Two Minutes of Darkness

 

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Did I drop gray-lenses glasses over my eyes? That’s what it looked like at ten this morning when the moon cast the sun in its shadow.

Yes, my home was near the path of “totality” in Oregon. Since today is my son’s birthday, we headed south to his house into the path of totality.

Two minutes of darkness on a bright sunny day must have sent people in the Middle Ages into a frenzy. (Maybe that’s why they called it the Dark Ages? Okay, I’m being sarcastic. I understand what made those “dark” times.)

The Setup

After I made a delicious birthday breakfast of French toast and bacon, we headed out into the sunlight. A golden ball shone from the crystalline aquamarine sky.

My husband had two camera rigged up. The rest of us were making bad puns, occasionally glimpsing through our “approved for eclipse” glasses.

The warning on the flimsy frames said I shouldn’t look at the sun for more than three minutes at a time.

Someone suggested an eclipse playlist. Of course, Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart” made the top of the chart. I quoted “You’re so Vain” because a local station played it yesterday, so it was fresh in my mind.

We made plenty of suppositions about how many human sacrifices the Aztecs fed to their volcanoes during the two-minutes of darkness during their hey day.

The shadows reflect the crescent shape of the sun behind the moon

And of course, I wondered what might happen if your shift to “werewolf” was tied to the solar eclipse rather than a full moon. In fact, we decided an Ocelot-shifter might be a better choice. Something that loved the sun but went into hunter mode when the sun set.

Look for that story in the near future.

The Reaction

After the Chiquita banana stage, I glimpsed through my special spectacles more frequently. Soon a bare cuticle of a thumbnail of sun could be seen.

The glasses came off and the midnight sky turned granite as the sun-powered corona transformed the mid-day-night-like sky.

Whoops rose in the air. Neighbors ignited fireworks (apparently, in Woodburn, OR, any time is a great time for fireworks). Crickets sang their songs.

It was a glorious view. Amazing. Awe-inspiring.

And story-inspiring for my author brain.

Faces were ringed with joyous smiles. Eyes sparked, lit with an inner fiery star.

Afterward

 

My daughter hightailed it to her job. Sadly, everyone had the same idea.

Traffic slowed. Suddenly, freeway travel between the Oregon state capital to the largest city in the state looks strangely like a day in Los Angeles.

Ugh.

Thankfully, my husband was telecommuting. And there’s internet at my son’s house (or the home of his second parents where we enjoyed the total eclipse of the sun outside by their gazebo) for me to do a little writing.

These pictures don’t do it justice. Once I can get to my computer and my husband can download his GoPro footage and his speedy-lens still photos, I’ll share the cream of the crop with you.

If you were in the path of totality, what was your experience? When have you been awed by two minutes (or less)? Continue reading “Two Minutes of Darkness”

What Makes a Woman Old?

I had a landmark birthday recently. And I totally expected to feel old. Which made me start to wonder: what does that even mean?

Old is a state of mind they say.

You’re only as old as you feel.

Don’t think of age as a number.

You’ve heard all the platitudes and sayings. But they are only words.

Wrong Thinking

I like Mark Twain. He had killer wit.

mindoverage-marktrwain

And in this case, I totally agree with him. Age, like enduring the pain in boot camp, is all about mind over matter.

As my birthday neared, I kept dreading the big five-zero.

But why?

Would I really be decrepit on my birthday when I was totally able-bodied the day before it?

In fact, since I was 23 and got my first gray hair (I thank my firstborn for this), I’ve had an interesting idea about age and getting old.

wisdom_highlights

Speaking of Which

While we’re on the subject of my firstborn, today is his birthday.

That’s right. Twenty-six years ago a cute little boy interrupted all the plans that went before him.

Because having kids does more than reshape your figure. And your finances. And your sleep schedule.

Suddenly the young couple becomes a young family. And family trumps all other things.

It’s hard to claim the age of 39 (which I found to be a perfect point in my life) when you’re standing beside a tall, handsome nearly-30-year-old to whom you gave birth.

Uh, yeah. I was still in middle school when I had him.

Not. (And even the thought of that is more terrifying than watching a scary movie marathon.)

My Body Has Other Ideas

The problem with this mind over matter thinking? Sometimes a body refuses to cooperate.

I’m not talking about those phantom aches and pains.

Imagine: You sit on the examining table and glance over at the ultrasound screen. Your name and date of birth are in bright characters at the top.

A neon sign blares “AGE: 50”

This test is in preparation for your first ever surgery the next week.

“Wow. You made it fifty years without ever needing anesthesia.” I didn’t imagine the hint of awe in the admission nurse’s voice.

