Thursday, November 26, 2015

Tom, the Multi-purpose Turkey

Meet Tom.

Delighted to make your acquaintance.

I can’t remember when I first purchased him off the clearance table at Cracker Barrel, but I know it’s been over ten years. At the time, I wondered if I was wasting my money. Now I can categorically say it was the best ten-dollars I ever spent.
Tom’s talent for greeting friends and family on special occasions is by no means limited to Thanksgiving. Over the years, he has welcomed special guests as ...
the Easter Turkey

Can't believe she put this ridiculous outfit on me.

Tourist Turkey

I could get used to this one.
and Santa Turkey (his least favorite role, I might add). 

Bah, humbug!
While Tom is a rather staid and dignified fellow, he seldom complains about the ridiculous garb he is crammed into. But on those occasions he does start to grumble,
Next thing you know, she'll be putting a witch's hat on me.
I gently remind him that being crammed into silly outfits beats the heck out of being crammed into a 350-degree oven. The grumbling quickly comes to a halt. 
Of course, Tom is at his best as Pilgrim Turkey, wishing everyone a 
Now this is more like it.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Re-thinking the Bucket List

            The idea of a bucket list has always caused me concern. It’s not that thinking about the completion date of said list bothers me. Rather, it’s that it smacks of a sort of desperation, of things that must be done before that deadline (no pun intended). Like, “Before I die, I have to hike the Pacific Crest Trail . . . visit the Taj Mahal . . . write a bestseller.”  Also, to me, a bucket list suggests something finite. Each time we check off an item, we empty our bucket a little more. Eventually, it’s completely drained . . . and then we die.
            I guess, for people who are planners or goal-setters, traditional bucket-list thinking is fine. But for people like me who sort of ride the river of life, bobbing and bouncing with the current, that kind of thinking induces guilt. Like we’re rudderless if we don’t compile a list and  slackers if we don’t complete it.
            So I’ve given it some thought and have re-designed the bucket list for those like me. Traditional thinking is that you fill a bucket with all the wonderful things you want to accomplish and then you empty it item by item. But for us less intentional folks, you start with a completely empty bucket and fill it as you go. You leave yourself open to experiences that you never considered. Sometimes you’re pleased or thrilled with the results, sometimes disappointed. But wouldn’t it have been the same with a pre-filled bucket?
            All this bucket-thinking began with reflection on the travels and events I've experienced over the past few months. I would have never placed any of them on a pre-determined bucket list. They weren’t sojourns to lofty or exotic destinations or grandiose fetes which would make the news. And yet I discovered places I never knew existed, learned fascinating facts about the history of our country, made dear new friends, enjoyed family moments, and took in awe-inspiring vistas. In fact, I had so many bucketworthy experiences, I’m going to have to get a bigger bucket!   
          Some of the memorable items I've recently added to my bucket  . . .
Amazing Luray Caverns in Virginia
The luxurious Greenbriar Hotel in West Virginia.
Did you know a government bunker was underneath it?
Celebrating with family in
Sunriver, Oregon
Hiking in Sedona, Arizona
A gorgeous sunset right here in Oklahoma!

Metolius River, Oregon

Fishing with grandsons ...
in our own backyard (practically)


For Walking Dead fans, a shot
from the streets of
Senoia, Georgia, where the
show is filmed
In Savannah,Georgia beautiful
Forsythe Square
In Atlanta,
the desk and typewriter on
which Gone with the Wind
was created
Also in Atlanta, a serene stroll
through historic Oakland Cemetary
The view from Dowdell's Knob, where FDR often
went to picnic and reflect

Friends and fellow travelers,
Sam and Linda Jones posing
with bronze statue of
Franklin Roosevelt at
Dowdell's Knob

The Little White House
at Warm Springs, Georgia,
the place of FDR's death

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Politician or Statesman?

