Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sweet and Salty Christmas Reflections: The Origin of our Traditions


Most people have some sort of holiday tradition this time of year, whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or name that holiday. My family's traditions are Christian, but are probably as much unlike other Christian traditions are they are like them. Our celebration has changed throughout the years to incorporate new family members, like my husband, and our children, the family of the mother of our son's children, and our baby grandchildren. Sometimes tradition changes manifest themselves as a "work around" other people's celebrations. Sometimes we create them to accommodate an individual's beloved personality traits (Daniel) or ineptitude or exhaustion (me). But, their core pretty much remains the same or has for the last 25 years.



Here are some of my favorite Christmas traditions and the people who inspired them:

1. We always open presents on Christmas Eve, after dinner, in the glow of candles and a lit and decorated tree. The origin of this tradition is my mother's Swedish family, originally from Sunne in Varmland, Sweden, later from the farming town of Gray's River, WA where they ultimately settled. They would decorate the tree on Christmas Eve, eat a late dinner and receive Santa, replete with presents, after midnight. The children might have slept all afternoon, but the women were up for days preparing the Christmas fest. Those poor women. They were sturdier than I.

We've adapted this a bit-- no Santa, no late tree trimming, no staying up past midnight to open presents, but the evening tradition lives on. My husband came from a morning-present-opening-family, so adapting to the Christmas eve celebrations leaves him a bit wanting. However, having Daniel, who was physically unable to "wait" for anything, helped chauffer this day-early tradition along, and now that we have grandchildren who celebrate on Christmas morning with their mother, the celebration timing is settled. We did add opening presents in stockings on Christmas morning, to bring a little of my husband's traditions to share. I confess that this hasn't amounted to much these past years, as the stockings are generally filled with an abundance of Chap Stick (long story, having to do with husband's families' very dry lips and him having initiated our small children into same habit years ago) and not much else, which isn't very inspiring. I vow to do better next year.

and

2. We always eat the same sugary and salty foods every Christmas. I'm not sure why. I just remember that we have always had cranberry salad, pumpkin pie, stuffing with giblets, green beans, carrots, and mustard sauce.

For the fresh cranberry salad-- my mother grinds the cranberries and for days adds and readds sugar to the mix, and then, finally, tops the confection off with nuts and whipping cream. I picture blond women performing this same ritual all over Sweden, maybe outside in the snow using their ice-skate blades as knives, almost like I see Italian women of old stomping grapes for wine, but the Italians labor in nicer weather. Fortunately, we generally have use of a Cuisinart (that has apparently imploded this year) so the chopping is manageable. This year it died and my mother struggled with various mutilating utensils, like our blender and that little handheld chopper you see on informericals, neither of which seemed to serve very well. There is a fine line between chopping and mashing. You can tell what we will get her for an early Christmas present next year.

We also have mom's pumpkin pie, a unique version that incorporates fresh spices, like cinnamon and ginger. My dad always said it was the best pumpkin pie ever, which clinched that tradition. My poor mother used to despair in the making of it until she found the pre-made and pre-rolled Pillsbury piecrust in her grocer's dairy case. That stuff is magic and it tastes good. It also makes my mother happy and calmer for the holidays. I used to consider writing Mr. Pillsbury a letter of thanks for saving our family holidays and may still do so.

I have taken over Win and Oz's sweet potato roll, which has to have a bit of orange juice, butter, milk, brown sugar and nuts (in Oregon it was Walnuts, here in LA it's Pecans) in it. It used to be carefully placed in a wreath shaped tin and baked. However, Win and my mother were the only two individuals on the planet who could get the contents out, in the right presentation, without gouges and ill placed nuts and onto the Lenox china plate for the Christmas dinner table (the secret is in buttering and flouring the tin beforehand, and then placing it in the refrigerator to chill before baking, or so they say). I admit I am a miserable failure at this, but mine still tastes good, and sometimes I vary the recipe; this year I added baked apples. That sort of makes up for the lack of presentation. Or that's what I say anyway. The truth is my kids just want me to quit putting fruit in their food.

