Monday, October 5, 2015

The Great October Flood 2015

It has been an interesting couple of days here. The city and state have been all over the national news because of the flooding from days of constant heavy rain. If you’ve seen any news report or watched The Weather Channel, you’ve seen our devastation.

We were very fortunate on the island. The road to our house is severely damaged. But our house and property remained un-flooded. Other parts of the area were not so lucky. The damage in some areas is tremendous.
Our major concern was getting to the horses at the barn to make sure that they were okay. I walked ahead of the truck to check for sink holes and gullies. The road has been eroded by sheet flow coming off the farm fields. In some places, the holes were several feet deep. 
After we got to the barn, we found some of the fields were flooded.  I moved horses around to put them in un-flooded pastures. Water in a couple of pastures was up to the horse's knees. 
Once the horses were moved, we went about feeding them their hay. They were glad to get it and a bit frantic because horses are creatures of routine.  I have attached a few photos so you can see their happiness at being fed. 
I feel as if my story is so minimal compared to those people who have been displaced, losing their homes and everything they own, aside from what may have been thrown into a bag or two and what they had on their backs.  I saw people with babies being raced into boats to escape the flood waters that took over their homes yesterday.
So it has been a surreal few days. I hear that the sun is supposed to peak through the steel gray sky tomorrow. I am looking forward to seeing it. 
One of many road wash outs
A small lake in the big ring
Driving along the flooded road
Pond overflowing into the barn
Overflow of pond
Horses waiting on hay

My boy eating his hay

Saturday, September 26, 2015

What I have learned in the last month

The weeks have flown by for me. It is nearly October and still muggy and warm here. We are still harvesting from the garden, but the fall vegetables are in and summer plants are just about done.

I have been involved with the group that is dealing with race relations in the aftermath of the Emanuel 12 atrocity (although 9 people were murdered, there were 3 others who survived but were traumatized).  We have regular discussions at lunch once a week, and I hosted another evening event at a restaurant.  Next week, I invited the City Police officers to join us to discuss how to improve relations between the police and the community.

It has been an interesting and enlightening time.  I have met men from the Nation of Islam and have heard about their views on how all white people are "devils".  It is hard to deny our violent past when it comes to Native and African Americans. However, I am also becoming a student of world history in which I realize that so many atrocities have been and are being committed by asians and africans too. Looking at history, the worst mass killings have been done by Asians. Ghenkis Khan: 40,000,000 people in the 13th century, all over Asia and Europe; Mao Zedong: 40,000,000 as well between 1949 -1976. He had people worship him as a god. They thought he was immortal. What a surprise when he died. World War II was also 40,000,000 -- and Japanese people are a significant part of the reason for that number -- both as instigators and as victims.

Certainly, in Africa, tribal wars have been occurring since we became Homo sapiens. However, because they were relatively small and within a smaller area, these are not well known. We DO know that in modern day, post-colonial African, some of the most savage wars known to man have occurred: The Biafran War (1966-70) -- 1,000,000 dead. The nightmare that was the Rwandan War -- within 4 months, the Tutsis had killed 800,00 of their fellow citizens, the Hutus. The horror in Liberia, where tens of thousands of people now live with only one hand: punishment if they wouldn't join the rebel army. The hellish Boko Haran, currently operating in Nigeria. The terrors of South Sudan, now spilling over into Ethiopia (primarily the Muslims killing the Christians). And let's not forget the Middle Easterners: Saddam Hussein -- 1,000,000; Ghadaffi -- probably nearly the same number. And the amount of TORTURE beyond comprehension by the instigators of most of these mass murderers is, unfortunately, well-documented. There is NO single "good" race. So what I have learned is we ALL have the potential for good... and, unfortunately, for evil...

And then I have been involved in more Al-Anon service work at the area (state) level.  That has been an eye opener. I know that we all have character defects, but let me tell you, getting involved in service work on committees at the state level has brought me to a whole new level of understanding.  I keep telling myself: Principles above personalities.  And I stay out of the fray when the emails go flying back and forth with unkind things being written.  I took on a task and am focusing on that, rather than on getting into a pissing contest.  But I can tell you that I have no further aspirations to do further service work higher up than the District.

