Fixed and Floating - formed on the First of Feb!

There are quite a few Fs there, and that pretty much sums up how I'm feeling right now. I've been suffering from depression for nine years, off and on, and thought it might be liberating to put my experiences down on paper, so to speak. Who knows, I might even get to meet one or two people like me, which is normally an extremely rare event. Whatever, every man and his dog has a blog, and since I have neither a blog nor a dog, I feel I've been missing out.

I came up with my blog title after overhearing conversations at work (yes I still manage to hold down a job) about mortgage interest rates. Everyone has an opinion about the merits of fixed or floating-rate contracts, to the extent that the whole fixed-or-floating debate is getting close to Blur-versus-Oasis was in the nineties. I've yet to dive into the housing market for all kinds of reasons, but I figure I'm both fixed (nothing ever seems to change) and floating (totally directionless).

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, having moved here from the UK in November 2003, and I'm currently very much in the "on" phase of my depression cycle. Anything involving other people is pretty much off the agenda, and everything else, while still manageable, has slowed down considerably. I walk at half the speed I used to, supermarket shopping seems to take ages, and at work I'm completely unmotivated and functioning at about 30% of capacity. I live alone, have no family here and few if any friends. My parents live in South Canterbury, which for those of you who don't know NZ, is an 80-minute flight and an even longer drive from here. So I'm almost totally isolated.

Last night I went to a party with work people for the first time in a long time. Heaven knows why I went. The whole experience was painful for me and I was home by 11. Watching Jeremy, the new maths whizz-kid, get eaten alive by a bunch of blokes who with a few drinks inside them had turned into pack animals, was horribly reminiscent of school. Sensing Jeremy was enjoying the party even less than me, I dropped him off on the way home.

On Friday night I was up past 3am listening to the commentary of the match between Nadal and Verdasco which was simply amazing. Richard Evans and Chris Bowers are brilliant commentators - shame they couldn't have done all five sets together. I now have mixed feelings about tonight's final. Part of me wants Federer to tie Sampras's record, but wouldn't it be something if Nadal could recover from playing the longest match in Australian Open history to win the final? I have half a mind to find a pub somewhere and watch it, and maybe take tomorrow off work. I've taken very few sick days in my five years at this job, and let's face it, I am sick right now.

Reason #1,635 I hate being an only parent

Dear Fifth Grade Parents,

I would like to make you aware of a serious issue that we have recently encountered among the fifth grade students. It has come to our attention that many of the students have been using inappropriate language and gestures to denote sexual references during school. In addition, many of the students have been making racial comments against each other. Teachers talked with the students in groups of boys and girls to try to discern what has transpired.

Students were asked to write down their observations. Their responses were disturbing. The teachers let the students know that this discussion was a place where they could freely talk about their concerns. The students were then told that following the conversation, these behaviors and words and gestures would not be tolerated at all. This behavior is not only disrespectful, but shows an absolute disregard of what we hold so important in our Catholic school community.

We ask that you - as the primary teachers of your children - take time to talk to them and to answer their questions. They have a natural curiosity at this age that must be addressed. We need your help in teaching our students about the social issues and necessary boundaries they encounter as young teenagers.

We will not tolerate the language, the gestures, and the overt behavior some of them have displayed. The students have been told that we will follow our discipline policy to include suspension and possible expulsion.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 123-4567 or email me at xxxxx. You may also email Mrs. Jxxxx at yyyyyy or Mrs. Exxxxx at zzzzzzz.

Sincerely,
Lxxx Cxxxxxx, Principal

And so it begins. My boys need Nick's guidance and example; HardPlace doesn't want to talk to me about this stuff. Now what?

Two quotes for those who need to read them today

The opening stanza of a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Sufi mystic:
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.

And this jewel from the book with the unfortunate title:
You can feel it, the tangible ache in the chest; you can let it carry you deeper than your thoughts about yourself, deeper than your ideas about spirituality and the meaning of life, down into the spacious simplicity, the silence that is the root of your being. Being present to yourself is the beginning of a journey without end. That kind of journey is itself the destination. All you are asked to do is to start down that road.

Poetry Challenge

This is courtesy of Barbara at Surfside Serenity.

Fourth Annual!!

