THREW Mikes EyEz

Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley

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I feel like a movie set director this morning yelling ACTION to the crew and cast. The trouble is I’m the only one up. So I’ll get me, myself, and I in gear and see what the cast can accomplish.

The first order of business is to make sausage gravy and biscuits. Boy was that good. Now I have to do a cleanup. Always the worst part of cooking. A part I used to do when I was young working at restaurants.

I’m taking some biscuits and gravy to my grandson who I’ll see today. Might be too spicy for him. I’m sure his dad will consume it if so.

Listening to the song Lucky Man by ELP this morning. A live version that has me drifting back in time. It also is appropriate because I’m feeling lucky to be here. My better half just shared a photo of a friend’s husband in hospice.

The youngsters are at it again. I thought I heard this one the other night. Photo by Mike Hartley

Mental over physical. Nice concept that I haven’t fully perfected but I’ll keep trying. Pain is a nice adversary. One that only gets stronger as I age. So I have to keep upping my game at the same time both physically and mentally.

It’s never too late to make some positive changes. Long ago a friend suggested morning stretching and I adopted some of that routine. Recently I’ve cut out a lot of sodas and bad snacks which resulted in a nice weight loss.

I’m walking more this year than any in the recent past and using the treadmill when I can’t get out. But more steps are needed and why not get going on them?


Well, I did it again. I passed out and broke my daily streak of posting. I think it was around 120 days this time. I’ve passed 200 before but illness or pain of some sort usually catches up with me at some point and I’ll sit down for a few minutes and I’m out cold. This time I had the 3 previous days where I had only slept maybe 10 hours combined.

My reaction to messing up my daily streak is different this time than in the past. I know I do this daily. I work on my photography daily now. I work on education daily in my crafts. I work on making things for loved ones or friends daily. I look to upgrade my writing daily. (I know it may not appear that way on this one). I’d love to do more woodwork but that might have to wait till next year to be added to the daily list.

So I’m working daily on more and more things important to me all the time. And that is my measure of success. And doing that at the same time while still working full time plus now is difficult at times, it’s still a ton of fun.

So I forgot to hit the publish button before sitting on the couch. No big deal. Another streak begins today.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Holding a grandchild yesterday. Holding another grandchild today. Life is good.
  • I’m a big fan of history. That is why I watch events so closely each day.
  • I finally found an internal voice that balances out the one that says I LOVE FOOD.
  • Anytime I have a few free minutes, it’s happy hour time.

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Two a days

I wonder if they still do two a days, 2 practice sessions a day in sports. The preseason prep for the regular season. Well, I think I’ll give that a go here. The time between now and my retirement is preseason and then the regular season begins next year.

It’s quarterback season. Photo by Mike Hartley

Having the daily routine down I’m hoping to get into the morning and evening blast from mission control and post two a days. Sort of like the old days when your daily newspaper had a morning and evening edition. Now all I need to do is create interesting content and designs.

Time for that last blast of fireworks as July is about to be in the rearview mirror. Photo by Mike Hartley

Old Man Inside/Outside

Time to be outside today with this wonderful weather. If there is an eject button on the couch use it today if you’re in the mid-Atlantic area. I’ve been up and cleaning the grill for later and putting up the umbrella and patio cushions.

Keeping it simple with burgers and hot dogs tonight. As we approach the midday hour remember to moderate a bit, it’s still warm out. As I was quickly reminded after a little time behind the push mower.


Had a wonderful dinner at Pachanga Cocina Mexicana on Rt 40 in Ellicott City last night. My better half had the Burrito Maria Grande and I had the Crab and Shrimp Burrito Grande. Both were excellent with rice and black beans. A Fried Ice Cream for dessert and all was well on a Saturday night. Oh, and the service was great.

We will be returning again soon.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Feels good to have a functional workroom again.
  • Time to schedule some time off in August.
  • Is it wrong to eat your leftover burrito before 8 am the next morning?
  • I wonder what percentage of people cut their own yards? I guess the guys who sell home lawn equipment know because I’m guessing they have seen their numbers dip in this area.

