Thursday, July 30, 2015

Love My Reading Glasses

Right now I am sitting here wearing my old “regular” glasses (my favorites) with bifocal lenses. There is a tiny astigmatism correction in the right eye, but without glasses I am still 20/20+ for distance now. As I mentioned previously, my eye doctor checked me over last week and is completely happy with everything about my cataract surgeries. I am grateful, oh so very grateful.

I had a standard outpatient procedure this past Tuesday and was given the all clear on that this morning. And I have been dealing with an ongoing issue that is nothing to worry about (seriously, it’s not anything serious) just a part of getting a bit older I reckon. But in general I am truly just fine. I really am, and I am grateful. These are gratitudes that I should not take lightly.

Yes, we know I am a worrier; I am prone to anxiety. I have had a rather anxious several weeks as these various things have gone on. Now that I am mostly on the other side of these worries, and all is well, I need to embrace that gratitude and to let it fill me as much as I can. I would like to be filled with at least as much gratitude as I was with anxiety, but that is rarely the case. However I am, and will continue to be, working on getting better at that. I am grateful.

Speaking of gratitude and seeing… Sometime early in 1998 Lynn and I were in Orlando having dinner with Ian Gillan and Roger Glover at Roger’s place. Ian had just gotten some reading glasses. I really liked them and I complimented him on them. He insisted on giving them to me. I have used them as my bedside reading glasses to this day (I have had the correct lenses put in them as my eyes changed over the years). I still love them and they remind me of my buddy. I am so grateful.

Rockstar readers 
Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Gratitude Retrospective: Ian Gillan, Part One

I first met Ian Gillan, as well as the rest of Deep Purple in 1997. My old friend Steve Jarrell had given Ian my first album years before and Ian had loved my songs. I was ridiculously honored to hear this. He wanted to meet me and of course, I wanted to meet him and finally we met. We loved each other. It was one of those wonderful instant bonding connections that happens sometimes. We have been friends ever since. I am grateful.
The night Ian and I met... Myrtle Beach, 1997
One of my favorite Ian and Bruce stories is from when Lynn and I were staying with him while DP were working on an album in Orlando. I was playing ukulele a lot back then and jokingly, I started playing “Smoke on the Water” and Ian started singing it with me. Now that was a surreal moment. We were just being silly, but it was “the” voice that goes with (and wrote) those words and me playing ukulele. I’ll never forget it. I am grateful. 

Lynn and Ian and brie and grapes on bread... I am not sure why i.g. is making that face. He likes brie and grapes on bread.
There are lots of stories, but we’ll fast-forward to 2004. Ian and I are discussing that he had never seen me perform live. DP was touring in the US and we looked for places where they were performing and I could possibly perform close by. We settled on Buffalo, NY in August. I set up a one-man show for the Comic’s CafĂ©, about a 200 seat club in Tonawanda, a suburb of Buffalo. The night before Deep Purple was to perform an outdoor concert, Ian and the band and most of the road crew came to see me. I did radio and television promo that morning and Ian called in (it was a blast- all facilitated by Michael Lee Jackson, wonderful friend and Ian's personal manager I believe) and we had a full house that night.

I did about an hour and a half and it was as good as I have ever performed. I was doing a lot of shows back then and I was at the top of my game. I will never forget it. I can think back right now to that night… to how I felt just before I went on stage… to seeing the table with the band up close to the front… watching Steve Morse (a guitar God) watching me playing guitar (that was unnerving). Then at the end came the massive standing ovation and encore. It was as good as it could be. It was validation that I will take to the grave. I performed for people whose talents I am in awe of, and I did good. I will always be grateful for that night.

After the gig, Michael Lee Jackson had arranged a pub that would stay open and we could all hang out for a while. It was a blast. It was there that the plan for me to do some shows in The UK was hatched. I heard, “They’d love you in England, mate!” over, and over that night. So we decided to do something about that… and we did. 