And so when I feel my serenity slipping away, I take a short vacation on the boat. I returned a couple of days ago from a relaxing time on her.  I go off the grid, read and reflect.  And when I return, I feel ready to get back into this other life I lead in which I deal with people.

This time when I returned I listened to Pope Francis.  And let me tell you, if I were inclined to be religious, I believe that this man could convert me.  To me, he is a transformative person who is kind, compassionate, and, well--Holy. His humility is to be emulated. What a contrast between Papa and the political candidates we have thrust on us through the news media! I found myself in tears listening to Pope Francis.  He is a genuine person of goodness to me.

In other goings on, I continue to ride and enjoy my horse.  He is going to the dressage regional championships which will be a real treat.  I am going as his groom and support team--LOL.  Perhaps within the next six months, I will be showing him too.  The main thing is that we have a great bond. Even my wife loves him.  She has little experience with horses but her visits to see him, bearing gifts of carrots, are filled with joy.  He licks her and she kisses him. What more can a horse want?

Hope that you are all doing well.  I am way out of date with comments on your blogs. Living the life to the fullest here.  And I will catch up soon with each of you. Until then....

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Every day matters

Thank you for all the thoughts and comments as both C. and I had our ninth year in recovery.  I told my story at two meetings, and each time I have a different slant. In one I start from the beginning and in the next, I am starting at where I am now.

I remember the first time that I shared my story at a meeting. I had written down a few things I wanted to share. I didn't know how to speak from the heart then.  I thought that I needed notes to help me organize my thoughts. I don't do that anymore and haven't for several years.  I simply share from the heart, not feeling anything but gratitude for the progress that I have made in coming to terms with who I am and how I was affected by alcoholism.

The main message that I have is that it is so good to be living life without a huge amount of fear and anxiety.  I don't have active alcoholism in my life. It is a blessing.  And I don't focus much on the past anymore, not the bad parts of it anyway.  There is too much to do in the present right now.  I want to hold onto that as much as I can.

Today, I rode for several miles around the farm and properties near by.  It was a good morning, with a hint of fall in the air.  I see the cloudless sulfur butterflies as they move through on their migration.  Some of the trees are starting to change color as the days get shorter. The garden is still producing, but already we are putting in our fall and winter vegetables.  My favorite time of year is coming.

It seems that every day is one to cherish.  And as a blogger friend used to write, "Every day matters."


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Nine years today

Today is my 9th anniversary in Al-Anon.  I have told you about all of these years right here. You probably know more about my life than anyone, except for my first sponsor and my wife.  I'm grateful that you have been with me on the journey thus far.

And it has been a good journey in recovery.  I can remember how it started out. That first year was confusing.  My wife was new to AA, and I wasn't sure whether our marriage could be healed.  We didn't trust each other.  It was a rough time.

Gradually, as each year passed, we came to realize that if we applied the principles of recovery to our lives, we could prevail.  I learned about compassion and just how much I loved her.  I realized that we were both damaged when we met.  And as I thought of her as a child, fearful of the emotional abuse from an alcoholic father and a mother who was affected by her husband's alcoholism, I came to feel so much love for her.  I realized that I was wounded too by my father's drinking.  And I came to love him more than ever, along with my in-laws, because they did the best they knew how to do.

So C. and I shared a common bond of children affected by alcoholism.  I knew her pain, and she knew mine.  We grew to be respectful and kind to each other, rather than having the old judgmental and contemptuous feelings.  And over these years our love has grown to where we are today.  Neither of us can imagine life without the other.

I am so fortunate to have found out who I am and that I have a lot of good qualities.  I am grateful for having met so many people whose paths I would not have crossed if not for Al-Anon.  I am glad that you have been along for the journey too.  We have written, learned, cried, laughed, and comforted each other in more ways than I thought possible. Thank you all.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Nine years for C.

We are celebrating 9 years of sobriety for C. this week. It's hard to believe time has gone so quickly. And life is better today in so many ways than it was nine years ago. 

am not going to write much but will share the last few days in photos. We are together in this life until the end. That is love. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

A typical Saturday

A typical Saturday here.  Up fairly early to take the dogs for a walk, check on the weather (hot and humid), have a cup of coffee and a protein shake. Run some thoughts past my SO, telling her about some news on line and getting her thoughts. She remains my touchstone on most of what is important in life.

