Really Early Christmas Morning…..

This is one of those rare occasions when my insomnia strikes early. I barely made it for two hours and am obviously on the computer with my mug of chamomile tea at 1:02 a.m. Christmas morning. I am a little concerned that one of the neighbors a few houses away is still blaring music and there are lots of voices singing, etc., Not that I want to be “Grinchy” and  I am awake anyway, but I’m thinking of other people. Ah well, I suppose if someone wants to have security remind them of the accepted noise “cut-off” of whatever the time is, they will.

Anyway, TBS is running, “A Christmas Story” back-to-back for like 24 hours. While it is not one of my favorites, it is for many. Right now, the really old version of, “A Christmas Carol” is on and I imagine they will run the different versions. As I have mentioned before, my favorite is with George C. Scott as Scrooge, although the take-off of, “Scrooged” with Bill Murray is good, too.

Today’s schedule will be a bot odd as I go at 3:00 to help a friend get ready for the rest of the guests at 4:00 with meal planned for about 5:00. Back when we grew up, noon was always the big meal. I don’t recall the early Christmases, but except for those occasional years we went to my paternal grandparents in Arkansas, the holiday was with my maternal grandparents in Louisiana. Only once did we live more than half hour from them and that was a two-hour drive for a few years. Dressing is (or was) more common in the South than stuffing and my grandmother’s was really good. Another of those family recipes that wasn’t written down and my sister spent years later trying to replicate it. She did get close enough to write it out and I’m not sure what happened to it after that. I’ll try and remember to ask her.

Anyway, I’ve finished my tea and hopefully will get back to sleep soon. Not sure about those neighbors; they’ll have to call it quits at some point.


Unplanned Gap…

I can’t get into the situation now, but let’s just say I’ve had some unexpected commitments.

It’s an exciting weekend for Hubby though as the NASCAR playoff races are here. He’s at the Homestead-Miami Speedway again today; was there yesterday afternoon into the evening and two races are today. He left out early as there are all sorts of other aspects he’s photographing and capturing for his pieces for the paper. The third and biggest race is tomorrow. Mother Nature did mess with them a little yesterday although the fairly light rain cleared off and it has been lovely, plus should be again tomorrow.

As usual during this weekend, traffic anywhere near the area is jammed and they bring in extra police and alter the flow to accommodate the thousands who come in. Even though the races end tomorrow, we learned the first year that traffic doesn’t actually clear out until almost noon on Monday. Most of the folks who come in RVs to stay at the Speedway, plus the big haulers and many of the crew members don’t depart until then. Fortunately, everything I need to do Monday takes place where I can stay off those roads.

I have a couple of deadlines I’m working for the one non-profit because it’s the time of year where we have to submit a substantial report to the County. I have multiple parts to complete and while I spent several hours previously, today was another big chunk. The next phase is coming up soon, too, and I try to have a few days in between since it’s easy to mix up the documents – another of the lessons I learned the first couple of times I did these. Among the volunteers I don’t have and need is an individual to help with this part. It is also one of the most complicated, does require a special level of skill and therefore, is one of the most difficult to get help with. Ah well, maybe one of these days.


Masterful Movie……

No, it’s neither new nor classic as it was made in 2002. Road to Perdition is a dark period piece set during the Great Depression about gangsters. Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, and Stanley Tucci are the big names. It is a violent, tragic movie and having Tom Hanks play the role of a killer for mob boss Paul Newman is not the norm for either of them. The acting, however, is masterful and the manner in which the movie is filmed. I am not a student of cinematography and am not certain of the proper terms to use.

In the final phases, there is one incredibly powerful scene between Newman and Hanks and then two scenes that take approximately five minutes where there are only four lines of dialogue. The expressions from the veteran actors and actions tell the story in a taut way. The remaining part of the movie contains a final tragedy and from a philosophical perspective the question remains as to, “Can a man who undeniably does wrong still be a good man?” The other underlying question is, “How much is a man shaped by his circumstances?”

