Gratitude x 10

Today is my 59th birthday, one day before Thanksgiving. I believe in the spiritual principle of gratitude, so here goes…

I am grateful for…

1. My clean and serene (well serene is optional some days) time, without which any gratitudes would be hollow.

2. A nice apartment within my budget.

3. A live and beating heart. (Long may it wave!)

4. My freedom.

5. My extended family (Dad, brother, and Sis)

6. My friends on Facebook and Shutterchance.

7. My bundle of cat love, Miss Kai.

8. My writing ability.

9. My recently completed cooking class that slowly unfolds new horizons beyond store-bought (and slightly radioactive) mac and cheese.

10. My small-but-powerful church.

I challenge all who read this to make their own gratitude list. Odds are you will feel better. Enjoy your turkey/terducken/tofu Day!



… as opposed to trivia. This blog is intended as a celebration of small things, but sometimes big things crop up.

Such as the pain in my chest. I have not yet been diagnosed as having a heart condition, but I probably do. I am almost 59 and not in the best of shape. Neglect has consequences.

So I will see an IM and a cardiologist this week, and hopefully learn more. In the meantime, I have a little bottle of nitro pills to relieve the pain. They work, and I am glad of that. I have the love and prayers of my family, and I am most grateful for them.

I am supplementing my poor diet with healthy stuff like whole wheat and fruits. I have been taking a nutrition class… and that is no coincidence.

Still… the good Lord speaks of the peace that passes all understanding. I get anxious, but I have that peace, down in my soul. I have my church family, and prayers, and for today, that is enough.

Simple Pleasures Are the Best

A random list of some of the not-so-dramatic things I enjoy:

1. Stroking my cat.

2. Praying as I walk.

3. Pop-Tarts

4. Delaying my get-up time because the bed is cozy.

5. Playing Skip-Bo with my friends.

6. Taking pictures of rotting leaves and peeling paint.

7. Writing in my blog.

8. Putting on the headphones and listening to Marshall Crenshaw. (Haven’t heard of him? Check YouTube.)

9. Jaye’s cat Prince who sits in my lap.

10. 1950s monster movies.

11. Driving. (Okay, so maybe that’s a complex pleasure. So sue me.)

In praise of my cat…

This is not the web’s most original topic, but since this is my blog…

I chose Kai, my cat, from her picture on the Internet. She was living at the ASPCA shelter. It’s not the first time a pretty face has swayed me. She is a lovely creature: a mix of grey tabby with brown highlights.

Right now she is sleeping in my half-full laundry basket. Cat persons don’t mind a little fur on their clothing. My brother’s cat loves to sleep on piles of clothing straight from the dryer. He puts out the warm clothes on the living room carpet for easy access.

Kai is a furry adventurer. Her goal is to get inside every space normally closed off. The sound of the door opening under the bathroom sink brings her running. Race car drivers should have such reflexes.

Another target of opportunity is my feet when they stick out of the covers. At any second, blam, the claws. Ditto for loose pens, shoelaces, and bits of shiny paper.

Lately she has perfected the art of chasing her tail. Not content with the traditional dance of the tail, which resembles a top, she lies on her side, swishes the tail, and lunges for it. This oscillation can carry her across the floor in nothing flat. I ought to put a crank on her, attach it to a generator, and provide my own electricity.

Kai is skilled in the feline arts of affection: mock bites and licks on my finger. Sometimes she licks me for several minutes, until she gets a better offer from her tail.

But she’s no angel. She spurned my carpeted cat stool in favor of shredding my futon. I have a role of black duck tape that I need to put to good use.

Still, I forgive her many sins. She’s my one-and-only shelter kitty and, without getting sappy, I am not quite sure what I would do without her.


Back from vacation…

I had the company of three congenial adults last week, as I took  my first out of town trip in two years. We went to Emerald Isle, North Carolina, one of our famous barrier islands.

Rather than the crashing tumult of the Atlantic, our cottage faced the Bogue Sound, a calmer body of water. This led to a tranquil mood among the four of us. My navy veteran father spent seeming hours behind his binoculars, examining sailboats, power boats, egrets, and seagulls.

The other three of us (two brothers and a female friend) also looked to varying degrees. We saved much of our energy for card-playing (Uno and Skip-Bo) and watching DVD’s For the latter, the connection of our TV, the cable system, and the DVD was so complex and so poorly mapped we had to call maintenance to explain it to us.

