September 11, 2001

Don't be afraid of storms_edited-1Like most of you, I will always remember certain historical events that have occurred during my life. Some of them I can even remember exactly where I was and how I felt at the time. I was in my 8th grade gym class, sitting on the floor during a break, when the announcement that our president had been shot in Dallas came over the PA system. He was buried on my 13th birthday and I spent the day watching his funeral on TV with my family. In April of my senior year in high school Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in Memphis. I don’t remember where I was when I heard the news, but I do remember the shock we all felt about it. In June of that same year, while we were busy preparing for final exams and graduation, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles. In July of 1969, while on my first “grown-up” vacation at the Jersey shore with a friend, we watched the Apollo 11 moon landing and the amazing sight of Neil Armstrong actually walking on the moon.

15 years ago, on the morning of September 11, 2001, I was sitting in the conference room of our county Emergency Operations Center waiting for the start of the weekly department directors meeting. As always, one of the wall mounted TVs was tuned to CNN with the sound muted. I remember chatting with a couple of people when someone suddenly pointed toward the TV and said “Look at that!!” and we all turned to see what had caught his attention. It was a plane crashing into one of the World Trade Center towers, which I soon learned was the North Tower. We were astonished by the sight but we all assumed it was a private plane that had somehow gone off course and lost control. If we saw that today we would immediately think it was a terrorist attack, but 15 years ago that was the last thing on our minds. Just a few minutes later, in real-time, we saw another plane hit the South Tower and someone turned up the sound on the TV. We all sat in shocked silence watching the images and listening to the announcers trying to piece together and report the unfolding events.

Like so many people in Florida, I’m originally from the NYC metropolitan area. I grew up in northeastern New Jersey, and attended the School of Visual Arts in NYC. I made numerous trips into Manhattan over the years to visit museums, shop, or take visitors to see the sights. I used to go to bars with my friends when the drinking age in NJ was 21 and in NY it was only 18! Because I grew up in the shadow of NYC – I can remember looking at the skyline from the upstairs bedroom in my grandparent’s house – I always felt a connection to it but, on that day in 2001, my most important connection was my son because he was working for a company in midtown Manhattan. He was sent out each day to jobs in different parts of the city so I had no idea where he was that morning but, I knew he often worked in the Wall Street area. Like millions of other people, I couldn’t get through to him on his cell phone or on his employer’s phone. I didn’t speak to him for another anxious, heart pounding 7 hours. Thankfully, my son had not been on a job near the World Trade Center that morning so he was physically safe, although emotionally very upset.

Looking back with 15 years of hindsight, I realize that September 11, 2001 was the beginning of a change in some of my attitudes. It still took me another ten years to become fully engaged in politics and news but, 9/11 awakened something in me. I began to have a real appreciation for what a great country we have and how blessed we are in so many ways. I saw many acts of heroism from ordinary people in the days after 9/11 and I felt such pride in the resilience and generosity of the American people. I’m not a naive, flag waving, blind loyalty, “America, love it or leave it” type of patriot and I’m not in lock step with any politician or political party but 9/11 taught me to love my country in a way I didn’t before. I love the flag and the national anthem and what they stand for. I revere the Constitution and I know that, if our elected officials protect and defend it, we will be able to overcome anything. I feel deep gratitude and respect for all who have served, bled and died for our freedoms. Seeing the Twin Towers come down made me realize for the first time how vulnerable those freedoms really are and I don’t take them for granted anymore.

God Bless America.

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.  ~Edward Abbey

Liberty wearing her new bandana 12-25-14

She was named Liberty for a reason

 

 

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Small and not so small blessings

Lynda Linke logoJuly 8th will be the fifth anniversary of my “reinvention” journey – the day I retired from the working world and began living life in a different way than I had for the previous 35+ years. Years ago I read somewhere that retirement for “Boomers” is different from their parent’s retirement and that many of us like to think of it more as an opportunity for “reinvention”. That’s a fairly typical Boomer way of looking at things – slightly self-centered and egotistical, goal-oriented, forward thinking, and always striving to be different from previous generations. We’re not going to have our parent’s retirement! Perish the thought!! We might even be the first generation that really didn’t believe we would grow old, or at least the most vocal about it. Remember “don’t trust anyone over 30”? How about The Who talking about “My Generation”? Now that we’re all in our 60’s and 70’s, it’s our turn to confront the challenges of aging and, once again, we are determined to experience it in our own way.

