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January, 2007: 1 2 3 4 9 14 15 22 26 27 28 30

1/1/07-Mon.-New Year's Day, and the beginning of a potentially lengthy program of insight meditation.

Puff stayed in her travel container at Linda's today while Fran, Linda, and I drove to the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, FL. We were there for several hours and took many pictures. The weather was fairly ideal until we were close to returning home, when we had to travel through a number of showers. As Linda drove on the way back, I had a couple meditation sessions.

I called Mom this evening, to greet her as of the new year. We had a good chat.

After supper, I did more meditation, then watched part of an old "David Copperfield" movie.

1/2/07-Tues.-Our last full day of the current vacation. Linda and Fran went to a garden park near Orlando. Puff and I spent the time back at Linda's or on walks together in that neighborhood. Among other pastimes, I did over two hours of meditation. Also put in a stock order.

This evening, I watched "The Last Samurai" while Linda and Fran again completed their photo processing. We all had a final picture taking session as Puff was opening and playing with another Christmas present from Linda, a cute and cuddly hand puppet with a funny voice.

1/3/07-Wed.-Fran and I were both up this morning by 7:15 and underway, homeward bound after final goodbyes to Linda, in less than an hour. By 10:25, we'd gotten bargain breakfasts at a Cracker Barrel restaurant near Lake City, I-10, and I-75 (Exit 427 off I-75), given the car some oil, and all 3 of us taken a "bathroom" break. Puff had even found and taken advantage of natural pool in which she'd been happy to immerse herself. We had about 500-525 miles left to travel today, aiming for a stop this evening at a Motel 6 in LA, a little more than half of the way back to Austin.

In the dream group, the introduction of a new (to the group) character inevitably is an occasion for the dreamer to describe the new dream aspect's qualities in just a few words, since this helps the rest of the group correctly interpret the dream.

This has made me wonder how to most succinctly, yet accurately detail Fran's and my qualities (positive, negative, and/or neutral - some, like "independence" having both favorable and unfavorable connotations, depending...)

Here's what I've come up with, though of course I'm not able to be objective:

  • Brilliant
  • Competent
  • Opinionated
  • Aggressive
  • Makes friends easily
  • Independent
  • Amusing
  • Introverted
  • Creative
  • Organized
  • Efficient
  • Easily amused
  • Curious
  • Confident
  • Impatient
  • A good teacher
  • Inconsistent
  • Artistic
  • Intellectual
  • Adaptable
  • Bright
  • Compulsive
  • Stubborn
  • Thin-skinned
  • Intuitive
  • Kind
  • Intellectual
  • Amusing
  • Cynical
  • Introverted
  • Analytical
  • A survivor
  • Opinionated
  • A planner
  • Insightful
  • Self-effacing
  • Insecure
  • Investigative
  • Feisty
  • Artistic
We left FL about 2:15 (now on Central Time again).

Entered LA (and left MS) a little after 5. Fran took the wrong lane, which resulted in some backtracking, but we only lost 10 minutes or so getting onto the correct highway.

We checked into a Baton Rouge Motel 6 at a little after 6, local time. This turned out to be the worst room we had rented in many years. Yet, all things considered, we felt we had a "good price" at $50 (including everything), most rates in this area much higher now.

After supper in a restaurant next to our motel, that was entirely in keeping with the room's ... er... quality, we avoided the full heartburn experience by watching an excellent "American Masters - Annie Liebowitz" photography special on PBS.

While in my passenger seat rotations today, I did a few meditation sessions.

In AA, it is suggested that, as one commences a 12-step program of recovery from alcoholism, it is best to refrain from any dramatic changes or major added stressors, such as a new, intimate relationship, beginning a fresh career, etc. Such things are best left till later because, on the one hand, a relapse would be so easy and, on the other, one is then particularly vulnerable to all sorts of powerful emotions and impulses, and so too prone to do something that may seem correct at the time but which better judgment and reflection may later show to have been a big mistake.

So too, I think, with both dream work and more intensive meditation (than one has done for awhile).

Apparently powerful revelations, or the emergence into consciousness of strong suppressed or repressed emotions, can all too easily lead to half-cocked "solutions" being accepted, even embraced, which, if acted out, may well lead instead to permanent and great regret.

