Category Archives: Notes from the Apex

The longer we live, the more we realize our entire lives are like hiking through a series of peaks and valleys. Going downhill is easier. Getting to our peaks requires more energy. But once we reach the apex we can relax, catch our breath and take in the view.

Yeah, So My Son Wears a Skirt

Since not much has changed aside from the grandkids growin’, From 17 March 2016:

Sure, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, don’ cha know. Fresh buds are sheeting the landscapes with bright greens as if they too arrived for the Irish festivities.

jack meg 2016mar12

FirstBorn phoned me early this morning while drivin’ into Chicago for the first of the big parades this weekend. As we chatted, I envisioned he and his wife riding side-by-side, dressed in full celtic regailia.

Yeah, my son wears a skirt: a kilt, a sporran (or pouch), fly plaid (depending upon the weather), hose, garters, spats and depending upon the event they’re attending, either Balmoral or Glengarry headgear. An’ it’s proud I am of him – and all my family.

 

band of brothers pNdFirstBorn, FirstBride and OtherBrother are members of The Band of Brothers Pipes and Drums Corps. An annual tradition, they gather in Chicago with thousands of celebrants, for the Dyein’ of the Chicago River, The St. Patrick’s Day Parade  and the Southside Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

jack drum 2015mar18

 

crabby 2016mar7crab jack 2012mar7

bookends 2016jan10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

bob jack 2016jan10

Sure, an’ it’s a fine day, indeed!

 

 

“For you have heard my vows, O God. You have given me an inheritance reserved for those who fear your name.”

Psalm 51:5 (NLT)

Advertisements

15 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

Notably Resounding

Aside from my physical addresses much has changed in my life since I first developed What Next. Other things remain the same.

This goes with some of my friends too. For instance, not only Christi at Feeding on Folly but also K. at The Blackwall Blog both recently blogged about their updates and changes.

Now they have me considering the inordinate amounts of stuff I’ve been hauling around for years. Things like my boxes of notebooks and journals.

With that I revisited my post from September 15, 2014. Again*:

Zoe couldn’t talk yesterday, but this morning we caught up. Unlike many of my friends and family these days, Zoe and I occupy the same time zone, so we don’t miss discussing much.

Fast forward 150 minutes; epic – even for us. We touched all bases; our work, families, mutual friends, political and social concerns. Then, for fun, we skimmed back over my notes from our past year’s conversations.

Yes, I keep notes, chronologically sequential, cross-referenced and color coded – on everything. This not only helps me keep my mind in the present reality and off the stories in my head, but has occasionally proven I heard someone right, long after the fact. I’m amazed at how much more important this becomes the longer I practice aging. Who knew aging well takes considerable practice?

Mostly my notebooks reveal I’m in better shape than I thought.

So… you may be thinking.

So, my thoughts today address perception and how my amazing, adult sons more frequently than ever suggest I’m either confused about statements from previous talks or I wasn’t listening to them. Always me.

How I imagine my boys and me chatting.

In all fairness, from my trusty notebooks, our typical conversations appear compressed into time restraints and are profoundly multi-directional. Still, though the subjects get jumbled a bit, I pen the statements accurately. Days or weeks may lapse between contacts, but when I need to be certain (even if only for my peace of mind), most often I am rectified.

As I am now cresting the peak of mid-life this is a kind of a big deal. More than ever before God draws my attention to details. Perhaps that’s because modern medicine has forced us to monitor ourselves and each other. The especially savvy peri-senior is watchful for symptoms of dementia, senility, disease and unnecessary stress.

Today God hath revealed unto me (okay, according to my notes), both Zoe and I are in good shape; at least between our ears!

Today.

“Blessed are those who keep [God’s] statutes and seek Him with all their heart – they do no wrong but follow His ways.”

Psalm 119: 2&3 (NIV)

 

*I’d already edited and liked today’s repost that includes friends, etc. Then I noticed “(3)” in the Permalink. I think everyone appears better in this version, so I tweaked the title and then ran with it. You be the judge.

Images courtesy Pixabay

16 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

For Cryin’ Out Loud

I don’t know how I managed to do it – yet again. I somehow pasted my first draft over my final text of Friday’s Soundings post and inadvertently posted the former instead. Those who use the phone app may understand my frustration.

MY POINT HERE BEING I enjoyed getting to the final so much I couldn’t bear to deprive readers, at the very least not the old cartoon clip halfway through. Besides, it’s Saturday and I rarely, if ever post on Saturday. So, for pity’s sake I posted it again below:

Commence snarky remarks. I sure would. As always, it stays between us.

