Month of Love #21-22

Getting into the groove again with Paula’s Month of Love. Although I must say, I’m glad February is a short month, because I’m running out of things I love, mainly because my categories were too general in the beginning. But today is a special one..

Feb. 21: I love…photography, although I am not very good at it. I belong to a photography club here at our community, along with Dale, who is a better photographer than I am, but he doesn’t do much with his photos. My love for photography started when I was in junior high school. I had a Brownie camera and took lots of photos of my friends doing goofy things. I had enough to fill an album! Part of the fun of photography, for me, is making photo albums and scrapbooks. When I got to high school, I met a guy that was a serious photographer (he rarely went anywhere without a camera around his neck), and we became friends (and eventually more than friends, but I digress…). My school had a darkroom and this friend taught me how to develop my own photos. By that time, I had purchased a better camera – an Olympus SLR and did mostly black & white photography because that was what I learned to do in the darkroom. We never used color in those days. B&W was considered appropriate for “serious” photographers. I only bought rolls of black & white film, usually the one that had the most photos, which I think was 36. Then I would close myself in the darkroom to first develop the film, and then the photos.

I took this photo in high school and developed it myself.

In college, I was able to mount a small darkroom in the small bathroom of a two-bedroom/2-bathroom apartment I was renting with friends. I didn’t have enough room for film developing, so I took my film to a camera shop, where they developed the film. Then I processed the photos in my tiny darkroom.

After that, I stopped doing my own film and photo processing and began to shoot mostly color. I put many photos in scrapbooks/photo albums. Many of them deteriorated over the years, which is a shame. Now there are companies that sell high quality photo albums with non-acid paper. Meanwhile, I’m scanning the old ones.

In late 2006, my Fuji SLR stopped working and I graduated to digital. Dale had been using a digital camera for three years already, and he took photography classes, which were mostly about how to use Photoshop software.

I am proud of some of my photographs and if I were to get fancy photography software, they would probably look even better! I keep telling myself I will someday. Now, however, I have two cameras – a Sony alpha 68 with a detachable telephoto lens and my cellphone, which is often enough. When I travel, I take both cameras, but on occasion I leave my Sony behind in the room wherever we are staying, because I’m sick of carrying it. It is actually astonishing how high quality the cameras are in top-of-the-line cellphones these days. We recently purchased small Zoom lenses to attach to our cellphones. Still, for fine photography, I still prefer my Sony, so I can take photos like this:

On safari in Tanzania: A mother cheetah chases her cub – they were wrestling until Mom had enough and chased her cub (which is exactly what he wanted her to do)!

Feb. 22: I love…my son, Jayme, whose birthday is today! He is 36 years old and has had – and continues to have – many problems in his life due to mental illness. However, he is good-looking, kind, intelligent, and creative. He writes poetry, and after our trip to France in 2019, I gave him my old camera because the photos he took on the trip were fantastic! He has good observation skills and an good eye for how to frame his photos. He loves music and movies and has an eclectic taste.

Here’s a gallery of his life: clockwise from upper left: age 2; kindergarten picture; age 8 or 9, with his cousin Eric and a doe; 8th grade picture; at his sister’s wedding 2019; high school sophomore year picture

SYW: On Parenting, Teaching, and Punning

Melanie always has some great questions on her weekly Share Your World!

SYW Artic Ice


What should you get rid off, that would make your new year better, and why? (Don’t say Covid-19, we all want to get rid of the dang virus.)   
Stress. I am a worrier by nature, but I wish I didn’t have things in my life that cause me a lot of stress. I should meditate but I don’t take the time. I don’t mean the virus, which actually isn’t a source of stress for me right now. I’m used to it. The most stress I experience is dealing with my son. He has a lot of problems due to mental illness (depression, anxiety, extremely low self-esteem) which has led him to “self medicate” – i.e. getting drunk and taking drugs. Right now, he is struggling to stay sober. He has trouble holding jobs because it is hard for him to get up to go to work, and when he’s depressed, he sleeps a lot and misses work altogether. He has applied for disability but it will take years for him to get it.

