THREW Mikes EyEz

Original Writings, Images, Video and Artworks of Mike Hartley



Today’s Bloganuary prompt asks “Where is the best place to watch a sunset near you?” My favorite place to watch the sunset is from the deck or dock at Fagers Island in Ocean City looking out over the Isle of Wight Bay. They play the 1812 Overture and time it so exactly as the sun sets it comes to the climax of the song. A very close second is my best friend’s porch looking out over the Chesapeake Bay across to Annapolis Maryland.

Sunset on the bay in Ocean City. Photo by Mike Hartley

Usually, I’m doing the first one with my family and the second one with the boys on a long weekend. The sunset from my front porch is also nice but doesn’t have that water that I enjoy so.

But regardless of where I’m at and what day it is I always appreciate a sunset. I really don’t like grey and cloudy days where normal beauty is obscured.

I’m sure I look at sunsets and sunrises a bit differently than some of you. Sometimes the sunset is the beginning of my work day. Actually, most days are like that. I long for the day that I can look at the sunrise as the beginning and the sunset as the end.

Not my cup of tea – that’s right it’s getting cold again. After a cold December, we were treated to a grey but very mild January. It appears we are about to flip back to the cold to begin February.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • My problem today is I’m overwhelmed with random thoughts.

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Always one

Before I get to the Bloganuary prompt of the day, there is “Always One” day in January when the sun comes out and the temp hits 60 degrees. And on that day I pull the cover off, put the top down, and go for a ride to remind me there is hope that spring and summer are on their way.

Along Folly Quarter road on a sunny afternoon. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt is “What would you title the chapters of your autobiography?” My life has pretty neatly fallen into decades for each chapter.

  • Before Dad passed
  • Wonderful and wasted teens
  • Found my love and growing up
  • Another step forward – children and career.
  • The risk and rebound.
  • Cancer, crashes, closeness, closure
  • Return to my youth – Contentment, grandchild, and my crafts

I never thought of doing an autobiography till this exercise. Still probably won’t but it’s interesting the thoughts this exercise brought around and the various stages of my life.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Feeling lucky today.
  • Feeling a little better today.
  • Feeling the wind again.
  • Feeling the shutter button under my finger again.
  • Feeling a bit more creative than yesterday.

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“What is something you learned recently” was the Bloganuary question this morning. I’ve learned it’s extremely difficult to write when physically under the weather and mentally in a bad place. And that sitting and staring at the screen doesn’t help. I also learned the number of drivers that don’t give a damn about your life and will take it in a heartbeat to get a car ahead or get to the next light right in front of you.

Sorry, didn’t mean to start out on a negative note. Just been a difficult weekend. Tonight I’m going to learn how to turn things around again. Never stop learning. Even difficult lessons mean a lot.

Dad showed me the proper grip on a football. A month later he was gone. Photo by Shirley Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Thank goodness by the time it’s time for me to hang up the car keys, my last memory of driving won’t be in an EV. Long live the sound and feel of an internal combustion engine and a manual transmission.
  • This a message to all sports leagues. When poor officiating starts determining the outcome of games instead of the players, people stop watching. Right now I believe it’s just poor officiating. But with the huge gambling money in sports and officials paid so little I’m certain we are going to hear about something in the future. Fix sports, get good officials at every level and pay them right.
  • If you would like a good meal I recommend the Corner Stable on York Road.
  • For a while, I had hoped that society wouldn’t collapse. Too late, it’s gone.

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Cake and stuff

Describe your perfect birthday cake as the Bloganuary prompt of the day request. Another softball question. Mine is made by my better half with yellow cake and chocolate icing. And sharing it with family is the way I like to eat it. It’s funny how birthdays change over time. I really don’t care for mine much anymore and I’ll leave it at that.

Sugar Bakers in Catonsville is very good also. My better half got me this one a while back. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’m not off to the best start this year. Lots happening and lots not happening. Funny, as time goes by I find myself withdrawing more and more. And that process seems to be accelerating quickly. But as long as I have that spark inside that keeps me happy, I’m good.

Going to treat myself to a small rack tomorrow with my son. I’m overdue for those Corner Stable ribs and fries. Maybe a little football and then the work week begins again. Seems impossible but it’s on the doorstep and not to be ignored. It’s getting harder and harder to get up for it mentally as time grows nearer to the day I won’t have to. But it’s hard to focus on that reward for all these decades when the daily grind is still front and center in your face.

In some ways, it’s my own fault for making work such a central focus in my life at times and not prioritizing the other parts of life more than I have. And I’d have to admit I’m bitter about it. Not like I’m trying to get even or back at anything, just disappointed I didn’t know better before so late in life.

I always envisioned my later years on the job much differently. Most of my many good friends either retired or have moved on as our company went through many changes. Many took very lucrative buyouts years ago. Of course, those days are long gone. I’ll share a few hugs and handshakes with some oldtimers and current teammates, but they will be few. Hell, maybe they will be gone before me also.

I’ve already moved on mentally a bit. A few years ago I stopped looking at the job as my challenge and motivator. I have my own now. JB probably wouldn’t like to hear that but so be it. I still give 100% but no more. As some wise old men said many times working there, “make it work for you.”

Time to get busy with that thought tomorrow.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • You know when your mind is someplace else, it gets hard to refocus.
  • I’m going to try to begin my day with some of my favorite music much more often.
  • I started some woodworking yesterday. A piece for my granddaughter. I’m doing it to build confidence, for that little girl loves anything Papa makes her.
  • We haven’t had a drop of snow here and I’m still tired of winter.



What are the pros and cons of procrastination, today’s Bloganuary ask? Well, one of the pros is there has always been a tomorrow so far. The only other pro I could consider is that maybe the next day you realize that the priority you thought you had yesterday isn’t really one at all and the put-off item can be trashed altogether.

The cons are so many to list because if you keep in mind that there might not be a tomorrow. And once you realize that you will start living each day to the fullest. I try to think about what contribution I might make that could make a difference if never done. Or the creative thought and execution of a piece of art for a family member or friend. Or the words and actions of support for a friend.

Hi. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’ve been a procrastinator for longer than I’d like to admit. I’m trying a bit now to make up for the lost time. But I’ve also told myself to be happy and just get on with each day now instead of beating myself up for past laziness. I can’t say it doesn’t eat at me because it does but as they say, better late than never so I’m trying to be those things I’ve always wanted now.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I have a tremendous amount of respect for people who do the job right and disdain for those who don’t.
  • One thing I always enjoyed about working nights when I would get off at 3 or 4 am in the morning. Streets were empty and you could see and experience some of the real design and beauty of the roads in this area without a gazillion idiots that want to ruin the experience.
  • We have to remember that just because the world looks littered with very bad people that a vast majority are really good people.
  • I think the cover comes off the car tomorrow and I’ll get out in some of those 50-degree temps before winter returns next week.
  • The older you get the less you take feeling good for granted.

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The question from Bloganuary today was “What Language do you wish you could speak” it made me think more about communication in general because no matter what language you speak it’s important to communicate respectfully. I thought about learning another language in retirement to keep sharp and broaden my knowledge. Only time will tell but I would probably start with Spanish.

Some will probably tell me I should work on perfecting my English first but none of us are perfect so I won’t let that impede me. Like a lot of Americans, I haven’t taken the time nor had the need growing up to learn another language. When I went to school I think it was called an elective. I went more in the art direction instead of language.

If you know how to smile you can cross a lot of language barriers.

Are you talking to ME? Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • If you do your best while not feeling your best you will be pleasantly satisfied when you do feel better.
  • Today’s cold and wind reminded me of why it’s my least favorite season.
  • I had a great meal today with my better half. Which reminds me to make another donation to the Maryland Food Bank.
  • It seems like a lot of people close to me are hurting badly now. Time to step up support efforts again.
  • Tomorrow a video of inhumanity is scheduled to air here in the states. Just one of many that occur each and every day. If each of us does our part we can change this and make it the exception instead of the rule.

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Speaks to me

What is a song or poem that speaks to you and why? This is today’s Bloganuary thought to ponder. I’m going with songs because music has spoken to me all my life. It’s one of the few things that gave me confidence as a youth. And one of the bands I’ve loved all my life has been The Who.

Their music spoke to the energy of my youth and discontentment. The power of the group’s instruments and Daltrey’s voice and what has been described as the best scream ever in R&R history on the song “Won’t get fooled again filled me with confidence to face the next day.

The music produced by this early team inspires me to this day. And the last line of the song “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is an adage that has been true all my life. And it supported my belief that power corrupts.

I read where Pete Townsend goes on to explain that the song was simply “meant to let politicians and revolutionaries alike know that what lay in the center of my life was not for sale, and could not be co-opted into any obvious cause.” 

And I feel the same way. So many attempt to take control of our lives, every day of them, in many different ways. From our governments to our jobs and those who control the financial purse strings. And here are both of my middle fingers to all of that.

This reminds me, my message to the youth of today is to get your damn faces out of that small screen and look up. Life is right in front of you, not in that little box on social media. Live and experience life, it’s a gazillion times better than any app.

And also a tip when you’re at a concert. PUT THE F’ing PHONE AWAY and clap your hands, pump your arms in the air, sing along, do your windmill guitar impression or play along with the drummer. Whatever is it don’t worry about filming the band, live in the moment!

I’m having trouble stringing my guitar. Photo by Mike Hartley

There is one song that touches my heart deeply. It’s by Lynyrd Skynyrd and called “Simple Man.” They are some really good words to live by.

Mama told me when I was young
“Come sit beside me, my only son
And listen closely to what I say
And if you do this it’ll help you
Some sunny day”
Oh, yeah

Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
Troubles will come and they will pass
You’ll find a woman, yeah, and you’ll find love
And don’t forget son there is someone up above

And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me son, if you can?

Forget your lust for the rich man’s gold
All that you need is in your soul
And you can do this, oh, baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied

And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me son, if you can?
Oh, yes, I will

Boy, don’t you worry, you’ll find yourself
Follow your heart and nothing else
And you can do this, oh, baby, if you try
All that I want for you, my son, is to be satisfied

And be a simple kind of man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man
Oh, won’t you do this for me son, if you can?

Baby, be a simple, be a simple man
Oh, be something you love and understand
Baby, be a simple kind of man

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Taking time is the only way he knows.
  • The first day I’ve felt half-human in the last week. The operative word being HALF. So I’ll look at the glass as half full.
  • Summer seems so long away. I’m jonesing for some warm weather and bright SUN. But instead, we get cold and very windy tomorrow.
  • My battery life is about 2%. I don’t have a recharger for it besides sleep so that is what I’m going for.

