Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Power of Pink

Move furniture to the garage and other places to make room for mirrors, pink balloons and all kinds of sugary treats. After the house is nearly empty then clear it of any living thing that is male.

Next fill those rooms with piles of velvet dress-up gowns, colorful tulle tutus and other dancing costumes. Bring out boxes of old prom dresses, cheerleading uniforms and pom poms. Set up a table of costume jewelry complete with sparkling rhinestones, pearls and beads. Throw in a stash of feather boas, sequined belts, patent leather purses and a variety of large hats and bonnets.

Now invite ten wide-eyed little girls, ages 6 months through 14 years who had no idea what to expect at the party. Add nine grownup girls who all are in need of being totally silly for a few precious hours.

That was the scene on Friday night. Within minutes after walking through the door my home was total chaos and little girls' clothing was strewn across every surface in the house. Feathers, velvet and tutus were flying all over the place. Sounds of ooohs, aaahs and giggling echoed with each new outfit. The grownup girls were good sports about getting dressed up, even those who are extremely shy about getting in front of a camera.

My shutter clicked over 300 times in those four hours. As I look back through the images I am impressed by the absolute beauty and inner strength of these women.

Every. One. Of. Them.

(Note: I will be spending the next few days editing and will post when they are available. In the meantime the feathers and popcorn on the floor will just have to wait...)

(Additional note: Littlest (purple dress) was suffering from a bad ear infection and spent most of the evening on the couch. She is feeling better now.)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Challenge accepted

Athena and Eris both posted to their blogs today. Both issued challenges. In the last hour I have picked out a few photos relevant to each of their posts. Each day I will put appropriate images on my blog until

Athena cries

and Eris gets her butt out of bed.

No ralking, no totals.

Bad Numi.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lighter Fare

Okay, it's time for a lighter blog post. I grabbed my older scrapbooks and picked out a couple of images to share.

The hook. I believe it was originally put in a ceiling beam at Mom's house, possibly when Athena was a baby. Mom had an old jump-up seat from way back when I was an an infant and the kids loved it. But sometimes the seat wasn't handy so overall suspenders were used. For some reason Eris doesn't seem to be enjoying the hook at all. That hook is still in the beam and occasionally you will find odd things hanging from it. Most of the kids have had a turn being hung just like this!

The image of Athena was taken in 1978 at a birthday party in Santa Maria. I don't know if she ever got it blown up but she certainly was trying hard.

The last two photos were taken in 1992 at Colter Bay. Zeus and I had been married for a year and had taken some wonderful trips but this outing was just for the girls. Eris, I'm curious about the hat. Hamburgers, smores, grape soda and dirt. Good times.


Friday, January 22, 2010

The letter


A few days ago while searching an old file for the previous post I came across a letter written in January of 1974. The handwriting on the small envelope was that of my Dad, shaky and uneven. The address was to the small town of Oak Harbor, a beautiful place on the Puget Sound of Washington State where I lived for a few years.

As I took the yellowed paper out of the envelope and reread the simple yet poignant words I suddenly realized that out of the three daughters who loved him so much I probably have the only two letters that he wrote. Neither of my sisters ever lived outside of his telephone area code. In the six years that I was away I received two and still treasure each one. But I had forgotten about this one and have no idea why it was in this particular file.

It was obvious that Dad rarely (if ever) wrote letters and, in fact, after reading it a few times and thinking back to the circumstances it clearly was a painful letter for him to write. The date was shortly after I had been home with Athena for a Christmas visit. At that time she was his only grandchild. Back in 1974 I didn't understand just how hard it could be for a grandparent to kiss that beloved little baby goodbye and watch her being driven away. Mom has told me that Dad would sometimes get in his own car and disappear for a few hours right after we left. My guess is that he wanted to privately deal with his grief at our leaving.

The letter is simple, written on one sheet of folded typing paper. Thirty six years later those three half-pages of words still speak volumes. He's been gone for 13 years.

I think I'll go for a drive.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The year was 1983.

Suddenly I was a single mother of two daughters ages nine and five. My lovely home was gone, I had no education and a crappy seasonal job. No one saw it coming except my sister. Confident that it would never happen to me or my daughters I had ignored her warnings. Ignorance is bliss until it hits you squarely in the face. It took a few months for it all to sink in. Eventually shock turned to anger, which turned to determination.