What?
A Bloggers (Silent) Poetry Reading

When?
Anytime February 2, 2009

Where?
Your blog

Why?
Some poetry is warming. It cracks the ice in the heart of the Earth to remind her that spring is just around the corner. ... or, if you live south of the equator, choose poetry to cool the heart of the Earth so as to remind her that fall is coming.

How?
Select a poem you like -- by a favorite poet or one of your own -- to post February 2nd.

What else?
Feel free to pass this invitation to any and all bloggers.
______________

I'm in a total poetry-reading zone these days, so this is perfect for me.

That time of year


We've just planted our first set of tomato seeds, hoping to emulate last years efforts above!

The power of the press

Some of you will know I work in complaints, some of you won't. One of the most common things complainants say to me is "if this doesn't get sorted I'm going to the press", and yet this has never happened. I've often wondered if it's an idle threat or whether they do and the press tells them to bugger off!

The best laid plans


The plan was to go to Filey Brigg and spot a few Oystercatchers and Turnstones and maybe a few others if we were lucky. However it was cold and wet so we changed our minds and ended up secondary glazing our bedroom (what exciting lives we lead!) So the Oystercatcher you see above was taken at Filey Brigg it just wasn't taken today.

Hull City v Millwall

Well we won, 2-0 and probably deserved it. Reasonable performances throughout the team, with the exception of Garcia and Halmosi, who were both shocking. Harry enjoyed it immensely, refusing to leave early to avoid the crowds, and didn't even notice the crowd trouble.

A bit of beauty to start the day


A cloud sitting in my backyard ... you really need to click on it to get the full effect.

Momentous Occasion


Today is a special day, Harry is going to his first Hull City game, I don't know who is more excited, him or me. I have taught him all the appropriate things to shout (particularly at the referee) so we are ready to go. We've just got to wait until 3 o clock now.

Whence comes the impetus for change

Life-changers, part two

I've been in a good place lately. A really good place. I wrote about it when I was putting up my 2009 calendar; and again when talking about the poetry I'm reading now.

Introvert that I am, I've not been content to simply savor that goodness. I've been exploring it, climbing the rocky, barren mountain to find the source of the water flowing into the desert. It was easy to trace the well-being to Hawaii: relaxation, indulgence, family, beauty. But I find that I am still in Hawaii, even 6 weeks later. The change must have begun before then to run so deeply now.

I think that something broke open for me in Sedona. At the time, I said that I'd spent more money than I intended, but the getaway was so wonderful that I truly didn't care. I brought some treasures home with me that have been bringing me happiness and more.

Katsinas (kachinas) and katsina dolls are Hopi representations of the spiritual beings that exist in the natural world. A katsina can be anything -- an element, an animal, a natural phenomenon, or even a concept. I've always liked the dolls, but I had shied away from owning them, because they are, in fact, religious objects, representing the spirits that are central to the Hopi religion. A few years ago, though, I bought three really small (less than 3" high) katsinas, because they spoke to me and made me happy. (Happy is good, you know.) Then I bought three more and two more and had a sweet little party of katsinas. When I moved out here, I found a few more, and then a few more.

When I went to Sedona last fall, I literally doubled my katsina collection. The little party has become a veritable parade, and they make me so incredibly happy. I can't explain it to you, but each one of the little figures calls to me and lifts me and fills me ... and makes me happy. But in addition to the 3" katsinas, I came home with three larger ones.







I saw Horse practically as I walked into the store. I was in awe of his elegance and dignity.







Ogre had me in his clutches the moment I saw him. Look at those feathers! Look at those leather teeth!

I gave myself permission to buy these two katsinas, even though they were ridiculously expensive. Horse was simply so elegant; I needed him in my life. And Ogre -- I live with two ogres, of course I had to bring him home with me.

I really wanted Runner, as well, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend the money -- until the clerk started talking about the katsinas as he wrapped up Horse and Ogre for me.

Horse protects the travelers and helps carry their burdens. Duhh ... no wonder I felt so drawn to him.

Black Ogre (as opposed to White) is the bogeyman who keeps the children in line, who disciplines them to ensure they respect the tribal culture and honor the elders. ROFLMAO. Yup. I need this guy in my house.

And what about Runner? In one Hopi celebration, the men of the community race against the katsinas, and Runner follows the racers. His hand is covered with paint, and he chases the racers, keeping them going as fast as they can, because they don't want him to paint their back with his hand.

