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Monday, December 26, 2011

Tick Tock, Tick Tock......

Tick tock tick tock.  The last remaining hours of 2011 are in front of us.  I can't believe it....but I say that every year.  Don't we all?  I spent six months of my year nearly not flying but, instead, working in Seattle at our Flight Operations Building creating and developing what is now termed Flight Path Debrief for Flight Attendants.  It's an amazingly positive and powerful program designed to make us not only better flight attendants but, more importantly, better human beings.  It's required training.  It's turned out quite well.  I am also an ongoing facilitator for the program and will be off and on throughout 2012.  It was a fantastic opportunity that I'm thankful for. 

Do you realize that it's possible we may have a President named Newt.  Or Mitt.  Seriously?  Newt or Mitt.  Sounds more like a law firm.   Anyone who tells me that they were caught off guard in an unexpected moment and were not able to gather even a scant 10,000 signatures in their very own home state has no business being President of the United States.  What?  You didn't know when the primary was?  You didn't know that you actually had to gather the signatures and turn them in?  I'm confused.  And it sounds like you are too, Newt.  Moving on.....

We're departing Wednesday evening for an all-night flight to Boston where we'll rent a car and head westward to Albany, New York, for a week.  To kick off the New Year in good style with good friends.  Last time we did this the temperature hovered a few degrees above zero, the wind blew, and the snow drifts prompted multi sessions each day of snowblowing.  I'm hoping for something just a bit better.  And did I mention that we've secured First Class seats for the Seattle-Boston flight?  Umm hum.  For sleeping purposes.  One can't find themselves driving the Mass Pike in the winter without having a proper night's sleep. 

We're enjoying the Christmas Eve dinner leftovers again tonight.  No complaints here.  We enjoyed the holiday working together.  One more Orange County turn again tomorrow morning and then I'm off for a week.  This time of year always makes me reflective.  Well not me, per se....but my thoughts.  I like to improve.  I like to consider ways of leading my life differently.  I'm just that way.  I hope you'll find a great way to carry yourself into 2012.  What's it going to be?  Cheers!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas

Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother....
And in his name all oppression shall cease....
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't care about your personal religious beliefs or lack thereof.  I gather my inspiration and motivation from a wide variety of places, sources and people.  But I do try to remember that the slave is our brother.  And that in the name of peace all oppression shall cease.  
Nearly every day of my almost 50 years on this planet I am confronted with the stark shortcomings of my humanity.  I come face to face with the fact that I am not perfect and that the world we live in is a mess.  I know full well that my goals for the year 2011 have failed -- and that the goals from the past year will probably be the same for the coming year.  I'm a work in progress....it's far more a journey than a destination.  None of that can be an excuse to continue to not strive for something better, greater.  Something peaceful.  Without destruction.  Something sustainable. 
Be nice to one another.  No matter what.  There is never an excuse to be unkind. 
Merry Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Actually, it is.  I love this time of the year.  And only a small piece of it has anything to do with the Christmas thing.  I do love the music and food and gatherings and watching people go everywhere to see their families and friends.  But you can keep the presents and financial obligations and commercialism.  But there's something captivating about winter.  The longest day of the year.  The dark.  The cold.  The sky seems to be more clear in the winter (well, when we can actually see it....here in Portland).  The stars shine even brighter.  The wind seems to blow away bad things.  It gives the mind a chance to clear and rethink.  But I do enjoy it for the value it brings to the earth and to my life. 

I'm home this week.  With what may be Pink Eye.  I've never had it.  And the doctor isn't sure....if it's actually Pink Eye.  If it is, it's highly contagious.  If it's not, it's just puffy, red eyes with stuff in them.  One eye more red than the other.  So, I'm home.  Certainly not at work with something contagious. 

We leave one week from today for Albany, New York.  We're going to kick off the year 2012 with lots of good friends in the countryside outside of Albany.  Cold.  Snow (maybe).  Laughs.  Giggles.  Good food and drinks.  A pajama party inside while the cold winds of the night remain outside.  Actually, I've already asked LoverBoy if we can make sure to go outside on New Year's Eve.  To stand together even if just for a minute.  To enjoy the night...the sky....and all of those other things that the last few minutes of the year bring.  He has agreed.  We're flying to Boston, renting a car, and heading west back toward New York state.  I'm praying for good roads on the Mass Pike (isn't that what those fancy Northeasterners call it??).  We're going to enjoy a huge dinner with a ton of our close and extended friends on the 30th.  Many of these guys are those that we spend Bear Week in Provincetown with each July.  The rest are friends of friends who are now our friends!  It's nice.  And we can't wait. 