Soundings

All day today sounds of spring either startled me or repeatedly distracted me from whatever I was doing.

EARLY THIS MORNING:

LATE THIS MORNING:

Today’s experience was brought to us by weeks of averaging low 30-something high temperatures with flurries and freezing overnight, and then today – temps rose to the mid 40’s with wind! By mid-morning snow and ice began melting – very quickly.

Suddenly there was frequent, unexpected banging of snow. That’s right, snow rudely pounding. Okay, snow, ice and icicles crashing to the ground – did I mention loudly? We’re talking great weights of compressed fluffy whiteness, layered with glistening, multi-colored ice, thundering against the exterior walls.

About the third time I had to detach my claws from the ceiling, I began to get annoyed.

That got me thinking about some of my attitudes and habits – the ones I usually wouldn’t notice. God forbid we settle for less than what He wants for us just because we’re set in our ways.

I’d gotten used to sliding around on the snow and ice and layering clothes to keep from freezing. So what if I likely spent an hour a day layering the bulky, cumbersome dressings on and off? And even with excellent treads on my boots I had to step very, very carefully, avoiding that whole gravity/lost-balance thing. Still, I had it all under control.

Like the way I adore cinnamon rolls with my coffee. Despite their high carbs and starches, mine are basically heart healthy – I reasoned – so I made them every day. For months. ‘Til my clothes no longer fit…

Still, I didn’t want to give them up. God had to force me to relate the extra weight to my painful hips and knees before I surrendered.

But today there were sounds of water steadily trickling onto hard surfaces and splattering against the walls. And bright sunshine!

Soon little stream-like waterways trickled along the slopes of the hundreds of yards of pea gravel that Cole had just begun to level as the snow began to fall.

Finally, droplets of water from the roof caught the mid-afternoon sun, creating a cascade of minuscule rainbows. At least the droplets appeared on camera, even if the rainbows didn’t.

Me being fifteen pounds lighter now, I couldn’t resist the sunshine any longer. For the sheer pleasure of it I stepped outside in my short shirt sleeves to take it all in and shoot the excitement around me.

Now, this is my kind of winter. Finally!

*

“Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying.”

Romans 12:12 (NLT)

*Image and featured image courtesy ABSFreePic.com

17 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

Forty-Third Ring

Most of my elders all contributed to instilling in me a healthy respect for trees. I remember with a degree of shame now how Roan and I rolled our eyes (behind her back, of course) as Mother wailed over taking down the dead birch tree outside her bedroom window.

So much more so, I deeply appreciate this, great piece from Stuart Perkins: https://wp.me/p3EzSK-l0

Forty-Third Ring

Halfway through the tedious count my eyes began to cross. I put a finger on one of the wider rings to mark my place.

“Ninety-seven… ninety-eight… ninety-nine.“ I said to myself as I finished counting. “Wow…”

Ninety-nine clear rings. Taking in to account questionable layers near the bark and several areas made uncertain by chainsaw damage, this oak was easily a hundred years old. But for last week’s ice storm it would still be living. Fallen across the park trail, the city had cut the hefty trunk into several pieces to remove the obstruction.

One hundred years.

That would mean a tiny acorn sprouted and began to form its first ring around the time Woodrow Wilson signed the Treaty of Versailles. Perhaps it emerged just as the Grand Canyon became a national park. Or maybe it struggled towards the light as Congress guaranteed voting rights to all women.

A year passed, a ring formed. Repeat. No matter what… years and rings. Years and rings upon years and rings and Amelia Earhart was flying solo across the Atlantic, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected president, and wind whipped across the growing tree just as it did the flag that flew over the Winter Olympics in 1932.

The same year my father was born.

Passage of more time, formation of more rings. Growth was never deterred. Through the horror of the Boston Marathon bombing or NASA’s breathtaking photos of Saturn, a ring was forming. Even as the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela came to an end, yet another ring formed, in 2013.

The same year my father died.

From the time it gripped earth as a sprouting acorn until the day heavy ice brought it down, the tree not only survived; it grew. Regardless. This majestic beast existed during years of peace and years of war. From its first to its last, so much happened between the rings.

As a sapling, it was already on its way to grandeur before my father was born and it continued to grow after he was gone. One ring the year of his birth, another the year of his death. All he ever did, and was, happened between those rings.