I try to stay upbeat and encourage him. Lately there’s been reason for hope but he could fall back into depression any time triggered by the smallest things. The other day he got angry at the cashier at 7/11, who was rude to him. This is something we all encounter and just have to deal with it. But he gets so upset that he can’t calm down right away. Yes, he has learned techniques in rehab to help him calm down, but he forgets about them at the moment he’s becoming angry and anxious.

I just want to have my retired life to enjoy with my husband. I love my son, but he is always a source of stress.

 What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
Zip-lining in Costa Rica. I’ve written about this before. So I will say, changing careers. When I was in my 40s, I was bored with my job and wanted to do something more meaningful, to contribute to society. I decided to go into teaching. I didn’t think it through well enough, but on the other hand, I didn’t really know what the state of public education was by the late 1990s. Talk about stress!! I struggled because I wasn’t great with classroom management, but I had other strengths, such as being bilingual, being enthusiastic and intelligent, and having compassion. I got my first teaching job when I was 50!

The main problem is that after I started teaching, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I’ve always had it, but never knew what it was, until I was having my son diagnosed and realized that I had all the characteristics of ADHD. Symptoms are exacerbated as people get older and due to a heart condition, I cannot take stimulants, which are the most successful medications for ADHD. People with ADHD tend to get distracted easily, have difficulty multitasking, staying focused and remembering all the things a teacher needs to remember throughout the day. I wrote detailed lesson plans, very well thought out, and put all kinds of helpful hints and reminders to myself in them, but when I was in the classroom, I would sometimes lose my lesson plans or forget to consult with them. A major characteristic of ADHD is forgetfulness.

At the same time, administrators were putting a lot of pressure on teachers because of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind policies. Success or failure were determined by standardized tests; schools that were not performing well lost their funding (which makes no sense – those are the schools that need the funding the most). So principals were hyper critical of every little thing and I had the bad luck to have really terrible principals. Not all the time – my most successful years I had wonderful principals, but these were not the majority. When you end up with a resume that has a lot of jobs listed, that is a red flag for administrators when they are hiring. At the end of my career, I could no longer get teaching jobs, so I worked as a substitute for awhile and then took a low-paying job as a program assistant. I found that financially I was able to retire when I was 63. I decided to retire because the pay was so low, it was hardly worth it. I had been working mainly so that I would have health insurance. So my plan was to take the school district’s COBRA insurance for 18 months, then get insurance through the ACA until I turned 65 and could get Medicare.

I confess that I do not miss teaching at all. I don’t miss the kids, but I do remember them fondly and am proud of my accomplishments and successes.

Does your family have a “motto” – spoken or unspoken?
Not really – but if we did, it would be something like “a pun for every occasion.” There is never an inappropriate time to use a pun! I didn’t used to be a punster, but my husband is notorious for his bad puns, and it has rubbed off on me. I grew up in a family with a particular sense of humor. My father always loved puns and jokes.

On a scale of 1-10 how funny would you say you are?  (this does not mean ‘smell’ or looks; because this is a judgment free blog!) 
If 0 is not funny at all and 10 is the funniest, my husband informs me that I am a 7. That is pretty good – I would give myself a 5! Sometimes I am too serious and need to lighten up. On the other hand, I see humor in little things or situations and as I said above, I’m learning to be a punster!


Tell everyone something that you found personally lifted your spirits!  
I know I said this last week, but this time I have a photo – orchids blooming in winter!

SYW/HP: On Haunted Houses, Crowded Concerts, Bell Bottoms, Cockroaches and More…

I’m ready for another Share Your World Meets Harry Potter! The Harry Potter questions this week are inspired by The Goblet of Fire, but you don’t have to be a Harry Potter fan to answer them. These questions come from another blogger, Roger Shipp, who is collaborating with Melanie and her Share Your World, which are the second set of questions.


Roger’s Magical, Mystical Questions:

  • Many local regions, especially rural areas where I live, have haunted houses. Have you ever spent the night in a house that was supposedly haunted? Anything ‘strange” happen?
    No, the closest I came was when my son was a little boy and we would take walks together. The route we usually took passed a 2- or 3-story, dark gray house on a large lot. It always seemed dark and that no one lived there. My son had already made up a monster, who plagued his dreams. So I told him that the monster was actually nice and wanted to make friends. Even so, he was spooky and so was that house. That house became the monster’s house!
  • The Quidditch Cup (riding broomsticks while chasing a small ball) was a huge sporting event in the land of Hogwarts. What is the largest sporting event (or concert, etc.) that you have ever attended?
    Not being a sports fan, I doubt the crowds were as big at the Packers games I attended as the concerts I went to.

