Falling for Fall

It is Fall here in the south. The weather is turning cooler, with the highs in the low 80’s and high 70’s. At night the air is crisp and cool, promising the cold of the winter to come. In a word, it is delicious. I love this time of year. The air-conditioning gets turned off and the windows or up at night, as the cooler temperatures makes sleeping under a warm blanket a wonderful experience…until you try to get out of bed the next morning. Car rides have the windows down and the radio up, as the cool fall air mixes with  the warm sun to make the perfect recipe for road trip.

The fall festivals have already started, and the leaves are beginning to turn colors. The air is light and fresh, as  are the spirits of those around. Yes, it is fall, yummy, cool, promising, busy and fun. This weekend was a great taste of what is to come.

Family is a big part of my life. My youngest nephew came up with his girlfriend to explore and go to see a concert. Leaving us boring adults behind, they went shopping, eating, concert going and had much fun just being together. But I suspect we boring old people had much more fun.

Friday night were “crack tots” and beer with friends. Crack tots, true to their name, are highly addictive. You cannot just have one of these delicious tots dipped in equally addictive cheese sauce.  Thank goodness they have no calories either (at least that is what I tell myself as I devour them). Later that night my nephew and his girlfriend arrived, and there was much laughter and love.

Saturday was crazy busy, as once again the two lovebirds went out looking for cool things to do in Atlanta. Breakfast was cooked, more laughter and lots of activity around the Burch household. Then it was time for the adults to play, as we planned a fun time downtown. A friend of mine has a brother who bought a favorite bar, so we went down for the celebration. And we celebrated a lot. There were hugs of friend that I had not seen for a=years, laughter, catching up, eating and drinking. There was great live music, an old bank vault filled with everything Elvis, dancing and lots of Johnny Cash. There were pictures and smiles, and of course, several times I nearly tripped.

Sunday brought about sleeping late, brunching and lots of laughter and love

And I have to say that I am falling in love…with this season, and these weekends, and my family, and this time, these moments, in life. I am falling for Fall. And it is wonderfully delicious!

Family Habits

We, as humans, are creatures of habit.  Whatever we do, the cycles we have, the patterns we display, all show habit is part of the human condition. And what is great about having my family living with me, is seeing habits and cycles form.

We, as a family, seem to have a rhythm. I know the days my sister will be tired, and nights my nephews will want a good meal after that hard class. They know my moods and rhythms too. Now, if we could only all get into the rhythm of cleaning the kitchen, that would be great.

But it is interesting watching them form. Which days we sit and watch TV, which nights we sit around the dinner table laughing, which nights we drink wine, and which nights we all just want to go to bed early. Who does their laundry on what night of the week.

I love when we all get together in one of our rooms and chat. Love when we enjoy a good dinner together, love when we gather around the calendar and talk about who needs to be where, when doing what. I love the planning that goes along with being a family. Love moving as a unit, together, even when we are separate. It makes my heart happy to have those that I love so dearly, around os close.

I have learned that family is what makes a house a home and what gives a home a soul. The cabinets in the bathroom for Mom. The caffee for my nephew, the teas for my sister. The place where we write down what we need for groceries. Seeing their things around to remind me that others are close by. Hearing them get ready in the morning, as they try not to trip over the playful cats. grilling on the back patio, buying things I know they will love. All the joy that comes form the soul they bring with them into the home. And they Peace they bring into my own heart.

But that’s the thing about family – friends, lovers, jobs and even habits may come and go, but family is forever. So you might as well get into the habit of being a good strong one and working together for a happy household.

Girls With Guns, Part V

Everyone has hobbies. One of mine is firearms training.  Aside from being a bad-ass kind of girl who knows how to handle a gun, it is just a lot of fun to do. Shooting truly is an art form as there are so many different techniques, stances, situations and such.

Last night I went out to the range with a good friend and accomplished instructor. We had a great time learning and teaching. I am very competitive and I don’t like not doing well. But it takes a lot of concentration to try different techniques, hold proper form, have speed and accuracy, and finding the balance between the two. Reaction time, how to carry a gun most effectively when not shooting, how to emotionally and mentally prepare yourself for a stressful situation if you ever have to actually use the gun (pray that never happens).

Last night I learned several things: That there is a balance between speed and accuracy, that it takes concentration to get out of bad habits, that I am better in some instances that I thought I would be, but still need work other areas as well. And that I shoot a 40 caliber almost better than my current 9mm.

