Father’s Day-My Father Myself

Father’s Day….. every few minutes a new post seems to pop up on Facebook or WordPress. Lovely reminiscences about fathers that are no longer here, fathers who played major roles in the lives of their children, fathers whose children are estranged from them.

My father was a complicated man; loving on one side, the other side a short fuse with a temper. Giving, but don’t cross him or his vindictive nature would come out. He could cut people off and out of his life. I share many of his traits, and often wonder if it is learned behavior or genetics, or a combination of both. He and I  became estranged for almost 14 years through my 30’s & 40’s. His doing, not mine. A new wife, a different life, his ego all contributing factors. I was glad I was old enough to understand the whys, and glad that while I was growing up he had always been there for me. I needed him less as an adult. We reconciled 4 years before he died when I found out he was sick. I thanked him before he died for playing such an instrumental part in my becoming who I was as an adult. The many good qualities I had that I knew came from his teaching.

He grew up poor with an alcoholic father and no education past high school, but succeeded in rising above it and away from it, following the lead of people willing to help him, observing people, paying attention to how they got to where they got to, and reaching those heights himself because of it. Did he have a darker side, yes, but I am happy to remember what was so wonderful about him, and understand where the darkness came from and why it was a part of him and accept it.

One of my earliest memories (I was 5) is of us going bird watching together. He was an avid bird watcher and part of a club. We would leave the house before daybreak, and meet his birding group. I remember spotting a Snowy Owl once- a major sighting! My love of nature and birds stems from those early morning trips.

He loved music and loved to sing. He had hoped to become a professional singer in his early 20’s, but real life came along and he needed to be able to make a living. His love for music was infused throughout our home-he always sang to us and for us, he played the banjo- old folk songs with verses we could all join in on.

My father recorded a few songs in a studio when he was thinking he could turn his singing into a career. The recordings were on 78 rpm records. Shortly before he died I was able to have the recordings converted to CD. I remembered hearing the recordings as a child, but had literally not heard them in 45 years. At the sound of the first note of him singing, what a rush of emotion- music or a song can always take you back to another place and time- but to hear his voice! What a gift to be able to hear that beautiful voice again.

His favorite poem was Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken.

He read it to me many times, and always reminded me of the importance the following lines held for him.

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

I am thankful to have had a father that understood me, helped me to grow as a person, and who lives within in me. I feel my ability to be a good listener, to search for deeper meaning in things, comes from him. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to tell him those things before he died. I made the following photo montage with one of his recordings playing in the background, if you’d like to take a listen.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunny Gardens on a Rainy Monday

It is a dreary and cold Monday morning here. It is June but my heat has come on in the house a few times over the past week because the morning temps are so cold. Yesterday we caught the early sunshine of the day and visited a beautiful  garden on Long Island in New York. Here are some of the sights we saw that I will carry with me today as the rain is coming once again. Hope you have a sunny week!

Memorial Day – don’t forget the dogs who served

A beautiful post about the dogs who served our country and their memorial

Change Is Hard

The War Dog Memorial

Katie here.

You probably expect me to spend this post complaining about how mama abandoned me to go hang out with a cat! And I would, but I have more important things to talk about.

Happy Memorial Day!

Like dogs.

Especially dogs that served our country, some even our local communities, and are buried and honored at a very special War Dogs Memorial Cemetery.

Since today is Memorial Day my Aunt Karen, her dog Deuce, and mama and I went out to visit it this morning. (Aunt Karen provided my patriotic attire.) It was pretty amazing.

More than 400 dogs!

I felt very honored and almost overwhelmed to be visiting these amazing dogs and paying my respects. Deuce says he felt the same way. These were very special dogs, loved beyond measure, who worked hard at their jobs and who are honored here in…

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Sunday Funday

My husband and I are always looking for new places to visit on Sundays, and this week we headed out about an hour West of where we live to an art museum. The museum turned out to be very small, with a few very small exhibits. The exhibit we enjoyed most were the artworks created by local students. Some were really impressive showing a great deal of talent. Fortunately the town itself was charming and picturesque allowing us to walk the main street and browse in the shops giving us something to do as we were done in the museum in about 10 minutes. I share with you here the beautiful views we took in.

Craftsman Farm-The Home of Gustav Stickley

Yesterday we visited the home of Gustav Stickley, a furniture maker in the Craftsman style during the early 1900’s. Here is some background:

Gustav Stickley made popular the Craftsman style of  furniture in the early 1900’s, a departure from ornate Victorian style. This new furniture reflected his ideals of simplicity, honesty in construction, and truth to materials. Unadorned, plain surfaces were enlivened by the careful application of colorants so as not to obscure the grain of the wood and mortise and tenon joinery was exposed to emphasize the structural qualities of the works. Hammered metal hardware, in armor-bright polished iron or patinated copper emphasized the handmade qualities of furniture which was fabricated using both handworking techniques and modern woodworking machinery . His firm’s work, both nostalgic in its evocation of handicraft and the pre-industrial era and proto-modern in its functional simplicity, was popularly referred to as being in the Mission style, though Stickley despised the term as misleading. In 1903 he changed the name of his company again, to the Craftsman Workshops, and began a concerted effort to market his works — by then including furniture as well as textiles, lighting, and metalwork — as Craftsman products. Ultimately, over 100 retailers across the United States represented the Craftsman Workshops.

Those ideals – simplicity, honesty, truth – were reflected in his trademark, which includes the Flemish phrase Als Ik Kan inside a joiner’s compass. The phrase is generally translated ‘to the best of my ability.’

