Tough Love

Making due with less may feel like deprivation, instead of a lifestyle choice.

I’ve decided to homeschool and live remotely, isolated from the evils of man.

The children will learn a work ethic, clean living, and good manners.  There’s a community of frugal people who live the simple life.  They are healthy and happy.  It’s an Evangelical theme song.  There are people all over the world like that!

We could all learn something!

Yesterday, Christy Sheats shot and killed both her daughters.  Her facebook page offers no clues.  It’s the perfect family. Everyone thought so. She’s all about family, her need to protect her family, and her rights. Yes, the police knew she had a history of severe mental illness and she had guns. America is growing tired of mentally ill people with guns. Is it enough to identify them?

There is deprivation that comes from hunger, poverty, and war.  It damages people.  There are people who escape terrible situations and become wiser.  Hardships can make people stronger.  We are afraid of hardships because we don’t know how to deal with it and many would rather do nothing at all, to change that.  The implications are huge and laws don’t always change things.

I do think it’s all about our ability to continue to love when things are broken.  To be brave enough to stare into the face of trouble with our best answers. Love is tough because it affects everyone. When mental illness is something we accept with compassion, maybe we will worry less about being deprived of our rights.


The Compass

I have always been vigilant; it’s ingrained.  I’m good at it.  I never listen to the people next to me, the ones who evaluate me; I listen to their boss. I was always essential to ‘this project”. I never worked on a project that failed.  I was 24/7.

It would be fair to say I was obsessed with the next thing on the horizon.  I wondered what I would do if I had a choice.  I think I would study the environment.

The first thing I would do is study the ways the environment changes without human impact.  Then I would study the effect of human impact and how human need can be satisfied for this moment.  It’s a mission of rescue and rehabilitation.

My favorite book is Victor Frankl’s, Man’s Search for Meaning. In the face of hopelessness, as a Jew in a concentration camp, his job was to be uplifting. Everyone knows their life has a meaningful reason for existing. Mankind’s greatest discovery has brought new problems.  Whether you are the rescue or the rehabilitation is your choice.  Always look beyond the moment to find your compass. You must see the future.



A small voyage

We went sailing almost every weekend when I was a teenager.  My mother loved to sail and Huge was a boatbuilder.  Sometimes there were dolphins playfully racing before the sloop, but mostly there was open sea. Turquoise water stretching in every direction for as far as the eye could see and a bright hot sun.

One year my mother borrowed Huge’s sloop and took us on an overnight trip from Cutler Ridge to Elliot Key.  She learned to sail and use a compass from her father, in the same Biscayne Bay. I learned the jellyfish are fluorescent. The water was shallow and you could see the ocean floor.  The night was moonlight, which made schools of fish visible beside the boat.   A storm came up and we lowered our sails and went below to sleep.  It was the first and only time I sailed when it was not a hot day on gentle waves.

When we awoke we had taken on some water that destroyed our bread, and we only had bananas. No problem. The boat had a pump; we were still floating and the sun was up.  We arrived at Elliot Key, a mangrove swamp, without mosquito repellant.  Big mistake!  Fortunately, we could buy some at the tackle store.

I took a cruise on a ship.  The water was the same, but it felt like a nightclub.  There was nothing to navigate and you could not see the fish. The food was very good and it wasn’t boring.  I didn’t learn as much.

Awesome or Awful?

Awe is an easy thing to find.  I feel that way each time I take a walk, listen to birds, look at the sky, or consider the miracle of mankind. I am in awe of ‘awareness’.  It is courageous to be aware, experience, discover and observe all walks of life.  It is more pleasant to listen to people describe their own experience than it is to listen to people observed someone having an experience.

This awful story is of an Amish couple, who ‘gifted’ their fourteen-year-old daughter to an older man, and have been arrested.  In many states, this would have been legal.  In Massachusetts, females can marry at the age of twelve and they are the first state to recognize same-sex marriage. (Europe isn’t a lot better). What will happen to the twelve children?  I hope they are brave.