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Show it

How do you show love was the question of the day for Bloganuary. Love is often best shown in actions. Love is shown through patience, trust, and appreciation. Love is shown threw the eyes. It is heard through the ears and felt through the touch. All those things and more make the words “I love you” mean something. And I try to say those words every day.

Love can be watching a sunrise together in silence. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I wonder if I should search my home for classified documents. I used to work in DC
  • It’s different when you hear the news about more layoffs and you know someone who has been affected by them.
  • Instead of Congress worrying about who or who can’t get Taylor Swift tickets from Ticketmaster maybe they could see if they could maybe work on preventing the coming hundreds of mass shooting events this year. I think one is a bit more of a priority than the other.
  • Tomorrow is always another day till it isn’t. And given the doomsday clock is moving in the direction where there might just not be another one, I’ll really appreciate tomorrow.

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Being truthful with yourself

Today’s Bloganuary question was “What’s a lie you tell yourself?” That is an easy one today. I’ve told myself I’m fine to work the last few days when I’m sick as a dog. I’ve told myself that lie for years and sometimes I pay a higher price. I often just power through it and come out fine on the other end. But I’m in my mid-60s now and this isn’t intelligent any longer.

So I’m thinking of putting myself on the bench for the next couple of days and see if I can get rid of this nasty cough and the elephant sitting on my chest.

Take a seat till summer returns. Photo by Mike Hartley

My apologies for such a short answer. I probably tell myself a few more lies than that one but time is short and I wanted to finish a post today.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • We are a short distance away from turning this whole country back into the days of the Wild Wild West.
  • Seeing my grandchildren should restore the smile to my face.
  • Unless you’re working for yourself you’re working to make someone or many others rich besides yourself.
  • And there are very few of those people who give a rats behind about you.
  • There are a few exceptions to the previous two statements before this one but they are very few and far between.
  • Sorry, I get a bit negative when not feeling my best.

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Dream job

What was your dream job as a child? This is an interesting question that makes me reflect on long ago. Early on I really loved the arts. Around 12, I got my first camera and fell in love. Being a photographer is what I thought my dream job would be. But as was typical in my youth I didn’t have that much follow-through. Lots of bad habits and poor drive in the right direction pretty much took that away.

Luckily I got a job out of high school in Photo Reproduction for printing. But eventually, my career turned more to IT after several years, and while I’ve always enjoyed taking pictures I never pursued my dream job.

But now I’m pursuing my dream as a photographer, not my dream job but my dream passion. And really you should be passionate about the job you do.

Another photog at work with family shots. Photo by Mike Hartley

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • My random thoughts are being blocked by a constant cough.
  • You will never find anything written by AI on this site.
  • Starting the day out beat, before you even get vertical isn’t a good start.
  • Where did my weekend go?

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Who is your favorite author and why? The question posed by Bloganuary today is a tough one. It’s tough because I’m not much of a pleasure reader. I read a lot of stuff but I’m not what you would consider well-read as far as literature. So I won’t pretend to pick someone and explain why when there isn’t a good reason behind it.

So I’ll take the chance to say that I’m aspiring to be an author someday in the future. I’ve been trying to use this blog to help me get in the habit of writing daily and develop some basic skills in the area. I just added up the several years I’ve been blogging and it says 831,000 words over the years. I know, you might say I haven’t picked up much in all that time. But if I’ve got nothing else from it than the confidence to try to write a boot it’s been worth every minute.

I’ve got several ideas for books and upon retirement, I’ll get busy with that aspect of my hobbies.

I hope to write a few books before the sun sets on me. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’d like to write a book about those of us who live nocturnal lives. The first one though will be for my children and grandchildren about life. After those, I was thinking about my life in the newspaper industry for almost 5 decades and the many wonderful people, characters, and huge changes the industry has gone through. And maybe one about the place I’ve lived most of my life.

I just hope I get the chance to exercise those desires and aspirations. And why wait, I need to get back to those ideas and rough drafts I started a while back.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I read that creativity goes down with age according to lots of experts. I hope to make them evaluate that again.
  • Health is everything. Something that isn’t remembered till yours wanes.
  • I don’t like hearing gunshots late at night. If I hear one more I’m loading myself. No need to call the police, we got one up the street and I’m sure he heard it also.
  • Concentration is hard when not feeling the best.



Today Bloganuary topic is “what irritates you about the home you live in?” Well, that is pretty easy, absolutely nothing. Yeah, it’s an older home that needs regular maintenance. Yes, it’s not a big home and sometimes felt crowded with 4 people. Does the hardwood floor creak a bit, yes? Do I need some more attic insulation, yep?

And I could go on if I looked at my list but I won’t because I love my home. From the first time, I laid eyes on it. And now after almost 4 decades it’s filled with so many wonderful memories, nothing irritates me about it. When stuff comes up it’s all small stuff given the rewards it’s hosted.

The front porch. Photo by Mike Hartley

I love that family and friends feel so comfortable here. With Covid the past few years the home has grown on me even more. I’m very happy at home.

Home sweet home. Photo by Mike Hartley

Now there are some neighbor’s homes that irritate me like the ones who purchased a huge home next to me and turned it into an S hole. Or the one at the end of the street that some home flippers purchased and then tore half of it down and then left for a few years. Good thing the woods hide it.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • My typing speed and accuracy are out the window when I’m under the weather.
  • I wish I had my priorities in better order earlier in life.
  • Today is a day I really appreciate my favorite pillow.
  • A smile of a 3-year-old is good medicine when ill.
  • When you get to feeling bad it really makes you appreciate when you’re feeling good.

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Color and me

What color describes your personality and why, is today’s Bloganuary topic to ponder upon? So when I get something I’m not that familiar with like today’s topic I Google and see that one of the many rocks I’ve been living under has left me void of all the work that people seem to have done in this area with colors and personality.

The more charts and different colors I looked at just got me confused. Partially because I saw personality traits I believe I have under almost every color.

Color. Photo by Mike Hartley

First off I didn’t see my favorite color (maroon) in a lot of those charts. So I went and looked up Maroon and what personality traits are associated with that. Google said – The maroon color is often used to represent intense and passionate things like; confidence, creative thoughts, excitement, power, risk, passion, love, ambition, courage, strength, warmth, and beauty.

Well, that works for me. Maybe add compassion into the mix and that works.

Then again, I’m a bit under the weather and feeling the need to go be horizontal again and so this could be interpreted as a cop-out but it’s the best I got for today.

I do know I enjoy color tremendously. But there is a day I’d like to see color not so important. And I was thinking about that after all the news about Maryland having its first black governor. I see a man, not black or white, but one who has carried himself well through life, that served his country, that is smart and well-spoken and a family man. One that has goals for everyone in the state.

But unfortunately color is an issue in a negative way. I’m sure there are some Marylanders who are pissed we have a black governor. Ones where white might be the only color they want or can see. So I hope for the day that all colors can be appreciated equally and that color is looked at and described in beauty and nothing else.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • The list of people who know what’s best for you is endless.
  • Been a long time since I’ve had a runny nose. I guess it decided to make up for the lost time. Buy Kleenex stock.
  • Way to go Maryland Basketball. Nice way to show that blowout in Michigan was a fluke.
  • If you want to see the strength in people you don’t go to the gym. Go to a hospital and see real strength.
  • If you want to see courage, treat those that need it the most, service members, fire and rescue, and police with kindness because they already see enough ugliness and don’t get paid crap to deal with it.


Favorite meal

The Bloganuary prompt today is “What is your favorite meal to cook and/or eat?” There is only one correct answer if you’re from the state of Maryland. Chesapeake Bay Blue Crabs is a Maryland food group. Be it freshly steamed or a crabcake sandwich. I love fresh shrimp or flounder stuffed with crabmeat. And dozens of other combinations But crab is the ingredient.

Photos by Mike Hartley

My favorite meal to cook is anything on the grill.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I think one day I’ll just make the entire post a bunch of random thoughts. Oh, that’s probably what you thought I was doing anyway.
  • I would like to thank the outgoing Governor of the State of Maryland for a good job over the past 8 years and welcome the new Governor and hope he can keep the progress moving and even make us even better.
  • I regret being so tense and on edge when my kids were young.
  • Speaking without thinking is much easier to spot when someone else is doing it.

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The writing prompt for Bloganuary today is “Describe the happiest day of your life”, thankfully there is an excellent selection to choose from. I never try to place one above the other regarding my children. So the day they each were born was the happiest day in my life.

My daughter was born 1st and that experience changed my life. And also the shape of my body as my better half would grab various parts of it for her extended period of labor. But the feeling of being truly happy was seeing her laying on my wife’s chest with her eyes open shortly after her delivery, and every moment since. We didn’t know the sex of either child before birth. So our second, our son was a great surprise and a repeat of that wonderful day my daughter was born.

That day you want to jump out of your skin with excitement and joy but there is such calmness and contentment at the same time you just can’t stop smiling. You will never look deeper into your spouse’s eyes with appreciation. And that new set of eyes looking back at you goes directly to your heart on a path you didn’t know was there.

Life is a roller coaster. Enjoy it. Photo by Mike Hartley

This is such a different happiness than others it’s hard to put into words or find a comparison. Probably because there isn’t one. Nothing else in my life touches the two days my children came into the world. I guess my grandchildren would be a close second but again that is happiness again for both of them.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I marvel at the strength and consistency people display, in the face of great odds.
  • Life is good when you don’t have to remind yourself to laugh a lot each day and it just comes naturally.
  • Technology is quickly escaping our grasp.
  • Just when you think you have life by the tail, you realize it’s a tiger.

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“Do you have a memory that’s linked to a smell” is the Bloganuary topic of the day? Of course, I do and the first that popped into my head was the smell of a newspaper (Newsprint and Ink). It’s been a large portion of my life. It’s a smell my children and their children will be lost in their generations.

From the first day almost 5 decades ago, I walked into the building it was present and enveloped me. It permeates plants with presses. I don’t know what it is, but the printing of a newspaper is something I’m going to miss someday. In my younger days, we were recruited out of the engraving area to help unload trucks of newsprint, the main ingredient in this process.

A bumper sticker I can Support. Photo by Mike Hartley

But running it through that press, adding ink, and cutting the paper as it comes through the folder. There, is the smell I’m talking about. It’s carried to doorsteps around the world each day. It’s what you hold in your hands with your arms outstretched. The smell is there as you read. It’s there when you crumple a few pieces up to get a fire started, or put them in the recycle bin. Or if you’re from Maryland, to put it in the trash can after you have feasted on a few dozen crabs on top of them.

