February Month of “Lurve” – #16-20

Whoa! I have five days to catch up on this challenge, Paula’s February Love Me!

Feb. 16: I love…my house. We moved here in August 2019, a compact, pristine little house (it’s actually a duplex) waiting for us. Everything is new & modern, nothing is malfunctioning (and if it does, we call maintenance who comes to fix it right away and we don’t have to pay for it), there are no stairs, we have a tiny screened porch and a patio with an elevated plot next to it where we can plant whatever we want, and adequate storage space. I think this house is the most satisfying thing about living in this senior community. I was so sick of our old house – nearly 100 years old, it had old plumbing, poor water pressure in the shower, and three levels. The washer & dryer were in the basement, and our bedroom was on the second floor. Now when I want to wash clothes, I just go from my bedroom to the washer & dryer unit off my kitchen. There was always something going wrong at our old house and we had to replace the roof twice. We don’t need to worry about any of that here!

Of course, we had to get rid of a lot of stuff, but I didn’t mind that. It was good to downsize!! The only drawback is having only a one-car garage, so one of us has to park in the driveway.

We live in the house on the left – the red Subaru is Dale’s.
View from the window of our second bedroom, which we use as our entertainment center – TV and computers are here.

Feb. 17: I love…my family. I grew up with three sisters and one brother, and both parents. We were not a dysfunctional family, we got along for the most part. My brother was really mean to me when we were children, and my oldest sister was kind of bossy too, but still we were a remarkably cohesive family. Now my parents are deceased, one of my sisters is also deceased, but we all have kids, and most have grandkids. I love and cherish my large extended family!

Our daughter gave us this photo in a frame. These are the members of my family who were there. But there are many more.
This photo was taken in 2007 (also in a frame) when we gathered to celebrate my mother’s 90th birthday. She is in the middle of the first row, wearing a black & teal outfit.

Feb. 18: I love…my knickknacks. I have a lot of small figurines and other knickknacks that I have accumulated during my travels, or sometimes they were gifts. I have a lot more than pictured below!

Still life of five random things I have collected over the years! In back is a little round box that opens into a traditional neighborhood scene, from Cuba; at left is a black clay turtle, which also has a whistle; and a Mexican alebrije – a seal made from copal wood and then brightly painted with beautiful designs! On the right is a circle of Peruvian figures made from clay and painted in traditional dress; and a snake I bought at a craft fair, because I just liked it.
Maybe you have seen a meme on social media of a cutout photo of Bernie Sanders at Biden’s Inauguration, placed in other photos. He was sitting near the back and was hugging himself in the cold. A friend crocheted this figure of Bernie for me. She also makes mittens (full size, that you can wear!). Bernie Sanders himself has capitalized on his meme by having it printed on T-shirts for sale; all the proceeds go to Meals on Wheels of Vermont.
This is Josephine (Josefina), a javelina made out of metal by an artist in Tucson, Arizona. I am doing a series of photos with Josephine in various random locations. Here she is on my piano keyboard! (A javelina is a type of wild pig native to Southwestern USA.)

Feb. 19: I love…coloring. A few years ago, there started to be coloring books for adults on the market. They were promoted as being relaxing. You can find coloring books of anything from scenes from Outlander to Cats with Hats to Amazing Mandalas and geometric designs. It is really calming, so I tend to do it while watching the news! I bought several sets of gel pens, which are my favorite medium for coloring, but I also use colored pencils a lot – which are good for doing shading in the pictures – and markers. I like experimenting with different color combinations and it also helps me to color small details without going outside the lines – a good practice for when I need a steady hand for doing water colors or drawings. Here is a sampling:

Feb. 20: I love…walking. Walking is my favorite type of exercise. I like walking outside especially, because I can appreciate the nature around me, and it’s possible to find small things to admire, something I can’t do if I’m riding a bike, for example. I walk in any season as long as the weather isn’t too cold – it’s really the wind that keeps me inside!

On the walking path of our campus, a few days ago.
On our campus – I liked the shape of this autumn foliage!
At Cuba Marsh in spring
Duck on a pond with water lilies, at Chicago Botanic Gardens last July

February Love Me

Yikes! I have a few days to catch up for Paula’s February Love Me challenge! Here are 3 more, in no particular order…

Feb. 6: I love…ice cream! Even though it is winter, and quite cold here, I can’t resist the temptation of ice cream once in a while!