Touching the center of the cross-section of trunk, I dragged my finger towards the outer edge, moving slowly over each of those circular markers of time. I stopped for a second on the forty-third ring. If my calculations were correct, this one was the year I was born, 1962.

I’m unable to articulate what I felt at that moment. There I sat, straddling the trunk of a fallen tree, deep in the throes of profound thought due to the sight of a jagged circle inside a tree? I pressed my finger tight against that forty-third ring.

It was beautiful, I thought, as I noticed a young sapling growing nearby.

“It’s making rings.”  I said out loud. I glanced back down at the one beneath my finger.

My first.

Somewhere in the sapling will be another.

My last.

But what am I going to do between the rings?

Stuart M. Perkins

 

7 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

Shout Out

More than anything else I want to live so that people see God’s hand all over my life, not just that I’ve survived this long.

So when somebody recently said to me (again), “You wouldn’t know anything about suffering (hardship, pain, fill-in-the-blank…),” I simply replied, “Maybe not. You tell me about it.”

The fact is my history includes so many tragic situations and hardships some might doubt my story’s validity. So much happening to one person in one lifetime… I needn’t exaggerate for dramatic affect. Neither do my siblings. Bottom line, we actually do know about suffering.

And we know about overcoming.

More important, we not only survived, but God worked it all for good. My life doesn’t compare to Paul’s. But I learned early on in my Christian walk, by studying the apostle, to cry out with prayer and praise during the worst situations.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.”*

Somehow my situations always got better too. Sometimes they got worse first, but God always turned it all around for good.

Multiply that times infinite numbers of people crying out every day.

Horrifying events are happening in our nation and in our global community. Still, I thank God for my experience. I learned when things seem to be at their worst, when there’s no way for things to be good, God is a way maker.

“Do not be overcome by evil,

but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:21 (NIV)

Image courtesy Pixabay

*For the whole story see BibleGateway Book of Acts 16:16-40

9 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

5 Encouragements for the Long Road to Finding “Your People”

As if Brandon Adams heard me occasionally complain about my present aloneness:

It took me a while to find “my people”.

Returning home after the Air Force, I found friendmaking difficult. I’m far from a natural.

First I tried the church’s college group. Never really fit in. Then I latched onto a Bible study of older singles. They were good people but had grown up with more money, and therefore with hobbies and pastimes I struggled to get into. Regardless of where I turned, I found myself on many D-lists.

Continue reading  at Brandon J. Adams-For Millennials Seeking the Abundant Life of Jesushttps://wp.me/p6JURF-85E

2 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex, Writing and Blogging

Serendipitous

I traveled to the Portland, Oregon area, joining dear old friends to celebrate a life that ended far too soon.

For our return the weather caused us to divert from our usual route. Taking in the breathtaking views from the west side of the river instead of the east side, we then crossed the Bridge of the Gods to go up the Columbia River Gorge. This route to the Gorge was a first for both of us.

From grief to comfort to elation. Chris would have loved that.

Thank You, God.

Images (c) 2019 RapturePractice! Publications

Columbia River south of Bonneville Dam

Featured Image (header) Columbia River Gorge Northbound in a snowstorm.

17 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex, photography

Nothing and Everything

A flashback from What Next, September 2015:

nothing everything

I was born in a Chicago suburb, surrounded by siblings and generations of family. We’d drive station wagons through gently sloped streets lined with maple, oak and elm trees year-round and lilac blossoms everywhere in the spring. Every weekend the entire family gathered at one or another’s home.

Family gatherings gradually changed after we all migrated to Phoenix. My grandparents and aunts settled over an hour’s drive away, my parents, siblings, and I on the opposite side of town. OlderBrother and I walked to school in a new, drier, hotter climate passing ocotillo, acacias, and towering oleander walls.

Discovering the areas surrounding our home gradually replaced weekly visits with family. For weeks we explored livestock pastures, orange groves and hay fields. Our favorite times were spent swinging from ropes tied to enormous trees over irrigation canals.

A week before I was to become an upperclassman at our grade school, we left my grandparents and aunts’ families behind. In two cars with trailers, our parents drove my five siblings and me across the dessert to southern California. Home became an apartment where there were more trees and a patio, but no yard.

Dad and Mother went to work immediately. Very used to caring for one another, my siblings and I took on the new climate, new society, a much faster pace and being strange, new kids in metropolitan schools.

