Tuesday, January 31, 2012

These Are The Days

Daddy lost a sister this week. As I'm typing this, he and mama, along with several other relatives are riding in a rented van toward Moline, Illinois where they will lay to rest my aunt Ruth. Yes, we are again saying goodbye to a loved one on that side of the family, just a few months after burying two uncles. I know it's that season of life when age is catching up with daddy's generation, but the reality of that is very troubling to me. I just hate losing all those folks who colored my childhood with their presence and influence. More and more their presence is my life is more memory than contact.

Daddy's almost the baby of the family, and not until recently did I begin to realize that means that as long as his health is good, he will likely witness the deaths of most of his siblings. I can't imagine how difficult that will be, especially since he and his brothers and sisters are so close. Growing up poor on a farm in southern Illinois, they relied on each other for everything. They scratched out a living and made their own entertainment. Together. They shared clothes, shoes and toys, and the older kids helped the younger ones. There were chores and hard times but lots of laughter, and when you listen to them tell stories about their childhood, it doesn't take long to figure out that they were richer than many others who had more money.

The call about aunt Ruth came early yesterday morning, although I actually saw a family post about it on FaceBook before mama had a chance to get hold of me. Since then, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the deaths in my family in the past few years and the stage of life I'm at right now. Time is flying. Way too fast. Loved ones are slipping away, and my hair is grayer than it used to be. God bless Miss Clairol. Life is moving so fast I sometimes feel as if I might just fly off the face of the earth if it doesn't stop spinning so hard. I feel the soldiers of time crawling over my back and running me down. There's so much to do. So much to experience. And there are people who won't be there to experience it with me. My emotions have been all over the place in the past 36 hours as I process this.

Driving down the road this afternoon, I was caught by surprise by a single tear that slid down my cheek unexpectedly. A single tear for the ones lost, the weariness I'm feeling from taking care of Papa T. and the things I would do differently if given the opportunity. Opportunities not taken. Words I can never take back. And yet there are smiles, too. Smiles for the dares and challenges accepted, for the people who enrich my life and the memories they've given me. If I close my eyes, I can recall warm summer nights in grandma's yard, sprinkled with the laughter of my cousins as we played hide and seek and the light of captured fireflies flashing in a fruit jar. I hear the voices of aunts and uncles solving the world's troubles and cranking out homemade ice cream. I see and hear it all and smile. Time is moving quickly folks. These are the days we must savor. We must hold them in our heart.

Monday, January 30, 2012


For lack of anything rowdy like bears or raccoons, I'll go with the common grasshopper.  He's one of my favorites, actually.  Or so it would seem based on my photography folders.  For the other wonderful entries, hop on over to here.  Get it?  HOP on over?  Never mind.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My First Newborn Shoot

It was two, actually.  Little Miss E. cried through the first one, but she had a lactose issue so I didn't take it personally.  So, we had a second shoot.  Both had some poop, major poop.  And a lot of laughs.  Newborns...not easy, but totally worth it.  So much fun photographing this little one...both times.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

How Many Days Until Spring?

We've had some chilly rain the past couple of days.  It's wet and dreary here, and truth be told, it makes me a tad bit grumpy.   This morning was even grayer and gloomier than yesterday, but I did perk up for a little bit around 7am because, even though it was cold and nasty, I do love a good photo op that involves fog.  These are from the city park.  And these would be why the bottoms of my pants have been muddy all day. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

My Favorite Sign on Bourbon Street

And a huge *@# beer had nothing to do with why this picture is so fuzzy.  It was low lighting and poor exposure.  I promise.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Year of the Sinus Drip

The Chinese are calling this the year of the dragon, but they're wrong. It's the year of the pneumococcal bacteria. At least around our house anyway. Just two months after Papa T. spent eighteen days in the hospital with pneumonia, Hubby has walking pneumonia, oh yes he does. To the tune of four prescriptions and a shot in the butt. A shot which apparently was a little painful given the current tenderness of his backside. Funny, he didn't think it was very humorous when I made a joke about him being a pain in the arse. The doctor wanted to put him in the hospital yesterday, but Hubby politely declined with the promise to get a chest X-ray Thursday and to consider the hospital if things have not improved by then. Or if Papa T. stomps on his last nerve one more time. Whichever comes first. When Hubby called me with the news yesterday, I rolled my eyes toward heaven and said, "Really?" Great googly moogly. We can't have everyone around here healthy at one time for more than thirty days at a time. It's enough to make a gal wanna hibernate until cold and flu season is over. Or the next Matthew McConaughey centerfold is published. Whichever comes first.