It is similar in tone to LA Confidential if you’re familiar with that one. While I prefer Newman and Hanks to play good guys – or at least not criminals – I could see the appeal of this movie and the roles for actors who wanted to portray complexity. Even though it was violent, it was not marred by graphic violence which I find to be utterly unnecessary. Definitely not something to watch if you’re looking for light entertainment, but well worth it if what you want is a well-crafted movie from all aspects.

When Not Winning Isn’t Losing…..

Musing content alert. I was watching an episode of “Brokenwood Mysteries” the other day – I watch DVD while I’m on the exercise bike – and it was centered around the murder of the local rugby team coach. As always, there was more than one story line. A somewhat catalyst (although not the true motive) for the murder was the fact the team had lost fifty straight games. In teasing one of the players, his comment was, “Hey, us not winning doesn’t mean we’re losers.”

That sets up the duality of, “It’s isn’t whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game that counts,” as opposed to, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Competitiveness runs the gamut from individuals who feel no reason to compete/are afraid to, to the far end of those who will do anything to win. The saying (more or less) of, “The first automobile race occurred ten minutes after the second automobile was produced,” speaks to the human nature to compete. It motivates and allows/encourages people to reach for a higher level in whatever. As with most things in life, balance and moderation are key. Team sports teach much to an individual; such as how to do your best and how you can often do more than you think. Training and practice can improve your performance (again in whatever). In many situations though there can only be one winner. That’s the valuable lesson of understanding that not winning is not the same as being a loser.

From another context, the idea of “participation trophies” and not keeping scores comes with the risk of not learning that valuable lesson. I firmly believe in participation acknowledgement and instilling in the “winners” the need to do so graciously.

D-Day To Remember……

Someone should be running “The Longest Day” today; the movie that until “Saving Private Ryan” came along was arguably the premiere movies about WW II. I still prefer, “The Longest Day”, but that’s merely an age-and-time thing. I only have it on tape so will record it although I should just go ahead and buy the DVD. Anyway, by telling the story from both the Allied and German perspectives, there are intriguing points made (many historically accurate) and marvelous moments encapsulate the extraordinary day that shifted the war. Yes, it was almost another year (May 1945) before the war was over and thousands died in the battles following June 6th; yet that day was the “beginning of the end”.

The cast of the movie included virtually every major American male actor, a number of British ones, some German, and a few in minor roles who would later become iconic such as Sean Connery.  For those who need a quick history lesson, the planned invasion (Operation Overload) was indeed the largest force assembled in modern history and there was always the issue of crossing the channel at the narrowest point – the logical approach – or taking a greater risk of selecting another path. The German defenses were formidable and in deciding on the riskier Normandy option, a major deception campaign with multiple pieces was developed and launched; all designed to reinforce the belief that the invasion would occur near Pas de Clais. In the movie, as events begin, that continues to be the core issue. When paratroopers make their mostly successful drops (despite the horrific cost at Saint Mare d’Eglise) and members of the French Resistance play their parts, a few German officers draw the correct conclusion. In one of the memorable lines, a highly placed German commander says, “No, no; Normandy is a diversion. The invasion will come where it has always been expected.” He does plan to shift the reserves German tank battalions (Panzers) as a precaution. This is denied by Berlin. Would the outcome have been different had the Panzers been added into the fray? Perhaps; perhaps other factors would have offset that.

In any case, there is another scene I can watch endlessly. The order is given to launch the Allied forces and there is a shot of the armada moving through the pre-dawn hours. On board one of the Navy ships, the Captain stands with one of his officers, looking at the blips on the radar screen. He says something like, “The biggest armada the world has ever seen. You remember this; you remember every bit of this. The world is going to talk about this day long after we are dead and gone.”

Diving into My Gap…..

Although my goal is to post three times a week, as anyone who follows the blog knows, I have gaps. The lapse is generally due to extra hectic days and this week it was sort of that. I had a couple of afternoons where I had to link together additional tasks or meetings which took me into the evening hours and quite frankly I ran out of energy.

