My Best Photos of 2015

I discovered that my photo challenge posts seem to draw the most “likes” of any.  So here are some of the photos I took this year that I think are my best work.

Afloat at LaConner Marina

LaConner, WA, Marina, January 2015

Sunset above the clouds
Sunset above the clouds

Above the clouds, September 2015.

Denver Airport Ceiling
Denver Airport Ceiling

Denver Airport, April 2015

Clouds-Pike's Peak
Clouds-Pike’s Peak

Clouds over Pike’s Peak, April 2015

Rock climber's elation
Rock climber’s elation

Rock climber, Garden of the Gods, April 2015

Building returning to Nature
Building returning to Nature

Building, returning to Nature, Bellevue Slough Park, June 2015

Tahoe Shoreline
Tahoe Shoreline

Lake Tahoe, September 2015

Wren

Wren at our backyard suet feeder, December 2015

So, followers, what do you think?  Do you have a favorite?  Is there something I did that is not here, that you think is better?  Comments much appreciated!

Advertisements

2015

2015

So what kind of year was 2015?  Statistically, not too bad.  But statistics can be misleading (in both directions).  Financially, I earned about as much in 2015 as I did in 2014, but my earnings went further.  Much to my surprise and delight, I was able to sweep a fair amount of money from my checking to my savings account, and have more than enough in checking to pay all my bills.  It sure does help to have no mortgage!

The stock market has taken us all on a wild ride this year, but I did not panic, and continued contributing to my 401(k) account at work.  I am at full retirement age now, so I did slightly reduce the percentage of my contributions, but still have over 15% of my wages withheld for retirement.  So, when I look at the total of all my investments, every single account has gains!  Even if I wanted to harvest losses to cancel out some of my gains, I couldn’t do it, as I have no losses!

I gave mightily to charity this year, and the people at Hillsdale College, Curtis Institute of Music, and the American Society for Yad Vashem happily received increased donations from me in 2015.  I can’t emphasize enough how good it made me feel to write those checks to causes I believe in. [Here’s a statistic.  People self-described as Conservative donate a higher percentage of their earnings to charity than people self-described as Liberal.  Liberals depend on the Government to help the needy.]

This was my first full year reporting to a new boss at work.  That made work more congenial, working for a boss who I knew liked me, instead of working for someone who I knew would have liked to be rid of me.  As a member of a new department, it was extremely gratifying to know that all my coworkers were happy that I was in their group.  I worked a lot of overtime, and really didn’t mind too much.   On the “minus” side, the company is engaged in a “total transformation” directed from the corporate level, and this is having many uncomfortable consequences for most employees.  Entire departments have been re-formed, and physically moved, resulting in a much higher level of stress.  Production employees have half the “personal space” they used to have, and since some heavy machinery has been moved from behind a wall out into the main production floor, everyone’s environment contains more noise and bad smells.  “Standard work” practices will be applied more commonly, and I have heard some employees objecting to being made into machines.  It’s no fun, and morale-lowering, to have less control of your work situation.  I consider myself extremely fortunate that my department so far has been less-affected in this than most, but we know what’s coming for us.

I did some traveling in 2015, and both trips were delightful.  In April, we went to Denver for a Hillsdale College National Leadership Seminar on Churchill.  We connected with some Ricochet friends there, and had a great time.  After the seminar was over, we went down to Colorado Springs for a few days to connect with some more Ricochet friends.  Our visit there, and to the Garden of the Gods Park, have been documented here.

In September, we went down to Reno for another Ricochet meet-up, and met some wonderful people who will be lifelong friends.  We got a look at some beautiful country, and felt the effects of the wildfires in California.  From the air, we were able to see the effects of the five-year drought, too, with the level of Lake Tahoe way lower than normal (leaving some docks high and dry).

Back home, there was a windstorm in November that caused a big tree to fall across our driveway, taking out a section of brand-new fence.  During that storm, we were without power for 12 hours, but that did not stop the people from our neighborhood from getting out their chainsaws and cutting up the tree so we could get into and out of the driveway.  My car was in the garage and undamaged, and hubby was away, so the main effects were a chewed-up lawn, a damaged pear tree in front, and a roof full of cedar droppings.  Later, heavy rains caused the gutter over the garage to become detached from the edge of the roof, and we went through a week of anxiety before it was finally repaired, before it had a chance to fall off.

