Monday, April 30, 2012

Paranoia

So I seem to be in the back of an SUV with it's back seats down - a couple of us are traveling as cargo, sort of.  I seem to know the others in the vehicle with me, although there's a vagueness to them.  It's dusk-ish.  My shirt slides to the side and the guy next to me sees that I'm carrying.  I don't know what I was carrying - appeared to be a semi-automatic of some sort.  "Are you CRAZY?!  We're in Maryland now!  You can't have a gun in Maryland!"  Oh crap!  Panic - I don't want to be caught with it if only because I don't want to lose the gun.  So I pull up the mat we are laying on and tuck it under there.  Then - ack! - I seem to have my .38 on the other hip!  Ack!  Hide it! Hide it!  Just in time, because we arrive at our destination.  Which seems to have something to do with a class of some sort.  And the dream goes on and on and all the vehicles look exactly the same, it's always dim-approaching-dark, and we are never in the same vehicle twice.  I have no idea where my guns are. And I'm really bummed.

Then I wake up and now I know where all my guns are and I don't live in Maryland anymore and that's a very good thing.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Read-y Goodness


After a dry spell with fiction that was only temporarily improved when I pulled out E.R. Burrough’s A Princess of Mars after seeing the “John Carter” movie, I’ve hit the jackpot with every book I’ve picked up over the last week.

First up, because I was really naughty at the Air and Space Annex gift shop:  How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming, by Mike Brown.  The loss of Pluto has always annoyed me.  When I was a kid I walked ten miles to school. Uphill. In five feet of snow.  Both ways.  And we had nine planets. The model I made in elementary school, assembled out of a bike wheel with painted styrofoam balls attached to the spokes, was lovely, deserving of an A, and perfectly represented that nine planet system.

I was good with the discovery of more moons, and really good with the discovery that Saturn isn't the only planet with rings.  But then, just as it looked like they were going to ADD a planet to the system, Pluto got downgraded to a dwarf planet, which isn't really a planet at all, just a large object in the Kuiper Belt.  Bleah.

I was seriously bummed.  Haven't got over it, either.  But I'm feeling forgiving now.  Mike Brown tells the tale of how he found planets beyond Pluto and then worked to have Pluto and those planets stripped of planet status, mixing the science with the story of a man who was passionately searching the solar system and making historic discoveries at the same time as he was falling in love, getting married, becoming a first time father.  Note to sleep deprived new parents - don't keep the powdered laundry detergent and the clumping cat litter sitting next to each other in the laundry room.  Popular science, clearly and humorously presented.


Then I jumped back 2,000 years to Cleopatra, by Stacy Schiff.  Turns out the cover picture for the book is perfect:



What we think we know about this last of the pharaohs, the Ptolemaic ruler who mostly is known for romancing both Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony, is, at best, minimal, and a popular creation more based on Shakespeare and Shaw than the real woman. The last of the Greek rulers of Egypt, Cleopatra reigned longer than Alexander the Great did. She demonstrated her appreciation for Ptolemaic tradition by marrying and eventually assassinating her brother, as well as removing other siblings who stood in her way.  The Ptolemies, it seems, could make the Borgias look like good guys.

She did try to consolidate her power through an affair with an aging Caesar, which produced the male heir Caesar's marriage didn't.  That didn't bring her the guarantees she hoped for.


When Caesar was assassinated and a power struggle broke out she sided with Marc Anthony, carrying on an affair that lasted years and produced three children. In the end, she backed the loser, and Egypt was absorbed into the Roman Empire.


The descriptions of Alexandria at its height, of the court, of traditions and rituals, and of world politics are fascinating and well drawn.  And all this plucked off the shelf at the local Good Will store.

Then there's my current read by Janet Wallach:  Desert Queen.  


Gertrude Bell - Victorian woman, explorer, adventurer, passionate Arabist, friend to Lawrence of Arabia, major force behind the redrawing of the national borders of the Middle East as the Ottoman Empire disintegrated.  She traveled where the Turkish authorities were afraid to go, smuggling her rifle past border guards by wrapping it in her petticoats, the ammunition hidden in her boots.  When she wasn't climbing Swiss peaks.  