Laughing and hugging after the show.
Ian and me, still laughin'
Here are a few shots from the incredible (as always) show that Purple did the next night in Buffalo. It was also the first time I ever heard Ian sing my lyrics on stage. He had been putting the chorus of “I Love My Wife” into DP’s “Speed King” on this tour and singing my words all over the world. I was honored. I was thrilled. I am grateful.

Steve, Ian and Roger
Steve, Roger and Ian. Damn they're good!
Stay tuned for Part Two and my England tour.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Simple Special Evening

As most of you know, we live between the Sandbar and the Swamp. The “sandbar” part is the resort area of the Outer Banks of NC. There are people who live elsewhere all year and look forward to having just a week or two in the place that we call home. Sure, they drive poorly, fill the restaurants and block up the aisles at the grocery, but they’re on vacation and we get to just “be here.” I am grateful (and I try and remember to be patient and grateful).

Being silly at the bar.
Yesterday afternoon we decided we would have supper out. We have not been going out like we used to, a combination of changing our eating habits and watching our finances. We had just gone out last Wednesday celebrating my most excellent eye exam that day, but we still decided we’d head out on a Saturday evening in the midst of tourist season to a very popular restaurant. Oh, why not?

Early is better, so we arrived just past five. It was already slammed of course, but only minutes after we got there, two nice seats opened at the bar and we were sorted. I had one of my favorites, a mahi-mahi BLT and Lynn had the empanadas and I had my Becks non-alcoholic beer. Sweet! I am grateful. 

Fresh Mahi-mahi BLT and chips
After supper we had a leisurely drive down to the Bodie Island lighthouse and then headed over to Manteo. We sat on a bench enjoying an ice cream overlooking that lovely harbor. We were right next to the very spot where we were married twenty-five years ago this November. I recommend Big Buck’s handmade ice cream and I highly recommend the coffee-caramel-cookie. After our treat, we walked along the boardwalk holding hands. It was a simple, yet special Saturday evening, and I am very grateful for it.

Bodie Island Lighthouse is just "around the corner." I try not to take where we live for granted. Lynn said last night as we drove down the beach road, "This feels like summer." We really do need to get out into it more!
Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Both Eyes Done

Yesterday we went to my eye doctor for my check after the second surgery and all is very well! She was completely happy with my exam and how I am healing (or have healed). I have NO restrictions on my activities and I am at about 20/20+ with my new lenses. That means that my left eye is a 20 and the right is almost as good, hence the + after it. It is better than 25, but not quite a 20. Regardless, I am SO grateful. I do need reading glasses for seeing close and I have ordered bifocal sunglasses. For the first time in over 20 years I will again be wearing RayBan Aviators! Yay! I do love those sunglasses.

That's me in my early 30's... I'm going to have RayBan Aviators just like those again!
Oh yes, I am incredibly grateful for the modern day miracle of cataract surgery and the new lenses! I was just looking at a pair of Common Grackles and reveling in their iridescence and colors! They looked as if they should be called, Blue-shouldered Grackles. I don’t remember seeing that much blue on the shoulder area. I know I could not have seen it before the surgery. My colors had grown too dim, but now they are vibrant! I am deeply grateful!

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

My First and Last Crushes

As a twelve year old adolescent, like most of other boys my age, I was a hormonal powder keg. I was enamored with the mysterious, dazzling, unattainable, opposite sex. No offense to Marilyn Monroe, Sophia Loren and other classic sex symbols of the era, but I found my first real crush in the National Geographic. My young boy-brain exploded over the blonde hair, khaki shorts and beautiful face of a lady working with chimpanzees. Yes, Dr. Jane Goodall pretty much set the bar for what I considered beautiful for many years to come. My first crush was a good one! I am grateful.