I knew we were gonna have sinus issues the minute we landed in Nashville last week and realized just how annoying it can be to go from the 80 degree tropics to a 30 degree climate. The pressure in my head started soaring as soon as our plane hit the ground. I went into neti pot overdrive, and Hubby developed a stopped up nose almost immediately. It took about three days for his cough to develop, and it's been downhill since then. The poor man is coughing like a forty year chain smoker. He sounds like that lady who works the shoe counter at the bowling alley whose diet is mostly whiskey sours and Marlboro's. I knew he felt bad Sunday when he actually mentioned he was going to the doctor Monday if he didn't feel any better. His willingness to go to a doctor is the equivalent of Israel calling up Palestine and saying, "Can't we just get along?" In fact, I thought about calling an ambulance then 'cause he was obviously hitting a low point. For as long as I've known him, he has NEVER willingly gone to the doctor. It's always been by force. I think Papa T.'s pneumonia showed him though, that things can go south very quickly and it's best to take care of yourself instead of trying to tough it out. Because, hey, after age fifty, toughing it out doesn't really work so well without a few antibiotics.

So, for the next couple of days he plans to take his medicine and see what happens. I'm hoping the drugs do the trick, and he doesn't end up in the hospital 'cause I'm not namin' any names, but someone around here is C-R-A-N-K-Y when he's really sick. As in gripe and groan and whine to the nth degree cranky. I feel bad for him because no doubt the exhaustion he feels on a daily basis from taking care of Papa T. was a factor in his illness, and there's no letup in sight on that front. He has enough to deal with without being sick. Poor baby. And let's hope that mess isn't catching. That's all I need is a week in bed. Although, I'm only one case of flu away from my goal weight. Just kidding. Sort of. No, really, I'm kidding.

The year of the dragon is supposed to be a lucky year. Let's hope 2012 is a little better for us than 2011. And may it be full of eggrolls. And shrimp fried rice. And pressed chicken. May the year be full of blessings for everyone, including good health. Or a Matthew McConaughey centerfold. Whichever comes first.

Psst...I was born in the year of the dragon. In fact, I'm a wooden dragon. If you have time, read this article about dragon babies. Yikes, it fits me to a tee. Right down to the Miss Bossy Pants part.

Monday, January 23, 2012


The picture is from Pere LaChaise Cemetery in Paris.  If you ever get a chance to visit that cemetery, please do.  It is a fascinating place.  Now, to check out the other entries this week, hop on over to here.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Down on the Corner and out in the Street

As I roamed around the French Quarter last weekend, I was captivated by the spirit of the people there. From the vendors in the French Market to the trolley drivers and shopkeepers with their lyrical twist on the southern drawl, I was fascinated by the colorful spirit of the folks who inhabit New Orleans. Polite and animated, they were so much fun to be around that I found myself accidently trying to talk like them. It is an atmosphere not unlike Times Square but with a more laidback feel. There is no hustle and bustle. Just a lot of friendly people celebrating life. Somebody, somewhere is always having a good time in New Orleans. I mean where else can you get your picture made with someone dressed as a voodoo priestess who will also give you directions to Cafe DuMonde? We stopped in a store looking for a cold soda, and I ended up talking to a man dressed in full makeup and costume as a jester. He was eating a ham sandwich and flagged me down to ask if I was in town for the photography convention when he saw my camera. I walked out of there thinking you don't see THAT every day.

Around Jackson Square, in the heart of the French Quarter, are dozens of tarot card readers, musicians and artists plying their trades, especially in front of St. Louis Cathedral (which is a lovely church by the way).

There are painters, selling their work and showing their talent.

There are street performers who stand out and those that blend in.

Everywhere there are people trying to scratch out a living by using whatever talents they have.

