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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Book Review- "He Saw a Hummingbird"

See the source image I recently just finished a inspirational book titled, He Saw a Hummingbird by husband and wife duo, Norma Lee Browning and Russell Ogg.

The story is about the professional photographer Russell Ogg, his diabetes, and his wife Norma Lee Browning overcoming the odds and unknowingly engineering a "miracle" with the help of a little hummingbird.

Russell, a professional photographer (with severe diabetes) by trade worked for the Chicago Daily News.  He had quit the Chicago Daily News and started freelancing as a special assignment photographer to accompany his wife's articles for the Tribune with whom she worked for. The nature of their journalism jobs required them to travel extensively throughout the world. Their home was filled with treasures from their excursions. They were very successful in their own fields.

During this new phase in this dynamic couple's life, Russell began having very severe diabetic health complications. As a result, he retired with his wife in Palm Springs, CA. He ended up losing much of his vision, therefore becoming legally blind.
 Now to a man who makes his living taking pictures, it seemed to be a death sentence to him and perhaps to his wife. As a photographer, you learn to see life in a different way, exposing yourself to the nuances of life's simplicities and complexities from different angles and perspectives.

It seemed that Russell was at first determined to not sit by and stare into space all day withering away his life by despairing. Unfortunately, Russell quit photography all together and became depressed and despondent with the countless ophthalmology and doctor visits and not being able to see well.

His wife became anxious at how his quality of life and the fruitfulness of their livelihood were waning. They could no longer travel like they used to. He had to learn how to navigate being blind. Russell could not take pictures much less do anything else. It seemed like this was the end of the story of his active career. Until one day.....

See the source imageIn sunny and balmy Palm Springs, Russell used to sit on the back patio of their home. A hummingbird used to come by every day. The hummer would even sit on his shoulder at times. He thought he had no vision, but he could see enough of the iridescent colors to know what it was, and tried to photograph it.
He fortunately saved a camera when he gave away his photography equipment and pulled it out for a shoot.
His first attempts at photography while essentially blind, were crude at best. He was a very adept engineer in his abilities to fix and to make items out of almost anything. He used this ability to create a hummingbird feeder and then shortly after, a "seeing eye" camera system. He was able to make a camera that worked independent of him, meaning that there was a beam of light and if it was crossed, an appendage of relays and wires would set off the shutter.
With many improvements, he was able to capture many photos of hummingbirds. He had to learn how to develop pictures while blind. He learned to "see" through his senses. His wife noticed a transformation in him. He had a purpose during this time of darkness. He threw his entire self into this new "hobby" of his. Soon he was gaining notoriety for his astounding images.
He was sought after by art dealers and art showers. He begrudgingly accepted a showing of his photos only on the basis that he was worried that people might look different at his pictures because he was blind. His wife and their close friends were there to help him out with everything so as to not make him and others feel awkward. It was a great success.

Norma recounts her errors, trials and persistence in identifying the little birds. She threw herself into this endeavor with a passion that matched her husband's. The dynamic couple was back in action. Russell found meaning in life and with the help of a little hummingbird, it seemed like a miracle to many.
The physical makeup of a hummingbird baffles many biologists and birders alike. Technically, it shouldn't even be able to fly, but it does. Russell is technically and legally blind, but he is able to see just enough- the iridescence of these birds, and he is able to photograph them well.This story of Russell's unbeatable spirit and the persistence of the hummer are inspiring to many and I hope it's inspiring to you, the reader, as well.

See the source image

"Often as I stand watching in tiptoed wonder at the sunburst explosion of his inner powers beyond seeing, I ask myself the same questions others have asked: How can he doe this? How is it possible? Then I remember, Hummingbirds can't fly but they do. And so it is with him. 
Who can explain how miracles happen? Who can explain birth or rebirth or an awakening of the spirit and mind? Who knows why or how a new self is born in a man because he suddenly saw a hummingbird?"

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

A letter to my dog

Right after when we first got her in 2007
Dear Penny,

This was when I graduated from high school- 8 years ago
If I had to write a letter to you it would probably go in no particular order, in fact it would probably be expressing almost everything I ever wanted to tell you.
It has been 4 months since your passing on since 10/17/17. I know you are fine wherever you are and I shouldn't have to worry about your health any longer. You showed up in our lives at a time where the last thing we thought of was getting a dog, but obviously it worked out because we kept you.