    The biggest might have been when a friend and I went to see the Beatles in concert – we were in the 104th row of an old stadium in Chicago. From our vantage point, the Beatles were about an inch tall and we couldn’t hear anything they played because most of the girls (including my friend, but she tried to restrain herself for my benefit) were screaming. I think I heard later that the Beatles sometimes just pretended to sing because the screaming was so loud no one could hear them – so why waste their voices?

    The other times there have been huge crowds when I was attending were at Ravinia. Ravinia is an outdoor concert venue with a bandshell and stage in front located in the north suburbs of Chicago. They have a schedule of performers starting in June and ending in September, which they mail out to people. (Needless to say, there wasn’t a schedule this year.) People pay much less to sit on the lawn and it has become popular to bring snacks, wine, tables and chairs (Ravinia also rents these out) and share with one’s friends during the concert. The largest concert I ever attended there was last year, when Ringo Starr and his band were at Ravinia. We tried to go early but the crowd was already so huge that it was hard to find a patch of lawn for our folding chairs. If you wanted to get up for something, you could not help but step in other people’s set-ups. I ran across several friends there while I was walking around – they weren’t together nor did they know each other, and I didn’t know they were at Ravinia that night. I wanted to see Ringo and his band but anytime I lingered near the bandshell, guards shooed me away. At least no one screamed!
This is a fraction of the crowd we could see from our spot on the lawn.

This was the set up of the people next to us.
  • When you go for a swim, do you prefer an ocean, the seaside lakes, or a pool?
    I enjoy the ocean because it is warm, but prefer a bay where the water is calmer. Since I rarely go to a beach, except when on vacation, the rare times that I swim is in a pool. I don’t like it much because afterward my hair smells like chlorine.
  • Ron Weasley received a horrid robe to wear as formal wear to the Christmas dance at Hogwarts. Tell about the most ‘ghastly’ fashion statement that you have ever made.
    It was probably in the late 60s, when everyone (including me) wore inside-out sweatshirts, long strings of beads and huge bell bottoms. But I have to say, I still like bell bottoms better than straight-legged pants!

    Muggle Questions (from Melanie):

What is the last song you sang along to?
I’m not sure – there’s always music in my head, and sometimes it isn’t what I’d like to have repeating ad nauseum, but I think the last one I sang along with the recording was Old Man River a couple of days ago.
What was your scariest nightmare about?
I can’t remember it anymore, but I screamed out loud and it woke both me and Dale up.
What food do you crave most often?
ice cream, cookies, chocolate in general
What’s your grossest bug story?
The grossest and most horrible bug I’ve ever seen is a giant cockroach. Any cockroach, really. They usually appear where I least expect them and they run incredibly fast.

When I lived in northeastern Brazil with my first husband, we had all our personal effects shipped to us, and they arrived in these huge boxes, so we had large cartons sitting around the house for quite awhile. One day I was sitting on the couch in our living room and I heard a scratching noise. I went to look for the source and found a giant cockroach climbing up one of the boxes! These cockroaches lived in the grass in the surrounding area, which is why I never, ever, laid anything on the grass there. We also had a cesspit, and had to get it cleaned out occasionally – of course, that pit was crawling with them. It makes me shiver to think of even now. I thought of downloading a picture from Google and posting it here, but I can’t bear to even look at a picture of those horrible things!!

FPQ: You Just Know

Every week, Fandango poses a “provocative question” (a question to make you think, but supposedly non-controversial). This week’s question is:

You’ve heard of extra sensory perception, right? You know, ESP. There are three forms of ESP.

  1. Telepathy — the transfer of information from one person to another without the use of sensory communication.
  2. Clairvoyance — the acquisition of information about places, people, or events without the use of normal sensory contact.
  3. Precognition — the acquisition of information about a future event that could not be anticipated through any known processes of inference.

So my question to you this week is:

Do you believe there is such a thing as ESP? Or is what some suggest to be ESP merely that there are people who are highly intuitive and are very good at reading people’s very subtle signals?