            Trying my best to be an informed voter, I tuned in to the recent Republican debate. I felt a bit like I do when I go to a shopping mall—overwhelmed. When it comes to clothes, home improvement, laundry detergent . . . I’m the type that likes two or three choices. More than that and I’m confused.
            So as I watched the abundance of Republican hopefuls the other night, I decided I needed to find some sort of criteria/criterion that would narrow my options.  
            Being as this was a Republican debate, the candidates and I agreed for the most part on issues. So the issues weren’t . . . well, an issue. But as I watched the posturing, the often canned responses, the occasional heated moments, it became apparent some candidates were clearly more skilled at explaining the problems we face as a country and what they planned to do about them. I started thinking about that, and the word statesman came to mind.
There is no dearth of "politicians" on
either side of the aisle.
            To confirm I was on the right track, I consulted the dictionary. Concerning politicians, the definitions ran the gamut from "a person skilled in political government or administration; a statesman or stateswoman" to "a seeker or holder of public office who is more concerned about winning favor or retaining power than about maintaining principles." (They might as well have said “see bottom-feeding scum-sucker” for that last one.)
            The definitions for statesmen/stateswoman were a little kinder: "a person experienced in the art of government or versed in the administration of government affairs; a person exhibiting great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues."
            On first reading, those definitions did nothing to solve my quandary. In fact, they seemed to suggest that politicians and statesmen weren’t that different. It seemed that to be either, there had to be a firm grounding in the ins and outs (read that “wheeling and dealing”) of government.
            While I don’t buy into the notion that all politicians are on-the-take sleaze balls (although some definitely are), neither do I believe that experience in government is necessary to be an effective chief executive. The definition of statesman seemed to suggest that. But then I read it again and noticed that little two-letter word: or.
            Statesmen don’t have to have experience in government. Just because people haven’t held a public office, it doesn’t mean they don’t possess skill in dealing with important public issues. They might have demonstrated this ability in other ways. To suggest a couple: through volunteerism, through the way they run their lives/businesses.
            And so I was able to establish my final criteria. My candidate of choice must fit my definition of a statesman: one who exhibits great wisdom and ability in dealing with important public issues and has the skill to effectively communicate those qualities. That narrows my choices considerably.                               



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Take a Hike!

            One of my favorite vacation destinations is Sedona, Arizona. I’ve visited numerous scenic venues in the US (and a few abroad), but I contend that for awe-inspiring views Sedona can’t be beat. Whether you’re on top of a mountain, at the bottom of a canyon, or shopping the tourist-crammed streets of “Uptown Sedona,” jaw-dropping vistas are just a matter of turning or tilting your head.
View from a Sedona summit
            With so much rugged beauty to be absorbed, it naturally follows that hiking is a popular activity in the area. And that is the main activity Bill and I pursue whenever we visit. Mind you, I’m not talking Walk Across America or Wild, here. No coast-to-coast or Pacific Rim trek with all our worldly possessions strapped to our backs. For the most part, our hikes range from three to six hours in the coolest or warmest part of the day, depending on the season. And they always end with a long soak in a hot tub and a good night’s rest in a comfy bed.
            But even wuss hikes such as these provide time and opportunity for inspiration and reflection. So on a recent one in Sedona, I “reflected” on rules for hiking and living.
For basic hiking equipment,
the basic stick is hard to
beat. (Is that a pum?)
Be prepared. Spontaneity has its place, but most endeavors in hiking—as in life—are more fully enjoyed if you take a tip from the Boy Scouts and prepare. The preparation doesn’t have to be elaborate. I’ve found the basic essentials to be plenty water and the right attire. Protection from the elements is a must as are comfortable shoes. (There are occasions in life where comfort can be sacrificed for a really smokin’ pair of shoes, but hiking isn’t one of them.) Also, take along a small emergency kit (think blisters, bug bites). I’ve become a fan of the walking stick. Whether it’s a carved and varnished one, a high-tech metal one, or one picked up along the trail, a stick can be a life-saver for knees. And a camera! Take a camera to help preserve memories.
My favorite hiking partner.
Share the trail (but occasionally go solo). I think most people will agree that new experiences are more fun when they’re shared. Plus, there’s safety in numbers. But ever so often, a solitary sojourn can be relaxing and soul-satisfying. On a familiar, easy trail, or on a portion of a longer one, go it alone and see what a difference it makes. (I got the idea for this post while I journeyed solo on a portion of a trail.)
Be open to a variety of experiences. It’s weird the way my and Bill’s preferences reflect our personalities. He likes to climb “above” the action and take in sweeping vistas. (I think it’s a “master of the universe” thing). I, on the other hand, enjoy the “coziness” of canyon hikes. (I know it makes no sense, but, for me, canyons seem to require less climbing.) We compromise and do both and have learned to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of both types of trails.
Notice the details...
Take time to notice. For most of my life, I’ve been a “get-‘er-done” kind of person. When I tackle a project, I want fast results. On a trail, I have to remind myself to focus on the journey and not the destination. I’m training myself to slow down and engage all my senses. To take in the panoramicview from a different perspective, to see the new green growth that has resulted from a recent rain, to breathe in the scent of warm pine needles, to hear the rush of a nearby stream.
Take time to look up. When hiking, it’s necessary to concentrate on your feet and the path immediately before you. Rocks, roots, and other snares to trip you up can spring from the ground in the time span of a step. Watching your feet take one step after another can become mind numbing, so don’t forget to look up. Whether you’re hiking to the top of a mountain or exploring the depths of a canyon, craning the neck can provide majestic views and perhaps give that needed jolt of inspiration to keep going.
Looking up can provide inspiration.
Obstacles are no reason to quit.
If you encounter an obstacle, consider the options. A fallen tree, a swollen stream, a critter on the trail—obstacles happen. Go over or around. Clear a new way. Plow through. Turn around. All are options. What is never an option, however, is giving up.
Cairns tell other hikers,
"I was here. You can do it!"
Take encouragement from those who have gone before. Moments of doubt will come. Just when you think you’ve climbed too high, taken a wrong turn, ventured too far, you see a sign that someone has gone before you. You realize that what you’re attempting is not impossible. And you keep going.
Know that the end of the trail is never the end of the trail. Trails seldom just end. They cross, loop, bisect, merge, converge, diverge. When you reach that end-of-the-trail marker, know it’s most often a lie. There are still myriad opportunities open to you. If on the rare occasion it actually is the end of the trail, enjoy the return trip. You’re sure to catch something you missed on the initial one.
            On the trail and in life, I wish you happy hiking!     