My first crush at work.
And she worked in nature, in the magical, mystical jungle! The hell with Tarzan or Jungle Jim, I liked Jane and she was real! Possibly part of my fascination, love and obsession with the natural world came from Dr. Goodall’s workplace. And I did, and do take her work seriously. She was a hero as well as an object of my affection, brilliant and beautiful. And as most of you are aware, she is amazing to this day. There are very few people of whom I am in awe, and she is way up near the top of that short list. Yes, I am very grateful for Dr. Jane Goodall. the Jane Goodall Institute

And... she had binoculars! Could this have been a sign?
And then many years later, I found my last crush. She was another beautiful blonde, but no, she was not in the National Geographic, I met her in real life and I am, and continue to be very grateful. 
One of my favorite photos of my wife... no makeup, no posing, I just snapped her photo as she was eating a piece of bread. 
Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

My Shell Collection

The absolute happiest, most joyful memories of my youth were the two weeks every year in June in Florida with my uncle and my Nana. My uncle, who we all called Unk, was a father figure to me. He is the one who introduced me to nature. Our trips were based around fishing, but we looked about, and explored much of the tropical, natural wonders of that state. He was not a “birder,” but he had a keen interest in birds and some knowledge of them. And the centerpiece of the vacation was a week on Sanibel Island. I am so grateful for these wonderful memories. I cherish them to this day.

Sanibel Island is a phenomenal place for shelling. It is probably most famous for its seashells and I collected a few every year. Lynn and I have also gone to Sanibel (and Captiva) Island a few times. We had a fabulous ten days there in September ’13 at our friend’s wondrous place, Jensen's Twin Palm Resort and Marina. Their cottages are much like the old Florida style that I stayed in with Unk and Nana. I lined the shells I picked up on the edge of the porch railing exactly as we did when I was a kid. I am grateful for the Jensen brothers and their wonderful haven that seems to exist out of time.

In the early 1970’s Unk (who worked in wood) made me a glass-top table for my shell collection. It has been most everywhere I have lived, displaying my collection of shells. It went to Australia five years ago, but ended up stored away. This morning as I checked facebook, I saw that I was tagged in a post and there was my shell collection all set up in its table!! (Thank you Norma, Josh and whoever else helped in making this happen!) Tears rolled down my face as memories washed over me like the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. I could “hear” the sound of waves rolling into the shells (If you have ever been to Sanibel-Captiva, you know that sound well). I could feel the fine sand on my bare feet… 

There they are!
I am going to shut-up now and just enjoy the memories. I am deeply grateful. There is so much of me in that table in those shells. There is a wonderful feeling of family and time in my heart right now.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Angry Birds and New Vision

Here’s a little gratitude. I am grateful for Angry Birds. Yes, the silly game app that people used to play when they first got their iPhones. I still play it. I have sling-shotted probably millions of birds at pigs over the last years and I reckon I have gotten pretty good at it. I enjoy it and I am grateful.

Tropical Paradise was one of my favorites (of course).

I have mentioned several times recently that I quit smoking about five and a half years ago. Angry Birds has helped with that. It gives me something to do with my hands that is basically mindless while I am waiting, or nervous, or whatever. I will sit and shoot birds at pigs. It works for me and I am grateful for it (but I don’t like the boomerang birds). And the fact that I am a passionate birder and the game is Angry "Birds" is not lost on me.

Of course I am most grateful at present for my new, improved vision and color perception. It really is a modern day miracle. I am still getting used to wearing these readers. After almost 50 years of wearing glasses, it is an adjustment (a good one) to not wearing them. I do keep making the mistake of looking through my readers as if they were regular glasses. I am probably going to get some bifocals with plain glass in the top and I am definitely getting some bifocal sunglasses. I am so very grateful that I live in an age when this kind of corrective surgery is possible.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Non-Alcoholic Beer

There are those who think of non-alcoholic beer as silly. Even I have referred to is as, “All of the taste, none of the euphoria.” But a good NA beer is tasty, enjoyable and a drug free experience. Those of us who are recovering alcoholics can safely have a nice, social drink. I do not recommend NA beer to the newly sober. I did not drink it until I had been sober for quite some time. For many years now, I have not associated that taste with that “buzz,” and for that I am very grateful.

