On a Return

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Greetings fellow bloggers. I’ve missed your presence both here and on your blogs. Isn’t my personal greeter adorable?

Some have noticed that me snooping around with some visits, and (of course) my posted dedicated to #9 honoring the 9th anniversary of my little corner of the world.

The family is making progress with helping an elderly aunt. The task at hand seems monumental, but that’s not unexpected. We know there are several months of work ahead, so we don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel – but that will come. Hopefully the light won’t be another train.

There’s never a good time when it comes to dealing with elderly relatives. Good news is that we see progress on important milestones, plus our aunt is generally receptive to what we suggest. Unfortunately for us, our tasks were put on hold for a bit because of a long-planned vacation during August.

The Vacation

  1. A 5-hour drive to Chicago to eliminate a flight leg (each way) and for considerable financial savings
  2. Flew Chicago to Reykjavik to London Heathrow
  3. Spent 4 days in London (our first trip to the UK)
  4. Bused to Southampton to make the Caribbean Princess our home for 12 days cruising the British Isles (including a stop in France)
  5. Bused from Southampton to Heathrow for our flight to Reykjavik – instead of transferring to another flight, we stayed for 3 days
  6. Flew to Chicago, then made it to Cincinnati a few hours before the eclipse (about 90% coverage)

Our vacation was a good one, and I look forward to sharing various aspects about the trip with you. My apologies to my UK readers because I came to your wonderful region without stopping by to say hello. Our time in the ports are short, and we try to see as much as possible … and we stayed busy in London (which is easy to do).

Even though my plate remains full, I will return to posting on an irregular schedule. After all, I do have posts in the queue ready to go.

Hope all is well with everyone! … and here’s a fitting song for you.

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On a Good Reason

I’ve often stated, “Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging.”

This is one of those times. Besides working around personal plans, we have a high-priority family situation requiring time and effort: helping an elderly aunt with some important facets of her life. The tough part is being separated by 3+ hours of driving. Timing is not good from our end – but hey – one must do what one has to do.

Time away from here should be 4-8 weeks. I want the bloggers here to know about my absence from posting, so this is my way of saying thanks for caring and all is well with us.

To send you into an unexpected break, here’s a new one from The Piano Guys … and its title is fitting for this post. See you upon my return. In the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On a Few Bits Upon Return

Greetings readers!

My wife and I returned a week ago from vacation, so I thought it was time to say hello to fellow bloggers. Below are a few tidbits that are on my mind.

I know … some of you are eager to know where we went, so here’s the scoop. We spent 2 ½ weeks in Tuscany on a trip that combined vacation time for the two of us and time with my family (an aunt and 4 first cousins). More on that trip over time.

Life in the rolling hills of Tuscany with the olives and grapes is a difficult task, but we were willing to accept the challenge.

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On this trip I almost made a connection with Debra, the Australian blogger who vacations in Bagni di Lucca. (One of my favorite places) Maybe next time! … but at least we talked on the phone.

We definitely don’t enjoy journeys involving three flights, but given our destination, we had no choice … Cincinnati to Toronto to Munich to Pisa … .and the reverse on return.

I’m looking forward to returning to my volunteer efforts with English Second Language students (adults). Before leaving I only had one class with them, so I’m anxious to help and get to know more good people from around the world.

I’m still at the golf course, but hours are less (and that’s OK). Because of work, I haven’t been volunteering at ballroom dancing with Down Syndrome adults. Hopefully, that trend won’t continue.

Thanks to DVR, we used last week to get up-to-date with Dancing With the Stars.

The handbell choir played last Sunday. Because my wife and I haven’t practiced in three weeks, we had a chance to listen. Nice piece … hopefully I can find a video in time.

This may have been the case three years ago when I visited, but I didn’t notice – but Italians now have a recycling program. Whew … is it ever different than what we do. At least they are trying something.

Being away from the election madness was more than wonderful. No news – no talking heads – no political gibberish – pure silence. In one location we only had Italian television, so we didn’t watch anything. Two of my cousins had satellite television that offered English stations (and I assuming CNN International) – but we resisted the urge. The day after the debate I looked at the headlines in Politico, but didn’t read any article because the headlines told me everything I wanted to know.

The first Republican debate was many months ago. I didn’t watch any of them … I didn’t watch any of the Democratic debates … and I have continued my pattern during the general election by not viewing any of the 3 to date.

Italians were very interested in our thoughts. I frequently answered this way: Non mi fido di lei, ma lui è un matto pigliacchioI don’t trust her but he is a mad clown. They also seem very confused about how Donald Trump can even have a chance.

Meanwhile, cheers to the Dutch team that came up with this one.

On Spring 2016 Blog Break

PauseBreakKeyWith my wife’s retirement and our wedding anniversary, last week was huge for us. Tuesday afternoon was her retirement party at work, then Tuesday night came my salute to #31. She appreciated the many comments from my blogging community, so here’s her comment late in the string.