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Because it’s therapy. Because it challenges me. Because it gives me a voice. Because it helps me learn. Because I meet others. Because it raises my spirits. Because it gives me ideas. Because it might provide a laugh or make me laugh. Because it might leave something for people to think about and at the same time makes me think.

That is why I’m blogging today.

On the road again. Photo by Mike Hartley

A busy day and the workweek beginning have left me short on time. A common occurrence.

Solitude. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I hate stubbing my toe.
  • There is a fine line between a mess and organized chaos.
  • The Who = Where every member played the Lead instrument. And the song was just the highway for the race.
  • I’m not a fan of days with more pain than without.

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What I do with my time is the most precious commodity I have. Sometimes I wonder if I’m wasting some rambling on here each day right or should I just concentrate on the photo part? Or should I abandon that and focus on other arts? I don’t feel I waste a lot of time. I might check FB every 2-3 days for a few minutes. I don’t belong to Twitter, Instagram or TikTok, or whatever flavor of the day social media is. I don’t spend my day immersed in email or the smartphone.

I have a photo site with about 7500 images and growing that I’m going to make into something someday. And I have this mishmash of a blog. I guess I continue because it makes me happy. It doesn’t feel like work. Well, most of the time. Sometimes when my head isn’t on straight or depressed, it becomes difficult to write.

But I got to admit that I like it and find blogging somewhat therapeutic.

Don’t you dare roll through that STOP SIGN! Photo by Mike Hartley

“No Excuses” is a good motto to live by. I was thinking about this on the job the other day. I forgot to send something at the end of the shift because another coworker forgot to do something they promised to do earlier in the evening and I had to do that after my shift ended and forgot to get back to that last task of the shift because I was miffed. I thought about talking to my boss to explain myself and I said “No excuses.” Despite having to do something else unplanned I should have still done my role. So I didn’t make an excuse or talk to the boss.

I think I’ll try to go forward and not make any excuses. (let’s see how long that last)

Now, which boat do you want to be in the storm? Photo by Mike Hartley

Family is like the tide. Sometimes in and sometimes out. Being older and seeing my own family go through huge changes through decades and seeing other close families it’s an amazing thing. And sometimes surprises happen that are least expected. And sometimes things that seemed destined sadly become that way.

I’ve had some recent family successes and it feels good. Even for something I thought was over at one time.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Everything changes, but I thought the hope was for the better. Now I’m not so sure.
  • Raising children is difficult enough with both parents’ and grandparents’ involvement and support. Anything less is a miracle.
  • The reason we can’t get past important issues is that we are of two different minds.
  • It’s ok to admit you’re tired. You might find yourself in the majority.

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Not far

The writing prompt for today for Bloganuary was “How far back in your family tree can you go”. Well not really far I guess in comparison with some friends I’ve shared with before.

Reflection of tree in a pond along Triadelphia Mill Road. Photo by Mike Hartley

Wow, ok going backward there is Mom and Dad obviously. Most of what is beyond that is very fuzzy and still being discovered. Mom lived into her 80s but Dad died in his early 40s when I was very young. My father’s dad also died in his early 40s. He was a WW1 Veteran. I found a Purple Heart in his box of medals. I met his mother 2x when I was very young before she was killed in a car accident. He was an only child so that side ends there.

My mom had 2 sisters, one married late in life and never had children. The other had 3 children that I lost touch with long ago. My mom’s mother died shortly after her birth. Her father also passed early.

What I am doing is trying to piece together a family history from what I’ve been left, especially about my Mom and Dad. In the short life of my father, he served in WW2, Korea, went on expeditions to both poles, and was part of Operation Deep Freeze as a Navy HMC. I’m trying to start transferring all the images he shot over time to a catalog for my children. Mom raised two children alone and did many wonderful things in her life also and made an effort to document what history we had which I’ll build upon.

I want something for my kids and their kids to have because I know I’d like to have more from my past. But it was difficult in those days if you didn’t have a lot of resources. Pictures beyond my parents are slim.

My parents are under the shade trees at Arlington National Cemetery. Photo by Mike Hartley.

Well, there is my tree, I guess it’s a lot more than some people have, but at the same time, I wish I knew more. So I’m onward to learn more.