My instructor also had me aim for the head more than the general center chest area. And I was surprised by how well I did, even from quite a distance away. And the next time I go to the range, I will be shooting an AR15, which will be much fun, total bad ass and Laura Croft-ish. And I may have to buy one of the shooting goes well.

And the best part? They have pink targets!

The Weight of It

We all have to do it, go at least once a year to the doctor for a general check-up. And every time I go, they do the usual thing – check breathing, pulse, blood pressure…and weight. Today was no different, except when I stepped on the scale, I saw something very surprising. 145. I now weigh 145lbs, the most I have ever weighed in my life! And for a small boned, 5’2” tall woman, that is a lot.

Everything is great and I am healthy, so the doctor and I talked of the changed in weight. Well, it could be the heavy amount of stress that I have been under. It could be that I have not exercised in about 6 months and have been a couch potato. It could be that I turned 40, and according to everyone, a woman’s metabolism slows down at that age.

And I know I should be upset about the weight gain – 20lbs in about 6 months. But I am not. I have actually been fascinated by my body and the way it looks. The round belly, the fuller hips, and my boobs!  Wow. I have cleavage. My face is fuller and I like the way my hands look when they are resting on my hips.

I Feel very…womanly. And while I do need to make an effort to get back on the treadmill, because my fat pants are tight and the muffin top is laughing at me…I just can’t be upset. Maybe that comes with age, maybe it is just being comfortable in your own skin and just not giving a flying hoot. Maybe it is truly accepting yourself and not having time to be bothered with insecurities.

I don’t know. But I do know that while I will enjoy being able to fit in my favorite clothes again, I will miss the voluptuousness that comes with the pounds. I feel sexy, I am a woman and I have the hips, buns, thighs and boobs to prove it.

As long as your heart is happy and your soul is in tact, that’s what’s important. In the big picture, when you look at the weight of it all, those are the things that matter.

Crazy Government Contractors

Another shooting. Another military contractor with a history of mental illness and run-ins with the law. It used to be that only the best worked with the government as a contractor. But in the recent years, it has become apparent that they are not properly doing background reports, and thus we are getting people who are simply too sick and disturbed.

Add to that all the information that Snowden says these contractors have access to. Would you want someone like Maj. Nidal Hasan, the man who killed so many at Ft. Hood, to have access to all of your personal emails, Google Searches and phone conversations? Or how about Aaron Alexis, the shooter in DC yesterday, would you want him to have access to your daughter’s information if they had dated in the past?

Alexis had a “pattern of misconduct” as a Navy reservist, had sporadic run-ins with the law, and had contacted two Veterans Administration hospitals for apparent psychological issues, yet he still past to get a security clearance How does that even happen?

“The way it happens is a poor background check,” says Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent.

The incidents in Alexis’ past “should have been a red flag that maybe we need to delve a little deeper into this individual,” said retired Navy Cmdr. Kirk Lippold.

If the department did a background check on Alexis, information about his Navy experience and run-ins with the law would have turned up.

Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican who serves on the Intelligence Committee, said she now questions “the kind of vetting contractors do.”

If these are the men who guard and keep our information and safe…then they should have a full psychological evaluation, in addition to full and detailed background checks. And if there are any run-ins with the law, whether charges were filed or not, then they should be completely banned from being a contractor. Especially when you have a pattern of legal troubles. People who have a history of violence and run-ins with the police are not stable and should not be allowed to be government contractors.

It looks as though, with all the shootings, violence, rapes, confidential leaks of information and general issues with contractors, the vetting process will soon be changed. And when that happens, many will lose their clearance and be left without jobs. But, our information, and our citizens, will be much safer.

The government awarded about $517 billion in outsourcing contracts in the most recent fiscal year — not including many contracts awarded by the NSA and other intelligence agencies, which keep their spending classified.

Woman of the Year

She is fierce. She is feisty. She is tough and takes no CRAP from anyone. She is strong and has always done things her own way, no matter what anyone else has had to say about her. And this year, Billboard has named P!nk the Woman of the Year.