I do believe in it although I think there are people out there who fake it to cheat people. I would never go to one of those clairvoyants with (or without) a crystal ball. But I do think humans have a kind of tuition sometimes, perhaps inherited from our pre-human days that we suppressed once we had language and our brains got bigger. Something in the deep recesses of our mind that we generally have no use for. Animals use it all the time.

But it’s more than that. Some people do have the ability to anticipate happenings before they happen and without any clues about it. Perhaps certain individuals are more in tune with their subconscious mind or highly sensitive to the supernatural. I think it most often happens when it involves someone or something you care very much about. My single experience with precognitive ESP confirms my belief.

I was in a rocky marriage, living in northeastern Brazil. My husband taught at the local university. All my life, I had wanted at some point to have children. I had dreams about it – seeing myself talking or walking hand in hand with a girl. (I especially wanted a daughter.) But these were just dreams, with that sort of misty surrealism that dreams have, where you don’t really see the other people in the dream clearly, or things happen in them that cannot possibly happen in real life. Sleep is a time for your brain to rest and as it does that, I think it casts off all sorts of images and ideas that were swirling around in it and often puts things together in odd ways.

But my longing for a child led to my one ESP experience (unless you consider deja vu or out -of-body experiences to be ESP, which I don’t). One night I had a very vivid, clear dream. It was not dramatic, it was simple. But I knew where I was and who I was talking to.

I was sitting on a couch on the screened porch of my family’s summer home. I remember the couch – very firm, white faux leather, which had a bedspread thrown over it. Across the room from me was a toddler, a small boy rummaging in a box of plastic sandbox and lake toys. I called to him in Portuguese: “Jayme, vem cá.”

He stood up and turned around to look at me and I saw his face, clear as day. He had curly light brown hair, and one curl was particularly long and fell down over his forehead.

That was the entire dream! Just that simple scene. It was so realistic that when I woke up, I had goosebumps! I told my husband. He thought my dream was really cool and believed it too. We had discussed perhaps having a child, but he wanted to wait until we lived someplace with better health care facilities. His job at the university was only for two years.

That happened in 1980, five years before I gave birth to my one and only biological child. The summer home wasn’t in Brazil, it was in northern Wisconsin and everything in the scene was exactly as it was at the cottage at the time, even though I was living in a country and climate far away and different.

I forgot about the dream until I got pregnant. From the time I got pregnant, I knew I would have a boy because of that dream. I had an ultrasound at about 4 months and from the position of the fetus, the doctor was able to tell that it was a boy. (The image was fuzzy and the one thing I saw clearly was the backbone. But the doctor pointed out a dot on the screen and said, “That’s his penis.”) Before he told us, though, he asked us what we wanted.

“We want a girl, but we both think it will be a boy,” I said.

And it was. My son, at two years old, looked exactly like that little boy in the dream. The only thing I knew in 1980 was the name we would give to a child if it was a boy. Jayme was my husband’s grandfather, a doctor in Rio de Janeiro, whom everyone loved and respected, and we wanted to pay him homage.

I never had another vivid dream about a child. But that was what convinced me that occasionally, some people can see something in the future. I don’t think it is something they set out to do. It just happens. I am not an easy person to convince to believe in something I can’t see or prove. But I’ve heard other people’s stories of “seeing the future” or having a near-death experience, so I strongly believe that ESP, at least the precognition type, is absolutely real.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge: Future

Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge this week is to depict the topic of future. How can I take photos of something that hasn’t happened yet? Of course, that is impossible, but I can photograph potential and anticipation: the changing of seasons, children growing up, construction sites where buildings are being built on their current foundations.

I read this morning that there are currently six generations of people alive today. The G.I. Generation was born in the years 1900-1924. This generation is disappearing, but a few of them are still living independently in our senior community!

Mother facing the empty shelves

My mother, born in 1917, sat in her empty apartment in 2009 contemplating her future – the last chapter of her life – as we, her children, packed up her possessions in preparation for her move to assisted living. The empty white walls and shelves represented the end of her independence. (She died at the end of 2014.)

The Traditionalists/Silent Generation was born during the Depression and World War II, 1925-1945. Baby Boomers, the largest generation, were born 1946-1964 (this is my generation).