We saw the same thing in Mexico.

And it occurred to me how brave these folks are. Granted, some of them, like the fortune tellers, are scammers, and some are just desperate, but most are chasing a dream or at the very least, trying to make the most of the skills they have. It takes a lot of guts to put your work out there for every stranger to see. It's like standing naked in front of the world and asking for a verdict from the court of public opinion. You may get some praise, but you also get criticism, and in the case of the court jester, scorn from those who think you're nuts. It made Hubby a little nervous when he found me talking to that guy, but I found him to be sane and extremely articulate.

How many of us have the nerve to put ourselves on display like that? Those of us who write do it all the time, and I don't know about you, but it makes me very uncomfortable to share some of my writing with people I know. It's easier on the internet I think, to put it out there for people you've never actually met in person. You don't have to look them in the eye or run into them at the grocery store. You can hide behind a blog banner or a pseudonym. People you know will tell you what they think about your work. I want to write a book someday, but if I ever do, I'm going to have to work through the anxiety of having friends and family reading my work.

So, I tip my hat to the folks who stand on the streets of their hometown, sharing their work with us strangers who wander by with time and criticism to spare. Go right on being naked and doing your thing. You never know when that court jester is going to be the next Marcel Marceau. Of course, he could be the next patient at the loony bin, too so you might want to carry some pepper spray just in case.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Photo Friday Challenge-"Pristine"

1. pris•tine/ˈprisˌtēn/

Adjective: 1. In its original condition; unspoiled.

2. Clean and fresh as if new; spotless

For the other entries, hop on over here.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

On the Sunny Side

On the last morning of our cruise we had to be up early in order to get dressed and eat breakfast before they started emptying the ship at 8am. After a week of sleeping in under cool, cozy covers I was not eager to get up with the alarm. In fact, I am never eager to get up with an alarm clock. My body is quite happy to naturally come alive around 9ish and ease into the day long after the sun has come up. Alas, life and work do not allow me to do that, since I regularly have to get up at 5:30am. I see a lot of sunrises, but only under protest.

So, last Saturday morning was no different. I pulled myself out of bed, slipped on some clothes and headed to breakfast with my feet hit the floor happy in the morning husband. He almost always bounces out of bed like Tigger, which annoys me to no end. I figured I might as well take my camera with me in case the sunrise was pretty, and I was not disappointed. When we hit the top deck, the eastern skies were somewhat golden, and I was suddenly wide awake in recognition of the opportunity that lay before me. Hubby went to the restaurant, and I dashed to the balcony rails to start shooting. I ran all over the upper part of the boat, looking for the right angles and ran into a middle aged Asian man doing the same thing. With our cameras clicking away, we danced around each other, strangers on the same mission. We exchanged the occasional shout of, "Ooh, look over here!" and "Check out this angle!" I never got his name. I kind of wish I had because it would have been fun to share our best shot with each other later. I would have sent him this one.

And after I had exhausted every opportunity I could to capture the sun sliding up the side of that New Orleans river bank, I leaned over the rail and tried to soak in every detail about that moment. One last look without the lens so I could fully appreciate the sounds and smells. The colors and the movement of the boats slipping through the water made me think of a Train song, and I let that roll through my head for a minute or so. And then I slipped back down the steps in search of my husband, begrudgingly grateful for having yet another sunrise forced upon me.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jig

Where to begin? Do I start with the details about our brief stay in New Orleans and the craziness on Bourbon Street, how I slid six feet across the deck of the cruise ship on my left butt cheek or the story about how Hubby and I got kicked off the jet skis in Cozumel? So much fun, and so little time to write it all down. Also, that big purple bruise on my fanny? Too personal to show you a picture of it, so how about an overall rundown of our trip instead?

First, let me say I love my family. They are more fun than a hurricane at Pat O'Brien's. There were nine cousins and their spouses on this trip, and all eighteen of us had a ball. It was great to spend time with them, and I'm so glad we made the trip. Even if I am still trying to get my body clock back in order. We ate together, partied together and spent a lot of time just getting to know each other better. I can now name the preferred drink of each one of them. And hey, why didn't someone tell me sooner about the lovely combination of peach schnapps and grapefruit juice? I love it when I can say I got a full serving of fruit with each drink. Just like V8 without the nasty carrot aftertaste. I digress.

