Saturday, August 31, 2013

Morning Visitors in the Yard

Trapped somewhere in between "Oh, they are so cute" and the realization that they were eating hundreds of dollars of foliage was the emotion that I felt this morning as three visitors wandered through my lawn and into my life.

Fundamentally, I like deer. Having a mother and two fawns wander into the yard is a stop, watch, and enjoy moment. The hostas will grow back next year--except I will have to implement a deer mitigation strategy to protect them.

But, my lot is secluded and they have been wandering around the fringes of the yard for years. There was a small herd of about four deer last year--hopefully it will not grow too much this season when they start running together and I can see them once the leaves fall from the trees.

The deer were fun to watch for a few minutes as I struggled to keep Makayla from barking and wanting to go out and play, or chase them from the lawn that she is convinced is hers and hers alone to use and protect.

I have seen quite a few fawns this year, sadly many of them are dead alongside the highways. It is a struggle for them to survive and if we can carve out a way to coexist--then that is a good thing. 

Makayla, unfortunately, is fond of their droppings. Dogs can be such animals at times. 

Well, it was a great way to have a nature encounter from the comfort of my house with a cup of coffee in my hand.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, August 30, 2013

School is Back in Session

Duckett's Lane Elementary School
It has been a slow, staggered start for some of my family, but school in Maryland is back and the kids are in class--more or less.

Jax has been a bit slow starting kindergarten, I like the way they ease the kids into it--he finally had his first day yesterday. I talked to him in the morning before he departed for day one and the excitement was clear in everything he said.  Little does he know, or care, that he is embarking on a 13 year program of education that will be with him from now until he is ready to leave home for college.  I know, that is a really deep and depressing thought for the first day of school--ever.

Ethan has been going all week to third grade. I got to spend Tuesday afternoon with him during a family mini-crisis and he is taking it all in stride. He had a really great summer that I got to enjoy with him and I think he is ready to get on with back-to-school part of the year.

Even Lucas is in school--albeit, preschool. I think the program and the structure will be very good for him and it will make him ready for the transition to the "big house" when the time comes. 

In my own neighborhood the construction is finally over, almost, and the new Duckett's Lane Elementary School has opened in the area where a 10 acre forest previously stood. I wonder if they cut down Winnie the Pooh's 10 acre wood to construct this new school? I miss the forest, it was a lot more interesting to look into as I drove by.

I have been amazed at how insensitive the county has been to the residents in the area in their quest to get the school open on time--and it almost didn't. Part of the school remains "under construction" but most of it is open and read to roll. Now we have a camera controlled school zone, rerouted lanes, and constant vehicles replacing the massive construction equipment that have occupied the space for the past two years. While they relined the roads, they have not made portions of the street no parking to accommodate the new lanes and so it can be a real mess at times. 

I took the picture of the school one evening as Chris and I were walking just before it opened. 

School days are here again. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Sycamore Leaves

They are falling, more and more every day now. The sycamore trees are beginning to turn yellow in preparation for the coming autumn season.

Worse, they are getting into my pool and I have to frequently skim them out. They fall into the pool and, if not remover, eventually sink and stain the pool bottom.

It is sad to think that in just a few short weeks all of the trees will be dropping their leaves after their annual display of color. And then pumpkins will be adorning porches for the Halloween and harvest seasons.

I could get depressed about the upcoming leaves changing because it means that summer is ending and so are many of my outdoor activities. But, this year I am going to try and to embrace the seasonal change. Maybe the weekly allergy shots will help me survive the annual onslaught of leaf mold and dust so that I don't have a perpetual headache or need to heavily drug myself to be able to breathe. That would certainly be a change.

The beginning of  new season is upon us even though the calendar says it is still a month away and the sycamore leaves are the advance soldiers for the coming armies of colorful leaves. 

If only I could keep them out of my pool.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Sights from the Road

Sandy Point State Park on August 25, 2013
Driving home from Ocean City on Sunday early afternoon, I was able to enjoy the sights along the highway because I was not driving. I was sitting in the back seat of a bright orange (Crush) Jeep with no doors and the top down being blasted from every direction by the wind. 