So Runner is the push you need to keep on going.








My trifecta: Support for the journey, discipline in the household, and the push to keep going.







I see my katsinas every day, a hundred times a day. They lift me up and keep me going -- and they make me smile.

Did these katsina dolls change my life? No, of course not. Did buying them change me? No. However, they helped me name what I have needed in my life, and naming the need is ninety percent of answering it, even when what you need is as ephemeral as change.

Wifey surveys the wier at Egton on Sunday. The bird list rises to 58 courtesy of the lovely feral Pigeon which I see every day but never thought of putting on the list, but hey it's got wings and a beak so why not!

East Park


Whilst travelling in East Hull today I popped into East Park to see if the Goosanders were still there. Not a particularly good photo, but there is one female Goosander and several Pochard which is also a new one for the year, taking the total to 57.

Cawthorne, Wheeldale and Egton



Today we drove to Cawthorne Woods (that's my shadow in the bottom left corner). Just before we got there we saw a flock of at least a hundred Fieldfares and in the woods managed to spot a Treecreeper, taking us to 54 for the year. After Cawthorne we drove over Wheeldale Moor where we spotted a Stonechat (number 55), but not much else. We then stopped at the stepping stones at Egton Bridge where normally we would expect to see a Dipper and a Grey Wagtail, but the water levels were too high, which covered the rocks we normally see them on. So, a nice weekend out and about, but unfortunately it's back to work tomorrow.

Waters Edge



Yesterday after Blacktoft we went to Far Ings and then on to Waters Edge. Waters Edge is a fairly new nature reserve on the south bank of the Humber just near Barton. It has an impressive list of birds seen so far, and if it's very cold like it was today, it has a decent cafe inside as well! Other birds seen today include Teal, Goldeneye and Sparrowhawk, taking our years total to 52. The other photograph is as close as I got to the Harrier at Blacktoft.

Remembering

I remember being 4 years old and walking into the bathroom when you were in the tub and saying ewwwwwwwwww gross!


I remember your throwing a pillow at my face and having it launch the pencil I was looking at into the corner of my eye socket.

I remember your teaching me how to climb onto the roof via the tree by the bathroom window.

I remember your broken toe from the ping-pong table.

I remember your using your newspaper money to buy me a 3-speed bicycle for Christmas.

I remember your broken leg from the hit-and-run in the alley.

I remember beating you at chess ... and refusing to ever play you again.

I remember hours of lining up Stratego pieces and shooting them down with rubber bands.

I remember your pinning me down and drooling in my face.

I remember you and Malcolm sitting on the wall in the sun.

I remember hiding from you under the dock.

I remember catching giant pollywogs at the end of the bay.

I remember how Mrs. Alderman's face blanched when she realized I was your sister.

I remember your drinking Tabasco sauce for breakfast.

I remember your playing guitar in the dark.

I remember your terrifying the neighbor kids with your gorilla imitations.

I remember your lifting up your pants leg and stomping through the canals of Venice.

I remember cries of "Where's my waitress?" and "More whiskey!"

I remember the police coming to the door at midnight asking where you were.

I remember Hello, in There and The Man in Black.

I remember you with your firstborn son.

I remember your throwing me into the pool at my rehearsal dinner.

I remember the death of your first grandchild.

I remember your presence with us as Nick lay dying and the gift you gave me afterward.

I remember you, Lawrence.

Lawrence "Leroy" Lee
1 December 1956 - 17 January 2007

I will always remember you and love you and hold you in my heart.


Blacktoft Sands


We went to Blacktoft Sands today and I had high hopes of getting some nice bird shots. However as you can see from the above shot, there wasn't a lot about! Of the 6 or 7 hides at Blacktoft, all but 1 looked like this. The 1 hide with birds on threw up a Grey Heron and Shelduck which took the years total to 48, we also saw a couple of cavorting Marsh Harriers, make that 49.
Hello everyone, I haven't posted for a couple of days because on Wednesday I saw a Reed Bunting. Now I know I have a photograph of a Reed Bunting somewhere and I wanted to post it, but I can't for the life of me find it, so no post. Anyway it was a new bird for the year so gets added to the total, making it 46. This weekend should see more birds added to the tally and hopefully I will have some fresh photos, I bet you can't wait!. Finally a big welcome back to Gawpo.