Hubby and I got to New Orleans the day before our ship sailed because I just don't trust the air carriers to get us anywhere on the designated day anymore, especially when there's a cruise ship departure involved. It seems like there's always an issue with just about every flight now days. Plus, we wanted to spend a little time goofing around New Orleans. We arrived Sunday afternoon. Along with every redneck in the south. It was the night before the BSC football game between LSU and Alabama. Whew, Lawd. Nawlins was crazier than usual. Bourbon Street was a sea of purple and red, and screams of "Go Tigers!" and "Roll Tide!" rang in our ears all night long. Add in the bead throwers, the zydeco bands and the occasional transvestite, and it was just about the most fun place in North America. The people watching could not have been any better. And can I just say I love the people of Louisiana. They are friendly and fun, and they embrace their uniqueness. Good people, they are. And boy, do they love to throw a party.

Because I booked a hotel room after they scheduled the game in New Orleans, we had to settle for a room across the river in Gretna. While we've stayed in swankier places, it was clean and decent and certainly better than driving thirty minutes out of town to better available rooms. Given other options in the future, the Quality Inn would not be my first choice, however. They did provide us with a free shuttle ride to the free ferry which dropped us off at the NOLA riverfront, so we saved a bundle on cab fees. As Johnny Cash says, there's a silver lining behind every cloud. We whooped it up on Bourbon Street, slept that night to the steady drumbeat of Alabama fans drunkenly traipsing up the motel steps and hit the boat the next morning. Actually, Hubby hit the boat. I checked in and then spent a couple of hours roaming around the French Quarter taking pictures. When I got back on the boat, the whole fam damily was there, and we immediately started living it up.

We spent the next five and a half days lying on the Lido deck, lying on beaches, dancing and basically enjoying every amenity the boat had to offer. Especially the food. Oy vey, the food! I must say I got used to having an exotic dessert every night, and my body was wondering where the breakfast buffet was this past Tuesday when I went back to work. To say that my colon was disappointed with Cream of Wheat and flax seed is an understatement. However, it was happy to be home. I'm the only person I know who can go to Mexico, eat six prunes off the buffet every morning and still get constipated.

Hubby and I got kicked off the jet skis at Cozumel after we turned over our jet ski. A couple on another jet ski flagged us down and asked us to get help since they had a mechanical issue with theirs. We said sure, turned toward the beach a little too hard and promptly landed in the ocean. We flipped it back over and were about to get back on it when the jet ski dude came flying up in a boat, made us get off and ordered us to get in the boat for a ride back to the shore. Which is how we got a free ride on the parasail boat. I considered asking him if we could get a parasail ride but I figured he wouldn't find that nearly as funny as we did.

I earned one of those little plastic Carnival Cruise trophies during the Last Man Standing competition on the Lido deck on our last day at sea. We had to do goofy relay races, including that thing where you put your head on the handle of a bat, spin around the bat ten times and run. The boat was rockin' pretty good that day, and when I stood up from spinning around, I immediately took off running instead of getting my bearings first. I'm that competitive, don't cha' know. I mean who doesn't want a plastic ship on a stick to sit on his shelf? As I started to run, I took a spectacular tumble and slid several feet across the deck on my left hip. Honestly, it was one on my prettier falls. Certainly prettier than that spill I took before Christmas. If I were younger I might have been more embarrassed about doing it in front of so many people, but I'm old enough that I just don't care. Also, most of them were two sheets to the wind, anyway. I bounced up, completed the relay, and our team won, thanks to the loud cheering from the section known as my family. My left hip felt a little sore Saturday and by Sunday I had a big purple bruise the size of a grapefruit. But it was worth it because hey, plastic ship on a stick!