Our holiday party this year was a rousing success, and we made the acquaintance of more local Ricochet members.  Our Ricochet memberships have been great to have this year, as we are able to document our meet-ups, and make many new conservative friends.  Living in an area that is deep-blue like Seattle, it is very gratifying to know that others who think like us are just around the corner!

Around the world, 2015 was a year filled with Islamic Terrorist attacks, on their home countries in the Middle East, and on countries in the West.  Paris came in for more than its share of Islamic Terrorist atrocities, with a satirical magazine, kosher supermarket, concert hall, and street cafes being attacked, and dozens of innocent French citizens slaughtered.  Boko Haram continued its reign of terror in Africa, murdering hundreds and wiping out entire villages, basically with impunity.  And Islamic State, Al Quaeda, and the Taliban continued to dominate entire swathes of territory in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, slaughtering men and enslaving women.  Europe found itself inundated with waves of “refugees” from the Middle East conflicts, and proved incapable of handling all the crowds of essentially illegal immigrants supposedly seeking asylum.  We already know that a huge percentage of those migrants just happened to be military-age males, and we wonder how many of them are not-so-well disguised jihadists.  We actually found out, as at least one of the November 13 Paris attackers had recently entered Europe as a “refugee”!  The United States also was attacked by Muslims who were sympathetic to Islamic State, and haters of the American way of life.  Garland, Texas, successfully dodged bullets, and San Bernardino, California, was devastated by the married Muslim couple who attacked a holiday party.

And through it all, the president of the United States and his party, refused to acknowledge the source of those attacks, and to lie about the possibility of a “backlash” against “peace-loving American Muslims”.  The denizen of the White House is a Muslim-sympathizer, and continues to ignore the imminent threat to Christians everywhere in the Middle East.  He delights in accepting hordes of Muslim “refugees”, while ignoring the religious cleansing being carried out by Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.  His behavior is despicable, and he does not support the basic American values that he likes to tout.  He also encourages hordes of Hispanic illegal immigrants to illegally cross our southern border, and claim services they have not earned and do not deserve.  He continues to release “detainees” (terrorists) from Guantanamo Prison, to return to their terrorist ways overseas.  He values Muslim Terrorists over innocent civilians.

Our country was roiled this year by the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrators, who caused mayhem, interrupted presidential candidates’ speeches (Democrat candidate Bernie Sanders!), and made policemen’s jobs more difficult.  Funny how they totally ignore the thousands of blacks shot and killed by other blacks!  Baltimore and Chicago saw huge increases  in their murder rates in 2015, largely black-on-black crime.  And they continue to deflect attention away from their own problems, toward policemen who are trying to protect them.

The US Supreme Court distinguished itself this year, ruling against the values that still motivate a majority of Americans.   They found a right for homosexuals to “marry”, canceling out dozens of state laws affirming the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman.  And they again ruled ObamaCare constitutional, so it can go on to ruin the best medical care system in the world.

Still, we here in the United States of America are still the world’s most prosperous and peaceful nation.  More downtrodden people all over the world still wish to come to America, where they know they can make a better life for themselves by their own hard work and determination.  In spite of all the cultural degradation taking place daily, children not being taught in government schools the real history of their nation, and college campuses being turned from institutions of learning into glorified day-care centers, this is still the Greatest Nation on God’s Green Earth.  I am proud to be an American.

On Calling-all-RushBabes, 2015 was a very good year.  I discovered the Weekly Photo Challenges at the Daily Post site, and participated in many of them.  I am thrilled that so many professional photographers seem to like my strictly-amateur photos, and follow my blog.  I thank everyone who follows and comments on my blog.  This year, I posted two important efforts, my paper on Medieval Music, and the photo essay on my 1991 Cambridge trip that spawned that paper.  I had fun doing photo essays on my two big trips, too.  Now that I have learned to use my home scanner, I plan on more photo essays, on the Everett Symphony trip to Vienna in 1996, and our New York trip in 2006.