Another smell that triggers a memory is Thrasher’s French Fries on the boardwalk in Ocean City Maryland. On my first visit to OC, I remember hitting the inlet parking lot and the smell of those fries and vinegar and salt floated on the breeze from the waves to my nose. And anything that had a constant line of 10-100 people at a time must be good. So it’s become a tradition each year, I don’t get the big bucket anymore but I still have to satisfy that urge the smell triggers.

Thrashers, I took this shot because it’s the first time I saw a line shorter than 10 people. Photo by Mike Hartley

There is one more smell that triggered a memory this past year again. The smell of my son’s newborn son. It took me back to when he and his sister were born.

I saw a story on CBS Sunday morning on AI (artificial intelligence) to create art. It will never be as original as the human mind. Nor will the person who typed words to let the computer make something know the enjoyment of creating something themselves as an artist. That isn’t being arrogant, it’s just a fact. The imperfections in each of us make each piece unique.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I’m looking forward to the day when I get up and question what day it is like people who are no longer working do.
  • Football is winding down. No teams left to support. Bring on March Madness.
  • I wish I had more energy. Night shifts seem to exact a higher toll on the mind and body.
  • I haven’t shot a frame yet today but there is still time to trip that shutter.

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Fear overcome

“What fear have you conquered?” is the writing prompt of Bloganuary today. Well, I’ll go with my latest fear here that I conquered and that is the fear of being without a job. Never happened to me before and the threat of coming layoffs sent me spinning for a few days. I got upset being kind of close to when I wanted to retire and I didn’t want anything disrupting that plan for another 12-18 months.

The thought of having to interview for another job at this point being in my mid-60s wasn’t something I was looking forward to.

I not so quickly realized I have no control over the selection process other than my work so I’ll continue to plug away till I hear otherwise. And being I’m kind of reactionary by nature I didn’t think of my other options and some aren’t too bad. So even if the worst does happen which I’m thinking now isn’t in their plans for me, I’m not going to fall to pieces.

Now some of you might be saying what’s the big deal, people change jobs all the time. Well, not this kid. I’m less than a handful of months away from 25 years there. There was another job before that for 21 years. So you see I kind of found a couple of places to hang my shingle that I was comfortable in.

I’m not so sure I could have overcome news like that a decade ago. I had just finished dealing with my first cancer a few years before and was about to have a second one discovered.

The debate then was about how long did I have. Another fear I conquered a while back. Not that it didn’t take some years. Anyway, the fear of being unemployed is again the fear of the unknown. But I looked over that edge and it’s not as threatening as it once was.

Soaring above the fray. Mike Hartley

I am turning back to my nocturnal self this evening as the workweek begins again. But unlike last week I plan to get out each day and do some fresh shooting.

Random Thoughts of the Day (again)

  • There is a limited set of options. So said someone else.
  • It must be January, I’m fantasizing about the beach.
  • When you get older you don’t want to tempt fate by bragging about feeling good.
  • I’m glad I don’t have any Top Secret docs.
  • Tomorrow I feel like I’m going to be smarter than today.

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Mode of Travel

Today’s writing prompt for Bloganuary is “What is your preferred mode of Travel?” Sometimes questions like this leave you between 2 or 3 choices. Not me, there is only one way I prefer to travel now and that is driving in my convertible Miata. Be it longer trips or A to B. That is my love now. 30-40 years ago the answer would have been by motorcycle but the comfort of a car and a convertible and a sporty feel makes it a clear favorite.

Driving puts you in control of the schedule and route to get to your destination. If you don’t want to go at peak travel times you don’t have to. Stops along the way are your choice and you get to meet people from different areas. Driving allows you to see the land. Take in the smells of different regions, and feel the different temperatures as you change elevations. It’s hard to make out what is what at 30,000 feet.

When it’s clean. Photo by Mike Hartley

When I’m traveling I’m most comfortable when I’m in control of the vehicle. Anytime I relinquish that it’s a level of discomfort.

I didn’t like riding a bus when I went to school and that dislike continues to this day. Oh, I can ride a bus from a hotel to a church or reception but not travel travel.

It’s not that I don’t fly we do. It does get you there very fast (well at least my personal interaction with airlines) and it’s safer, but when you factor in parking, travel to the terminal, lines for baggage, and security and boarding. Oh and deplaning and baggage pickup and rent a car and off again. And then there is the part I’m not thrilled with like leaving the ground and returning to the ground and that time in between.

I’ll never be the cruise ship type. Even before the pandemic, I shuttered at the thought of being on one of those many cruises where tons of people are locked away in closet-sized cabins having severe stomach distress for days and paying thousands of $$ for the pleasure. And even if that doesn’t transpire you have mother nature. Repeat after me, hurricanes, rogue waves, your in a boat in the middle of nowhere.

There is one mode of travel that I thought about expanding upon in the future though and that is train travel. We took a train to Philly for a wedding last year and that went great. I’m looking forward to riding the Scenic Railway out in Western Maryland this year. I’m also thinking of taking the train (because the thought of driving in NYC doesn’t appeal to me) to New York City to see the 9/11 memorial and some other sights. I also see there are some wonderful scenic trains out west.

So there it is my fears and phobias about modes of travel and my preferred mode of travel that really gets me excited. And this thought about travel has got me more excited about the coming year.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • A better mental start to the day was made, which is always a big difference. A good night’s rest for a change was probably the catalyst.
  • It’s a bacon morning.
  • That cold wind this morning didn’t have that usual crisp and clean feel to it, almost like an angry feeling.
  • You know it’s going to be a good day when you get a picture of your son asleep and his dog asleep by his head and sitting a foot is his infant son who is sitting up wide awake and happy smiling at mom while she’s snapping the picture.

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The Bloganuary prompt today is “If you had a billion US dollars how would you spend it?” No idea, never had much to spend nor the time to do it. In some ways, I don’t even want to start down this path. First I’d buy an extra large bottle of Tylenol because having a billion dollars to spend could be a real headache.

The more money you are spending and have to spend, the more people will be after you. And with that sum, it would be a very long line. Plus money does very strange things to people. I’m afraid my priorities would get out of line. I would make sure family and friends would be set of course.

Photos by Mike Hartley

An idea just hit me. I would certainly want to donate a substantial part of it. And I would probably donate some the traditional way through established organizations. But my idea is to do some at a personal level but in an anonymous way. The mystery donor. In honor of the rich businessman who plays Secret Santa giving away cash during the holidays to those in need through other intermediaries but also staying hidden.

Spending my days just hitting up places in need in disguise and making as many people’s lives better as I could. Sounds like fun to me. They say money can’t buy time or happiness. But if you spend your money changing other’s lives for the better I guess that is a pretty good use of time.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Do you ever wonder how some days are filled with such joy and such disappointment on the same day?
  • I’m tired, but not in the way you would first think.
  • Sports is now a business about making money and sometimes greed. But it’s just a game.
  • Do you ever feel like you don’t count? And better yet did you ever know you don’t?

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Challenging Chores

Today’s Bloganurary topic of the day is “What Chore do you find the most challenging to do?” Well, a topic right up my alley. I’m used to chores from a young age. Given this body has some miles on it some chores are far more challenging than they used to be.

I’m going to say the most challenging chore I have is doing battle with Mother Nature. Taking care of the yard and home is something that is finally getting beyond me in some ways. That 28-foot ladder, that barely reaches the gutters in the back of the house. That push mower for the lower hill (mountain), swinging an axe, or shoveling snow to name a few.

My yard could use some support if you guys aren’t busy. Photo by Mike Hartley

Mother Nature is a very formidable opponent and I used to be able to battle to a draw most years. No more, I submitted long ago to her superiority. I got an 80-foot tree down in my backyard from a storm that is going to need chainsaw work and moving. I might try it, I might even make it through it. Or the back could seize up halfway through.

Last year my better half hired someone to cut the back hill because I had fallen a few times cutting it with the push mower. It’s a steep hill and lots of people would fall. It was a wise move but I don’t like admitting that age is changing my physical abilities. I can still climb that big ladder but do I feel comfortable or stable as I used to? Nope.

I shovel snow like a plow now. If we are expecting a deep one I go out and do it periodically instead of all that heavy lifting after its finished. And one year I’m going to find a local youngin to do it. I enjoy some of the physical work and I always like being outside so in some ways it’s not a chore. But it is the most challenging by far.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • A day and night filled with friends. That is a good day.
  • The chance for real sleep is ahead. Will I be able to?
  • They say opportunities don’t come around every day. I have to find their schedule.
  • Everyone has a limit. And it seems there is a large group dedicated to finding out everyones.
  • It’s a good feeling to be able to do a favor for a friend.

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Today’s Bloganuary question was “How do you define success?” My first thought was being happy for the right reasons. And by this, I mean happy in relationships with family and friends. Happy in your profession/work and not just in money but in satisfaction and accomplishment. And happy with how my time is spent in the pursuits and experiences I aspire to.

I mean what is success without happiness?

This is where I’m happiest during the summer. And when I’m happy the day is a success. Photo by Mike Hartley

It’s funny how your definition of success changes over time. Success at one time was getting the first car, fixing up the first car, getting that date, and graduating HS. Then you move on to successes like not forgetting the ring at your wedding or not passing out at the birth of your children.

And of course professional successes. Some judge by titles or money or offices and suits. Maybe a parking space or special perk or bonus. Maybe a trip or stay at the company vacation home. The successes I think of are the relationships I’ve made and that many continue today and are decades long. I think about technical or production accomplishments with teammates shoulder to shoulder and the feeling of shared success and experience. I think about the gift of the knowledge shared and built upon.

Success sometimes is overcoming adversity. I’ve been lucky enough to survive 2 cancers and major auto accidents and multiple concussions. Well, some opinions might vary on that last one.

Success could be making someone else’s day. That perfect trip, that special gift. Or maybe something simple as giving a hungry person a meal.

Success will vary day by day. Like today, success was watching a 3-year-old successfully and making it through an 11-hour work night this evening. Success could be squeezing in a half-hour joy ride between errands some days.

Find something each day that is a success for yourself, even if it’s little. You will be much happier even if the rest of the day is for crap.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I love when my granddaughter goes to the games cabinet. There is always a game or two more within the game I thought we were playing.
  • Roger Daltrey could really belt out a scream on “Won’t get fooled again.”
  • Do you think about not waking up tomorrow? Probably why I don’t like going to sleep.
  • I always keep a picture of the messiest office I’ve ever seen. When I can’t tell the difference between the picture and my office I start cleaning.
  • It’s the last day of the workweek and I’m feeling like a teenager about to be cut loose.

