Saturday, May 21, 2022

A Visit With TB The Elder And Mom: May 2022 Edition

 To be honest, I had been somewhat dreading visiting with my parents this month.  My sister, during her last visit, told her that she wanted to go home and live with her kids (although we were pretty sure that she does not remember we are her kids).  To be frank, I did not know that I was up to that sort of thing.

Still, I was here, and I needed to go see them at least once before I went back home.  After thinking about it a bit, I went ahead and took the afternoon off from work to do it, so that I would not feel rushed about seeing them  (that, as I have discovered, never helps).

The day was the sort of day that I miss about Old Home:  A nice Spring day with blue sky and  a breeze - the Spring here can linger from March into June; in New Home it lingers for about two weeks.  The staff brought my parents out and the owner, as she always does, apologized as they had just finished lunch and had some food on them.

It does not matter to me, I responded. I am just happy to see them.

For really the first time since they have been here, I started off the conversation actively talking about The Ranch:  mowing the grass (an adventure and an upcoming post), Uisdean Ruadh and his mother moving into the Cabin, the turkeys out and about.  I have been a little reluctant before because I did not want to make my father anxious or upset; he seemed to enjoy the part about the mowing.

We covered the hike I took over the weekend and what Na Clann were up to, the fact the weather was hot in New Home (we always talk about the weather), what Nighean Dhonn was going to do about college. The price of gas and the difference between Old Home and New Home (my father seems to pay attention to that still; something we used to discuss every week).

My mother was strangely curious about the Facility they are in:  Did we own the home?  No Mom, someone else does.  - We rent here?  Yes Mom, we rent here. - The trees are very nice here.  Yes they are, Mom (they are quite lovely actually:  tall pines and cedars and a maple) - What are those pink things on the roof?  Those are roof tiles Mom,  made of clay.  They work here for roofing instead of shingles which are flat.  We cannot have them in New Home because the hail might break them. 

TB The Elder had a couple of comments - fortunately, I was able to figure out from the context of the conversation what he was asking - or what he thought he was asking.  He at least seemed satisfied by my answers.

I have no idea if my mother knows who I am except a visitor (when my sister had come previously my mother asked her "Are you here to be my friend?"  "Yes Mom, I certainly am").  My father may recognize me, although it is much harder to tell.  But they seemed to take joy in the visit, and it was certainly a great deal less difficult than I had anticipated.

I do not know that I always leave these visits in a better state of mind, but hope I leave them in a better state of mind.  In some ways I am beyond sadness at this point:  I know what to expect, how the conversation will likely go, and have found that somehow, those simple visits are in some way adding something to their lives.

Friday, May 20, 2022

On The Economic Disturbance

 In general, I have been eschewing current events as a basis for a post for some time now..  There is a  sense in which I do this that it tends to help self-monitor the commentary, allowing for actual discussion.  It also is purposeful in the sense that many "current events" postings do not age well over time (unless one is a fine writer with an eye towards history, as some are).  At best they become a historical record, at worst they become awkward records out of place.

But occasionally, something - like what appears to be an ongoing economic disturbance (I do not know that words like "collapse" or "meltdown" are warranted, at least yet; nothing more embarrassing than being on the disaster train that does not get off the tracks when we believe it has) - merits a few words as it constitutes the sort of historical event that is worthwhile to ponder.  After all, we still speak of the Great Depression, The Stagflation (and bell bottoms) of the 1970's, The Dot.Com Crash, and The Housing Crisis of 2008.

Of the mechanics of the crash, I cannot speak on them as I am neither an economist nor did I stay in  Holiday Inn express last night.  I can say that this appears to be the confluence of a number of factors:  A disturbance in the economy - and by disturbance I mean "virtual shutdown" - due to The Plague (which myself and many other writers suggested might not be a grand idea at the time), government largesse during The Plague in which money could not be given away fast enough (resulting in too many dollars chasing too few goods:  if only I had seen this definition somewhere else...), the then-resulting Supply Chain disruptions resulting from that Shutdown as well as continued Plague related shutdowns.  Add to this the more recent developments of an uptick in energy prices and the corresponding decline in their availability and a shock which no-one outside of agriculture probably saw coming (prior to February of this year, I think it likely that 90% of the population knew what chemical fertilizer was, who the major suppliers were, and that countries can just decide to not export food), and we have at least the beginnings of a major economic historical event.

As I have said, better minds than mine are writing on the economic side. My thoughts are really more around the personal side, for me and for others.

Am I worried? Some, but not excessively.  Worry promotes nothing but worry. The correct question to ask is "Am I doing what I can to prepare?"  And that has three answers:  yes, no, or possibly.  And from those, I can take actions.  I cannot control the cost of energy or the markets as they continue to plummet down like the Titanic.  I can stock up on food and fuel.  I can learn to do a skill.  I can manage my outflows.

Is God in control?  Of course He is.  Even within the confines of this blog, I am reminded time and time again that He is.  In that sense, the economy is in far better hands than anyone can imagine, even if it does not seem like it from here.

Who I do worry about are the people that have never lived through such a historic event.  I have memories of every one of the above referenced occurrences and, through the memories of my grandparent's generation, some memory of The Great Depression (although likely the last generation with such direct memories).  Later generations - say the 1990's on, those that are now in their 30's and below - have at best minimal memories of such events, or none at all (how many were actually conscious of the bust?  Parents often do their best to carry on without directly notifying their children that the economy had a plunge).  To these individuals, life has always been on the up and up.  Things are always available.  Progress is always forward.  Food is always available and I can order almost anything I want from Amazon.

It is too easy in such moments to scoff at such beliefs and say "We tried to tell you".  And I am sure most of us did.  At the same time, this is a generation that is being thrust into a world of realities that modern technology and social systems have largely kept at bay.  It is likely that - beyond nicely sanitized end of the world dramas on the streaming channels - they have never experienced what seems to be coming.