Taking my time this morning to get to the barn.  It has been oppressively hot with both my horse and me soaking wet after our ride yesterday.  I am going to the barn in a few minutes but am getting a late start today.  Still being lazy on a Saturday it seems.

The local regatta is this weekend.  Lots of people on the water, drinking and carrying on.  I have managed to miss this for the last 20 years.  I think I will get by with missing it again this year.

Later this evening I plan to go for a jog down the long dirt road.  Yesterday,  I waited until nearly nightfall to go for my two mile jog.  I count as I move along the dirt lane. It's an old habit and keeps me in step. Meanwhile, I look at the fire flies (still think of them as lightening bugs) who flash luciferase and increase in numbers as the night comes on.  I heard  something large moving in the forest. Probably a deer and not some predatory animal out to get me.  I carry a small flashlight to watch for snakes when I get to the darkest part of the wooded lane.

I am thinking this morning about more polarizing issues that have come to the surface, inviting us to choose a side. The lion *or* the people murdered in Chattanooga. The woman *or* the unborn child.  I believe that these are false choices. Can we not care about animal abuse *and* people murdered in service of our country, about the unborn child *and* the woman who feels backed into a corner by terrifying circumstances? And can we engage in respectful conversation with those who see things differently? These are serious issues that deserve more than a meme or a smug pronouncement.

My last meeting with the unity group exemplified the problem that not only exists between people of color and whites, but the absolute intolerance of those who think differently from us.  A woman came to the group who is a conservative.  A conversation on the Brady bill lead to several others in the group interrupting her and essentially shutting her down by telling her how wrong she was in her ideas about second amendment rights. It was rude to see how she was treated.  I spoke up, asking those who were most vehement to please let her talk.

Maybe our problem is that we have lost the ability to listen to each other because we are so entrenched in our own rightness?  I spoke with her afterwards and she said that she would come back if I were there.  Another woman I know has quit the group because she felt uncomfortable about being asked to let another talk without interruption.  I am reminded again and again that those of us who are working a program of introspection in recovery seem to be aware and accepting. It is still difficult to be out there among those who are not. Whatever...I doubt we will solve any problems but the view and the lunches are good.

And then there are the boys lost at sea off Florida.  What a sad thing.  I knew that they were gone as soon as the boat was found without them.  The ocean is a tough place.  How do you live with such a loss? No closure really. Tragically gone.

Well, I am going to get into my boots and head to the barn.  Nothing like horse smell to make me happy.

Hope that your Saturday is going well.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Heating up

The rain that I have waited for came last evening.  A good soaking rain to refresh the vegetation and wet the earth on the dirt road.  A good southern thunderstorm that turned the horizon dark, followed by wind, thunder, lightening, and finally rain.

We had just finished up trimming box woods and working in the garden.  It felt good to get soaked to the skin.  The heat has been oppressive for the past week.  I have begun riding very early in the morning or after sunset in the evening.  And then I only ride for about 45 minutes because we are both soaked by then.

I find the best part of being with my horse is giving him a bath.  He likes to hold the hose in his mouth while I gently put pressure on the nozzle to give him water. He is quite a character, and we get along well.

C. and I went on a tomato picking excursion and came home with three 10 gal buckets filled.  We proceeded to make marinara sauce with large bubbling pots cooking on the stove. It took us all day to process the tomatoes into sauce. We froze the sauce and will no doubt appreciate it this winter.
So many tomatoes and a lot were already rotting on the ground. 
Our picking within 30 minutes
Love that "pales" were $5
Lots of tomatoes to process
I couldn't help but think as we were picking those tomatoes that the ones rotting on the ground would feed a lot of people.  It is a shame to see them go to waste. I wish that farmers would consider having a sale price for picking or maybe a free day so that produce would be used instead of wasted.