Although I’m sure there are plenty of people in my age group who are happy to spend their retirement playing golf or fishing (nothing wrong with that!), I have read interesting stories about people who are using retirement as a time in their lives when they can create a different lifestyle. Many people have chosen to start a small business after retiring, often completely different from the careers in which they worked for 30 or 40 years. Maybe for the first time in your adult life you’re free to explore interests for which you never had time. You might make a radical lifestyle change – perhaps you always wanted to live on a houseboat or maybe you’re fulfilling the dream you’ve had since you were 18 of traveling the country in an RV. I just read a story about a couple who spent a year visiting all 59 national parks!

Although I can’t say I have created a radically different or unique lifestyle in the way some people have, it is certainly different from the one I used to have. For one thing, the reduction in stress and responsibility has allowed me to change in some important ways. One change, which is a small blessing in itself, is a real understanding that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my life. I have accepted my current limitations and restrictions and I’m content. That’s a biggie for me because I’ve always been restless and thinking about the next “thing”. I’m not living an exciting, adventurous life but I appreciate the small blessings of being able to immerse myself in a good book, walk with Liberty, have lunch with a friend, take my Mom on a vacation, go to the beach, get away on my own for a few days and a myriad of other simple pleasures.

I started out 5 years ago with a long to-do list, which is still only half completed. It’s been a small blessing to find I don’t care about accomplishing the rest of the goals I set for myself back then! I’ve learned some things about myself and one of them is that I’m not ambitious enough to be a successful artist or author or to start a business, and that’s okay because an important part of my journey has been learning to accept myself. I no longer feel like I have to be accomplishing something important every day. There are places I’d like to visit, things I’d like to experience and a soul mate I hope to meet before I die, but I don’t have the anxious restlessness I once had about those things – and for a former chronic malcontent that’s no small blessing.

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~E.M. Forster

Lake Hall Tallahassee 4-16

Liberty is thankful for the not so small blessing of encountering NO alligators during her recent visit to Lake Hall in Arthur B. Maclay Gardens and State Park in Tallahassee. 

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Home is where the dog is

Congratulations on adopting a dogHome is where the heart is. I like the concept that phrase brings to mind. It is on one of my favorite T-shirts. My problem is that I’m not sure where my heart is so, I don’t really know where my home is. I like the town in which I live and I like my house – I’ve been here for 20 years, which is the longest I have lived anywhere, including the home in which I spent most of my childhood – and yet, I always have the sense that I could easily leave and like another town and another house just as much. In fact, the reasons I have lived here so long have less to do with choice than with responsibility and practicality. I don’t feel like I have deep roots here, but I don’t have them anywhere else either. Still, I know I’m blessed in many ways so I work through feelings of restlessness by practicing the “bloom where you are planted” philosophy. Appreciate what you have and don’t dwell on what you don’t have.

So, where does my mysterious heart reside? If we’re talking about love, which is typically synonymous with the heart, I love my mother, my son and my best friend. I’m working on loving God. I have deep affection for a few other people. I love my dog, Liberty, almost as much as (and in some ways more!) than any of these humans. She is my constant companion, four-legged best friend and excellent travel buddy. I start every morning with a smile because the first thing I see is her face peeking up over the side of the bed, tail wagging madly in anticipation of an exciting new day. I like to take her with me wherever I go, as much as possible. She isn’t boring, doesn’t annoy me, and is always happy just to BE with me. I like to see her happy little face in my rear view mirror.

In the two years since I adopted Liberty, we have become volunteers with Haven Hospice and PAWS to Read and today she passed the first part of a 3 part test to be registered with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs but, more important than that, she is MY therapy dog. She reminds me to appreciate the moment and enjoy simple pleasures. She takes me out of my shell and encourages me to be more open to people; to offer comfort and kindness to people I don’t even know. When I look at things through her eyes, the ordinary becomes special and new again. It kind of reminds me of when my son was a baby and I felt like I was seeing the world, through his eyes, for the very first time.