By the way, O’Doul’s should not exist. It is grossly tasteless and since it is made by Anheuser Busch, it is available almost everywhere. To me, it demonstrates that a restaurant really doesn’t care. They just carry what is cheap and easy. And yet, there are so many good ones that are available. I prefer Beck's, but also very good are: Clausthaler, St. Pauli Girl, Buckler (which is available a lot in Louisiana) and Kaliber to name a few. I can get Beck's NA right here at our local grocery in Manteo, and I am very grateful that it is so easily available.

It really does taste good.
The best non-alcoholic beer I have ever had was in 2011 in the little medieval village of Sepulveda in Spain. I was amazed. The Spanish take their beer very seriously and they have no tolerance for drinking and driving. So they have some of the best NA beers going. I wish this brand was available in the U.S.

Where I had the best NA beer I have ever had (and an excellent dinner!).
I wish this was available in the U.S.
So, maybe once or twice a week, I will have an NA beer or two before dinner. One of our favorite restaurants on the beach carries Beck's. I reckon that is one of the reasons that it’s one of my favorite restaurants. I am grateful.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

PS, If you would like to see the bird photos from my trip to Spain in May 2011 they are here: Catalonia and Spain May 2011

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Birds and Grandchildren

Once again a Green Heron (the ABA Bird of the Year) began my morning in a tree outside my window. He perched there and allowed me to appreciate him for a moment or two before “waving goodbye” with his yellow feet trailing behind as he flew. What a wonderful bird to start my day. I wish I had not been looking through the window and the screen, but even so it was an amazingly clear, bare-eyed view and I am grateful.

As I mentioned the other day, my second cataract surgery was Monday afternoon and all went very well and I am truly very grateful! I am adjusting to my new vision and I can now wear readers to see up close. They are working well and hopefully I can do a bit more at the computer.
Me in my new readers (they look somewhat like my old glasses).
My distance vision and color perception continues to amaze me. I stood yesterday in the doorway looking at the birds around the feeder and was astonished by the beauty of the details. I had never so fully appreciated female House Finches. I stood there and just marveled at them for several minutes. I am grateful.

Whoa! As I write this, there are a pair of Prothonotary Warblers in the yard. The first I have seen here this year! I do love me some “Golden Swamp Warblers.” They are so beautiful and I am grateful.

While I am being grateful for beauty, I will share some granddaddy joy. Delilah, who some of you know as Angel Face, Facetimed me early yesterday morning and again yesterday evening. She has her own Sim card in her phone now so she can Facetime us whenever she wants. Yay!!
A screen cap of Delilah on the facetime. I am grateful!
Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Just Simple Things

These posts began almost a year ago with a challenge to write three things a day for which I was grateful. As the writing evolved and eventually became this blog, I began to look for the deeper thoughts and realizations, reaching for profundity. I will still do that, but it is also good to take a look at the little things, the seemingly insignificant gratitudes that help me to have a greater sense of gratitude in my life. Here are three that I have noticed lately.

Clean, fresh sheets… I absolutely love slipping into a bed with fresh, clean sheets (with a decent thread count). There is a wonderful feeling of comfort and peace in good cotton softness. I slept last night on just such sheets. I am grateful.

My grill cover… I do love the grill itself. It’s an excellent grill and it works great, but I also love the cover. When we bought the Weber grill, it did not come with a cover. I normally would have found a less expensive one that fit the grill, but we went with the official Weber cover that is made for it. Every time that I put that cover over the grill, I am grateful. It fits perfectly and is so easy to put on. Often, you do get what you pay for. I am grateful.

It really is a most excellent cover (and a great grill).

A good shower… After my first eye surgery, I had to wear a cover over my eye and be very careful when showering. So there was about a week where I really could not enjoy showering (or get my hair really clean). In our ensuite, we have a wonderful shower. It has an overhead rain-head as well as a hand-held. We had it built in the style of a good Australian (European) shower. It has a glass panel instead of a door or curtain. It is a pure pleasure to shower in and I am very grateful.

