Another Year Older

I’m at that age that I have a love/hate relationship with my birthday. Today I turn 47. I won’t lie, it’s been a tough year for many reasons which will go unspecified at the moment. But I suppose I can look back and say, “I made it!”. I try to keep the  Neitzsche quote in mind, “That which does not kill you makes you stronger”. I ought to qualify for the Fantastic Four, or at least to compete in the Mr. Olympia contest!

As much as I love and even somewhat believe proclamations that “40 is the new 30!” and “50 is the new 40!”, deep down we all know it’s just feel-good mumbo jumbo. What I’m working on is this: attitude. Still focusing too much on the negative even while realizing all the positive. Have. to. let. it. go.

Wish me luck!

Holidays

Oh, I love the holidays. Ever since I was a little kid, the September – December time of year has been my favorite. Why September? Well, the long Labor Day weekend is always nice, but that’s not why I love September. My birthday is in September, and while arguably I’m less excited about birthdays now than when I was a kid, given that I’m 46 (soon to be 47!), it still feels like the “kick-off” to a series of monthly delights. In addition, we’re soon to leave behind the oppressive, humid heat that is Central Florida summers.

Halloween doesn’t seem to be as “big” these days as when I was a kid. Perhaps that’s because we start seeing Halloween decorations in the stores in August (*sigh*), and by the time the holiday actually rolls around, we’re sick of it (and have seen the Halloween decorations in the stores joined by Christmas decorations around late September or so…). Back in my day (a phrase I swore I’d never utter, but which I find myself doing more and more) we didn’t have to worry so much about things like the safety of our candy and not going to houses of people you don’t know well. I don’t know, perhaps today people are just more aware, which is a good thing, but somehow some of the fun seems…less. My kids are now 16 and 18, so the days of me taking them Trick or Treating is long past. My husband and I do like to make Halloween fun for the kids who come to our house by dressing up. We also always carve jack-o-lanterns as a family to set in our living room window so kids know that yes, this is a house that will have some candy for you.

One of my favorite Halloween traditions (and Thanksgiving traditions and Christmas traditions), though, is the annual playing of the Charlie Brown holiday specials! I’ve been watching them since the mid-60s, and I try to watch them every year. “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” starts off the holiday season very nicely indeed. I love Linus’ devotion to the Great Pumpkin, and his inability to get discouraged year after year. I love the Halloween party and Lucy’s inadvertent lip touch to Snoopy while bobbing for apples, and her reaction; but mostly I love her devotion to her little brother. She’ll have no qualms about calling him a blockhead and otherwise disparaging him, but she’ll be the one to go out in the middle of the night to retrieve her brother from the pumpkin patch, covering his shivering self with a blanket and walking him home and putting him to bed. I love Pigpen’s ghost costume, because it’s dirty like him and clouds of dirt arise whenever he walks. Finally, poor Charlie Brown. He gets a lot of rocks. I feel like that a lot!

Good stuff.

Thanksgiving I love because of cooking and family. When I was a kid, we shared Thanksgiving dinners with two other families. There was probably 15 or so of us at the beginning. Over the years, though, as families grew, kids got married and had their own kids, spouses and in-laws joined in, at one of the last Thanksgivings we shared in this fashion, there must have been 75 people or more. These meals truly represented the spirit of the holiday, a living testament to the blessings we all shared. I wouldn’t see most of these people at any time throughout the rest of the year, but at Thanksgiving? We all managed to get together. These dinners probably went on for 25-30 years or so; they finally ended when some of the original gang started passing away (my father being one) and others got ill, and just the inevitable desire by many to start going to see the spouses’ parents or other family for the holiday. I miss the big gatherings but have many fond memories of these celebrations.