It was an experience. I enjoy convertibles, but the driver is protected form the direct force of the wind by the windshield. Not so in the back seat of a Jeep. 

As we traveled, I enjoyed the scenery, mostly because I usually drive and cannot really enjoy the sights while keeping a watchful eye on the road. This is especially true for crossing the Bay Bridge--which is a white knuckling experience for many people. 
Jer's Jeep after one run through the Obstacle Course

On Sunday, I was able to examine Sandy Point State Park from the relative safety of the back seat. IT was a busy day at the part with what appeared to be hundreds of people enjoying one of the last days of summer (or was it one of the first real days of summer). 

I was able to take in the scene, the people, the bridge, the boats. I even took a quick image on my cell phone camera to remind me of the relative freedom of being blasted by the wind in the back seat. I noted that it was much cooler on the bridge over the water than it had been on the hard surface of the ground. Very cool--almost cold.

The trip changed my perspective, for the better. I longed to be on the beach--but I was also anxious to be home and crossing the bridge meant that home was just a few minutes away at the conclusion of the over two hour trip from Ocean City. 

As the weekend was coming to a close, I knew that I had had fun and experienced something that I long to do again. Next yeah.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Boys, Mud, and Jeeps

I attended my first ever Ocean City Jeep Week and discovered something that I never even imagined, riding off road in a Jeep through obstacles and mud is a lot of fun. Especially getting stuck in the mud and getting pulled out so that trying it again to get it right becomes a personal vendetta. 

I was an observer at most of the activity--as I didn't have a Jeep of my own to attempt to break, but that was OK, maybe next year I will have one of my own to take into the obstacles and trails--just for fun. I did witness one Jeep which sadly punched a hole in its transmission pay and had to be towed off--it was a sobering reminder of what can happen when we play just a bit too hard. But, the overwhelming majority of the Jeeps came off the field with only a smattering of mud to show for their efforts.
Cory, Jeremy, and Patrick with their Jeeps

This Jeep weekend was near and in Ocean City, MD and used venues in Berlin and the Pocomoke Fairgrounds for the events I attended. 

My observation is simply--get a Jeep, be brave and just add mud!  Thin mud is better than thick mud which can cake on the tires and throw off the wheel balancing. 

The Jeep show showcased hundreds of different Jeeps from WW2 Willis decked out survivors to the newest JK's and all of the models with mods in between and was truly a sight to behold on Saturday morning. I just never knew how passionate people could be about Jeeps--and not just guys, but gals and even whole families. 
Best in Class

What really impressed me was the camaraderie among and between the Jeepers--everyone was helpful and thoughtful. People loved talking about their Jeeps and the modifications they did to them. There were very few "out of the showroom" Jeeps on display--most had modifications and some were truly impressive.

From the image of the Best in Class for Military Jeeps, you can almost get a sense of the rows and rows of competitors for different classes at the show in Berlin. It was a huge field full of Jeeps and their owners ready for the day. And, it was over by noon so that those who desired could participate in the obstacle course.

American made fun--Jeep.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Musings -- August 26, 2013

Jeep Washdown after the Obstacle Course
1. The last week of August has started. It seemed to arrive very quickly.

2. Where do Jeeps go after they have been playing on an obstacle course? The showers of course.
Enjoying the Orioles game in Ocean City

3. Where do the guys driving the Jeeps go after they have been playing on the obstacle course? Hooters on the Ocean City Boardwalk of course to watch the Orioles game.

4. For anyone who has ever driven across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, a totally new and somewhat breath taking approach is to ride across in a Jeep with the doors off in the outside land so that you can look straight down at the bay--if you dare!

5. Football season is trying to get underway. Good luck--Baseball is still the King of summer!

6. Looking at the moon the other evening, I was reminded how strong the light from the sun must be to reflect so brightly and allow me to see in the night.

7. Some people say that returning home is the best part of a vacation--I'm beginning to believe that finding a new place to call home may be better.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Moon Over the Atlantic

I stood in the Ocean City sand last evening as the moon was rising over the ocean. It was very dark except for the Moon's light reflecting off the rough surf.