When I read of crypto investors who saw their entire life savings wiped out in the Terra Coin collapse openly stating they lost everything and are considering suicide, that is a concern.  My fear is that this is - literally - the tip of the iceberg.

I am not suggesting some sort of misguided charity - the kind the government often likes to give - to solve the problem.  What I am suggesting - mostly to myself - is that through this, a great teaching opportunity is presenting itself, be it in skills or actual economics or questions about lifestyle and energy and food or even metaphysical questions about what is out there beyond this world and Who is perhaps in control.  

The reality is that the forces that brought the world to this point have little to offer beyond what they have already done to get us to this point.

We, on the other hand, do.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Your Lack Of Dedication

Occasionally quotes flow through my Instagraph account that speak to me.  This was such a quote.

I am not always the most dedicated person.  I have a tendency to laziness that is amazing.  I tend to lose interest easily, especially when I am struggling at accomplishing something.

And yet...

And yet, there are people that believe in me.  People that believe in a better me than I think I actually am.  People that have given of themselves - be it time, be it talent, be it support - because they believe the see something in me.  Something that sometimes I claim I do not see.

I had never thought of this so clearly before.  But strikes a chord in me.  Just like giving a gift to someone that does not care insults the giver, so does my lack of dedication - in all of its forms - insult those that have seen and invested in me.

It is a humbling - and purifying - thought.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Lone Pine

Frozen in fire,
the pine cones hang in the sky,
denied their purpose

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

The Speed of Travel As Measured By Foot

Over the course of our hike my brother in law (he keeps showing up here, so he is hereby dubbed "The Outdoorsman" from now on) and I did a total of about 28.8 miles of direct hiking to get to and from our destination over three days.  We broken it into two days of 7-8 mile hikes and a single return of 12.8 miles.

How long, I wondered as I trudged along, does it take one to hike?

Timewise of course it varies.  The first day we made 7 miles in about 5 hours, but that was with a 1.4 mile almost vertical (at points) hike up a grade at the end of the day (the first time in a long time my legs have felt shaky at the end of the day).  The second day we made the same distance more or less in 3.25 hours, but that was due to rolling hills along a ridgeline rather than climbing slopes.  The third day - the return - it took us 6 hours and 10 minutes to make it all the way back (note these times are inclusive of things like rest stops, snack breaks, and lunch where required).

But how long, I wondered, does it really take.

Hiking - at least the few times I have done it - is endlessly fascinating to me on the mental side.  At some point in the hike one realizes that one has to keep going.  If one turns back early one loses the progress and once one has arrived, there is no way back except to come out the way that one came in:  by foot.  As a result, my mind set has to shift a great deal - after all, even in this hike we are discussing 3 to 6 hours of time which may be spattered by conversation but is largely conducted in silence.  Thoughts in the mind like "Are we there yet?" or "How much have we come since the last signpost?" are as counterproductive as they are annoying (let alone if you start verbalizing them to your hiking party.  You may end up "lost"...).

From the little I have read on the subject, this is a reality for long distance runners and ultramarathoners as well:  how does one keep the mind engaged (and on what) as one pounds through the miles and hours of going across distances?  

For me, it seems to become almost a form of moving Zen.

A lot of attention is paid to the trail, of course, especially if one needs to pay attention to one's footing or, if I am headed up hill, to the placement of the hiking poles as I pull myself up.  I look at the trail - after all, am I not here to see the scenery?  I am walking through it.  I look for things that I usually do not see, like wildflowers that are new or odd plant and rock formations or even vistas.  But other than that, I find that I am largely in the movement of moving through the landscape, sweating or shivering as called for, grateful for the shade and breeze in the heat when they come or the sun on the colder moments when I can step into it.

For me at least, I end up thinking a lot as well.  The genesis of this post was on the trail, as are the genesis of a number of others (all noted in my phone before they slipped away).  But interestingly, what I did not think about - once - was what I was missing at work or (more than idly) how far we had to get or when the next break was.  In that sense there was no "then" or "other", there was only the "now".

So what is the speed of travel as measured by foot?  What it has always apparently been, it seems:  one foot at a time in a timeless sense where there is neither truly arrival or departure, merely the space between each step.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Back From Hiking

 Well, we did not die.

Total hike was around 30 miles spread over 3 days, 5,545 ft elevation gain by the time we went up and down (numerous times).  Temperatures got up to 85 F during the day, which made for some not quite pleasant portions of the day to be hiking through.  That said, other than some spots where I missed sunscreen and a bit of a chafing issues (something to deal with next month), we had a very good hike.  A few pictures will have to suffice for now.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Vacations That Change Us

 Ed over at Riverbend Journal has been re-publishing a series he wrote some years ago about taking a trip in a dory down the Grand Canyon.  It is a well written set of writings (with pictures!), and certainly brings up memories of my own trip last year.  As I continue to read into his saga, what becomes apparent (to me at least) is that for him, this was the sort of trip that was a life changing experience, not just an "average" vacation.

Which brought another question to my mind:  what life changing experience vacations have I had?

In some ways all vacations are somewhat life changing, even if in the sense that after one completes the vacation, one feels a little more relaxed and stress free (Hopefully.  There is nothing worse than coming back from a vacation and feeling worse than when you left).  And at least for me, I would argue that most vacations are enjoyable, but not the sort of things that I look back on thinking "I am different now than when I left".  

But some were.  And so, in not really in any particular order (other than perhaps chronological), here are the vacations that actually changed me.

