The Ephemeral Nature of Days… and of Gratitude

Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the Word
 
Sweet the rain’s new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass
 
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
 
- lyrics written by Eleanor Farjeon in 1931, to be sung to the Scottish Highland tune “Bunessan”

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Here we are, once again, in Spring – the season of rebirth and new life.  The Vernal Equinox happened recently, and that means that day and night are about equal parts of each 24-hour span. It also means we’re well into Lent – a period of reflection and preparation for Easter for Christians around the world.

In the spirit of the season, I ventured outdoors today to find that it had snowed again in our little corner of New England this morning. Hmmmm. I walked around our yard and did find signs of life. A chipmunk scampered across the back yard toward shelter under our deck. Birds were picking through the debris on the forest floor for material to build nests. Buds and pods have started on trees, vines, and bushes. Tomorrow, the nests will be closer to completion and the buds will be just a little bigger, despite today’s dusting.

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So I found myself humming the familiar words: God’s re-creation of the new day.

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Merriam Webster defines ephemeral as lasting one day only, or lasting a very short time. My Lenten meditation today is on gratitude, and that’s what gratitude often is – ephemeral. We’re thankful for a moment or a day, and then the little niggling things get to us and we forget to maintain that feeling – It’s snowing; I’m cold. I’m tired of this weather.

And that’s exactly why, in the midst of an economic and worldwide depression, a vicar commissioned beloved British children’s author Eleanor Farjeon to write words for a new children’s hymn to a familiar tune (an old Scots melody also used for a popular Christmas Carol of the time). He wanted a psalm that would remind both singers and listeners to be thankful for the Lord’s bounty every day. That hymn is Morning Has Broken, later also published as the poem A Morning Song for the First Day of Spring.

Many people I know first heard the song when Cat Stevens recorded it in 1971, but I remember singing it in church in the 50’s and 60’s in children’s choir. I even got to sing the middle verse as a solo once in church. My daughter sang it at her uncle’s wedding. And the words have never been lost on me. Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning. So much to be grateful for, whatever else is going on in the world. Praise with elation, praise every morning.

 Don’t let that grateful spirit slip away. Renew it every day.

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Thanks to “BilboKepa” for posting this montage version of the song on YouTube:

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This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Outdoors   and  to the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Ephemeral.  To see other bloggers’ creative entries and get more info on these challenges, just click on the links! 

My previous Lenten posts:

 

Posted in Faith, Ruminations | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

The Value of Connections – MS Awareness Week

Well, I signed on to my blog to do this post, and as it happens, today is the 3rd anniversary of the registration of this blog! It hardly seems possible.
WordPrerssAnniversaryIn that time, there have been days when I spent as much as 12 of my 24 hours in the blogosphere, and there have been weeks, maybe even months, when I neglected it pretty completely. But one way or another, I have come to value my connections with the other bloggers I have “met.” These are people I would never have known otherwise. People of a variety of ages, nationalities, and interests. People with an astounding spectrum of points of view and reasons for blogging. Fascinating connections.

In addition to being my blogoversary, it’s also MS Awareness Week – which is what really brought me to the keyboard this afternoon. The National Multiple Sclerosis Society has a theme: Every Connection Counts. This is a perfect expression of how MS patients feel. It’s not just that the disease is isolating (which it can be), it’s also that the disease itself is manifested by a literal lack of connection.

Most people think of MS as a neurological disease – which it is. Or, at least it’s a disease of the central nervous system. But it’s more than that. Think of your nervous system as the electrical wiring in your house. If there’s an interruption in power, or a short in part of the system, a very frustrating loss of ability to do things ensues. Your house wires are all covered with plastic tubing to keep the connections intact and prevent shorts, but now picture a family of mice in your attic and bearing walls, chewing away at that plastic or loosening plugs, causing unexpected shorts and failures in different places around the house at different times with varying severity. That’s MS. Yikes.

For some reason, the immune system in MS patients perceives that insulation around the nerve fibers (the myelin sheath) as the enemy, and starts eating away at it. Then sclera (scarring or lesions) form around the areas of the damaged myelin. When they’re found in more than one place or at different times (and aren’t caused by anything else), you have Multiple Sclerosis. And here’s where my metaphor ends, because the wiring insulation in your house can’t grow back on its own, but myelin can. And the rates of deterioration and the rates of regrowth from person to person are as different as the people themselves.

