiny legs to himself, though, so I left him alone.
And now for my sweet! moments from the past week...
Monday: a day with your daughter, helping her get ready for a job; great customer service; Whataburgers and memories
Tuesday: that first cup of coffee after fasting all morning for a test; La Madeleine veggie omelettes; spotting a hummingbird, cardinal, small greenish bird and robin-ish bird within a few minutes of each other; talking to your mom, rocking on the porch, watching birds visit the feeder, with a sleeping dog beside you
Wednesday: dogs running with joy; the brilliance of a Blue Grosbeak; a call from your sister
Thursday: a mother duck swimming with her baby; two different herons posing for you on an evening walk; a text out of the blue from a dear friend, just checking on you; a productive day, even if it just scratched the surface of all you needed to accomplish
Friday: your husband home to rescue the mouse you find in a toilet, so you don't have to deal with it; a call for a job interview; friends who send you information on potential jobs; a call from your mom letting you know your oldest and your grandpuppy arrived for their visit, safe and sound; staying up late on the back porch, listening to Led Zeppelin, discussing work, history, and religion with your middle son
Saturday: a morning walk with your puppies before work; a call from a friend with an interesting and meaningful writing job proposal; cheese pizza, fresh from a brick oven, Ahi tuna, and roasted vegetables at work, and homemade burgers hot off the grill at home
Wishing all of you a sweet!-filled week, beginning today!
I see colors fading, petals drying, feel my spirit sagging.
there's a flash of blue.
A Mystery Bird, bringing excitement, color... and therefore, hope.
I know. A little melodramatic. But that morning I really did feel very blah. The air was still and oppressive. The sky was gray, but I knew those thin clouds held no rain.
And then there was a flash of blue - more blue than the Mexican Jay who like to hang around. It seemed to have a crest, but I knew it wasn't a regular BlueJay. I was even more intrigued when I saw the image on my computer - I've never seen one of these before.
"What is this?" I asked Mr. Google.
"A Blue Grosbeak!" he answered. The bird in the photo he showed me didn't have the little crest this one has, but maybe mine uses feather-gel to get that puffy look. Who knows. But I'm sure Mr. Google is right again. It's a Blue Grosbeak, right here in Long Hollow.
Made my day.
So thank you to all who are responsible for the beautiful blue of that creature, for the split-second synchronized timing of our paths crossing, for the way the breeze picked up and the sun broke through the clouds soon after...
...For the way the world seemed a little brighter after that flash of blue.
I found myself with a few hours to kill one morning this week with nary a Starbucks in sight. So I stepped into the next best thing - a Whataburger. I knew they'd have coffee, a restroom, air-conditioning, and space for reading and writing the time away. Everything I needed.
"You doing alright, ma'am?" It was the counter lady. "Can I get you a refill on your coffee?"
She carried a tray of ketchup, creamer, and napkins, making the round of tables, even this one with the woman nursing a cup of coffee.
"No, not right now, but thank you," I told her.
"You need something, you let me know."
That happened every few minutes. I tell you what, she and the other ladies working there put every other waiter to shame, myself included, with their smiles and eagerness to be of service.
"You write pretty," another employee paused her sweeping to tell me.
The place was never crowded. Just some workers in khaki shirts and gimme hats, a young couple, a small family. I eavesdropped on a job interview in the booth behind me, and a conversation between the counter lady and a gray-haired gentleman one booth up. He nursed a cup of coffee, just like me.
Lunchtime approached and the smell of burgers and fries drifted to my booth. I had refilled my coffee and sat scribbling on a yellow pad when I saw them walk in, the young dad and his daughter. He was slim, wearing khaki slacks and black-rimmed glasses. The girl was obviously a tomboy; she wore ragged cut-off jeans, a t-shirt, and dirty tennis shoes. Her short brown hair was a mess, tousled by the wind.
They ordered without even a glance at the menu - Whataburgers, French fries, and chocolate shakes. Once at the table, the girl scraped all the veggies off of the patty with a fry before taking a big bite of the burger. Right away she stuffed a few French fries in her mouth and took a slurp of her shake.