Could someone stop reminding me of my age?

And my body—which refuses to act like the 30-year-old vessel I imagine– should be the engine of that train.

Let me say that when you’re recovering from a “minor procedure” you feel every second of your actual age. No matter what you claim, the 50-year-old cells don’t repair things at the rapid rate of 30-year-old ones.

Now back to the question posed in the title of this post. A woman is as old as the calendar says minus a decade or two if she’s taken care of her body.

Most people don’t look closely at the crow’s feet around my eyes or the brown spots on my jaw. They see the wide, white smile and twinkling eyes.

Those are the characteristics of someone whose age isn’t on her mind. She’s too busy living life to worry about some arbitrary number.

Ladies, the only thing that can make a woman old is her declaration that she is old.

What do you think makes a woman (or a man) old?

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Goodbye Paradise

It’s easy to beat the sun awake in the tropics. Or anywhere in the winter. Is this balmy breeze stirring palm leaves to dance and sing a sign of winter?

December afternoon sky
December afternoon sky

Today’s the day. It’s time to say goodbye to Paradise and return to the reality of home.

For whatever reason, that reality involves a winter storm advisory. Because after enjoying shorts weather for five days, it’s only fir to return to sub-freezing temperatures, icy roads and the wintry mix the Pacific NW is famous for–when the regular deluge gives way to colder weather.

Every morning we enjoyed a walk, either along the beach or through the quieter, sleepy streets. There won’t be any of this once we get back to the mainland. Who wants to get drenched in the name of walking outside?

shadow

What Makes it Paradise

Perhaps everyone has a different concept of Paradise.

In the Bible, it could be the Garden of Eden or a place in the center of the Earth where souls waited for release.

In my world, it’s a place where the days are sunny but not hot. Where the only thing on my schedule is whatever sounds good. Where I don’t have to wear socks and shoes.

This is how much I get in the ocean
This is how much I get in the ocean

And the pace of the day reflects my mood.

There are palm trees. The sky is a crystalline aquamarine, the color of my Caribbean blue diamond. Maybe it’s a blue topaz sky since it’s December.

Waves lap against the soft shores. The briny smell of the sea underwrites a sweet aroma of baked goods.

in_the_ocean

And there are no calories. At least in my mind.

What Makes it Goodbye

Is there any song so mournful as “Taps” when a bugle plays the cadence?

It suits the mood. It’s the perfect way to say farewell.

There’s an end, so we say goodbye.

Which also means there’s a beginning. It’s an ocean away in a colder place. Pine trees will carpet millions of homes with their needles.

Because it’s nearly Christmas.

The voices of Andy Williams and Bing Crosby have even reminding us of the season when the flush of sweaty beneath sunny rays lent to amnesia.

Seats are reserved on a flight. Cats wait our arrival thousands of miles away.

There will be a hello.

But first we must say “Aloha Hawaiian vacation.”

My birthday dinner: but I'll stick with tails after this
My birthday dinner: but I’ll stick with tails after this

Those Hawaiians knew what they were doing. Aloha means hello and goodbye.

Because in this temperate land of sweet pineapple and aromatic coffee, they’re really the same thing.

Aloha.

Happy Birthday to my Baby!

Twenty-three years ago yesterday at a few moments after midnight, my he-will-forever-be-my-baby son entered this world.

Yesterday, we celebrated that occasion. It was a huge family dinner. My four, their wives and the family of my baby’s wife.

My baby has a wife?

I know. Wasn’t it just yesterday he arrived in the world?

So tiny. This is hours after he made his grand appearance in 1993
So tiny. This is hours after he made his grand appearance in 1993

Right. Yesterday…plus twenty-three YEARS.

But I remember how happy he was as a baby. He made the cutest gurgling noises. Like he was singing to himself.

We called this one the Under the Table Jig
We called this one the Under the Table Jig

And he seemed almost indestructible: falling off decks and through windows. But he didn’t always escape unscathed.

His enthusiasm for living rubbed off on all of us.

A0025

It didn’t surprise me when he decided to take to the stage. People at church  had been saying he was going to be a preacher for years.

Stage debut as a Keystone Cop in Aladdin
Stage debut as a Keystone Cop in Aladdin

He was always a natural ham. Why not add makeup and bright lights?

Like all actors, he had girls hanging off him
Like all actors, he had girls hanging off him

How did he get from a playschool graduation to this in three blinks of my eyes?

DSC_0069

As an adult, he headed off to college. And graduated from that before I’d begun to fathom how he would deal with those student loans.