1)  Japan, 1978:  My vacations growing up largely consisted of two areas:  the coast, where we go camping, and Montana, where my maternal grandparents had a summer cabin.  So in 1978 when my parents took us to Japan, it was completely different (my maternal uncle was stationed there at the time).  Not only was it my first experience in a completely different culture (and as much as anything else, fueled my interest in things Japanese that is with me to this day), it was the year Star Wars came out in Japan.  There was nothing more amazing than being at the perfect age to appreciate the novelty of merchandise that was not at all available in the US.

2)  Japan, 1997:  My second visit, this time with The Ravishing Mrs. TB (as the saying goes, "When we were cool before we had children").  In this case we largely stayed with another relative (a cousin stationed in Japan).  We managed to make our way to some major cities - Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara - as well as north through Tohoku to the island of Hokkaido - completely on our own using the train system.   It was a great confidence builder, as well as the fact that we completely had to get by on my relatively bad Japanese and what English others knew.

3)  Montana, 2016: 

As mentioned above, we had made many trips to Montana growing up. What was different about this one was the fact that I drove with Na Clann from New Home to the Cabin (two day trip) without The Ravishing Mrs. TB (she had to work, so she flew up for a shorter time).  We went to many of the usual places we had always gone - Lewis and Clark Caverns, Yellowstone - but also places I had never been like Butte and Little Big Horn- which was immensely powerful to me and was one of those moments that history really "came alive". It was also one of the few times there was a driving trip that was just me and Na Clann. (Entries are in Late July/early August, 2016)

4)  Japan, 2018:  

Specifically going to train at Katsuura in Iaijutsu.  This was the culmination of 9 years of practicing the art. Going to Japan to train with one's headmaster was both intimidating and amazing, all at the same time. And meeting other students from all around the world - and realizing that in a very real way, training in Iaijutsu was not being "alone" no matter how isolated the dojo seemed - was an experience I had never had before.  I have been back to train in 2019 and 2020 (before The Plague, of course - hopefully next year!), but there was something about that first early morning, stepping into the large dojo with the temperatures in the mid forties, that can never be replicated. (Entries are in February, 2018)

5)  Iceland, 2018:  

Going to Iceland was the culmination of a interest that had occurred in the late 1980's, when I read the book Njal's Saga and was deeply moved by it; almost 30 years later, I finally got to go.  Beyond just seeing historical locations, like standing at Þingvellir  (the traditional Icelandic Parliament location from 1000 years ago, and where Njal himself spoke), the views are such that one cannot help but leave changed by the desolation and emptiness. (Entries are in September 2018)

6)  Grand Canyon, 2021: 

If you had told me that I would hike down and back out of the Grand Canyon prior to 2021, I would have laughed at you.  Long and hard.  But having done it, I realized that a great many of the proscriptions and limitations I feel are simply  proscriptions and limitations that I put on myself rather than anyone else putting them onto me.  I certainly left there with a greater sense of self confidence. (Entries are in November 2021)

What were the vacations that changed you?

Friday, May 13, 2022

Gone Hiking

Responses this weekend will be a bit delayed, as I have Gone Hiking.

Well, in fairness it is more "Gone Training Hiking".  My brother in law (he of The Grand Canyon adventure last year) and I are planning on an 8 day hike this August.  Beyond just the usual "train more", he and I are making a series of three day training hikes leading up to August (besides I need to burn some PTO or lose it).

With any luck, we will be completely excluded from cell phone coverage (so work cannot find me - or more appropriately, so that I will not be tempted to check my e-mail).  I am hopeful that where we are going will give us some beautiful pictures and allow me to refocus a little bit.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

A Prayer Request For Nighean Gheal


I am coming with my hat in hand again for your prayers.  In this case it is for our oldest daughter, Nighean Gheal.

As is probably often typical in this situations, I cannot speak a great deal into the situation, other then she would really benefit from some sustained prayer.  If anything, for healing and wisdom.

Thank you.

Your Obedient Servant, Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

On "Trying To Make Sense"

 Ed from Riverbend Journal has become something of a fixture around here, for which I am grateful - not only for his comments but his eternal optimism (his job title, granted by myself, as "The Resident Optimist" is certainly not a high paying one but is much appreciated).   He is an excellent writer and if you do not already read him, I certainly commend him to your attention.

Thus it was with a growing sense of sadness that I read his most recent post, Trying To Make Sense.  He relates that a young woman, a cousin who had visited him and his family last year (I recall the visit as he wrote of it) had gone missing and then was found.  It was in fact a suicide.

I leave it to Ed to describe their thoughts and situations; their story is not mine to tell.  But it does make me reflect a bit on suicide in general.

I know depression in a way many others do not; for me the black clouds that cling to the mind and body are old acquaintances.  At one time - in my late teen age years - I was very much depressed, so much so that I professed an interest in "not going on".  In my case it was a cry for help, and it did change many things, including the relationship I had with TB the Elder (less so my mother).  It cycled through over the next few years as I went back and forth between colleges and relationships, never quite fitting in with where I was  at the time.

I know depression.  I know the grinding heaviness of day after day without anything ever seeming to get better or improve - and no hope that it will improve at all. I cannot speak for everyone that deals with this as it is not the sort of thing we readily compare notes about; I do know that from what I read, a lack of hope comes across as one of the defining characteristics of those that make the choice. A lack of hope and existence of pain seemingly so endless and consuming that something - anything - seems less of a risk.

Ed says it far more eloquently than I: "Her last stop had been at a 7/11 where she purchased something before driving to some pay for parking lot somewhere and ending her life.  I would be at that 7/11 waiting for her if I could, just to let her know it will get better."

Although I suspect that the bulk of my readers are not in the younger set, I would remiss in saying that my e-mail address is over there on the right.  I check it at least once a day.  And I bet if something was posted in the comments here, there would be more than an outpouring of support - I know my audience that well, at least.