I am awed by progress.  I imagine there will be technology to end addiction and help people navigate their many differences and challenges.  There will be more tolerance, inclusiveness and respect because that’s what everyone wants.  This is the age of people.

When there are a lot of people, people learn about themselves.


Empty Truths

There’s magic in truthfulness that separates lofty ideals worth achieving from delusions and rituals that lead us down a rosy path. If you were searching for something unbreakable, enduring and eternal, a steadfast trudge for truthfulness will show you why that is unlikely.  You will wake up to find your nest egg was stolen, history changed, and find yourself betrayed by people you thought were reasonably sane.  If you thought any of these delusions existed, this moment would feel empty.

I finished another book on Florida.  Les Standiford’s, “Last Train to Paradise”, describes Henry Flagler’s bankrupting effort to extend the railroad from Miami to Key West.  He rode that train; and died before the 1935 hurricane turned Marathon Key into an empty wasteland and the train and tracks were washed to sea while attempting a rescue.   Ernest Hemmingway said, “Not even the buzzards survived.” Should we stay? Many people do.

I read this article, “Did Jesus Have a Wife?”  Eminent Harvard historian and feminist, Karen King, would like to prove that he did so much she is willing to be deluded by Walter Fritz, a lazy con-artist who could have been a serious scholar.  Provenance – finding the chain of ownership. History is easy to make up, but it is hard to change facts.  Facts are your friends; ideals are a fantasy, an empty promise, without the facts.

The law of conservation says that energy is stored or may be expended, but it is always there.  It is never empty.  That’s a fact.

Lucas the lunger


We walk a lot, and it just made sense to get a dog.

I wanted a well-behaved lab, one I could train to be a therapy dog. Lucas was in a large showcase room at the shelter.  He could do tricks, like push a cart across the room.  When people gathered at the window to watch, he stood on his bed in a showcase pose waiting for those words, “Hey Good Looking!”  He knew they were talking to him.

He had a sordid past on the streets of Yonkers and moved through a series of shelters for unwanted dogs.  After one year of rehabilitation, he emerged confident, polished and charming. His worse fault was excessive slobber.  Ewwww!

“Why has it taken so long for him to be adopted?”

No one knew. Shelters will not tolerate an aggressive dog, especially a Pit Bull.  My husband approved the next day, and Lucas came home with us.  A lot of people recognized him.

One young man took his picture; he had adopted Lucas’s friend.  Young people called out of their cars when we walked down the street, “Hi Lucas!”  Joggers waved and the ‘ladies of Michaels’, stood in the alley calling for hugs.He is good with small children, toddlers, and small dogs can yip their heads off, right in his face, and Lucas is serene. He would NEVER take their candy on Halloween.

Lucas had a preference for a woman of a certain build -Amazon. If he couldn’t leap into her arms, perhaps he could put his paws on their shoulders.  Some of the Amazons were OK with that, but it just takes one unhappy Amazon, and we decided to take a different path.

Then there was the unfortunate garbage bag.  It had fallen onto the road, and Lucas decided he would lie down on the road until the bag was his.

“Did you teach your dog to play dead?”

We picked him up and moved him to the shoulder, but he wouldn’t budge.  We squirted water on his butt. He was outraged!  It was the first time I heard him bark.  I didn’t know he had a temper. I soon discovered, he wasn’t a fetcher; he was a rip it to shreds kind of guy who required a bribe to release the shoe.

Pit Bull Terriers are all muscle.  A 90 pound Lucas can leap and land six feet away in front of a gasping jogger.  He also likes to grab the gloves right off your hand.  There were boundary issues.

I got a radio control neck collar and put it on buzz only.  It was OK, but a slow way to control a strong dog.  Then I discovered the “Gentle Leader.”  It was showcased in the Smithsonian one year.  It’s a dog harness.  Imagine trying to lead a horse by tying a rope to the horse’s saddle.  You lead a horse by gently tugging at his chin.  Lucas was slightly different.  When the dog across the street barked at him, he thought it called for an immediate response, and his lunge turned into a somersault. Instant feedback! He did that twice, but now, he looks the other way.