Stickley began to acquire property in New Jersey between 1905 and 1907, purchasing 650 acres of farmland in Morris Plains. He wanted to establish a boarding school for boys. Craftsman Farms was designed to include vegetable gardens, orchards, dairy cows and chickens. The main house there is constructed from chestnut logs and stone found on the property.

As he wrote in The Craftsman:

There are elements of intrinsic beauty in the simplification of a house built on the log cabin idea. First, there is the bare beauty of the logs themselves with their long lines and firm curves. Then there is the open charm felt of the structural features which are not hidden under plaster and ornament, but are clearly revealed, a charm felt in Japanese architecture….The quiet rhythmic monotone of the wall of logs fills one with the rustic peace of a secluded nook in the woods.

Although the main house at Craftsman Farms was initially conceived of as a clubhouse for students, lack of interest in the school prompted Stickley to live there with his family instead. The planned school never became a reality. By 1913, changing tastes and the financial strain of his new twelve-story Craftsman Building in Manhattan, conceived as a department store, began to take their toll; in 1915 he filed for bankruptcy, stopping publication of The Craftsman in December 1916 and selling Craftsman Farms in 1917.

All that remains is 30 acres of the original farm, highways and homes have taken over where once stood a vineyard, a pasture and fruit groves. The house that was built using chestnut logs still remains, with many of the original furnishings.

A Mind is A Terrible Thing To Lose

Our Uncle Henry is 92. Up until about a year ago he was doing pretty well, a pain here, a pain there, but overall things were pretty good. Recently things have become more challenging with his moods, and for our Aunt, who is 90 but you’d never know it, life has become difficult. Their sons felt an evaluation should be made to determine the cause of his anxiety and erratic moods, and it would have to be done within a hospital setting. A psychiatric hospital. I think in some ways Uncle Henry was relieved to know they would “get to the bottom of it” he just didn’t expect it to mean he would be there for a week already, and possibly many more.

My husband and I went to visit him today. The hospital grounds were beautiful and the hallways eerily quiet and empty. We were buzzed into the unit and opposite the front desk sat about 12 people lined up in chairs, including Uncle Henry. I found it rather disconcerting, no one was doing anything, there was no TV in that area, there were no conversations going on. Everyone was just sitting. Uncle Henry saw us and called out hello, and the nurse wheeled us over to an area with tables and chairs looking out onto the grounds. He told us some of his aches and pains had improved, but then began to launch into how the place was like a prison and other complaints, some we determined to be real, some imagined. Upsetting to know that his reality was not reality- that what he was was saying was irrational and not real, but to him was very much so. We spent two hours with him during which we made an attempt to validate his feelings, and to try to steer him to a better place of understanding. He asked our Aunt when she arrived if he was allowed to tell the Doctors he wanted to leave – and would they let him, or would he be held against his will.  The truth is he could leave at anytime, but until the medication they are working to adjust to help him, begins to work, it is not a good idea. His frustration and unhappiness understandable at hearing that, but his inability to really grasp it upsetting.

My Aunt and Uncle have been married over 70 years, and it is heartbreaking for her to see him like this, to have him ask to leave but know she must go home alone. Hardest is seeing him lucid and understanding and then crossing into his own reality and not understanding. The quote attributed to Bette Davis  “Old age ain’t no place for sissies!” came to mind today. It takes strength and will and sometimes giving in and going along with what is beyond our control to “fix,”  as we grow older.

Five Things-A Reblog from The Off Key Of Life

I am sharing the following post  written by my friend George, who writes a wonderful blog called The Off Key Of Life

In his words:

Five Things

He also speaks about a palliative care nurse by the name of Bonnie Ware who works with people every day who are usually three to twelve months from dying.

According to Dr. Bradberry, Bonnie has made a habit of asking her patients, during their conversations, if they had any real regrets in life. The following five responses made the list every time.

** They wish they hadn’t made decisions based on what other people think.
They realized when they lived life for others, they either made poor career choices or compromised  their own morals.

** They wished they hadn’t worked so hard.
We are programmed or taught that hard work leads to certain results or rewards in life; that we are providing for our families, their futures and well-being. But balance has always been the key when it comes to how much time we spend at our jobs. When work compromises a person’s ability to communicate and connect with those we love most, then our priorities need to be reassessed. As the old saying goes, no one on their death-bed ever said, I wish I would have stayed at the office longer. 

** They wish the had expressed their feelings.
We always think we have more time to say the things we need or should say to others. When time runs out, the regret of not having said those things is sometimes difficult to accept. In the words of John Mayer, Say What You Need To Say

** They wish they had stayed in touch with their friends.
With our day-to-day routines pulling us in many different directions, it’s easy to lose track of friends. Then thirty years go by and you wonder how and why it happened. Reach out.

** They wish that had let themselves be happy.
This was an interesting one for me but as I thought about it I understood why it would be there. Michael J Fox was on a magazine cover not long ago; an individual who has battled Parkinson’s disease since he was thirty years old. On the cover he was quoted as saying, Happiness Is A Decision.
He’s absolutely right. We all encounter challenges in our lives. Some more so than others. How we face those challenges and live our lives is our choice. It may not always be easy to accept or live with those challenges but our lives would be much richer and rewarding if we can allow ourselves to be happy.

Happiness is our choice.

Five things that can make a difference in each of our lives. All we need to do is listen to the suggestions of those who truly understand.