Thanks to all of you bloggers for the kind wishes in my new retirement life. If the Frank Angle disappears from the web for a while, it will either because we’re having such a good time that he’s never home, or our constant togetherness resulted in a homicide! I’m hoping for the former.

Here’s a snapshot of our happenings

Thursday

  • Her last work day, so she was home by noon
  • Walking our typical 2-mile loop … but in the afternoon
  • Dinner at Seasons 52 to celebrate her retirement and our upcoming anniversary

Friday

  • Breakfast out (@First Watch) to celebrate her first day off
  • Walked our loop
  • I worked 3-7
  • She went to dinner with neighbors who invited her
  • We met at the dance studio where I planned a surprise retirement celebration

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Saturday
Official 39th anniversary day – but in the evening we attended a birthday gathering for a friend

As I’ve written on these pages many times, Blog breaks are good. I try to take several per year, and I know the time for one is now. For me, the break won’t be one of total avoidance because I want to spend time visiting others. After all, I’ve been very negligent recently – which is one of the signs I use to determine the need for a break.

I’m envisioning two weeks, but time will tell. Because of the positive response for featuring Pink Martini, here’s a live version of Amado Mio to send you into my blog break. Meanwhile, remember these words from a great American storyteller – Garrison Keillor – Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.

On an Inspiring Edit

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When I started volunteering at the English Second Language (ESL) class, I didn’t know what to expect: I didn’t know the teacher or any of the students. I didn’t know how the class worked, and I certainly don’t know the language of an English teacher. On the first day, seeing the international group gathered in one place for the same goal made me smile … after all, the majority of the world is good … but the uncertainty remained – including how the students would react to me.

Like any first impression, I formed mine by watching and listening to the students. The fact that their personalities occupied a wide spectrum shouldn’t surprise anyone. I don’t recall Lisa, (a young au pair from France) attending on my first day, but I recall that my initial impressions of her included impersonal, quiet, cold, guarded, and a touch of arrogance.

I knew better than trying to crack her personal barrier, so I did what I do with every student – focus on the task at hand while being personable, respectful, and welcoming. We conversed several times because I had worked with the young lady she sits beside – another French au pair. Watching Lisa have a good time at the Christmas white-elephant gift party provided a glimpse into her warmer side. Eventually we worked together, and all went well.

The teacher promotes publishing opportunities for the students – and some participate. This particular volunteer day happened to be the submission deadline, so the teacher asked me to meet with Lisa with the objective of editing and fine-tuning Lisa’s poem and story.

We went to a workspace outside the classroom, then started with her 19-line poem – which (unlike the story) I had read. She immediately apologized for its darkness, but I reassured her that my role was to improve her poem by bringing clarity to future readers – therefore not making personal judgments. Her English is good, and she’s been in the US more than a year – so her strong writing didn’t surprise me.

As we discussed her poem, Lisa responded to my questions from her heart – after all, the poem was about her. By elaborating her intent, she made my task easy. Not only did I learn more about her, she told me that she was happy when I was the one working with her because of the different people she encounters in class, I was the one she trusted the most … which surprised me because we hadn’t worked that much together, and I attend only once a week.

Her comment may have shocked me, but I was unquestionably grateful. In general, my steady temperament keeps my outward emotions in check. Whereas I’m not be overly emotionally, the sensitivity button within my core can be activated – and that would bring emotions to the surface … and yes .. Lisa triggered that button.

I told her that her comments were a gift from her to me, which (in turn), surprised and confused her … but she didn’t know about the emotional swell that was going on within me – my emotions of her journey coupled with the her kind words to me.

Being me, I returned to the task of providing comments and suggestions for her poem … then we moved on to the story: a one-page narrative about her France-to-Cincinnati journey … but unknown to the other, each of our emotions were now on heightened alert.

I kept asking questions and providing suggestions while Lisa continued being sincere, open and vulnerable. Although we were on the story, I was fusing the thoughts from the poem, the story, and her explanations. She was reaching deep within herself in these writings, and her explanations were from her inner abyss – something I never intended to do.

I asked, “Are you selfish?” … to which she quickly and emphatically responded, “Yes!” … and even saying it with a smile. We laughed, and our work continued. As we talked, the laughs and calmness eventually changed to tears in her eyes … and in time, my eyes welled.

Not only around the thought of the unexpected gift, but I was also reflecting on various aspects of my life – my trials – my tribulations – my baggage that I placed on my shoulders – and the baggage that others placed upon me. Now, I was the one explaining some of the feelings she caused me to bring out – and yes – I told Lisa about the gift she gave me – and she smiled.

