Blizzard Friday

After 2-3 weeks of spring weather, today was a reminder that winter is not quite over yet. Though we had wind-driven rain at the house and a dusting of snow, points northward to Denver and eastward into the plains were having a blizzard this morning. A certain project appointment, however, had to be kept regardless of the weather conditions.

heading into the plains: an icy SH 94 east of Colorado Springs, which closed 15 minutes later

While Deborah and Tara did some homework, Elizabeth made two chocolate pies. She had to make a pressing call, first, to Laurie at work, “where is the baking chocolate?” Of course, Elizabeth had first taste of her chocolate temptation.

Elizabeth’s first word: “tasty”

Not a bad afternoon treat.

“Thank you, princess.”

Ten Days Of Perfection

During the last week of March, the attention of the horse world will be focused on the FEI World Cup in Omaha. It is the pinnacle of equestrian sports.

Instead, my daughters will be focused on their preparations for their 2017 riding season. Who wins, or does not win, in Omaha does not matter. Who rides well, or who didn’t, does not matter. With their season beginning a scant, six weeks later, in mid-May, it is ten days of everyday riding. It is ten days of requiring their best, and more.

Trish and Cameron visiting: “How are you today?”  (RRC, Mar 11 2017)

They prepare like elite professionals. The practice day is very structured, from beginning to end. Attention to detail is an imperative. Critical analysis is essential. While Trish can leave my girls to practice without much supervision, she watches from the sidelines. Like them, Trish, too, has her notepad in which she jots down her observations. After a segment is completed, the four will compare notes. This kind of off-saddle instruction allows them to have additional insight and analysis of their riding technique. The continual learning, including for a rider competing at the highest level, is a must.

warming up: Tara having a hot drink during a break at practice (RRC, Mar 11 2017)

While the practice sessions seem to be intense, they are fairly relaxed. If any mistakes are made, it is better to have them during practice. The repetitive nature of practice is also a good exercise in building patience and composure, and learning more about their equine partners. It is in championship moments when the hard work and staying disciplined make a difference.

If practice is any indicator, my girls are continuing to ride very well. They are riding fast, crisply and with precision, and have said, “better than last season.” They will know how well when they open their season.

Borrowing a line from their favorite rider, Kent Farrington, “Enjoy the process, not just the end result.” And, that is how they ride.

Elizabeth and SAM: kisses before practice (RRC, Mar 11 2017)

Blackhawks

Earlier today, my dad and I ran a couple of errands at Ft. Carson. At the time, two Blackhawks were coming in for a landing on the parade field in front of the headquarters building. It is one of those sights I do not grow tired of seeing – military aviation in motion.

When Laurie worked as a DoD contract MD a few years ago at Ft. Carson, she had an opportunity to make two medevac missions into the training range. On the second mission, she was able to take a photo of two dust-offs coming in to take her and an injured soldier to the hospital on post.

coming in for a landing: a pair of UH-60 Blackhawk dust-offs
photo credit: Laurie Westin

In Vietnam, my dad flew with the surgeon when it was their turn to survey the aid stations, or there were heavy casualties in the field. (The latter rarely happened.) They were always accompanied by a UH-1 Huey or AH-1 Cobra gunship that provided overwatch. This is one tactic that has not changed through the years.

Both Laurie and Andrea rarely make these type of missions, but when they do, the situation must require their presence. The last time they did, two years ago, they talked about the experience for the better part of a week.

One

While much has changed in a year, much has remained the same. The everydayness of life has continued on – working hard, relaxing, a little playing, laughing. She, herself, would admit 2016 was a difficult year. “Yet, you cannot let these instances govern your life,” she would undoubtedly say.

It is exactly one year since my mom passed away. The last few days of her life were long and hard. Simply, you knew her time was very, very short. Only she knew when was when. Both Laurie and Andrea, after long hours at work, would stop by for nearly 30-45 minutes to visit with her and dad.  A little worry had crept into their voices. It was expected since we were talking family.

With her concerns increasing, Laurie consulted with her geriatrics professor from medical school. His advice was sound, “you’re doing well by keeping her comfortable much as possible.” Laurie wished she could do more. When her and Andrea asked if she was okay, mom would always reply, “Yes, I’m okay. I feel fine.” We were pretty sure she was trying to allay our worries and concerns.

In the year since, it has taken some time to adjust. We’ve had our moments when we said, “make a mental note and tell mom later.” Or, the girls saying, “we need to call grandma and tell her what happened.” Then, in a flash, we remember. Moreover, we are glad mom’s passing seems not to have affected dad a great deal. If it has, he’s not telling but we know he misses her much.

While our counting of days phase is largely behind us, mom would be very glad that we have remembered her. Hopefully, she won’t ask if we learned anything from the counting.

Love you, miss you.
xo

Washington: Enduring Wisdom

“[No man has the] right to mislead others, who have less access to history, and less leisure to study it. . . . Thus substituting falsehood and deception for truthful evidence and fair argument.”

 – Abraham Lincoln, “Cooper Union Address,” 1860

Gilbert Stuart “Lansdowne” portrait
image courtesy of Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

In his farewell address to the nation, George Washington warned against faction (better known as partisanship) and sectionalism. Dividing into factions and sections, while natural, would tear at the political fabric of America. A populist would use those divisions to deprive the people of their power and place it in the hands of a few, unjust men. Further, it would undermine the common ground needed in which we can agree on those principles and matters that unite us as a people and a nation.