The surf was black and rough as it crashed onto the beach. The scene was stark, no colors but the cold moonlight casting its eery glow across the water.

I have seen paintings like this, but only occasionally do I pause to actually stand and watch the Moon as it shifts higher into the sky over the ocean.

I thought of sailing by the stars and moon light and I was also reminded of camping when the moon's glow was so useful.

Last night I was just able to stand and enjoy the scene as the rising tide began to lap against my feet. The sand was cold, unlike the daytime when the sun makes the sand too hot to enjoy. The are was cool I sensed that the approaching autumn has begun taking possession if the evenings.

It was hard to break away and return to the warmth of the condo, but it was late and I was getting cold. And it as time to leave the darkness and return to the light.

--Bob Doan, writing from Ocean City, MD

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Escape to the Beach

What could be better than a weekend away on the beach in Ocean City surrounded by Jeep owners doing crazy things.

Sun, sand, waves. Did I say sun? Maybe that bright fiery orb in the sky is trying to make up for its recent reticence to shine now that August is almost over.

I'll take it. On the beach just after dawn as the day begins.

I wonder what the day will bring? I guess I just need to fund out and go forth into the sun.

And get warm, finally.

--Bob Doan, writing from Ocean City, MD

Friday, August 23, 2013

Wishing away the Cloudy Days

Clouds over the Atlantic
Having just come through a series of cloudy days, I sometimes wonder what they are good for? Cloudy, gray, gloomy days. They are just there and hang around almost defying me to do something creative.

Yesterday, for instance, the weathermen indicated that the afternoon would be filled with rain and possible thunderstorms. I drove my truck to work coming out in the evening to discover bright clear skies that laughed at me for not driving my convertible. I prepared for gloom but was pleased to be bathed in clear skies. 

Some days, though, I can lay on a beach just looking at the clouds and imagining that I am somewhere else.

Of course listening to the waves crash onto the beach is never a bad thing in my mind, and so watching clouds while on the beach is not a true test of how to spend a gloomy day--but it is one approach.

I often go to the movies on cloudy afternoons. What better way to get out of the gray gloom than going into a dark room with a hundred or some of my new best friends to watch a movie? Planned properly, the gray afternoon melts away into darkness while I am being entertained.

And so does the day, it seems.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Darkness Falls but not my Spirits

I noticed it last evening as Chris, Makayla and I headed out for an evening walk.

I confirmed it this morning as I walked Makayla before heading off to work. 

Darkness is falling earlier and staying later, ugh. I almost need to use the flashlight to clean up after Makayla. 

The darkness is beginning to take its toll on the available sunlight. August has been a bust in terms of weather with rain, cool, and gloom being the usual fare of the day; and now the darkness is gathering in preparation for the final assault upon summer.

Why am I projecting ahead? Because autumn arrives exactly one month from today.  Schools go back into session next week and because vacation is over many people erroneously believe that summer has ended.

It has not.

Summer is still with us. We need to celebrate despite the gathering darkness that causes gloom. Summer is with us for 31 more days.

Labor Day is coming.

September is coming.

I'm thinking about splitting my time between the Northern and the Southern Hemisphere so that I can enjoy perpetual spring and summer!

So despite the darkness, there is still plenty of summer to celebrate.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

On the Water

I love being on the water in a small boat.

There is something exhilarating about being on the waves looking back at the shore and the people and houses on the shore.

It is fun to look at the expensive houses arrayed along the water ways with their pools within steps of the water and significant boat houses to hold their expensive water craft.  I sometimes feel like a voyeur looking into their lives from the water.

But beyond the bounds of the water ways and onto the open ocean--that is the real thrill. Crossing the boundary from coastal water into ocean where the waves are real and the bottom drops out of sight fascinates me still, even though I have dove down and explored wrecks along the bottom, from above there is no trace of the complex bottom and sea life below.

Much has been written and movies have been made about life on the water and heading out onto the sea in small ships or boats and I am sure I cannot add anything significant to the body of work, except to note, I get it.

I love the clean smell of salt air and the coolness of the waves as they break over the bow and splash me. I am not a fan of being bruised by the boat as it slaps my backside repeatedly, but that kind of goes with the experience.