Amazing woman, but driven by loneliness, suffering the tragedies of lost loves, filling up the silence in order to keep the pain out.  This is an incredible look at the Middle East 100 years ago as well as the story of an utterly fascinating woman whom Bedouin sheiks welcomed to their fires and called a queen.




Monday, April 23, 2012

My Sunday

The radar looked like this starting Saturday evening:


We desperately needed rain, so it was welcome.  Lot's of work remaining outside, but this soaking is fine.

Had lots I needed to do inside.  Like finishing cleaning the Glocks I borrowed from Murphy's Law.  Instead, Sunday went like this:

Lay in bed draped with purring cats and listening to birds and falling rain
Move to sofa with blanket, coffee, and book
Re-drape with cats
Read
Eat
Re-drape with cats
Read
Change water filter and scoop cat pan
Re-drape with cats
Read
Eat
Re-drape with cats
Read
Go to Mass
Put on pjs, re-drape with cats
Read
Sleep

It was a lovely day.


P.S. It's a nor'easter, and this is what it looks like in some areas to north and west today:



Friday, April 20, 2012

Rocket Summer

I grew up on Burroughs and Bradbury, Heinlein and Asimov.  My formative years were years when the U.S. was reaching, reaching, reaching - first into the upper atmosphere, then into deep space.  The Mercury flights would have been at the edge of my consciousness, although I don't specifically remember them, but I do remember Gemini and Apollo.  And then came the shuttle program.

Their design was a bit disappointing.  In my world, heavily influenced by books and movies of the 50s and 60s as it was, regular manned space travel would be done in sleek, needle-shaped craft that lifted off and landed on their own power, always setting neatly on their bases.


But still, despite my disappointment in their appearance, the shuttle program was wonderfully exciting, because eventually it made space travel, even though it wasn't into deep space, a regular thing.  Not a regular thing for most of us, but, still, so regular that we often forgot that we had crews in space.  Space travel as almost boring.

The news of the program's ending made me incredibly sad.  It seemed to announce that, for the first time in my life, we had stopped reaching for the stars.  I can't imagine that anymore than people of centuries past could imagine not setting out across the oceans to explore.

I almost didn't go to the ceremony at the Air and Space Annex yesterday. I got up feeling rough, but in the end my disappointment at not seeing the flyover and awareness that it was a historic occasion that wouldn't come again pushed me out the door.  I'm glad I went.

Enterprise was already pulled out. She'll be flown off to another museum today.  She never went into space, but, still, she was the first.


Discovery was waiting just beyond the trees.


Of course, it's not like they could fire up the engines and roll her over on her own power, but it was still an emotional few minutes as Discovery was brought nose to nose to Enterprise.






The difference between the sheltered lady and the work horse is quite obvious.  NASA Administrator Bolden (ret. Major General, Marine Corps) commented:  "You try re-entering the atmosphere at 3,000 miles per hour and see if you don't get a little singed, too."

About half of the former commanders were there, as were some crew members.  My vertical-challangedness made getting pictures difficult.  I would wait and wait and people would finally shift out of my way and just as I hit the button they'd shift again and I'd get this:


But I did grab a couple at the right time.  Tried to grab screen shots, too, but that didn't work very well.



Thankfully, I did manage to grab a shot of the Icon of Space Icons, John Glenn:


The man is 90 years old, yet he seems ageless.  And he made it clear in his comments that he felt the program had been ended prematurely.

It was clear that astronauts are still rock stars.  Folks pressed against the barrier to shake hands, get autographs, take pictures.





I poked around at some of the displays, regretting that my daughter wasn't with me to enjoy the museum with.  I was feeling rather sad, and would have appreciated her company.  And then I came across something that made me happy again.


This is the core of the Orion program.  This is what will take us into deep space and back again, with a mandate to be on Mars by 2030.  Retro-looking because it's the best form for re-entering the atmosphere from deep space, and being built by excited young physicists like the woman I talked to about it, who obviously has passion for what is being done.  Still doesn't look like a proper spaceship, but I'll take it.

First deep space test, I believe, is in 2014.  Knowing that, I can happily dream of a rocket summer again. 
Rocket Summer
One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.

