Sorrow for Notre Dame…

I think for most – and certainly for many – the initial news of a terrible fire at Notre Dame was viewed as possibly either in error or not the immense blaze it became. If you have been to the cathedral, you know the awe-inspiring engineering, the beauty of the architecture, the splendor of the Rose Window, the joy in strolling in the gardens. Setting religion aside, it is a  piece of incredible history on multiple levels. I can only imagine the even deeper sorrow for my friends who are Catholic.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, Hubby and I have been to Paris several times and the last two trips, we stayed near Place Saint Michele. From a location perspective it’s ideal for us. It is a short walk to Notre Dame and so of course, we always spend time there. In an amusing anecdote, when son was eleven and we were in Italy, we decided to go to Paris for Thanksgiving. On that particular trip, I booked us into a little hotel on Ile St Louis – also a nice location. We were literally in the shadow of Notre Dame. We all went to dinner and as often happened, son asked if he could go back to the hotel as Hubby and I lingered over dinner. That was fine, but when we returned, he was in the small hotel lobby reading. We asked why and his explanation made sense. The hotel was quiet and with the gargoyles of the cathedral dramatically lit at night, it did create a somewhat spooky feeling to be all alone in one’s room. He was well aware it was simply an emotional response, and he was fine, but I can’t say I blame him.

And closing on the word, “blame” –  notwithstanding the number of terror and other attacks that have become a sad reality, those were not my thoughts when I saw the dismaying photos. Buildings that old have weaknesses and in many ways, it is a wonder it survived the French Revolution and WW II. I don’t know how they will proceed with repairs nor what the end result will be. We can hope for preservation of as much as possible.

Competing for Time…..

This was going to be a busy week anyway. Multiple commitments, a friend coming into town, and some critical tasks as I am involved in preparing for two different fundraisers for two of the boards I sit on. So, a carefully orchestrated event was severely impacted by Mother Nature with only hours in which to respond. Several phone calls and quite a bit of scrambling, FB messages, and emails flying about that day and the next in setting up a new date. That, of course meant me being unable to attend an already scheduled event on the new day, but we’ll split, and Hubby will go to the function before he joins me at the rescheduled one.

The out of town friend in for a visit comes with the usual tasks of cleaning in prep, etc., and a couple of bedtimes later than usual, which doesn’t actually help with my insomnia. Related to dining out, I’m trying to decide how to creatively use some of the leftovers. Not a big deal, simply something to think through.

Next we have a crisis develop in another non-profit I work with, and it’s too complicated to get into, plus at the moment, we appear to have only bad choices. This is never a situation I like to find myself in, and yet, it’s not the first time either. Experience in such matters does help. I can delay things for a short while and hope a better solution falls from the sky or whatever.

On the other hand, there is absolutely no way I need to be concerned about getting bored. And to put things into perspective, two different friends have asked for prayers as members of their respective families have been entered into hospice and another friend is giving updates on the state of her daughter (several years younger than me) who is recovering from a stroke.

Missing Writers Conference…..

One of the things I do miss about the Washington, D.C. area is the annual writers conference in May. In actuality, the organization I belonged to was forced to finally fold due to the common problem with non-profits not being able to financially sustain in a high cost of living city. I gather another group has revived the conference. The timing was such that I was able on one occasion after we moved to attend the conference and one of son’s dance performances and perhaps the same can apply next year.

There is an energy to be had among writers even though for someone like me who has not been a commercial success, I do have to thicken my skin to hear how others have “made it”. There are always plenty of writers, however, who are still fairly new and can use experiences of those of us who have been around a while to perhaps help them along their way.I usually picked up a few good tips as well. The two conferences in this area have formats I simply don’t care for. There was talk several years ago about trying to have one here. Once the individuals involved looked at the kind of resources required, they realized it wasn’t practical. The small writers’ group has persevered over the years thanks to a couple of hard-working people. The main drawback is a lack of somewhere to meet and there doesn’t seem to be a solution in the near term. No, I don’t belong to the writers’ group for reasons I don’t intend to go into.

There are conferences in GA, NC, and TN I may look into for next year because the timing this year probably won’t work with the trip I always make to Louisiana around Daddy’s birthday, plus this is the year for the big dive show in Orlando in November. (The show rotates between Las Vegas and Orlando) Ah well, I’ll keep an eye out.

 

 

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know….

This isn’t as confusing as it sounds. A recent event with a major, mutual misunderstanding and some as yet unresolved tensions brought this expression to mind. I have been on both sides of this as in being in a situation where someone was convinced, “Well, you ought to know” directed at me, and me thinking the same about someone else. In the real world, however, I have also been in positions where I genuinely did not know certain things and I made mistakes due to that; some more serious than others.