I have been a huge fan of hers since she first broke out on the music scene. But I have not only been a fan of her music, but a fan of who she is as a person. She if full on, take no prisoners, don’t mess with me, woman with a heart of gold. She is incredibly artistic and talented. She tackles many topics in her music and videos, but mostly it’s all about being a strong woman and being true to yourself. And that is why I just love her. And the girl can rock a short haircut.

OMG, Get a Life!!!

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The Life of Family

When you have family living with you, life changes a bit from living on your own. You see it in movies, and it’s true. There are all kinds of interesting and funny moments. And considering at any time in the past moments I could have had 5 people and 7 cats, the soil has been ripe with opportunities for comedy moments. Take the typical day:

I wake up to the purring and kitties looking for attention, giving  me kisses, poking my face for attention and trying to sleep on my face. Then, at another point before sunrise, I hear my sister get up and get ready. Then I hear the beeping of the alarm system as she leaves.

After the sunrises, I get up to an entire bed full of cats. As I am in the shower, I hear the familiar cry of the kittens who don’t like me going where they can’t go – the shower being one of those places. I stick my head out several times to so they can see me. Inevitably, this leads them to think, once again, that may be able to squeeze in between the drops and not get wet. Wrong. They try to come in, discover the rainstorm, panic and run out.

Then I notice that the cream rinse is gone…the 7 bottles of shampoo are there – but the one bottle of conditioner is missing. Must be in their bathroom since they ran out (note to self pick up more conditioner at the store).

As I get out of the shower, they have recovered and are now jumping up trying to catch the towel as I wrap it around my hair with playful eyes and little sharp claws.

Next is the sink…and trying to brush my teeth, wash my face as they jump in and out of the stream of water…and then they get bored with that. And as I reach for my toothbrush…I notice one of them chewing on it. Time for a new toothbrush! But the seemingly endless stash of new toothbrushes that are (were) under the sink are gone…Great. (Note to self: buy more new toothbrushes. Hide them.)

If it is a morning where I take my nephew to campus, after trying not to trip over cats racing us down the stairs, we gather our things downstairs, make our lunch and fix our coffee before the ride. There is quite a bit of hustle and bustle.  Lots of tripping over cats, feeding them, and making plans for what do to for dinner. Then it is off in the car, listening to classical music, and discussing things that make me feel very intelligent…mostly.

At the end f the day, when everyone is home, it’s either a sit down dinner, where all the events of the day are discussed, jokes and made and wine is poured. Or a “fend for yourself” evening where we all grab what is yummy out of the fridge. We congregate downstairs by the TV, watching the Science Channel, or up in my room, they sitting on the bed lightly talking while the TV is on and I am at the desk writing. Or I will be in my sisters room, in her bed, she at her desk, and my nephew coming in to discuss things as he thinks of them.

There is laughter, plans discussed and made and just good family time. And many moments that make a house a home. A happy home.

The Listening Curve

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” – Stephen R. Covey

There is an old saying that you cannot teach an old dog new tricks. I beg to differ. I am getting older and more set in my ways every year, and yet I learn new things all the time.  My nephew teaches me new things all the time, and even convinces me to try new things  as well. Mostly, he teaches me about math, physics, computers and robotics. Things about functions, real numbers and abstracts…and string theory, Schroedinger’s cat (I still don’t; understand why they couldn’t just put it in a clear box).

The other day as we were driving, he taught me something about classical music, a Vivaldi piece to be exact. And as we drove, he told me about how the peice was written to be a conversation. How the solo was the suggestion, the symphony the argument and then another part was the agreement. And as we drove I listened, for the first time, to music I have been listening to since i was a little girl, with a new ear. And it was almost like hearing it for the first time. All of the sudden the music was alive like it has never been before. I listened to each part, the suggestion, the argument, the response, the agreement.

And I can;t help but think, what if we listened to each other like this, with the same sense of newness? Just how much more would we hear? How many more things would we notice as if it were the first time? We would get the beauty of rediscovering our partners, our family and our friends.

So, you can teach an old dog new tricks.

Meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama

There are some events in life that ae truly once-in-a-lifetime-opportunities. Events that if you are truly blessed and fortunate, you may get that one opportunity. And there are few things that could make me take a day off work, as I am a workaholic that loves what I do. Meeting His Holiness the Dalai Lama is once of those once-in-a-lifetime chances that I simple cannot pass up.

To put it in simple terms – Holy crap!