Ice cream in France

Feb. 7: I love…art. I love to visit art museums whenever I can as well as do my own artwork! I just finished the book Frida in America by Celia Stahr, a new biography of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo focusing on her years in the United States with her husband, Diego Rivera. While reading the book, I explored her artwork on line and, although I was quite familiar with her work, I discovered a lot of her paintings I hadn’t known about before. I also love mural art wherever I find it – and usually stop what I’m doing to take a picture!

Claude Monet, Bordighera, 1884, oil on canvas; exhibition at Chicago Art Institute, Oct. 2020
My artwork: Painted Bunting, sharpie and pastels on construction paper, January 2020

Feb. 8: I love…traveling. Anyone who reads my blog even occasionally knows how traveling is absolutely the thing I love most to do! And while traveling, I engage in one of my favorite hobbies, photography, and when I come back, I engage in another favorite activity, writing (or blogging). Below is a gallery random sample of travel photos from 2018-2019. There are no travel photos from 2020 due to not being able to travel during the pandemic! I have two international trips booked for 2022 and hopefully we can do a road trip in the fall of this year.

CFFC: Animal Art

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week has the topic Non-Alive Animals. Of course, any representation of an animal has a real animal in mind as the artist creates it. But the rendition may be very close in appearance to the real animal, or it may be whimsical, or abstract. It all depends on the craftsman’s talent and point of view.

It was hard to choose photos for this post – so many to choose from! Everywhere I go, locally or abroad, there is animal art. Animals have been subjects for every kind of art imaginable for thousands of years…

Such as the first known painting in the world, a painting of Egyptian geese on papyrus at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo,

and the god Horus, usually represented as a hawk, at the Temple of Horus in Edfu, Egypt.

Also at the Egyptian Museum is a throne of King Tutankhamun, whose tomb was not found until 1922, with most of its grave goods intact – it hadn’t been subjected to many tomb robberies!

This elaborate throne contains many symbols and images of gods, such as twin lions on the front. One of ancient Egypt’s sacred symbols was the scarab beetle, depicted in the cartouche on the front of the arm; the hieroglyphics within the cartouche generally are names of kings, so this may have been Tuthankhamun’s. Embracing the throne of either side are the wings of the vulture, a bird considered to be a protector of kings. In this case, he represents the king-god himself, wearing the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

The ancient Chinese civilization also had many animal representations, one of the most common being the guardian lion. This one is in front of a restaurant, House of Szechwan, in Des Plaines, Illinois.

Generally depicted in pairs, guardian lions stood in front of imperial palaces, tombs, temples, government buildings, and the homes of the wealthy. The concept was to show the emotion of the animal, in this case ferocity, as a symbol of protection.

Deriving from this Chinese custom, there are people today who have a pair of lions as lawn ornaments, like this one in Des Plaines. He might look more ferocious if freshly painted!

Here are another example of a Des Plaines lawn ornament, this cute little bird sitting on an orb.

There were many whimsical animals on display for sale or as decoration in the charming small town of Poulsbo, Washington, north of Tacoma.

In Evanston, Illinois, there is a little known museum called the American Toby Jug Museum, which we discovered during Chicago’s annual Open House in October. Toby Jugs are ceramic figures, usually depicting well known persons, but also animals. The history of the toby jug, or philpot, dates back to 18th century potters in Staffordshire, England and was popularized by colonists in the United States. The top of each toby jug has a spout for pouring, but nowadays, these figurines are primarily for ornamentation or collections.

After the wedding we attended near Poulsbo, Washington, we spent a day in Tacoma before returning to Seattle for our flight home. There is a beautiful Museum of Glass there, which has many objects designed by the famous Dale Chihuly, but there is also a fine collection of glass sculptures by other artists, such as this beautiful horse.

Horses are the subject of many works of art, including statues of famous heroes mounted on horses in many European cities, but I am only including two 2-dimensional renditions, one a drawing of a palomino I drew a few days ago, and another one at a short film display at the Ij (Eye) Museum in Amsterdam.

While in Amsterdam, we visited the Oude Kerk, the oldest building in Amsterdam, founded circa 1213 CE. Under the seats of the choir were unique carvings – some rather bawdy! – including this one of a pig.