In addition, things seldom are truly as simple as they seem. Especially if one is analyzing his/her own dreams on life and thinks he/she has come up (on one's own) with an "answer" to a big "problem," chances are that solution is in fact bass ackwards instead, for the ego is almost always so resistant to seeing the situation clearly that, instead of "full speed ahead," the immediate command ought to be "full stop!" whenever tempted to rush into a new venture or approach ("where wise men never would").

1/4/07-Thurs.-If all goes well, our trip is to end today. We left Baton Rouge about 7 AM, the commuter traffic thickened and slowed by rain, but were safely out of the city and on our way to Lafayette in only a few minutes.

We went through a huge swampy area where the water level was higher, with less land visible and more trees flooded, than I've seen in that region in decades. I would suppose that the tide is in and this region has also gotten a lot more precipitation, just since we were last through here, heading east.

We stopped in Lafayette for breakfast a little before 8 AM, then had made it back to TX by 10:10 this morning. But the last 50 miles or so of that leg of the trip involved such rough sections of I-10 and such intense, blinding rainstorms, through which Fran, who was driving at the time, barreled on ahead at such adventurous speeds, often almost heedless of the dangers, apparently just assuming all would turn out well, as if wishing would make it so, that I am surprised we managed without losing at least an axle if not our lives.

As it was, this morning, when we were leaving our restaurant area and trying in the rain to get back on the interstate, we nearly caused or were involved in a bad accident with a much larger vehicle, an incident that, had it occurred as it seemed momentarily it must, would have likely partially fulfilled a recent dream in which relatives had foreseen my new bride and I crushed in our car.

By 1:30, we were well past Houston. The sun had finally, if briefly, reappeared. We began to see hawks at intervals along the highway once more. Earlier, we'd seen a "V" of geese flying over. In amazingly short order, the harrowing ordeal of the morning's miles was nearly forgotten. We could again sustain the illusion that dismemberment and death remain comfortably distant.

We stopped at the post office for our held mail and then were home by 4 PM. All seemed fine there, and we were delighted with all the rain that appears to have soaked the yard while we were absent.

Later. I've done additional meditation, both while on the passenger side during the return trip and afterward, once our car unloading had been completed. Sleep in our own private and spacious bed will be most welcome tonight!

1/9/07-Tues.-A busy day: took two walks and then did some conditioning exercise while watching the evening news shows; got better caught up on e-mails; meditated for a little over two hours; went out to eat at Jason's Deli with Fran; got caught up for at least a short time on our investing records and research; paid our last 2006 estimated tax; played with Puff, competed in a few chess games online; etc.

One thing I did not do, for a change - as we generally take a snooze every afternoon we can, when here in Austin - was have a nap. Since I got so much more done than usual, I wonder if I ought to try this no-snooze-afternoon approach more often. We'll see.

While on the evening walk, Puff and I witnessed one of the STAR Flight rescue helicopters lift off, apparently heading toward a hospital. It was at the scene of a big accident on Davis tonight.

Am gradually getting caught up and back to a regular routine after the FL vacation. Have yet to start any significant selecting or processing of the hundreds of photos I recently took in FL, but that is next on the agenda, besides my groups or volunteer activities.

Frances is busy these days with the Austin Lyric Opera. They are presenting "Waiting for the Barbarians," for which Philip Glass was the composer. Fran really likes the performance. I think I'll go to the matinee on 1/21.

1/14/07-Sun.-Yesterday a thunderstorm traumatized our doggy in the early morning hours, and then she required multiple attempts and much coaxing and reassurance before finally tending to her no. 1 & 2 functions in advance of both Fran and I leaving, I to the library and Frances to an opera rehearsal, while Puff remained at home securely, if not happily, in her closed kennel.

The heaviest rainfall occurred in the AM, but there was light precipitation later as well. Altogether, we must have received 3-4 inches. Including the runoff from higher nearby lawns, the pooled and backed-up water on our yard turned the place once more into a flooded rice paddy type landscape and threatened one section of the house siding. Once I'd assured we would not have damage to the residence, all this extra liquid was most welcome, though it did leave several deltas of leaves and other debris that must be cleaned up and put into our compost bins in the next few days.

Today, the weather is to change again, getting colder, potentially with freezing by this evening. As this prospect is unusual in our area, folks are by the hundreds or thousands descending on the supermarkets to stock up before the onslaught, as though fearing we may be snowed in for weeks. We have several items on our current grocery list. So I joined the rest of the congested masses in collecting emergency staples.