Yesterday was slightly different as I was able to get out to dive. The situation though was it was a crowded boat (it is that time of year) and that generally causes things to be somewhat delayed, then there was a major downpour on the way home, plus a wreck being cleared to further delay things and a couple of other things thrown into the bargain. That took care of me being able to post yesterday,

Surface conditions going out to the dive sites were almost flat and there was basically no current on the dives. While there weren’t many “big things” – that means turtles, rays, eels, sharks, and so forth – there were a lot of fish that I enjoy. Visibility was better on the first dive which was on one of the sections of French Reef, then we moved to the wreck of the Benwood; the genuine WW II wreck I’ve written about before. The visibility was down which is a common occurrence on the wreck because there can be lots of particulate matter in the water from rotting wood, bits of marine vegetation breaking loose, and other factors. Hubby did find a large puffer; always something to enjoy. He apparently also found an eel, but I didn’t know that until later. He had to work the afternoon dive which meant we didn’t get to share a leisurely lunch after, but again, it is starting the time of year when diving is the best and most popular. Oh, they did get hit with that thunderstorm on the way out the the Spiegel Grove and moved out of it as they neared the site for good weather the rest of the dive.

In two opposite of sizes, mature puffers are large and the bright blue chromis are only a few inches long, but are really pretty.

Two puffers from previous dives; don;t remember when.

Chromis are seen on most of the local reefs.

Memorial Day Tomorrow…..

It will be an early showing tomorrow at the local cemetery for the annual ceremony to have speeches, talk about traditions of the flag, solemnly raise and lower it to half-mast, fire the gun salute, and play taps in memory of all who have died and been killed while in service to the country. Volunteers will then place small flags on the graves of veterans. Three and four generations will share in the experience; some with loved ones in this cemetery; others there to honor veterans they have never known. Hubby is sometimes available for this as the much better photographer than me, and that’s the case tomorrow. He will capture the photos in a beautiful way and I’ll write the story that changes little year to year. The continuity is part of the story with some of the individuals having done this for decades. A friend commented Friday she will not go to this, but rather be out later to privately acknowledge her brother who did not return from Vietnam. Similar events will take place all over the country and at military cemeteries overseas. One of the final tasks of settling our father’s estate was to arrange for the marker from the Veteran’s Administration acknowledging his service in the Navy during WW II. He didn’t see combat in the Pacific as he entered toward the end of the war after the famous major battles. He served on a ship however transporting hundreds of thousands of munitions which were thankfully no longer needed. Some were sent to bases to restock; others returned to supply depots; some were carried out to be demolished. I assume the small town where he lived will have a ceremony; there wasn’t time last year after his passing to get the paperwork through to have the marker sent for installation.

After the solemn events, there will of course be cookouts and gatherings; the holiday also traditionally marking the beginning of summer despite the official calendar day being next month. Even our cold neighbors to the north will have trees leafing and blossoms opening and hopefully pleasant weather.


Of Time and Grief…..

Emotional content alert. If you have followed the posts with me all these years, or even fairly recently, you know I do cross into occasional emotional areas either through musing or making a specific point. Several individuals on Facebook have recently experienced the passing of loved ones. It is difficult and even though we all understand we will lose our parents or another older relative/friend someday, the time and quite frankly the manner of, is painful. In some cases, it is somewhat sudden, in others the pain is worsened with lingering and debilitating illness.

We are coming up on the first anniversary of our father’s passing and in some ways, his decline was the “best” you can hope for. The unexpected part was the passing of my stepmother before him as statistically speaking most men don’t lose two wives. (My mother had always had health issues and actually passed away a few days before her 61st). However, the point with my father was even though he did have short-term memory problems, he had come to manage those and he never reached the stage to where he didn’t know who people were; he might call someone by a wrong name, but he knew them in context. After a mild stroke, he recovered quickly and did opt to use a wheelchair rather than try to go back to a cane or walker because he could get around easily in the chair, in and out of bed, etc., and he considered it to be more stable. The assisted living facility he was in was nothing fancy but well organized and staffed. He never had any kind of condition that caused him continuing pain and when I was back for his 95th birthday, my brother later used the term of “winding down”. The same was true for his 96th and not long after that, he was placed under hospice. This was a case of nothing specific; rather an administrative action to ease things for when the day came.