Members of three generations – my husband, Dale, was born in 1944 and grew up in the 1950s and early 1960s. Behind him is me, born in 1952 – a Baby Boomer. In back, that smiling, handsome young man is my son, Jayme, born in 1985 – a Millennial, because his generation reached adulthood in the 21st century. Every one of us has a future to look forward to, although Dale takes it less for granted than Jayme. Dale and I look to the future as one of travel and pursuit of our own interests in our retirement years. Jayme – assuming he lives as long as we have – will see a very different world: one with altered climate, perhaps shortage of food and hopefully, a more enlightened government that invests in renewable energy. Will his health be compromised from smoking during his young adulthood? Will he quit before that? Will he find the love of his life, get married and have children? Will he publish a book of poems? I wonder about his future when I look at his face. HOPE is always a projection of the future!

Generation X is those born between 1965 and 1979. Millennials were born between 1980 and the late 1990s. Finally, Generation Z (because we don’t know what else to call them yet!) are the kids of today: born in the last years of the 20th century to the 2010s.

KODAK Digital Still Camera

A member of Generation Z is filled with wonder and delight at the ducks around her. She hopefully can look forward to a long future ahead.


Mason (in lime green hoodie), holds his younger brother, Max, (my grand-nephew) as they watch fireworks over a lake in northern Wisconsin. I have already seen their future – this was taken in 2014, and Mason is no longer a child – he’s in high school, and Max, age 2 or 3 in this photo, is now a second grader.

Each of these generations had or have a future. The older ones have already fulfilled their potential – their hopes and dreams either completed or frustrated. The future they looked toward is now.

In the political arena, I see the youngest two generations as our hope for the future. These are the kids of Parkland High School, who are turning eighteen and have registered to vote; they are 18-year-olds all over the country who are signing up to vote fueled by the passion of their peers, peers such as the survivors of Parkland who saw their classmates gunned down at school, or such as Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old face of the movement to deal with climate change. We need their passion nowadays! We older folks can continue to march and protest Trumpism; we can show our concern for climate change and help in various ways. But it is really these younger people that carry us into the future.

Hope for future reflected in participants in a flash rally (including us – that’s me in the photo at left) in downtown Arlington Heights, that Robert Mueller would be allowed to do his job and discover damning information that would implicate Trump. What has Trump got to hide? Much of that is still to be uncovered – will the future bring us the full truth?

The future is my 50th high school reunion in June. Sedona, see you soon!
The future for an artist is an empty canvas.
20200212_001230Nature is a good place to look for the promise of the future.


I was taking a walk on a chilly (but not horribly cold) afternoon last week and took this photo of a tree rising out of a sheen of ice on a retention pond. Later, when I looked at it in large size on my computer, I noticed a lot of white specks on the branches and realized, the tree is budding already! This has been a very mild winter and plants have been fooled into thinking it’s almost spring. Already we see the future on this tree – a future of blossoms and green leaves.

All species are equipped to reproduce, so that their kinds will continue. Flowers have fertile interiors, filled with the pollen needed to spread its seeds. The flowers’ colors and fragrance are designed to attract insect species to spread their pollen. Few orchids are red, because bees cannot see that color. And flies prefer flowers that are brownish, resembling decay.

To look into the center of a flower is to see the future – or the promise of it!

Baby animals start out so small…


Our grandcat, Freddy, when he was still a kitten. Look at the hair in his ears – what breed was in this shelter kitten? Only the future would tell…Now he’s six months old with the bushy tail of a Maine coon cat!

and in the wild, their parents can only hope that their future includes reaching adulthood!


Cashews, Chocolate, Clowns and Other Topics

Melanie B. Cee created 11 questions to fulfill the requirements for the Sunshine Blogger Award and has opened them up to whoever wishes to answer them. So here they are, followed by my answers.