Fran and I this morning discussed next month's proposed trip to see spectacular canyon lands. We have various decisions to make about it and may put the trip off or cancel it if we cannot agree on the fundamentals.

By tonight, we still have no winter weather, but some forecasts indicate the possibility of record icing within the next 24 hours or so, with consequent power outages in parts of the city.

I took the beast on a couple walks today as well as with me on the trip to the supermarket (though she stayed in the car when I was in the store!). This evening, I received a long massage from Frances while our canine played interference as best she could, keeping all three of us well amused.

Have been continuing with meditation sessions. These proceed with their own ups and downs, sometimes easily, sometimes with great difficulty, mostly in between the extremes. I suspect that, as in the dream of big, long blocks between intersections that represent a nexus of possibilities in the present, the meditative quest of greater "being" reveals large internal obstacles remaining to true progress. Must just forge ahead. But if I can find a reasonable, or even a not too unreasonable, method of smashing through the barriers, I am determined to use it!

1/15/07-Mon.-The weather continues to be potentially interesting here, but as yet all we have seen today is a little more rain and a bit of freezing. Our deck is icy and slippery, but otherwise nothing around here is treacherous to walk on. Indeed, I took the dog on a couple two-mile hikes again today with no difficulties other than the wind trying to take my hat off and messing with the umbrella.

Am doing more meditation sessions today. It is no easier nor harder than usual. (I'll let you know if I attain enlightenment! Ha, ha.)

Our big news is a major change in upcoming vacationing. We had expected we would be going next month to New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah to see canyon lands. Instead, after talking it over, we discovered that currently neither of us is really keen for this. We are both intrigued, though, about a Yellowstone trip this spring. Long story short, we cancelled all canyon lands plans and have made reservations for six nights in Yellowstone, from 5/29 through 6/3, and have also decided on our travel dates, beginning 5/26 and ending 6/7. There are a few more things to be worked out, but they should be no trouble. Frances and I are pleased and excited about this upcoming adventure!

1/22/07-Mon.-We appreciated a splendid ice wonderland here early last week. Fran got numerous excellent pictures of the ice on our house and vegetation. Not so positively, we had a little cabin fever before it was over. There was also damage to succulents and some of our trees. And the combination of flooding and ice decimated much of our backyard, that had not already been killed off during the drought. So, we definitely expect to be getting commercial turf and doing some replanting in the next month or two.

During that ice storm period, we were also completing our monthly newsletter, published by late on 1/20.

I tried a week ago to arrange a new get-together with my brother, Ron. He waited till today to respond and did not show any enthusiasm, putting me off and leaving the next social overture once more on my shoulders. I was disappointed but am unwilling to attempt to keep that ball rolling if he is cool to the idea. Thus, I asked him to let me know how and when we might next meet, realizing that, chances are, he won't bother. So be it.

It feels as though the "big blocks" that characterized a recent dream are the operative factor in my dream work, being, and meditative efforts lately. A combination of the physical limitations, day-to-day trivial demands (on time, energy, attention, and emotions), insufficient sleep, plus difficulty giving the being/meditation quest my highest priority, have all "conspired" together, along with the ego's not insignificant resistance, to undermine my resolution to make real progress, particularly beginning this year, on an intuitive, inner landscape journey.

Daily meditation has continued, but without the dedication intended. Must renew such efforts and put them ahead of everything else.

Saturday, I resumed my volunteer work at the library, after having been away Wednesday due to still icy conditions. They were the reason for missing two book group meetings this past week too.

Yesterday, I was in the audience for the US premiere of the Philip Glass opera, "Waiting for the Barbarians." I thought the production powerful, disturbing, and overall quite well done. I can heartily recommend it to any who have yet to see this significant artistic event.

I could not help, during the performance, thinking again and again about the American misadventure in Iraq. Or perhaps I should simply say "in the Middle East," for I'm convinced this idiotic administration seeks a wider war, with Iran (etc.?), before George W. leaves office, and is hoping to push that country enough that it makes some token attack on us, after which the current absurd excuse for US leadership will try to smash the country, or at least its regime, regardless of the hardly favorable long-term consequences. Years from now, while our country is still licking its wounds and trying to figure out where we went wrong, the Middle East will indeed be transformed, but, particularly if Bush proceeds further along the lines he has so far, it will almost certainly look more like a Frankenstein monster than the lovely picture of stable western capitalist democracies this fool, along with Cheney and their other neocon cronies, envisioned when they took our nation hostage to do their worst "for" and to it.