This mattered to Washington: We are a nation that is more than an idea, more than a dream, but where all things become possible. For this to be realized, her people must stand fast against the internal divisions and foreign meddling that would naturally follow. It would require her people to be aware and engaged. Failing to do so, we fail ourselves and we fail our nation.

A  little more than eighty years later, America was facing her greatest test as the nation divided along the factional and sectional lines. The institution of slavery had become so pernicious, the constitutional process was becoming inconsequential. In his address at Cooper Union, Abraham Lincoln plainly stated [people] will destroy the Government, unless you be allowed to construe and enforce the Constitution as you please, on all points in dispute between you and us. You will rule or ruin in all events.”

Though a devastating civil war ensued, had Lincoln failed to state his case at Cooper Union, America would have become the failed experiment in self-governance. America would fracture along the factional and sectional lines Washington had warned many years before.

In the here and now, many have their own interpretation of America – choosing to believe what they want to believe and dismissing the rest as romanticized nonsense. They choose to believe America was never about an idea, was never about a dream. It is contrary to what every founding father believed what America was and could be, and they believed it regardless of their personal politics. Washington was content to serve one term as president. Democratic-Republican Jefferson and Federalist Madison made a joint appeal to Washington, asking him to serve a second term. They believed if there was no second term, America would die in her infancy.

Shortly after the inauguration a few weeks ago, actor Sam Waterston, penned an opinion editorial in which he rightly notes how lying has become a daily constancy and danger. “The great issue of today is lying — constant lying in public. Lying is the ally of faction … it is the greater danger. Yes, the word is lying — not negotiation, salesmanship, bluster, attention-getting, delusion, deception, braggadocio, exaggeration, bullying, alternative facts, or any other euphemism.”

Waterston warned of the corrosive nature of lying: “… the frequency of his lying, Trump has revealed a truth we have avoided confronting: Like partisanship, regular and habitual lying is an existential threat to us, to our institutions, our memories, our understanding of now and of the future, to the great American democratic experiment, … It blurs the truth, subverts trust, interferes with thought, and destroys clarity. It drives us to distraction.”

Washington’s warning, advice and wisdom in his farewell address remains relevant today as it did in 1797. Lincoln’s Cooper Union address remains relevant today as it did in 1860.

It becomes a matter of our willingness to listen and heed the wisdom.

NOTE:

If you wish to comment, civility matters. No coarse, belittling or insulting language may be used. As administrator, I reserve the right to DELETE any comment that I deem to be disrespectful. If you cannot abide by these terms, please exit this site.

Sunday Morning Coming Down

Before heading home, we stopped at our favorite, small BBQ restaurant for dinner. It wasn’t very crowded. For a change, we got the large picnic table rather than three small tables pulled together. Since it would be Christmas in a few days, more lights were strung in the restaurant. Not exactly Christmas colors, but it made for a more festive setting.

Many of the restaurants, and bar and grills, in Old Colorado City have house bands. Smaller, compared to the larger ones up the street, this restaurant also had its small group of 4-5 musicians. They would perform five or six short sets throughout the night, three times a week. Occasionally, they would also invite smaller bands and artists from around the region to perform. With Christmas coming over the weekend, instead of the weekend performances, the restaurant adjusted their music schedule to Monday and Tuesday evening performances.

When our waitress came around to see how we were doing, Andrea asked where was the music group. The keyboard, two guitars and drum kit were there on the small, corner stage. Sandy, the waitress, said they were out with the flu. “Not the best time to get it with Christmas so close.” Before dessert time, Chris the manager made the rounds checking on her diners. She was pleased to see all of us. Most of the time, it is only myself and the girls on our monthly date night.

late summer combination: BBQ and rock-n-roll on the restaurant patio (Sept 2016)

While Chris knows Elizabeth has won a few singing contests, she doesn’t ask. However, she decided to ask on this night. The worst Elizabeth could have said was “no.” Thinking about it for a few seconds, Elizabeth said she would if mom and dad could play the keyboard and guitar. And, songs of her choosing, no Christmas songs. No Taylor Swift, no Adele. Chris readily agreed.

The Songs

Elizabeth jotted down the titles of the songs she wanted to do. Fortunately, she made it easy for her mom and I – we know these songs quite well. Since winning the karaoke contest last May, in Texas, the Great American Songbook has been playing in her head. On her list, the Burt Bacharach/Hal David songs from the 1960s: I Say A Little Prayer For You, Walk On By, and Any Day Now. The other two songs making her list was another Bacharach/David classic This Guy’s In Love With You, and the quintessential American classic, Shenandoah. The latter two songs meant mom and dad would sing too. Deborah, who plays piano beautifully, was glad she wasn’t drafted for the “von Trapp” effort.

It was very much an unplugged set. The centerpiece was Andrea’s a cappella rendition of Shenandoah, which she last did at JR’s funeral mass in 2010 – just as moving and powerful. The other diners enjoyed the set very much. The encore was Anyone Who Had A Heart, a song Elizabeth sent soaring with her voice. Mom loved it.

Our dinner check, Chris picked it up – no charge.

Notes

Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote more Top Ten Billboard hits in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s than any other person or team. Bacharach noted, “good song is good song” and will transcend time. He toured last year at age 88, and plans to keep doing so.

Burt Bacharach videos –