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

QUESTIONS:

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!

GRATITUDE SECTION

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: On Smoking, Cats, ET, and Plans for 2021

A new week, a new Share Your World from Melanie!

SYWCouple

QUESTIONS: 

What’s a relationship deal breaker for you?
At this point, I would say smoking. I was married to a smoker, which I endured for 20 years. Dale, my current husband, doesn’t smoke, thank God. When you are not around smokers, you become sensitive to the smell of smoke on them and everything they possess. Smokers and those who live with them become unaware of the smell. My son smokes now, and after spending a couple of hours with him yesterday in his apartment, my hair, clothes, and coat were all permeated with the smell of smoke.

Do you believe in extra-terrestrials?
Yes, in the vast universe with innumerable stars and planets, how could we be the only “intelligent” beings? It’s logical that there are intelligent beings on other planets, a few of them anyway. We are made of “star stuff” – the matter and energy that the birth and the death of stars create in a constant cycle. We are carbon-based life forms. Other planets may have evolved life forms that are carbon-based or something else. There are many factors that have to come together to generate life, so it’s a miracle in itself, but certainly not unique.

In the morning, do you hit the snooze button on your alarm (sometimes repeatedly) or do you leap out of bed, ready to face the day?
Since I am retired, I rarely ever use my alarm clock.

If you came back in the next life as an animal, which animal would you choose to be?  (and even if you don’t believe in that, let’s suspend belief for a moment just to have a little fun)
Some kind of cat. They sleep a lot! I would not want to be a house cat, though, because nowadays cat “owners” don’t let them go outside. If I could go outside, I would definitely be someone’s cat, because I could enjoy the natural world and come home to whatever love and attention I myself decided I wanted. My humans would feed me and if I didn’t like the food, I could glare at them and they would bend over backward to find food I preferred. When I wanted, I could jump on my human’s lap and purr while being stroked and scratched on the back of my neck. I could curl up in a ball and my fur would warm me. I’d never have to be cold! They would play with me, laugh at my antics, and love me just as I am.

This beautiful, fluffy cat was hanging around at a lookout spot above Jerusalem. By its appearance, it must have humans who love and care for it, perhaps one of the scarf vendors that set up their booths at that lookout.

GRATITUDE (Participation is always optional)
I am grateful for orchids in the winter! After many months of being dormant, my orchid plant grew a new stem with little buds all along it. Now those buds are beginning to bloom, and cause me delight when there are no other flowers to feast my eyes on at this time of year!

What do you plan to work on this year to make it better than last year  (personal goals, physically or mentally, or all three)?
I am wary of making resolutions, which I never follow through on. Although I am maintaining my weight, I would be healthier if I lost a few pounds but I keep ordering desserts and cannot give up chocolate! That said, I pledge to work on becoming healthier by eating healthier foods (within the limits of what they provide here, but there’s always salad on the menu) – and I’ve mostly given up red meat so far – and working on being fit. I have let myself go somewhat during the pandemic, but I regularly take walks or spend half an hour (the limit right now) in the fitness center, and I can do fitness classes on line.

I also pledge to motivate myself to work on my writing projects (family history, personal history, and blogging), do more watercolor to become better at it, and enjoy life as much as possible!

Truthful Tuesday: Money Makes the World Go ‘Round

PCGuyIV has posted a new question for Truthful Tuesday:

When it comes to giving money, do you view it as a thoughtful gift, or as a sign that the giver didn’t care enough to think about a “real” gift?

For years, my parents gave us money for Christmas and birthdays, and I looked forward to it! Usually I needed it to pay off credit cards, or for bills. So it was always welcome. My mother, however, would always give a wrapped gift also, which usually wasn’t fancy or expensive, so we’d “have something to open.”

I have followed basically the same custom with our kids which makes life much easier, instead of having to think of something cute or clever to give them. And this year, our daughter & son-in-law said all they want is money. I’m sure our son will appreciate a check also. But I will get them a few other things so that they’ll have “something to open” and also because Dec. 25 is our daughter’s birthday as well as Christmas! Since my husband and daughter (she’s really my stepdaughter) are Jewish, I always give them some little thing for Hanukkah also – they say socks and underwear are standard Hanukkah gifts! This year they are literally getting socks for Hanukkah!!