Most people love animals, and there are many examples of whimsical animals to delight human sensibilities. In the gardens behind Melk Abbey in Austria are some cute creatures, mostly fantastical combinations of human and animal, but there was this turtle:

In Passau, Germany, which we had visited the previous day while on our Viking European cruise, while walking around town on our own, we came across a dachshund museum! Big and little dachshund statues were in front of it.

Who could resist being delighted by several painted cows in the town across from Mont St-Michel in France? Here is one of them, my personal favorite (I love that bright blue udder!).

Our daughter loves Hello Kitty, and for her bridal shower, Hello Kitty was the theme! I bought these as party favors.

Some animal sculptures are cute,

At Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles, Illinois

but some can be a bit intimidating!…

Giant spider at Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, Iowa

and some are reminders of favorite movies, such as this groundhog in Woodstock, Illinois, where Groundhog Day was filmed.

L-APC Checks and Stripes

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge this week has the topic Checks or Stripes.

Mosques have striped carpets where the worshippers line up to pray. (Cairo, Egypt)
Blinds in a friend’s apartment (Des Plaines, IL)
Stripes on steps (Des Plaines)
Fences are striped. (Chicago Krisha Society)
A fence with both stripes and checks – at The Church of All Nations in Jerusalem
Bottle Tree Ranch near Victorville, California (one of the sites on Route 66)
Seats in ancient amphitheatre in Caesrea Maritima, Israel
Woven striped design on my bottle holder that I bought in Peru
Beautiful inlaid (some of them checked) designs on small tables & other items in Aswan, Egypt
Stripes and Checks in a coloring book (photo modified)

Thursday Special Pick a Word

These are the words for Lost in Translation‘s October occasional Pick a Word photo challenge. We are free to choose any or all of the words. I chose them all.

LUNAR

Moon over water, pastel sketch

VOLTE FACE

About face!

SOARING

REPOSING

Cat in repose (cats are good at reposing!)

IMPREGNABLE

It was impregnable in the Middle Ages, perhaps!

FPQ: Rediscovering My Joys

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week encourages us to look inward, at ourselves. Fandango writes: I saw this question on a site that offers up a bunch of “deep, philosophical” questions and this one intrigued me. It’s about evolution, but not in the context of Darwin’s evolution of the species. It’s more about evolution of the individual and about who you are and how you change over time. Here’s this week’s question, which is essentially about you. I hope you’ll have fun with it.

Is the concept of “you” continuous or does the past “you” continually fade into the present and future “you”? (Yes, it’s both.)  Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of “you” sticks around? (My essence, my soul, my identity).

Now that I’ve answered both questions in brief, I will expand, as I am wont to do!

I once had a revelation about myself that I told my daughter: You may have changed a great deal since childhood, but whatever you were good at and interested in when you were 10 will come back around when you are an adult. Cee’s On the Hunt for Joy challenge has a theme related to this: rediscovering your childhood joys.

For me, it was art (I drew and doodled incessantly) , languages (I fell in love with Spanish in 5th grade), cultures (I was fascinated by the pictures in my parents’ National Geographic magazines), cats (I have always had one as a pet, except when my son had allergies growing up), and writing (I wrote many stories and even a short novel when I was a kid).

This is one of my more recent drawings – it’s a combination of drawing and watercolor. First, I chose a photograph I had taken. Then I drew it freehand with black pigment liner. Then I used watercolor pencils for the color and background.
Another of my obsessions – cats. This is the best cat drawing I have done, but not the only or most recent one!

Another art form I love is photography, as any reader of my blog knows. I first started taking pictures with a Brownie black & white camera when I was about 10.

I took these photos of my friends with my Brownie camera in 1966!

In high school, I bought an Olympus SLR and got “serious” about photography. It helped that I had a boyfriend who was a photographer, and he taught me how to develop my black and white pictures. Later I installed my own mini darkroom in the second bathroom of an apartment I lived in in college.

In my late teens and early adulthood, for years I tried to become something that I couldn’t become – a musician (I’m not very talented in music, much as I love it), a best-selling author (I don’t have the discipline), a counselor (I have trouble giving advice on the spot) – and then I dreamed of being something that I could become, but didn’t: a linguist, an anthropologist, a translator at the United Nations – and finally became something I’d thought about in childhood but never thought I could become: a teacher. One of my sisters was a great teacher and she was very patient. I have never been patient.