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A book

The Bloganuary writing prompt of the day is “Has a book changed your life?” I would say no, but one did have an influence on me and my view of work and retirement and it was called “The Joy of Not Working” by Ernie J Zelinski. It was a good reminder about looking for joy in many stages of life.

I gave this book to a friend who I was worried would never retire or didn’t exactly have a plan for retirement. I don’t get the impression he ever read it. If so it didn’t trigger any conversations about that part of life.

But what it did for me was made me look at retirement differently and with much more desire and interest. It helped change and form a new perspective.

Just read. Sort of like the Nike Just Do It, but with books. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’ve gotten a few books in the last year and I’m still making my way through them. Again time for reading for pleasure at this stage of life isn’t that available. But I have enjoyed a few books on photography that my children got me and they have inspired some good ideas and challenges.

I always liked bookstores. My better half is a very avid reader of books. So that is a gift that is always appreciated by her. I’m an avid reader, just not many books for pleasure. Used to read a ton of technical manuals but those days are behind me now so I probably will be reading a lot into my retirement.

So I guess a more simple answer would have been a short “no” but that would be wrong because I know there is one out there and I will find it. Or maybe I did find it in that one and haven’t fully explored its potential yet. Time will tell.

Now my Daily Dilbert or FarSide Desk Calendar has changed my life because it starts the day with laughter.

One more thought. A book that would change my life is the one I hope to write someday.

You know that load of bricks we all carry around? I felt my load getting a bit heavy today so time to shed a few. I might just sit the sack down and rest like I did earlier today. And before I get back up I’m going to assess that sack again and pull a few out. I could use some bricks anyway because my chimney needs work.

But that emotional baggage we carry around isn’t good. So I’m trying to drop that also and it feels great. But some are hard to shed and take time. Sometimes it feels like you’re hauling a building of bricks all day.

I just love old brick buildings. Photo by Mike Hartley

When I was young and dumber, I didn’t even question the number of bricks. If they belonged or not. If they were someone else’s. But with age sometimes wisdom comes along.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Try not sleeping well for a long period of time to really appreciate what a good night’s sleep feels like. Or just take my word for it.
  • I’m beginning to understand why my parents had magnifying glasses around the house.
  • Funny how people make some really brutal threats totally not knowing who they are threatening. And then it really gets funny.
  • Reading is fun, writing is better, and taking a photo that inspires my words and others to read it is what I hope I can make others can find fun in reading.

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Memorable gift

The Bloganuary writing prompt of the day is “What is the most memorable gift you have received?”

My children have been the most memorable gift I’ve received in my life. And it’s a gift that keeps on giving on making memories. I had no idea of the value of this gift beforehand. It felt unusually special from the time it was delivered. It’s given me happiness, pride, laughter, contentment, focus, warmth, love, and purpose from the day they were received.

And now that those gifts are older they are creating new gifts for me again in the form of grandchildren. And those are giving me many wonderful things all over again.

Even the most memorable physical gifts have come from my children. But of course, none of them would have been possible without the first gift of my better half.

The less life becomes about material gifts, the happier you will find yourself.

As I was searching through some old memorabilia of my early days in newspapers I found these tucked in with some other older photos. This top shot is probably 20 years old and it was probably 30 years before that, I first stepped foot in Mr. Yates’s store.

Nickle popsicles, 10-cent ice cream sandwiches. Photo by Mike Hartley

That first job was with the Times Newspapers just a hundred feet up the street for his store. No A/C during the summer drove me to his business repeatedly for ice cream when we would get a break. There was no need for a gym back in those days. Work was a workout in itself.

Mr. Yates behind his counter. Photo by Mike Hartley

Working late nights we would go over and stock up on snacks and dinner items before he would close.

Flowers in front of old Yates Market Photo by Mike Hartley

It’s been gone from our history for about 10 years now but I’ll always remember how good it felt to come back to the plant with a fist full of popsicles from his freezer on a baking summer night.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • It’s good to think ahead if you have the right thoughts.
  • If you help someone and it doesn’t go well, write it off and look for the next person to help that will benefit from it and appreciate it.
  • Pets can’t talk but say thank you many more times than humans.
  • There were leftovers so it was also Taco Monday following a Taco Sunday. I wonder if I’ll be taco’d out by the time Tuesday rolls around?
  • Deja Vu in South America.

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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.


Challenge complete, on to the next one

Today marks the last post in the Bloganurary Challenge of posting to daily writing prompts. I’ve completed the month and it feels good. I knew breaking down larger goals into smaller ones was the way to go. Because after beating my head against the wall trying to make posts daily the last 8 years, I failed miserably.

So I’m looking at my blogging life a month at a time now. I’ve prepared my February topic ideas and will try to make posts daily for the next 28 days and continue the streak unless lightning strikes.

Photo by Mike Hartley

So today’s final writing challenge is: How do you feel when you look at the stars?

How do I feel when I look at the stars? Being I’m up a majority of overnights I do my fair share of looking at the stars. When I take a quick break I always try to step outside and look at the stars. It makes me feel relaxed. It also inspires some sense of curiosity and wonder.

It’s also like a natural display of Xmas lights randomly arranged. I miss them on cloudy evenings. I miss them when I work downtown and all the light from the city took away their luster. I love it from home there the competing light is minimal and I can see a fairly wide expanse.

On a warm summer night in the hammock, I love them. On the way home from a day trip to the beach at night with the convertible top down I love them.

But the best thing about stars I like is the gift we got from our children for our 40th anniversary. A framed picture of the position of the stars the night we got married with some other information that I’ve cropped out below but it is one of the prized possessions that we have proudly displayed in our home. Sorry about the flash reflection, only had a minute to run and get a shot.

Ocean City Maryland missed a major marketing opportunity this week. They should have had a bunch of cross country skiers going down Ocean Highway with a foot of snow and in the background have the Logo “The Only Surf and Ski Capital of the World, We are open YEAR Round.”

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • A new month, a new initiative.
  • Some sleep certainly did this mind well today.
  • It’s interesting feeling a little bit more inspired than yesterday each day.
  • OK, UNCLE, I’m tired of the cold.
  • I’m about to use my printer as a press. Might as well make good use of it.

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Turnaround and Tree

Was starting to feel a bit down as I rose today, not feeling my best, and then looked at the to-do list, and at the top is my reminder “Make the rest of your life the best of your life” and that got me on the right track again.

A wonderful afternoon actually with our children celebrating a birthday. My appreciation for days like today is great. Makes some pain melt away.

Fog behind tree Photo by Mike Hartley

So today’s writing prompt is: Describe yourself as a tree. An interesting thought indeed. I won’t worry about the type of tree.

I’m a fairly strong tree for 6 plus decades of age. I have a strong root pattern that extends to give me a solid base. I’ve had a few traumas along the way, some early, some late. I’ve had the tree surgeons work on me a few times. I’ve had injured branches and limbs. My core isn’t as strong as it used to be.

But I stand tall as I have every day. I feel fit and good for my age, but I’m starting to notice some changes as the season change. My bark is showing signs of age, it used to be smooth and unbroken, it’s rougher in spots now. I’ve got some grey leaves here and there, but the overall color is strong. Winters seem harder and longer to get through.

Mist behind Trees. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’m strong and durable enough to have supported a family and even some friends from time to time. They love coming over because I’m so comfortable and fun to run on.

I look out over a beautiful but sometimes troubled landscape. My seedlings have sprouted into strong and wonderful and even much more majestic than their father. I wish I was leaving them a better environment to flourish in.

I was a trim tree in my early years and a fit one in middle age. The middle could use just a little trimming now but I could pass as fine as is.

Two storms in the last decade or so have taken a heavy toll but I’m still here. I worry about another strong one and if I can withstand that again. But this tree has a special view of every sunrise and sunset that makes each day special, appreciated, and rewarding.

And in describing myself as a tree, I can proudly say, nobody has called me a “sap” to my face.

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I’m resisting the urge to go off about the cold weather but this is where I live so I got to take what comes. I’ll just have to look at it as the other end of the spectrum from those beautiful summer days I love so dearly.

I ventured out in bone penetrating wind chills today. The chapstick on the lips, a hat and hood, a big coat, and gloves. I felt like the Michelllen Man. And now I know where the term “not fit for man or beast” comes from.

Yep, inside the rest of the day for this kid. Photo by Mike Hartley

My old digital is failing but I’m resisting the urge to buy something I don’t want. I’m resisting the urge to take it out of my camera bag just yet.

I resisted the urge to grab a big blanket, get into the recliner and take an afternoon nap. I resisted the urge to go to bed early.

I’m resisting raiding the candy drawer. I’m resisting the ice cream in the freezer. I’m resisting the chips and dip. Thank God I escaped the kitchen.

I’m resisting the urge to join Instagram because I don’t need another social media to keep track of but maybe in the not too distant future.

I’m resisting the urge to clean my office because it’s a little more than half clean. I’m resisting the urge to throw in the towel on this Terps basketball season this early.

Today’s writing prompt is:

How am I changing the world? I’d like to think in some small way every day I’m here. Maybe I’ll have a breakthrough in my senior years and make a big difference. I’d like to think I’m making it better by making those around me better. That can mean anything from advice and mentoring to just being there for someone in need or so they can focus on a higher pursuit.

I’d like to think I’m going to leave it a better place for my children and their children. Thankfully I got some more time to work on that one because right now that job is far from complete.

I’m going to try not to contribute as much to the waste problem the world faces and maybe make use of materials that would just end up in a landfill or in the ocean. I want to contribute more to the community I live in and make the environment overall better.

I’m changing the world, one action at a time, sometimes small, sometimes large.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I wonder if I should start trying to post, at a more regular time instead of randomly?
  • I wonder if I can get a new design started next month?
  • I wonder if I could take a different image every day around the county?
  • I wonder if I have enough writing ideas to get through the month?
  • I better stop wondering and get back to work. It’s been a productive day with the Dremel tool.

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Such a simple thing. A balloon. My granddaughter came in the door today and when she saw the balloons I had blown up for my wife’s birthday she was as happy as could be. She spent a lot of time playing, reorganizing, bouncing, running, and leaning on them.

I had put the different colors in different rooms and she would yell out a color when she would go into that room and see them. Such joy from such a little thing filled with air. But then again Balloon interests people of all ages.

OK, I’m up. Let’s roll. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’m lucky enough to live in an area that has some balloon enthusiasts. So I also get to see the adult joy of riding in a balloon. Not that I’m going up in one. But I do see the thrill and passion for it.