1. Have you ever made a decision that changed your entire life?


A “selfie” my son took at Mont-St-Michel in France

Yes, (and at the risk of sounding cliché) deciding to have a child. I was in an unhappy and lonely marriage. I became convinced at the ripe old age of 32 that I could never get pregnant, so at the time of the month that I calculated I was most fertile, I “seduced” my husband. And guess what? I got pregnant! Although our son’s coming into the world propped up our marriage for a couple of years, when he was six, we got divorced. I was a single mom for a few years, then remarried – this time happily. My second husband had a daughter from his previous marriage, so we ended up with a “blended” family and contented ourselves with that since we didn’t want to have a child together by that stage in our lives. However, my son did change my whole life because he will always be a part of it. And because he often calls me to ask for money! :-}

2. What time of the day do you feel the most energetic and what do you usually do in those moments?
Afternoons. That’s when I get my butt over to the fitness center, take a walk or clean up the house or whatever. I like evenings, which is when I multitask: doing some artwork while watching the news shows on TV. (I guess “listening to” the news shows would be more accurate.) Two of my drawings and two mandala coloring book pages show how I spend many evenings.

3. What could you spend all day talking about?
Travel. Where I’ve been, where other people have been, and travel plans for the future. There are a lot of other things I could talk about for a long time (I’m known as being a person who talks too much!) but travel was the first thing that came into my head.

4. If you were a band, what type of music would you play?

lindor truffles

Lindor truffles are one of my favorite candies!

Some sort of international fusion with a good beat. Musicians that are classically trained but are versatile enough to play different kinds of music and to experiment with different instruments. When I was younger, I wanted to be an ethnomusicologist!

5. What’s your favorite type of candy?

Almost anything with chocolate in it. But please no peanut butter! Peanut butter belongs on a sandwich, not in sweets!

6. How do you feel about clowns?
I think they are – or should be seen as – funny. My motto for this is: “Make Clowns Funny Again!” They were never meant to be scary and then horror movies made clowns – and DOLLS – frightening. That was, is, a terrible trend! Clowns (and dolls) should be entertaining and fun. Wouldn’t it be marvelous to recapture that childhood innocence that made us curious and delighted by the world?!clown

7. What have you forgotten? If you can remember it….
I forget stuff all the time. It’s getting worse as I get older, but because I have ADHD, I have always had memory problems. The good thing about this is that the experience has made me develop strategies to remember things – post-it notes and Google calendars are my saviors!

8. What’s an obscure food that you’ve eaten that most people have never tried?
Cashew fruit (or “cashew apple” as it’s called in English, although it bears little resemblance to an apple) – it’s rather fibrous, but some people can make a rather tasty juice out of it. There are also several recipes online. I tried it when I lived in northeastern Brazil, where the “largest cashew tree in the world” is located. Note: the cashew nut that most people are familiar with is just at the floral end of this fruit. I’m posting a photo so you can see what a cashew looks like.
cashew apples

9. What’s the most creative excuse you ever made up?

I can’t remember (that’s not the creative excuse – but it’s a fact).

10. What’s the worst topping to put on ice cream?

Is there such a thing as a peanut butter topping? If not, I guess I’d say gravy!


11. What’s the worst song lyric you ever heard?
Because it’s the Christmas season, holiday songs fill my head. I heard a terrible Christmas song on the radio the other day, but I told Dale to change the station halfway through – I think the title was something like “Candy Cane Lane.” It was probably the worst Christmas song I’d ever heard.  But here’s one I really don’t like that our community choir had to sing in our concert last week. These are the words but the melody wasn’t much better!
At Christmas Time – words by Clara B. Heath
At Christmas time! At Christmas time!
At Christmas time, we deck the hall
with holly branches brave and tall.
At Christmas time, we deck the hall
with holly branches brave and tall.
With sturdy pine and hemlock bright
and in the Yule log’s dancing light
we tell old tales of field and fight.
At Christmas time! At Christmas time!
At Christmas time, we pile the board
with flesh and fruit and vintage stored.
At Christmas time, we pile the board
with flesh and fruit and vintage stored.
And mid the laughter and the glow
we tread a measure soft and slow
and kiss beneath the mistletoe.
At Christmas time! At Christmas time!
At Christmas time!
emoji with tongue out

SYW: On Facebook, keeping old stuff, holiday decorating, and gratitude for my life

Melanie B. Cee’s Share Your World this week has some interesting questions.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat) a good thing, a bad thing or a mixture of both?
I have to say a mixture of both. Isn’t this blog part of social media in a way? I love posting and sharing my photos and thoughts, and reading/viewing others’.