I have gone to two meetings with the unity Courage Campaign group that is trying to get people talking to each other who are from different backgrounds. So far, we have just been talking to those of similar attitudes.  I honestly don't see how we are going to get those who have opposing ideas to get together using the lunch format.  So I am going to organize a pot luck dinner out on the island at the Community Center. Hopefully, we will be able to have more thought provoking discussions by stepping out of our comfort zone.

And about talking --- The KKK and the New Black Panthers had a rumble in the state capitol on Saturday.  Several people were injured.  Lots of screaming and hurling of racial epithets. Some columnists say that we are headed for a race war. I certainly hope not, but there is a great deal of unrest.   I did not go to the rally because  I don't think much good would come from standing out in the heat being caught between two groups of people who intensely dislike each other.  Heat and dislike are bad combinations.

I have been jogging again on our country road.  Each way is a mile so I get 2 miles in each evening.  It isn't a great distance at all, but between riding and working out at the gym, I stay in good physical shape.  I enjoy the physical challenge, although Aleve liquid gels have become a daily friend to me.
The road to home.
 Hope that you all are doing well.  Looks like the entire country is in a heat wave. Stay cool.
Sunflower field near our house. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A courage campaign

I can see how life comes full circle.  Maybe it is something that happens to all of us.  When I was a young man in the midst of the marches on DC,  I felt on fire with the injustice and was filled with righteous indignation.  Now I see social injustice coming to the forefront of my mind again.  I don't feel righteous indignation as much as compassion to help mend the divide that is happening.

So, I have decided that it is time to move from being an arm chair looker at the restless times that are happening in this state, and join a unity movement that hopefully will gain momentum.  It started at the grass roots level here in this city where the Emanuel murders occurred, and has now grown into a state wide idea to get people of diverse backgrounds talking to each other.  Really talking--not just making pleasantries. One of the ways to do this is to eat together and talk about what we think and feel in the three weeks after the nine were murdered.

This is like having an Al-Anon meeting in a way: we meet strangers and a few people we know, share from the heart without fear, and listen to what others have to say while having a meal together.  It's called a Courage Campaign.  I am going to my first lunch get together today.  I don't see this as courage as much as being a part of healing by sharing what is in my heart and on my mind.

The division within this state since the murder of the Emanuel Nine has slowly eroded the good feelings of unity that happened after the shootings.  I listened to the debates at the state house over the removal of the Confederate battle flag.  I read hate filled comments on social media.  And I could see that the lines are firmly entrenched, just as they were on the battlefields some 150 years ago.

My ancestors fought in the Civil War.  Most came home according to written history.  One died of wounds.  My great grandfather was wounded twice at Gettysburg but managed to get back to Virginia.  I don't know what kind of people they were in terms of how they viewed the war or slavery. What I do know is that none of the letters I have from after the war, mention it at all.  It is as if that terrible time did not exist but was replaced with a desperate desire for normalcy of business and family.

What kind of horror my ancestors saw, I can only imagine.  Did they still see the blood from the musket and bayonet in later years?  I don't know.  None of that was passed down in oral or written history.  I have photos of one great grandfather as an old man sitting with a long grey beard.  His eyes are piercing.  I wish I knew his thoughts on whether his fighting was worth the blood and the death of hundreds of thousands.

Maybe the best way to determine that is to look at those family members that I did know.  My mother was an example of a person who was against segregation. I remember being with her when she greeted the first black lady who attended the church.  The higher church officials walked out, but my mother talked to and shook hands with the lady who walked into that church to integrate it.  Some how that seems courageous to me--to be the first to attend an all white church and to be one of few who greeted her.

And my father was a Democrat with a strong dislike of Nixon and Reagan. He once told me that it was important to treat everyone fairly and to not judge a person by color.  I had good teachers in my formative years about treating people well and without prejudice.  I didn't grow up with hatred for someone who was "different" from me.

Nonetheless, I am sure that prejudice was there in some form among my ancestors.  It may not have been overt, but perhaps it was simply a "separation" of space and heart and social mores.  But I want to do something now to provide space and heart and consciousness and unity as best I can.  I can't make up for the past, but this small effort of a Courage Campaign may be a good start.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Changes and hope

I am thinking about the outpouring of love that has occurred since the shooting of nine people at Emanuel AME church during their Bible study last week.  In a show of unity,  over 15,000 people joined hands to span the long bridge that reaches across the Cooper River to Charleston.  I was there, among a throng of people who came together to support each other and show that the actions of a deranged killer would not tear the community apart.