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Last year I participated in Bloganuary but I got so busy at the start of the year that it slipped my mind. So in an effort to catch up with the last few days and get on the daily prompt again. I’ll try to keep the reply to the first week’s questions brief.

Another fitting vanity plate. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’ll start with today and work my way back.

Today’s 1/7 writing prompt – Write a short story or poem about rain.

A great storm came through 
Rain thunder and wind blew
She passed that rainy night
Goodbye Mom you were my light 

Jan 6th writing prompt – Why do I write?

I started what I thought was going to be just a photography blog and discovered the joy of writing about a decade ago. I write for my sanity. I write to share my thoughts and feelings. I write to find some humor. I write to maybe make a difference. I write to cope. I write to feel better. I write to challenge myself. I write to prove I can improve. I write to learn how to write a book.

Jan 5th writing prompt – What brings you joy in life?

My wife, my children, my grandchildren, and my friends. My hobbies and crafts have moved ahead of the joy of the job that pays the bills. My 6-speed Miata with the top down headed to the ocean on a warm summer morning. The list goes on and on but I promised to keep these short.

Jan 4th writing prompt – What is a treasure that has been lost?

A longtime friendship that is gone.

Jan 3rd writing prompt – What is the earliest memory you’ve had?

Being this old you lose a lot of the earliest memories. And those early years were quite difficult so I’m guessing I’ve suppressed a lot. I remember a very early Christmas and marveling at the tree and decorations at maybe 3 or 4 years old.

Jan 2nd writing prompt – How are you brave?

Wow, this is a good one. I don’t think anything I’ve done in life is really brave. Fought off a few cancers and some nasty auto accidents but that is self-preservation. I guess starting a business might be on the fringe. I chased off a guy threatening a woman in a parking lot long ago. I speak up a lot at the job where others won’t.

I’ll go with this one but I didn’t think it was brave when I did it. I worked the night shift for many years and about 20-some years ago I was on my way home one night. I turned the corner to the street that was about a mile from my home and I saw a very big biker kneeling by a bike a bit after 3 am. I only caught a glimpse but being a rider myself, I pulled the car over. As I walked across the road I said you need some help?

As I passed the center line on the road and saw another guy and the reflections of the other bike on the other side of the bike that had been worked on. As they stood up I think the smallest one was about 6′ 3″ and about 280. I’m a spindly 5’10” and maybe 180 at the time. then I see the patches on the jackets laying over their seats. I just quickly said I can put my car lights on or I live down the street and can get some more tools if needed and extended my hand. They just looked at each other and started to laugh and said can you believe this guy stopped to help the likes of us in the middle of the night. They thought it was special because everyone that had passed them the last hour or so had sped past even faster. I said I was a rider for a long time and that is what we do.

This wasn’t brave but I’d like to think I’d act in the right way when I see someone in need if faced with any situation.

Jan 1st writing prompt – What is something you want to achieve this year?

I’d like to become a much better photographer and artist. And even a better father and grandfather.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • If you haven’t found a song that would inspire you to do great things, find one.
  • There is a very simple adage in life that a friend reminded me about. Make it work for you.
  • Operating in obscurity is fun. It’s a lot less criticism.
  • Someone should start a pool on how long McCarthy last as speaker of the house.


An inviting start

The inviting start of this new morning and the new year has me smiling and thinking of the possibilities. And that is the way I’d like to wake up each day. It was easy today after being off for a few days and seeing my family and friends. I’m hoping it kind of sets the table for the year ahead.

I’m going to try to drink more water this year and ease back on the Cokes. Photo by Mike Hartley

Let’s see if I can maintain that motivation and produce some meaningful work. And that means I need to stop doing the same thing I was and expect different results. I just haven’t put my heart into it and now is the time to begin the effort in earnest.

The trick will be keeping all the other balls in life from hitting the ground.

Nikon Photo Contest – Just got the email invite to enter and the thought “why not” hit me. And then I started to go through this year’s work and boy was I disappointed. One is how little use I made of my best tool, my Nikon. Next was how little I shot throughout the year with all 3 cameras and the video camera. But I won’t let that deter me but inspire me to make a drastic change this year. If I can blog every day I can shoot every day.