I am reminded of the John Masefield poem titled Sea Fever:

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters -- Review

I am a sucker for some genres of fantasy adventure movies, especially those involving Greek gods. As a result, I had to see the newest installment of the Percy Jackson series.

I took my Mom with me--who is a very critical movie watcher. She liked it, like many non-movie critics, while the seasoned critics do not like this film.

I found the plot to be engaging with the usual twists and turns of relationships between adolescents. The movie does rely heavily upon the storyline from the previous movie for background, however; it is easy for a first timer to get involved in the plot without understanding everything else that has happened in the first movie with respect to Percy Jackson learning that he is the son of Poseidon and all that entails. 

I felt that Logan Lerman did a good job reprising his role as Percy Jackson, but the show stealer was Jake Abel who portrayed a very evil and troubled former friend, Luke. The story revolves around a quest to recover the fleece and its magical healing powers. The quest has its share of monsters and troubles along the way. But it moves along quickly and the action scenes are not so long that I lost interest in the movie. 

Here is the real important aspect of the film though. When it ended, I was left wanting more! I did not want the adventure or the action to end. That is the sign of a good movie. In terms of the watch checking quotient--I did not check my watch at all during the movie and so it received a perfect score of zero.

RECOMMENDATION: See this movie. This film is suitable for the under 13 crowd. No bad language, no sex, it does have mild violence and scary monsters.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 19, 2013

Monday Musings - August 19, 2013

1. The best part about being in a hospital is leaving.

2. Movies are a great way to spend a sleepy Saturday afternoon.

3. There is far more entertainment at wineries than just the wine.

4. Why has our news media become so sensationally oriented and one sided--are we losing our perspective as a society?

5. Movie critics just don't get it--they see too many movies.

6. There are 39 games left in the baseball season and it is time for the Orioles to make a move.

7. Opening Day seems like such a long time ago.

8. On this date during 1871 Orville Wright was born. Where would air travel be without him?

9. I like the Orioles Bird--he makes me smile whenever I see him.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Context, the key to Explaining Problems

Have you ever tried to understand someone who is explaining a problem for which you have not context?  It can be at the same time comical and tragic. 

One person knows exactly what they are explaining, while the other person isn't even in the same time zone in terms of understanding the problem.

Context! That is what is needed.

Too often we begin speaking without setting the scene and that is why sometimes the person who is being spoken to looks at us like two-headed monsters.

I heard a conversation in the hospital the other day between two people--one person was emphatically trying to get assistance for a problem and the healthcare professional was way behind in trying to render aid because there was no context.

Had it not been a medical issue, the scene would have been comical.

It is something I need to remember when I launch into a question or a discussion--maybe the person that I'm talking to doesn't understand because I didn't do a good enough job of setting the scene and giving them context. 

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Women at Play

What happens when women get away for a weekend together for "bonding?"

Well, I have some secret photos to show how some of the women in my life decided to spend a weekend away.

Sunset at Ocean City, MD
Now, I am planning on attending Jeep Weekend next weekend and I can assure you that the guys and I will not be imitating the antics of these women. Guys just don't dress up and take pictures of themselves in similar garb. Actually, guys usually don't want any photographic evidence of what they have been doing.  Too many beer cans in the picture as you might suspect.

First though, a scene setter. They are in Ocean City, on the beach enjoying the waning days of summer as August fizzles into September. What a great plan!

That just makes everything better, being on or near the beach. And it also means that this picture isn't a weird as it might seem, without context.

Go girls, go! I love each of you--and the missing one, too!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, August 16, 2013

Friday Again

Add caption
I am amazed at how quickly Friday has arrived to laugh at me and promise something new and different for the weekend behind it.

I am glad that I don't have a lot of plans for this weekend because they are all changing. Change is not a bad thing--it is just change. It gives me a chance to refocus and decide what is really important.

It is going to be a great weekend focused upon things that really matter rather than peripheral activities.