The 7 year old, who drew the picture above, depicts what I felt--light and love. Don't misunderstand though. There are difficult days ahead for this community and this state.  The Confederate flag which has been flown on the State House grounds and on the dome of the state capitol will come down, as it is coming down in the South and no longer being offered by retail giants.  It is time, past time, for the Civil War and all it stood for to be in the past.

Make no mistake that there is much resentment about this, for there are those who cling to it as a symbol of segregation and hate.  And thus, the voices and whispers of racism and bigotry will continue. I didn't grow up with those voices. In fact, I only began to hear them after we moved to South Carolina. And the voices have been prevalent in recent years, more than ever.  I remain hopeful though that other voices will drown out the ones who huddle in grand homes or walk the aisles of state government convinced of their superiority over anyone who is not white.  I harbor this hope that what we have been seeing is a sort of last gasp of the real hate - that this moment we are in represents the violent, cathartic end of the dark forces of division in the deep South. The outpouring of love needs to continue every day to keep those voices from drowning out the good.

These words resonate with me now more than ever:
Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’~Bob Dylan

The times indeed are changing.  And for me change can't come soon enough. I am clinging to a glimmer of hope that the changes happening will be without further bloodshed.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The past repeats

It's said that history repeats itself. So now Charleston has revisited its history with the killing of 9 people in one of the city's most historic churches.  The church, Emanuel AME, was burned after one of the church's founders organized a slave uprising in 1822.  Worship services continued after the church was rebuilt until 1834 when all black churches were outlawed. The congregation continued the tradition of the African church by worshipping underground until 1865 when it was formally reorganized, and the name Emanuel was adopted, meaning "God with us".

I, like so many, don't understand how a person could be among good people for an hour and then shoot them.  I don't understand what is in the mind of someone so filled with hate.  Some have said that the confessed killer should not be called "mentally disturbed".  I see anyone who hates as mentally disturbed. Not as a defense for an action but simply a statement that those who spend so much energy filled with hate are depleted in their humanness. I am tired of the hatred expressed in social media, on TV, and radio shows--the threats and ignorant jokes about the President, gays, liberals, and anyone that doesn't espouse the same ideals.

I was born in the South.  I grew up during the time of early integration.  And I was appalled at the hatred shown towards people of color.  Nothing much has changed.  Racism was still festering and for many years in this country, people were not overt about it.  There was forced politeness.  But in the last decade, especially since President Obama has been in office,  hatred and intolerance of those who believe, look, or act different from someone else has exploded.

I have read so many political comments on social media and in print over the past few years that I have been shocked and appalled at the hatred out there.  I know who they are too. They are people that I went to first grade with, people who live in my community, people who I have known for years.  And yet to them, I am a Libtard, a socialist,  a "nigger" lover.  It hurts my heart.

Very sad that such an appalling tragedy has visited our community. We cannot live in a racially divided country again. No more. Stand up and speak up when you hear or see intolerance.  I refuse to listen to slurs and hateful comments about anyone. I refuse to be passive when faced with overt bigotry and racism.  I want to make my actions clear so that there is no doubt about my boundaries.

I feel numb about what has happened here.  Yet, I am not shocked by the events in this city and state that I now call home.  It was just a matter of time that the picture perfect post card of a city would revisit its violent past.  Charleston is touted as number one in tourism.  It is a beautiful city, and there are good people who live here. But there is another side of this old city that isn't beautiful.  I sadly don't expect much from anyone anymore. All I can do is try to shed a little light and do my best on this journey to show compassion and love.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Intolerant of intolerance

I have read some interesting and troubling stuff this week on news sites.  I made the mistake of watching a few news programs and reading on line.  And it has made me want to retreat once again away others because it seems that there is zero tolerance for those who are different. Sad, isn't it--how little the feelings of others matter. I am appalled at how mean people can be, especially when hiding behind a computer. Sadly, I am getting to the point that I would rather not be around anyone who is intolerant. I guess that makes me intolerant of intolerance! I like to think of it as discernment though.