If you have never loved a dog or, if you don’t even like them, you probably think I’m nuts or that I have an unhealthy attachment to Liberty or some other psycho-babble. If so, I probably wouldn’t like you and I would definitely find it difficult to trust you. I do have room in my heart and life for a kind and decent man (if I should ever meet one) but, he must love my dog! Love me; love my dog 🙂

I have always loved dogs – they were my faithful friends through childhood and early adulthood and, although for a long time I only had cats as pets (don’t worry cat lovers, they were very special to me, too), I returned to the “dog life” in 2009 when I adopted Stella. She was a senior with many health problems but her sweet, quiet companionship and friendly, easy going nature were the perfect reintroduction into “dog life” for me. Now I can’t imagine living without a canine companion and I hope I never have to.

Crazy as it may sound, in writing this I have come to the conclusion that maybe my heart resides in the heart of a dog so, I guess as long as I have my dog with me I’m home.

If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. ~Will Rogers

Fun in the ocean 10-15-15

Pure joy!

You can see more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Christmas time is here

Spirit of abundanceI put my Christmas tree up last week and Mom & I had our annual tree trimming party the other night. We have been doing that together every year since my parents retired to Florida in 1997 – Dad used to sit in the armchair and give us directions 🙂 – and it’s a special time for us as we hang the ornaments and share favorite memories. Baby’s First Christmas 1977. Fragile, paper thin glass ornaments, including a treetop star, Mom bought in Woolworth over 55 years ago that were on all my childhood Christmas trees. My Dad’s favorite – Mr. & Mrs. Claus fast asleep in their little cigarette box bed. Ornaments for my cats, Nettie & Ceilie, and my dogs, Stella & Liberty. We always have something good to munch on – this year it was my friend Karen’s delicious (and super easy!) lemon pie. Other decorations and lights have been added and my house looks twinkly, cozy and pretty. I like to sit at night with just the lights on the tree and a candle on the mantle illuminating my living room, Liberty snoozing on her bed, Christmas music playing softly. Ahhh.

Christmas is a special time of the year. Although Jesus is “the reason for the season”, you don’t have to be a Christian to appreciate the lights, decorations, music and food. There is also a feeling – let’s call it goodwill – that feels stronger during the Christmas season. Our hearts are more open, our spirits more generous. We are moved to donate to our favorite charities, drop dollars in the Salvation Army kettles, drop food off at the food pantries, get a toy for Toys for Tots, take clothes to the homeless shelter, and many other acts of kindness we might forget to do during the rest of the year.

We also want to draw our family and friends near to us at this time of year. My celebrations are pretty low key compared to many people. I don’t have a big family or a lot of friends but I appreciate and enjoy every one of them. My son, who lives in NJ, will visit for the week as he does every year. We’ll have dinner at my Mom’s house on Christmas Eve (with Liberty, of course!) and then we’ll spend Christmas Day at my house. One night we’ll walk around a local park that has a beautiful Christmas light display and then go to a movie. Simple pleasures.

This month, whether you are celebrating the birth of Jesus, Hanukkah, or nothing at all, I wish you the peace and love we all desire in our lives and in our world.

Merry Christmas!

Liberty 12-8-15

Hope you get lots of treats and nice surprises! Love & licks, Liberty

For more of my artwork and books visit Lynda Linke Productions

 

 

 

 

St. Simons Island

Bon voyageAfter my Dad passed away in 2006 I began taking my Mom away for Thanksgiving. When I was still working we would go away for a long weekend but, since I retired, we go for the whole week. My birthday is November 25th so we celebrate that, too. We have spent Thanksgiving in some very nice places and have shared lots of good times and laughs together. Mom says she replays these happy memories like movies in her head when she is back home in her recliner. Since 2009, we have traveled with my dogs – first Stella, who passed away in April 2014, and now Liberty. I’ve been blessed with two good little travelers!