His 97th birthday did go as well as could be expected and he hung for about an hour in the gathering. It was a few months later when the call came that we thought was “it”. I relayed that in my blog posts then about how after rushing to get to Louisiana, he had rallied. He was seemingly unaware of why everyone had come in for a “surprise visit”. That did give us a chance to make/refine certain arrangements.The private time I had with him was mostly watching him sleep in his recliner, but that is normal in these situations. My stepsister and husband who lived in Texas were working remotely at the time. They stayed and the other “steps” lived in town or close by. The end came quietly a couple of weeks later. So for those going through grieving now, it does get better with time.

Enduring Movie….

I saw somewhere this is the 80th anniversary year of “Casablanca”. Aside from always loving the movie, it was the first one Hubby and I watched together at his place. The actual first movie we saw together was the comedy “Outrageous Fortune” when we had our first official date. Anyway, back to Casablanca. In reading the background, they apparently had no idea it would be as big a hit as it was and certainly wouldn’t have anticipated it would endure for decades. From my perspective, it had the most memorable “one-liners” until “Big Chill” came out. And the terms of, “Of all of the gin joints in all of the world,”; “Here’s looking at you Kid,”; “We’ll always have Paris,”; :”Shocked, shocked, I’m shocked to find gambling going on,”; and “Louie, this may be the start of a beautiful friendship,” have been used so many times in so many ways. I doubt anyone even knows how many times the song has been played. I can’t imagine ever watching it without tearing up at the final scene between Rick and Elsa.

It is a such an interwoven story of love, drama, world events, good versus evil, personal sacrifice, and redemption. Not being in the world of film, I can’t speak to all the aspects that is studied from that perspective. As much as I enjoyed Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, etc., in other movies, if forced to choose, it would have to be Casablanca as my favorite. I don’t know if young people watch it these days, but I hope so. I’ll have to ask the kids when they come for their holiday visit which is now less than a month away.


Sort of Quiet Thanksgiving….

It does involve a 14-pound turkey though. This is one of the first Thanksgivings in a while Hubby hasn’t been asked to work most of it and the friend who usually does Thanksgiving dinner for our “group” wasn’t going to be able to. Additionally, our “group” has shrunk with the recent relocation of one who usually also had his daughter and sometimes son-in-law along. We offered to do the holiday meal and Hubby was concerned about getting a turkey. We still weren’t entirely sure of how many were coming to lunch the day I went  to the store and I thought it best to go a bit larger rather than smaller. This is why we have a 14-pound turkey. Hubby has decided on using dry brine (I think it’s easier to deal with although I don’t intervene in such decisions) and to fry. I’ve explained the frying process before and it is a kind of cool part of the holiday plus makes for an excellent turkey. I’m not doing anywhere near the variety of dishes of some and am sticking with the classics of stuffing – well, it’s more like dressing since you can’t stuff a fried turkey – a small ham, mashed potato casserole, green bean casserole, rolls, gravy, and cranberry sauce. Neither of us are pumpkin fans so dessert is apple pie and a friend is bringing a lovely cheesecake with lemon curd. Another couple we’re friends with are going to drop by for dessert if she doesn’t get overwhelmed in preparing their evening holiday meal. Even though the group will be small, I will send two meals worth home with the friend who is bringing the cheesecake and cranberry sauce, send two meals worth of leftovers with the other friend and take one meal’s worth to another friend on Sunday. That does equate to eight meals, the only difference being three of them won’t include anyone going for seconds.

And as of this morning, the weather is to be sunny and up to 84 so we will be having lunch on the covered terrace,