I also have to clean out some of that crap and also make some prints for the family that I didn’t throughout the year at some events. And lo and behold I hopefully learn from those weak images and failed attempts to improve this year’s offerings.

Perspective and Control – I’m no longer dreading Sunday nights which is the start of my workweek. I’m looking forward to it and being extremely productive regardless of the hours the job takes away from those first 4 days of the week. It’s all how I look and approach it.

I’m no longer dreading winter. It’s just another thing to skip past till I’m in Ocean City or Bethany Beach this summer eating a cherry ice cream soda from Dumsers and catching some rays on the sand.

Don’t worry, this will be the last shot of me this year.

Meds – They say timing is everything. I’m going to try that for one facet of my life starting today. With my screwed-up schedule, I end up taking my meds at all different times of the day during the week. I’m setting a time for that each day from now on and seeing if that helps the body.

Exercise – I hope to slowly build into a fit human being this year. Shouldn’t take a tremendous effort but as my best friend says it’s incorporating it into your daily routine. I’ve got a set of dumbells and a treadmill so that is where I’ll be starting. I haven’t had a daily exercise routine in decades.

Once I got the daily thing down for a few months and the temps start to warm I’ll get outside more and move that walk to a jog. And I’ll have a foot up on my summertime body. Maybe this year people won’t keep rolling me back into the water.

Getting a foot up on the world. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • The Sunday afternoon nap should be written into law.
  • I think it would be fair to say the Big 10 didn’t have a good day at football yesterday.
  • Despite the good cheer and feeling of the holiday season, the world remains a very dangerous place.
  • Live your own dream regardless of all the obstacles.
  • I’m saddened to see the obvious huge sums of money that gambling is exacting from people that can’t afford to lose.

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In the words of Dr. Johnny Fever and the show WKRP in Cincinnati. “Hello, fellow babies.”

The more I read about the art of writing the more inferior I feel by each paragraph I read. But there was one very important tip to start with and that was to Be Fearless. To just let it flow. So I’ll start with that because I’ve got to go reread some of the other pieces and see if I can grasp those concepts.

Fenceposts like life are interlinked. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today was a slice of life in a short ride. A peaceful back road, after a haircut, an errand run for my better half back in the town where I see a young lady and baby, looking at each other so deeply, oblivious to the world. A quick cruise through Main Street in Ellicott City and a slow ride up along Columbia Pike. I look to the left and there is a good size family leaving Slack Funeral Home. Some hand in hand or arm in arm walking slowly, heads bowed towards their cars. I get to Rt 29 and head north towards home and there I see a number of people trying to make it to the funeral home before their time.

I feel like I got a snippet of life in a ride of about 45 minutes today.

A 36-day streak of posts, so says my WP updates so I’ve decided to just keep it going. Having worked in a daily publishing environment for the last 24 years it’s something I hoped to do for myself when I retired but what the hell, I’ll see if I can keep that daily pace here while still employed.

This brings me back to creating good content because neither of us wants to listen to me ramble on. But what is good content and where does it come from. To me, the only way to get that answer is to keep doing it. And I don’t mean hoping to stumble upon it. Working hard to create and refine each day.

And while I do it I have to work out a great number of issues. Where is this blog going? Do I want to do certain things on certain days like Food Fridays, Shutterbug Saturdays, or Monday Mayhem? Or should I try to mix a number of things together each day and just neatly divide them into sections?

Do I keep doing Random Thoughts? Should I start tinkering with poems and run off what few followers I have. Hell, it’s wide open, I can do whatever I want and choose to focus on. I’m sure I’ll know when I’m satisfied with something and I’m guessing that is when I might hear approval for it.

So after 8 years of tinkering and on and off postings, we’re going to gear up and see what is possible if I set this mind free and apply myself.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Cake and ice cream have so many positive aspects. Why dwell on a few negatives.
  • Perfect time to practice some poor weather photography the next few days.
  • I have a real bad problem with Nazi flags and those flying them being out in public in this country and I’m not Jewish. Did this country forget what our parents spent the 1940s doing?
  • This workweek is flying by.