I have always heard of Mom's stories about the various dogs she had own and always wondered of the connection between owner and pet. I know I've always wanted a dog and you came on a sunny day. The beginning was rough because we didn't think we could keep you.

Our adventures began. You had accompanied me on almost every walk, hike, jaunt around town, car rides, and you had even came camping with me a few times.

The way you had regarded me reassured me of what love is and how it is felt. Even the times where I had to scold you for various things, you still loved me and the same went for me. There was a bond between you and I, an unshakeable bond that will last me my whole life.

You were a trickster in your own way. When you had been like Airbud bouncing the soccer ball back to me with your mouth, or how you used to play hide and seek.
Penny playing hide and seek

 You loved to play until you were too tuckered out- you gave your all for everything. You learned to tolerate baths, but I think near the end you did enjoy them- even just a little. You loved to swim in creeks and lakes.

You had been my constant companion and dare I say, the closest and bestest friend I've ever had. You really did try to understand words, thoughts, and feelings. You had known what "Go find your ball" meant. You had even learned "I love you" in your own way. You were pretty smart, and cute too.

There have been many moments in my life where I got lost in the day to day and you always seemed to be my cheerleader who encouraged me by your limitless friendliness, wags, kisses, and spontaneity. You always seemed to listen whenever I told you my troubles or joys. I 've always wondered what you could've told me in response as you tried to speak to me through your attentive and clear eyes. Patience is what you had and lots of it. 

In your older years, you had taught me to keep playing and having fun no matter how slow I may get. You always had a zest for adventure. I believe with the right training you could've been a rescue dog- like Lassie.

You taught me perseverance. There were many times I was tuckered out before you, yet you plugged away.

In your moments of suffering and in times of pain you had not whimpered once. You helped me to realize that pain can be born softly and nobly just as Jesus once did. You sought to be with us, even when it had hurt you. Playing ball, running, and romps outside were so easy for you, but they were a challenge, but you pushed yourself. They became like victories for being able to do something seemingly so hard that once was so simple in another life.

In your last moments, I wasn't there to see you go, nor give you permission to leave, but when I left you last spring, it was like I was leaving you instead. The last several years, I was gradually drifting apart from you, but know it was because I was trying to make something of myself. I think you understood.

I know you are gone now, but not being there to see you go still makes me think we are apart temporarily- silly as that sounds. I saw your grave and it still doesn't seem real to me.

You left at a most beautiful time of year, in the fall when the colors are at their best and sunny days seem to stretch on forever. Where there is waning life and then death, life begins again. Perhaps that's how it's meant to be- for you, for me.

Now, just shy of 4 months of you being gone, I am doing fine. I have my moments and it will take time, but I know I will always have memories of you and what you inadvertently taught and gave me.

I believe in things happening for a reason and I believe that God led you to me to experience those things and perhaps more. I thank God for giving you to me, and I am happy to give you back to Him. 

Thank you for being my dog all those years. Thank you for loving me, and know I loved you too, you taught me that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Ode to a Canine Companion

Dedicated to "Penny" 2005-- 10-17-17

I think I never shall find a dear friend as my canine,
She has been my companion fine,
dressed in soft and black and shine.
Her wet nose smelled so well,
following every trail so swell.

She, bundled up in kisses and hugs and happiness,
only sought to keep me full of gladness.
Through all our adventures, big and small.
Some long and short, she was there all,
Through the rain and sun, snow and mire,
over roads and up yonder, there she never tire.

Across the years her company grew.
(Like a tender flower cared, it gives joy to its owner new.)
Always ready with a lick and a wag no matter the drag.
I knew I loved her.
We were inseparable, her and I.
Friendship and love did she teach,
no matter the day or hour there she had reach.

Old in years and plugging along is she,
no matter the pain and slowness, there she is.
No whimper of discontent,
nor no sorrowful complaint.
Her soft brown eyes patiently gaze on.

A senior she must be, the heart is willing but the flesh is weak.
There comes a time in one’s week to shove off and make a life.
Our connection will never be marred
no matter how we are barred.
Old she is, the flame of love yet remains.

When her Maker calls her home, she will gladly go.
Her day is done, her purpose is spent.
The run is over.
A far away look enters her eyes whilst she's here.
I can’t help but wonder if she will follow her Maker
over roads and up yonder coming to a place,
waiting with Him for me to come home. 