  National Suicide Prevention Hotline


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

A Dwindling Of Hours

 Last month I had a birthday - not one of the Big Birthdays ending in a "0", but one of the intermediate ones.  Significant enough that for some reason, I have been in a funk ever since.

It is not like anything has changed, of course.  Just because the day advanced and thus the year, it is not as if everything  has completely end.  My body did not magically fall apart.  My skill set seems to be as useful as it ever was.

And yet, inside of me, it feels as if something has changed.

Part of it, I suspect, is the hard realization we all come to when not only are we heading downhill, but we are picking up speed.  And yes, while in theory life could end at the end of the post (hopefully not; I still have other things to do), the statistical and historical gene pool suggest I have 25 or 30 more years, if I am lucky.  

If you look at it, it is not really a lot of time.

But even that does not seem to be the real issue.  What seems to be nagging at my soul is if I have spent - and will spend - my life in the correct way.

The past is gone, of course, and whatever has happened there has happened.  That time, energy, resources, etc. can never be recaptured.  But in the relatively dwindling future - somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 hours not inclusive of leap years of course, which might get me another 200 hours or so - I still have choices and options.  Am I making the most of those?

It becomes like doing an inventory of your house, except with your interests and your time:  What do I have in this closet or drawer?  What am I doing with it?  Why did I buy it in the first place?  Do I really need to keep it?  Will I use it again?

We always have a predisposed bias towards that which we have invested in, the "sunk cost".  Sometimes the sunk cost can have involve years of our lives and thousands of hours (let alone money).  Knowing what we know now, do we still continue to invest in them?  And what about those things that we have clung to for years and years, ways we have defined ourselves - "I am a writer, I am an athlete, I am a <fill in the blank>" - yet we never seem to make much progress.  Does there come point where our ability to progress is obvious to everyone but ourselves?

As usual, I do not really have answers to any of this - although to be frank with you, looking at that amount of hours left is shocking to me.  All I do know is that pretend or not, life continues to move on (and dwindle, in this case) and too often we feel we have all the time in the world.

Sunday, May 08, 2022

2022 Garden And Redneck Raised Bed Update

I have been remiss in getting my Spring (almost Summer now) garden in, what with the rain and traveling and staying busy - we literally went from the end of Spring to Summer in a week.  But I had a late start to Iaijtustu class yesterday, so I made some time.

As an update, The Redneck Raised Bed is going well.  If you look just beyond the neighbor's squash plant growing through the fence...

You will see the friendly little sweet potato sprouts.  This is promising.  And the watering situation seems to be very effective.

In terms of the rest of the garden, this is what we have (tomatoes and peppers have already been planted):

First thing was to pull up the green onions (I honestly thought they were garlic):

This year's line up:  Black eyed peas, Soybeans, Lemon Cucumbers, Daikon Radishes, Valencia Onions and Mill Creek Onions (from seed; not a lot of expectation there); Okra, Royal Burgundy Bush Beans; Calypso Dry Beans, Lemon Cucumbers, Sugar Drip Sorghum, and a new corn variety, Bloody Butcher (I refuse to not prove I can grow corn here and will continue to rotate varieties):

I got everything into the ground except the Calypso Beans and the Sugar Sorghum , as the Wheat and Rye I planted has not completed the drying process.  Sorghum grows very well here so no worries there.  

As you may remember last year, I took Leigh Tate's most excellent solution of using Ollahs, sealed clay pots, as localized watering points.  These worked okay, but I still had issues with overall dryness. I fully intend to exploit the ollahs again this year, but am also rigging a watering system (hereby called The Redneck Sprinkler System) for daily watering - especially with going back to The Ranch one week out of every four, it just seems like a lower risk overall (yes, I know I am hitting the walkway.  Working on it). It also hits that back section, which now frees that up for a big more usage.  I currently have mint there and it loves the moisture.  I enjoy mint for the odor and the plant itself, so it makes me happy:

The one issue is the spot right under the sprinkler: It is dry (the former sprinkler I was using - which was actually pretty effective - they no longer seem to make.  Trying the other Big Box store today to see what they have).

 In terms of expanding the garden, I am counting the Redneck Raised Bed as my expansion (really, wasted space otherwise).  I think I can make more progress with more intensely gardening the area that I have.

Saturday, May 07, 2022

Be Wise, Change Yourself


One of the changes in the last two months that has happened - almost imperceptibly, until it suddenly reached the point it could not longer be ignored - is that I have surrendered the idea of "changing the world", even in small portions.

It is a funny thought when it suddenly hits one:  the years spent brooding over the state of the world, perhaps some forays into making things "different" or "better" or that most elusive of items, "changing other people".  Years of grousing about how things are not going the right way and that if only - if only - the world was changed, it would be better.

And then - suddenly - it disappears.

Can one change the world by changing one's self?  Certainly.  Many people have done it:

But change by personal example takes a great deal more time than change by brute force or "movements".  And it is not nearly as rewarding in that the progress I see will often see glacially slow, or not even happen.

But that, ultimately, is not really the point.

Stoicism would tell us that the only things we can control - and thus we can change - are ourselves, our actions, and our reactions.  Christianity teaches that salvation is a personal matter: we cannot be saved on behalf of anyone, it has to be for ourselves alone.

Changing ourselves is an exploration that literally has no frontiers or boundaries.  We can always be working - every second of the day if we desire (although that might be exhausting) on making some aspect of ourselves different, and (presumably) better.  There are no laws, no restrictions, no "things that have to happen" for us to start.  Today.  At this moment.

Ultimately in the course of time, it is the wise ones that are remembered and revered far more than the clever ones.  Let us then seek to be wise and make the change that we can always guarantee will be accomplished.

Let us change ourselves.

Friday, May 06, 2022

Technical Difficulties: An Administrative Update

 All - I thought I would take a moment and update on my "technical difficulties"; specifically related to the inability to directly embed comments.