Cool wasn’t about the weather anymore; you either were or you weren’t. In jeans, t-shirts and squaw boots, I wasn’t. My main concerns were hand washing laundry and getting dinner ready. When Mother and Dad were home together they usually argued. OlderBrother stopped being my pal and mostly worked on cars with friends. Still, we somehow got from day by day together. Some days were less together than others.

A few months later we moved into a house in a nicer suburb. Eventually OlderBrother discovered the bus lines to the beach, and went there often. The rest of us hoped to go with him some day.

Two years after coming to Los Angeles, one midweek day Mother pulled us from school and took us to Crystal Cove near Newport Beach.

The fresh ocean air lifted me from our life and for the first time in months I felt I could breathe. Tide pools, waves, kelp beds, sandpipers and sea gulls sent my senses and my imagination soaring. It was our last outing with Mother. Weeks later she left.

I couldn’t get to the shore often enough for my liking. But whenever I could, I would dig my feet deep in the sand as though that would keep me from spinning off the planet. The beach became my sanctuary.

I mostly came with nothing, only to gaze where the sky meets the ocean. Between that horizon and my feet I found everything I needed.

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened;
    he saved me from all my troubles.”  Psalm 34:6 (NLT)

 

Featured image courtesy dstiel at Pixabay

17 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex

More Than a Walk

Stepping out from my warm cottage the temperature changes were exhilarating. Looking up at the buildings as I passed, I shivered, but not from the cold.

When the weather warmed up and then cooled again large, ominous icicles formed. After it warmed again the snow cover began sliding down and some of the frozen daggers began randomly dropping.

As I walked I imagined cold, heartless creatures silently creeping after me.

Then I realized the frozen bars were a covert plot to imprison me within the darkness indoors.

I felt the cold and gloom pursuing me. My plans, hopes and aspirations began to appear insignificant, worthless. Even the sunshine seemed like a distant memory.

But looking up on my mid-morning stroll God’s beautiful heavens assured me the malefactors were only in my mind.

I am a child of the Light. God rescued me from the shadows long ago.

Together we banished the mood.

As we returned to my comfy home, above the crashes I heard His voice stirring a breeze, whispering, “Hear it? Spring is coming…”

“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”

Psalm 139:7-12 (NKJV)

21 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex, photography

Another Favorite Day

Dear Diane just reminded me today is another of my favorite days of the year.

February 15: Valentine chocolates go on sale!

I’m kidding. Sort of. I began an intense diet the first week of December 2018. I’m not impressed with the weight loss so far, but I feel remarkably better (despite life’s bumps and bruises). So, it’s not another epic fail.

I get lots of practice failing. Okay, maybe not exactly failing, but I’m well experienced in unexpected outcomes. Too bad that doesn’t sound as impressive on a resume.

Today let’s stick with diet and exercise. I’ve tried lots of ways to lose excess weight – not all were healthy and some made me feel awful. But with help from good friends like David at Chape Fitness I’ve condensed them all to a simple plan.

Ready?

Here goes:

Burn what you eat.

Okay, we can’t blame that on David (mea culpa, Bro). My weight has raised and lowered my whole life, so empirically, it’s not quite that simple. Last year I again found more extra pounds than I want to admit. Despite running myself ragged all summer and feasting mostly upon the super-sized vegetable garden, as the holidays approached I hadn’t shed the smallest fraction.

I had however, let slip the practice of doing nothing else but eat during meals. I’d also stopped paying attention to the combinations of what I ate as well as the times I ate. What’s more, I lost sight of why my diet is important to me – loving myself slid way down the priority ladder as well. These small details, left unchecked can combine to become a big problem.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I can fumble likewise in my relationship with God. I’ll put off my devotion time for any number of logical reasons, like:

  • to take advantage of the sunlight hours,
  • to get a head start on tasks, or
  • do my shopping while sane people sleep in,

Seems smart. Right? Yeah, but before I know it, days passed and my soul and spirit were dry. I never got around to what’s actually most important. The evidence was unmistakable. Instead of contentment I soon found myself:

  • Jumping to conclusions,
  • Flying off the handle, and
  • Definitely pushing my luck.

These are far from the best workouts. Fortunately my brakes still work well.

I’m still learning to simply slow down a bit, strategize my meals and activities, pray more and stress less.  As I do I not only feel better, but once I shed this extra weight I’ll be able to enjoy some of the little things in life more without blowing up my long-term goals.

Chocolate freezes. Right?

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.”

Romans 12:1 (NLT)

 

15 Comments

Filed under Notes from the Apex