Pearl Harbor pics are up

I've put pictures from Pearl Harbor up on my photo blog. You can wander on over there at your leisure, but I would be remiss if I didn't regale you with Alicia's Pearl Harbor Saga.

The National Park Service allows only a certain number of people to tour the USS Arizona Memorial each day. If you arrive 1 minute after the last ticket has been distributed, you're out of luck, even if the memorial will be open for another 2 hours. Visitors are encouraged to arrive early, to ensure that they get tickets and can see the memorial.

We were signed up for the submarine tour at 10 a.m. and wouldn't be back until after 12 noon. To make sure that HardPlace and I could see the memorial, I took a taxi from the ship to memorial as soon as we docked. I paid $30 for the fare and the driver said he'd wait for me to get the tickets (because he didn't want to go back to Honolulu empty).

Security officer: You can't take that in there, ma'am (pointing to my 6" x 10" Holland America pouch, which had my camera and my wallet).
Alicia: Oh, I'm not going to the memorial, I'm just going to get tickets for later on.
You can't take that in there.
Not even just to get tickets?
No, Ma'am. You have to leave that in your car.
But I took a taxi.
You can check it over there ... pointing to an adjacent museum of World War II submarines.

I walk across 2 parking lots to the check room, pay my $3 fee and walk back to the Arizona memorial

Park Service agent: I can't give you tickets for this afternoon.
Alicia: What?
We give them out when you are here; I can't give you advance tickets.
But. But.
I'm sorry ma'am. The last tour begins at 3:00. This time of year, you should be okay if you arrive by 2:30.

I walk back across the parking lots, choking on my fury, disappointment, and distress. The check-room supervisor gives me back my $3 as I'm sobbing my frustration. The taxi driver says I did not know that they didn't give tickets in advance. Traffic was heavier than on the way to the Memorial: Cab fare was $40.

I tell my sad tale of woe to my family; Pierre says, $70! You should have taken the bus. I didn't know where I was going, and I had to make sure that I got back in time for the submarine tour.

... Several hours later ...

HardPlace and I part from the rest of the family after the submarine tour. We buy a few bags of chips and head to the bus stop. Fifty (50!) minutes later, we climb on the bus; 90 (NINETY!) minutes after that, we get off. It may have cost only $2, but we would have preferred the 20-minute taxi ride. But who cares--we arrived 5 minutes before the last tour began.

On the way home, I forked over another $40 to get back to the Zaandam -- we were NOT going to have another 90-minute bus ride through some very "interesting" parts of Honolulu.

In summary, I am very very VERY glad that HardPlace and I made it to Pearl Harbor -- even if it did cost me $112 to get (in)to a (free) national monument. The time HardPlace and I had together (including the nearly 2-1/2 hours it took to get there) and the power of the place were well worth every penny.

Young Widow: Naked in the Memorial Playground

If you are widowed, you will want to watch this documentary.
If you know a widowed person, you will want to watch this documentary.
If you think you might one day be widowed, watch this film.
If you don't think you might one day be widowed, watch this film.

PS

More pictures of Hawaii are finally up. I've been having irritating technical difficulties, so this is taking much longer than I thought it would/should. Thank you for being so patient.

Life-changers, part one

I'm reading a book right now with the unforgivable title ten poems to change your life.

I've been in the mood for poetry lately, and I picked this little book up at Barnes & Noble to read on the cruise. I laughed as I showed it to Mother, I'm buying this one: I am ready for a change! I hesitate to confess that I think this book could, indeed, prove to be a life-changer. I am reading it at just the right juncture that its words touch me and make me say, "AMEN."

The author, Roger Housden, has chosen 10 poems and written commentaries on them. (I was disheartened to see, when I went to get the Amazon link, that Housden has made a franchise of 10 poems to... much like the Chicken Soup books. Oh well, just because he knows how to sell himself doesn't mean that he doesn't know what he's writing about.)