Beautiful estate across from the fairgrounds. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing challenge is:

I’m sorry, I don’t make playlists yet, but I have an extensive music library that I just randomly go with most days. I try to mix up my listening because if I just go one direction sometimes it leads to a lack of balance. So onto some of the groups, I listen to.

My youth was from the mid-60s to let’s say 1980. All the staples of that Classic Rock era, Beatles, Deep Purple, The Who, Hendrix, CSN, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Zeplin, and just about anything done between that timeframe. But I also listened to a lot of Motown in the 60s and after a few years started listening to R&B and jazz.

I can’t stand disco-type music when it came out and I still detest that today. I can’t see what’s in this current techno music. I guess that is the old man coming out. But I’d still challenge any young whippersnapper to an air instrument challenge any day of the week.

OK, what am I listening to recently? Went through my most recent list.

  • Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
  • Genesis
  • Jethro Tull
  • Carlos Santana
  • Bob Marley
  • Pink Floyd
  • Buddy Guy
  • Rolling Stones
  • Fleetwood Mac
  • Rush
  • Sly and the Family Stone
  • Doobie Brothers
  • The Who
  • Foo Fighters
  • Motley Crue
  • The Band

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Addicted to weekends

I got to admit, one of the best feelings I have is the morning I wake at the start of the weekend. I don’t know about you but I could run through walls just for the fun of it because I have so much energy and excitement over looking forward to some time off.

Now there is a wall I could probably run through. Photo by Mike Hartley

I’ve had better weeks at the job that pays the bills so it’s going to be a sweet one indeed. Nothing like having the house to myself this afternoon and blowing the dust off the speakers with a few tunes I haven’t listened to in a while.

That was a change I had to adapt to a bit when my better half retired. I used to wake and open my eardrums up with some classic tunes and some windmill stretches. Now I’ve gotten conservative again. I’ll have to snap out of that mode.

So onto today’s writing challenge. Oh, another one with many possible answers. The question “where do you go when you need solitude?” Solitude is defined – as the state or situation of being alone.

I can think of a few places off the top of my head I go for solitude. The first would probably be my little convertible, top-down, some back roads, and some music. It used to be my motorcycle for a few decades when I was younger. That is real solitude. Getting on that seat and putting on several hundred miles in a day.

Of course, my basement office is probably the most often used place for solitude. Especially in this frigid weather. I hope my workroom becomes a place of solitude in the future when I spend more time than a few minutes a week learning to carve.

My home overall is a place of solitude but as more grandchildren come that will change. The beach on the Maryland or Deleware shore is solitude to me. I could stand, run, lay or just admire it endlessly. Just about any pool on a hot summer day is a place of solitude. Even when there are people around the beach and the pool I can picture myself alone in a very comfortable space in my mind and have solitude. Just give me some warm temps, my shades and a towel or beach chair and I’m in my own world.

At work sometimes I’d go to the roof of the building and just take in the view and a few minutes of solitude. I thought that was strange till I found some others doing the same thing. Always relaxed me.

Oh, my hammock on the side deck during the summer is a wonderful spot for a moment or two of solitude.

Sitting anywhere hand in hand with my better half. I call that one “alone together.” Looks like I have a lot of places to find solitude. Thank goodness because I seem to need it often.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • The more moments of appreciation you have the happier in life you will be.
  • Having a Coke out of a very cold GLASS BOTTLE is like drinking fine wine. So says me.
  • Maryland weather forecast, It was 14 degrees when I wrote this line. We are either going to get a foot of snow or a dusting this weekend. And it could be 60 next week. Got to love Mother Nature.
  • I might have to work on my snow shooting tomorrow.

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What am I waiting for

For most of my life, I’ve been working towards a future. One in which our family is secure into our senior years and in a position to help our children. Of course, unless you are uber rich you are never safe because I’ve seen some medical stuff wipe out families. And for the record uber-rich or rich are not classes that I could be associated with.

Looking inland waiting for me to return. Photo by Mike Hartley

Actually, I’ve made a few mistakes along the way and if I were smarter I’d probably be in a better position to retire. But hey, here we are today. So my focus is on today and tomorrow. And being I’m on the verge of my new career I thought I had better get the proper tools to kick it off instead of working with stuff that is outdated and or ancient.

So I’m going to talk to my better half and see what I can use towards this effort. I already got the OK on the new camera to replace a very old one. Now onto the computer. And now that I’m making much better use of time, the waiting is almost over.

The writing prompt of the day is What is your favorite part about yourself? Well I looked myself up and down and I like all my parts and out of all that bone, tissue, and limited brain matter, it’s impossible to pick a physical part. So I’ll get to the real intent of the question.

My favorite part about myself is when I can make other people laugh. I love that feeling and the ability to do that once in a while or all night and day if I’m hot. It’s so gratifying to see the enjoyment in others. When I can bring humor into my friends and family, I’m not sure who gets more of charge from the laughter, me or them.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I completed a book today. The next one is started.
  • I stayed inside today. It’s cold outside.
  • I thought about exercising. And then I thought better of it. – yes I’ll double up tomorrow.
  • I picked a camera to buy. I tried and its out of stock.
  • I’m going to challenge my property tax assessment. In some ways I think I’m about to be taught another lesson of beating my head against the wall.
  • I picked another camera to buy. I tried and that one is out of stock as well. I’m not sure I want to go looking for my 3rd choice.

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Interesting writing prompt today as bloganuary nears it’s closing days. I can’t believe I’ve stuck with it and posted each day so far. Actually, I’m on a 28-day streak the reminder says. I hope to put that number in the hundreds this year if time and health allow it.

Photo by Mike Hartley

So the task is to write about something that makes you feel strong. Well, the first thing that popped to mind was my better half and children. They make me feel strong. But there is one other thing. The Sun makes me feel really strong. A special kind of strong. I love going out early and catching sunrises and of course sunsets.

I draw strength from the time the sun is up till it sets. Especially in the milder and warmer months of the year. It both recharges my body and mind. Even when I get up mid-day after working nights I’ll step out to the front porch or deck and stretch out in the sun when it’s nice.

It gives both incentive and courage. The incentive part is getting to see it another day. The courage part is that it helps me face whatever is there to get to the next day. So thanks sun.

Sorry about the short post, a busy day but a good one. I hope the same was true for you.

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Remembering my father-in-law today on his birthday. He was a good man and gave me the most important gift in the world, his daughter. I also remember an older friend who passed today. He is pretty much a second father to one of my best friends. Rest in peace Mr. C and thank you for that boat ride this past summer.

A view from his boat slip. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt is going to be a tough one. I don’t dream much and when I do I have a hard time recollecting what it was. I don’t have dramatic dreams often at all. Mostly just something related to what is going on in life.

And for the life of me, I can’t even remember a dream I’ve had in a great while. I guess that is the trouble of getting so exhausted and then crashing. I guess my mind and body shut down. And then I never sleep for a long time it seems.

So I’ll share a dream I have sitting here. I dream of growing old with my better half and watching grandchildren grow and flourish. I dream of creating many special memories for my family. I dream of helping others. I dream of great laughter and times ahead.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Learning is fun. Wish I learned that lesson earlier on in life.
  • I feel a sense of urgency all the time now.
  • Sometimes there are treasures in old cardboard boxes.
  • I’m trying to will myself to feel better with mixed success.

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Beep Beep

This writing challenge is a little out of my league. Actually entirely out of my scope. Interview a fictional character. I’ve never done a piece of fiction in my life. If you read on you will see I’m kind of tired also.

OK, here it goes.

Me: Good day Mr. Runner, how are you?

RR: Please call me Road. I’m fine and dandy.

Me: So tell me Road, how is your relationship today with Wile E Coyote?

RR: Oh its just like the old days. A bolder here, a truck there, and of course lots of explosions. I’ve got to give it to the old critter, he is a persistent cuss. I mean, how many people do you know that will take that abuse? That is staying power and determination.

Me: Well I guess that is one way to look at it. But some say it’s cruel, sort of like Lucy pulling the football away just before Charlie Brown tries to kick it.

RR: Oh no, it’s all in good fun. You see I own the Acme Supply Company. And we donate all the proceeds to charity. So think of it this way, Wile E Coyote is one of the most charitable characters around.

Me: Ok, if you say so. Now onto your age Mr. Road Runner. Some have speculated that you might be losing a step or two. Do you feel more vulnerable, can you feel Mr. Coyote breathing down your neck?

RR: No not at all. I’m as fast as ever Beep Beep. He can set as many picnic tables as he pleases, and bring out all the shiny knives and forks to chase me with but the only diet he will be getting is my dust.

Me: According to recent comments by Wile E Coyote (Genius) your days are numbered. It is also rumored he has enlisted the help of Guy Fieri and his Camero to track you down and help him with a braised RoadRunner recipe.

RR: That old Chevy isn’t going to catch me and that Genius had better get his behind back to school.

Me: Well Road, I know you only said you had a minute and I’ve probably used two by now so I hope that pile of birdseed was tasty while we chatted, and please be safe on the roadways. Next week a rebuttal from Mr. Coyote, if he is, well enough to get out of the hospital.

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Super Saturday

I had a wonderful start to the day and the rest of it followed through as well. I could do without the cold temps but it comes with this time of the season. But like the boats below I’m waiting for a quick thaw and return to our warmer months.

Snow covered boats along Scott’s Cove. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt: What is your favorite quote and why. I love quotes and enjoy reading the hell out of them but don’t save too many. I guess my favorite is one that is fairly recent in the scope of history. It’s one that touches my heart and one that no grandfather will ever forget because the request is so genuine.

“Come play with me Papa”My 2-year-old Granddaughter

Another that I’ve often reminded myself to be the later of in life.

“There are two types of people -those who come into a room and say, “Well, here I am!” and those who come in and say, “Ah, there you are.”― Frederick L. Collins

Creativity takes courage. – Henri Matisse

“It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.”― Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • My dislike for cold weather knows no bounds.
  • There are few joys greater than seeing your children happy and healthy.
  • Sometimes the simplest trinket becomes a special momento.
  • I can’t believe the Packers lost.

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Built a fort

Built a fort with my grandchild today. We learned about making foundations with blocks. And of course play and laughter. So much play that it’s going to be early to bed to recover. The unbridled joy of a child breaths life into me, but only for so long when the body realizes its age.

Dad showed me the proper grip on a football a month before he passed. Photo by Shirley Hartley

An interesting writing prompt today. If you could, what year would you time travel to and why? I would go to 1966 the year the picture above was shot. I would ask my father about all his life and experiences and then I would ask a thousand and one questions and seek his guidance about growing up and life.

