Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Big Snow (for Cape Cod)

The big storm that was forecast for yesterday and today hit right on schedule and for Eastern Massachusetts, it seems like the weather forecasters were right on the money. We got a lot of snow and a lot of wind. That combination makes a blizzard and no one who knew it was coming wanted to be out in it. It snowed all night and the wind blew it around with gusts of up to 58 mph. It was supposed to stop snowing around noon but it didn't. I took these pictures around 10 AM.

It was hard to walk around in our yard. There were a few low places that the wind scoured out but those places didn't go where I wanted to go and there weren't that many of them. My guess is that we got about 18 - 24 inches. It's hard to be sure because there were drifts well over 48 inches high and bare places with barely a few inches. I know people in other parts of the country and Canada would laugh at our inability to deal with this amount of snow but we're just not used to it. Plus, this winter has seen particularly little snow so far. So, this was a shock. In the picture to the left, you can see how little snow is on the cars and how much has drifted up around them. But it's not all drifts because it's about that deep over most of our yard.

This next picture shows the drift in front of (and on top of) my mother-in-law's part of the house. She won't be using her front door. The last picture shows our front porch and how the snow drifted up in front of the porch higher than the porch itself. My son and I started to dig out the driveway and got within a few feet of the road when the wind and cold got to us.

We've come in to warm up a bit but I wonder if we're going to go out again tonight. It's getting dark and the snow is still coming. The wind has died down but there are still gusts once in a while. My office was closed today. It was nice not to have to feel guilty about not going in or rushing to try to get there. But work is on for tomorrow and I may be taking vacation time to do some more shoveling. We'll see.

Just click on the pictures to see them full size.

[Update: The reports on TV news say our town got 24-25 inches of snow]

Monday, January 26, 2015

A little mystery is solved

Often, when I'm talking with people, they will say, "How do you see out of those glasses?" Then, I'll usually clean my glasses and be amazed at how much better I can see. I like clean glasses as much as the next guy but they get dirty so slowly that I don't notice it. Of course, what I should do is just clean my glasses regularly. But I don't do that. I should. I will work on that.

But the way I've been handling it is to be very careful when handling my glasses. I never touch the lenses when I'm putting them on or taking them off. I carefully put them up on a shelf above our bed when I go to sleep at night. So, once I clean them, they shouldn't be getting dirty. I know that if I'm outside in the rain or in a dusty environment, they are going to get dirty and I'll need to clean them (after being informed about it). But why should I have to clean them that often?

Well, this morning I realized what is happening. When I woke up this morning, our cat was crying and he wouldn't stop. I was afraid he'd wake the kids (my wife and I were already roused by the meows) so I wanted to get up quickly and I grabbed for my glasses. It was dark and I couldn't see them so it took a few grabs before I got a handle on them. And then it hit me. The lenses now had my fingerprints all over them! The oil from my fingers was now going to start collecting dust from the air. That's how my glasses get so dirty so fast. It was obvious this morning but now I realized that every morning I search around for my glasses and touch the lenses with my fingers. How could I have been so blind?

So, there it is. I've now decided that I must clean my glasses every morning. Whether I think they need it or not. Because whether I remember it or not, I've touched them with my fingers just about every morning.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A parable come to life

I heard a story on the radio this morning about a non-profit hospital that is being investigated because it is suing some of its poorest patients. This is happening around the country and it involves hundreds of patients but the story concentrated on one family. In this case, the family had a low enough income that they should have been eligible for free medical care under the hospital's own charity guidelines. But instead, the hospital has had the family's pay docked for 10 years and they still owed $25,000.

Senator Grassley of Iowa has been working for years to make hospitals accountable for the tax breaks they receive as non-profits and he also made sure that language in the Affordable Care Act (sometimes called Obamacare) got hospitals to provide more charitable care. By the way, Senator Grassley is a Republican - there is room for both parties to work together for the common good). From the NPR story,
Grassley says the health care law may need to be strengthened in order to force nonprofit hospitals to offer financial assistance to poor patients. "If they don't get the message now, we'll have to work towards getting the ideal language in the legislation," Grassley told NPR and ProPublica.
Non-profit hospitals have been offered a gift of not having to pay federal income tax or local property tax. Yet some of them turn around and refuse to help those who owe them. This reminds me of one of Jesus' parable as told in Matthew 18. It's sometimes referred to as The Parable of the Unforgiving Debtor.
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.

“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.

“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.

“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened. Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’" Matthew 18:23-33 NLT
It's not exactly the same, of course. In the parable, Jesus is explaining how we have been forgiven so much and that we should, in turn, forgive those people in our lives who have done things to us. If we can't forgive them, we are no better than the unforgiving servant in the parable. But the similarity is the blindness of the hospital that is similar to the blindness of the unforgiving servant. We must be careful, though, to not look for revenge but we cannot just let it go, either. We must work to correct injustice and stop the Unforgiving Debtors of the world to continue their selfish behavior. Hats off to Senator Grassley for his attention to this.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Things I think my father told me

I have been telling people the following two quotes for years and I tell everyone that my father told me these things.