And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew open. The windows flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer's ancient green lawns.

Rocket summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses. Rocket summer. The warm desert air changing the frost patterns on the windows, erasing the art work. The skis and sleds suddenly useless. The snow, falling from the cold sky upon the town, turned to a hot rain before it touched the ground.

Rocket summer. People leaned from their dripping porches and watched the reddening sky.

The rocket lay on the launching field, blowing out pink clouds of fire and oven heat. The rocket stood in the cold winter morning, making summer with every breath of its mighty exhausts. The rocket made climates, and summer lay for a brief moment upon the land....

    Ray Bradbury - The Martian Chronicles

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Last Flight

So ends the last flight of the space shuttle Discovery:


She just touched down at Dulles, on her way to her new home at the Air and Space Annex.  I watched the live feed - I meant to go over for to see it but time got away from me this morning.  For the first time I can remember, I regretted not being at the office in Silver Spring:  they got a good look during the fly by.

I remember not being in space.  And now it's so common that we forget when we have a crew on the space station.  When Columbia launched in 1981, it was Star Trek, Heinlein, Bradbury, and Asimov all at once, the dreams of a kid whose sci-fi reading started with  The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet coming true.

We'll go back into space in a serious way - humans have too much of a drive to explore to retreat from that challenge for long.  I hope to see us on Mars before my dreaming ends, and I think that's a possibility.

And I'm thinking of running down on Thursday for a look - Enterprise and Discovery will be sitting nose to nose for the day.

Comparisons

Obama comparing himself to Ronald Reagan is as valid as PeeWee Herman ...



comparing himself to Audy Murphy.


Statesman:


Narcissistic man-child:


Monday, April 16, 2012

Blast from the past.

1982 to be exact.  In catastrophic blasts between March 28 and April 4 the El Chichon volcano in southeastern Mexico left 1,900 people dead and destroyed millions of dollars of crops.  Not the first time a volcano has rumbled awake and smacked humans up-side their heads.  Not the first time a volcano has done something else as well - affected the climate.  As much as 10 million tons of sulphur dioxide were blasted into the atmosphere.  The ash circled the globe quickly, dropping global temperatures as much as a degree F. Temperatures in the stratosphere dropped and remained at lower than average levels for 7 years after the eruption.  Fortunately for various living things, especially third world farmers, the greatest weather affects were ameliorated by the development of a powerful El Nino within weeks of the eruption.


Since the earth really doesn't care about environmentalists, it has been changing its own weather for millions of years without any contribution from humans.  Volcanoes are a prime example of that:
 "The sun was dark and its darkness lasted for eighteen months; each day it shone for about four hours; and still this light was only a feeble shadow; the fruits did not ripen and the wine tasted like sour grapes."  Michael the Syrian, 536 A.D.
"During this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness. and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear.  Procopius of Caesarea, 536 A.D.
Documents for the period of 535 - 536 A.D. speak of the sun being obscured by a "dry fog", summer frosts, widespread crop failures in Europe, drought and famine in China.   Tree rings reflect poor growth, and ice cores from Greenland and Antarctica contain highly elevated levels of sulfuric acid dust.  A single massive eruptive event, and the climate was drastically affected.

1816 was "The Year Without a Summer", the "Poverty Year", and "Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death", created by the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia in 1815.  Killing frosts and snow storms in May and June in Eastern Canada and New England caused wide-spread crop failures, and Pennsylvania lakes and rivers were still iced in July and August.  Populations plummeted, with farm loss forcing the first major migration to the American mid-west from the north-east.  Artist J.M.W. Turner captured the atmospheric affects in his paintings:


And incessant rainfall during a nasty summer trapped a vacationing group inside during their Swiss holiday, leading to a contest to write the scariest story.  The winner, by a young Mary Shelley, was "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus".