Now, because my husband and I love to cook, we especially love the holiday. We start planning the menu weeks in advance, always looking to try new recipes. My husband makes stock out of the turkey carcass and drippings – in fact, we just used up the last of it a few weeks ago in a meal we ate, and mmmmm…it brought back the flavor of Thanksgiving! I start cooking on Wednesday (cranberry sauce, pies, stuffing, brine the turkey) and finish up on Thursday. So much work, but so worth it! And don’t forget the Charlie Brown special, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Their meal? Two slices of buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, and jellybeans. Soon those that are aghast at this “Thanksgiving dinner” come to realize it’s not about the food but the people you’re with. The best part? After everyone leaves, Snoopy and Woodstock have their own fabulous dinner including turkey and pumpkin pie!

I still like to have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on t.v. while cooking Thanksgiving morning – it’s part of the tradition of what we did when I was a kid. Oh, I don’t watch it much – just listen to it. I really don’t like all of the lip-synced performances and whatnot, but I still always take that moment to come to the t.v. when Santa arrives at the end of the parade, officially kicking off the Christmas season! (Would that the stores would wait until then to kick it off!).

Christmas. My very favorite of all. When I was a kid, my Godparents would come over (with their 10-12 kids, I could never keep track) in the evening, bring me a gift and visit with us, until they’d leave to go to midnight Mass. Funny, we’d never see them during any other part of the year, and I wasn’t close to the kids of the family (they even went to my school). I’m sure at least some of the kids wondered why we continued to get together every year, but we did. I can’t remember when it ended, probably before I started high school. Not sure why.

We love putting up a real Christmas tree. Traditionally we do it the weekend after Thanksgiving, so we get a full month of delicious Christmas Tree smell in the house.  I love decorating the tree while listening to Christmas music, drinking hot chocolate. Mmmmm. That “special feeling” in the air still exists for me at this time of year. I try to get my shopping done early (though not on the day after Thanksgving – NEVER will you find me in those crowds!) and wrap along the way. I have had more than one Christmas in which I was furiously wrapping the kids’ presents at 2 a.m. because I put the chore off. LOL.

The kids still indulge me in putting out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots and apples for Rudolph and the reindeer. By the way, I’ve never confirmed for them that there is no Santa (remember they are 16 and 18). They’d ask me about Santa when younger; I’d respond that the special feeling at that time of year – of generosity, of family, of sharing – was real; and that Santa represented that. So…

That seemed to satisfy them.

Growing up we were always allowed to open one present on Christmas eve, and I’ve carried that tradition on with my kids. Otherwise, presents are for opening on Christmas morning, thankyouverymuch. I don’t like the tradition some have of opening presents on Christmas Eve. If you do that, what about the “Santa” presents that don’t get put under the tree until Santa comes?

I love getting up early, before everyone else, and enjoying sitting on the couch in the dark, looking at the lit Christmas tree. It’s my special Christmas moment, and I try to reflect on the year and the year ahead. Despite some especially difficult challenges our family has had over the last few years, I always realize how many blessings we have too.

Happy Holiday season, all.

Mobile Memorials

I rarely go anywhere in my car these days without seeing a ‘mobile memorial’ on someone’s car on the road. By this I mean an applied “In memory of XXXX XXXX” decal type thing, listing their birth and death years, usually on a rear window of the car. From what I’ve observed, it seems that most of these deal with someone who died young, age 30 or younger usually, though I’ve seen ones honoring older people too.

Photo Source
It’s apparently a very popular thing around Orlando; is it as prevalent in other parts of the country or around the world?

I haven’t observed any trends in type of car, age of driver, area of town, etc. I don’t think I’d grieve so publicly or continually myself. Anyone have one of these on their car? If you do, why do you do it?

I have pondered this before, and was reminded of it today when I read a post from a highlighted blogger in today’s Freshly Pressed: http://oregonexpat.wordpress.com/2010/09/02/musing-on-hearses-and-funerals/

After reading the post, I decided that perhaps our customs with regard to funerals leave something to be desired and leave us wanting or needing more ways to express grief or ongoing remembrance. I don’t know. I lost my father years ago, when I was 20. The funeral is a blur to me, I remember a lot of people, I remember being sad, but mostly I remember not realizing how many lives my father had touched until his funeral – which saddened me the most. How could I not know that?

 Maybe those “mobile memorials” I see are not just devotions to those who died young, but a way for the younger generation to express their grief; they did, after all, come of age in a time when social media dominates how they interact. Perhaps it’s an offshoot of that.