To get me going again

Good morning all, and a Happy New Year.

Time to get paddling. Photo by Mike Hartley

It’s always good to have a commitment to something. I started blogging in 2014 and my goal was to do daily posts. Well, I’ve never accomplished that goal but it’s never too late to start trying again. So I saw this WordPress challenge for blogging every day in the month of January. So here we go.

And today’s writing prompt was:

Wow, this prompt makes you think and try to remember way back. One because my teenage self was about 50 years ago. In some ways, those days are very clear and in other ways, they are a total blur. Those were very difficult but also some fun times.

My father died when I was 9. So I started growing up before the time I was a teen, I think I might have been rebelling against it a bit. At 10 yrs old I biked a fairly large paper route for a couple of years, would dog sit, landscape work, odd construction help. When I turned 14, I helped my Mom buy a car. She let me drive it to a night job working a factory kitchen after school. I didn’t have a license till I was 16. I worked most of my entire teens and just before I was 19 I dropped my first year of college (lack of funds) and started my lifelong career in Newspapers.

I worked hard and played harder as a teen. And so did most of my friends. Many mistakes were made but also lots of great memories.

  • I would say if you’re going to work hard to impress someone make sure it’s the right people with the right things.
  • I wold say put that cigarette down and never pick up another one.
  • I would say you are not invincible.
  • I would say to find another way to deal with pain and insecurity than drinking and drugs.
  • I would say don’t put off or give up on your artistic interest.
  • I would say have a lot more confidence in yourself.
  • I would have said don’t be afraid or think it was uncool to succeed.
  • I would say don’t drink and drive you FOOL. No, I never hurt anyone or myself but I drove far too many times when I shouldn’t have.
  • I would say listen more and talk less.
  • I would probably suggest a helmet and roll cage when drag racing and the high-speed runs we made.
  • I would have told me that learning is fun and get to it.
  • I would say aspire to things you think might not be possible, more in life.
  • Life is fun, enjoy it and take better care of yourself because you will live longer than you and others would think.

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Quality and Quantity

One of the objectives, when I started, was to use the blog to keep me shooting daily. I’ve fallen off that pace but still post because I have some images from past years I’ve been filling in with. And while I like using my images and they sometimes inspire observations, but I’ve got to get more quality into each post.

It’s sometimes funny how blogging mimics publishing which it really is. Traditional publishing when I started had many pieces involved. Writers, editors, proofreaders for the words. Then there were the photographers, photo editors, cartoonists, illustrators, publication designers, page editors, and so on. Do I have all these skills, not a chance? But as a blogger, I might want to think about acquiring them if I want a quality product.

Wall of front pages on 9/11/2001 Photo by Mike Hartley

Of course, the content of those components leads to the quality also. But there is a lot to be said for all those pieces making it professional. I can have the best photos but if my misspellings in the caption are what is funny and remembered instead of the image, I’ve failed. If the photo is beautiful and the words inspiring and the layout is wrong, it doesn’t get the right impact.

There is so much to keep in mind, so many high standards to shoot for. No wonder why people don’t start or try. Hell, I’m still embarrassed regularly on my work because I have seen and know better but because of lack of time, I do the best I can. But the only way I’m going to get better is if I keep doing and trying.

The organization is certainly one of many things this blog lacks so I think I’ll experiment on how I form a post and maybe put it in sections to start with. Because if I have more content and it’s of good quality it’s no good if people can’t easily go to it. I think I’ll learn some about anchors this month and apply them.

So if I keep putting one foot ahead of the other I should be able to make some progress on quantity and quality this year.

How to make this year special. It’s been on my mind. Yes, I’ve allowed it to go there but also keeping that reality that limited success might be had. Hey, any year you make through alive is special. But how to go about making it special again is what I need to get a grip on.

Making personal gifts for special occasions is my thought. Or gifts just for the hell of it. I’ve had the joy of receiving some personal ones and they are special to me. So I hope I can do that for those important to me. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover some hidden skills. I’ve done some before but I’d really like to do a few special ones. And I know my first few pieces might not be stellar, but practice makes perfect. For instance today I learned to trim a little closer to avoid extra sanding time.