Indeed, in continuing to reflect back on my Army days, I’ve mentioned my very first assignment was completely different from what it was supposed to be and it was a position to be held by a captain rather than the junior second lieutenant I was. At a minimum, it should have been a fairly senior first lieutenant. The rationale for why this  occurred is not the subject of this post, however. The individual who placed me in this position was also a demanding boss and only cut me so much slack. On the other hand, I was told in one of my moments of great self-doubt that his actual assessment of me was, “Yeah, she makes mistakes, but never the same one twice,” and the senior guys around me, to include him, did step in if it looked like I was going to make a really serious error. Which leads me to the first main point.

The event that set me to thinking about this was a case where Person A had an agreement that Person B was going to perform a certain service. Person B happily agreed and in fact was in multiple meetings when the service was being discussed. Person B had done something similar for Person C. The difference was an additional administrative requirement was applicable to Person A that had not been the case for Person C. Person B was not aware of this. Person A was not aware Person B did not know of the requirement. The lack of understanding did not come to light in time to correct the problem. “Well, they should have known,” was stated on more than one occasion. It’s a logical sentiment, but in truth, it was simply a mutual, unfortunate lack of understanding. Both parties are now very aware of the specific question to ask in the future.

The second main point is if you are thrust into a position you don’t have the training/background for, be willing to seek out the information/guidance you need and be willing to do the extra work to become as knowledgeable as possible as quickly as possible. The flip side of the coin is if you decide to pursue such a position, don’t try to pretend you won’t make mistakes. Again, be honest about what you’ll have to do and learn from the mistakes you do make. Stretching beyond your comfort zone or taking on new challenges is okay; just be honest about what it is you’re doing.

 

Good Deeds and Whirlwind Week….

Last week was a bit more jammed than I intended, but at times, it only takes one additional task to throw things out of whack. This week was already programmed to be as “task-heavy”, and then a couple of extra events occurred. There’s really no way around it, notwithstanding the common refrain of, “Say no.” As often discussed, that does not come easily to me and when it entails walking away from someone unexpectedly in need in addition to something I have committed to, there is no way I will refuse. There are, however, only so many hours in a day. Therefore, whatever can be assigned the lower priority does get pushed back. The house is an utter mess and the guest room is still not recovered from the last visitor.

However, the coming week should settle into the “still too busy”, yet manageable, and to date, there’s no possibility I will become bored. Indeed, Tuesday afternoon, Hubby and I have a  “good deed” session we’ve been looking forward to which I am not at liberty to disclose. It’s really Hubby as it involves photography and I’m going along because I support the organization and we’ll be having dinner after either just the two of us or with a couple of other people involved in the project. On other topics, I do need to check the fence people as this is the  time frame they should be coming to finally get us taken care of. Once that step is done we can finally move forward with recovering the back yard. And as I am so tired of the front bed continuing to not look like I want, I think Hubby and I have compromised. The single, very large aloe can stay and the other plants requiring too much care will come out. We have to do some container planting though because of a very odd situation I will post about if we get it resolved in the manner we have planned.

Other Army Memories…..

I have explained in previous posts about my role as an “inadvertent pioneer” in the Army during the transition time of the Women’s Army Corps into the regular force. Notwithstanding those who were convinced it would be the downfall of the military, most were accepting and in some cases it was amusing. At that time I weighed far less than I do now and in graduating from college a year early, I was barely 22 when I arrived in Germany for my first real assignment. The previous almost year was spent in a series of training courses. So here I was, this 4’11” 2d Lieutenant placed into a Captain’s position and the first female officer in the unit. One of the sergeants who willing stood by me (literally and figuratively) was about 6’3” and built like a linebacker. (He may very well have been one in high school; I never thought to ask). We lost track for many years and it was maybe five years ago he reached out to find me. Like many who were part of those tumultuous years of the Army going from draft to all-volunteer, he wanted to write his memoirs of all the changes he experienced during his career. We spoke two or three times as he worked on the project.

He was ready to send me the completed book when he had to make multiple trips to Germany as one of the senior NCOs he was close friends with became quite ill. As was the custom, each American unit had a “partner German unit” and that was where their friendship was formed. My friend was a great comfort to the man and his family prior to his passing. My friend returned and in the process of catching up on things, he finally decided to go to the doctor. Sadly, he was diagnosed with more than one condition, none of them good news. We talked about a number of things and he’ll see how treatments go. He is close to his son who is with them and my hopes are of course for the best. I know I will cherish his book whenever I receive it.

When The Time Comes…..