The first poem in this volume is a humdinger:
The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

-- Mary Oliver
Ummm. Wow. That poem went right through me and INTO me. As I read Housden's commentary, all I could do was nod my head up and down.
I believe that Mary Oliver's poem can speak to anyone, wherever they are on their journey. Profound and significant changes can occur through the smallest, apparently insignificant gesture. If you are in the right place and read this poem at the right time, it may be the nudge you need to fall headlong into the life that has been waiting for you all along.
...
In leaving your past behind you, you walk through your fear of the unknown. To walk on despite all the pleas for you to come back is to know that you are free from the clutches of guilt. When you are free of the grip of guilt and fear, love blooms---love of the truth.
...
You do not even know what you are headed toward. Yet the first step can only ever be taken in darkness. You cannot know where it will take you. You cannot plan for this sort of journey because the entire undertaking relies on the unreasonableness of faith.
...
In being true to that small voice within, the poet says, you are being of service to others and to the world in the most profound way possible. You cannot know where that voice will take you, but in being willing "to save the only life you could save," you are affirming one of the deepest and most sobering truths of all: no one else can ever walk your journey for you.
There's nothing profoundly new in Housden's words, nothing that I and a hundred other widoweds haven't written on the board and in our blogs. But the words are apparently coming to me at a moment in my life when I need to read them and am able to embrace them.

More on the theme of life-changers tomorrow.

Turquoise Beavers

Harry joined the Beavers last week. In my day it was called Cubs and you wore a nice dark green uniform with a neckerchief and toggle. The new uniform is a screaming turquoise and in my opinion is a bit girly. I bet they don't play British Bulldog anymore either!

PS ... it's that time of year again

National De-Lurking Week is here.

If you've been reading my blog but not commenting ... I'd love a shout-out to let me know who you are and how you found me.

Some things are just too wonderful

The trip to Hawaii has lasted longer than the 2 weeks on board the Zaandam. I hadn't realized how stressed out and miserable we all were until about halfway through the cruise, when I realized that we weren't stressed out any more. The relaxed feelings of enjoying one another's company have continued, and we all are just so HAPPY right now.

Yesterday, HardPlace wanted to prepare dinner for us. I was planning on serving leftover meatloaf, and he insisted on taking over. Can I get you a glass of wine, Mom?

He had obviously been impressed by the fabulous presentations in the formal dining room of the ship. After reheating the food in the microwave, he plated individual portions, carefully creating a salad on each plate, complete with a cucumber cup in the middle. Then he arranged meatloaf on either side of a mound of rice. He insisted on bringing each plate to the table himself and summoning his brother himself.

HardPlace was so pleased with himself, and we enjoyed a very special family dinner.


This is a bottle brush plant in one of the green houses within the walled gardens at Normanby Hall. we have one of these plants in our garden, but it only flowers every 2 years, however when it does it's quite spectacular. We went to Normanby Hall last weekend. We couldn't get out this weekend because of kids parties. I took Harry to a party yesterday, it was a lively affair, bouncy castles etc and the usual party food afterwards. Guess which of the 30 children threw up all over their dad?

Wifey has been poorly today, so I've been running around doing shopping and things. No new birds today, but I did hear a woodpecker in the garden. Almost certainly a Greater Spotted Woodpecker like the one above that we saw at Sherwood Center Parcs last November. I have seen these from our garden in the past so it's nice to know they're still around.

Kauai pictures


I've encountered all kinds of technical difficulties, but pictures from Kauai are finally on my photo blog. My mom and I took a helicopter tour of the island: It was thrilling, breathtaking, exciting, and all the extravagant adjectives you can conjure.
I'm nursing a horrendous hangover today, please leave comments quietly thank you.

A side observation

I know when my family's birthday's and anniversaries are, but I don't know the important dates for Nick's family. They went into the recycling with my 2007 calendar, the only place I had them all written down.

I sent Nick's siblings and parents an email explaining that I didn't have any of the info and asking them to send me the birthdays/anniversaries from their part of the family. I also told them that I'd had to get a new cell phone and I no longer had any of their phone numbers.

Guess how many emails I got back with birthdays, anniversaries, and phone numbers.

Dang! Y'all sure are smart. Not one. Zero. None.

I have to take responsibility for it, of course. I am guessing that the silence probably has something to do with my BIL's having found this blog. And having read "that post." And even if he didn't tell his siblings about it, it's no secret that I don't really like my in-laws and that I don't really want them in my life or in my boys' lives.