Daniel usually does my Aunt Eileen's fresh green beans with onions, bacon, celery and a bit of tart barbeque sauce because Aunt Eileen is gone and he has been dubbed, "the bacon fryer." Richard was supposed to take over dad's stuffing because dad's gone, and Rich loves internal organy things and he doesn't have a cooking job (he wraps presents). And James was supposed to be the orange carrot man, just because; although I wouldn't care what vegetable he cooked as long as it was a vegetable. This year I did it all myself -- but I somehow missed fixing the stuffing. I think I'll make a run to the store tonight and pick up the fixings to have with whatever leftovers are "left" "over" (aren't there supposed to be leftovers? All we have now is a bit of sweet potato and ham).

Finally, we have Honey Baked Ham because my mother adores it. Either mom or I make Aunt Lucy's mustard sauce (the tartest sauce you can have without it being 100% vinegar) so that I can eat it (the ham). We've all but given up on cooking for Thanksgiving -- we order out, and that's when I get my turkey, otherwise I suppose I'd cook one of those for Christmas too.

Just so you know-- children-- the recipes for all our traditional dishes are stuck inside various pages of the Fanny Farmer Cookbook in the pantry, next to all of the other cookbooks on the bottom shelf. I think the outside back cover is coming off but you will be able to identify it by the white and yellow crosshatched design that remains still adhered to some of it. Some recipes may also be in the cookbook that my Cousin Shari made for me when dad and I first got married. It's the spiral notebook, whiteish cover, with the little celophane holders for the recipes. Some recipes are jammed behind others. The mustard sauce may not be written down: just remember equal parts of everything, except for the sugar, which is doubled.

and

3.  Someone always takes mom to Episcopal Mass, "the midnight one," which isn't even at Midnight anymore as it's at 4:00 in the afternoon and 10:00 o'clock at night. James and I took mom to latter one this year. Mom never stays to the conclusion of the service after the Mass -- she skips out early -- which to be honest, is the wiley card up her sleeve she uses to entice the children to go with her ("we won't stay long...").

This is not a lament really, but the service didn't even seem like one of the traditional Episcopalian ones I used to know, as we only knealt once. We stood most of the time singing ourselves through the hymnal. One thing's a constant: I continue to pitch my voice up into the rafters, which probably embarasses James, but oh well, feel God's presence, and thank him for my family and friends and another year to spend with those that are still here.

What else?

We always say we're not buying presents except for the little kids, because we've spent way too much money on so and so throughout the year; but we always buy for everyone and we always overspend. We are weak and sentimental. We always fight a little bit at some point during the day or night and someone always says, "Can you give me a break!? It's Christmas!"  Rich and my mother are the cleaneruppers (Rich mostly the paper, mom mostly the china). Sometimes things get lost (like a gift card this year). But, it is the one time a year when I can be sure that we will rise above it all.


Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Caregiver's Dementia

They call it Caregiver's Dementia and I've got it.

I lost my Barnes & Nobel Nook two weeks ago and my glasses and debit card this morning. Fortunately, I "remembered" where the latter two items were, but not the first. The thing is, I'm getting shaky and flustered when this happens, which makes it impossible to remember what I'm trying to remember when I'm trying to remember it.

This feels more like a panic attack.

I think the first step towards swimming my way out of this raging ocean is to stop reading books about dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. I feel like I did in college when I took a psychology class and thought that I had contracted every malady mentioned in the text.

I think the second step is to practice some sort of meditation or relaxation exercise. I know that forced thinking of any kind just makes my mind go blank. Things start to "pop" into my head only when I'm feeling calm and confident. My state of being during these times is the opposite of confident. That doesn't portend well for my job performance either. Fortunately, mom is not at the office.

The third thing I should do is to get some rest.

Today I came home to a mother who thought I owed her $10,000 (again). These sorts of accusations just compound that quaking feeling I have inside. Rather than put her rants in their proper place (which is to set them aside and in a box somewhere until I can muster the energy to deal with them) I began digging through her bank accounts, my bank accounts, and other assorted accounts, printing off materials that would show her where her money had gone (she transfers money from one account to the other, sometimes between as many as 3 accounts in the same day). This took most of my afternoon, somehow exhausted me more and probably won't do me a bit of good in reasoning with her.