Portland is on track to have the driest December on record.  It is typically our wettest month of the year.  And we've had barely any rain.  It's been cold and clear with some morning fog.  So, the other day Mason was scratching at our patio door "Let me out!"  So I did.  He likes to hang out there on the east-facing patio in the mornings when the sun is shining.  He stares down three floors at the people below wandering to and from our corner coffee shop.  Now, he knows the rules for being out there:  (1) No barking (2) No throwing his toys over the edge and (3) No digging in the planter that houses a small Japanese maple tree.  But for some reason, I caught him in a compromising position that I've never seen him in before:
I said, "Mason, you get down from there" in my most low-octave, authoritative sort of quasi masculine voice.  He then glanced up to see if I actually meant business or not:

And then he did this.....perfectly, beautifully, innocently:

It was cold that morning....and I think that it was the warmest spot he could find.  I laughed and laughed.  And I grabbed my camera to capture these moments.  He's such a good boy. 

Merry Christmas everybody.  To you.  To your friends and family.  To those moments in our lives when we don't feel like saying anything "Merry."  To those things that are less than "Merry."  Who cares!  Look 'em straight in the face anyway and say "Merry Christmas" or some other happy greeting.  

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Gift That Doesn't Keep on Giving

Do you see it?  Way in the back?  Beyond the spare bedding for overnight guests....past the plastic containers that stack perfectly with our minimal household belongings.  It's the rolls of Christmas wrapping paper.  About ten of them.  And they've been right there since we moved in more than three years ago.  And, now that I'm thinking about it, they were in our basement back at our earlier house.  Untouched.  Used minimally.  Just sitting there. 

We haven't bought Christmas wrapping paper in years.  Many, many years.  Because we don't typically give gifts.  To others nor to each other.  Sometimes we do.  But not as a standard.  We stopped maybe five years ago because of the cost.  And because most people (including us) don't actually need anything.  How's that for practicality and being over analytical.  Yeah, yeah I know.....Christmas is not quite the right time for over-thinking the process. It's the season for giving and taking and exchanging and holiday cheer and blah blah blah.  And we still do Christmas parties and fun things....it's just that the gifts are no longer a part of our traditions.  Occasionally we still give each other one or two things.  We (well, I'd better just speak for myself....) decided that it makes no sense to stand in the middle of a Target store looking, staring, searching out something that we really don't need -- only to see it in the pile headed to Goodwill six months later.

We'd rather spend our money on big trips or things for the house.  And right now we're considering putting in new hardwoods or flooring of some sort.  And I'd really like a refrigerator with a freezer on the bottom instead of the space inefficient side-by-side that we have.  Plus, our anniversary is in the earlier part of December.  And we're leaving on the 28th for a week's vacation in New York state.  So the giving of gifts tends to fall lower on the priority list. 

And we do miss it sometimes.  The pile of things under the tree.  The scissors, the tape, the measuring, the bows, the name tags on the packages.  The waking up early on Christmas morning to see if Santa has been down the chimney (that we don't have) during the night.  That's all fun and games sometimes.  But honest to god, it has taken so much pressure off of the holiday season.  No financial pressure.  No time constraints.  No having to put on your thinking cap and come up with some gift idea.  So for now, the rolls of wrapping paper will stay in the back of our storage unit right where they've been for several years.  Untouched.  Unused. 

Merry Christmas. 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tis The Season For Sharing

My father in law used to tell this story around this time of year....Christmas. In fact, he told it over and over....like plenty of older folks do, they repeat things and stories. And he would always get big tears in his eyes and a catch in his throat when he told it. Last night in Austin, I was around the dinner table with three of my fellow crew members and somehow we got to talking about stories of goodwill, Christmas, helping others, and all of that. So, I shared this story.....and even I had to stop about halfway through because I'm a big old crybaby. The story is a keeper, to say the least. It took place around the mid 1930s.....when my father in law was around ten or so. Ohio, winter time, snow everywhere, cold....in the middle of the depression. Times were super tough for everyone. They still are. Take the time to share, to relate, to give attention to others. Share stories. Share your life, your happy times, your lessons.