I spoke to my husband about this, and he had a good thought – that today’s youth are pushed to excel at younger and younger ages, and as a whole society is becoming more individualistic; perhaps they are finding new ways to grieve given their inability to do so otherwise (due to the complexity of their lives today). Maybe it’s just another way to communicate publicly; people (over)use social media, in which it’s become common to post personal things in frivolous ways. Maybe it’s harder for people to keep anything private anymore; they are so use to sharing everything so publicly. Not sure; but it’s something I ponder when I see those decals.

I’d be interested in comments, particularly by those who have such moblie memorials posted on their vehicles!

Photography

More of my photos.

Did some black and white photography at a local dog park. A group of dogs were intently watching the ball as this guy got ready to throw it into the lake...

Fetch!

A gorgeous Husky wading through the lake.

Some Favorite Quotations

Some favorite quotations; this will be a continuing series.

Fortune and love favor the brave. ~ Ovid 

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. ~ Winston Churchill 

 You must be the change you wish to see in the world. ~ Mahatma Ghandi 

That which does not kill you makes you stronger. ~ Neitzsche  

Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them. ~ Tolstoy 

Is sex dirty? Only if it’s done right. ~ Woody Allen 

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new. ~ Einstein 

Do or do not; there is no try. ~Yoda 

All you need is love. ~ The Beatles

Team Edward or Team Jacob? Pffft! Team Barnabas!

I know a lot of older women have succumbed to the lure (lair?) of werewolf Jacob and vampire Edward in the Twilight books and novels, along with their teenage daughters who lead the charge. I too love the whole vampire genre, though I’m not swooning over the current vamps/wolfs characters. I love all of the Anne Rice Vampire chronicles and Mayfair Witches books. (Though a blonde Tom Cruise in the character of Lestat left me cold. Ha!). No, I was first exposed to vampires via that great Gothic soap opera of the 60s, Dark Shadows!

Oh Barnabas Collins, you rocked my young world. You were scary, clever, yet on the surface suave and debonair. I recently turned my husband on to the camp classic series thanks to Netflix “Instant Watch”. While he was more indulgent than impressed, and while even I had to admit to the cheesiness of the series, I was secretly thrilled to be watching it again. We probably watched 8 episodes or so before he really lost interest, but knowing I have a way to view what I haven’t seen in almost 40 years makes me very happy. The best setting for watching the episodes is in a darkened room, only a candle or two lit for flickering effect. If you can watch it on a stormy night, all the better. Barnabas was the reason I slept for a long time with the covers pulled up tightly around my neck, and was the reason I eventually stole some garlic from the kitchen to help ward him off – even as I secretly wished for a midnight visit. Really!

Picture source

Now just take a look at Barnabas (played by Jonathan Frid originally). Oh, he doesn’t have the six-pack abs of Jacob or the pale-yet-sparkly skin and strong jawline of Edward (well, perhaps Barnabas has six pack abs, but it’s deliciously kept from us so all we can do is imagine…).  By the way, Edward’s last name in the Twilight series is “Cullen”. A coincidence? I think not. I’m onto you, Stephenie Meyer… 

What Barnabas has, though, is the maturity of an older vampire (he’s 175, after all), an incurable thirst for blood and an incurable broken heart as he pines for his beloved Josette. While on the surface he’s a perfect and worldly gentleman, inside we know he’s a cold and calculating monster. The really sexy part about that? He had no regrets about it, though if you’re familiar with the story, as a younger man he did. Barnabas doesn’t sparkle in the sun like Edward; no, he’s a classic vampire who sleeps during the day (in a coffin!) and avoids the sun like the plague. My kind of vamp. The first bad boy character over which I swooned!

I have a lot of catching up to do in watching the episodes. Barnabas will wait for me, though. I mean, he was chained inside a coffin for many years until Willie Loomis inadvertently turned him loose on the fine folks of Collinwood, the family estate. Yes, he’ll wait for me to indulge.