Now I have to look forward to figuring out how to deal with her in paying her caregiver directly (which we will eventually be reimbursed for) which may require us to issue a 1099 and pay payroll taxes. I could deal with that. It's just dealing with her confusion over payments and reimbursements that is sure to push her over the edge and cause me more unease.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Good Reads on the Tough Topic of Dementia

Denial appears to be very functional, particularly for persons with dementia. I know. I live with one (mom's caregiving company "fired us" this last Friday; and I appear to be the only one preoccupied with this. She seems to be unconcerned). Family members heap on an added layer of indifference, to wit: my family asked me, "What's your Plan B?" Notice the possessive pronoun in that question.

It's rough. But, bring in the following excellent books to the rescue.


I've recommended Still Alice by Lisa Genova to many, but what I find missing in that book is an illustration of the behavioral component of dementia, which in my opinion is much worse than the memory loss. What may make that book less helpful to families is that it is fiction that reads like great non-fiction (but it's truly not and therefore misses the mark on truthfulness). It is written by a PhD Neuroscientist about a woman with Early Onset AD, which is an unusual form of AD, and spares familys, comparatively, with its fast decline.

I said comparatively.

I just finished reading, Keeper by Andrea Gillies, that fills that gap in the literature. It is more of a biography of the author's elderly mother-in-law and her life with Alzheimer's Disease (late mid-stage and late-stage I would say) which not only includes all of the emotional and behavioral complications involved, it, by necessity, highlights them. The book is about the disease of a family, as AD or dementia in general, impacts everyone in the family it touches. The family's decline, particularly the author's is as marked as that of the sufferer, "Nancy," her mother-in-law. And because it is true and written by an excellent writer, it is wincingly exposing. I can see myself in every mean thought, every instinct to run away, every instinct to feel self pity, and particularly in what is now my paranoia in my dealings with the geriatric professionals, clinical and social worky, from agencies brought into help. I'm not a good self censurer, and have said way too much to the caregiving agency about my state and my mother's situation. If I had read this book first, I would have been more guarded.

Live and Learn.

Both books are beautifully written. Both include helpful information about AD, and its stages and types.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Self Control? Self Censorship? Or Self-Improvement?

Why can't *other people* just control themselves...?

Or said another way, why can't people learn to self censure?

I have been struggling with this question for the last few days because I have been irritated at some of the people I live with for their inability to stop criticizing (me). You know the old adage: If you don't have something nice to say don't say anything at all.

But, no matter how much I just want peace and quiet I have to ask myself, is self censorship desirable or even a good goal? 

If someone is constantly irritated and cranky, and they have the self control to hold it in, isn't it nearly as bad for you and for them as if they just spoke their (cranky) mind?  I tend to think that I can read people fairly well, and if I was with a person that was angry all the time, verbalized or not, I'd know. Living with that sort of anger sounds illness inducing. And probably has been.

However, I am reminded that I can't control someone else and what they do or don't do, or what they think or don't think, or feel or don't feel. Yes, those things are outside of my control.

That's too bad because I was going to recommend meditation to attain inner peace and harmony *for the other person.*  :-)

What I *can* do I guess, is to encourage communication and problem solving with my house-mates. And I know that I can work on not letting someone else's attitude or problem bother me so much, through meditation, prayer, and inner work.


So, I guess I've answered my own question, even if I don't like the answer so much, because it means work, and change, and self improvement for *me.*

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Waiting: for who we will become

Today I was reminded by a friends' post, that in marriage or in any other partnership we seem to be waiting for the "other person" to blossom into who they have the potental to become. This fact is at the root of relationships, great or small, but especially at the root of marriages, I think. I also think it's at the root of divorces.

If only he would.... If only she could... Some day he will... At some point she'll learn...

My husband and I have 27 years of marriage behind us, and yet after reading my friend's post, I thought, "yes, I'm waiting for my husband to reach his full potential," because of ... because of... [insert issue here]. Does it matter?

Then immediately after this thought knew that surely he was waiting for me to improve in innumerable ways, also.

And then I realized:

What a waste of time. What a pity. What an example of "expectations" gone awry.

You would think that after nearly 30 years I would certainly know that who we are is what counts, and that the best of each of us should be celebrated each day.

The rest can be mourned once overcome.

So, here's a reminder to celebrate what we become daily.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Luck or planning?: Where do you fall in this philosophical debate?