MS is hard to diagnose, because the symptoms point to the nervous system (particularly the brain and spine) rather than to the elusive and more capricious auto-immune system – and the symptoms could be caused by many other things (tumors, strokes, inflammation, viruses…) that have to be ruled out. It’s made more difficult because of the variety of symptoms. There is no one test for MS. It’s a diagnosis by exclusion of all the other possibilities.

Even when there finally is a diagnosis, there’s really no solid prognosis available, because every case is different, and things can change. The “types” of MS are based on severity and whether or not there are periods of remission… which means you have to wait to see what happens to know what you’ve got. The patient may continue to work and appear fine to daily contacts for a very long time – but appearances can be deceiving.

So, every connection counts, and every bit of information or support is important. I say this with conviction, because MS has popped up in my family more than once. There seem to be tendencies for some families to have more auto-immune disease occurrences than others. That means MS, Diabetes, Lupus, and a variety of other syndromes and diseases that attack multiple areas or systems of the body show up more often. Yikes again. We don’t know why yet; we’re still connecting the dots.

The good news is that we’re learning more. Please don’t listen to the TV shows that portray young characters with MS seeing it as a death sentence. The disease is unpredictable and its course can change. Many MS patients have long periods of remission, and many lead very full, active, long lives. There are new treatments all the time that work on relieving the symptoms and slowing the course of MS (and similar diseases), and some that assist with the healing process as well. There are holistic and dietary treatments that can help. Each patient has to do a little work to find what works best.

So why blog about an unpredictable and currently incurable disease on a generally upbeat blog? Well, because it’s MS Awareness Week, silly. And because in your lifetime there is likely to be someone you meet who is one of the world’s 2,000,000 people living with the uncertainty and frustrating effects of MS. Because you can help with awareness, or maybe with fundraising for research. Because you can set the record straight when someone describes it incorrectly. Because you’re now one of my connections.

And every connection counts.

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If you know someone who has, or may have, MS – here are A few helpful items:

Posted in Blogging, Caregiving, Health Issues, Health-Diet, Information, Ruminations | Tagged , , , | 13 Comments

C’mon Guys, This is Boston!

P1090234I went to college in Boston, arguably one of the most resilient cities in the USA. I still go back whenever I can. I love taking the T or just walking the Freedom Trail. I lived in the Back Bay area, and from my dorm we could hear the shouts across the railway when a home run was hit at Fenway Park. Back when I was there, the EPA hadn’t cleaned up rivers, and pollution was so bad that at freshman orientation we were told to get a tetanus shot should we fall into the Dirty Water of the “muddy River Charles.” Still, sailboats on the river around the Esplanade were a favorite sight of mine.

So, for a time, I lived in Boston, and it will always be a part of me – a sort of second hometown. We’ve all heard the slogans:  Believe in Boston. Boston Proud.

Boston is a hard-working, glass-half-full kind of city. Underdog, schmunderdog. Give Bostonians a challenge – go ahead, I dare you.  Tax our tea? We’ll give you a tea party. Laugh at our Sox and call it a curse? We’ll patiently wait for our revenge. Bomb our Marathon? We’ll turn it into a celebration of strength and galvanize the whole country around us. Dump a couple of feet of snow on the city this week? We’ll walk our dogs on the Common and say it wasn’t so bad.

The people who thumbed their noses at King George, waited 86 years for the Red Sox to win a World Series, and have survived numerous renamings of their precious Boston Garden in the name of commerce aren’t afraid of a few bumps and bruises – that’s just part of the fabric of life in the Cradle of Liberty.

So all week long, in the unrelenting wake of “deflategate,” I’ve been asking myself why it is that the New England Patriots feel the need push the envelope of fair play. Of course, money, glory, records – I know all that.  But what I mean by this is, I think they’ve forgotten who it is they represent. I know the Pats’ constituency covers much more than the city, but Boston is at its heart. Bostonians will (grudgingly) forgive a hard-fought, honest loss – in fact, a loss often unifies and energizes the city. After all, Boston has the most – sometimes unreasonably – loyal fans in the world. But even they may have trouble forgiving a continued reputation as a sleazy or cheating team. Nobody likes to be demonized, and nobody wants a cloud over a win.