After doing some reading and experimentation, I think the problem is most specifically related to the interface between Brave and Blogger, specifically the "Shields Up" function of Brave that prevents tracking.  When I put "Shields Down", I can embed comments just fine.

After looking at the functionality and some of the blogger, settings, I realized that "Cross Site Cookies Blocking" - which seems to root of the issue - is engaged, which is what everyone online seems to say is the issue.  

So after a week of the pop-up screen, I have found that I really struggle with it as an interface.  I enjoy the actually flow of the conversation as it makes it easier in my mind.  So this is how I am doing it (if anyone is interested).  For background when I write this, I am also on a VPN (NordVPN) and use Ghostery to block trackers.

1) Go to Blogger (or the Blogger Site I am interested in).

2)  Turn Shields "Off".

3)  Do my commenting and hit "enter" for comment to register.

4)  Turn Shields "On" or even close out of Brave and then reopen.

It is a little clunky of a interface, but seems to be working okay.

I would be interested in feedback if the change back to embedded comments is working for everyone - or note - and any other potential "fixes".  

As always, thanks for the time spent here and your patience as I work through this.

Thursday, May 05, 2022

Feeling Powerless And The Reaction After

 One of the things that is coming to the fore, between trying to think more and read more Stoicism and meditate more on God, is the need to be ruthlessly honest with one's self.  There cannot be the willingness to avert one's eyes from the weak points of one's character and personality.  To use a martial arts analogy I am familiar with, one has to persevere to have the inner self match the mirror-like sheen of the polished blade.

With that in mind, I was brought up short this week when I consciously realized that I combat feelings of powerlessness with bad habits and sin.

It absolutely follows like clockwork:  I am in a situation or in a meeting or receive an e-mail which somehow makes me feel as if I have no power, whether to impact the situation or turn down the request or simply to somehow "fight back" against the perceived infringement.  And right after that, my instincts will kick in and I will do any number of things which are not great: overeat or another bad habit or simply become angry and irritated and lose focus for hours on end.

The reason I do it is pretty straightforward to me: being made to feel powerless, I lash out by doing something that is within my power to do. The better question is why do I think that this somehow improves the situation?

Because it never does, really. Then I get to feel bad about two things:  the initial incident where I felt powerless and then whatever I did afterwards to avert the feeling of powerlessness.  What I need is to come up with a more effective way to deal with it.

I would like to say that it is simply a matter of me being able to calmly and rationally think through the situation, realize what is happening, admit that I am feeling that way, and then turn my attention to something that I can control that is healthy and do that.  I say that.  It sounds very intellectual and thoughtful, and not at all how I deal with these things in the heat of the moment.

So perhaps in desperation I will throw the question to the wider audience:  What do you do when you feel that you are powerless in a situation and are looking for a positive alternative instead of dwelling on the situation or what you cannot do?

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

Going (Job) Hunting: An Update

 As readers may recall, last month I made the perhaps belated realization that the time is now to start reconsidering the job market and more precisely, my own place in it.  I have made a little progress, which I though I might share in the spirit of how often I write about such things as one time events instead of the processes they actually are.

I made efforts and in fact got  Linked Out account set up (which is pretty much how everyone starts their job search these days, even old dogs like myself if for no other reason that it helps us to get in contact with our former coworkers).  I worked on getting the resume updated, which is both a marvel and terror to me as I have reached the point in the employment program where even the "redacted" form of my resume is three pages.  And then, on a whim, I started looking at available jobs and salaries.

I have learned two things:

1)  I am unable to secure a job at my current salary.

2)  It literally makes more sense for me to be laid off.

Taking them in turn.

1)  I am unable to secure a job at my current salary:  As those who have followed this blog for some time might recall, prior to my change of careers (documented in March/April 2020 as A Sort Of Hammerfall) I had effectively reached the "top" of my career field - there was literally nowhere else for me to go not just at my current company, but at any company.  And rather generously, my company had matched those promotions with salary.  And very thankfully, the salary that went along with job did not change when I was "repurposed".

I am very grateful for that.  Over that time, that salary enabled a lot of things,  like paying for college for two children and allowing us to get out of debt.  What it also managed to do is lock me into something that - as I found out - I cannot recreate (at least in this field) as long as I am in it.

What kind of change?  To change right now in the market (just eyeballing available positions) would be a significant cut in salary. It would still represent a good salary in today's economy and still way above what I have made for most of my life - excluding inflation of course, which is a force to be counted on more and more these days.  But it would be a significant change (and there is still one child for college consideration).  

Which leads us to

2)  It literally makes more sense for me to wait it out.

Given that sort of change, I really cannot in good conscience (and without being forced) suggest that somehow switching jobs right now is the best thing.  Not even a kind of good thing, except of course for that elusive sort of "less stress" that we all like to pretend will happen when we change jobs (and never does).  And that does not even address the fact that currently, I am able to travel to see my parents and The Ranch once a month with no issues (more of the jobs I saw listed "on site", which is not particularly welcome given my current situation).

Which leads then to:

3)  What to do instead

Given the fact that staying makes more financial sense than going, what can I/we do instead?  A couple of things have come to mind and are being implemented.

a)  Live As If:  In this budgeting scenario, the budget is redrawn as if there the salary change has already occurred.  All the variance gets put into savings.  We have already started this process. The nice thing about it is that we can modify with varying scenarios now without creating the sort of stress that comes when it become reality.

b) Be Ready:  Even though it makes sense to stay, there is no reason not have the figurative parachute packed and ready for when it does happen.  In my case this looks a lot like continuing to build those Linked Out connections, getting the resume in order, getting whatever additional knowledge I need in terms of certification or industry knowledge.  All of this can literally go on in the background and for the most part, is free.

c)  Find Other Funding:  This can look like a lot of things.  It can be a side hustle of some kind, or even a form of second job.  It can even be working through selling things that I no longer need and am likely not use again in my lifetime.  All of this could go into "The Gap Fund", or simply into my own secret stash for the things I still want to do (and cost money).