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Blogging: Busking for Writers

            At fifty-five, Carl Falsgraf chucked his successful, well-paying career and set out on a forty-nine-day, round-trip journey from Eugene, Oregon, to Portland, Maine. He planned to use this time to unwind, re-charge, and reflect on what to do with the remainder of his life. Along the way he recorded his reflections and revelations, which he later shared in his travel memoir Highway Blues. A musician and songwriter, he also composed some new songs as he traveled. And—in an activity that especially interested me—he tried his hand at busking.
            As I type this post, I’m glad to see that busk is immediately underlined with a red squiggle. Spellchecker is as unfamiliar with the term as I was. But ensures me it is indeed a word and means “to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place.” The web site further informs me it is a chiefly British term, and a YouTube search reveals that, British or not, it is a thriving activity the U.S.
            Falsgraf describes busking as “the most primal, challenging, and rewarding mode of musical experience.” The busker puts himself out there without the benefit of advance people, publicists, promoters, and all manner of fancy sound equipment. It’s just him, his raw performance, and his voluntary audience. Feedback is immediate: If people don’t like the performance, they walk away.
            While busking can be nerve-racking, rewards do exist. Most often they are in the form of busy passers-by who pause to listen and indicate their pleasure by smiling and maybe nodding along to the music. If they are especially appreciative, these transitory fans might toss some coins into a jar or instrument case, but don’t count on those tips to pay the bills.
            As I read Falsgraf’s explanation of the experience, it struck me that busking and blogging have much in common. In fact, I’ll venture to say that blogging is to the writer what busking is to the musician. Especially the way I do it. While there are the professional bloggers who garner huge followings and rake in mega-bucks, a glance at my blog will quickly reveal its amateur status: not a lot of money invested, not a lot of hours spent in SEO searches, not a lot of advertising and/or promotional schemes. I do have the opportunity to edit and revise before casting out my writing “pearls,” but my posts are raw in that no professional editor or even trusted writer friend has tweaked them. As for feedback, the stats quickly inform me how well received my efforts are.
            Certainly, there are no financial rewards—not even a few coins tossed my way. But, as with busking, rewards can take other forms. There is the opportunity to air my thoughts and observations (of which I have many) without the pressure of meeting a quota or deadline. I have the freedom to choose my topics “as the spirit moves me.” I get the pleasure of feedback in the forms of comments and “likes” and “shares” and in the discovery I’ve added another follower. And there is always the unexpected bonus of someone complimenting you on a post and you had no idea they even read your blog.
            It took me years to arrive at this conclusion, but I consider writing to be like any other talent. And just as there are all types of forums in which other talents can be shared, blogging provides one in which both the writing pros and the “buskers” can publicly perform.