Serious content alert. We made the drive to Georgia yesterday. My mother-in-law passed away peacefully Saturday after a brief final illness. As I mentioned in my previous post, she had been in assisted living for a while and at age 92, this was not unexpected. The fact is at this age, many of the people who really knew her have already passed. We will be having a small, quiet graveside service later today to put her to rest next to my father-in-law.

In our busy lives, especially when geographically dispersed, it’s often  a question as to how often to visit an older loved one/friend. You know there will be a limit as to number of times available, yet there is also the idea of, “Well, people live longer these days.” Then there is the painful reality when mental abilities begin to deteriorate and the individual is simply no longer able to communicate/interact in the same way. That stage requires an understanding of why reaching out may come with a level of frustration you aren’t always prepared for. Repeated discussions about the weather may be the best you can manage.

These are not easy aspects of life to deal with and with each person who passes from you, it is of course, the good memories you hold to.

Both Expected and Not…..

Sad news alert. My mother-in-law was either 91 or 92 in the spring and she has been in assisted living for the past couple of years. Her situation is a little different from my father who has severe short-term memory loss, but is otherwise doing pretty well. In her case, she has sporadic bouts of confusion, especially with sequence of events, but can generally work through everything fairly quickly. Health-wise, she has had more conditions than my father although managing with appropriate medication and physician’s care. We received the text yesterday she’s been entered into hospice and there probably isn’t much time. My sister-in-law and her family live nearby and have been stalwart in their devotion to her. At the moment, we will wait until we know more since how one responds in hospice can be quite varied. Back when my father called me because his older brother had been placed in hospice I flew the next day to Louisiana in order to be available to drive them to Missouri. After five days elapsed (it may have been four), I returned home and I think it was another two days before he passed. We had in the meantime made other arrangements for the drive to Missouri.

The irony of this is we normally travel to Georgia to be with my husband’s family at Thanksgiving. We were unable to do so last year because of an unexpected conflict and were in the midst of making plans for the trip. I doubt his mother will be able to linger for 3 weeks, but it is possible. I won’t be posting anything to social media yet since we aren’t certain of what will happen.

 

Working Through T-Do List…..

Okay, the fairly long to-do list of tasks to complete prior to our trip is close enough to being finished for me take a deep breath. Naturally, half-a-dozen items were added to it during the process. Well, probably more, but at some point I stop keeping track. Anyway, I will finish drying the load of clothes shortly which will allow me to see what will really fit into the suitcase. As always when traveling north this time of year, bulkier clothes are needed. I think we can manage without heavy coats. Gifts are not really required for this trip, although as soon as I find out what size granddaughter is wearing, we will pick up a t-shirt of some type while in NYC. She has a thing for hats, although I’m not sure if anything along that line will make sense.

A friend has sent some restaurant recommendations and I found a few that appeared on multiple lists. Even though we plan to stay out of the “touristy” places, the big Guy Fieri restaurant might be required just because. We’re being flexible with plans and will catch a show if it’s practical. As previously mentioned, the “must” of visiting B&H Photo will occur and I do hope there is a bar or spa or what-have-you near by for we non-photographers.

The house is set up with sitter, etc. and dishwasher will be run tonight. Lunch took care of most of the leftovers and the rest will be sides for dinner. I will blog everyday and post based on connectivity and time.

The Paths Children Take….

I’ve posted in the past about how startled we were and what adjustment we went through when we came to accept the degree of our son’s passion for dance. I had an entertaining conversation with a woman I met last night during an event with the opposite side of the coin situation with their daughter. She has very definitely gone into a career that’s not for the fainthearted and not what most women choose. It is financially lucrative though which is also the opposite said of the coin with the world of dance.

Anyway, as I have also mentioned, my whole “female pioneering” aspect of being in the Army was not something my parents expected and until last night I hadn’t remembered this part. Back in the day, males could join the military at age 17 with parental consent and 18 without. Females, however, could not join without parental consent until age 21. Because of me finishing my undergraduate degree a year early, and having an August birthday, that meant I was not actually 21 until a couple of weeks after I was scheduled to receive my commission as a second lieutenant. It required my parents to sign their permission and while Daddy was puzzled, but practical about my choice, Mother expressed some reluctance. In talking through it, she finally agreed providing I didn’t tell “Mamaw” (her mother) she’d agreed. Not a problem, although as it turned out, my grandmother thought it was terrific and would brag about me to her friends. The fact of the matter was she was a feisty woman and had opened her own assay and tax preparation office at a time when that was not commonplace for married women. I don’t know the whole background of it – I’ll have to ask my aunt next time I visit – but as I recall, she always had that office. Daddy learned about tax prep by working part time for her during peak tax season because we didn’t live too far from them and forest fire threats were usually mild until the heart of summer.