Hubby's injury for the trip was banging his head on a rail on that double decker tour bus we climbed on in Progreso. He hit it so hard he saw stars, and it wouldn't have been so bad, but every time we came near power lines on the city tour we had to duck because they hang so low there they'll strangle you if you don't. He was dizzy from throwing his head between his legs so much. It appears though that Corona numbs a headache. Especially when they cost $1 apiece at little roadside stands run by gentlemen named Martin. The other highlight of that little bus ride was right before we got on when some crazy looking guy flashed some drugs at me. I was like, "What the heck?" I want to know why he thought I looked like I might be interested in buying his little white powder. A friend of mine says it's because I'm skinny, and drug users are almost always skinny. Seriously? The whole thing was pretty funny and just one of several humorous moments along the way. It was a great week. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, even the big spill, and I can't wait to see everyone's pictures. We discussed plans to do it again next year, especially as we neared the end of the trip and everyone was facing much colder weather back home. (Note to self, wear socks when flying from a warm climate to a cold one.) We made many memories last week, but more importantly we had a great bonding experience. Oh, and I got a Got Milk T-shirt on the boat that says, "Got Margaritas?". Life doesn't get any better than that.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Setting Sail....Right After I Exfoliate

Hubby and I leave this weekend for a trip to Mexico, and Teen Angel will be staying at home. Let that sink in for a moment. Our teenager. At home. Alone. For a whole week. I feel comfortable putting this on the blog because very few local people read this blog and every one of them who does is already on a list of people who are supposed to take turns circling our home at regular intervals to make sure there are no parties going on and that she is at home at an appropriate hour. Okay, not really, but we're telling Hubby there is such a schedule so he won't worry so much. He's a basket case about leaving her, his dad and an ailing dog all in the hands of other people. He likes to worry. It's his thing. Not mine, so I'm packing and counting down the days until we sail. And that would be four, thank you.

We are taking a cruise with several of my cousins and their spouses. It's an attempt to keep the closeness our parents have felt over the years, given that their generation is dying off and it's soon going to be up to us to keep our family tight. We talked about that responsibility back in the summer and decided the best way to start was to sail on a cruise ship to a warm climate in the middle of winter and drink lots of margaritas. There might also be some limbo and dancing involved. Look out, Mexico! The first time I was there I almost won the limbo contest. Good thing I didn't. The prize was a bottle of tequila, and let's just say I'd had all of that I needed. Hence the second place finish. Why does alcohol make you more limber? Tell me that, Bill Nye the Science Guy.

Anyway, I didn't let myself get too excited about it until this week 'cause around here you never know what kind of mayhem is going to upset travel plans, but it seems maybe we're getting close enough that I can actually believe we will be sailing the Gulf in a few days. Well, there was that brief moment of excitement about two months ago when I scored cheap plane tickets for us. Other than that, I've just been holding my breath that Papa T. would stay healthy and wouldn't end up in the hospital this week. We haven't taken him out to eat this week because all we need is to drag home a good case of the flu. He seems to catch every bug that crawls by. We've been bathing in the hand sanitizer, too. More than usual. I also danced around some squirrel bones, recited a voodoo chant and said sixteen Hail Mary's. No flu. No flu. No flu. If you say it over and over again fast enough it sounds Cajun, doesn't it?

We are spending Sunday night in New Orleans, which should be interesting. It's the night before the BCA Championship Game, so Bourbon Street should be at a fever pitch of rowdiness. As daddy says, it could be a good place to get your arse whooped. We'll try to blend into the crowd, enjoy the festivities and stuff ourselves full of beignets without stepping on any toes. New Orleans is a cool place, and it's been a long time since we've been there. Who dat!

To say I haven't done any worrying this week would be a tad inaccurate. I walked by a full length mirror yesterday in shorts and a sleeveless shirt on my way to the treadmill when I realized just how white my body is. It's so white you could print phone numbers on it. And there's nothing I can do about it now. I'm just hoping there are so many Michigan and Canadian snowbirds on that boat that no one notices the shade of my legs. Also, I just realized two nights ago how dry my skin is. Normally, I wouldn't worry about it until early April, but I am in lotion overdrive right now. I should buy stock in Gold Bond because I'm certainly upping their sales. And I probably should have had my roots touched up. There is a fair amount of gray around my temples, but I won't have time to get to the barber, so I'm just gonna hope it's not noticeable in the bright glare of the sunshine. Plus, there's always a hat.