I also hope to use some local merchants and artists for gifts. I’ve seen some wonderful work and it’s worth supporting. If this country wants to make a comeback, it’s going to be through small business again because the big boys can’t care or cover all the small and medium-size towns, cities, and countryside of this country. Plus having something made HERE is something we all should get back to.

Not a many houses lit up this year. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Nothing like being up before sunrise and seeing it.
  • The tour busses on the road, aren’t musicians anymore, they are just politicians.
  • The older you get the less you need resolutions.
  • Major accomplishment today. I can see the top of most of my desk and what I can’t is essential. I also added a bookcase and removed a few pieces from the office.

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That blank page

Sometimes when I sit down to start a post the blank page in front of me gives me pause. I guess it’s that self-doubt I carry around that intimidates me for a few seconds. Will I come up with something creative or interesting? What images should I use? Do I spend some precious time on design? Do I even know what I’m talking about and will putting words to paper remove all doubt that I don’t.

And then I put my first few words down and I’m off. And that fear and pause I have is dissipated and fades away and I start to smile as the fingers go off on their own. The mind wanders and I try to catch some thoughts and ideas as it races around the track in my head.

At peace with myself. Photo by Mike Hartley

And then at the end, I start to worry again before I hit the publish button. I know my English skills leave a lot to be desired. I know some of the pictures are amateurish. I might not have the interesting idea or take on it that I thought I had when I started the post and I pause again. Sometimes saving it as a draft, sometimes trashing work, sometimes more edits or photo changes.

I think about the posts I’ve read and how well written and talented you all are. I read some and the education and background provide insights and knowledge to me I previously lacked and wondered if I could ever do something like that for someone else?

I’m not a wealthy man in monetary means so I’m not a big traveler. So are people going to want to see images from small towns and the state of Maryland constantly? My career choice is somewhat interesting but I’m not retired yet so talking about it could be risky. I’ve had some medical challenges but so has most of the world. I’m no master at being the head of the family, an illusion my better half pretends to let me have.

I love to joke and laugh and I think I’m good at keeping friends and family entertained at times. But I’m not a comedian. And I’m kind of intimidated to try it here even though I’d love to try to write comedy. I try sneaking something into my posts from time to time.

Regardless of how well my work is received or not, I have found I love doing it. But now I’m going to venture further and really try to make some significant steps. I’m going to try to be more well-read in topics I choose to wade into. I’m going to challenge my photo skills by first utilizing some time with books. I read a post a few weeks ago that suggested instead of more gear, try some books on the profession. So I’m starting with something called “The Photographers Playbook” and I also have gotten out a very old set of Time/Life books on Photography and hope to read every day from now on. Like I’ve said before, I’d like to get a good jump on my retirement career.

The last few days I’m on a roll and shooting more. Not successfully but by mistakes, you learn what not to do at least. I’m trying to get rid of what I call Old Man Finger. Having shot film for many decades, I still have that conservative finger when hitting the shutter button. And no matter how many times I remind myself to just keep shooting (because it’s digital) when I’m trying to photograph my granddaughter who defines the term “constant motion” I still pause and try to catch that exact moment I want and often am too early or two late instead of just shooting a burst.

So this coming year I hope some efforts to better educate myself yields some better quality work here. I did learn a few things in my long career in Newspapers. And one of them is “Content is KING.” In other words, if you’re putting out good work, they will come. So I’m not going to sit here and put out a bunch of goals for the coming year on the number of posts or amount of followers I’d like to add. I just want to improve and time will tell me if it’s working or not.

So good morning all, have a great day. It’s time to have some French Toast this fine Sunday morning.

So I like a little extra powdered sugar. Hey, I went very easy on the syrup. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I’m thinking more about fostering a cat this coming year.
  • I want each day from now on to count for something special.
  • Coming off a week of vacation to return to work tonight is a rude thought to end the year with. But what the hell, it is one of those years.
  • My sister-in-law returns home today. It was nice having her visit for a few days and it was good for my better half. I do worry we won’t see her as often now though. And that would be a loss because she is a sweet woman.
  • My desk needs cleaning, as it has for a while now. Maybe I can embarrass myself into doing it.