I will miss you when we are traveling...

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gratitude, Friends and Love

These blogs begin in the writing and sometimes change as I write. I started writing yesterday about smoking, or more specifically that as an ex-smoker I have noticed so many teenagers in this area smoke. I quit over five years ago and I am very grateful. The blog that I wrote turned into a semi-rant about rightwing nut-jobs (mostly the young smokers are of the political persuasion and I pondered if they thought lung cancer was a liberal conspiracy) but that is not what these posts are about. I am grateful that I was able to quit smoking. That was the only point that I really needed to make.

As I sit here and open myself to gratitude, I am flooded with gratitude for my dear, supportive friends and for my patient and loving wife. I am in this process of cataract surgery and it requires several kinds of eye drops four times a day. This is not the kind of thing at which I am very good. I “could” probably get it done, but it is the kind of thing that my ADHD brain tends to struggle with. Lynn knows this and has been an angel about doing the drops for me and keeping track of it. I am so very, very grateful.
It makes my brain hurt just to look at it all.

I also want to mention my doctor (primary care physician) Dan, who also happens to be a very dear friend. He puts up with my questions and worries in a way that is above and beyond a physician’s obligations. I am incredibly grateful for his continued friendship and his care.

Indeed, when it comes to friends and loved ones I am truly blessed, and I am very grateful. Some of you I have known for years, and some of you I have known for a far shorter time, but it feels like you have always been there in my heart. And no matter what hemisphere or continent my body is in, you will always be there in my heart. I am so grateful for y’all.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Always Birding

We had appointments up in Virginia on Monday and Tuesday. We drove up the "back way," for the most part avoiding the Interstates. Although long drives, they were fairly low stress, but indeed tiring. All went well with our appointments and I am very grateful.

While dealing with life, birding still goes on. For me, it is a part of living. You’re alive, the birds are alive and out there, and you notice them. I may have other things on my mind, and birding may not be a priority, but they are still there and I notice. So as we drove up the driveway of our friend’s house Monday evening, I saw what I thought were a couple of Northern Rough-winged Swallows on the wires. We did not stop and look then (we were bringing supper) but as I said, I noticed.

As it turned out, NRWS would be a lifer for Lynn, so the next morning as we headed to our appointment, we stopped and had a look at several Northern Rough-winged Swallows on the wires by the driveway. Even with my huge post-surgery sunglasses on, I managed to get a mediocre recording shot of her lifer look at this bird. I am very grateful.
Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Yes, birders are always birding on some level. Once you have turned it on, it does not have an “off” switch. Certainly we can dial it down, we are not always on high alert, but we still notice the birds. And that noticing can take us out of ourselves for a moment and connect us to the wonderful, natural world. And for that, I am profoundly grateful.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

First Eye Done

I am sitting here where I normally sit when I write in the US, at my drawing table overlooking Croatan Sound. When I cover my left eye, I marvel at the intensity of the colors and the clarity that I can see in this view that I know so well. When I cover my right eye, I see the muted, slightly greenish cast to the colors caused by the cataract that is still in that eye. Oh, I am grateful.
My morning view. I can't see this photo very well right now, but the view itself is wonderful!
I had my first cataract surgery on 2 July. The surgeon and my eye doc said that everything went very well and I am very grateful. They did my right eye first and will do my left eye on 13 July. My distance vision and my ability to see color with that eye are both amazingly improved. It's been less than 48 hours and it takes days or weeks to be completely recovered, but as I said it is a phenomenal improvement. Once I have both eyes done, I will need to wear reading glasses and my close vision will be sorted.

This is only the second morning since the surgery. Until I am able to use reading glasses after the next surgery, working at the computer is straining. I still do it, but it is a strain and I won’t be doing it as much (it is particularly bothersome looking at this bright screen as I write). So there might be a bit less blogging in the coming days. Or not, we will see. Regardless, I am very grateful.

Birds. Peace. Love. Earth. Laughter. Music.