The reality, of course, is that none of this may come to pass. This may simply be a season (in my industry, such seasons are not unknown) and six months from now all will be well and that money we reallocated is a better nest egg than what we originally had.  

But either way, we planned for failure - and thus, we planned for success.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

A Last Drive

 As I was reflecting on the weekend which include The Social Outing, I realized that we had passed one of those milestones of last things that will likely never come again.  In this case, the family vacation drive.

The location of the Social Outing was 1.5 hours from where we were staying and so - ever mindful of the "early is on time and on time is late" - we left, mostly in order to avoid traffic which never seemed to materialized.  Which was fine, as it turned out to be a beautiful spring day of green and wildflowers.

The drive - winding up through greenery and fields and small towns - is one I have not made in many years.  Na Clann have probably made it at least once, although I am sure that none of them recall it at this point as it has been too many years.  We drove through the small villages, replete with weekend travelers at boutique stores and restaurants I can likely not afford.  We stopped a upscale grocery store we used to stop at which had closed, only to find it had opened again under another name. This was something they very all much did remember, as we would always stop there for dipped cookies when we were in the area.

It was in the last town before our destination, when we were recklessly spending time while meandering through the streets as we were very early, that I suddenly realized that quite likely, this was the last time this would happen.

Nighean Gheal (the oldest) is in the process of finding out when her actual start-date is for her post-college "career-type" job, which will certainly be no later than October.  There is a tiny chance she will stay in the area, but more likely she will be off to A Big City.  Nighean Bhan (the middlest) will finish college this December and start working while she applies to graduate school; between work, graduate school and The Boyfriend (who, after dating for 3 years, may finally have to get a name here) her ability or "desire" to get away will be limited, even if she lives at home during that time (which seems the plan).  Nighean Dhonn (the youngest) is a year away from college and has made it fairly clear that once she goes, coming back will be limited to Summer and Christmas (if that).  

The plans for this Summer are already in place and their lives (and ours, to be fair) are planned out.  Thus, this drive through old houses and greenery might very well be the last that we would take together in this sort of form.

It is a sobering thing when the thought hits you.  For a moment one tries to drink it all in.  One is almost tempted to say something but somehow that will spoil the spontaneity and mood which is present at that moment.  It becomes like the wildflower that blooms for a short period:  to do anything else other than just appreciate it - to pick it or press it - is in some meaningful way to mar its beauty, even if for a short moment it appears the same.

And so I allowed the moment to be, listening to the discussion of music and pricing of homes and the sorts of trivia that seem to fill the moments that are meaningful when we do not realize that they are.

I am sure that there will be other, different moments to come that will be equally as good.  That is something I have had to learn by the hard experience of trying to crystalize the moments that have gone on before.  But they will be different in pesonae dramatae even if most of the characters remain the same.  But they will never be this moment - this fleeting, ephemeral moment at the end of one era and the start of another.

The trees shook their leaves gently as we drove by.  It was likely the breeze to most people; I know otherwise.

Monday, May 02, 2022

Do Something Desperate

 "Man, do something desperate, as the expression goes, now if never before, to achieve peace, freedom, and high-mindedness.  Lift up your neck at last like a man escaped from bondage, be bold to look towards God and say 'Use me henceforth for whatever Thou wilt; I am of the same mind with Thee; I am Thine; I crave exemption from nothing that seems good in Thy sight; where Thou wilt, lead me; in what raiment Thou wilt, clothe me.  Wouldst Thou have me to hold office, or remain in private life to remain here or go into exile; to be poor or be rich?  I will defend all these Thy acts before men; I will show what the true nature of each thing is."

- Epictetus,  The Dicourses (Book II)

Sunday, May 01, 2022

A Visit With TB The Elder and Mom: Late April Edition

 I have been somewhat remiss in relating April's visit with TB The Elder and Mom.

For the first visit, it was myself and my oldest, Nighean Gheal, who had come out early with me prior to the Social Outing.  It was the best visit we have had in a long time, and maybe ever to this date.

TB The Elder definitely (from everything I could see) knew who Nighean Gheal was: his eyes lighted up, he was able to speak some sentences that were clear and understandable.  He was very engaged in our 30 minute visit.  He even showed some interest when I told him what the cost of gas was in New Home, which is a subject we always used to discuss every week on the phone.  Mom, was a little more quiet than usual and - as seems more usual lately - had to be reminded who we were in relation to her, but still was engaged.

We saw them about a week later, all of us:  Myself, The Ravishing Mrs. TB, Nigheah Gheal, Nighean Bhan, and Nighean Dhonn.  My mom was seemingly more responsive while TB The Elder was not (although his nights and the restlessness thereof seem to have a lot to do with it).  That said, we still talked through everything that was going on in the Nigheanan's lives and even The Ravishing Mrs. TB (they all do amazing and interesting things; I am pretty bland).  For everyone except Nighean Gheal, it had been almost a year since they had seen them.

My father's health seems to be declining more visibly:  for the first visit he was in a wheelchair (not the first time that has occurred during our visits) and for the second visit - although they were able to help him out walking to sit in the chair - it took two nursing assistants and even then he looked very strained and unsteady.  This was not the case even six months ago.  My mother seems about the same as she was when we moved her a little over a year ago, except the memory holes are larger and larger.

There is not much else we can do at this point, other than continue to visit and support.  Part of me hates that this is the answer; there should be a better response than that.  That said, I also have to remind myself that there really are no better options and the only thing we can do is visit and attempt to manage their legacy as they would have wanted it managed.