I was reminded of this butterfly that I imaged during a walk at a marine wildlife center during my vacation. I was being assaulted by millions of ravenous mosquitoes--even the bug spray seemed to attract them; yet, this butterfly was placid and unaffected. 

Take away? Despite the fact that my life may be in turmoil, there are peaceful places which can be found. I just need to find them.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August, Die She Must

Starfish in the Inter coastal
It is August 15th and the temperature this morning is a warm 57 degrees. The summer that wouldn't start has decided to depart early and we are already in early Autumn--which doesn't officially begin for over another month.

The pool is beginning to cool and my interest is waning in outdoor activities because of the coolness.

It is frustrating--the season that I most enjoy is fizzling around me and there is nothing I can do except sit on the deck in the evening with a glass of wine in my hand and enjoy the crisp autumn weather. 

I am beginning to feel like the starfish I imaged this summer, during July, who had crawled out of the receding tide and was hunting like a fish out of water, so to speak. Summer has been the same way. I've been looking for summer in all of the wrong places. 

At least I have been enjoying what summer there has been. I just wish there were more of it and that I could still feel the heat. I am reminded of the Paul Simon song April Come She Will, in which the final stanza is about the demise of summer:

August, die she must, 
The autumn winds blow chilly and cold; 
September I´ll remember. 
A love once new has now grown old.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Chillin' at the End of the Day

Me, Makayla, Riordin
The chaos in the room was everywhere as children played and adults interacted. After a long day, I needed a break and in the middle of it all I took a time out. It seems as though Makayla and Riordin also needed a time out and found it in my lap or sitting very near to me. 

It is not often that Makayla actually sits with me and then to have Riordin crawl up next to us was an added benefit. 

Funny, I didn't even have a glass of wine in my possession at this point in the afternoon, but with three grandsons were playing loudly not six feet away from the apparent serenity of this scene is deceiving.

I guess that amid the noise and chaos I had carved out a small island of tranquility. Anyway, Nicole thought it worthy of an image and so here it is. 

Me and my best buds. Funny, there wasn't even a baseball game on TV yet.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Vint Hill Winery - A Review

Vint Hill Tasting Room
I ran across a new and exciting winery on Sunday while passing through Northern Virginia with Mom and Dad. The winery is Vint Hill and the site that it is on has a WW2 history that appeals to me.

And, they make some really rockin' wines.  Although it appears that they have a web site, the URL was not working for me when I went back.

The winery specializes in craft style, small vintage wines. It is located in an old farm which was used as a signals relay station during WW2. I was amazed by the history of the site and I was also pleased by the variety of wines and their complexity.

Vint Hill makes a wide variety of wines using grapes from throughout Virginia, Washington State and California. The key is that they buy grapes from many sources and make some very tasty wines.

Vint Hill is located in Northern Virginia just over an hours drive from Baltimore. The tasting room is located in the upstairs loft of a barn--we did not see an elevator and so this winery is not suitable for disabled vinophiles. They have a nice variety of wines from whites to reds and including a few dessert wines. Many of the labels hearken back to the site's WW2 history and provide a setting for history and a bit of learning while enjoying wines.

The winery offers two levels of tastings--$10 and $15. I recommend a couple take one of each and swap the wines while tasting.

RECOMMENDATION: Visit this winery and enjoy not only the wines, but a piece of American history. CAUTION: The tasting room is on the second floor and not easily accessible by the handicapped. I did not find an elevator.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Musings - August 12, 2013

1. It is amazing how quickly and entire day can change just based on one significant event.

2. Wine tasting in Northern Virginia on a beautiful afternoon, meeting many similarly disposed people. What could be better, especially when discovering previously unvisited wineries?

3. Orioles? August? Pennant push? It is happening!

4. I was sad to see NFL football on TV this weekend, it means that summer is drawing to a close and the dark days are plotting their return.

5. I read that more than 100,000 people signed up for the opportunity to take a one way trip to Mars. 

6. It is tough to write a blog when the dog needs to go out. Ugh!

7. I've been playing with using a larger font for my blogs and have received no comments. Like or not like?

8. MY cat Riordin, the cat that came back, is crazy fro a golf ball in a cat toy. I guess he doesn't get that it just travels in a circle.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spectacular Ending to the Day

Driving home from a community concert last evening, I was treated to a day ending, sunset performance in the clouds that I haven't enjoyed in quite a while.