I never got a chance to do those things. And I think about those things a lot. How would life have changed? Would I have followed his career in the Navy? Would I have had a lot more confidence? Would I have avoided a lot of mistakes?

Not that I want anything in my life to be different because I’m one of the happiest guys around with the way things are turning out. But getting here was difficult at times. It’s a void in my life that was never filled. So I would like to go back and learn about the man I missed so much and to tell him I love him.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • The smell of bacon cooking on a Friday morning with a grandchild on the way to our home is a great start to the day.
  • There is cold and then there is WTF.
  • I have some great friends who remind me often to be thankful for all we have been given and I hope I do the same for them.
  • Thankfully I don’t get headaches often. But when I do it makes me appreciate the suffering that those who do suffer from them.

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Something from nothing

Another opportunity at my doorstep. What should we create today? Inspiration is low because I’m just so tired from the job that pays the bills. I also got lazy with my exercise and my body doesn’t like that. So time to turn it around. Let’s see what today’s writing prompt is.

The beauty and storminess of life. Photo by Mike Hartley.

My favorite photo that I’ve ever taken is a question I’ve never asked myself before. I have a favorite out of a particular shoot or series. Like the one, I have on the wall now of about 300 shots of Arlington Cemetery. I put them up to select a few favorites for larger prints.

I have favorites photos of my wife and children and grandchildren that are my favorites for special reasons close to my heart. I have favorite vacation photos and favorites of the hundreds of shots of friends I have on my office walls.

I have favorites of my family’s pets, favorites of many towns in Maryland, favorites of the sports I’ve taken. Of course, the nature and weather photos are always of my favorites when I think about my best work but then I think about the food and fishing shots that are so colorful and action-oriented. I never favored portraits but I think of a few I could have as favorites. Or maybe some architectural shots I love to shoot and remember.

And soon as I typed the word “remember”, that is what my favorite is. The memory “remembrance” of each photo I shoot envokes. So picking a favorite goes along with picking specific memories. And that is tough to do in life.

So my favorite photo is really the next one I take. And the one after that. Because the excitement is always looking for my next favorite. And every once in a while I pause and say, that could be the one. But then I have another idea or thought and the next image is in my mind to capture.

I will say one more thing about favorites. It’s hard to have a favorite that is just an electronic image. Make a physical print of it and watch how much more special it becomes. I did make a choice a long time ago for the banner image for the header of this site. 8 years ago today in fact. So I put the whole image as my favorite today because it still represents a favorite morning of mine.

I’m going to have to return to this topic of favorite images being I love photography so much. But I’m exhausted and can barely keep my viewfinder open so I’ll return another day and expand on it.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • The weather is a good daily reminder of how unpredictable life is.
  • The interesting thing about the rock group The Who is that they all like to play lead.
  • No matter how many people are around you, you’re still alone.

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The Night

In some ways having lived a nocturnal lifestyle for portions of my professional career has enlightened me to a whole other world that remains a mystery to most people. It can be unsettling at first. Darkness does that to most people.

Photo by Mike Hartley

Just like with anything, it takes time for your senses to adjust. Your sight has to change, your margin for error is way down. The sounds and smells of the night are different than the day. I’ve worked both day and night shifts in Washington DC. That is an entirely different place after sunset as most places are.

But really there is no difference between a city and the woods. All kinds of predators are out at night. But besides that negative, there is a world of wonderous activity. The world is restocked overnight. How this mystery of movement happens is a ballet in darkness. But the mystery to me is how does the human mind change when you become nocturnal.

It’s like living in a different reality sometimes. A different mindset when you see people. For instance, tomorrow night when I get together with my 2 best friends for HH they will be ready for dinner. Well, it’s breakfast time for me. But hell, I don’t care, I’ll eat Mexican or pizza or whatever the group wants to have.

I enjoy sunrises and sunsets, they just mean different things to me. Sunrise is bedtime. Yeah, sort of like Dracula. And sunset is something that I’m cooking bacon to every so often. I look across at the traffic lights in the morning and see people just starting their days and mine is coming to a close. Interesting observation. Most of them don’t have a smile on their face, I do.

I don’t know how people do it for decades, it’s a mystery to me. Sometimes it fits a lifestyle. Sometimes it fits life situations where one parent is always home for kids. It’s tough on relationships though.

One observation about the people out at night. The good ones you encounter are really really good giving and caring people. Most of us who work nights really rely on each other because there are so few for support around.

As I usually step out of my basement office each night it’s always a mystery as to what I might see. Will it be a big herd of deer, maybe a fox sitting on my hill scoping out the clearing before the woods, maybe an owl hooting, or just a cool breeze. The night is full of mysteries that I embrace.

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Speeding and Reading along

Now that I’m back to writing each day I must get back to reading more again, both blogs and books. Tough to fit everything in and that means shifting priorities. That’s fine with me, I’ve been devoting too much time to the job that pays the bills anyway.

Like this boat, just cruising along today. Photo by Mike Hartley

It’s kind of funny what today’s writing prompt was being I had just picked up a book again that I started recently called “Show Your Work” by Austin Kleon.

I’m about halfway through it and I’m sure I’ll pick it up again in the future for inspiration because it makes a good number of points I need to refresh myself on occasionally. I’m asking for more books for birthdays and Xmas. I’m rediscovering the joy of reading.

Not that I haven’t read in the past, it’s just what I read was either news or more technical in nature. Reading about my future endeavors is a lot of fun so far.

I have the next few books lined up behind the current one. “A Photographers Playbook” is next on the agenda and then something fun being March Madness will be approaching. “Tales from the Maryland Terrapins” and there are 2-3 more fun ones behind that one already.

Fitting all these interests into the schedule is hard, but it’s a passion that is really getting stronger each day. For I have two very good reminders of how important life is each day and to utilize every moment you’re healthy to live, enjoy and create.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Sometimes it tough to meet every day head on.
  • Like an idiot I just accepted more work at work.
  • Contractors and Politician. Which lie more?
  • I used a pictue of a boat during summer on todays post to try to help me with warm thoughts. It’s not working yet because I’m still chilled.

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Gaining superpowers

Knocking the days out, one after another. That was my goal to start the year, to post each day. Instead of making a huge goal of making my site something special, and then failing badly because the goals were too big and ill-defined. So I first have to get in the habit of making fresh content each day.

Words and Ideas are important. Photo by Mike Hartley

Mid-month and so far so good for the writing but the photography needs to be fresh each day also. And in that vein, I sought to do something new even though I’m stuck inside today and I’ll try to share that later.

But, onto today’s writing prompt:

I’m not too up on all the action heroes anymore and the new superpowers they may have. If I had a superpower I would like to be a nurse, doctor, or medical scientist and heal people. I would like to be a professor or teacher to help educate or a person who responds to disaster/crisis situations or our civil servants. All these people seem to have incredible superpowers that I admire.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • My beard trimmer trembled when my Grizzly Adams looking self picked it up today.
  • Interesting contrast, MLK today. Tomorrow the voting rights bill will probably fail in the Senate.
  • It’s fun learning to have fun each day.
  • Has the world (we) missed an opportunity to minimize this Covid VIrus but not getting as many people vaccinated as possible and therefore allowing another more deadly varient to produce and kill?

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Passionate about?

Another blank slate to start the day. What a pleasure it is to have some choices. Well, a few minutes for a few choices at least before work tonight. Maybe a lot more time if I stay away from the TV, and don’t watch football games today.

Pit crew – surgery in progress. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt is one I hope to have a much better answer for in the near future. Because when I look at myself now I don’t have a cause I’m really passionate about other than my family and maybe my desire to work on my future crafts. When I think of a cause I think of a charity. We make donations to groups we have belief in like the Red Cross, V Foundation, American Cancer Society, Maryland Foodbank, St Jude, Purple Heart, DAV, and some others.

I haven’t been passionate about a cause. And that troubles me a bit. I think as my free time may expand in the future I might find a cause I’m really serious about making a difference in. But in reality, doing a lot of little things for causes you believe in is kind of a passion. Because as they say every little bit makes a difference.

As I think about what I might become more passionate about I think of the environment and wildlife. I enjoy photographing both and after living through massive development in this area I’m tired of it and it’s got to stop. Also environments like our Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay.

I don’t like to see people hungry or homeless and I will probably do more in that regard. I also have a very soft spot for animals so maybe I’ll do something with the Maryland SPCA. There is so much need and so few able to do. I wish I had done more to contribute throughout my life. But they say it’s never too late to catch up. Well, at least that is what I’m hoping for.

I think this needs repeating. A statement from the American Medical Association. on the Supreme Court decision on Covid Vaccinations for large companies being rejected. –

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • I have no idea why I got away from doing random thoughts for a few days to start the year?
  • I wonder if I didn’t watch the weather report if there would still be snow to shovel later?
  • Pain has a way of reshifting your focus.
  • The sounds of my sons and daughters voices breaths life into me.
  • I’m having serious withdraw from seeing my granddaughter. I think I’ll make her a video today.

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Enjoy the ride

There are only so many days in a lifetime. Don’t waste them away.

Last Sunset. Photo by Mike Hartley

Somedays you get rude reminders of how short life is and how unfair it can be.

So my life lesson is one that encourages you to live each day to the fullest. No, you don’t have to go jump out of a plane each day or ride the rapids. Making good use of every day is maybe saying “I love you” and following that up with an act of kindness. Helping enrich the lives of those around you can do wonders for your own as well.

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Before I get to the day’s writing challenge which I’m having trouble deciding what to write about I wanted to say I’m looking forward to a great day. One of my best friends helped me get life back in perspective last night and we laughed and solved the world’s problems all in one evening.

TUNE FISH ON. Photo by Mike Hartley

An interesting one today: Write about a challenge you faced and overcame.

To be honest, I feel like I’ve been very lucky in life, and that challenges I might express are really minor in scope to what others have and currently face. I had two different cancers and I guess some may consider those challenges. Really you’re along for the ride. Yeah, you make a few decisions along the way, your fight is the recovery and living with it and putting that fear of more aside.

I think of the many lifelong challenges that losing my dad at a young age has had on me for decades. I’ve had a great number of professional challenges but nothing I feel like bragging about today. I could write of the many challenges faced being married over 4 decades we have overcome.

I thought about the challenge of starting a family and what a special time that was. From the moment I saw my first child laying on the my better halfs chest I suddenly realized my entire priorities had changed. All my old ways and priorities becomes secondary. If you take it seriously its an incredible responsiblity helping raise a family, provide for the family, give the family a future better than yours, show love and compasion each and every day.