Which is not a really satisfying answer, but seems to be all that is readily at hand.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Connecting Five Dots And More Reading

 As I sitting in my chair journaling yesterday morning with my now additional morning time, I suddenly made a connection I had not made previously - perhaps an epiphany (although I wonder how many times we use that word for things that are simply not epiphanies, but just common sense).

There have been five sorts of "dots" over the last two weeks or so.  The first was waking up one morning and simply realizing that "I was done", although I was not clear what I was "done" with.  The second was the social outing that left me exhausted to the point that I seriously question how many I have left in me.  The third was the aforementioned change in morning programming that left my cell phone to the side for the first hour or so of the morning.  The fourth was a change in how comments are done, which makes my own commenting much more slow on the InterWeb and thus makes it less easy to use.  And the fifth - yesterday - was the announced blogging retirement of one of my favorite bloggers.

All of this came to a proverbial head when - on Thursday evening - I found myself finishing work at the actual time I was supposed to and suddenly having an evening with a few activities and a lot of time.  And suddenly I realized I was making a change in my life, a change I needed to make and had not essentially being willing to do. I needed to spend more time and focus on the quiet life that I say I want to live, but never really do.

In other words, I need to simply give myself permission to spend my life on a small subset of things that really matter.

Maybe this has been obvious to those that read here; it would not be the first time that the last person to realize issues about myself is me.  But what I found as I mulled these five points over in my journal - which thanks to the addition in morning time, I am forcing myself to double what I was writing (two pages instead of one) - is that I have fallen into a trap of needing to be mentally busy and serving masters that really had no impact on my life.

One of the things that has almost become a guilty pleasure is reading.  Why this is, I am not sure -except that somehow (except for flying on a plane) I have come to associate "sitting and reading" with not be productive.  Which is foolish of course - for the gaining of knowledge and for pleasure, there is nothing that beats reading (yes, I understand there are videos and such.  They never quite work the same way for me).  Reading has not been a priority, the way that it used to be or should be.

Which comes to how I spend my time.  Things like surfing the InterWeb become much less easy when your commenting interface is difficult and the bloggers you read (over to the right there, and whom I love) generally write a post once a day to once a week. That certainly does not justify hours of "looking", and the decision to largely discontinue media makes it even less real.

And the experience of the social outing?  I need more quiet and less people, not the other way around.  Excluding my family, Iaijutsu class, and volunteering at the Rabbit Shelter, I really only see people I have have no relationship with at the gym (and largely church at this point as well). 90% of my day is spent at home (whether here or at The Ranch) at most in meetings - so voice, not presence.  

Which, as I am finding, is how I like it.

In that sense I suppose, I need to double down on the life called Contemplative by the medieval mystics:  Less people, more thoughtfulness, more time spent with things around the home(s), more time invested in the things in my life that matter.  Perhaps doing "less", but more focused on what I am doing and in a real way, less connected to the world.

It does not impact my writing here directly (blogging continues to fall under one of the "things), as the unspoken sixth thing I realized is that I am already doing what I talk about in terms of blogging - much less current events and such, more more (hopefully ) thought provoking items and records of my daily life.  Which I am certainly happy with as it is continuing to help me refine my thoughts and my life.

In one thing I can say there is a sense of joy:  the moment when one realizes that so much of what one felt one was under was really put their by one's self, not by anyone else.

And, of course, the realization that one has given one's self the permission to read full speed ahead.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Ave Atque Vale, Claire

One of the saddest things that can happen in the world of blogging is when a good blogger goes silent.

It happens for any number of reasons of course.  For some, the desire or need to write simply runs out - like so many things in life, a thing can have a force and meaning which over time disappears and is no longer a force.  For some, just the burden of continuing to come up with something to write on a regular or semi regular basis can be overwhelming - after all, 99.9% of us do this for no other good reason than a love of words and on the whole, love does not pay particularly well.  For the saddest of cases of all, the blogger does not get to make the choice but the choice is made for them (Requiscat In Pace, Ol' Remus of The Woodpile Report).

It was thus with a great deal of sadness this morning that I read that Claire Wolfe has elected  (for all intents and purposes) to discontinue her blog.

I know that she is not everyone's cup of tea (to be fair, at one point in my life I would not have considered her so either), but she is (using the present tense; she is not "expired") someone whose writing I enjoy reading simply for the fact that - agree or disagree - it is well written and made me think, to the point that I actually read books she recommend which in turn modified my thinking.  She became for me like Ol' Remus of the blessed memory above, or a cadre of bloggers that still write and whom I look forward to reading with relish (the list I look forward reading looks a lot like that list over there to the right) whenever I saw they had a new post as I curled up with my cup of coffee in the morning.

Her reasons for leaving are manifold:  partially just that the drive to write of insanity in a world which is every day seemingly trying to outdo itself in said insanity has disappeared, partially because it simply costs money to operate a server in a time of increasing expenses  and she prefers to allocate resources elsewhere, and (the most happiest part for me at least) partially that she has found good things in her life that she would much prefer to spend time on than continuing to dwell on the more disagreeable things of the modern world (which, to be fair, we all would).

Over the years here as I have written, I have found myself transitioning to a different kind of writing which is different in its genesis (for me, I really just do not like unpleasantness and conflict in the comments section) but ultimately the same in outcome:  I have chosen to write about different areas other than current events and the general insanity not so much because it is not there (it is), but that my writings provide very little in the way of actual solutions to such problems - they become more  a simple grousing about the way things are.  That helps no-one ultimately:  not me, not my readers, and not the situation in general.  I would rather write about things that either provoke my thoughts or that I simply enjoy; the potential that they have an impact to fix any current issues is an accidental by-product, not the intent.  And so when someone else makes the realization that the time has come to spend their life on happier things, I can only raise the proverbial glass and shout "Huzzah".