For me, Facebook – and to a lesser extent, Instagram, which I rarely look at – has been a good thing. I should start by saying that I have steadfastly refused to use Twitter or any other social media platform, because I don’t have the time and, because I have ADHD, I can’t have the temptation of such distractions. Facebook, however, has been a way for me to stay in touch with people I rarely see and in a few cases, has helped me reconnect with friends I hadn’t had contact with for years. Yes, it can be polarizing, because a lot of political sh** comes up and I do forward it sometimes, but I try to stay positive and personal as much as possible. For example, on a day that Trump or his cronies have done something particularly egregious, I will cheer people up by posting photos I’ve taken of flowers or other nice things. And I love cat videos!
FB Bring Together

If it weren’t for Facebook, I would barely know some of my nieces. Through their posts, I’ve found out about their pregnancies, seen the first photos of their babies, learned how they feel about their jobs or their love lives. When I attended the wedding of one of them two years ago, I felt like I knew her – otherwise I wouldn’t have known what to say to her, since she had grown up so much since I had previously seen her. I felt I had bonded with her and her sisters, as if we had been living near each other.

Similarly, I got in touch with a couple of friends – actually several friends – from high get-facebook-likesschool who live all over the country. I reconnected with my two best friends through FB 15 years ago and as a result, we arranged to attend two reunions together, Dale and I went to visit one of them who lives in Texas, and we are still in touch. In a way, FB has been a lifeline for me. Another friend I had fallen out with a few years ago also “friended” me and we’ve since had a couple of lunch dates. People I know but never see anymore I sometimes find on my favorite online game, Words With Friends – so I connect with them that way!

Several of my friends and family members have met their significant others on social media, usually dating sites, but some on sites of mutual interest. Our daughter met her soul mate on a site for “foodies” – someone she would never have met as he lived in Florida and she in Chicago. A really good friend, who had had a long-term loveless marriage, met the man of her dreams after her divorce on OK Cupid. I know several examples of this.

Even with friends on FB who are very conservative politically I manage to stay on good terms with because of interests we share – animals, travel, etc. If they post something I disagree with, I just ignore it, but many times we can find common ground even there – such as support for veterans, troops overseas, etc.

All that said, I know social media is not always the positive thing that it is for me and my husband. Our son, for instance, has been going through a lot, suffering from depression and inactivity because of it. He sometimes posts long, rambling posts which are mostly negative about himself. Some of the comments he gets from his “friends” are helpful, but many are not. He obsesses over their criticisms of him, and I think this happens to many young people for whom social media is a much bigger part of their life than it is for me. A few times, he has posted that he is feeling suicidal, and then someone who reads it calls 911 and he has ended up in a psych ward very unwillingly. Two of my nieces have had to block him because they are mandated reporters (one is a therapist and the other is a doctor) and they really don’t want to have to report him to the police, because they know he is usually just bluffing or crying out for help.

Unlike my son, who mainly depends on FB for support, some kids have committed suicide after going through the anguish of cyberbullying. Some young people use social media to break up a relationship. It is though they are not able to talk things out in person. Social media occupies too big a part of their lives and they are obsessed with it. Someone I met overseas referred to people constantly on their cell phones as being in a “monk” pose – their heads down looking at their hands as if they are praying!

Are you camera shy or do you pose for the camera with confidence?
I’m not camera shy but it seems that most photos of me – especially those taken without my knowledge – show me at a moment that I look terrible! I’m slouching, or my hair looks bad and I look fat, or I have my mouth twisted in a way that looks ridiculous. My husband loves to take those “tourist photos” when we travel, telling me to pose in front of some monument, which I don’t like to do. But at least I have a chance to compose myself and stand up straight!


I don’t like myself in this photo but my son looks great!

Is there anything you’ve kept from younger years for sentimental reasons alone?
Yes, several things. I keep a lot of family heirlooms which somehow end up with me because I’ve become the “family historian” since I’m researching and writing a book on

Laurie Hunter, Valerie Carlson, Debbie Winsauer - in back of 1526 Tyler St, Janesville

Photos from my oldest photo album

one branch of my ancestors. But I would have to say my photos and photo albums. When my mother died, my brother took a lot of her photo albums and scanned many (but not all) of the photos, then threw the physical albums away. Perhaps someone will do that to mine when I die, but meanwhile, I’ve lugged them to our new – much smaller – house and made room for them on two book shelves. I rarely look at them, but I spent a long time making them and am proud of what I have done, even though I don’t make them anymore since all my digital photos are on my hard drive or flash drives. Besides the albums, I have boxes of photos from the 1980s and 1990s, when I was too busy to make albums which slowly I have been going through. I scan many of them and then throw away the originals but I worry that the scanned photos will become “incompatible” with whatever software I have – it happens sometimes – and I’m afraid that some of those will be some of the best photos of my son’s childhood or whatever. I still have photo albums that I made when I was in elementary school!