The thing I’m REALLY excited about? One of my two favorite actors, Johnny Depp, is slated to play Barnabas in a Tim Burton remake of Dark Shadows, due out in 2011! Oh, you teeny-bopper Twilight fans  (and their Moms, who should know better…)  just you wait. You’ll see what a REAL vampire is all about!

Picture source

*SWOONS*

Flower Angel Redux

I previously posted a photo I took earlier this year, in the spring, entitled Flower Angel:

Flower Angel

And I explained:

My next door neighbor has what I believe is a Tabebuia, or trumpet tree (I’m terrible with tree identification so someone correct me if I’m wrong please). The tree has stunning yellow trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in brilliance then start falling, and all this happens in Spring. Her yard becomes a blanket of yellow. My daughter fell into them and began making a “flower angel”, and I like how it looked. We don’t get snow here so this is as close to a snow angel as we can get…LOL.

Now I want to share the other photos in the series.  These shots show how quickly the flowers fell…after the flower angel shot, the time elapsed between the first and last photos is 2 – 3 days. I think it’s amazing.

I wish I had a photo of the flowers, all on the tree. But you’ll just have to imagine that…

Day One Flower Fall

The accumulation after two days.

A lovely carpet of flowers!

A wider shot. When cars would drive by my neighbor's yard, invariably they would slow down to enjoy the beauty.

The bare tree after all of these flowers fell. The tree is stunning when flowered - not really much in the way of leaves, it's almost all flowers and a brilliant, beautiful yellow!

My angel, my beautiful daughter Brooke.

The World Is A Very Small Place

For about 10 years now I’ve been a member of an international online group – The International High IQ Society. In fact, for most of my tenure, I’ve been an Admin on their forums. I mention all that to set the proper context – I’ve had a lot of interactions through the years with people from all over the world. While I’ve learned much about cultural differences, how the United States is viewed around the globe, etc., I think the main thing I’ve learned is that people all over the world really are the same; same needs, same troubles, same desires.  Indeed, its made me realize that the world is really a very small place. Which leads me to a bit of a rambling thought.

Technology is a truly astounding thing. I’m not a well-traveled person, globally-speaking, but via the internet and instant access to the news, other media, and people around the globe, I’ve learned much. Centuries ago it could take weeks or months to deliver information or supplies from one point to another, whereas now the same thing is instantaneous or near-instantaneous. We are much more capable of learning about other cultures, if not via high-speed travel, then from a connection to the internet or phone. The point of my ramble is this: even as modern society is slowly (or quickly) homogenizing the world, the differences that do remain seem even greater fodder for battles, skirmishes…war. At least in the grand scheme of things. I wonder why this has to be so. We have all the tools to make for better understanding between nations, yet we never seem to be able to get there. Thanks to technology, we are gaining greater understanding on a human level, person by person. I’ve enjoyed discussions that include members from almost every continent. Ultimately, we all have the same needs and the same desires. Yet that same technology that allows me to connect with someone in a foreign land that I’ll likely never meet also allows for new weapons, new threats, and new wars.

Additionally, for all of our wonderful technology and connections, there is still far too much famine, basic health inadequacies, persecutions, human rights abuses – the list goes on and on. We can now see it, not just read about it and keep it at arm’s length. I now KNOW people in areas that have poor living standards and other problems. Yet…how much has really changed?

*Sigh*

I think the hippies of the 60s and 70s had the right idea.

Photography

Some more of my photos. I hope you enjoy them!

The Essence of Happiness

I stumbled upon my cat Cleo sleeping in a sunny spot on my desk one day. She happened to position herself  right in front of a small book I keep out for daily inspiration: The Essence of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. I thought that nothing captured the essence of happiness quite like a cat napping peacefully in the warm sun. It made me smile so I snapped a pic!

Time For A Swim!

My best photos are ones I don’t plan; rather, subjects I happen upon unexpectedly. Perhaps it is that way for everyone. One day last spring, my husband and I were strolling around a lake at a local park; there were a lot of Mama ducks and ducklings. I watched as this mother lead her babies into the water; I snapped this as they swam off. I was quite impressed with how quickly they fell into formation!