The sky was bright and colorful as the sun slipped out of view beyond the horizon. It was the exclamation point ending to a day that had begun gloomy and overcast, but finished on a high note with typically hot August temperatures and clear skies.

I even made it into the pool for a while during the afternoon to take a quick nap on a floatie and enjoy the warm sun. It was idyllic.

In the sky, the ending to the day was magnificent. The sliver of the moon was visible--although I couldn't get a very good image of it from the moving car. Thankfully, I wasn't driving.

I know that power lines do not make for a very pleasant image, but the color and texture of the clouds was captured as I remember it.

Maybe August isn't going to be a total washout.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Bees and Time Magazine

I subscribe to Time magazine. Yes, I know that in the world of electronic media that seems a bit archaic and legacy, but I enjoy opening the postbox every Friday and seeing the magazine laying there to enlighten me about some topic that I hadn't though about lately, or at all. 

Imagine my surprise this week when one of my not too distant cousins, Jim Doan, was featured in an article about the plight of bees and the dire consequences for the world. My Dad let me know that I had met Jim at a family reunion some years ago and he had recently toured the bee keeping and honey producing operation in Upstate NY.

I have been reading for sometime about the decline of the honeybee and the consequences if the losses are not mitigated. 

It seems that the time has arrived for action. 

There are a lot of articles on line about the importance of honey bees and the problems caused by new pesticides--which are decimating the honeybee populations. I recommend this one about the plight of the honeybees

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, August 9, 2013

Rain, Cool and Pool

Chris and I in the Magic Kingdom
This August seems more like September, I am longing for some heat and humidity.

That written, the mosquitoes do not seem to mind the cool, damp season we are having. They feast on me every time I head outside to try to enjoy the times when rain is not falling from the sky.

Fortunately, I enjoy playing a sport which is an indoor sport and so I can at least enjoy racquetball--even if the month off I took during July is making it hard to regain my questionable form.  I still enjoy crawling onto the court at 5:30 AM and working out the kinks in preparation for the day.

Every day is a new adventure it seems.

I wish it were warmer so that I could enjoy my pool a bit more. I spend a lot of time and money every season on the pool and it is a shame not to be able to use it to its fullest. It is hard to get excited about the pool when the skies are gray and the water cool. I suppose I just need to take the plunge and get onto a floatie.

Despite the prevalent gloom of overcast skies, I still find ways to appreciate each day. There are great things that happen--and of course there can be some sadness too.

Today is a special day. Chris and I celebrate our anniversary--more years than I care to count or ever would have believed when it started so long ago as two kids looked into each other's eyes and said, "I do" to each other.

It was a hot August day back then. Times were tough, I was in college and we really didn't have a clue about what was ahead. But, taking each day as it came and making the best of every situation has helped us through.

Some day I hope we will get it right.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Gathering the Family to Celebrate and to Mourn

I love seeing and spending time with my extended family. I don't enjoy, though, the reasons that sometimes I get to see my family--like yesterday.

Growing up together, which of us ever thought we would have to gather like we did yesterday to mourn the passing of a spouse who was a father, a grandfather, a great man. A man whose life was cut short before his time. It was hard.

And then when someone remarked that he was "in a better place," I was reminded of a song I know--which so deeply expresses the conflict of being left behind as we are,while holding onto the memories of someone who has crossed over as we all look forward to doing. Even though I know about being in a better place, I don't find those words especially comforting, because I'm here and they're not. It is just too ephemeral to be real when we are standing in middle of shock and grief. This song, I  have found, helps me understand my emotions about losing loved ones.

The song was performed by Mercyme, and is called Homesick.