I wasn’t actually a great teacher. I was, in fact, mediocre as a classroom teacher, and kept losing classroom teaching jobs. I was better at being a “pull-out” resource teacher (teaching ESL and bilingual literacy to smaller groups of students who came to me during their classroom’s literacy time). I was better at this because I didn’t have to worry about 10 things at once and didn’t have to keep track of 20+ kids at the same time. I also love languages and was very passionate about language acquisition and a strong advocate for bilingual education. So that job (where I spent more years and was happy) utilized more of my strengths: using Spanish every day, teaching English as a second language, enthusiasm about learning, working with students, doing creative holiday projects and writing projects with them.

I started a paper recycling club at my school one year, and this is me receiving an award worth $200 for the paper recycling we did. The money was used for the school’s club fund. I have always been passionate about environmental issues.

On the other hand, classroom teaching emphasized my weaknesses – midway through my teaching career, I found out I have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder). This is not a good thing to have if you are a teacher but at least I knew it wasn’t because I was a failure – at discipline, executive functioning, at remembering to send in my attendance every morning, at trying but never succeeding at being organized. This diagnosis helped me become more accepting of who I am and not ashamed of what I am not.

Now I’m happily retired and doing the things I used to spend hours doing when I was a kid: drawing, writing, learning foreign languages, pursuing intellectual interests such as politics, international affairs, and traveling (I didn’t do these last few much as a kid, although I have fond memories of family trips and I never avoided controversial topics with my parents, which didn’t always work out very well). I love other cultures and seeing new things.

Here I am with my cousins in Tanzania in 2018 (that’s me in the light colored shirt) – we are about to learn a traditional dance in a Maasai village.

These interests have always been a part of me, even though I have evolved a great deal in my journey of self-discovery. I’m not so hard on myself as I used to be. Finding out about having ADHD was a revelation about my entire life – why it was hard for me to make new friends, why I daydreamed so much, why I talked out of turn in school, why I was a “slow reader” (I wasn’t slow – I just got distracted so that by the time I had finished a page, I couldn’t remember what I’d read and had to go back and read it again), and why I was constantly losing things.

Besides the self-discovery that comes with maturity, I look back at my life and sometimes feel I really haven’t changed that much. I’m still me. I sometimes think I’m still that girl I was in high school. I still have the same soul, which I will have until my dying day. I carry buried memories and emotions of the last 68 years in my brain, but I can’t remember what I ate for lunch yesterday, because that doesn’t matter. I have a good life – everything I need and much of what I want. I’ve been lucky, I know that and I am grateful.

On the Hunt for Joy: Pastimes

Cee’s On the Hunt for Joy photo challenge this week has the topic mix play with every day.

Since I am retired, most things I spend time doing are things I like to do. I blog a lot about photography and travel, but not so much on my private pastimes. 

A few years ago, the coloring book craze for adults was big. At the time, I acquired several coloring books, but put them aside for a few years. Now I am doing them again, mainly while “watching” the news – instead of looking at a talking head, I have fun with gel pens, markers and colored pencils! It softens the news for me: things will be okay if I can sit here and color. I prefer designs and patterns rather than actual scenes. 

Shields 6-3-20 (gel pens & markers)
Flower Promenade 1-21-20 (markers)
Triangulation 4-28-20 (gel pens)

I also like to play word games on my cellphone (classic time waster!) I regularly do Wordscapes, Word Stacks and Words With Friends.  I was playing so many Words With Friends games that I decided to limit who I play with to people I actually know. 

Words With Friends – this one is my favorite because I play with other people.
Wordscapes

SYW: Stress Relievers, Strange Creatures, Creepy Russians, & Appreciating Life

It’s Monday and Melanie is ready with a new set of Share Your World questions.

QUESTIONS:
What do you do to get rid of stress?
Different things – coloring, drawing, reading, taking a walk – sometimes it just takes fresh air! Writing – either a journal, my blog, or whatever I can think of. It has to be something I am fairly good at, otherwise it would cause me MORE stress!

19-10-15 glitter gel pens
Mandalas are one of my favorite things to color.

20190525_142154
I took this photo on one of my walks in my old neighborhood.

In the past people were buried with the items they would need in the afterlife, what would you want buried with you so you could use it in the afterlife?
art supplies, a notebook or journal, camera

What’s the opposite of a koala? (this is strictly for fun. I know what I came up with as an answer, but it was nonsensical. Alaok. See? It’s okay to pass on this one too if you want). An alaok is a meat-eating land dweller, fairly large, and it can be aggressive. Also, it isn’t at all cute!