The really awful and ironic thing is, the Pats didn’t need to fudge or cheat. By just about all accounts, they would have won last week’s playoff game handily on their own merits without underinflated balls, and then (mostly) everyone would be celebrating with them, and the team and the NFL wouldn’t be splashed with mud – again. Somebody didn’t trust the team, and risked so much for nothing.

Someone lost the faith. They stopped believing. They forgot who they are, and they forgot the fans who deserve better.

Mr. Brady, Kraft Family, Coach Belichick: lead from the top. Don’t solicit, encourage, or tolerate violations of fair play. Win with integrity or take your loss on the chin, but don’t play the angles and skirt the rules. Give us a good, honest, well-played game on Sunday – something to embrace and be Boston Proud of. Just give us your best.

C’mon guys. We can take it. This is Boston.

Enjoy a little Dirty Water:

Posted in Giving Back, Recreation, Ruminations, Travelogues | Tagged , , , , | 7 Comments

The Slow Evolution of a New Home

WP_002380When my beloved and I purchased our “fixer-upper” retirement home last year, we weren’t thinking The Money Pit – we were seeing possibilities. We had a home inspector and a contractor go through the house with us to help us make a realistic offer and figure out what needed to be done. We also carefully considered and budgeted for some other enhancements we hoped to make. Still, with each piece of renovation we started, we found something seriously unexpected  I spent months with contractors coming and going, making decisions on the fly, while my beloved stayed behind in another state finishing up his employment. It was a wild ride!

Fortunately, we could still retreat to our relatively new colonial-style home on 3 wooded acres in Connecticut, which we didn’t truly appreciate as much as we might have. That “old” house had two outbuildings, a partly finished, dry basement, lots of big closets, and was completely up to code. It had a relatively flat front lot and easy access from several doors. (Of course, it also came with a substantial mortgage and tax bill.)

The “new” house isn’t terribly old – or at least, it was built during our lifetimes, in the 1960’s. Apparently there were no zoning codes here then. The house was not completely up to current codes structurally or electrically, much of the plumbing needed work, insulation was inadequate (we’re in Vermont now, at the foot of the Green Mountains), most of the kitchen was in rough shape, and the available storage is still forcing us to cull out lots of “stuff.” Don’t even get me started on the outdated decor, but we focused on the infrastructure, realizing that paint and elbow grease would cover a multitude of aesthetic sins. At least the roof was new!

More than a year (and a considerable blogging hiatus) later, we have sold the old house, my beloved has fully retired, and we are nestling in to our new place – if still slogging through some remaining boxes. Here are just some of the things we, our family, and our contractors have accomplished:

  • P1150247Ripped out the knotty pine walls in the kitchen, living and dining rooms. While we were at it, we updated and moved some wiring, replaced the 2 inch thick rolled fiberglas insulation with 4 inches of blown-in foam, and put up new drywall. We also made a cut-through between the living and dining rooms.
  • Regraded the front and back yards, added a drainage pipe, and cleaned up some landscaping.
  • Corrected plumbing problems in all three bathrooms (including replacing all the toilets and many fixtures.) This also necessitated some floor repair and tiling work.

WP_001989Laying a drainage pipe, Our old toilet graveyard!

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  • Replaced (and moved) a 40+ year-old oil tank and repaired the concrete threshold in one garage.
  • Replaced a degraded septic baffle and had the septic serviced.
  • Replaced the cardboard thickness, noisy garage doors with new foam insulated, quiet ones. The garages sit under living areas and needed the insulation.

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  • Ripped out and completely remodeled the tiny kitchen to: replace outdated and/or non-functional appliances, get rid of poorly installed granite countertops, add upper cabinets, install adequate lighting, and redo the floors (this was necessary since the new layout meant some exposed areas would have no finished flooring.) One part of the counter is being reworked, but otherwise, it’s done – and sooooo much better!

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  • Added an electrical box and ran wiring for my beloved’s wood shop.
  • Added serious structural support in the basement.
  • Painted, painted, painted… over some remaining knotty pine, dark walls, and much heinous wallpaper. In fairness, I’m sure the decor was very stylish wen it was new – it was just way too busy and overpowering for our tastes.