My two sons...and the daughters they so thoughtfully brought me
My two sons…and the daughters they so thoughtfully brought me

And now, he’s married. He and his wife have their own little love nest. And student loans.

But life isn’t about loans, it’s about love and living each moment with joy.

And this baby boy of mine has been doing that second part well for a lifetime. What’s not to love?

If you know him, how about commenting with a favorite memory?

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Happy Birthday America! And What’s new on my Blog

God bless America! The “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

It all began on this day in 1776. A bunch of revolutionaries wrote up a fancy document and sent it off to the King of England, who ruled them at the time.

I’m talking about the Declaration of Independence. But independence isn’t so easily won as that. Winning freedom from oppression takes more than a piece of paper.

This document started our nation on it’s Freedom March

It would be a few more years before the U.S. Constitution was drafted and the United States of America became an independent nation.

So, happy birthday, Miss America. I’m still proud to be an American even if I shudder at some of the problems in America.

Light off an extra fire cracker for me.

The NEW Me

Logo - New Color

Look at the pretty red to pink header on my page. Doesn’t it scream for attention?

And did you notice the new tag-line for my site? Maybe you even voted for it when I was polling my Facebook friends.

Holding out for a Hero.

Has an excellent ring doesn’t it? Makes you think of anything? If I say I write romance or fantasy or inspirational fiction, the line still makes sense. It’s all-inclusive.

And since you’ve been seeing plenty of posts about Captain America and the idea of being a superhero, it makes everything clearer.

I hope.

I’m trying to streamline my author brand. By choosing colors and a tag-line that speaks to the heart of my message, I’m hoping to find my niche, make a connection or just settle in with an audience.

Special Blog Series

Beginning this week, I’m going to start a series of posts to fit the theme “What Would Wonder Woman Do?” I got this idea from a discarded tag-line during the process of honing in on the perfect fit.

Since I’m trying to make all my posts have something to do with heroes, this seems perfect.

Look for this meme on Thursdays, and you’ll know my take on something from Wonder Woman’s worldview is about to follow.

WWDT

Another series inspired by rejected tag-lines is “Between the Lines.” I’m not sure when I’ll begin posts with that theme but they will be the midweek post once Wonder Woman is exhausted.

Does Wonder Woman ever need a break? This one does.

Your Input

Beginning this month, if you follow via email, you’ll notice that I’m returning to posting three days per week. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep that up.

Mondays will be my regular posts. Thursdays will be my What Would Wonder Woman Do series (until I deplete my creative brain on that topic). On Friday or Saturday, I’ll post “The Week In Gratitude” or something like that. It will be the gratitude memes for the week.

How does all this sound?

I don’t hear much from the readers of my blog. I tell myself it’s because you’re delighted with the content I’m providing. If it’s because you’re bored or aren’t reading it, I hope this change will inspire renewed interest.

If you have ideas for series themes, let me know. If there are other topics you wish I’d address, feel free to tell me about it. The comments on this post is the perfect place for that. Or use the contact form from the “Author Info” page.

So What Would Wonder Woman do if she were you?

What is a holiday – really?

A holiday is when you don’t have to go to work. If that is the true definition, every person who is retired from employment, or unemployed, experiences a holiday each and every day of the year.

Merriam-Webster says a holiday is “a special day of celebration when one is exempt from work or specifically a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” Of course, the first full definition listed is simply “holy day.”

Ah, yes. A holy day. Something specific to religious celebration and thus not politically correct to address in polite conversation. As you’ve long suspected, political correctness falls further down my list of priorities than simple straightforward honest expression.

My list of “holy day”s

As for days of religious significance, I would mark three: Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.

In my mind, all three of these days draw special attention to the One in my world to whom I ascribe deity and offer worship. In honor of political correctness, I want everyone to understand these dates reflect my personal opinion and aren’t meant to infringe on anyone’s freedom to disagree.

Even though Christmas, like almost all “holy days” on our traditional calendar, has pagan roots, I consider it the day to honor the birth of Jesus Christ. He is a historical figure so my celebration of his birth should be no more offensive than honoring February 12 as Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

In my world, this date involves revisiting the account of Christ’s birth as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This generally happens in the wee, dark hours of December 25. Afterwards, my family does paganistic things like opening Christmas stockings and unwrapping gifts beneath the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree.

In the spring, Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is a foundational doctrine for the sect called Christianity. For me, it offers hope that transcends the life I now live.