This year we went to St. Simons Island, GA. I had never been before but had been told by several people that it was a nice place to visit. Mom and I like scenic small towns that have an old-fashioned downtown area so we can leave the car in the driveway and walk everywhere. St. Simons didn’t disappoint. The town is very pretty, with streets shaded by lots of trees including many huge old live oaks. There is a “downtown” area with a waterfront park and pier referred to as “the Village” and the cottage we rented(https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p439968vb) was within easy walking distance of that and the beach. Every person I spoke to – from restaurant servers to shop keepers to fellow dog walkers – was friendly.

Early every morning I took Liberty for her usual walk – about 1-1/2 hours – then had a second cup of coffee and breakfast with Mom. Some days the three of us would walk to the Village, have a leisurely stroll around and stop for lunch and some days we got in the car and ventured out of town. We discovered a small bakery and sampled many of their treats during the week!

If, like me, you’re interested in history there are plenty of historic sites within a short drive. We didn’t visit them all but we did see the St. Simons Island Lighthouse and Maritime Museum,which is close to the Village, we toured Fort King George in Darien and we ate a picnic lunch on the grounds of Hofwyl-Broadfield Plantation near Brunswick and then toured the house and outbuildings. The grounds of the former rice plantation (and later dairy farm) are beautiful with many live oak trees ranging from 300- 500 years old and one next to the house that is 800.

We spent a quiet Thanksgiving Day in the cottage, had the veggie lasagna   I brought for dinner, pecan pie from the bakery, and watched “The Godfather” parts 1 and 2. Although we were enjoying a wonderful get away we were also very aware of the tragic events occurring outside our little bubble. We were still watching stories about the radical Islamic terrorist attacks in Paris on 11/13 when the news broke about the shooting at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs. Just a couple of days after we returned home there was another radical Islamic terrorist attack – this time in San Bernardino, CA. I watched with growing anger, frustration and fear as officials and mainstream media pundits did verbal contortions for days to avoid calling the attack what it really was. My happy little vacation bubble was burst and I was back to reality.

In the prayer I said at Thanksgiving dinner I thanked God for all the blessings in my life and asked Him to protect us from our enemies, both domestic and foreign. I also asked for protection from the misguided and foolish actions of our leaders. I should have also asked for protection from hidden agendas.

God bless us every one.

Liberty in front of cottage 11-2015

Liberty makes herself at home at our St. Simons Island cottage

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Stuff I Like- Part 4

Ocean dreaming 001An October morning at the beach!!

My tolerance for the heat and humidity of the summer months here in NE Florida has decreased over the past few years so I don’t go to the beach as much during those months as I used to but, the spring and fall are delightful. I especially love October and November and, during the years that I had a timeshare in St. Augustine Beach, I always went in late October/early November. The early mornings and nights are cool, the air during the day is warm but, not stifling, the sky is usually clear blue and there is almost always a pleasant breeze. Another bonus is that the beach is quiet in the fall because it is in between family vacation time and the arrival of the “snowbirds” so there are very few people around. I almost feel like the wide open space belongs to me. I live close to the beach, just a 10 minute drive, but my favorite beach is a few miles north of where I live and well worth the few extra minutes it takes to get there. Even the drive is a pleasure – an officially designated scenic highway that winds through a lush hammock, over an inlet, and offers beautiful unobstructed views of the ocean. A rare treat on the East coast.

I was waiting for a day with cooler temperatures and no rain in the forecast so I could put Liberty in the car and head for the beach and that day arrived this week. The timing was perfect because I had been feeling a little bit blue and I knew I needed to take what I call a “happiness action”. We got there and were walking along the shore well before 9 and it was a beautiful morning – I could feel my mood lift. Yes, I practice what I preach! I don’t wait for someone or something to make me happy – I find it for myself.

I have a 20′ retractable leash for Liberty that I only use when we go to the beach so she can run in and out of the ocean and chase the sandpipers. The first time I took her to the beach, just a couple of weeks after she came to live with me last April, she was afraid of the ocean. Every time a wave approached she ran the other way! I walked along the shore, where the water is shallow, and gently encouraged her to let the waves wash around her feet. Gradually, she realized the water could only reach as far as she allowed and that began the relationship she has with the ocean to this day – she loves to run in and out of the waves as they rush to the shore but she never lets them wash over her! It brings me great happiness to watch her play – her pure joy is contagious! She met a black Lab, who was also enjoying the ocean, and they ran around and leapt at each other for a few minutes while his owner and I laughed at their antics. She also met a nice little boy and an elderly man who stopped to greet her. Liberty is a social bridge for me and I often speak to people who I wouldn’t have met if I was alone. No wonder I refer to her as my “therapy dog”.