“How did  you teach your dog to walk like that?”

I don’t use the harness all the time because people think it’s a mussel.  It also rubs the fur off his nose and blocks his breathing on long walks.  I do bring it with me, in case he’s forgotten how to walk nicely.

A school teacher stopped us one day and told us she had worked at the rehabilitation center that Lucas was in.  She didn’t know Lucas but she saw us walk him every day and wanted to bring therapy dogs to the school.  Lucas loved her and wanted to jump in her arms very much!   “Do you think Lucas could be a therapy dog?”




Aimless Father’s Day

It’s Father’s Day and a special time for my husband. We’re going for a new walk and maybe I’ll take the camera because the weather is crystal clear. We ate a special breakfast with corn beef, hash brown potatoes and eggs; there was cheese on everything! It’s especially exciting because neither of us expected to be well enough to do this.

I can walk finally, after my spider bite. IMG_0381
Most spider bites in New York are Yellow Sac Spiders. They have a similar venom to the brown recluse, only not as potent. My leg was swollen, and I slept for a couple of days and tried not to move. I imagined it would take a long time to get better, but here I am, one week later and ready for a hike.

My husband broke his collarbone when he hit a piece of rebar on the road.  I suspect he broke a few ribs also.  He’s sleeping in a chair because lying down is too painful.  It’s been two weeks and he’s making great progress.  I’m looking forward to the day.

I guess I should think about my father today.  I do feel like he helped me through a tough time and he was proud of me.  It was not the kind of relationship I would wish on anyone. I didn’t see him for years, until I was 21, and moved to the area to be with my sister.  He picked up my toddler by the feet and began spanking him, upside down because he pulled away when I said it was time to leave (it was 9pm, late for a baby).  He wasn’t angry, he was trying to explain how to intimidate people.

You didn’t ask questions.  He asked the questions, to make sure you were listening and could correctly repeat everything he had just said, (well, at least for the last 3 minutes, but the lectures went on for hours). He liked to talk about science or music. My stepmother thought he was an interesting person. He became violent if he lost a card game (especially to a child) and always picked on the smallest person in the room. Just bruised never broken bones. He was not as hard on me, but he made me watch, which made my stepmother angry. I didn’t bring my son to see him unless there were a lot of people around. Whenever I quit speaking to him my stepmother said I should visit.  She gave me food, which made him angry. I’m glad I didn’t live there.

My son began saying, “I hate Grandpa and Grandpa hates me.”

I told my father this and he asked to speak to him.  My son repeated, “I hate you and you hate me.”

My father said, “No I don’t,”  and he read him a story.  Then he said, “I love you!”

“Oh!” My son was surprised but happy and they were good.

He tutored me for school.  He told me I was beautiful. He was the only person who ever made that effort.  Even though he thought a woman’s place was in the home, he was proud when I got a good job and moved away.  He wanted me to move away from him and have a life.  Then he died and said, “This is not a big deal, my children are grown.”  What a strange thing for a man who never paid child support to say.  Our relationship was stoic.  He was surprised his children came when he was dying of cancer. My sister asked him to sign a life insurance form, -that was disappointing for both of them. I bought him a chemistry set and have inherited two microscopes.  I also inherited a print of a bad little boy sitting in the corner with his dog; it was his favorite picture. He didn’t know what he had done wrong.

When he died I dreamed  I was on a train.  In the caboose, there were angels trying to save my father.  They weren’t sure if they could but they would try.  At his funeral, my stepmother rode in a red van.  My husband pointed and said, “Look there’s the caboose.”

He was a damaged person, but that didn’t stop him from making a difference.  Some people get sane parents, but most people get some form of damaged.  Maybe their parents are criminals or see things that aren’t there or just underestimated the commitment required to raise a child.  Life is precarious and the human brain is malleable.  It helps me to accept people for who they are and appreciate the ideals they wish they could achieve.  I read a lot of books about child care.  I wanted to be the best.

