Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April Hunting

After about ten years of wearing nonfitted stretch waistbands, she insists that her waistline has completely disappeared.
Mary Roach

I'm always thrilled when I discover a writer whose work I've never explored. One night the guest on The Daily Show was a very funny Mary Roach.  I picked up one of her books. How I've missed her wry and delightful insights into the world might have to do with my not having read a Reader's Digest in I can't even fathom. Or read her books like Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers  or  Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife.

(Thinking my summer reading list just got bigger.)

I've just finished My Planet - Finding Humor in the Oddest Places filled with short, concise three page essays. Hoot and hollering fun. Well, maybe not that loud. But giggling a definite Yes! The kind where people look at you and you can only giggle more. Too fun to share.

With a mind full of giggles, I set out on my April Scavenger Hunt brought you by Made With Love.


Scavenger Hunt

The  April List:
Upside Down
Clouds
Chair
Something sweet
Growth
Glass
Bedroom
Rain
Egg
Fresh
Feet
Whatever You Want

Here we go.

Upside Down
Just found this last night while out to eat. Perfect

Clouds

 Chair
I live in this chair. Within my reach are my book bag,  camera, eye glasses, Emory board, DVD changer, knitting, computer, even more books, a backyard view, hand lotion, notepad and pen, fingernail polish. If I could just figure out how to add a toilet and build a robot to bring me a new cup of tea or glass of wine, I'd never have to move.
 Something Sweet
The flock just born in my Swedish Ivy hanging on the back porch.


Growth
This chart has hung in our laundry room for 27 years. Recorded all three boys. Middle son the tallest at 6'3".

Glass
My favorite wine glass.

Bedroom
Youngest son's room as he left it after his last visit home (ONE YEAR AND FOUR MONTHS AGO) Old family tradition holds that you can't wash the sheets when someone leaves until they come home again. Seriously Bama Chef Boy, time to come home.
Rain
Wonder where they're going?
Egg
My breakfast. Eggs, Uncured Canadian Bacon, a dab of cheddar and Sirracha. Twas pretty dang good.
Fresh
This year's pea crop.
Feet
I should probably take off my Birkenstocks next time I'm sitting in the sun. Bad tan lines.
Whatever I Want

My very strange friends.
Okay, wonder what the May list will bring.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Take My Picture, Please?

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. 
Ansel Adams

Back in the early 90's, my neighbor's mother often visited from Minnesota. Marge, well into her 60's, dyed her hair red and loved having her picture taken with famous people. Not too many famous types hung out in Austin at that time, but if they were here, Marge found them. Always got a picture and always found herself in the photo as well.

Her daughter-in-law calls her the original Photo Bomber.  She didn't get famous people to pose with her like the selfie shots posted on Facebook and everywhere else. She didn't interrupt their business and have their arms slung around her like they were best buds. Nope. Not Marge. She made it look like she was with them. Part of their entourage.

When the men's Legends golf tournament was in town, I'll be darned if Marge didn't get a photo taken strutting down the cart path beside Chi Chi Rodriguez, like she was carrying his putter or something. She and Chi Chi out vying for a win on the senior golf tour.*

Marge, a mother of nine, must have trained her children at an early age to get the perfect shot. I imagined her thrusting the camera into their hands and saying, "Okay, I'm going in. Get this right."

When Queen Elizabeth came to town (for the life of me I can't remember why the Queen was in Austin, Texas) it didn't surprise me when my neighbor shared a photo of Marge, standing just behind the queen. Photos fresh from the one-hour Fotomat and Marge snickering as she viewed it.

Go Marge.

Last Christmas Day, my husband and I flew to New York City. After Christmas Eve with the four kids in Austin, we spent the rest of the holiday with the boy who couldn't come home. That Bama Boy turned Chef.

As we wandered the crowded city streets (NYC is a busy place, but Midtown at Christmas? Ridiculous.) I noticed an inordinate number of blind people. So many walking around in a group with their white-tipped walking sticks folded up, unused in their hands.

About to mutter something stupid to my son about a blind person convention on Christmas Day, I noticed that the wadded sticks didn't have white tips. That occurred about the same time I almost tripped over an extended one. One that dangled a smart phone on the end of it.