The words of the song go as follow:

You're in a better place, I've heard a thousand times
And at least a thousand times I've rejoiced for you
But the reason why I'm broken, the reason why I cry
Is how long must I wait to be with you

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

Help me Lord cause I don't understand your ways
The reason why I wonder if I'll ever know
But, even if you showed me, the hurt would be the same
Cause I'm still here so far away from home

I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
I've never been more homesick than now

In Christ, there are no goodbye
And in Christ, there is no end
So I'll hold onto Jesus with all that I have
To see you again
To see you again

And I close my eyes and I see your face
If home's where my heart is then I'm out of place
Lord, won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow
Won't you give me strength to make it through somehow

I've never been more homesick than now

It is hard to be the one left behind even though we know and are convinced of the promise because it doesn't take away the pain of being apart.

Sometimes life just doesn't make any sense.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Under the Stars

Last evening I took the opportunity to lay on the damp, dew covered cool ground for a while and reacquaint myself with the stars and the constellations. Heading out shortly after dark was a treat because I spied about ten satellites, saw five meteors, and just looked into space at the Milky Way and the constellations that I have always considered to be my nightime friends.

I don't get to do that so much at home in Elkridge because of the ground light from the urban area in which I live and the trees which surround the small piece of earth that I came mine. I enjoy returning to the area where I grew up and being reassured that all of the stars are still there.

I remember growing up becoming familiar with the stars and dreaming of being an astronaut. While that never happened, my love of space has never waned. I have grown to comprehend more about orbits and satellites and things in space, but as I gain more knowledge my awe and wonder at how it all works has remained. It is so much more an physics and science, it is a wonderfully constructed canvas upon which creation is painted.

Staring into space is looking back into history. The light from the stars that I saw last evening began the journey to my eye long ago in the past. Even the light from our sun takes 8 or more minutes to get to Earth.

And so, for a for a few minutes I was transported back into my childhood looking at the stars while standing on the shore of Cayuga Lake at Boy Scout camp being taught the constellations, many of which I still remember.

It was peaceful, lying in the cool damp grass hearing the peepers and frogs while being transported into my memories.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Ithaca, NY

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

From the Evening Air into the Dawning Day

Last evening, as the sun set over the house and I had completed installing a replacement sink in the basement, I was pleased to see a record number of bats flying over the yard scarfing up those pesky mosquitoes. I was sitting there thinking and relaxing after an extra long day--who knew that sinks could get holes in them and my mind wandered to the scene form the baseball game last week with the setting sun reflecting off the clouds in the golden hues of the evening.

I am still amazed that the temperatures seem so autumn like--and despite being a summer person I do enjoy the cool evenings and low humidity. Yet, this is a hard time. as the realization that summer may be ending too soon is setting in. Being the crazy that I am, I long for the dog days of summer and wish it were hot so that we would be counting the days until relief arrived. It is here.

Today is dawning anew, with the hope and promise of the morning, yet, I am off on a very hard trip today to upstate NY today. The cool temperatures will not moderate the grief and pain that that my family is experiencing. There are no good answers, only hope and faith in God's plan. And so we are gathering--to mourn and to remember.

The drive today will provide some time for reflection. It has been crazy busy since I returned from Florida. I have to pay for my transgressions of being away. Tomorrow will be harder.

And then it is back to be immersed in the joys, and pains, and activities that make up my life and remind me of how blessed I am.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Musings - August 5, 2013

1. What is the real magic of Disney? Every kid knows that it is Daddy's (or granddad's) American Express!

2. I have  been enjoying the nice, cool summer evenings. Oh, wait, it is still early August--it is supposed to be hot and sultry!

3. I made it into my pool yesterday for the first time since returning from Florida. It was good to be in the water again even if it was only my pool.

4. It is amazing what a creature of habit I am--I had a small issue with my tractor yesterday when my right foot thought it was on the brake instead of the gas. Fortunately, nothing was severely damaged.

5. The Orioles have been losing more than they have been winning lately--I hope they break out of the funk soon!

6. We spelt with the windows open for the first time in a long time last night--the heavy vegetation growth successfully deadened the noise from I-95 and me allergy medicine allowed me to breathe. It was nice.

7. Sometimes tragic things happen which cause me to reassess how fortunate and blessed that I am.

8. Sitting outside last evening, enjoying the end of a busy day with Chris was the best way to end a day. It it almost as god as a late happy hour on the beach--at least the company is the same.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Clouds Over Baltimore

Baltimore, August 1, 2013
The other evening, as I was enjoying attending an Orioles game, I happened to notice the clouds over Baltimore being illuminated by the setting sun.