He traveled the world, advocating for the welfare of Tibetans, teaching Tibetan Buddhism and talking about the importance of compassion as the source of a happy life.He is speaking in my town soon, and just the chance to hear one of the most incredible spiritual leaders of all time speak, is incredible. To be given the opportunity to meet him is even more fantastic. I cannot wait to hear what he has to say, the message he will bring and how I may be a sponge and soak up every possible moment. The learn from his speech, to be influenced, to truly be open to the spiritual message that I can receive, is that for which I pray.

I am very humbled by my opportunity to learn, to grow, to see and be open. Thankful for the chance and so excited!

HAve Fun to Be Happy

There is a saying that all work and no play makes for a dull life. That certainly could not be said of life recently.  Summer has wrapped up, fall is in the air and fun is everywhere. The last few months have seen so many wonderful adventures, first tries, new experiences, new friends, lots of laughter, so many memories and lots of smiles.

This past weekend almost a blur of activity with wonderful friends. There was a bike ride on a friends Harley, hot tubbing, dancing, singing, brunching, and topped off with a night of incredible music filled with so much soul it brought one of my friends and I to tears. I haven’t danced like that in a few years. And some of the best places to dance are redneck bars – where many on the dance floor have already taken off their shoes. Club dancing is fun – if you have on a super hot fabulous outfit, if you want to see and be seen, and if you want to meet models…but for just plain, fun, don’t care how I look, just want to have fun dancing, you need a red neck bar. Trust me on this.

Riding on the back of a bike is wonderful. To be that free, to have the wind rushing past you, is amazing and the best way to travel. And with someone trusted it is pure fun. And to do something just for the pure fun of it is something we forget to do as adults. We have responsiblities and haven;t the time for such nonsense. What. Ev. Ah. Always be curious.

Then there was a the roller derby – a friend had extra tickets. Having never been to a roller derby, and being the adventurous type that is always up for trying new tings, I said yes before i could lace up the roller skates.  If you never been to one and ever get the chance to go, do it. It is so much fun. It’s like going to a hockey game. Except it’s on skates. And it’s girls. My nephew loved it and thought it was the best thing since the National Cheer-leading Competition cam to Atlanta. Sitting with friends, drinking cheap beer while in a packed stadium, watching girls on roller skates zip around the track and push each other around was a total blast.

Next was going to a dirt track and watching all the races – formula cars, mustangs, more kinds of cars and races than I can remember.  Don’t go for the beer – they don’t serve it, but it’s a great family atmosphere with lots of cars that go fast and make a lot of noise. Perfect for a father/son outing. Or just a couple sisters hanging out with a friend. And I almost  managed to NOT smile anything. Almost.

In the past month I have also worked quite a bit in a friends shop. I remember my dad having a hue shop and doing a lot of woodwork. As he would work, I would hear the loud sound of the saw, smell the saw dust then hear the hammer or sander. So it was so much fun to go into my friends shop and watch as he worked with the wood and metal, instructing me what to do and how to do it. I helped build shelves.  Yes, I had done this before, but not in many years. And I stained the shelves. And then they were put up in his house, where they will be used and loved for many years. It was a great feeling to have made something out of nothing. To have it be tangible, useful and pretty.

And I have gone swimming in a river, in the woods, where only the locals go. Again, something I have grown up doing, but not for a long time. And I have ridden in a truck, with the windows down and my feet either on the dash, or out of the window, in true, southern style. I have driven miles and miles, gone hiking, listened to the rain on a tin roof, felt sound and been exhausted from pure joy of life.

Yes, I have worked very hard during this time, but in the spirit of keeping things balanced I have done something new. I have played just as hard as well. I have taken pause and time to take care of the playful in me. I have indulged my curiosity, sung at the top of my lungs, listened to the crickets and watched the magic of the fireflies.

And I have let my emotions go as well. I have cried when I felt like it instead of holding back. And even when it was scary, I was vulnerable, and let others comfort me in my tears. I have known the pain of too much tenderness. And in morning, when the sun rose, there was always a new chance.

So play as hard as you work. Take as many chances as you can, as many new experiences as you can stand and drink them up like a sponge. Because you will never get that day, that chance again. And you never know just what treasure you may find.

live authentically., live honestly. Live passionately.