Funny how strange it feels though, the mixed reactions of

- Can you believe they didn't reply?
- Thank God they didn't reply!
- I kind of wish they had replied.

I may be relieved that my in-laws' past actions have freed me from any sense of obligation toward them to "honor Nick" or to stay in close touch "for the sake of the boys." But I guess I'm a bit embarrassed that they found this blog, that they read my angriest thoughts about them. I would never say to their faces the things that I have written here. Even so, as I told my BIL when he found my blog I won't be changing my writing or deleting any posts just because I know he's found me.

Truth to tell -- and this is the strangest part -- even though I don't really like them, I'm kind of hurt and sad that they don't like me, that they have never liked me, that they don't want to try to make things right between us. I tried to do the right thing by acknowledging to my BIL that some of what I'd written had to hurt him. I did the right thing by trying to get contact information and special dates. The ball's in their court; it's been in their court for 17 years. I guess they're going to keep it.

Hong Kong Radio


If you see this you know your on the wrong side of the City. (apologies to non Hull residents who probably won't understand this)
More than one way to skin a cat.

Maui photos are up...

Enjoy! Kauai images will follow soon.

The View - Shock Horror

I love this. I suspect it might be the new single. Sorry for not posting more, but very busy at work, and the buggers have sent me on even more training tomorrow!

Training

I've worked for the council for 27 years, and now they send me on induction training. Today was, Values, Principles and Legislation, absolutely riveting. Went for a walk at dinnertime, no new birds, but followed a flock of Goldfinches for a while, which was nice.

ritual, n., and revelation, n.

ritual

1. an established or prescribed procedure for a religious or other rite.
...
7. prescribed, established, or ceremonial acts or features collectively, as in religious services.
8. any practice or pattern of behavior regularly performed in a set manner.

2008 calendar
2009 calendar
Red pen, for birthdays and anniversaries
Green pen, for holidays, holy days, feast days
Blue pen, for school vacation and half-days

Open 2009 calendar to a pristine January.
Pick up red pen and enter my birthday -- I know when THAT is!
Open 2008 calendar to a cluttered January. Look for my FIL's birthday.

It's not there! February. My BIL's and nephew's birthdays aren't there. March? Nothing!

Whoa. My 2008 calendar is filled with notations about shuttling Mother to and from the chemo clinic; notes about my sister's doctor's appointments; scattered play dates and school functions; my sister's travel schedule; other sundry notes.

But nothing about family birthdays. No saints' feast days. No school breaks noted in advance -- just scrawled in as the date approached.

Wow.
revelation, n.

1. the act of revealing or disclosing; disclosure.
2. something revealed or disclosed, esp. a striking disclosure, as of something not before realized.

When 2008 started, I didn't perform my treasured ritual of copying important information from the old year to the new. Was it a reflection on 2007, the old year? or on 2008, the new year? Or merely a reflection on myself and my state of being last January?

There was so much misery and pain this time last year, so much upheaval and loss. I really couldn't wrap my mind around a new year, a new beginning, a new anything. I certainly couldn't "look forward" to anything, plan anything.

What a different place I am in as 2009 begins! I want newness. I want to plan. I want to look forward. Yes, I still miss Nick and ache with loneliness; yes, I still miss Maryland and my networks of friends; yes, I still miss Holy Transfiguration and feel disconnected from the outer expressions of my faith; yes, my mother still has cancer and will likely not see another New Year.

But. But but but. But what? I don't know. I just know that I am ready for a new year, ready for new beginnings, ready for something to look forward to. And that is a profoundly important revelation.

Family

It has been great to have my sister's boys in town. Dave is 29, in the Air Force and lives in Oklahoma. Greg is 27; he and Amanda, his might-as-well-call-her wife, live here in Tucson. Their Jack is quite probably the most adorable 9-month old in the world. Or at least in Arizona. Okay, in my family. Brian is 23; he's living in LA where he has basically given up on breaking into "the industry." You would think that having already won an Emmy would give him a leg up, but apparently not; so he's getting ready for Plan B -- dental school.

Jane is 54. She and Pierre are continuing their senior year abroad and will be celebrating Pierre's 60th birthday next month in Antarctica. (Yes, Antarctica. Well, they won't be IN Antarctica, but they will be on a cruise on its coast.) My mom looks pretty good for a 73-year-old great-grandmother who's endured 9 months of chemo and 3 major surgeries in the last 15 months.