Recently, I commented to an on-line friend that she was "lucky." I said it because of her ability to be grateful for all things in her life and her obviously caring, mutually supportive and sustainable long-term relationship. She is an example of how to integrate the spiritual with the material, and the mundane with the inspirational.
My friend replied that her beautiful life, which is full of challenges by the way, and how she has managed it, is a choice.

So, I come back to the fundamental question:

How much of our lives are planned?  How much of life is purely random or the result of luck?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

To Plan or not to Plan, that is the Question

Image thanks to Christie Abshire Butcher's Students at the University of Texas, Austin
A friend, known as Artfish on Open Salon, posted the following on her facebook page:

"One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a  tree. Which road do I take?" she asked. "Where do you want to go?" was his response. "I don't know," Alice answered. Then," said the cat, "it doesn't matter."

To which I shot back:

"That's where the cat and I differ-- I don't think it matters where you want to go, there is always a right road to take."

My response touched off a conversation about "mistakes" that led into a discussion about the role of "planning," which now that I think about it, was probably a conversation about the role of "self determination" in living a "successful life." 

Okay so I think too much, but that quote touched a nerve.

I think it struck me because for the first 40 years of my life I lived via the extreme planning method that was advocated to all of us (educated people) in fact, through the education process, whether in high school or college or graduate school, which, in short, was, "if you don't have a plan in life, you'll never get there." Never mind where "there" was. But, you'd never get "there." So, be afraid, be very afraid; and I was very afraid that I would never amount to anything.

Let me elaborate on what this method "meant:" You made a plan, generally in writing, for the next year (short-term), and the next five years and ten years (long-term) and then planned, generally in writing, how to set about trying to accomplish it. This process was reevaluated every year, preferably near the New Year, as far as I knew, though I'm not sure why, and life was assured to consist of some ordered (and successful) trajectory.

Living life by this method was a better guarantee of "success" than the "other method," which I assumed was "just drifting through life." I guessed that drifting through life meant that you didn't get an education, lived in a trailer park, had children by various fathers and never married.... or some kind of life as equally "unsuccessful sounding" as *that.*

Okay I had anxieties.

The first little crack in this philosophy appeared as I graduated from college in 1982 in one of the worst recessions in years and couldn't find but a secretarial job. This was not what I was led to believe should happen. I deserved some recognition of some sort. And I didn't get it. I was special, damn it. Plus, I planned.


To recover from this unpleasant and unplanned scenario, I just planned some more. I set my sights set on law school, which was supposed to solve all career snafus as I would be on a bona fide career track. Undergraduate degrees, obviously, no longer trained you for anything, so an advanced career track, like law school would fit the bill. Getting into law school was a chore and I don't want to belabor that time in my life. But, if you think that getting into law school was a chore, practicing it, with children, then with a possible move to Vancouver BC (which I bucked) then with a move to Louisiana (which I accepted, naively) was impossible. I struggled for years, mainly because I was so focused on my "law school" career, which I had written down, that I couldn't see beyond it or outside it, and I was miserable.

My husband can attest to years of misery.

At some point during these years of unmet goals, I had a breakdown and went to see a therapist, who fortunately was a spiritual person. Thank goodness for someone that believed in life, rather than the plans of small human beings.

I learned to plan but to be open to the possibilities that "life" (or God, if you are so inclined) throws at you. My first great opportunity was to take advantage of the time I had "off" to pursue involvement with a lifelong passion-- the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, a development organization in Sri Lanka that I fell in love with when I was 19 years old. 

The second was to "study" gerontology, another passion. No goals. No nothing. These two passions intersected for me and I have years of volunteer and consultant, development and aging work to show for it, including another MS and a PhD. None of it planned. 

I also "happened upon" a Duke post-doc, not planned, and went for that. When I got back, I "happened upon" a position of directing numerous evaluations of state social programs. And after that, I "stumbled upon" a job with private industry as their director of chronic care research, a gerontologist position that has been more than I ever could have imagined.

So, after the last 12 years of a fabulous life, I have to say that I am an advocate for being open to the Big Picture. You can plan, but be guided by your passion and by opportunities that present themselves to you, whether in "your field" and "within your plans" or not. Trust your gut. If you can help it, don't make "lists" (which I also used to do -- you know, listing the "pros" and the "cons" of a scenario). 