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Greetings, and Reflections

Hello my dear readers! I hope you all are doing well. Yes, I know, July is right before us and June has barely passed.
I “survived” another year of teaching which makes up year 2 of this grand adventure. I am nearing on year 3 come this September. It has been a good year, full of growth in many different ways besides staying busy of course with lesson planning, grading, prep, extra curricular adventures, eating, and the all
important- attending Mass.

This last year I was mainly teaching the same things as last year though I was involved with the Yearbook as a faculty adviser and also heavily involved with this year’s Spring Play- The Learned Ladies by French playwright, Moliere. I was in charge of the art portion of the play. I helped design the backdrop. Stage makeup was done by several assistants and myself. I really liked the makeup portion. Many of the characters had to look advanced in years or aristocratic which entailed the stage makeup to be unique. Thanks to our patient Director, the play was a resounding success.

Two of my co-workers who are friends married each other earlier this June and I was honored take pictures for them. They make such a good couple. Their courtship has been an inspiration to me and I hope I am blessed with a relationship like theirs- God willing.

I am staying busy this summer by working in an environment I am familiar with. The summer here is actually quite nice right now. I got myself a fitbit and it tells me things like how many steps I've walked in a day and how that is translated to miles, or more interestingly, the quality of sleep that apparently has not been up to par, according to fitbit, but we'll see.

This last October I turned 25- halfway to 50 or ¼ of a century or however my readers want to describe it. I don’t really know what to make of it. It kind of feels the same way when I turned 21, which is similar to-- I-made-it-to-this-stage-of-life-what-now? There comes a point where one decides to embrace their age and the make the best of it which actually helps with accepting that one does grow older, though throughout teaching one tends towards child-likeness (hopefully) which isn’t a bad thing compared to childishness.

In Scripture, it is said that we must become like children though I never really understood what those words meant. 

Children are naturally happy and excited about life, they are always looking forward to activities and learning with a trusting, believing, pure and loving heart. As we grow older and have more life experience (some good and some not so good), and acquire predisposed "peerage" ways of being, I think teens lose or ignore these attributes as time goes on and when one becomes fully grown as an adult, these are forgotten or lost entirely. 

 How else can we be like children that Jesus loves and cherishes? All He really asks for is our trust, love, and belief and we are not always generous in giving them to Him due to circumstances that jade these simple virtues and of course sin hampers our generosity.

 These attributes aren’t exclusive but over time they were noticed during teaching and being around the kids. I am really convinced that these are what Scripture means for us to acquire because after all, our salvation depends on it. 

"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."

Thursday, May 4, 2017

A Begining-at least

The House just passed a potentially socio-economic altering piece of legislation.

-Ends tax penalties, under the original Affordable Care Act, for individuals who don’t buy insurance coverage and larger employers who don’t offer coverage. Instead, insurers would apply a 30 percent surcharge to customers who've let coverage lapse for more than 63 days in the past year.
-Ends tax increases on higher-earning people and a range of industry groups including insurers, drug makers and medical device manufacturers.
-Cuts the Medicaid program for low-income people and lets states impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. Forbids states that haven't already expanded Medicaid to do so. Changes Medicaid from an open-ended program that covers beneficiaries' costs to one that gives states fixed amounts of money annually.
-Overhauls insurance subsidy system from one based largely on incomes and premium costs to a system of tax credits. The credits would rise with customers’ ages and, like the subsidies, could be used toward premium costs.
-Lets states get federal waivers allowing insurers to charge older customers higher premiums than younger ones by as much as they'd like. Obama's law limits the difference to a 3-1 ratio. States also can get waivers exempting insurers from providing consumers with required coverage of specified health services, and from Obama's prohibition against insurers charging higher premiums to people with pre-existing health problems, but only if the person has had a gap in insurance coverage.
-States could only get the latter waivers if they have mechanisms like high-risk pools that are supposed to help cover people with serious, expensive-to-treat diseases. A newly added provision would give another $8 billion over five years to help states finance their high-risk pools. Despite criticism that the waivers strip protections, House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office maintains that since states that take the waivers would have to set up the high-risk pools, “insurance companies cannot deny you coverage based on pre-existing conditions.”
-Blocks federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year.
-Retains requirement that family policies cover grown children to age 26.


It is to be expected that special interest groups like Planned Parenthood and others will voice their own discontent. This legislation is step in the right direction to be sure! Next stop? It'll go to the Senate. We can do this!