At least 6 volcanic eruptions are known to have caused summer anomalies in the last 2,000 years:

Kuwae - 1452
Huaynaputine - 1600
Krakatoa - 1883
Novarupta - 1912
Pinatubo - 1991

In reality, these were small eruptions compared to others that predated written history.  Roughly 75,000 years ago, the Toba Caldera in Sumatra erupted with a force 3500 times greater than that of Tambora.  An eruption of that magnitude can cool the globe 5 to 9 degrees F for years.  The sulphur aerosol is more than the atmosphere can absorb.  An earth that was already in a cooling cycle can be pushed into an Ice Age, or, at minimum, a long cold cycle, devastating for agriculture. 

It wasn't the first time Toba changed the climate.  788,000 years ago a Toba eruption coincided with the advent of a warm period.  And a Toba-level eruption would create major temperature anomalies today:


Volcanoes capable of these sorts of eruptions are very much still around and rumbling - Yellowstone National Park sits in the caldera of a still active mega-volcano.  Thousands of years are but a blink in the history of the earth.   And all "The sky is falling!" scurrying around of the "We must stop global climate change!" folks will not and never will matter a whit in the face of the processes that truly affect our climate.

Friday, April 13, 2012

And in this corner....

No question the accident was my daughter's fault.  Coming out of a school, thinking about the crisis case she'd just responded to, and suddenly there was a horn, something filling up the passenger side window, and the next thing she knew she was sitting a good 10 feet up in the school's yard.  Which leads to a question.

It was Plymouth Breeze:


Verses Ford Focus:


(All images stolen off web)

School street speed limit = 15 mph.  Should the Breeze have been able to knock the Focus that far at that speed?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Tumult

A text from daughter: "I've been in an accident.  Can you come?" Packing by throwing everything in the bag.  Off to Baltimore.

Fortunately, she's just got mild whiplash.  The car didn't fare so well - it was a t-bone.  But it was one more thing in a month of horrible things.  She needed her mommy. 

On the up side, I lost my piece of crap cell phone while there and had to buy a new one.  Down side of that is that all my phone numbers went with it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

And then there was range day...

I've loved every bit of this mild Winter and long Spring.  I love working outside.  I've gotten a lot done.  But I'm getting tired.  The joy of digging in the dirt has begun to feel like work.  So I needed a distraction.  Outside but different.  And right at the time that was becoming obvious I got a call - "Going to the range tomorrow - wanna come?"  Yeah boy!  Just what the doctor ordered - a day in the sun with the smell of gunpowder.

I'm still exploring. The great thing about going to the range with Murphy's Law is that I can try out so many different guns. The feel of guns has changed over the last few months.  The guns that felt too big to start with feel fine now because I have more experience with handling them.  So I had a couple specific requests for today - a Glock 19 and Glock 23.  Midsized 9 and 40 in caliber.  Love the 3 dot sights. Obviously need practice, but they are "keepers".  Definitely on my short list for next purchases.

And of course, ML had what he referred to as "only the", which would be more than normal people have.  The M-60 is sighted just fine, although the breeze kept blowing down the target just before "lift off".  A few scavenged pieces of strategically placed wood cured that.  And then it was my turn:

video

This gun has a high "Ooooooo" factor, and it drew other shooters like a magnet.  The reaction of a shooter allowed to try it out:  "I gotta get me one of these!"  And it made me laugh - every shot made my pants legs flap in the breeze it created.

Then there was the AR-15.  A bit heavy for me to steady at the shoulder, but a world of difference once the tripod was dropped.


The M-1 got a lot of play today, too.  This gun range allows for tactical practice, and on a beautiful Spring day it was fun to do a little bit of running around.


Queue a little bit of Creedance Clearwater...


Yeah, I never did grow up.  Or I was old before my time.  The guns weren't loaded, and as kids we ran all over the mountain, "playing soldier".  50 years later the guns ARE loaded, and I hope it stays at the level of play.


I didn't see any poison ivy. I'll be sure of that in about 48 hours.

And there was a Mauser, and a Ruger Mini 14 - ML knows those details.  Carbines are definitely a better fit for my short self, but every gun feels good to shoot. Particularly when followed by lunch and beer.  If only I hadn't had to go back to work.

I'm ready to start messing with .45s next time.  I'm having a bit of trouble with the hand with the sprained finger - it doesn't want to heal and it's hard to put pressure on with that hand, even with a make-shift splint and taped to the finger next to it.  Slides and such are hard to manipulate.  But time and familiarity will improve that, and I imagine the 1911 that felt too big 6 months ago will feel just fine very soon.