Although it makes life easier to write out a check (and as you said, I usually give more than a gift would be worth), I do like to shop, but I don’t want to buy just anything. I have been known to give a friend a gift when it’s not their birthday or Christmas because I happen to find something I know they will like. Sometimes a gift card is the solution when I don’t know what to get somebody. Gift cards are a bit of a cop-out but it’s better that they get an Amazon gift card to buy something they want than to go to the trouble of trying to find something I think they might like.

So with our kids I just follow my mother’s tradition, because they know they can rely on getting money from us but we always have a wrapped gift or two for them as well! I do usually get gift cards for my nieces and nephews, and this year especially, because mailing a gift card when you can’t get together because of Covid-19 just makes more sense!

Money Housewarming Gift, fold $1, $5 and $10 bills into flowers, fill the  bowl, cover with plastic wrap, wrap w… | Money gift, Creative money gifts,  Christmas money

And now for some related entertainment from the great musical Cabaret!

SYW: To Be or Not to Be: Is That the Question?

Here are my answers for Melanie’s weekly Share Your World challenge.

SYWSkeletalHand

Questions:

Are we “here” or do we just think we are?  (A metaphysical question today folks.) Can you prove your point of view?
I think we are here and our existence on this tiny blue dot of a planet in the solar system is real. However, there may be alternate versions of us in alternate universes. This is a question explored in quantum physics: of all possible outcomes of any action, does the only one that exists the one we’ve chosen in our current existence’s real time? Perhaps in alternate versions of ourselves, other choices are made and our lives are very different.

I exist and see the world from my own point of view. I interact with others personally, on line, or otherwise, and every individual I come into contact has an impact on my life, however profound or slight.

As for existence after death (this wasn’t part of the question but it represents the future of whether we are “here”), I don’t believe in heaven or hell but neither do I believe in nothing. We are composed of energy which came from the stars created during the Big Bang. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. So what happens to the energy within our bodies when we die? It must go somewhere. That is my semi-scientific/semi-religious justification for believing in another existence after our current existence dies. Maybe my energy goes into the formation of a new person on Earth. Or maybe it will travel far and find itself in another being on another planet. Who knows? Many people believe in reincarnation – how that happens may be part of their religious belief. I believe in reincarnation also because I can’t believe in nothingness.

From an identity stand-point, which would be the worst for you personally to lose?  Your face, your body or your voice?    Which do YOU identify with most strongly for your own sense of self?
How do you come up with these questions?? Usually your questions are a lot less profound! I would not want to lose any of those things. If I “lose” my body, then who I am will cease to exist. However, if I lose the ability to USE my body (such as if I become totally paralyzed), I think it would be terrible as long as my brain were still working. Maybe I could learn to use one of those artificial voice translation machines if I couldn’t move, so that I could still communicate. Lose my face – what, from having it destroyed by burning or something? God awful! Burning would be the very worst way to die, in my view. Anyway, without my face, I wouldn’t have eyes, ears, nose or mouth. Maybe it would be better to have all those things but have my body be paralyzed. Because what would I be without any of my senses? When I think of not having a face, I think of ancient sculptures of people whose faces were destroyed by the ravages of time.

Statuette of Queen Sobekneferu, last ruler of the 12th dynasty in ancient Egypt

We see their body but not their face so we never know what they might have looked like. As for my voice, there are a couple of ways of thinking about this: my physical voice, that is, what one hears when I speak or sing; or my voice in the metaphorical sense – having a voice in decisions made, having a voice in who is elected president. We say we have a “voice” when we vote. If I were to lose that kind of voice, it would mean we would be in some sort of dictatorship or autocracy – which could happen if Trump is reelected….but I don’t want to think about that right now! However, if it were just my physical voice, I think I could do without it, because I could still write in order to communicate. However, it would be difficult, because I like to talk and I talk a lot!!

Do you have a ‘song’?  If you’re part of a couple, you could use “your couple’s song” OR a song that’s just always resonated with you.
There are too many songs to think about. So I will just say Unchained Melody, because when I first met my husband, that was the one song he would always want to dance to. So it kind of became “our song.”
Unchained Melody

“Spooky” Halloween Question:  Oooo!  BOO!  