Flower Angel

My next door neighbor has what I believe is a Tabebuia, or trumpet tree (I’m terrible with tree identification so someone correct me if I’m wrong please). The tree has stunning yellow trumpet-shaped flowers that bloom in brilliance then start falling, and all this happens in Spring. Her yard becomes a blanket of yellow. My daughter fell into them and began making a “flower angel”, and I like how it looked. We don’t get snow here (I live in Florida) so this is as close to a snow angel as we can get…LOL.

Paris Hilton Arrested Again? Who Cares!

It is time. We must come together as a society and Just Say No To Celebrity Worship.

Headlines today reveal that Paris Hilton has been arrested for cocaine possession (apparently this is BREAKING NEWS! too). Earlier this week it was that Lindsay Lohan was released from rehab and oh, look what she was wearing. I’ve also learned (against my will, mind you, being unable to escape the headlines on the various news sites I visit, which invariably have an “Entertainment” category) that Wyclef Jean has been denied the ability to run for President of Haiti (much to Sean Penn’s relief, apparently), that Heidi Montag, she of multiple plastic surgeries (at once!) fame, now desperately wants to reduce the size of those breasts she loved so very much just a few months ago, Levi Johnston (Bristol Palin’s Baby Daddy) is going to be on the CBS Morning show yet again, Leo Di Caprio’s stalker was arrested, Snooki of  Jersey Shore fame sneezed, and the Kardashian sisters single-handedly propped up the economy of the U.S. by continued spending on clothes and shoes.

Okay, those last two items aren’t real (as far as I know), but you get the point. This. Must. STOP!

That I know who these people are and have had my brain invaded by this unimportant drivel saddens me. I didn’t even seek this stuff out; I simply couldn’t avoid it! Why do people care? And these are just the headlines from this week. Are our lives so boring and unimportant that we fantasize about the shallow lives these celebrities lead? Okay, that may be a bit unfair, I’m sure their lives aren’t completely shallow, but a good portion of their lives must be – as documented by the endless headlines and photos. By the by, remember when headlines were used for really important stories? Despite my advancing age, I think I remember a time like that…maybe back in 1972 or something…

The world is a particularly difficult place right now. Economic recessions (will we double-dip?), wars, politics (UGH!), people struggling to keep their homes, unable to find a job, I could go on ad nauseam. I’ll stop now lest people begin to feel the urge to jump. Entertainment and levity is particularly necessary right now. But does finding out that (insert celebrity name here) has (insert salacious action here) with (insert another celebrity name here) constitute entertainment? Apparently, but it shouldn’t.

Read a book. Exercise. Play with your kids and/or pets (when is the last time you took your pooch to a dog park?). Call a friend you haven’t spoken with in awhile. Take up a hobby you’ve long thought you’d enjoy.

Start a blog about everything or nothing in particular. 🙂

Perhaps we need a pledge:

I do solemnly swear that I will not watch celebrity gossip shows, go to celebrity gossip websites, and I will keep my eyes focused forward in the grocery line and not succumb to the temptation of the screaming headlines and photos of scantily-clad celebrities on the magazine racks invading my personal space. I will devote my entertainment dollars and time to things that enhance my life, not fill it with mindless drivel.

Okay, perhaps that’s a bit much. But you get my point. Caring about celebrities (particularly celebrities whose claim to fame is simply that they are celebrities) is only one stop above getting a secret thrill out of watching Jerry Springer because it gives you reason to be thankful that your life isn’t as bad as those of the poor souls you see on his stage. We seem to want to find our life hierarchy through this sort of thing. You don’t have the (choose one or more: looks/money/clothes/love life) of a Kardashian, but at least you’re not wondering which guy (of 5) is your baby’s father or getting ready to reveal to your lover that you’re really not a woman (I still can’t figure out how people can’t tell, but…).

Stop the madness. Someone will always be in a better place than you, and someone will always be in a worse place than you. So?

As much as I enjoy seeing a not-so-flattering photo of a star who failed to cover her cellulite (I am not alone!), I am stopping the madness. Will you join me?

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