I think my father had psychotic breaks.  They were not premeditated and he hated himself for it.  He had so many reasons to be confused, he was a broken child.  I hope we find ways to heal wounded children.

A theory of perfection

Perfection is an act of persuasion.  I never cared for Van Gough’s work until I saw one of his wheat fields on display.  It was three dimensional, an experience, and I wondered why seeing a painting would totally change what I thought about art.  Suddenly I was acutely aware of how different a painting looked from across the room and when I was standing three feet away.  Is it an obsessive drive for control or a cathartic scream that we view as perfection? What ties the work to the patron?

I suspect it is safe to view the internal workings of an artist – who spend days and months and years on a single expression – without having ever known the person.  Just the image of E=mc2 creates an aura of intelligence; it’s art. Wow!  Einstein’s hair turned white figuring this out, and now it’s in Sherman’s coloring book. The artist, the meaning of the work, and the effort are invisible.  It’s our comfort zone, but it has also changed the artist.

When I first heard the lyric, “they’ll drink up your blood like wine” in Bob Dylans, Memphis Blues, I thought he was talking about how drained he felt.  He wanted to send a message, but everyone had their own interpretation.  He could say anything, it didn’t have to make sense, and people would claim they heard a prophecy because they felt elated by the music. It was cultist.

The Theory of Relativity was a starting point that got people talking.  That is perfection.


Hudson Valley Cities

One reason to take the metro train from New York City to Poughkeepsie is that the 90-mile ride along the Hudson River is so beautiful. You can take a bike on the train if you get a pass from Metro North in New York City (it costs $5).

This picture is from the pedestrian bridge in Poughkeepsie. It may still be the longest pedestrian bridge in the world. There is a children’s museum, skating park, and lots of restaurants.


This picture of Beacon is from Mount Beacon. A cable car once took tourist to the top, but it was destroyed in a fire. The trailhead to the Mount Beacon Fire Tower is four miles from the train station. It’s rocky and pretty steep but, walkable. Beacon is a great town with lots of little shops and places to eat.  You could spend the whole day there.

Poughkeepsie is the last stop on Metro North. From the railroad station, you can take an elevator up ten stories to the platform of the pedestrian bridge. You might see the Clearwater Sloop sailing below.  Or a crew team leaving the Marist boathouse.  There’s always a dog party going on.

The pedestrian bridge connects two paved bicycle trails. Bring lots of water! We bring one quart for each person and two for the dog (the white and tan Pit Bull). Dogs don’t have sweat glands, so, one is to drink and the other is for a sponge bath in case he gets hot.

Poughkeepsie was a Dutch settlement in the 1700’s and once the capital of New York. Most of the housing in the historic district, next to the river, was built after 1850. I avoid residential sections and stay in commercial areas. The trail goes through everyone’s backyard, making it easy to invade someone’s privacy.

The connection to Ulster County was wonderful for Dutchess County bike riders.  It’s easy to bike to Mohawk Mountain or Minnewaska, to see the mountain laurel bloom. We also bike to Kingston and Esopus. We hope the Wallkill Valley Trail will be paved soon because it will make the Rosendale Connector easily accessible.IMG_0153

One of the hidden treasures of Poughkeepsie is Vassar College. The gothic architecture alone is worth the trip. The is also the Loeb Art Gallary and Sculpture Garden. There is a greenhouse that keeps visitor hours, too. Along Raymond Avenue, there are lots of nice places to eat. The community is ethnically diverse, –you can get anything. The North Gate is easily accessible from the OverRocker Trailhead. There are bike trails throughout the college.

When I first moved to Poughkeepsie the pedestrian bridge looked like this. Water Street still had a cobblestone surface. I had a friend who flew his airplane under this bride.  It’s been exciting to see all the changes.

On the Ulster County side, some folks are taking their dogs swimming.  They had a great time!