It seems though that everyone feels "entitled".  People have an opinion and are entitled to express their opinion, even when it is cruel and hurtful.  I  have opinions, but I do my best to have balance in how I express them. I remember that keeping my mouth shut can be a valuable thing to do. Entitlement seems to one of the catch phrases of today-- I am entitled to express an opinion, I am entitled to practice freedom of speech. All true, but sometimes it is best to consider and measure my words so that I don't do damage to others. THINK is a good program acronym--is what I am saying thoughtful, helpful, intelligent, necessary and kind?

I find that social media is all about airing private things in public. No matter what we post, it is open and out there for anyone to see. It can be deeply personal or it can be neutral--yet it is still available to people, many of whom I have not met in person nor do I know that I ever will. I question doing this quite often. But isn't being on social media a little bit like watching a train wreck? We are all voyeurs in some way which is why we are here.  We like to know what is going on with others.  And it seems that sometimes the most comments come when someone is having a hard time.

I am not referencing us bloggers who have been communicating for years, but to those social media outlets like FB and Twitter where people seem to take a delight in hiding behind a computer to cut, bash and argue with others.  My wife shows me comments from "friends" about how gays and lesbians are going to Hell because they are not following the Bible.  And the trans community is most definitely damned because they have changed from God's image. Neither one of us understands this vision of a Higher Power.

I think that unless people are hurt, abused or oppressed, they can live the lives they want.  I am reminded over and over of the mantra in Al-Anon that it is none of my business. I wish that others would learn to mind their own business, live and let live, and view others with compassion.  That seems to be a much better way for me to keep my serenity--in addition to not watching or reading news.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

What makes a lasting relationship

I was catching up on some magazines and ran across this article in the Atlantic Monthly. Basically, the article sums up what makes a happy lasting relationship and what causes contribute to other relationships falling apart.
"Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?"

A study done in the 1980's followed young couples, observing their interactions and their physiology.  The investigators did a follow up six years later to see if the couples were still together.  They found that contempt is the main factor that tears couples apart. Those who criticized or ignored their partner and injected negativity into interactions had failed or unhappy relationships.  The partner who was criticized and ignored felt worthless and invisible as if they were not present or valued at all.

Kindness, on the other hand, was what kept couples together. Kindness made each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated--and loved.

I honestly don't know how we have stayed together all these years given the conflict that I used to feel.  I know that there was kindness and love as well. But I also had a lot of distrust for the alcoholic promises where she would say "I love you" but her actions would be the opposite.  And I would do the same--keeping her at arms length because I didn't trust her promises not to drink.  The words said one thing but the actions were the opposite.  Those were confusing and hurtful times for both of us.

I have shared here and at meetings that living with an alcoholic is lonely.  It is very lonely because the other person is emotionally unavailable. And for those of us who love an alcoholic, we keep trying over and over to make the person available.  And I did that for years until I gave up and was ready to walk away.

Some kind of miraculous epiphany happened since those desperate times. I knew that I didn't want my marriage to end, but I also knew that I had to change.  I had to stop spending all my energy on wanting my wife to change.  So I focused on what I wanted with my life.  I looked beyond my work for peace of mind.  I bought a boat, did gardening, became active in Al-Anon, and gradually took care of myself emotionally.

It took a while for the contempt to go away.  I believe that when I did my fourth, fifth and sixth steps, I began to focus on what I was doing--what my part was in how the marriage was going.  I didn't like who I had become.  So as I became aware,  I was able to see that without kindness and compassion,  I was going to remain unhappy.  I would think of my wife as a little girl who had a difficult childhood being sent off to private schools because her parents were fighting and angry.  She grew up with no buffers from the turmoil, just as I did.  From visualizing her as a little sad girl, I was filled with love and compassion for her.

What we have now is respect for each other.  We appreciate each other. We can be genuine with each other.  We support each other emotionally.  We share responsibilities. We trust each other. And we want to spend time together.

We are still working on playing together, instead of being so task oriented.  Our communication is much better.  And we continue to grow in love.