My Favorite Perfume

A warm winter has given us a bumper crop of biting black flies, and it's amazing how good this smells when being outside means having a cloud of the aggravating buggers around your head.


It's also amazing how loud one of these things is when it's walking around inside your ear.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Pieta - The Thirteenth Station of the Cross

"Come, all you who pass by the way, look and see whether there is any suffering like my suffering."  The anguished cry of a mother who has just watched her precious, radiant, beloved son be tortured to death in the most hideous and agonizing way possible.  The cry of a mother who has heard her innocent son’s cries of agony and of abandonment.  The cry of a mother who has helplessly listened to her child’s agonized gasps for breath, watched him bleed, watched him die.  Now, her child’s savaged body is placed in her arms.  It is sticky with drying blood and slick with new, and cloaked in the stink of the suffering of the last few hours. Already, the flies will have found their bloody meal and be lighting on the ripped flesh seeking to lay their eggs in the fertile ground of violent death.

The old man Simeon rejoiced when the infant Messiah was laid in his arms in the temple.  But after his song of joy, he turned to Mary and said “But you yourself a sword shall pierce.”  A sword?  The stab of a sword would be a minor prick compared to the grief this mother feels now.  A real sword through the heart would be a sharp, quick end to the grief.  This is a crushing agony that makes it a struggle to breathe, much like when the Crucified One had to struggle, pushing against nailed feet so that He could raise up and gasp air into lungs compressed by His own sagging weight on the cross.  

Yet breathe she does, because a promise was made.  Have faith in God and at the end of days, all will be made right.   All will be perfected.  And Mary, ever faithful, clings to that promise even in her agony and in the seemingly endless depths of her grief.  She clings with a lifetime of experience that has taught her that faith is not a fuzzy, warm safety.  That faith does not mean that she will know all or understand all.  That faith will not protect her from pain or heartbreak.  That faith is both a gift and a decision made.  So she takes one breath and then another, knowing even in the depths of her anguish, that at the end of days all will be perfected and made right, indeed, all HAS been perfected and made right by the bloody, lifeless child she now holds in her arms.

I am a mother.  My child, who is in her thirties now, works at a job that often requires her to have an armed police escort.  Her life has been threatened more than once.  Day in and day out she has to walk into situations where Evil and madness exist, where people without consciences do appalling things and then weep not because of the evil they’ve done but because they’ve been caught.  One of her fellow college graduates has already been murdered – stabbed to death in the line of duty as she was trying to help someone.  I wonder, if I ever receive the phone call that tells me that my child has been killed, that my child has been destroyed by Evil, if I, like Mary, could take the next breath.  I wonder, have I accepted the gift of faith, made the decision for faith, lived that faith in such a way that if ever I am looking down at the lifeless body of my precious child, I will be able to take one breath, followed by another, because somewhere in all the pain I will know that another bloody, lifeless child laying in the arms of another anguished mother has perfected all and made right all in the Eternal Now of God.



Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Dangers of Being Gunless

By Alan Korwin, posted at ammoland.com:

Gunless people, those who steadfastly refuse to keep and bear arms, practice marksmanship or learn gun safety create certain burdens for the rest of society.
  • Gunless people increase the need for police protection, by being unable to fend for themselves in certain dire emergencies.
  • By remaining unarmed, a gunless person becomes a “free rider,” obtaining safety and protection against criminal activity through the responsible actions of others.


Go read.

Thanks, Nino.