Then she smiled at her daddy, and I smiled at the memory, and tears filled my eyes at the fleetness of time.
I stepped to the counter and ordered a burger and fries. I didn't scrape the veggies off this time, if you're wondering, and I ordered tea, not a shake, but the burger tasted just as good as it did on all those long ago Whataburger visits, when I was eight and ten and twelve, sitting across from my daddy.
I'm grateful for things that don't change. And for sweet memories that only need the scent of a burger to appear.
If after reading this, you're asking "What the heck is Whataburger?" then click HERE for more information and the history of this chain. On the home page of the website you'll see what the one in my memory looked like.
For you Austin-ites, or travelers passing through Austin, the one I spent so much time in this week is on the corner of Airport and MLK. Such great service, you feel like you've eaten in a 5-star restaurant!
And of course, when you're through, you say "What a burger!"
I heard Garth Brooks sing "If Tomorrow Never Comes..." on the radio the other day. It was the same day that I heard about the unexpected passing of one of my mom's closest friends.
Mama and Martha went to the same high school but didn't become friends until they worked for the same company years later, when I was little more than a baby.
Martha's face grew familiar to me from family campouts, weekends at the Comal River, wedding and anniversary celebrations...but also during times of sadness. She was a friend my mom could count on to be by her side, no matter what.
This photo of Martha and my mom was taken just three months ago at my cousin's funeral. I wasn't surprised to see her there, and I sure didn't think it would be the last time I saw her.
I'm so glad something urged me to pose them together.
But we weren't the only ones Martha stood by. Mama voiced concern to me just a few weeks ago that Martha was doing too much for everyone and not taking care of herself.
"It makes her happy, Mama," I told her. And Mama had to agree. That's what Martha lived for, helping others. She was in her 80's and suffered from back pain and other ailments, but she didn't let it keep her from doing what she loved, being a friend.
"...Cause I've lost loved ones in my life Who never knew how much I loved them Now I live with the regret That my true feelings for them never were revealed." ~Garth Brooks
I doubt if Martha lived with any regrets, at least none regarding letting others know how important they were to her. I'm going to try to live that way myself.
Martha, thank you for all the years of steadfast love and friendship and laughter you gave my mom. You will be missed.
Nothing perks you up after a long night working a rehearsal dinner than being greeted by a bunch of kids you love, plus your grandpuppy, when your aching feet finally carry you into the house.
In my case this happened Friday night, close to midnight, and the kids included my son, his fiance, her sister, and the sister's friend.
The grandpuppy was sweet Josie, and since the kids all went tubing down the San Marcos River the next day (picking up my other two babies along the way for some sibling time) I probably saw more of Josie than anyone else this weekend.
But that's okay... it wasn't by much and I'll take what I can get! And what I got was lots of hanging out, talking, laughing, and a glowing heart from knowing all my babies were having fun together.
My kind of weekend!
And now for a few more sweet! moments of my week...
Sunday: a call from a forever friend, and the time to talk to her; standing in the glow of the full moon on a summer night
Monday: an up-close glimpse of the neighborhood hawk couple; a forecast of rain when the ponds are drying up so fast you can almost see it happening
(unfortunately, no rain fell... still praying!)
Tuesday: overcoming all the hurdles that sprung up on the way to your day's goal; friends who take time to help you with your resume and job applications; dinner with 2/3 of your kids
Wednesday: spotting a heron couple; your husband home safe after working 16 hours through the night; lounging and swimming with friends in a backyard straight out of Home and Garden magazine; watching two precious fawns place chase on a golf course green (even though you're still kicking yourself for forgetting to grab your camera on the way out the door)
Thursday: discovering you actually captured one of yesterday's herons in your camera when you didn't think you were fast enough; a friend wanting to buy some of your beach photos
Friday: watching a red-tailed hawk fly across a pond; discovering new wildflowers popping up; vanilla bean cheesecake; couples in love; your oldest and his love waiting up to visit with you when you stumble home from work just before midnight
Saturday: a hug from your oldest first thing in the morning; listening to published authors share what they've learned; lots of in-store coupons for things you need at the grocery store; finally getting to meet with your critique group in person after having to miss several meetings; sitting around the table, talking and laughing with kids you've watched grow into adults
Sunday: a morning walk with look-alike puppies in small, medium, and large; visiting with friends after Mass; looking through a bridal magazine with your future daughter-in-law; watching an action movie with your son and his sweetie
Extra sweet!... I remembered to snap a photo of the kids before they left.