Do what drives you. Be in love with your life. Follow the possibilities.

In that way, I truly believe, there will never be a "wrong road." All roads presented to you will be or will lead to the "right ones," divinely inspired, if you are so inclined.















Monday, August 23, 2010

A dream I lost today

I was really down today because the condo I had been planning to buy on the banks of the Willamette River in Portland, Oregon was sold. Condos that were similar, though not as perfect, were still on the market but for a lot more money. I wanted my 180 degree view of the river and the marina below, near the biking and walking trails littered with wildflowers and tall grasses that led to Cottonwood Cove, a beach laden with water soaked logs for climbing and smooth stones for skipping.


I had pictured myself waking up in the morning and taking my bike from the closet to ride out my door and along the river path, where you can grab a handful of Brown eyed Susans or those wild faintly pink roses that grow with abandon in my hometown. I want to be able to roll out of bed in the morning and pull on some sweats and a t-shirt and slide the canoe from the top of the car into the water for a morning paddle. Maybe we'll even have a small skiff or sailboat moored in the marina below that I could take for a spin. I want to read the paper from the deck of my home and breath in the smell of river air and rain over the eggs my lover has made for me. I want to love my partner in that room with the 180 degree view of the water and the mountains, knowing we are finally in the place we are meant to be, living as we should.


I'm not interested in retiring, oh no. I will still engage in life. I picture myself taking the tram into town to work and back or to shop and back or to the doctor's office and back. I long to *not* drive my car for a year, and have it not be a burden, because I don't need to.


You must agree that the life I envision appears divine? So, you can see why I slumped around most of the rest of the day based on this feeling of loss for a place I had never lived in and a life I had never had. But, I'm a regrouper. My heart skipped a beat and a smile spread over my face when I started looking at other properties in Bellingham and Whidby Island, WA, and one in particular that I loved on the banks of a meandering creek in Salida, CO. I convinced myself that the specific locale wasn't what I needed, it was a home with a particular aesthetic, and that aesthetic had a lot to do with water, and living near an informed town center, and of course the west. Don't forget the west. Don't forget freedom. This has a lot to do with freedom.

I guess that all of this would make sense if the plans I made were based in any way in reality, but they aren't, and I know it. This is all a part of a game I play with myself lately called "transporting myself anywhere but here," or "living the life I am entitled to but can't," or "walking and swimming just outside your door in a temperate climate."

Or I would be happy, if only...children, my spouse, grandchildren, my mother and my job were transported somewhere else and some of them were something that they're not.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

That day is just never going to come

I'd like to live at the beach

I went over to mom's house this morning to see how she was feeling. She lives in my backyard, so it's just a short walk.

She has had a bladder infection that just won't go away, despite being put on a low dose of antibiotics for months, and despite being prescribed another type of antibiotic in a stronger dose last week. She was allergic to the second antibiotic, which caused spasms in her bladder. The pain made her panic, which very nearly meant an ER visit, but we managed to get her into see her doctor on short notice. So, now she's on a third antibiotic that I hope is ridding her body of this latest nasty UTI, and some sort of pain medication that seems to be easing the symptoms a bit. Of all of the physical problems she has, these urinary tract infections are the worst.

yadayadayada. I know. Now you're bored. I'm bored in the telling.

So:

I arrived at her house when she was in mid-conversation with her caregiving company. I could tell that it was them because her conversation was peppered with "4 hours" and "she didn't tell me she couldn't come on Wednesdays" and "how much do you pay her?" When I arrive in the middle of these things I feel like I maybe shouldn't listen, even though I am the "responsible party" (how I'm hating that). They were trying to explain something to her, and she was trying to come to some decision, but she wound herself into such a whirl of frustration that she became visibly upset, and physically aphasic, and finally spit out, "never mind then!" and hung up the phone.

I think I physically cringed when she finally looked at me because I was scared and because I knew how the visit was going to go, which was not well. And it didn't. Go well. After an uncomfortable conversation, with me trying to brace myself against her anger, my visit with my mother ended with her parting shots: "You should have thought of that when you took my car away," and, "You are making my life miserable."