Are ghosts real or has someone been smoking something and just imagines them?
I honestly don’t know. The logical, skeptical part of me says that ghosts or spirits do not exist. However, there is a part of me that believes in them. Maybe that is where our energy goes when we die – into a spirit or “ghost” if you want to call it that. Sometimes when I heard unexplained sounds in the house (my old house had these – where I live now is too small and too new for that), I said there was a ghost in the house. I told my son this when he was young and I got him to really believe it, but I assured him that the ghost was harmless and would never reveal itself to us. Just leave it alone and it will leave us alone. “Our” ghost became a sort of comforting presence!


GRATITUDE SECTION (as always strictly optional)

Please free free to share a moment of gratitude you experienced over the past week.
Hearing my son’s voice on the phone now that he is clean and sober. He’s actually pleasant to talk to when he isn’t depressed or self-medicated and has had something nutritious to eat.

Also I am grateful that the weather has been a little warm again even though it’s been really windy. Today was the last day of that warmth though – tomorrow it is supposed to be 20 degrees cooler and will not get warm again, probably until April!!

Enjoy the balmy beauty while it lasts!!

SYW/HP: On Household Chores, Love & Marriage, Speaking One’s Mind and Happiness

Here are Roger and Melanie serving up some interesting questions this week in Share Your World Meets Harry Potter.

HPHBPSYW

Roger’s Magical, Mystical Questions

  1. You have just been gifted a magic wand that specializes in completing household chores. You can request the completion of only two household chores. Which chores would you assign your wand to complete?
    Laundry and vacuuming/sweeping. We don’t usually cook anymore, and when we do, Dale enjoys being the “short-order cook.” Thanks to him, we eat omelettes every Saturday and sometimes pancakes on Sunday! And for some reason, I don’t mind cleaning up. I would rather tackle it alone – the only thing I don’t like is emptying the dishwasher!
  2. At the local Wizards-R-Us store there was a sale on handshake shockers, instant darkness pellets, and levitation pills. Which of these ‘party thrillers’ are you more likely to purchase?
    levitation pills – I am somewhat scared of the dark and handshake shockers aren’t my thing. Besides, no one is shaking hands these days! Levitating would be like flying, which would be cool. If I were walking and got really tired, I’d take a levitation pill and “fly” over the trees and bushes directly back home!
  3. In the alley behind Wizards-R-Us, there was a tradesman selling a Love Potion. The sales pitch was too much for you and you yielded and purchased one vial. What do you do with it?
    I would give it to my son. He needs love in his life!
  4. You are the Great Clearinghouse Winner of a new ‘good luck’ potion – Felix Felicis. It has to be used within the next thirty days or its potency becomes diminished. Do you use it? Do you give it to a friend in need?
    I like what Fandango* said, so I’m going to copy it: I’d go out and win the lottery! Then I would give some to a friend or others in need, and with the rest, I would travel the world!
    *Fandango, you do know that copying is the highest form of flattery, don’t you?

Melanie’s Mundane Muggle Questions:

  1. If everyone spoke their mind, would this world be a better or worse place?  Why?
    I think it would be a better world if people were honest, but such bluntness could hurt a lot of people. Not everything we think about should be voiced, but on the other hand, we should give voice to issues that are important and necessary to discuss, issues that too often people suppress because they don’t want to hear about them. Controversy isn’t necessarily bad and is sometimes necessary.
  2. Can achieving nothing make a person happy?
    A sense of achievement is what makes a person happy, I believe. When you accomplish something, something you did yourself, it boosts your self-esteem. So achieving nothing probably will not make a person happy. More likely a person who thinks or talks about “achieving nothing” is clinically depressed.
  3. How do you know if you love someone enough to marry them?
    That’s a great question and is asked all the time by teenagers in the throes of romance, but generally their parents don’t have an answer except, “you just know.” If you love yourself (you must if you want to have a healthy relationship with someone else) and are ready to recognize your inner gut feelings, you are probably going to know when you have found an enduring love. If you have any doubts, get those resolved before you marry someone (I’m speaking from personal experience here!), and if you can’t resolve those doubts, don’t marry that person.

    Love is not just passion; it is respect, it is companionability over the long term, and a recognition that the person you love also has faults. But passion is important too and probably the most pleasurable part of your relationship!
  4. GRATITUDE SECTION  (as always this is optional)

Please feel free to write about or share an image of something you’re grateful for!
I’m grateful for sunflowers.

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.

SYWaerosolworldgobfire

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!!