Only a miracle may now save us and the rest of the world from an unprecedented catastrophe. We can hope for nothing adequate from either the Republicans or Democrats. And I am an atheist. I do not believe in miracles.

The tragic irony is that this "perfect storm" has been largely created by a man who believes God speaks to him and tells him what to do. There really ought to be a basic test for prospective presidents, kind of like the "no child left behind" evaluation instruments, only much simpler. And, among other essential questions, if you think that whatever you do is God's will, you would absolutely flunk!

So, here we have Islamic fanatics vs. Christian fanatics. (What does that remind us of, and how well did that go?) It seems things could only get worse if North Korea, China, or Russia is emboldened during our current vulnerability as well and decides now would be a great time to see how much to get away with, in cutting us a bit more down to size.

I wish I could see some tunnel light, but, from here on out, it looks awfully bleak.

Meanwhile, I must get back to an emphasis on the meditation efforts! However small, my chances of success with them are better than any hope I have that US policies or predicaments will soon improve.

Am enjoying reading Six Armies in Normandy, by John Keegan.

Later. Completed over two hours of meditation today. Some satisfactory results. Have decided to begin meditating with a local group or two, the first time for this is 20 years or so. Have not been a regular member of a meditation group since the mid-1970s. Will start attending at least one meditation center in the next several weeks, after I get a couple current projects, like tax record preparations, more up-to-date. There are two groups here that particularly interest me, one that teaches insight meditation, the other a Buddhist association.

Need to get to bed sooner than usual tonight. Early in the morning, we do our (about monthly) laundry chore.

1/26/07-Fri.-Have stopped at Roy T's Old Salado Bakery for breakfast. It has apparently just recently opened. A nice place, but a little overpriced for what's being offered. Still, it's convenient.

I'm on my way to Waco for the weekend. The funeral for Rose, Leila's mom, who died on Wednesday (1/24), is tomorrow. I shall miss her. She was, in my experience, always sweet, smart, witty, dramatic, playful, warm, and devoted to her several grandkids. The end came quickly, from pneumonia and heart failure, after years of severe difficulties from arthritis and other conditions. I shall miss her!

Later. Got to Mom's a little before noon. She had had 2-3 more of her spells, episodes of racing heartbeat and cold or pain in an arm and leg and into her back in a shoulder area. Her doctor had advised a few months ago that she go to the emergency room when she would have one, so they could do proper diagnostic testing to see what is going on. Earlier she had said she would do so. But each time it has happened lately she has still failed to go.

Upon my arrival, she had told me about her new spells. It was clear she is as yet not convinced it is best to follow her doctor's advice. Yet the spell today was bad enough she called in sick, from her work as an aerobics instructor. A substitute was found for one of her classes. The other needed to be cancelled. After some discussion, she told me if it happens again when she can call on a relative or friend to take her to the ER and stay with her, she will, but she's reluctant to either drive herself over or call an ambulance.

Despite today's episode, she was ready for bear this afternoon. She took us to a sandwich shop for lunch and to arrange catering for Leila and Horace's family tomorrow, before Rose's funeral, etc.

Then she said we must go to a carwash place for her van. I have never seen a carwash so crowded. It was as if nobody in Waco works anymore on weekdays, and all feel they must take their big cars, vans, pickups, and SUVs to Genie's Carwash and pay $20-30 bucks or so for it (tips, tax, etc.). We waited for well over an hour before the van was ready.

Next, she went to her worksite after all, to drop off a form they needed to enroll her in the next CPR re-certification process/testing.

She lay down at home then for about an hour and was ready afterward to go grocery shopping. We "ran into" Roger and Keith in the HEB parking lot. (So did Allen and Nina [who had arrived at Mom's while we were away and promptly set off on a shopping trip of their own] a few minutes later.)

After supper, Allen and Nina cleaned up the kitchen as well as their kids, Sharon and Seymour. Meanwhile, Mom and I went over to see my niece, Virginia, in a play at her high school.