Really, the best entertainment was the cards. Dad likes to dramatize his shifting fortunes with extravagant gestures and proclamations. He also gave us two impromptu concerts of folk favorites on the guitar, achieving an impressive result despite his protestations of lack of practice.

More adventures of the family Bliss to follow…

A long time ago

A very long time ago the prophet Habakkuk said:

“Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble?

Destruction and violence are before me;

strife and contention arise.

So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.

The wicked surround the righteous–

therefore judgment comes forth perverted.”

–Habakkuk 1:2-4

You don’t suppose he means us, do you?

We are we are

A few years ago while flipping TV channels I came across a rap song, “Youth of a Nation” by a group called P.O.D. It really grabbed me, mostly because of its guitar work, a stern, steely echo. I was intrigued by its refrain: “We are we are, the youth of a nation”.

At the time, I didn’t seek out the song. Busy with other online things, I guess. But it crossed my memory again yesterday and I looked it up on YouTube.

Wow. This time I listened to all the lyrics. This time it was quite an emotional experience, as I listened to vignettes of urban tragedy. The lead verse assumes the character of a young man killed in a drive-by. “Instead of taking the test, I took two in the chest.”

Later lyrics described the plight of a young girl who made wrong choices about men, and a sky kid who commits suicide.

So many wasted young lives, in our gun-worshipping nation. So many children told they are no good unless they emulate promiscuity. So many youth who won’t find the good jobs their forebears had.

My childhood was no bed of roses, but I never had to worry about classmates with guns, or drug dealers in elementary schools.

Today the pundits are talking of the government shutdown. When will we talk about a joy shutdown of an entire generation?

Two musical worlds

If you were to ask me what kind of music I like, I would say “yes”.

I was brought up on rock ‘n’ roll, but gradually I added classical to the mix. I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but my exposure to classical music began with Stanley Kubrick and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer. Say what you will about ELP, but I built a pretty nice collection based on the music they ripped off.

These days when I am in a rock mood I go back to 80s bands: Talking Heads, U2, Simple Minds, Let’s Active, the dB’s. U2 is the only band I have continuously followed.

Who do I like in the classics? Bach, Vivaldi, Schubert, Stravinsky. (I was recently lucky enough to see the North Carolina Symphony perform The Rite of Spring. It was shattering and wonderful.) I like Beethoven once in a while–he’s a little bombastic for my taste.

I have a large niche for modern composers such as Reich, Glass, Adams, and Part. Minimalism excites me; those years of listening to repetitive pop music primed me for it.

It’s nice having two musical worlds to explore. I recommend it to anyone.

Where I would go on vacation…

If I had oodles of money (an oodle is close to a bazillion) I would first travel west, to the Painted Desert of Utah and Arizona. I went there in ’99 and was transformed by the beauty of the landscape and that big sky. The distances involved amazed me. I am used to North Carolina, where there’s always another locality just around the bend. I would pack a new Nikon DSLR and have a fine old time with it.

Then I would head east to Scotland, rent a car, and drive around on the wrong side of the road. I have been there before, and still remember the quiet-but-astonishing gorgeousness of the glens. I would drink in the thinner, purer air (at least purer outside the cities).

Then with more of my oodles I would rent a seat on Richard Branson’s suborbital spaceships. I have a feeling there is a long reservation list for it. I would be torn between floating around and staying put long enough to take pictures.

Ooh, I have oodles left over! Time to travel south to Cape Canaveral, where I could see the Space Shuttle and watch rockets launch.

And then, home. To rest, and edit my pictures. And give away a few oodles to friends…


You know what a “spose-ta” is, right? You’ve heard them all your life. As in, “I’m spose-ta wash the dishes.” Or: “You’re spose-ta clean up your room.” Spose-ta’s often involve doing household chores, it seems.

Now, some spose-ta’s are good for society. “You’re spose-ta obey the law.” “You’re not spose-ta play with fire.”

Too often, though, spose-ta’s are needlessly damaging. I have spent years getting out from under such spose-ta’s as:

–be rich

–be cool

–be anger-free

Well. I am pretty sure it’s too late for me to be rich. Being cool means being not so hot. Being anger-free is a denial of human nature.

Dear readers: what is your least favorite spose-ta?