You know the rest of us! HardPlace will be 11 (!) next month, and Rock is now 6-1/2, which means I'm 48. I'm not sure how that happened, but growing older is definitely better than the alternative.

I can't complain

Back to work today as a Complaints Co-ordinator, and after being off for 12 days, not a single complaint, everyone's happy, can you believe that? No, me neither. Got out for lunch for half an hour, but no new birds today as it was dark when I went to work and dark when I came back, and bloody freezing all day long, oh dear that's a complaint isn't it?

Last day of rest



It's back to work tomorrow, boo! no new birds today, because wifey has had me cleaning the house, but managed to sneak these 2 pictures through the kitchen window when she wasn't looking. A Starling and a Coal Tit both enjoying my home made lard feeder.

Confidence




I've never been the most confident of birders, so when I say this is a Meadow Pipit, don't quote me, but feel free to put me right if I'm wrong, I won't be offended. And for those who don't like birds a picture of a boat/barge (not confident on watercraft either!)

Not a bad day






First of all Hull City didn't lose, we live to fight another day. Secondly a nice day out at Normanby Hall and Far Ings, and thirdly, chilling with a can of cider or 2. The new birds for today; Chaffinch, Curlew, Lapwing, Siskin, Pheasant, Mallard, Long Tailed Duck (female) Coot, Moorhen, Greylag Goose, Mute Swan, Cormorant, Shovelor, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Pied Wagtail, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Tree Sparrrow, Goldfinch, Kestrel & Robin. Giving us a new total for the year of 44.

From the Beatles

Since I'm a member of the "Saturday Club" this year, I figured I'd let the Fab Four serenade me.

BTW, y'all have two years to save your pennies. I decided during the Hawaiian cruise that my 50th birthday present to myself would an Italian cruise. Holland America has a lovely itinerary from Barcelona, Spain, along the French Riviera, around the boot, all the way to Venice: It sounds perfect. Join me!

The other thing I want to do sometime in that year of celebrating 50 is spend the night at Phantom Ranch on the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Ideally, I'll hike down the south rim and up the north. This means I need to lose 50 pounds by my 50th (the 20 I gained after Nick died, the 20 I've gained since moving to Arizona, and 10 more for good measure).

Resolutions part 2

Ok I said I would lose weight, and I weigh 1 pound less today than I did yesterday so that's that one sorted. I also said I would reduce my alcohol intake and I had no alcohol at all yesterday so that's that one sorted as well, aren't I doing well? New birds today were; Goldcrest, Coal Tit, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, Common Gull, Jackdaw, Rook & Canada Goose, taking the years total to 21.

First stop, Hilo

More pictures are up.

Happy New Year!


I didn't take this picture of a rainbow in Hawaii, but I easily could have. We saw many while we were there -- usually when my camera was unavailable. The most spectacular was out in the middle of the ocean on our way back to San Diego.

Mother, Jane, Pierre, and I were up in the Crow's Nest playing the daily trivia challenge (did you know that the elephant is the only animal with four knees?) and enjoying a bright arc of color in front of us. Only about 40 degrees of arc was visible, because of the clouds. More of the rainbow emerged as we played, until the game was brought to an abrupt halt by the cruise director saying, LOOK at that rainbow!

We were sailing toward a full arc -- and we were getting closer! I'd never seen such a thing: The full rainbow, both ends visible, spectacularly brilliant colors, and we were actually getting close to it. No! We weren't getting "close" we were getting TO it. The rainbow was a full 360-degree circle, except where the ship was.

It was breathtaking.

I wish for you all this sense of miracle and awe as you enter 2009. May wonder take your breath away.

Resolutions


So 2009 is here and with it the time to make resolutions. I will lose weight and get fitter, I will do this by drinking less alcohol and doing more exercise. I will also reignite my passion for birding by having a 2009 bird list, which starts with the following 13 spotted in the back garden today. House Sparrow, Blackbird, Starling, Greenfinch, Wood Pigeon, Collar Dove, Magpie, Crow, Wren, Dunnock, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long Tailed Tit. Sadly the female Goosander pictured above doesn't count because I saw this yesterday at East Park.