I hope you had a week overflowing in sweet! moments and this next week remember to look for more!
".....I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.
The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube. The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)
None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.
Because everyone is."
I didn't write this.
I wish I had. It was written by English teacher David McCullough, Jr.of Wellesley High School in Wellesley, Massachusetts and given to the graduating Class of 2012 as a commencement speech.
I wish someone had given this to my kids at their graduation. Heck, I wish someone had given it to my class at our graduation.
You can find the speech in its entirety HERE in the Swellesley Report (yes, really) and I urge you to go read it. And then I urge you to print it out and hang it on your wall and read it over and over and over.
Because his words don't just apply to graduating seniors but to everyone. Each morning we wake up to a new day full of moments waiting to matter and make our own... full of slippery opportunities, experiences, and chances... full of places to explore.
Thank you, Suldog, for posting the link on your blog and making me aware of it!
"Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you."
I sit on the back deck, glass of red wine in my hand, rocking back and forth, back and forth. Tom has to work late, so I'm covering the evening meal for him.
Max is stretched out in front of his food bowl. Belle is just a few feet away near hers. The sun has dropped below the trees, leaving a smudge of pink on their tips. From there the sky deepens to a rich blue with only tiny wisps of cloud marring the perfection.
The air pulses with the beat of the cicadas, a back and forth, up and down, see-sawing song that drowns out everything else.
But Max somehow hears something else through the din and he's up on his feet in one fluid movement, despite his dysplasiatic knees and hips, bounding to the end of the deck in Tigger fashion, barking, barking, barking, assisted by his sidekick Belle, who isn't quite sure what they're barking at, but she's got his back, nonetheless.
I praise his ferocity and courage. Satisfied I'm convinced he protected me from imminent danger, he stops barking and wanders back down the deck to eat, but bending down to the bowl hurts his elbows, so I set down my glass and hold the bowl up off the ground for him, braced against my knees, ignoring the pain in my lower back until he finishes the last morsel.
That's the least I could do for someone who just saved my life, isn't it?
Wouldn't it be fun to answer "Imagineer" on forms asking your occupation?
I've spent the past few days filling out applications and sending my eclectic resume off with a prayer into internet-land.
"Are you our Imagineer?" was the title of one job post, and I thought "Yes! Yes, I believe I am!" I'm still waiting to see if they think so, too. So far no response. Sigh.
I gave it my best shot trying to make ends meet with my extensive collection of part-time jobs, but it just wasn't enough, and I'm now actively looking for a real job. Not just a job, but a career that could last for years and years and years (which is kind of funny since many of my friends are counting down the days to their retirement!)
I'm looking for something that interests me, that doesn't make me writhe in anticipatory agony when I think of it, something that makes me feel I'm using and expanding my gifts. In the past those have always been jobs where I felt I was helping people and making a difference in the world.
But beggars can't be choosers, and although it can be colored and phrased in different ways, I feel we've technically crossed into begging territory.
I really don't like it. It's been a lesson in humility, one I guess I needed, but I'm ready for class to be over. So I'm sending off applications for just about anything I'm even loosely qualified for.
That's one of the problems... meeting the requirements. Many of the jobs I see that would interest me, and that I know I would do well at, require a college degree. Strike one. I anticipate strike two to be my age, and strike three to be my helter-skelter work background.
I'm not actually pessimistic about finding a job, though. I have that rumbly feeling inside that I get when I'm on the edge of an adventure, about to step through a new door. I feel God is leading me, just as I've always felt, and while I have no idea why my path continues to zig-zag, circle, and sometimes even backtrack, I trust that he has a reason for it. That's all that really matters.