Dinner was nearly ready when the coal truck pulled into the driveway with a delivery for heating the house. Dinner was soup on this particular night. While the delivery man was shoveling the coal into the coal chute at the side of the house, my father in law who was only around ten years old noticed a little boy sitting in the front seat of the delivery truck. Waiting. He looked cold. So, my FIL asked his mother if they could invite the little boy and the man into the house for a cup of soup. His mother said "Of Course," and added another cup of water to the soup to make it stretch. The man and his son came into the house and had soup with the family. A cold night, a warm kitchen, a family with the coal delivery man and his small son.

Fast forward to the following spring. A knock at the front door. "Do you remember me?," the man asked when my FIL's mother answered the door. "I was the coal delivery man who was here last winter...you invited me and my young son into your house to have soup with you. I've taken a new job now. I'm painting houses and I'd like to paint your house for free." My FIL's mother didn't understand but the man continued. "You see," he said "On the very day that I delivered your coal and you invited us in, I was at the end of my rope. We were broke and I could not provide for my family any longer. And I thought it was best if I ended my life. I was on my way to take my life on the very day that you invited me in. But I didn't.....because of you and your hospitality."

Tis the season for sharing and giving. Not receiving. Not wanting. Not being greedy. Not even football or food or shopping. But for giving. To others. For absolutely nothing in return. Make sure that those around you feel welcome and that their needs are met. For it is in giving that we receive.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

December Follies

Good god, it's December.  Of 2011.  Already.  How many times in my life have I said, "I can't believe how fast times flies...."  It just keeps on happening.  Portland is socked in under low-level fog and temperatures in the 30s.  Stagnant air.  Blue skies just above me....not more than a half-mile or so.  It's a good thing I'm not given over to that seasonal affective (or is it effective?) disorder syndrome thingy.  BUT, we've had no rain for a long, long time.  And that counts...right??
  • Our 14th Anniversary will occur this Friday December 9 (so there....take that Kim Kardashian and Newt Gingrich).  Lordy.  Lordy.  Who would have ever guessed.  I continue to learn from him.  His strengths are exactly what I need in my many weaknesses.  And, no, you can't have him.  He's mine.  We're celebrating with a condo-wide building party and neighborhood Festival of Lights.  Just the way we like to. 
  • We made a drive to Idaho for Thanksgiving to enjoy several nice days with my family.  We always love our road trips.  And we hadn't been with my family for a holiday in a long while.  Thanksgiving dinner was awesome.....even though there wasn't nearly enough dressing (or stuffing....whatever you call it).  That's my favorite.  I made cranberry/walnut brussel sprouts. And my mom made her homemade dinner rolls at my request.  Exactly how old does one have to be in order to stop making special requests of his mother for dinner??  
  • Christmas will find me working.  Just a morning turnaround...home by 1pm.  We'll enjoy leftovers from a dinner that we will have made the day before.  We're working as hard as we can this month because on December 28 we are......
  • Going to our good friend's home out in the perfectly beautiful countryside south of Albany, New York, for the New Year's holiday.  Flying to Boston, renting a car, and making our way west along the Mass Pike (that's what you MA people call it....right??).  I'm already praying for good roads and weather as we toot along in our rental car.  Our friends always treat us like kings.  Or queens.  Whatever.  And we're going to enjoy a nice dinner out with all of our many other friends in the Albany area while we're back there.   Portland and Albany are simply too far apart sometimes.  
  • I have completed six months of helping design Flight Path Debrief for Flight Attendants.  A program to encourage personal growth.  Happiness.  Self respect.  Respect for others.  The program will be conducted for all 2,800 flight attendants over the next year.  In addition to being one of the 15 designers of this amazing program, I will also be a part-time facilitator of it as well.  Four hours of fantastic videos made by our group, powerful personal stories to encourage, and trying to look at life from just a bit of a more positive slant.  
  • The gym and I have not been good friends this year.  I hate him and he hates me.  It's a system of mutual admiration.  But I keep on paying him every month to keep his mouth shut.  I know that my relationship with him needs to change.  But that's about all I know at this point.  
  • I will celebrate a birthday of some sort of milestone in the next two months.  Plans are being made.  I'm not sure about it all.  It seems weird.  Like, really super old.  In spite of the fact that I don't feel that way at all. 
I'm sending you all good wishes for peaceful days ahead of this wildly erratic (that's erratic folks...not erotic) holiday season.  There's no reason to blow your wad all at once and have nothing left for your family, friends and -- most importantly -- YOU at the end of it all.  I'm learning that lesson right along with you.  Be at peace as much as it is within your will.  Let the cold winds of this month blow away the bad things in your life.  Love and hugs to you.