Easter always falls on Sunday. My family attends church services (as we do each Sunday of the year) and worships the living Savior. Afterwards, we feast on ham and buttered noodles (sacrilegious according to Old Testament dietary guidelines) and play games. Laughter is a staple around our table.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts on the subject, my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. Although it is a manmade day, it was founded on the principal of giving thanks to God. Our family shares one thing we’re thankful for as we surround the table laden with turkey, stuffing and all the traditional trimmings.

My list of commemorative celebrations

How crazy is it that in a country where the federal government claims eleven national holidays, I consider only three to be “holy days”? One of my holidays isn’t even considered to be a “national holiday” to the U.S. government.

Bonus points to you if you can list these eleven holidays and their dates (without checking either your calendar or an internet search engine). Can you do it? Make sure to take credit in the comments if you can.

In my family, we celebrate January 1 with food and games. Sometimes a large crowd gathers and other times it is just the four who reside under our roof. In case you’re wondering, this is New Year’s Day, and Uncle Sam consents to call this a holiday (not that I need his approval).

Other dates that fall on neither my nor the national register are Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day. Perhaps these are important days in your world. Aren’t you glad you’re free to observe them – even if you have to call in sick or take a personal day from your place of employment to do so?

My family ushers in the barbecuing season on Memorial Day. No, this isn’t what the day is supposed to be about. Most of the time, it is also near my wedding anniversary, so my husband and I have been known to fly the coop together during this holiday.

Both my mother and grandmother actually took flowers and visited the graves of people who had passed away on this day. That is a more accurate celebration for a holiday that was originally known as “Decoration Day.” You guessed it. People actually decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers on this day. Some people consider it the beginning of summer recreation (making my barbecuing tradition less blasphemous).

For many years, July 4th was a family gathering with a picnic and birthday cake. Not in honor of Independence Day (the official name of the holiday), but in honor of my only niece’s birthday. Now, she’s an adult. We still like to fire up the barbie and the kid’s like to blow money on fireworks.

Amidst all off these dates, we have other special days known as “birthdays.” I won’t bog you down with the actual calendar numbers, but our family likes to celebrate these days. I’ve even lobbied for this day being granted as a day off from traditional employment.

Around here, I like to make the person’s favorite meal for dinner and whatever sort of dessert they want for their “birthday cake.” My sons believe I’m a terrible person because I stopped wrapping up packages for them on their 19th birthday. Cards and dinners, I’m still on top of that, but why does a birthday have to be about getting gifts?

For years, we celebrated Labor Day by going camping. We wanted to get one last hurrah in before the drudgery of school set in for the kids. Now that we’re all finished with school (well, my youngest has one more year of college), we might have a barbecue and play games.

My actual list of holidays numbers less than eleven, unless you count the birthdays individually. If you do that, I have eleven special days every year – in perfect harmony with Uncle Sam (well, except for the actual dates and significance).

Your list

Please chime in with comments about those days you find significant on your calendar of events. You know, special days of “celebration when you are exempt from work in commemoration of an event.”

Don’t forget to take the poll. Share it with your friends. Don’t you wonder what they consider the most commemorative days of the year?

Bittersweet Birthdays

Isn't that the most innocent face?
Isn’t that the most innocent face?

My baby boy was born at a few minutes after midnight twenty years ago.

Just typing those words encouraged another gray hair to emerge – right in my part, of course!

Remember when you were five? People would ask, “How old are you?” and you always said, “Five and a half” if it was the day after your birthday or “Almost six” if your birthday was six months or less away.

What were we thinking? That the next age would offer us something the current one did not. The curse of youth is that we don’t realize how fleeting it is until it has taken wing and flown far away.

When we were ten, we couldn’t wait to be twelve. Once we got to twelve, we wanted to be a teenager. At thirteen, sixteen seemed the age when real freedom would be attained. Once we had that driver’s license, we wanted to be eighteen so we could “go where we want whenever we want and not have to do what anyone says.”

Yeah, right! The irony of adulthood – the freedom it promises to those dominated by parental control is just a chain of a different sort. Adulthood: bills, jobs, problems and responsibilities. All that stuff our parents handled for us while we were whining about enjoying our youth, it falls on our shoulders now.

Leaving teenagerhood behind to conquer the world
Leaving teenagerhood behind to conquer the world

My baby is no longer a teenager. He bemoaned this at church camp last year, when he was still weeks away from nineteen and very much a teenager. The leaders wanted him to be in charge of things. He just wanted to be one of the kids.

Get used to that feeling, son, it’s coming your way more frequently as your age number increases.

After college, the fun and games of youth become the drudgery and responsibility of adulthood.

Welcome to my world.

What birthday did you look forward to the most? Which one did you dread?