I turned around and walked home and called her caregiving company to complain about things that were making her upset, even though I know nothing is going to make her happy, at least not anything I've had a hand in creating. And boy was I was involved in getting her a caregiver-- pretty much to the exclusion of everyone else because I thought (and think) she needs it. I also thought she'd get used to it. Now, however, I don't think she will ever get used to it. It's been nearly 3 months and she seems just as mad as she was in the beginning, maybe madder.

After awhile, she called to apologize, sort of, and then launched into a begging chant, "Can't I just drive the car to the store, please, please?

I said something weak back to her, like, "you know I can't let you do that," or something equally lame.

After that, I simply placed the phone in the cradle.

Explaining or restating my explanations just makes her mad. I'm pretty sure that I should be mad back and that maybe we should have a good old fight like we used to have when I was a teenager (there is so much about *this* that feels like *that*). However, as far as my feelings go, I'm sad but not angry. She's a 89 year old woman with dementia, and the dementia is making her upset. A lot.

This maybe the more interesting part:

And all I can think of is-- When will the time come that my life is "my own?"

After mulling this over for the last five hours, I have come to the conclusion that that day will never come. I know this for sure for a bazillion reasons related to my sad overburdened with dependents life situation. Even so, I can't help but ponder "my other life," as in, "the life I'm supposed to be having but can't."

I'll let you in on a little secret: My main pathetic source of entertainment lately is planning the life I could have if I was only responsible for myself. I'm not only a daydreamer. Sometimes, I put these plans into action, like a month ago when I tried to have a contractor draw up plans for a spa-pool for our backyard. I could just envision myself lazing around in a Grecian shaped pool, with a fountain or two, while my family fixed me a mouthwatering dinner. Ah, denial. 

That didn't go over well, despite my big push to try to make it a reality. I thought that if I showed my family how much I really needed something fun in my life at home, that they would understand. They were unimpressed, and, well, it will never happen, as we recently put an offer on a house for our son.

I did buy myself a treadmill for our bedroom, against the advice of my cohabitants. *That* was liberating. And I gave away our huge Thomasville Entertainment Center (located in our bedroom at the site the treadmill now occupies) to one of the treadmill moving guys. (A treadmill is such a symbol of a 9-5, button-down, boring life. Don't you think?) Anyway, giving that thing away made me feel euphoric.

So, I guess I've had one little triumph. "Yay!" for creating my own space, and having fun, and bucking convention.

Now I think I'll go and pick up food to make dinner.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

How Long Does it take to Mend a Broken Heart?



I thought that we were in the clear, in terms of my son's heart mending. However, it seems as though this will take longer than I thought to resolve itself. Is a year enough? How about two?

I have  been depressed before (some people haven't). Age has tempered my moods. These days I am content to be in whatever situation I am in, not questioning how I got there or whether it's fair that I got there or not.

But, being with a sad child is a terrible experience. You want to take on the hurt and make it okay. However, all of us old folks know that's not possible. Anyway, a child with pain is just heart rending, and there's nothing that I can do but listen.

Today, I told him to wait until January. It will be a year then. I hope things are better.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

An Embarrassment of Riches

I am embarrassed to say that I have received (too) much in terms of material things in my lifetime. This was especially apparent after visiting my mother-in-law's home after her death and trying to figure out what to do with the 'things' we were allotted. All of it was special - that's the problem. And we wanted some of it, but we knew other items would sit around unappreciated and would go to waste after our deaths. It's no fun to think about your own death, but it's an instructive and enlightening exercise. I would recommend it to anyone over 50, which we, ahem, are.

At any rate, after returning from my mother-in-law's house in New York, and looking around at the things we had already accumulated, and looking at my mom's stuff in the addition, and talking to our kids we decided to lighten our load a bit. So, I opened an etsy shop selling "vintage" mostly family things.

Here is the link:  http://www.etsy.com/shop/denese

I'm telling you, that much of these things that we have are "beautiful things" and have been particularly meaningful to me. I would be surprised if their "specialness" isn't recognized by you-all.

At least I'm thinking so...

Please, let me know what you think (I've never been a shop-keep before).