I'm hoping for a good trip. We've cruised before, and while an all inclusive kind of trip is my favorite way to see that part of the world, we enjoy cruises, and I think it should be a real hoot to goof around with the family. And truth be told, Teen Angel is probably counting the days until we leave because she's looking forward to her freedom and opportunity to goof off around here. Won't she be surprised when she finds out about that armed security guard and the chastity belt Hubby arranged for her.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

I Hate Goodbyes

My neighbor is dying of cancer. In fact, he may have passed away by the time this posts. He is mostly unresponsive and is under palliative care, which is a fancy way of saying they're just trying to keep him pain free. Mr. John has spent the last two years battling cancer, and he put up a good fight. Better than most. In fact, I don't know anyone who has fought cancer harder than he has. He lost a leg in the process, learning how to use an artificial limb and tearing up the neighborhood in his motorized scooter. I nearly fell over back in the summer when I looked outside and saw him mowing with the riding mower. I just knew he'd turn over the dadgum thing and cause great excitement, but he didn't. And although it often terrified her, his wife got used to his shenanigans and would just shake her head and pray for the best. He would zip up and down the street, talking to all the neighbors and giving Hubby all kinds of advice on yard work. He volunteered at his church, and back in October, he spent his weekends helping out at the local pumpkin patch and laughing with all the little kids who came there for Halloween pumpkins and hayrides. The Vietnam veteran was unstoppable. Until last week.

His cancer resurged recently, and he'd been undergoing experimental treatments when he developed a fever right before Christmas Day. Not wanting to be in the hospital at Christmas and during their 30th wedding anniversary he held off going to the doctor until he knew it was inevitable. Sure enough. They sent him from the Veteran's Hospital by ambulance to another hospital for more intensive care. He knew his time was up, and he started preparing his wife for the inevitable. He's actually been preparing her for months. He spent most of the past year, getting things done around the house to make it low maintenance for her when he's gone. He spent a lot of money on rubberized mulch, so she wouldn't have to drag and scoop mulch around their extensive landscaping. He paid for new windows, gutters and other improvements that were going to be needed in the next few years. He sold stuff he couldn't use anymore to eliminate some of the stuff she'd have to go through and sell. And he talked about dying.

I think he talked about it to help take away the fear for her. He wasn't afraid. He never was. Or at least he didn't act like it. I really think he had little fear. He is a Christian man who is strong in his faith, and it showed in his war against cancer and in his surrender this week. He confidently told his wife a few days ago, he was ready to go.

It also showed in the way he lived his life these past few years. He and his wife traveled and did things they wanted to do. He volunteered at many activities and basically enjoyed each day. And he didn't complain about his disease. If you had never asked him about his leg or scooter you wouldn't have known he was sick. I've often pondered the matter of fact way he has dealt with all that has happened to him in the past two years. If I am ever unfortunate enough to have a terminal illness, I hope I have the courage to put up the same kind of fight. Was he perfect? No, but he was good. I will miss seeing him fly across our yard on that scooter to find out what's going on whenever Hubby is in the middle of a project. He and another elderly neighbor stood at the edge of our pool last year, overseeing and debating its construction while the workers dug the hole and moved dirt and concrete. I wish I had taken a picture of them.

Last year, we bought Mr. John's Christmas lights. It was a pretty elaborate set of life sized nativity figures, complete with camels and donkeys. He had reached the point where he couldn't maintain them anymore. He helped Hubby put them up in the yard last November, and it made him proud to see them on display. I hate that we didn't get them up this year. With Papa T.'s hospital stays and life's craziness, we just couldn't find the time to set them up. I know Mr. John would have enjoyed seeing them one last time. We plan to have the displays refurbished this year with new bulbs and to do a little electrical work so that it's easier to set them up in the yard. We want them to be ready to go when November rolls back around. And when I'll look at that bright glow of Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus and all those camels I shall think of Mr. John, a life well lived and a life well ended. I should be so lucky.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Oh, The Cuteness

This is my favorite photo that I've shot lately.  It's from a pregnancy shoot I did with a great couple.

And guess what?  Baby E. was born the day after Christmas.  Guess whose doing some newborn pictures soon?  Yay!  I can't wait.  I love holding and smelling babies that I don't have to raise.