Do you like to decorate for different holidays?
Yes and no. I used to try to decorate for the major ones – Christmas, Easter, Halloween – but over time I got lazy and didn’t do much unless I was having guests over for the holiday. I stopped decorating for Halloween when the squirrels took bites out of my pumpkins and made off with my Indian corn, neighborhood punks smashed my jack-o-lanterns that I had carved with my son, or something I put outside got stolen. So I stopped decorating for Halloween altogether, which didn’t much matter because as the kids in the neighborhood grew up, we had fewer and fewer trick-or-treaters each year.

However, I’ve always liked having a Christmas tree and getting out some of my Christmas decorations. I have several bins full of tree ornaments, strings of lights, and small Christmas-themed things, such as pretty stockings I’ve gotten as gifts, which I hung under the mantle over the fireplace, a few door decorations, and my creches. I have one “main” creche that was made in Portugal, very folksy style, and a collection of small ones from around the world. I set the large one up on the mantle and the smaller ones I scatter around the house. My son has always enjoyed putting up the creches. It’s his favorite family tradition. Since we’ve moved, I am not going to be able to have a 7-foot tree anymore. I’ve left my tree with our daughter and son-in-law who have taken over our old house and we’ve agreed to divide up the ornaments when it comes time for decorating. I will have to buy a small tree for our new house and figure out where to put it!


Our decorated Christmas tree, 2014

Do you feel you’re a strong person character-wise? Also, if you do have a gratitude thought or picture you’d like to share, please feel free! The world can always use more positive vibes!
I have a strong personality, that is for sure! Not sure about character. I am grateful for many things – the wonderful family I’ve been blessed to grow up in, the fact that I have never had to worry very much about money, and the opportunities I’ve had for a variety of experiences, from hiking in the Grand Canyon in high school and spending two weeks on the Navajo reservation in Arizona, to traveling to many parts of the world – four continents so far (five if you count Israel as part of Asia)! I’m grateful to have intelligent and kind children, and a husband who always supports me. I got lucky – at least the second time!

Childhood: A Journey of Growing Up

We have recently moved and so I have been going through a lot of stuff stored in our old house, including photos I took of my son, Jayme, when he was a child (he is now 34). I am sharing some of my favorites of the ones I have scanned, for this week’s VJ’s Weekly Challenge #62: Child/Childhood.


Jayme with neighbor

Playing in a kiddie pool with a neighbor, on a hot summer day in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1986


Jayme Villa Alvarez - in Janesville wagon

Fall 1986 – in a Janesville Wagon, at his Granny’s house in Janesville, Wisconsin

Jayme Villa-Alvarez - on the pier at the cottage

Faux pout on the pier (wearing an oversized Brewers cap!) – at our cottage on Upper Kaubashine Lake, Hazelhurst, Wisconsin, c. 1988

With his cousins

Julia Waeffler & Jayme Villa-Alvarez

Jayme with his cousin Julia, at our cottage in northern Wisconsin, c.1989. These two were very best friends for years, and only drifted apart when we moved to Illinois and both of them grew older. Julia was just under 2 years older than Jayme.


Leslie, Jayme, Allie & Katy - at Native Village in Lac du Flambeau

Visiting a native village with cousins Leslie and Allie (that’s me as a much younger mom on the right!) – Lac du Flambeau, Wisconsin, c. 1992

Eric Nesvold & Jayme Villa-Alvarez

Jayme with cousin Eric, feeding a deer at Jim Peck’s Wildlife, Minocqua, Wisconsin, c. 1993

With his stepdad, my husband, Dale, who is teaching him how to check the tires of his bike, Des Plaines, Illinois, 1996 or 1997.
Jayme Villa-Alvarez, Dale Berman



Jayme now, taken at his stepsister’s wedding in January 2019.