Quote number 1:
Watch out for people who notice whether you lock your car or not and make a big deal about it. Especially watch out for the people that make fun of you for locking your car.
Quote number 2:
All Welshmen think they are great singers. With so many people in Wales singing, it makes sense that a larger than average number of Welshmen are good singers.

By the way, my father was born in Wales so his talking like this about Welshmen is from experience. My father was a pretty good singer, too.

I've been reading a book called, You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney. It explains how we often delude ourselves and how we fill in details of our life with false memories. It has me questioning my memories about things like this. Most memories I'm very sure about but these two may not have happened like I think they did. As I read more of this book, I'll write a post about it. Maybe, when I finish the book, I'll be able to figure out if these are real memories or something I just made up and thought my father told me. They're still good quotes, though, and if Dad didn't tell them to me, what does it matter?

Friday, January 16, 2015

First good walk in a long time

I hope, someday, to go back over the last nine months and write down all the challenges my family and I faced over that time. One of the consequences of all that was that I either wasn't in a place I could walk or I didn't have the time to walk. I'd go for short strolls but I didn't have a good long (more than a mile) walk in all that time.

Well, today at lunch I finally went for a nice 30 minute walk and it felt wonderful. It was cold but not too cold. There had been a little snow last night but only a dusting. And, in a way, the slippery conditions from the snow gave me more exercise than normal as I worked to catch my sliding and needed to balance better. The path was just as I remembered it. I stopped using the main path over a year ago because it was overused and getting too muddy and the bare dirt was getting ditches dug into it by running water. So, I found a path that looks like it had been blazed by deer. It pretty much parallels the main path but is about 20 yards into the woods so it is prettier, more isolated and quieter. The dirt bikes never use this path so I don't need to side step when they come roaring by.

When I say it felt wonderful, I have to say it was more tiring than I remembered. I really am out of shape and really need to walk. So, I'm hoping, along with my more frequent entries in this blog, I will be walking more frequently now. During the nine months of not walking, I broke all the rules I specified in "My thoughts on walking" post three years ago. Here is the list of things I thought were important - without the explanations you can find in the original post:
  1. Get out even if it is only for a few minutes
  2. It's better to walk on uneven paths and up and down hills
  3. It's better to walk on a schedule
  4. It's better to walk with a dog (or another person, but a dog is better)
  5. It's a good idea to take a cell phone with you
  6. Take a small notebook and something to write with
  7. Keep track of how long you walk
  8. Take a camera with you
  9. Walking a shorter distance more times is better than walking one longer distance - and then canceling
I still think those are pretty good ideas. Now, if I can just stick to them every day.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Who has seen the wind?

I was reading a review of the movie Something, Anything today at lunch. It sounds like a movie I'd like to see but beyond that, the reviewer included a poem that is used in the movie. He only included the second stanza in his review but here is the whole poem:
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
I love how simple yet profound it is. It speaks to me of faith and acceptance. It speaks of the power of God and the gentleness of Jesus. It was written in the 1800s by Christina Rossetti who lived from 1830 to 1894. I had never heard of her before but now I want to read more of her poetry. This reminds me of one of my favorite verses in the Bible:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 NIV
The movie also sounds wonderful. You should read the review yourself (link to the review) so you can decide but it sounds just like the poem and the Bible verse; simple but profound. It sounds like it has true insight into the life changing experience a person can have when they seek God. I hope it comes to a theater in our area.

And here is something I just learned - Ms Rossetti wrote another poem entitled "In the Bleak Midwinter" which has been used in a number of different settings for hymns. So, there is even more to explore! This is one of the wonderful things I get from writing this blog. Learning about one small thing and researching it for a post leads to many new things I would have never discovered.

Monday, January 05, 2015

First post of 2015

And of course, given my personality, my first post of the year is an apology. After my December 31, 2014 lament about finishing out a bad year of blogging, I said I'd do better this year. What a great way to start!

But is it better to say that I broke my New Year's Resolution and then just give up or is it better to just acknowledge my mistake and then keep on going? I think most people would do that latter. It's not the end of the world that I'm late with this post. Just like it's not the end of the world that I haven't walked yet this year, either. I am going to walk more this year and I am going to blog more this year.

New Year's Resolutions are not like watching a series on TV where each episode builds on the episodes before it. When you miss one or more episodes of the series, you feel lost and will have to wait for reruns to catch up. Or buy the DVDs or watch it on Netflix. And what makes missing a series episode especially tough is that it is hard to watch the newer episodes without ruining the older episodes when you finally get to watch them.

Walking and blogging (and a LOT of other things) are wonderful activities. In fact, when I start walking after a time off, I seem to enjoy walking even more. Blogging is like that, too. I am having a great time right now. And you know what is even better? Playing the piano after a long absence. Not that I purposely stop playing the piano (or blogging or walking) but it's nice to know that starting these activities up again is a reward in itself. When I start these activities after a long time away, I am The Prodigal Son returned. And that just points out the joys of blogging. While I am writing about one subject, I usually think about two or more other subjects for later posts. Last year, I read a terrific book about the Prodigal Son (or the Two Sons as it is sometimes called). I plan on writing about that and how it changed me forever. Stay tuned.