I was a single parent for eight incredible years. Funds were scarce but somehow we didn't starve. Educations were successfully completed. Health challenges were overcome. Family and friends were there to support me every step of the way even when those steps were in the wrong direction. They gave me an earful when I did something stupid (often). They cheered loudly when I walked across the stage to get my college diploma. They wiped my tears and listened patiently through my times of rage (thanks, Jan). They provided meals and shelter during the most difficult times. They acted as a taxi service and worked to keep my old car running. They all played an important part of shaping my daughters' futures and helping them become the fantastic women they are today.

Looking back (always a dangerous thing to do) there are things that I wish could be done over. Mistakes were made. Hard lessons were learned. But there were also experiences that I wouldn't change for anything in the whole world. We fought like mothers and daughters. Sometimes we laughed like silly girls. Our bedrooms were messy and we jostled for morning minutes in the bathroom. We were all working students so schedules were hectic. Mac n Cheese was a kitchen staple along with frozen pizza and Hamburger Helper. We learned to tackle and overcome obstacles that got in our way. Together we shared eight years that left us fiercely independent. Fiercely. Independent. Our husbands have learned to endure that independence. Kudos to all three of them because I suspect it isn't easy.

Eight years. Three of us. It was a learning time. Often the road was extremely difficult to navigate. But oh, it was so worth it.


(Top photo was taken the day Eris was brought home from the hospital. Bottom photo was at Knotts Berry Farm in 1985 (?))

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Estrogen Explosion

Last week we had a girl's night at my home while the guys were at their regularly scheduled poker night. Pizza, bread sticks and cookie dough are the preferred menu. Everyone comes ready to relax and do some major laughing. Month after month the guys manage to sneak away without taking a single child along. Why is that?

This month there were ten children, ages 4 months through 13 (sorry Jubee). Add five mothers. Thirteen of those fifteen bodies had XX chromosomes. Only two XYs were in the house, one downstairs playing a video game and the other on the bed asleep (fitting, no?). You can rest assured that with this many females under one roof there is a potential for high drama, loud laughter and the occasional complaints about cramps and childrearing. The air often smells of nail polish. Topics of conversion run from crafting projects to politics. Every one of the mothers is a successful career woman, each is multi-faceted and incredible.

It makes for a fascinating and lively evening. Way more fun than a boring poker game. Thanks ladies!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Guest Room Quilt

I grew up sitting at a sewing machine. Barbie doll clothes and personal clothing was my specialty. The first quilting attempt was while waiting for Athena's arrival. Over the next 20 years I made the occasional quilt, mostly squares and usually tied. About 15 years ago I got serious about it and took a few classes. I quickly learned that the art of quilting is much more than sewing squares together and fastening them with square knots. Constructing a half-square triangle involved using math skills and precise 1/4 inch seams. Pressing correctly could make or break whether or not your block went together effortlessly or ended up lumpy. For twelve years I completed countless quilts and gave them away.

My first "real" quilt is still on the bed in our guest room. It is certainly not my best work. Seams don't always match, the hand quilted stitches are much longer than desired and there is one block that is assembled incorrectly. Over the years my skills improved and a few years ago I even had the guts to have a few appraised. These are the "heirloom" quilts that will go to my grandchildren some day in the future.

The same evolution of skills has taken place in my photography. Today I had the unpleasant experience of seeing an image that I took over two years ago. Oh my, it was awful. Well, the image itself was not particularly awful but the post-processing was mind numbingly hideous. As soon as I got home I searched through my archives where (luckily) the original files were found. Reprocessing has been done. New prints will be made tomorrow and hopefully hung in that hallway. The old 8x10 will be brought here to my lair where it will hang in front of my monitor as a reminder that there is so much more to be learned.

The frightening part of this experience is knowing that in 2012 I will most likely look at images from 2010 and want do-overs on every single one of them. Again. Ugh.

01-15-10 Note: Replacement prints were made today and are now hanging in place of the old ones. I feel sooo much better about them. Remind me in two years to do another comparison. On second thought, don't.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Excuses, excuses, excuses.

I've got em'. By the dozens. And they all make perfect sense to me.

1. It's still cold. Wimp.

2. It's dark outside. But getting light earlier. Actually was able to enjoy civil twilight on Sunday morning.

3. Our weather-inverted air has been dubbed the dirtiest in the nation. That hasn't stopped me before.

4. I can get a workout in the pool. That's true, but it's just not the same as being outdoors. And there are no shiny round objects in the pool unless you count a couple of the chubby pink ladies.