The Feeling of Fall

only the beginning of September, yet for the past two days there has been a chill in the air. Something that is not usual for this time of year in the South. Long sleeves are not usually required in the dog days of summer. It is a welcome break from the heat and humidity that has been hanging around, a welcome break of fresh cool air that allows one to turn off the air conditioner and raise the windows. A break to air out the heavy scent of summer.

No doubt, the feel of fall is upon us, even if the season is still a ways away. This little cold snap teasing us as if to say “Hang on, the summer won’t be here forever, so wrap up the summer business and get ready for all Fall has to offer.” Yes, time to get ready and start school, make sure all supplies to be needed are had, wrap up those summer romances, pack up the beach towels and sunscreen, and head back to the world.

Many feel the sting of summer ending and don’t like it. I am somewhat relieved that summer is coming to an end. It has been a busy spring and summer, full of challenges, changes, transformations and hard work. Now it is time to enjoy what all that brings. There will still be hard work ahead, but there will be so much more to enjoy in the fall months ahead. Finally, a rest after such a busy summer. Finally able to breathe in the cool air, and let it’s lightness fill me as I pray to the Heavens that all sacrifice has been worth it.

A touch of fall is in the air, the cool promise of things to come.

Those You Cannot Help

We all encounter them in our lives, those people who are in bad situations. We try to help them as best as we can – maybe they are our friends, or neighbors, or family and even a stranger. And then we realize, that for whatever reason, they cannot be helped. Because they do not want to help themselves. These people aggravate me to no end. And I find myself loosing sympathy for them very quickly.

Two recent examples: I have a friend who wanted to quit teaching and break into writing. We met and I promised to help him, since he had no idea where to start. So, I completely re-did his resume. I gave him access to all of my business contacts, sent him names and numbers of people to contact, sent him hundreds of job leads, even applied him for some jobs, and created an online portfolio for him. Three things he needed to do: follow up with contacts/job leads I sent, complete a list of writing samples to post on his online portfolio, and NOT post anything political or religious on his social networking sites.

Fast forward three months: He has not followed up on any leads, has not completed the samples and has his social networking sites plastered with controversial political and religious things. And he complains because he is not employed and is freaking out.

Second example: A friend lost his job in the non-profit industry. I was very traumatic for him, as he had planned a lot of his life around the job. He has friends and family willing to help, people willing to invest in a very profitable business idea of his, I am willing to re-do his resume and give him business contacts. But he does not take anything that is offered to him. Not only that, he complains about how he is the only one who he can count on, because he can’t depend on anyone else. He has a plot of land that is lives on, and a huge 5 bedroom house that is being rented, he has a very useful trade that can make him money. And yet he dramatically wallows in self pity as he declares how rough he has it.

Really? Come on.  This guy is so much luckier than so many. There are people out there with no friends and family, people who are truly alone. There are those who have been out of work for years with families to support (he is single, no kids).  And this guy wants to be dramatic?

In radio, they say you aren’t a professional until you’ve been fired at least twice. The same with contracting – everyone knows that the contract could be over any time, without notice, at no fault of your own. I have lost about 20 jobs in my lifetime. I have put a nephew through college during some of these times. I have struggled and scrimped, just like everyone else. But you bet your bum I sent out a ton of resumes, bugged my friends and family for contacts, asked for help, for references and bugged the heck out of recruiters. I think a few might have given me jobs just so I would shut up. But it worked. I’m not too proud to beg or and ask for help when it comes to something as important as having an income. Friends, family, business contacts, the stranger on the street…it doesn;t matter. A girls gotta eat.

So I get very short with those who won’t help themselves, or who won’t take advantage of all the support and opportunities available to them. Why do they choose to not help themselves? I don’t know. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence. Maybe they enjoy being miserable or wallowing in self pity. Maybe it’s a thousand other reasons. But they aren’t  my concern, to be honest. And they shouldn’t be yours either, if you have tried to help them.

Let’s face it, loosing a job just isn’t that uncommon these days. It’s just not that special. It happens to people very day. And you just do what you have to do. You make contacts, network, accept help and even get a job at McDonalds if you have to, to pay the bills in the meantime. Yes, it sucks, but that’s just life. But one thing is for sure, nothing is going to happen if you don’t stop wallowing and get off the couch.

And if you encounter someone who can’t be helped? Step – no run away – as fast as you can. Don’t bother helping those who won’t help themselves, It’s wasted energy and you have much better things to do with your time.