So I'll just keep walking, one footstep at a time, knowing he's got the trip covered.
This doesn't mean I'm putting my writing or my camera on a shelf. My drums might get a little dusty, but I'll keep working on my book and my blogs... continue with my freelance photography gigs... stick with Silpada and the winery... and I'm not even giving up on my personal history business. I enjoy all of them too much.
But they're like the floaties you put on your kids to keep them from drowning. Despite wearing all of them and treading my ass off in the water, we're just too heavy. We're sinking. We need a rescue boat that can get us back to dry land, ASAP!
Wish me luck! (And feel free to send me job links and tips! But only for jobs with benefits and paid vacation. I haven't had a paid day off in 15 years!)
It's still a great reminder that this moment we're in right now is the first step to our future, and the only one we have any control over. We shouldn't waste it.
And now for a few sweet moments of the week...
Sunday: catching up with friends after church; time in the car with your baby girl; husbands who can fix just about anything
Monday: a country joining together to remember and give thanks for those who sacrificed their lives to guard our freedoms; a day off with your husband; the red flash of a cardinal in the trees; progress on your book
Tuesday: living in a democracy, with the freedom to vote; running for 34 minutes when you didn't think you'd make it past 5; strawberries for dinner
Wednesday: feeling like a writer; a baby smiling at you with a wrinkled-nose, exposing two tiny teeth, while you wait in line at the drugstore; a puppy waiting for you on the doorstep when you get home; a long catch-up call from your oldest
Thursday: sunshine when your heart is cloudy; finding a lucky penny; a call from your sister; having your mom just a phone call away; friends you can talk to about anything; being able to wish your mom-in-law a happy birthday; in-person hugs from 2/3 of your kids; an errand day when everything falls together like clockwork
Friday: watching Romeo and Juliet in a high school class (skipping the love scene, don't worry) and flashing back to the first time you saw it in 1976, on a date at the Midnight Movies in downtown Houston; job ideas from friends; laughing at old episodes of "Dark Shadows" with your son; a text from your oldest with a promise for a visit
Saturday: setting teensy baby mice free in the woods (photos later); brick oven pizza; watermelon-cucumber soup; getting caught up on workplace drama; Mountain Pinks beginning to bloom
Sunday: attending Mass with your son; bags of home grown tomatoes and onions from a friend
My Sweet! list is like a bouquet of flowers I collect for myself.
Instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers, why don't you gather your own bouquet? ~ unknown
I hope each week you discover enough sweet! moments scattered among the not-so-sweet to create your own bouquet.
I stepped out into the gray dawn one day last week for a quick walk with the dogs before dashing off to a full day that would include the bank, a doctor's appointment, moving TG into her summer sub-let, a drive-by to pick up full size sheets and a hug from her brother at the library where he works downtown, and the grocery store to fill both our cupboards..
Where was I?
Oh, yeah... I stepped out into the gray dawn and heard the most beautiful song...
I was sure I had never heard it before, so when I spotted the vocalist up on top of a nearby telephone pole, I snapped some photos even though I knew it was too dark for them to turn out halfway decent. I just wanted to be able to zoom in and possibly identify this bird with the beautiful voice that blessed me with a morning serenade.
It sat still for the photos, unlike other birds that fly at the first lift of my zoom in their direction. I'm sure it would have serenaded me all day long, but unfortunately it was trash day and I had lugged the heavy bag up to the dumpster. In it went and off the bird flew.
"Thank you!" I called after it.
When I finally had a chance to load the photo on my computer, crop, zoom, and do a Google search, my heart skipped a beat. My morning minstrel had been none other than a young Scarlet Tanager, my all-time favorite bird in the entire World Book Encyclopedia section of birds, which I used to look at constantly when I was growing up.
I always dreamed of seeing one... a real one with real feathers, not a photograph in a book.
And that morning my dream came true. It just proves, once again, there are no expiration dates on dreams.
May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day.
May songbirds serenade you every step along the way.
May a rainbow run beside you ina sky that's always blue.
And may happiness fill your heart each day your whole life through.