5. I need a new running bra. Alert: Too much information!!!

6. The car washes are not paying off lately. Duh, it's winter.

7. I think someone is "scooping" my area before I get there. Lame excuse, I know.

8. Again, our weather-inversion air has been dubbed the dirtiest in the nation. When I can feel it that tells you how bad it is.

9. I still have four months to get ready for that 5k. I'll probably be using that one right up until April.

10. I'm basically lazy. Well, that's not really news.

$3.32 (includes a gold car wash dollar and a .35 contribution from Zeus)
$1.33 Walmart card (redeemed in my weekly grocery shopping)
a nice volleyball found in a snowbank at a supermarket
another hat to be washed and donated (MoneyWalker, you are influencing me!)

Note: The image at the top has absolutely nothing to do with the post. I just wanted to share a photo a this beautiful little baby that I had the pleasure to photograph this week.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Cracking up

Friday, 2:30 a.m: We were awakened in the middle of the night by a loud sound in the house. My first thought was something exploded in the kitchen or downstairs. Hey, it was the middle of the night so I went back to sleep.

Yesterday morning when I get up to take a shower I notice that the small high window in the bathroom has a crack running from corner to corner. It is displaced enough that there is a sharp edge along the entire seam. It will have to be replaced. Soon.

Oops, sorry. wrong crack.

Once again, we are in the middle of a cold snap, not quite as bad as the northeastern states are seeing, but still cold. There has been a bag of ice cubes sitting on my patio leftover from our December 23rd party. It is within five feet of the house yet has not melted.

Temperatures have not played a factor in my ralking for the last five years. Extra layers of clothing usually takes care of the cold. This year, not so much. Wimpiness is creeping into my head and the excuses are getting easier. The single-digit temps combined with the lack of sunlight early in the mornings has turned me into a whiny two-year-old. Yesterday morning I rationalized and went to the mall for some indoor walking. blech.

Tomorrow morning, even if it takes twenty extra layers, I will be out there.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Procrastination, my middle name

Two months ago I was asked to make an outfit for the Prince's baptism, an honor that I eagerly accepted. The Duchess was warned that it wouldn't get done before the holidays but that it would surely be ready for the special date on the 16th. She promised not to worry about it.

The only instructions I was given about the design were a few "don't do this", but otherwise I was turned loose to design it myself. Okay, it's designed. In my head. Fabric, pattern and notions have all been purchased. The special little adornments have all been received. All that is left is the cutting and sewing.

One problem in the design had been nagging my brain. Last night in the middle of the night the solution came to me, a real duh moment. I realized that a specialty foot that goes on my machine would do the job and it was just sitting in my cabinet waiting to get used. At two a.m. I had to suppress the urge to get up and try it out!

Today has been spent running post-holiday errands. They are all done. Tomorrow has been set aside as a sewing-only day dedicated strictly to this one special project. Better yet, maybe I'll start right now.

$2.21 plus a Sears gift card ($20 balance) and a movie theater gift card ($1 balance)

Note: Wednesday night, 10 pm. Done.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Greenscreen is a blast!

As promised earlier, here are a few of the greenscreen photos that we did way back in November of the Eris clan. A couple of years ago I tried this technique but couldn't quite wrap my aging brain around layers.

Waterskiing on the bay

The instructions given to Eris and etc. were to come dressed in solid colors, any color except green. They brought with them swimming gear and winter hats and mittens. A trip to the DI netted the fashionable orange life vests for a dollar each. They also were instructed to bring along cooperative attitudes and a good sense of humor because we were really all shooting by the seat of our pants on this one. The kids did what they were asked and for an hour we just played around with some fun poses.

A modern family enjoying the wonders of Utah's spectacular Monument Valley.

The next step was post-processing on the computer. In a nutshell it involved magically erasing the green backdrop and superimposing the subjects onto another photo. I had gone through my archives and picked out a few possibilities but still wasn't sure what I would end up with.

Each image took about two hours to process. They are certainly not perfect, nor are they meant to be. Along the processing path I learned many techniques such as changing perspectives, transforming, layering and many other geeky things. For a week I had a blast combining old and new images to form a unique end result.

Jumping off Coit Tower. This is actually six processed images combined into one.

I'm ready to experiment with this technology again. If you have any ideas or you want to play just let me know. I'm ready.More photos at the Shooting blog.