I quickly became familiar with the digital accessory (clean up your mind, Julie) also known as the Selfie Stick. Designed to improve one's Selfie experience by easing arm health and extending the scope of one's photo while affording an opportunity to spend more time taking photos than enjoying what is in front of one's face. Followed then by standing in front of said place/item of interest and examining if photo is good enough or needs a retake. Then, still standing in place while posting to social media while others in the vicinity await their turn to Selfie or just want to see the shit in front of them.

Yes, I ran out of patience with them. Everything I wanted to see, like the window displays at Macy's or a favorite painting at the Met, I patiently awaited my turn for a glimpse while the selfie groups crowded around me. I couldn't help but wonder why everyone wanted to busy themselves taking a picture with something important behind them. Where was the joy in seeing it, studying it? Taking a photo of the item itself for later enjoyment and recollection? Not staring at their mugs on a tiny screen.

Where did this narcissism come from? This need to be seen with the famous or the famed. The need to see one's own face plastered on tiny computer screens to mark their presence for the world to see.

Of course, I need to remember that I hate having my photo taken and I'm not as much into individualism as the Average Joe. Humble about it, too. Would I really like to stand in front of a famous painting and snap a photo of myself? Imagine standing in front of a Picasso. What would be the point?

I mean, would I be saying, "I posed for this painting?" or "Am I as fat as this bitch?"
Seriously.  I so would not do anything like that.

Some might say "Well, you take pictures at famous places and  museums."

Yes, I do. But I have a reason. I'm there on a limited time schedule. My husband is with me and I only have a certain amount of time before his head explodes. It's like being in a race. Taking photos lets me linger on the subjects long after we've left the museum or famous site. I also get to see more as I can't imagine ever getting him back so I move quickly, taking in all I can get.

And me, being the art expert that I am, take my photos so I can study them at a later date. Like the texture in this Van Gogh.



I could examine the ferocity in those brush strokes for days. Consider the flurry of what went on in Vincent's mind as he loaded his palette with more and more paint. Even wonder if he painted it while contemplating cutting his ear off or while it hurt like hell after. Okay, maybe not that.

Back to individualism and the Selfie Stick. Would that Van Gogh painting have been better for you if I were standing, say, right in the middle? No, and that again is the point. I think. This photo wasn't taken for you. I had no intent when I took it to post it on social media or intend for you to muddle through a very long blog post. I took it for self-enjoyment. For my own individual needs, not the collective lot of you.

I don't take photos to share.



Nope, not me standing front of the Christmas tree at freaking Rockefeller Center on Christmas Night.


Nope, not me with a view of the entire skyline of Manhattan in the background.


Nope, not me holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Nope, you will not find me needing to post photos of myself on social media. And that photo in Pisa? A selfie stick would not have been helpful. I still needed another body. Or a camera with a timer on it.

Before selfies and their accouterments came into vogue, one might have to find a rock or chair to set the camera upon, set the timer, and run back to get in the frame. Or ask another to take the photo. Like a stranger. Bingo! The selfie stick negates the need to communicate with others. How cool is that?

My husband isn't good for the Selfie Stick empire. He might not have any patience for my stopping to take a snapshot, but he most certainly never hesitates to offer to take a photo of people trying to capture themselves.

Doesn't occur to him they might be in Selfie mode. Often when he offers, they give a guarded look and he calmly says, "Here, you can hold my phone while I take it." They smile and appease him and he starts to chat with them. "Where you from?" "What all are you doing today?"  Hasn't said a word to me for an hour, but he's got all day to chat with strangers.

I stand idly by and sometimes they offer to take our photo as well. I reluctantly comply as I do need to leave some record that I existed and photos of us as a couple are indeed rare. But the question to pose is 'Would this photo of the old boy and me been better if we had taken it of ourselves?'


Probably not. Every Selfie I've ever taken of myself (something wrong with that phrase) I've deleted. Something about that double chin being much more defined in that close up.

It is nice, I admit, to have a memory of a time together. Like on this trip to Wyoming with Middle Son.

 
I took this photo and in looking back at it,  I note the reflection of the mountain in the water, the ripples made by the breeze, and the green in the pine tree. But the next one helps me recall much more vividly that day travelling alone through Wyoming with Middle Son. We asked someone near us to take it.