I needed to grow up quick and I did. Well that is my story and I’m sticking to it. My better half might have a few arguements but overall I stepped up. Could I have been better, always and I even look at today how I can be better. That is always a never ending job from the moment they enter the world. One because your always learning, adjusting, supporting and teaching.

Its a labor of love certainly but also one of sacrifice that you will feel. But its all worth it and then some. It’s been the most rewarding and proudest thing in my life to just be a part of their upbringing and to see them become wonderful people. Time passes so fast you barely have time to appreciate it. It’s easy to lose yourself. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed during it. Take breaks, let people help.

So I would say stepping up to the challege of being a good father isn’t really something that I had to overcome but more of a goal to meet every day of my life. It’s a labor of LOVE.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • We used to have a pool. Sometimes I still look out the window and see my family laying on floats or having sponge ball battles.
  • Reading is a lot of fun, I wish I had more time for it.
  • I could use a good nights rest. But the call of progress will keep me up.
  • Only dreams of my toes in the sand on a warm summer day pull me through cold weekends like this.

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An Ideal Day

What is not to like about the start of a weekend. Mine begins today.

Sunset on the bay behind Ocean City Photo by Mike Hartley

So time to ramp up production personal work and try to make up for a busy week at the job that pays the bills.

From the parking lot at Fagers Island Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt is: What does your ideal day look like?

I don’t think I can fit all the things in my ideal day. So I’ll pick one of my favorites. And as always any ideal day always involves my family and friends.

Driving over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at sunrise on a warm summer morning with the top down on the way to the ocean. Breakfast at Barn 34 or Happy Jacks. Spend some time taking pictures. Ride bikes around town. Hit the beach, Dumsers cheeseburger, and cherry ice cream soda. To the pool, then a shower, lounge on the huge balcony in a reclining cushioned beach chair with a view of the ocean and bay, read and listen to music.

A seafood festival with the family for dinner. Laugh with the kids and grandkids. Spending time with my better half. Return to the balcony and listen to the sound of the waves hitting the beach. Hear a knock at the door and it’s my best friends and back to the balcony we go and proceed to laugh the night away till the next sunrise.

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This writing each day feels good. I hope I can keep it going well beyond this monthly challenge. Why, because I like to communicate. And even if it’s a random person who just reads one post or a family member who might keep up with my ramblings, I can be happy with that.

Are you talking to ME? Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt: What emoji(s) do you like to use?

Today’s writing prompt left me a little short for the material needed for a thoughtful post. You see despite working on computers for many years the emoji thing never caught on with me. Yeah, I send my daughter a heart once in a great while on a text but that is about it.

I actually saw a text once to a person much younger and it was all emoji’s and they replied all in emojis. I just don’t get it and probably won’t, not that it might be fun I guess but I’d rather say things with words and pictures. And no I don’t consider an emoji a picture or illustration or graphic. But that is just me. I say have fun with them if you use them.

I think the same might be true of my friends. I think the only emoji I’ve seen them send is one of a beer and a shot glass.

So I decided to spend a few minutes learning some emoji language. Off to Google, I went. Well, first I stand corrected. This looks to be a whole industry. I had no idea there were so many emojis and so many meanings for them. I was thinking about picking up a new language when I retired. Maybe Spanish. But now I’m thinking I might add emoji to the list. Then again, Nah. Text and emails using words can be misinterpreted and I’m guessing emojis can even lead to more confusion.

I think I discovered the real reason I’m not an emoji fan yet. Being older and one of failing eyesight I can’t tell if someone is sending the peace sign or flipping me the bird. So instead of enlarging the screen or getting my magnifying glass out, I’ll stick to words. But please, go about your fun.


To boldly go

If I’m a lucky man and have my health a few more years I’ll be boldly entering retirement, from the job that pays the bills. And I’m looking forward to it because I’m preparing for it. I read a good book a friend got me a while back called “The Joy of Not Working” by Ernie J. Zelinski. It was great and started me on a path of hobbies and plans and dreams of all kinds of things to do and also be aware of. A mindset change from someone else being the boss, to me being the boss.

This guy’s suit screams Craig Sager. Just look at the guy’s reaction walking towards him. It kind of looks like Gov. Hogan from behind. Photo by Mike Hartley

So what does it mean to live boldly? Ask today’s writing challenge. Wow, this could cover a lot of range. Just expressing yourself is bold nowadays and sometimes dangerous. But I’ll take that risk.

I remember back my first job as an adult at 18 which I stayed at for 21 years. I left that to join two partners to go into business for ourselves. With not enough capital, not enough experience, not enough knowledge, and certainly not enough staff. If it didn’t say newspaper office it would have been a hat store because I never wore so many different ones. I guess that was a rather bold move being I had two young children at home. (Bold in a chance sort of way)

Honestly, my first thought was the bold fight an old friend has put up over the last year fighting cancer. (Bold as in courageous)

I watch one of my best friends leap up the food chain and help build a successful company that handles huge jobs and multimillion $$ contracts and exude the management skills with people that I admire. He could have done things the old fashion way but that isn’t him. He takes the glory off the field for his team. (Bold as in masterful strokes)

When I was younger I had the inclination to drive fast at times. More stupid than bold but things like rock climbing or surfing with sharks or platform diving off a cliff. (Boldness in adventures.)

You have to be really bold to ask a question, especially in front of others. Because without knowledge you can’t live. (Bold is not being afraid as being seen as stupid)

Bold is saying things like “Will you marry me” or “I Do” or “Were going to have a baby”. Bold is saying “I accept the job” or “I quit” or, “I think I deserve a better raise.”

Bold can be just getting out of bed and taking on another day or arming yourself to go to work to defend society or a country. (Salute to the boldness of our servicemen/women and law enforcement and fire)

Living each day is bold if you choose to really live.


And we’re off

Hard to go charging into a new week when the temps outside reduce movement by 50% because you have to dress in layers looking like the Michelin Man. But off we go anyway. Into the frozen tundra.

Woodstock Road. Photo by Mike Hartley

So today’s writing prompt was:

The 5 things I’m grateful for today are:

  • I’m grateful my family and friends are healthy. One has the flu but that will pass.
  • I’m grateful my stomach is full and a warm roof is over my head.
  • I’m grateful to know that riches aren’t measured in monetary wealth but in time with special people surrounding you, loving and enjoying each other.
  • I’m grateful to all the professional people that I’ve enjoyed working with in the past and today. Many have mentored me and I hope I’ve given it back to others along the way.
  • I’m grateful my better half said “I Do” a long time ago.

You know, those are the ones I’m grateful for every day. But today specifically I would answer:

  • I’m grateful for the opportunity to possibly work from home for the next 2 years which I sent the forms for today.
  • I’m grateful for the Jimmy Johns #10 which was very tasty and filled me up.
  • I’m grateful I have a space heater in my office on a night when the temps might dip to single digits.
  • I’m grateful yesterdays back pain subsided earlier today.
  • I’m grateful to have a few free moments to do a post and tinker making some large prints for framing.

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Oh, the weekends go by so quickly. Can’t wait to get to the days of the permanent weekend.

She just explained life to him. Photo by Mike Hartley

Interesting writing prompt today: What do people incorrectly assume about you?

I thought about what people might wrongly assume I would guess the following.

Maybe that I’m more technically inclined than creatively.

That not returning to the drinking days of my youth is easy just because it’s been so long.

That I’m not very good at relaxing. I just don’t do it that often.

That I’m comfortable being outgoing.

Some might not think I’m very smart. Only completed high school and wasn’t that good then. But I have a lot of common sense and good intuition. And when I apply myself I do fairly well.

In today’s political world there are so many wrong assumptions from both sides that it’s almost like we can’t talk to one another because these false assumptions make each side too angry to sit down and listen. Very sad.

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I’ve inadvertently found the love of writing.

The Writer Framed. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt is What do you like most about your writing.

Sometimes you just stumble into something or scratch an old itch that really turns into something. I started blogging several years ago just to show my photos and inadvertently started writing. Sometimes a photo would spur a few thoughts and I just started to do more and more on each post. Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m no writer because the reading I do shows me I’m just a beginner. And that is fine with me even if I finish as one.

I’ve had a thought to start a book for my children about a dozen years ago, and I have a good base of material that I should revisit and complete. I’ve thought about some photography books and I’m going to try my first one next month. I have the draft of a start of a book about being in the nocturnal working world. But I really like blogging because it keeps me in regular practice and seems to bring satisfaction each day I accomplish it.

What I like most about my writing is that as time goes on, I’m inspired to do more of it and get better at it (even though I’m sure some of you might say this is a slow process). I don’t look at it as work or even a deadline or set goals on how much I write each day. I just want to do it, just like I discovered long ago, I just like to take photos.

My hope is that maybe someone will enjoy a piece or a thought that makes them think or just smile at some levity. Or maybe my children or better half will read it and learn something about their dad/husband.

I love that there are so many styles and flavors of writing to choose from. I did some poetry a long time ago and enjoyed it immensely. Again it was beginner stuff mostly humorous, but it proved it hit right because people found it funny.

I like that I find myself thinking and growing more. I have no idea where I’m going with my writing in the future. All I can say is I’ll keep doing it and keep enjoying it, because as they say it’s the journey, not the destination.

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A Friday laugh

When I looked at my to-do list I laughed a bit this morning. Add the snow shoveling to the list and it’s overflowing. But of course, I want to keep up with this blogging challenge so I go check out the writing prompt and find it’s going to be a fun one. (What makes you laugh?)

I hope when people think of me now and when I’m gone they think of laughter. I love to laugh, I love to make others laugh.

Simple things like this couple having a different idea of directions. Photo by Mike Hartley

Laughter to me is the medicine of life. It sustains me in difficult times and lifts me to great heights when things are going well. It’s one cornerstone to almost all my relationships. I guess I like being around people who know how to laugh.

I remember getting the album “Class Clown” in 1972 when I was 15 of George Carlin. I can remember my mother’s reaction still when she heard “Seven words you can never say on television.” She was in shock but I saw her snickers in between.

So what makes me laugh? Videos of my 2-year-old granddaughter that my daughter sends me. I like the comic pages. A comedy club or just one of my friends. The irony in many work and political situations. Pets, old people, and young children. Being tickled. YouTube videos. Hell, I’ll laugh at just about anything, Highbrow to toilet humor. I love it all.

I guess I just got lucky to grow up in the time of the comedy masters. The likes of Robin Williams, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Lenny Bruce, Red Fox

Physical comedy is great -I loved Saturday night live since its start and in those early days with Chevy Chase and John Belushi it was a riot. Then Steve Martin and Chris Farley and so many more. And I still love it today.