Happy New Year, everyone!

For Liberals, Tolerance Only Goes One Way

The United Church of Christ (Congregational) in nearly the most liberal denomination of (so-called) Christianity.  Yesterday, when I was driving to an appointment in Issaquah, a wealthy suburb of Seattle, I passed a Congregational Church.  On its reader-board was a three-word statement.  It said:

Muslims Welcome Here

I’m betting that the local mosque would never have a sign that read “Christians Welcome Here”.  To Islam, Christians are infidels, to be converted or murdered.

Be careful what you ask for, Congregationalists.

Out-of-the-ordinary Christmas music

angel

I am a Jew who loves Christmas music.  All year round, my internal tape has carols playing.  Since 1991, I have collected CDs of unusual Christmas music.  I try to buy something new each year, and I have accumulated quite a collection of those outdated compact discs.  My collection ranges from medieval and Renaissance music, Gregorian chants, Russian choral music, to “Oy to The World”, a collection of klezmer carols!  Welcome to a selection of my Collection.

One of my most favorites is “Carols from King’s“, the Christmas festival of Lessons and Carols from King’s College, Cambridge.  It starts with “Once in Royal David’s City”, the first verse sung by a solo young chorister, and continuing with the full choir.  For some reason, this one never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  Very beautiful.

I have always been fond of Early Music, and the Boston Camerata has done a number of Christmas albums from various periods, and locales.  One of the very first unusual discs I bought was their “Renaissance Christmas”, which contains this song, Riu Riu Chiu.  Their “Noel, Noel!” album has French Christmas music from 1200 to 1600, quite a long time!  I also have their “American Christmas” disc, and I love the song “Jesus the Light of The World”.

The Baltimore Consort has been one of my favorite groups for a long time, and their album “Bright Day Star” has a great selection of early Christmas songs.  Their lead singer, Custer LaRue (yes, her real name!) does a great job on the Cherry Tree Carol.

I am of Russian extraction on both sides of my family, and I love the sound of sung Russian.  I positively fell in love with the opera Boris Godunov, and I play my soundtrack often.  I came across a disc entitled “Kiev Christmas Liturgy”, sung by the Moscow Liturgic Choir under the direction of Father Amvrosy.  Imagine Gregorian Chant, in Russian.  I searched YouTube, but could not find any selections from this disc, so you’ll have to find it.  It is really sublime singing.

For a couple of years, I was interested in things French, so I looked for recordings of French Christmas music.  My husband actually brought home a disc entitled “Une Nuit de Noel“, by Martin Gester.  The choir is  Parlement de Musique, and the organ is one made by J. Boizzard in 1714, at the cathedral of Saint-Michel-en-Thierache in France.  My orchestra played a nice arrangement of Daquin’s Noel Number Ten for our recent concert, and this disc has a marvelous rendition.  I have a disc entitled “Chantons Noel, Let’s Sing of Christmas, with a nice collection of French carols.

So that’s a small sampling.  Here’s a list of other Christmas music playing around our house this season.

“Thys Yool”, Medieval Christmas music by the Martin Best Ensemble.

“Gregorian Christmas”, Chants and Motets by various ensembles

“Medieval Christmas” by the Orlando Consort

Good People All“, instrumentals by a local family group, Magical Strings.

“Christmas Carols and Motets”, by the Tallis Scholars

“Out of the Orient Crystall Skyes”, a Christmas album by Seattle soprano Nancy Zylstra.  This is an especially important disc, since it is her last recording.  She has Myasthenia Gravis and can no longer sing.

And, of course, The Messiah.  I have the set by the Academy of Ancient Music, led by Christopher Hogwood.  The soloists are the sublime Emma Kirkby, Soprano; Judith Nelson, Soprano; Carolyn Watkinson, Contralto; Paul Elliott, Tenor; and David Thomas, Bass.  I have listened to and gone to hear, many Messiahs, but in my opinion this is the best ever performed or recorded.  I would LOVE comments about what you think, and who does your favorite Messiah.