A President of Firsts

'Bama has certainly proved to be a president of firsts:

  1. First Preisdent To Issue To Himself The Authority To Declare Peacetime Martial Law
  2. First President To Sign Into Law Unlimited Detention & Killing Of American Citizens
  3. First President to Preside Over a Cut to the Credit Rating of the United States Government
  4. First President to Violate the War Powers Act
  5. First President to Orchestrate the Sale of Murder Weapons to Mexican Drug Cartels
  6. First President to issue an unlawful "recess-appointment" while the U.S. Senate remained in session (against the advice of his own Justice Department).
  7. First President to be Held in Contempt of Court for Illegally Obstructing Oil Drilling in the Gulf of Mexico
  8. First President to Defy a Federal Judge's Court Order to Cease Implementing the 'Health Care Reform' Law
  9. First President to halt deportations of illegal aliens and grant them work permits, a form of stealth amnesty roughly equivalent to "The DREAM Act", which could not pass Congress
  10. First President to Require All Americans to Purchase a Product From a Third Party
  11. First President to Spend a Trillion Dollars on 'Shovel-Ready' Jobs -- and Later Admit There Was No Such Thing as Shovel-Ready Jobs
  12. First President to sue states for requiring valid IDs to vote, even though the same administration requires valid IDs to travel by air
  13. First President to Abrogate Bankruptcy Law to Turn Over Control of Companies to His Union Supporters
  14. First President to Bypass Congress and Implement the DREAM Act Through Executive Fiat
  15. First President to Threaten Insurance Companies After They Publicly Spoke out on How Obamacare Helped Cause their Rate Increases
  16. First President to Threaten an Auto Company (Ford) After It Publicly Mocked Bailouts of GM and Chrysler
  17. First President to "Order a Secret Amnesty Program that Stopped the Deportations of Illegal Immigrants Across the U.S., Including Those With Criminal Convictions"
  18. First President to Demand a Company Hand Over $20 Billion to One of His Political Appointees
  19. First President to Terminate America's Ability to Put a Man into Space.
  20. First President to Encourage Racial Discrimination and Intimidation at Polling Places
  21. First President to Have a Law Signed By an 'Auto-pen' Without Being "Present"
  22. First President to Arbitrarily Declare an Existing Law Unconstitutional and Refuse to Enforce It
  23. First President to Tell a Major Manufacturing Company In Which State They Are Allowed to Locate a Factory
  24. First President to refuse to comply with a House Oversight Committee subpoena.
  25. First President to File Lawsuits Against the States He Swore an Oath to Protect (AZ, WI, OH, IN, etc.)
  26. First President to Withdraw an Existing Coal Permit That Had Been Properly Issued Years Ago
  27. First President to Fire an Inspector General of Americorps for Catching One of His Friends in a Corruption Case
  28. First President to Propose an Executive Order Demanding Companies Disclose Their Political Contributions to Bid on Government Contracts
  29. First President to allow Mexican police to conduct law enforcement activities on American soil
  30. First President to Golf 90 or More Times in His First Three Years in Office
But remember: he will not rest until all Americans have jobs, affordable homes, green-energy vehicles, and the environment is repaired, etc., etc., etc.

Thanks to Nino for posting the list at WCBM.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Little Reflection on Gratitude

Once in a while things cause me to reflect, and I have to say that getting involved with the local cold weather homeless shelter has led to that.  I wish more people would take a night of shelter duty.

Most people don’t realize it, but my brain is broken.  I say that jokingly, but it's true – for whatever reason my brain doesn’t make the proper amount of a chemical that regulates sleep cycles.  I have a sleep disorder – narcolepsy.  People think of this as just a disorder where you sometimes fall asleep at inappropriate times.  That’s part of it, but it’s way more complicated than that.  It affects a person both day and night.  You never feel rested, and without the appropriate chemicals the brain will go into REM sleep whenever it pleases – and going into dream sleep when you are walking down the street can make for serious challenges.  I’ve been dealing with it for upwards of 40 years now – I’m good at adapting to it and covering for it, but I also have to make certain allowances for it. 

As a consequence, I initially didn’t volunteer for the homeless shelter.  I take medications at night to help control my sleep cycles. Without it, my nights tend to be lost in dreams and nightmares, exhausting struggles caused by REM sleep that start as soon as I lay down, followed by days so exhausting that I sometimes feel ill.  People think I have a lot of energy – that’s only because I’ve had to push myself so hard for so long to stay ahead of this.  I have a pattern – I’m in and out of things.  I participate heavily and then I have to back off – I’ve burned out, run out of steam.  As the Brits say, I have to have a little lie down.  Since I’m also strongly affected by the loss of daylight, that little lie down tends to last at least January and February, sometimes longer.  There are times where being a bear in hibernation is a good analogy.