The sun reflecting off the colds made me pause to consider them for a moment during the game.

I noticed the silver lining as well as the reflection off the building.

And this was not a passing situation. The cloud and the sun remained in their stunning configuration for many minutes. I just had to snap an image. And I'm glad that I did.

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Out the Hotel Window - Charlottesville, VA, during August

Charlottesville, VA Hotel Window
I was in Charlottesville, VA, the other night. I stayed in a different hotel than my normal Charlottesville stomping grounds.

It was a rainy afternoon ending to the day and the month of July as I looked out on the uninspiring scene out my hotel window.

I had driven much of the way in my convertible with the top down--but then I saw a ferocious rainstorm ahead. Fortunately, I stopped before the rain met me and raised the top.

I enjoyed the drive to Charlottesville as I discovered two previously unvisited wineries and many others that I need to stop and experience. There always seems to be something to see and do along the side of US 29 on the way to Charlottesville. ALthough the driving time is about two and a half hours--the drive always takes me longer.  And that is a good thing!

-- Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Friday, August 2, 2013

August? Already?

Fireworks over the Castle in the Magic Kingdom during July
Even though it is now the 2nd of August, I am still reeling with the realization that July is over.

When I went to bed the other night it was July, but when I woke up is was August!

I think I missed something somewhere--what happened to July?  Could it be so quickly over? I was really enjoying July. Hot temperatures, Florida beaches--what's not to like?

It seems like just yesterday we were enjoying the 4th of July with barbecue and fireworks. It is almost like being a kid at an amusement park who is so fully engaged in the rides and the fun that it is a total shock when things begin to close down at the end of the day. Oh, yeah, I did that at the Magic Kingdom, too--during July.

I actually enjoyed two spectacular fireworks displays during the month!

Despite the month passing with nothing more than a whimper, I'd really like a July do over!

I wonder what August has in store? 

I am already complaining about the cool overnight temperatures--more like late-August than the beginning. And there is September--lurking on the horizon!

--  Bob Doan, Elkridge, MD

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Virginia Wine Trail - Pearmund Cellars

Pearmund Cellars
Traveling through Northern Virginia yesterday on my way to Charlottesville, I had the opportunity to visit two wineries and vineyards that I had driven by but not stopped at during my previous travels through the area.

The first was Pearmund Cellars in Broad Run, Virginia. They say of themselves: "Pearmund Cellars is located in the beautiful foothills of eastern Fauquier County, VA, conveniently close to Northern Virginia and Washington, DC. Our 7500-square-foot geothermal winery and 25-acre vineyard produces Chardonnay, Viognier, Riesling, Late Harvest Vidal, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Ameritage, and other award-winning Virginia wines."

I did note that they were recently recognized by Virginia Wine Lover magazine as the best winery in Virginia for 2013 as reported on their web site.

The tasting room is located a short drive off Highway 29 and is well marked. Follow the signs! There are a couple turns where without the excellent signage it would be easy to end up in the driveway of a private residence. The tasting room is large and offers good access to the pouring bar for larger groups. They also offer an assortment of light sandwich fare and cheese plates for those who just want to buy a glass or a bottle and stop to enjoy themselves for a while.

I found the wines to be very representative of Virginia wines. Most of the juice for their wines is sourced from vineyards throughout the central Virginia region, with only the Chardonnay being estate grown. They have an arrangement with a growers in Washington State to produce some wines sourced from there. Of special note, I enjoyed the 2012 Petit Manseng and the 2010 Merlot. The merlot is very light, as compared to most merlots, but has some very nice characteristics. The Collaboration, a wine made entirely using juice form Washington State is also very drinkable and I enjoyed it. The selection of wines offered should find something to appeal to nearly every wine drinker.

RECOMMENDATION: The tasting fee is $10, but it is well worth the time and money to experience the very nice quality wines offered at Pearmund Cellars.

-- Bob Doan, writing from Charlottesville, VA

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