\

I still see the reflection of the mountain. The ripple in the water, the green of pine. But I also see a lovely smile on that young man's face. That it truly was okay to be stuck in the wilds with his mother. I can't recall the name of that mountain in the Tetons, but I do recall the joy of that moment. And perhaps that is what picture taking is all about and I need to give those people mugging all the photo stops a break. Myself included.

However, this photo could not possibly have captured that moment if I were concentrating on manoeuvring a long stick in front of me.  Or if there were a crowd of people awaiting a photo in the exact same spot. And then not moving until I decided if it was good enough to post on my Facebook or needed to take another one because the water wasn't rippling just as I wanted it. Or I wanted to pull up my bra strap.

Something tells me I don't know what I'm talking about in this post. I had intended it to be a serious discussion regarding individualism. The pursuit of my needs before all others instead of living life for the collected good of all.

As you can sorely see, my Midlife Roadtripper blogpost mind does not allow me to stay serious for very long. Perhaps that is a good thing. Serious essays are very hard to write.

If I ventured back to my original idea of what this post might relay, I would come to this photo. With time running out at Metropolitan Museum (my husband ready to race me to the exit doors) I awaited yet another person in front of a painting so I could take my photo uninhibited. As I tapped my foot and studied the Monet from afar, I finally noticed she wasn't standing in front of it to take a photo of herself. She was doing what was meant to happen.


And that was the photo I wanted.

I've heard Selfie Sticks have now been banned from the Met and many other venues. I'm glad. Perhaps a 'return to sanity' sign.

After all, Marge didn't need a Selfie Stick. Didn't bother anybody.  Didn't hold anyone up. For her, the fun was in the pursuit. Her photos aren't lolling about in cyber space or framed on her walls. Word has it they reside in an old box in the basement, unseen for years. In her mind's eye, I imagine Marge recalls. I can see her snickering.


*(An aside, I have a special affinity for Chi Chi Rodriquez. I recall the show WKRP in Cincinnati from years ago. Les Nesman, the news/weather/sports reporter, once reported on a golf tournament announcing Chi Chi as Chie Chie Rod-wa-gweez. Loved it then and it still makes me chuckle.)

Thursday, April 2, 2015

This and That, Double Dog Dare and March Scavenging

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. 
Henry David Thoreau

This and That Days have overtaken my life. I love them. You are probably familiar with their workings. You spend the day busy at a pace where at day's end you couldn't really list all you've done. Nor could anyone walk into your home and necessarily see exactly what has kept you so busy. 

But you know. It accounts for your calmness. For you've put in a full day, yet don't feel like you've dragged a steam ship through a mucky channel. 

On my This and That Days I may have cleaned the hairbrushes. Washed the kitchen window. Threw away the grocery sales slips littering my car. Read a short story. Blew the dust off a book shelf. Secured that loose upholstery button on the pillow sham. 

Written in my journal.  Swept the duck crap off the dock. Picked the dead leaves from my plants. Read a few new poems. Scoured the coffee pot to a new clean. Gone through the fridge and thrown away all the jars of expired jams, mustards, horseradish and mayos. Planted the Moonflower seed packet that has sat on the counter for a month. Turned the calendar to the appropriate month.

Rehung the fairy windows on the big tree in the yard. Changed the sheets on the bed. Written five gratitudes for the day.  Washed the rugs in the bathroom. Glued wine corks to the cork board. Fed the ducks and geese. Put a new mattress pad on a bed. Finished a Dot to Dot picture. Pulled a few weeds. Gone through the basket of papers on the desk.

You know. Stuff. Little stuff. This and That. 

Which also provides fodder for this post as it is a little of this and that. RE the Double Dog Dare that ended on April 1. 

tbr dare 2014

You might recall my post in January regarding all the baskets, shelves, and stacks of books on my To Be Read shelf. That I'd taken on the dare to only read from those piles for three months. 

I succeeded.  As of April 1 I've read 15 books from those stacks. I have my To Be Read books down to one shelf and one basket. Okay, so that shelf still has 28 books on it and the basket is how big? But, hey, 15 less than before. 

I even made it to March 25 before I bought any new books except for the two I needed for Book Club.  Broke down late one Saturday night while perusing online. I know, shouldn't buy online, but midnight, husband asleep and too late to plow. Might as well buy a few books. 