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Debunking the Effortless-Entertaining Myth

One can learn a lot from these two!
            I subscribe to one magazine. Every month I look forward to its decorating tips, its travel suggestions, its recipes. But it seems as if at least every other month it features an article on how to entertain graciously with little or no effort. Not only do I not enjoy these, I find them downright irritating. Mainly because anyone who has ever so much as hosted a Tupperware or Mary Kay party knows that the claim of “effortless entertaining” is complete bul baloney.
            First, let me fill you in on my magazine’s idea of the perfect “lazy” lunch as described in the latest issue. If you’re hosting said lunch, it helps if you have a beach cottage with a front porch that will accommodate a table with seating for ten. With a few days planning, inspiration from the time you lived in the south of France, and a menu that requires an French-to-English dictionary just to pronounce the dishes, “easy” can be turned into “elegant” in no time. If you don’t have giant clamshells in which to ice down your wine selection, not to fret. Fake Faux versions can be found online at a mere $150 each. At that bargain price, you’ll want to snatch up a couple of them. And speaking of “clams,” let’s not forget a trip to the bank to finance this laid-back affair.
            If you don’t happen to have a beachside cottage at your disposal, how about offering a down-home, back-yard picnic? It helps if your back yard consists of ten acres with an 8,000 square-foot dairy barn (used to store your antiques), a stream, and a pond. With very little fuss, move your rustic farm table (which seats eight) outside under your towering red oak, add place-settings you’ve “plucked” from your barn, and fashion individual place-card holders with the wild flowers you’ve gathered from your very own meadow. Who knew a bucolic banquet could be both easy and economical?
            Please don’t get me wrong. I’m not criticizing those with the desire, means, and energy to entertain graciously. On the contrary, I admire their generosity and hospitality. But let’s call it what it is: a fete of biblical proportions that requires weeks (months?) of planning; a crew of cooks, cleaners, decorators, and furniture movers; and an income greater than that of most third-world countries. Even for those of us who don’t aspire to such grandiose galas, entertaining is never easy. I mean, we still have to plan, shop, clean, cook, serve, and clean again. That’s why I attempt it only about every five years. That is also why I never, ever call it "effortless."
            While magazine articles on entertaining can make great fantasy reading, the best lesson I ever learned about hassle-free entertaining was from a Laverne and Shirley episode. The girls had planned a festive affair at their apartment. About ten minutes before their guests arrived, they assembled their refreshments: Pepsi with milk and Oreo cookies with Redi-Whip sprayed on top. Now that, my friends, is about as effortless as it gets (and even then, they had to go to the store).          

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Celebracation in Sunriver, Oregon

     When family spans four generations and is scattered all over the country, it takes a special occasion to bring everyone together.  But gather we did last week for recreating and celebrating the special occasion of my mother’s 90th birthday. I must credit my sister Elaine for orchestrating this near-impossible feat. Being the oldest of three siblings (and having a natural tendency toward bossiness), she managed to schedule a time and place we could all meet. And what a place it was! Bittern Lodge—a vacation rental in Sunriver, Oregon—provided the perfect setting for both indoor and outdoor fun in the pleasant Oregon sun. I realize a narrative of someone else’s family reunion isn’t everyone’s idea of riveting reading, so I’ll keep this brief and hopefully more engaging by giving a quick photo tour of the week’s activities.

First things first. The birthday girl then
(1942) and now. (In the interest of full disclosure, her birthday isn't until Sept. 24., but this was the only time we could all work a group trip into our schedules. And, anyway, after 90 years, what's a couple of months?)


Sunriver, located on the Eastern slopes
of the Cascade Mountains, provided
miles of biking, hiking, and four-wheeling
trails that led to one scenic venue after another.


Thanks to nephew-in-law Justin, we didn't lack
for ways to get around on the trails. (No "minimalist"
vacationing for this group!)
Great-uncle Doug gave Bennett some operating tips. (Bennett didn't care that the four-wheeler was still on the trailer.) 
No back to the basics here, either. Plenty of room with 8 bedrooms--and (bonus!) 8 bathrooms.

A kitchen large enough to accommodate many cooks. (I did my part by staying out of their way.)
And food:
(Can't forget food!)
The good stuff...

the really good stuff...
and the REALLY, REALLY good stuff!
Most important--Family:
Mama and her sister, last two
surviving of 9 siblings.


Great grandkids
(I apologize I don't have a "kids" pic, as I
was in the picture and don't have a copy
of it yet.)

What's more fun than spending time with cousins? Spending time with FIVE of them!
Random moments:

Birthday dinner

Amy, our ad hoc historian

Doug, winner of our impromptu
One-handed Skillet-lifting
(The skillet weighted 12.5lbs plus
another pot and lid of about 5 lbs.)

and snores...

and a party-crasher!
To sum up the celebracation with a tried-and-true journalism phrase:
A good time was had by all!