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Maybe an alaok looks something like this! (early artwork by my son)

What’s the creepiest tech out there? (My interpretation of “tech” is app or program. If you know what “tech” is supposed to mean, hey! Great! Educate us. The Internet Resource Agency (IRA) – this is where young,  hip, techie Russians go to work. Their job is to learn all about the culture of another country (such as the United States), find out what the people of that culture value and what their weaknesses and conflicts are. With this information, they infiltrate social media in order to spread fake news, get people riled up, such as using white supremacist memes, and promote conflicts within that society. Some of them specialize in hacking. The IRA is what messed with our heads and our social media during the 2016 campaign season, disseminating lies, preying on people’s fears. It is especially creepy, because it was very effective and they are still doing it.

GRATITUDE IS AN ATTITUDE
What method are you using to find your smile right now? Please explain in detail so others might utilize the same ideas. Some bloggers have shared a daily (weekly sometimes) method that they are using to keep their spirits up right now. I’d love to hear from anyone who does and is successful at it! Have a great week and stay safe!
1. Noticing the miracles of nature – flowers opening, birds singing and making their nests, trees flowering or budding leaves. Looking at the sky to see the clouds – whatever that looks like, it will never be exactly the same again. Maintaining a garden and appreciating the fruits of my labor. 20190515_152403dDelighting in a sunset (or sunrise, for those who rise early). And for me, watching our community’s swans. Right now the female is in the process of laying her eggs – last I heard, she had five but there must be more by now. Her mate fluffs up his wings to make him look bigger and more threatening – he swims around the pond, scaring away geese and approaching the shore where he sees a human.

8-two swan eggs
Our female swan after laying her second egg.

2. Connecting with friends and family – Zoom and social media are at the center of our lives now. Last week, our family had a virtual birthday get-together for my nephew. Today I spent two hours with a group of friends – virtually, of course.  Also seeing friends during walks – we can talk if we stay 6 feet apart!
3. Engaging in my stress relievers (see my answer to the first question.)

I heard an interesting quote today: Think of this day as your first day and your last day on Earth. 

Last and First Photos

Bushboys World has a new challenge, to post the last photo taken in January. I actually haven’t taken any ‘real’ photos the last several days, just my artwork. So here’s the last photo I snapped of a drawing I did on Wednesday. I am practicing drawing portraits. This is of a little girl named Zia that we met in Luxor, Egypt in Dec. 2018.
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After that, the next photo I took was today, of my son’s new (used) car. He bought this car from a friend a couple of months ago. It was the most expensive car he’s ever purchased, the newest (2017) and the first time he’s bought a Kia. Since he is away for awhile, we drove his car to our daughter’s house and parked it on the lawn. It isn’t safe to leave a car on a street in Chicago for more than a couple of weeks – someone might consider it abandoned! Either that, or someone will try to steal it. So here it sits in the suburbs, until he returns to drive it back home!
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The Changing Seasons, Jan. 2020

A NEW CHALLENGE! Here’s what the host, Su Leslie, has to say about it:

“About The Changing Seasons
The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.
If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:
The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):
Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them
The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):
Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.”

Here is my contribution for January 2020:

Family and friends: 
Left: Colorful family members – my brother-in-law in lederhosen and my grand-nephew (we were at his house to celebrate his 18th birthday) in a flamingo suit we bought him last year; Right: Friends we rarely get to see nowadays, at dinner in a restaurant called Nando’s, which features Afro-Portuguese and South African cuisine.

Cats:
Top L: our cat, Hazel; Top R and Bottom: Two of our four “grandcats” (our daughter’s cats), Freddie (being held unwillingly by our daughter) and Stevie.

Home:
Our senior living community as it looks in this relatively warm January 2020: At right is my car during the only major snowfall we’ve had this month (which is very unusual, but we have had brutally cold as well as mild Januarys these past several years – none has been just “average”, I guess a result of climate change. I’ll take the mild winters any time, though!).

My artwork:
I love to draw and am taking an art class, which has inspired me to renew my artistic output! For the leopard cub I used a special technique, using dark Sharpies so it bled through the paper, then used the back side to color in with pastels. At right is a portrait I did in art class. We are focusing on portraiture this session.