Which brings us to the next topic, The March Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt

A post consisting of your interpretation of a given list whereby you take photos and then link to  the Scavenger Hunt's inventor, Made with Love. 
The March List   - Circle, Card, Window, Art, Skyline, a favorite word, Movement, Bathroom, Car, Plate, Something you made, whatever you want. 

Here is my take.

 Circle


 Card

 Window

 Art 
Dirt road leading to Lake Michigan

Skyline

A Favorite Word
 Take me to the water, always.

Movement

 Bathroom
Waited 16 years in this house for a bath tub. Finally -- last year. I live there now.

Car
My 2003 VW. Thirteen years old. 110,000 miles. Put that top down and it becomes a truck. (My husband will cringe when he sees this. "Couldn't you have washed it first?" Wash it?  Do they last longer if you do that?)

Plate

Something I Made 
A mess

Okay, I needlepointed the seat for this old rocker of my grandmothers. But I did it a hundred years ago.

Whatever I Want
Still Life
No, I'm not the one who picked those bluebonnets. I just helped save them from drying up.


Hope you enjoyed this This and That post. Hope you have many a This and That days coming to you.

Happy Easter

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Scavenger Hunt - February


I met a lot of people in Europe.  I even encountered myself.  

James Baldwin

One of the items on my Things to Do Each Day list is to read a short story or essay. On my To Be Read bookshelves  and chair side tables I have way too many unread collections of short stories and essays - Best of series, food and travel essays, OHenry and Pushcart volumes.  When attempting to read them in one setting as I do a novel or non-fiction book, they overwhelm me. They also never get my full attention when only picked up here and there. Nor can I remember which parts I've already read.

Focusing on one book at a time and one piece of writing from it each day has rendered a most satisfying experience. At present I'm reading the Best American Travel Writing 2014, edited by Paul Theroux. I've vicariously been held prisoner in Somalia, fly fished for dorado in Brazil, and  ridden a Greyhound bus across the US. I've reread a lovely essay by David Sedaris about a family gathering on the North Carolina coast and hung out in New York City, Bombay, Paris, Sarajevo and a host of other locations.

Today I enjoyed a piece by Thomas Swick entitled A Moving Experience. It talks about his perspective as a travel writer. Much to ponder in this essay, but one observation he discusses is how lonely the travel writer can be. Yet in the solitude, he becomes more aware.

Apropos as my real-life travel today involves a solitary walk, a list in hand. A couple weeks back I ran across a blog entitled Made With Love. The Sydney based writer, Greenthumb, posts a monthly-themed Scavenger Hunt for photos. The hunt sounded like fun and today was my day to attempt it.

Having just read Swick's essay, certain lines remained in my mind. "... freedom from distraction; when you're by yourself, you're more attuned to your surroundings. Less discussed, but just as important, is the fact that, alone, you're also more sensitive. You not only notice your surroundings more clearly; you respond to them more deeply."

Perhaps that is why I often find perspective when I walk or go someplace alone. Or find myself in tears with my thoughts. Or discover marvels while sauntering that I never would have noticed if I only looked down the road and concentrated on sweat. (Could also be why my Active Minutes on my Fitbit rarely goes seven minutes before a stop.)

At the end of his essay, Swick stated "It was in Lisbon that I discovered the secret of travel writing, which is also the secret of memorable travel: you approximate, as best you can, in the short time allotted you, the life of a local."

Join me. Today, you get to be a local on Impala Isle. I hereby present my February Scavenger Hunt. Twelve photos: Flowers, Love, Number, Something Beautiful, Your Favorite Color, Bird, On the Road, Tap, Price, Heart, A Corner of Your Home, and Whatever You Want

Found while alone. Shared with sensitivity and deep joy.

Flowers
From my sweetie. (And not much other than store-bought available in terms of color in February.)

Love
Took three walk bys to get this photo of mama and baby. Baby kept sliding into the lake.

Number
Wanna play?

Something Beautiful
Indeed

My Favorite Color
Any shade of blue. Aqua, too.

Bird
Neighborhood Regular


On the Road
Fun find.

Tap
Gonna figure out something to do with these one of these days.

Price
Tree for sale

Heart
Nothing to say about that.

A Corner of Your House
Gotta spy on the world from somewhere.
Whatever You Want
Day's End.

Anyone else up for a Scavenger Hunt? Click on that Scavenger Hunt camera in the righthand column to find Made with Love. Most fun.


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