We finished the edit. Being that both of us had our moments of watery eyes, we engaged in some small talk in order to regain our composure. We returned to the classroom to discover the students were gone – class was over. We informed the teacher of our accomplishments, and Lisa promised the teacher she would do her final edits and resubmit the work later in the afternoon.

While walking to my car, I reflected about the unexpected gift and my emotions. This time, without tears, but with a smile, and warmth in my core. I had a special moment with a person that I initially thought was impersonal, quiet, cold, guarded, and arrogant. For whatever reason, she let her guard down to me. We respectfully connected, and she reinforced my notion that the majority of the world is good. That’s a good day by my standards, but on this day, I got quite the unexpected special moment on a special day – my birthday.

Merci beaucoup, Lisa! … and peace and happiness to you in all your days ahead.

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“Eyes Never Fake a Smile” …I left teaching almost 15 years ago, so it’s been awhile since I’ve been surprised in this manner. After class the following week, Lisa gave me this art that she created as a thank you gift, plus a personalized note and a few French cookies. Although the cookies didn’t make it home, this now serves as a reminder of a very good day.

On Easing a Return

Although I’m recovering from various aspects of life, I’m trying to ease myself back into the Land of WordPress. It’s not easy. Besides getting back into the swing of my life as a volunteer, ballroom dancer, blogger, and whatever else life brings my why, I’m suffering from jet lag and a withdraw from a travel med that is a story in itself. After all, this is where I’ve been.

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When cruising, I use the TransDerm patch (Scapalomine) for my motion sickness. It works well, but there is one possible side effect that I’m the lucky recipient … I get motion sickness 36-48 hours after coming off the drug – Woo Hoo! … and it’s very, very bad!!!!

I’ve learned to use over-the-counter meds to step-down the body, but also during this time, I must limit my computer time because the flashing screen quickly aggravates motion sickness … as does watching television, driving a car, and (or course) moving in a circle. In other words, no fun.

But hey – life will be normal soon – which means time to use this button.

Image from 123vectors.com

Image from 123vectors.com

 

On Fall Break 2015

Over the past few weeks, I have struggled with visiting other blogs and my own writing. Experience tells me that’s a sign of needing a blog break. Besides, I normally take one in the September-October time frame. So, the stars are aligning for me to take a blog break, thus I’m hitting the Pause button.

Most of my blog-break time will be Level 1 – Total Abstinence – however, I will creep a bit of Level 2 as I hope to write a little during that time. (For those needing more information about the levels of blogging breaks, click here.) To help separate myself during the break, I’m turning off my notifications. Meanwhile, my comments are On because I will be phasing myself into break oblivion.

Regular series as Monday Morning Entertainment and Satire Bits gave me a chance to share bits from my personal life, which many seemed genuinely interested. Now that those series are no more, so is my personal sharing – so going into the break is a good time for an update.

After my year off, I didn’t return to the handbell choir, but my wife still plays. They recently played this version the Led Zeppelin classic – Stairway to Heaven. (Consider playing it as your background music while reading).

My golf game started the season with a bang, but then I hit a 6-8 week spell of what I described as my worst golf in 30 years. However, I righted the ship.

For those who miss my list of monthly, weekly, and daily celebrations, I promised to provide my main sources – and here are the top 2 – this one and that one.

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Ballroom remains part of our life. You may recall that I doing a tango routine for a showcase event at a private studio. It’s not with my wife, but she approves of my partner. It’s been an interesting experience, but because of the time commitment, I’m not sure if I would do this again. Nonetheless, here’s the song – which is a tad fast, so we slowed it down.

I continue volunteering with ballroom dance for those with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. It’s a very rewarding experience, and I try to attend most of the weekly events. Unfortunately, this year I’m going to miss their competition, the event started my interest. (Remember this post?)

I recently started serving as a volunteer in an English Second Language (ESL) program for adults. It’s off to a good start. Regardless of their individual reasons for being in the US, each of them wants to improve their proficiency in English.

However, our season of ushering at plays is underway. We recently saw The Secret Garden, and young artist (Caitlin Cohn) in the lead role impressed both of us. We are curious to see how far she climbs on the ladder to stardom.

I’m a Christian who believes in Interfaith dialogue and efforts – both within Christianity AND between different religions. The Friday’s Interfaith ceremony at the 9-11 Memorial in NYC was very moving!

My initial plan is to stay away 3-5 weeks, but time will tell. I encourage you to visit bloggers you may not know -the good people listed on my Sidebar and those on the Blogroll page – especially the New Acquaintances section. Regarding all bloggers listed today, I hope to reorganize them in the future.

To lead you into my break, here are several videos for you to enjoy. Take your pick – a singing two-year old, a singing comic, today’s comics doing their version of a classic routine, or a major hit from many years ago that still sounds great today.

Wishing you all the best and in the words of Garrison Keillor, Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.