Merry Christmas to all my readers and followers!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Gathering

This gathering happens six times every year, the first three weekends in December, in the town of Leavenworth, Washington.  Leavenworth is “Washington’s Bavarian Village”, and right at dusk on Friday and Saturday nights, the Tree Lighting happens.  Hundreds of visitors literally hold their breath, waiting for the switch that turns the town into a winter wonderland.  People come from all over the state, and foreign countries to watch this, and enjoy the beauty of Christmas, and the hospitality of Leavenworth.

Leavenworth Tree-lighting Ceremony
Leavenworth Tree-lighting Ceremony

And after:

Lighted trees
Lighted trees

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/gathering/

A Momentous Decision…And No Regrets

In 1977, I was 28 years old.  I had been married for four years, and my husband and I lived in Seattle fairly happily.  I was a hospital pharmacy technician, and he was a transformer winder for a company that made industrial transformers.  Neither of us really knew what we wanted to be when we grew up (I had a Master’s degree in psychology that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on). We didn’t earn the big bucks, but we made enough to get along nicely.

My momentous decision at that time was the decision not to have children. My husband was OK with that, and we had some deep discussions over what that would mean to our lives.  We would have more disposable income, and more freedom.  We liked to say that instead of kids, we’d have cats and cars (he liked nothing better than working on one of his cars, and he remodeled our basement into a home auto repair shop).

I had been taking birth-control pills since before we were married, and had no health complications from that.  However, right around this time, some of the adverse side-effects of the Pill were just being discovered and publicized, like blood clots.  I decided that, in order to make my life less complicated, I wanted to have a tubal ligation, making the permanent decision to remain childless.  My husband agreed that it was what we wanted.

The over-arching reason that I decided to remain childless was that I had had a most unpleasant childhood, and I didn’t want to make any child of mine suffer the way I had.  My mother for all of my childhood and young-adult life had made my life miserable, and I determined that I risked being the same kind of parent if I had my own children.  I have always been high-strung, and unable to tolerate much in the way of disturbances in my environment.  I was, and am, sure I’d be driven crazy by a crying baby, since I’d probably end up with kids with my own temperament.  I had tried baby-sitting as a teenager, and I was really terrible at it!  I just considered that I’d make the world a better place by not making some innocent child as miserable as I was.  I decided I would not be a fit parent.

At this time, I had employer-sponsored medical insurance with Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, and I discussed our decision with my family physician.  She was OK with my decision, but she said that Group Health had a policy that anyone under age 30 seeking surgical sterilization was required to have a consultation with a psychiatrist, to make sure that the decision was not taken rashly, since at that time it was irreversible.

So I duly made my appointment with one of GHC’s psychiatrists.  That interview was the most extraordinary interview I had ever, and have ever had with a mental-health professional.  For some reason that I never figured out, my decision to make my childlessness permanent just drove this psychiatrist off the deep end.  He not only disagreed with me, he positively screamed at me, gesticulating wildly and telling me in no uncertain terms that he would never approve of my decision, and would not authorize the surgery.  I left his office shaken and angry myself, and it took a day or two for me to calm down.  I had witnessed totally unprofessional behavior, from someone who should have known better.  Unfortunately, his decision stood, and I was not allowed to have the surgery at Group Health.

I remained firm in my decision, however.  The following year, I changed jobs, and had new insurance.  I found myself a new physician, who agreed to do the surgery.  So, at the age of 29, I had my tubal ligation.

I am 66 years old now, and never once have I regretted this decision.  My life has taken some unfortunate turns, and through it all, my decision to remain childless has been the right one.  I went through a difficult divorce (my fault, and difficult for me), and many bouts with unemployment, as I navigated through a career change.  As a divorced person, all my problems were mine alone, and no innocent child had to suffer from being moved around and neglected while I was at work long hours.  Sure, I don’t have grandchildren to spoil, but I have never really missed that.  I like children, and I enjoy being around my friends’ and relatives’ kids.  And I admire friends who have big families.  I am comfortable enough now that I feel capable of handling anything the rest of life might throw at me.  My second husband (since 2003) and I are happy and prosperous, and we love being owned by our black cat.  I believe that, at age 28, I made the right choice for myself, and have never looked back and said “I wish I’d had children”.  I just told my friends “Have one for me”!