I didn’t volunteer for the shelter initially because I thought the sleep disorder left me ineligible for night duty, but the calls for volunteers that were coming out were so desperate that I emailed the coordinator, explained my situation and told her to that if we could do it within the parameters of my enforced nightly medication and sleep schedules I would do it.  Her response was “Yay!  Take your meds, sleep, we just need a female warm body for liability reasons because men aren't allowed to go into the women's section.”

 So I’ve spent three Saturday nights at the shelter recently.  No, it isn’t easy to work all day and then pack up and go spend the night on a sofa in a stuffy corridor.  But I’ve come to realize that the hardest part of the job is that at 6:30 am I have to make sure that exhausted people who have spent the night on cots get up and go out to a day where they have nothing ahead of them except to get through 12 hours until they can come back to that cot.  That’s really much harder than missing a night in my bed.

By 7:30 last Sunday morning I was on my way home after a night on an inflatable mattress.  I made my morning cup of coffee – I only have one cup each day but the beans are freshly roasted by a friend (Black Dog Coffee) who drops my order on my porch.  My three spoiled indoor cats had missed me and draped themselves all over me, purring as I stretched out on the sofa with book and coffee.  As usual, I lay down so that I could look out the living room windows to my bird feeders and watch the cardinals, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, blue birds, and goldfinches that are the regular visitors.  The stray cat that I have allowed myself to be suckered by came by for his breakfast –I’m feeding four cats now.  He’s going to be really unhappy when I trap him for neutering and testing for FIV in a couple weeks. A friend called and we chatted a while – she just bought her retirement home on Lake Gaston in North Carolina and is, understandably, incredibly excited.  Then I went outside and played in the dirt for several hours. In the last couple weeks, thanks to both the weather and an electrical fire that shut down our office building and took our servers offline, I have power washed the front porch and put two coats of stain on it, power washed the porch furniture and clear-coated it, dug up the new hummingbird/butterfly beds and planted them, moved various different flowers from where they were unhappy to where I hope they will do better and patched and re-seeded a problem part of the lawn.  And grumbled because I don’t seem able to adopt healthy cats - Perry’s bill on Wednesday was $890 to figure out what he DOESN’T have that could possibly be causing him to pee everywhere, Blu has allergies that impair his breathing, causing him to swallow air and constantly throw up, and the early warmth has caused Blackberry serious hairball problems, which also means random cat barf. My carpet was worn out to begin with – now it’s a disaster.

What does this all mean?  That those people at the shelter, unlike me, don’t get to go home in the morning. My home can seem overwhelming – in reality I bought too much house and too much property for a single aging woman to handle alone easily.  But I have a home.  I have my own bed and my own sofa and my own porch.  I turned my cable TV off a couple years ago – once the nice weather starts I stop watching TV – but I still have a TV that I can run Netflix or a DVD through on a rainy night. I have my own coffee pot and refrigerator and washer and dryer and I don’t have to put all of my belongings in a bag for the day.  I can shower and throw my dirty clothes on the floor and crawl into my bed when I want to.  My yard is mine, and although I might cuss the deer for eating my plants the fact that the does leave their new fawns behind my house in the Spring is still enchanting.  I grumbled about the raccoon leaving his muddy prints all over my freshly stained porch and was delighted when I saw my little lizard, a pretty little skink, peering around the corner of the steps at me on Friday - he's grown considerably since last year.  And neighbors?  Well, strangers on my property trigger the “Kenny alarm” and I’ll and receive a phone call asking what’s going on.   If my daughter doesn’t hear from me each day a neighbor will get a phone call and I’ll be getting a visit from them to make sure I’m OK  – and they have a key to get in the house if I don’t respond.   It goes both ways, of course – I know how to get into houses to take care of various pets in an emergency and am happy and feel privileged to do so.

This is rambling, I know.  But the core of it is – how much more we realize what blessings we have when we are involved with those who don’t have.  And I really wish more people would accept the gift of that personal involvement.   It can remind you to thank God for what we tend to take for granted.