There we also saw Keith and Roger again, as well as Horace and Tess.

The others were in bed by the time we got home. Mom and I watched TV awhile before retiring for the night ourselves.

1/27/07-Sat.-For a compulsive personality like mine, today has the feel of chaos. It is not of course, or only at times it is, but there is the sense of it throughout.

I have managed to fit in some meditation both yesterday and today.

Despite things being very much in flux, all worked out fairly well. However, as they were evolving, there was cause for concern. More than once, we would decide on a course of action, then do another. For instance, we decided not to go to the cemetery after Rose's funeral, lest this be too taxing with the children along too. However, the kids fell asleep, and so Nina and Mom decided we'd go to the burial after all. Had I known of that turn of events in advance, I'd have had a sunscreen hat with me or taken some extra moments to go to a restroom before the funeral procession had gotten underway. As it was, I was along for the ride but had no chance to either get my hat or take a whiz for about 2 1/2 hours, first sitting through the funeral itself, then the long wait for the procession to begin, the lengthy procession itself, the graveside service, and finally a long drive over to Horace and Leila's church (another unplanned, spur-of-the-moment destination fiat by Nina and Mom). Once there, we pleasantly socialized and ate food provided by their congregation for the better part of another hour, but by then I was feeling fine about the afternoon's activities.

My simple, nostalgic e-mails of sympathy to Leila, Horace, and their family were widely circulated among Leila's relations, and then, to my surprise, were the first things quoted when the funeral service began, these words of "Horace's brother, Phil" getting priority even over the Bible in an introductory eulogy for Rose given by Leila and Horace's pastor.

Roger and Tess are now not only speaking to me but all smiles and friendliness, this for the first time since their wedding last May, after which they unaccountably had been rude toward both me and Mom for the intervening several months. I do not know why I was on the outs with them for so long, but it is sort of nice to have been at least temporarily redeemed in their eyes and come "in from the cold."

Allen had invited me along with he and Mom, and the rest of his immediate family, on a special spring water quest to San Saba. I at first thought I would go, but then learned it was a pretty long round-trip, and so have declined.

For the most part, both Allen & Nina' kids have been adorable while I've been around them this visit.

The weather has been gorgeous here. And this evening, when I was walking down to and through the lake area park near Mom's place, a cold breeze was blowing strongly enough as the sun was dipping into the western horizon to once again cause white-caps on the water, a circumstance that I found stimulating both physically and aesthetically.

Gossip is one way humans deal with the inevitable differences between the ideal and the real. Family gatherings significantly bring out the tendency, and during our current visit the phenomenon has been much in evidence.

1/28/07-Sun.-I was nauseous last night, but did not vomit. I suppose I must have eaten something infected at the church spread yesterday.

Allen and Nina were late getting underway, along with their kids and Mom, on the possibly quixotic search for perfect spring water, with which Allen hopes to be able to create hydrogen with less energy expenditure than he would then obtain by burning that gas. If he wants pure water, distilled might be better, and it is easier to obtain. But if he needs impurities, each spring may be different. It seems, objectively, unlikely he would find a type water, naturally occurring, that will separate into oxygen and hydrogen with almost no energy use. Nonetheless, he's enthused. This is his second trip in search of miracle spring liquid.

Their children, Sharon and Seymour, were unusually hyper last night for a couple hours, before finally settling down an hour or so after their usual bedtimes. I figure they must have gotten too much sugar or caffeine from the food eaten at the church. But then they slept quite late this morning, so all the others left (on the water search) closer to lunchtime than breakfast. Soon afterward, I started back for Austin.

1/30/07-Tues.-Meditated for over two hours. Walked for about four miles. Got a lot else accomplished today. Frances has been undergoing a period of flu-like illness, apparently contagious, since many others in the opera orchestra have come down with the same thing. With her need to be coughing much of the night to bring up material deep in her bronchial tubes, it has seemed best that we sleep in separate rooms, as she feels she must stifle it if I am nearby, so I volunteered to take the couch and have been out there the last two nights. I'll be there once again tonight as well. Otherwise, we have been doing pretty well. Fran is now over the worst of it.

Monday night was the last of the current opera performances and the final time the opera company will be using Bass Concert Hall. As long as I can remember, Bass has been where most such functions occur. A new era has begun. It will take some adjusting to adapt to the new arrangements.

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