I am selfishly sad of course, the sort of selfishness that comes when a beloved local store or restaurant closes because the owner has decided to retire or simply move on:  glad for them and sad for myself that I will no longer have the experience of shopping or eating there.  At the same time, we are remiss if we do not in our selfish sadness take the opportunity to be grateful to the spot that they filled in our lives during that time.  Our sorrow is most likely not so much from the inconvenience of not having access as it is to the fact that something we enjoyed will no longer be a part of our lives in the same way:  not an active participant, but a happy memory.

I struggled with how to name this post; after all "Goodbye" or "A Requiem for" has the sort of finality that suggests something other than what Claire has decided to do, simply step into another place in life.  As I pondered, the phrase from the Roman Poet Catullus "Ave atque Vale" - "Hail and Farewell" suggested itself.  I post the translation of the poem here for completeness:

Carried through many nations and over many seas,
I arrive, brother, for these wretched funeral rites
so that I might present you with the last tribute of death
and speak in vain to silent ash,
since Fortune has carried you, yourself, away from me.
Alas, poor brother, unfairly taken away from me,
now in the meantime, nevertheless, these things which in the ancient custom of ancestors
are handed over as a sad tribute to the rites,
receive, dripping much with brotherly weeping.
And forever, brother, hail and farewell. (Source)

Ave atque Vale, Claire.  

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Technical Difficulties - Please Stand By

 So I have to apologize for the rather awkward commenting of late.  Apparently Google in their infinite wisdom "fixed" a problem that never existed and as a result, I cannot comment my own blog (or others).  I It frustrates me to no end.

I have tried the recommended suggestion of clearing out my "cookies", but only seem to have managed to lock myself out of my browser (Brave) access to my blog to the point I may have de-install and re-install the browser.  At the moment I am going through an incognito window with "Shields" down; I will post them back up and then close the window. 

(I also tried on Microsoft Edge with no better results - which actually made me feel a bit better.  Trying to avoid the conglomerates.)

For the interim I have put commenting in a pop-out window to at least allow people to comment.  I do not like the fact one cannot "reply", but that seems to be my only option.

My sincere apologies for the inconvenience and thanks for your patience as I try to work through this.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

A Slight Change In Morning Programming

 One of the rather poor habits that I have picked up about my early morning routines is that I have become largely dependent on my "Smartphone" to make it happen.

It started innocently enough of course:  I had an app that I used in the morning as part of my routine.  So I started reaching for it there.  The next thing I found, I had added another app.  Then I started checking my mail.  Then I started just "looking" at the blog in the morning, and one or two other things.  The next thing I knew, I found that I was picking up the phone right after the Bible and prayer and not putting it down for 30-40 minutes.

All of that is fine, of course, except what I found is that it was becoming a crutch for putting off the work I really needed to be doing:  Journaling.  Thinking carefully about what I was going to write for this blog.  Exercise.  That sort of thing.

Which I had sort of learned to live with and work around (not well) - until last week one of the rather ubiquitous "X ways to improve your life"  floated across Instaphoto.  The first suggestion:  Dump your smartphone for the first 60 minutes of your day.  

Well, hello perfectly good idea that I had started with and then given up on because I was, well, "Trying to get more done".  Which sounds a lot like lazy.

So this week I have started doing it.  Perhaps somewhat (not) surprisingly, I am already finding my focus more clear and my writing a little less awful.  And also, I suddenly seem to have an addition of time that I was not previously aware of.

Not that the time somehow magically reappeared.  It was always there. It was how I was choosing to use the time that made it less available.  And not that this things were complete time wasters - it was just that they were of less value than other things.

There is a point - and one that is somehow just slightly buried here that I have to try and understand it - that just because something is a little bit easier to perform and is perhaps even somewhat worthy of being pursued, it is not necessarily the best and highest use of our time.  

And sometimes, it is as simple as just putting something aside for a little while.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Aftermath Of A Social Outing

 This past weekend I had occasion to attend a large social event.  I was in this particular case happy to do so, although as it was family related there was some sense of obligation as well.  And there was indeed an element of fun had at it.

But the aftermath on me is such that I do not think I have many more such events in me.

To be fair, it was an event that - generally - catered to a slightly younger group. It is also fair to say that I was on the tail end of a week of less than ideal sleep and there was bit more alcohol in my system than has been there in a while.

But even now, two days later, I still feel completely wiped out by it.

It is not just the physical side. I (in theory) know that I will be able to rest up and have my body recover from a few days of not eating well and no exercising as I usually do.  But it is the mental condition that has me the most bothered.  Literally, it feels like I am trying to lift a huge weight to get into gear.  It is as if all of my mental reserve and thought processes have been totally washed away, leaving me nothing but a blank slate.

I do not like it.  I do not even know how to process it, other than writing about it.  At best, I am hopeful that with a week of limited activities and the silence of home, I might reach a place where I can begin to re-sort things out again.

Some important lessons here for me.  

By my back of the envelope calculations, I have maybe six to eight of these events left in my lifetime (maybe a few more - who knows).  They will be the sorts of things I will need to attend.  So I need to do a better job of preparing for them.

I had also not anticipated how impactful the last two years of really doing no social events had been on me.  This was likely the largest and certainly the loudest event I have been two since the start of The Plague, if not even before that.   I have realized I have become more of a creature of the silence and the quiet; how much, I did not know.  

And how essentially critical it is to my ability to function.

At this rate, I estimate a week at least until I am back to where I was last Wednesday after having spent time at The Ranch.  Which seems like a lot of recovery time for a single event.

Somewhat graciously by the hand of God, it is raining now.  The patter of the drops soothes my soul.