After our walk we enjoyed a drink and some snacks and then Liberty stretched out in the sand and watched the birds running along the shoreline and the people walking by. As I wrote in my journal, I kept pausing to gaze at the ocean and the blue sky and I thanked God over and over for such a beautiful day. All this beauty and happiness cost me nothing but the gas for my car! Makarios 🙂

We don’t make ourselves happy, but we can make choices that lead to happiness. ~Randy Alcorn

Fun in the ocean 10-15-15 beautiful morning at the beach 10-15-15

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions

Thoughts about friendship

How are things on your endI’m not a fan of social media. I have Facebook and Twitter accounts but rarely use them. I can understand why they are a popular way for people to keep in touch but they just don’t appeal to me. On the other hand, I’ve never had a problem keeping in touch with long distance friends – before the days of email I wrote letters to my long distance friends. My friends know I’m not much of a telephone person but those who live far away can count on a weekly email, an occasional call and one of my original greeting cards on all the special occasions in their lives. Those who live nearby know we’ll see each other regularly for lunches, dinners, movies, etc. All my friends, both near and far know they can call upon me when they need a shoulder to cry on or when they want to share some happy news.

Over the years many friends have come into and out of my life. Some friends stayed for a short time and drifted away, a couple of friendships ended in anger. Friendships that were formed around a common experience, like a job or a neighborhood, usually ended when one of us left the job or moved away. Sometimes I felt sad when a friend didn’t keep in touch but, let’s face it, long distance friendships are difficult to sustain over time and take effort from both parties. I don’t worry about things like that anymore because I have lived enough years to recognize an ebb and flow to friendships and I understand now that not everyone who comes into your life is meant to stay forever.

People change as they get older and one important change I experienced is that I learned to be comfortable doing things alone. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the company of my friends; it simply means I found that doing things alone can be just as enjoyable, but in a different way. I think it also led me to become more selective about who I call a “friend”. Friend is an overused and misused word. When I was younger I was too dependent on the company and approval of others – to the point that I tolerated a lot of selfish, insensitive behavior just to keep a so-called “friend” in my life (or a relationship with a man, but that’s another blog post!). When I finally reached emotional maturity (yes, I admit I was a late bloomer) I realized that when you respect yourself and you’re not emotionally needy its much easier to be selective about the company you keep. This is another one of those lessons I wish I had learned at a much younger age but, I’m glad I finally did.

These days I have a small number of very nice friends, whose company I enjoy, and one special friend with whom I share an especially close bond. She is someone who I know will always be in my life. I don’t have sisters but, from what I have observed, my best friend and I are closer than many sisters. Although I haven’t been lucky in love, I consider myself blessed to have found a kindred spirit so many years ago and, for me, that is a rare thing. It’s been said that if you have only one friend that you can trust completely you are fortunate. I have a friend who I not only trust completely but, who understands me and loves me for the flawed human being I am. She doesn’t judge me and I don’t have to filter my thoughts when I talk to her. She even gets my sense of humor – many don’t! Unfortunately, she lives a thousand miles away – this is especially difficult because we used to see each other almost every day and shared the smallest details of our lives. In the meantime, it’s emails, phone calls and visits whenever we can work them out.

Recently my friend was at her timeshare in Cocoa Beach and I found a rental nearby so I could take my four-legged best friend with me (no doggies allowed at the timeshare) while I spent time with my human best friend. It was so great to be able to have a couple of days together on the beach just talking, laughing and crying as we caught up with each other’s lives. She’s dealing with some difficult situations so my counseling hat got a workout. We found a dog-friendly place to eat dinner so Liberty could join us while we continued our conversation – my friend loves Liberty almost as much as I do. I hope her plans and dreams of moving back to Florida come true – for her sake as well as my own!

Friendship is the mutual love of people who wish each other well.  ~Aristotle

Me and my four-legged best friend

Me and my four-legged best friend

See more of my artwork and books at Lynda Linke Productions