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Godfatherless Child


My Godfather Glen Osborn died yesterday. I had not seen him much in recent years -- the collateral damage of living away from home and kin.  His passing made me sad. I had numerous Godmothers. But, I had only one Godfather. He was the last man standing of that generation. First, Rich's dad, then my dad, and now Oz.

Actually, he was probably one of the last men that exemplified an era. He was an elegant man of only kind words and a soft heart. He loved the Lord, antiques, good food, his garden, a poodle named Missy Muffet and my (Fairy) Godmother, Win.

His name was Glen but I called him Oz and I'll miss him.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Breaking My Own Rules

This post is in response to Shutter Sister Sarah-ji's post on "breaking my own rules:"

http://shuttersisters.com/home/2010/1/3/breaking-my-own-rules.html?lastPage=true#comment6770309

Since I am so new to photography, I don't have many rules to break. However, when I shoot I am usually with my husband, an accomplished photographer, and he reminds me of the rules that I'm supposed to follow, like, keeping the sun at your back, and not shooting into the light. On our recent trip to Orange Beach, AL for Thanksgiving, I was loving the warm light of the fall sun and the effect of photographing my family by directly shooting into the sun, which created a sort of dream like state. At least I thought so.

I particularly liked this set of pictures because they show my husband photographing our son. So, here are my beach shooting-into-the-sun-shots.


This next set shows the beach at just a few minutes later, but with the sun to my back, like you're supposed to shoot it.




All on automatic ladies.

Developing a Hobby with the Hubby: The Camera on the Water Experiment

Panoramic view of Pigeon Bayou (that's water covered in algae and salvinia)

About a year ago, I decided that if I was going to stay married for the long-haul (that is post-year-26, post-empty-nest and into-retirement) I should develop a hobby that I could practice with my husband. My husband has a million hobbies. I have a couple. They do not intersect except in admiration of each others talents and proclivities.

Admiring the old cypress tree, estimated to be between 400-800 years old

That's good, but not good 100% of the time if you're married, if you know what I mean.

Path through the woods I was tempted to try to walk through

So, the Thanksgiving before this last one, I began using one of his cameras, and things turned out fairly well, at least well enough that he gave me a camera for Christmas last year, which I have been using pretty regularly. Then, I purchased a photography class for him with CC Lockwood (our resident LA naturalist/photographer) and instead of taking the class alone he bought me a place on the boat.

Lake

I say that he bought me a place "on the boat," because the class took place on Pigeon Bayou, about an hour and a half south of here in the middle of Cajun country. I was excited to participate, even though we hadn't been on a canoe together since the first year of our marriage when we lived on the Trinity River, I am deathly afraid of "dropping snakes" and "lurking alligators," and I was a tad bit afraid of dumping said new camera into the water. Plus, my arms hadn't had a work out in months. How was I going to keep up with the rest of the canoeists and barrel-chested, huge-armed Richard, paddling all the live-long-day (until sundown), and shoot a decent picture or two, to boot, particularly with my neck and shoulder issues? Ack.

Cypress

As is my way, I moved ahead even though apprehensive, based on the knowledge that things always work out, even if I can't see how, if I get a good night sleep and say a prayer or two (or one hundred).

Artistic stand of cypress seemingly set up just for me

Well, the trip was fabulous. We kept up with CC's lead canoe most of the time through sheer adrenaline fueled by sheer panic that we might be lost amongst the cypress trees, even though CC kept saying it was impossible to get lost in Pigeon Bayou. Plus, we didn't want to look like a couple of wimps in that gnarly group of environmentalist types. My photographs were not as studied as some -- as I couldn't quite get a handle on stopping for any length of time and setting up a shot while the rest of our group was speed-gliding away -- but they're still pretty good.

My assignment from CC: Take a picture of this and spend more than 2 seconds doing it

The neck did suffer, but in a normal way that necks suffer even if they aren't chronically messed up. We did roll-and-drop out of bed the next morning, rather than try to use our arms to push to stand up, due to screaming pain, but, it was the kind of pain that you have if you ski, or run or work out a tad too much. And it abated to just the regular chronic crap I experience everyday anyway. So, I'm going to do it again, hopefully soon, with the purchase of a canoe after our bills are paid, and maybe a rug or two are laid.


 
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