Thinking comedy – Steven Wright, George Carlin, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Burr

Comedy nuts – Rodney Dangerfield, Sam Kinison, Bernie Mac, Johnathan Winters and Don Rickles.

And of course, I have to give the ladies their due – From groundbreakers like Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller. Too Amy, Tina, Wanda, Rossane.

I love Far Side and Dilbert’s daily calendars. I love live skit comedy. I love all late-night show comedians.

Looking for the laughter in each day really makes living a lot of fun, besides all the serious stuff that takes place.

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The timing of today’s writing prompt (Who is someone that inspires you and why) left me with two minds. I was thinking about family and friends that had inspired me. I thought of a few sports stars I’ve followed and then maybe a mentor or two I’ve had on the job. I thought about my parents. But then I got a text about an old work friend who was being given last rights and being moved to hospice. Ironically I had just written him a few hours earlier in the day. This news inspired me to select him because he has inspired me these last months.

Shrine of St Anthony off Homewood Road. I use this photo because he used to go to services here. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today I recognize the courage and faith an old friend displayed fighting brutal cancer these past several months. And I don’t use those two words (faith and courage) lightly. I never heard his faith waver. I never heard a complaint about the horrible things that come along with chemo and advanced cancers. As a good friend said to a few of us today “dying is hard work and he has faced things worse than death. I wish his spirit peace and freedom from pain.”

We worked together over 20 years ago but when I heard of his diagnosis I felt the need to reconnect. I try to reach out to others who have to fight cancer and help support and encourage where I can.

One thing he noted right away which is kind of unique but not uncommon in relationships with people who worked at PPC is that despite decades apart, we all pick up like we were together yesterday. So I tried to write often and now I wish I had written more because he said he enjoyed the notes.

Ahh, the old magic of the local newspaper days. I think the ease of these long-term friendships or connections to each other that are rekindled from time to time like close friends who were separated but never stopped loving each other. I think that was for a few reasons like the size of the company 300-400 people, the unusual amount of years we all worked together, and the passion for the work we did. But the final and special factor is that there just seemed to be a lot of special, caring, fun, and loving people there. And he was certainly one of them.

He’s inspiring me to live each day to the fullest. He’s made me think about doing things both professionally and personally before time runs out. He was a man that exuded life and that is a very good trait to try to emulate to fill voices like his that are taken too soon. A gregarious personality with a baritone laugh. A man of many talents and skills. A man that has me evaluating my own faith.

I used the picture above because he told me he went there to “focus on my soul and my faith.” I think I’ll stop by there on my next trip to Columbia and wish his soul well, thank him for his friendship, and that he be granted peace from this cruel situation.

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Good day all, another wonderful day to be alive. Therefore our wishing may go on.

Drum set in window of Bill’s Music in Catonsville. Photo by Mike Hartley

Today’s writing prompt is:

This is a great question and one to consider more than the surface of it. If you wish you knew how to do it, then what is preventing it?

Today, I was practicing one of my loves and that is listening to music. Knowing how to be a musician, is something I wish I knew how to do.

  • I’d like to play bass like John Entwistle.
  • I’d like to write songs like Ronnie Van Zant
  • I’d like to play the drums with the maniacal energy of Keith Moon but the technical expertise of Neil Peart.
  • I’d like to be able to do the guttural yell Roger Daltrey does on the song Won’t get fooled again. And at the same time be able to harmonize like CSN.
  • I’d like to play piano like Billy Powell
  • I’d like to play guitar with the grace of Carlos Santana and the occasional windmill of Pete Townsend.
  • You know, maybe if I live a long life I’ll give it a shot.

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The writing challenge of the day is back again.

Photo by Mike Hartley

And today’s prompt was What was your favorite toy as a child.

The first thing that popped into my mind was my basketball. I remember feeling secure with the ball in my hand. It was my first therapist. If there was bad weather or snow on the ground I’d use the tiled basement floor as my court. And when it was nice I was outside with it.

It helped me make friends, it gave me confidence and something to look forward to. Thankfully there were a great number of friends who also like to play. And play we did, pretty much year-round.

Actually, I sat for a while thinking about this. I remember very little about my early childhood and play and toys. I know why I blocked some of it out, but it’s been so long I have been unable to recall the good times. I know there were some. But some things made toys not that important.

The most important thing to me as a youngin was the kitten my dad brought home. So a kitty and a basketball were the most important toys to me as a child. They were both good listeners and help me think things out.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Time to hunker down at home for a while. Why chance catching something if I don’t have to. Plus we need to give our healthcare workers a break so there are some of them left after the pandemic to treat us for all the other stuff that was happening before this.
  • I’m learning to laugh more when others are petty. A trait I didn’t always posess.
  • I keep in touch with some people that are very ill. Sometimes it’s hard to find the right words.


Comfort Zone

So today’s writing prompt is The last time I left my comfort zone.

I left my comfort zone yesterday when I crawled out of bed. Of course, that is creature comfort and I don’t believe that was the intent of the question.

Oh, I know, I’m well out of my comfort zone because it’s snowing this morning to remind me of my least and most uncomfortable season, Winter is here. Too lame.

I kind of leave my comfort zone each day when I post my blog. Because the quote “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt” keeps popping in my head right before I hit the publish button. Yet I don’t think this meets the criteria of the question.

I left my comfort zone last Friday when I left my home. And I mean comfort in that I know the virus isn’t here at my home. But again, that isn’t the meaning of the question.

Some never have a comfort zone. Photo by Mike Hartley

Let’s see, something big, maybe changing jobs would qualify as leaving the comfort zone? Oops. Only had 3 jobs since I was 18. Been at the last one for almost 25 years. I have moved to different positions throughout my career but the last one was 7-8 years ago. So let me see if I can find something more recent.

Ah, I got it, we had our kitchen remodeled and it’s gone over schedule, and while about 95% complete it’s still not done and we certainly left our comfort zone for about 2 months not having one. Nah, that still doesn’t sound good enough.

OK, I think I got it. I had two different cancers in my 50s. So I’ve been being monitored for about a dozen years now. Thankfully after my last cancer surgery and radiation, I migrated all the way to annual testing. Once a year is great. It’s so infrequent you don’t spend time in thought about it. And after you get a couple of years under your belt your think you might be home-free. But 2021 brought a change that took me out of my comfort zone. A number went up and now I’m back to every 6 months for the next 2 years. Yes, it’s better than quarterly but it’s the last thing I wanted to hear at this time.

In some ways the lack of a comfort zone I have about cancer almost everyone knows about now, with this virus. Am I going to catch it, will I get deathly ill and die in a hospital, or be burdened with life-altering long-term effects from it. I know everyone doesn’t look at the virus, like that, but maybe if more did they would get the vaccines.

I don’t go worrying about cancer every day, or every week or every month. No, I worry about it when I get a new ache or an old ache gets more severe. I worry about it when I hear a friend with pancreatic cancer is struggling. I worry about it when the office calls and says it’s test time and then I worry till I talk to the doctor. I worry that when I look into the eyes of my grandchildren that I’m there for them as they grow up. I worry that something might affect me growing old with my better half. I worry about it when one of my best friends goes under the knife for it. I worry about it when I see someone in a cancer chatroom at the job who is struggling.

I worry about a fight I might not win. So I left my permanent comfort zone over a decade ago when I realized I wasn’t invincible. I was just starting to feel good again last year for the first time in a long time when in September 2021 the increased testing came along and removed my comfort zone again.

But I’ve gained knowledge and inspiration from each time this happens. It’s a good reminder to make the best use of each day. Tell people you love them. Show them by your actions. Talk to people like there is a chance you might not get to again and how you would want to be remembered by them. Get to the things you love in life. Get to the people you love in life. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Remember there are a lot of people who consider a comfort zone a warm place to sleep and a meal. So regardless of health issues that are out of my control, I need to get busy again working and being with the loves of my life so my comfort zone returns.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • Snow is beautiful when you don’t have to shovel it.
  • There is a lot of action involved in setting up a good still life photo.
  • I hear its cold outside, more incentive to not leave the keyboard.
  • It’s tough returning to a night shift after a week of living and sleeping like a normal human being.
  • I might add chef to the list of things I’d like to become in retirement.


Road Trip

Good first Sunday of 2022. It signals a return to the job that pays the bills after a week of vacation. A tough night ahead. But until then, onward with my goals and changes in this new year.

Maryland has some great roads. Photo by Mike Hartley.

Today’s writing prompt: What is a road trip you would love to take.

The words “Road Trip” always remind me of the movie Animal House which came out in my youth. So every adventure we used to go, short or long, someone would always call out “Road Trip” and a roar would go up.

Given my love of driving and being closer to retirement than ever, my mind has been wandering towards the thought of a road trip or several in the U.S.

The first thing about a trip I would “LOVE” to take means that there is no job to schedule vacation from and no job to return to after the trip. I’ve always wanted to savor a trip. Work prevents that. In some years work could ruin my entire good vacation vibe in one day.

And when I take a trip with my better half I want it to be a memorable experience before we even leave and for many years afterward. There are a lot of areas I would love to visit in this great country. My wife would love a road trip up the west coast from San Diego up to San Francisco and into the Napa region.

Of course, I’ve always had a desire to see the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. Maybe rent an RV and just drive and see for a month. I’ve also been thinking of two east coast trips also. I thought about going through southern Maryland and over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel to Virginia Beach. Then down to what I think is called the outer banks, Nags Head, Hatteras, and then hug the coast down to Charleston and Savanah which are two towns we would spend some time in. Maybe a stop at NASA in Florida and then down to the Keys. Of course, I’d have to stop and say hello to one of my best friends in FLA.

The other east coast trip involves going north to see New York City, Boston, and then along the coast of Maine. Returning through Vermont and down through the central part of New York and Pennsylvania to back home in Maryland.

Regardless I hope to fill this year with many road trips (shorter in nature) to many places we have yet to explore or want to explore again. I don’t know what of the big trips I can even afford but if I can, we will go and have the trip or trips of our lives.

Random Thoughts of the Day

  • It feels good to get back to my goal of blogging daily.
  • One of the best things about being an ametaur photographer is you are leaving your friends and family many memories that will bring many smiles and rememberances well after I’m gone.
  • I see winter is coming to our area this week. Time to find the extension cord so I can strap that space heater to my behind.
  • I’m reading again and it feels good. Feels even better that it’s books my children got me.
  • The first couple days on the treadmill are also working out well. But that dreaded incline button is waiting for me.


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.