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P1140101WP_002463Before and after shots of the “plaid room”, the “pepto-bismol pink room”, and the powder room. We plan to paint the upper wall in the powder room a soft green.

There are lots of other small things we’ve done, and there are many more we’d like to do: some new windows, deck sprucing, front porch remodel, rework of paths from the driveway to the house, more painting, and more landscaping. There’s more attic and basement insulating needed, and storage rework in the garages and the basement…

But for now, I’m on vacation from remodeling. No contractors, no paintbrushes. This weekend I will unearth my Christmas boxes stored in the basement, and really put my stamp on this new home as we prepare to celebrate our first Christmas here. The old house in Connecticu and the prior owner’s version of this house, are gone – though certainly not forgotten. Still, it’s time to move on and make this house absolutely our own… no matter how slow that process seems!

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This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Slow   and  to the WordPress Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Gone but not Forgotten.  To see other bloggers’ creative entries and get more info on these challenges, just click on the links! 

Posted in Photo Challenges, Retirement itself, Ruminations | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

Crimson Cutouts

WP_002089A few weeks ago, the Japanese Maple tree on our front lawn presented us with an amazing fiery display. For about ten days, each day it was a little more brilliant than the day before.

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And then, before we knew it, the leaves began to dry, and the wind started to carry them away, leaving us just a tantalizing hint of the brilliant performance.

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Still colourful, but now more muted, folding up its tent for the season and getting ready to hibernate. Nature, ever-changing, with a plan.

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This post was written in response to the weekly Travel Theme challenge by Ailsa of WheresMyBackpack: Colourful. To see other bloggers’ rainbows of responses and get more info on these challenges, just click on the link! 

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Posted in Photo Challenges | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments

Honey, I’m Home!

Hi there, strangers.

200postsOK, my blogging hiatus has lasted much longer than I had intended. But since this will be both my “I’m Back” announcement, and my 200th post, I’m thinking I should put a little thought into where I hope to go from here.

While I haven’t exactly been setting the world on fire or saving mankind, my beloved and I have finally found our way into full retirement. I’ve made at least some progress on my original goals, and telling you about what we’ve been doing should be fodder for a number of fun and interesting future posts. For example…

  • We’ve settled into our retirement home (more or less… there will no doubt be a few posts on the rehabilitation of the fixer-upper we bought!)  We’ve also made our decisions on starting Social Security, pension options, and IRA distributions. Once we knew what our mortgage and healthcare costs would be, that got easier!
  • Now that we are both retired and in one place (we actually had two homes going for a while), taking care of our health and diet will be easier. A recent scare has given us new focus here. That’ll be worth a post or two as well.
  • 2015 will be a year when our time will be more flexible than it’s ever been before. I’m looking forward to the resulting possibilities, and sharing what we do with them!  So far, we’ve started planning a late Spring trip to the opposite coast. For the first time ever we aren’t limited by available vacation days! That should be good for a few travelogues…
  • We just had our first “Soup Day” in our new house. This year, sixteen people stayed here for the weekend, cooking soups and playing games… our newly installed kitchen received a baptism by fire (not literally, but it got quite a workout!)  The upcoming holidays promise several wonderful get-togethers with friends and family, and we’ve had lots of small visits recently, too.
  • I have updated my genealogy software, and my beloved and I each did a genealogy DNA test (with some interesting results.)  I’ve done quite a bit of online family research in the past month, in the hope of making some personalized Christmas gifts. I’ve also been consolidating and organizing my digital photo archives so I can more quickly add any newly scanned or taken pics as I go, and can better find what I’m looking for in my older digital files.
  • I still need a new digital SLR camera, but I can’t wait to get back into my favorite photo challenges. I’ve been sporadically following a number of my favorite bloggers, but have resisted taking time to engage, for the most part. I’m ready to jump back in!

And… that’s me caught up in a nutshell. I’ll have to think about whether to continue periodic retirement challenges or whether I’ll start focusing on other things. For now, I’m just hoping to get back into a regular posting and following rhythm, looking forward to reconnecting with my old blog-buddies and maybe even finding some new ones.

So, what’s new with you?

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Credits:

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger Expendables 2 Clip: Lionsgate/YouTube
  • My Little Pony Power Pony Clip: HasbroStudiosShorts/YouTube
Posted in Blogging, Retirement itself | Tagged , , | 12 Comments