Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mirror, Mirror, What the Heck?

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Thirty-One:  You, Again

Well, I'm ending this month-long photo challenge the same way I began it, taking my own picture in the bathroom mirror. This time I am still in my bathrobe, and I did take the time to put on makeup. For the sake of variety, I  also moved to the other end of the vanity and took off my eyeglasses.

Actually, I left the glasses off out of curiosity more than anything. I wear them all the time and depend on them so much that I no longer knew what I look like without them. Seeing myself in the mirror when I'm not wearing corrective lenses is a fuzzy, soft-focus experience, like watching Doris Day movies or Diane Sawyer on the evening news: I can't see the things I'd rather not see anyway. The magnifying mirror I use to put on eye makeup is too small to view more than one eye at a time, and the eye in that mirror is always being stretched taut to keep mascara from clumping in a crevice.

That's why I was so surprised to inspect this uploaded shot and see so many deep, crepey laugh lines. I mean, I knew I had some--everybody my age does--but I hadn't realized it's just a matter of time until I'll be able to hide  small objects in those folds.

I looked at the rest of the photos. My eyes appeared much less wrinkly when I wasn't smiling or when I was wearing my glasses. Since I have no desire or intention to give up laughing, my plan for the future is to buy each successive pair of new eyeglasses with thicker frames than the previous pair. Maybe that'll work.


This is the last day of the One-a-Day Photo Challenge. I'd like to thank Alison again for encouraging me to join her in it. It's been both a good experience and a good lesson. In much the same way as I've been seeing the face but not the wrinkles, I've been seeing the metaphorical forest in my immediate surroundings and ignoring the trees. Not to mention the limbs and the leaves and the bark and the birds and the squirrels. This challenge motivated me to pay closer attention, to observe and appreciate the details. To zoom in and focus, with or without the camera. I hope that will become a habit.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Purty Little Thang

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Thirty:  Nature

Mother Nature watered her plants for a while in the wee hours of this morning, then turned her spray nozzle up to "blast" and hosed down everything as if it had deliberately played in mud while wearing its best clothes. She banged things around with loud claps of thunder for hours, letting us know with no uncertainty that she was in a no-nonsense mood. I, for one, stayed in bed and kept out of her way. I didn't dare let her see a smile on my face. But secretly? I was happy, happy, happy!

Now that she has settled down, I can tell you that Mother Nature herself makes me happy on a regular basis. She does it with hills and mountains, streams and oceans, trees and flowers, clouds and sunsets, full moons and twinkling stars, and every living creature I've ever encountered (except for a few kinds of bugs and spiders, indoor mice, and Fox News reporters). I'm especially happy today because she put a certain squirrel in a certain tree just as I walked underneath its branches in search of a photo for today's "nature" challenge:

When I sat down at the computer this morning, I knew exactly what I wanted to say. And I've said it. I've written enough. I should probably stop right here.

But . . . at the risk of negating any good, nature-appreciation feelings this post may have engendered, I hate to waste something silly that I wrote down yesterday. I was mulling over what I ought to say about the squirrel picture when I realized I'd begun thinking in verse. And worse. I was hearing those rhyming thoughts in the voice of a neighbor who lived across the street from us in Georgia.

Now, I'm warning you, things are about to get cornier than ever, so my best advice is to stop reading right now. But if you're bound and determined to travel with me all the way to Silly City, then read on, and read in a slow, twangy drawl:

About Takin' the Pitcher
One little squirrel was settin' high up in a tree
A-lookin' like hit was just a-waitin' thar fer me,
So I pointed up my lens, as quick as I could be,
And I tuck this here pitcher fer all y'all to see.

. . . and . . .

What I Know about Nature
Now, I know that a tiger is a gret big jungle cat,
An' I know th' earth is round, never mind if hit looks flat,
An' the squirrel in the tree? Hit's the cousin of a rat!
(But hit's a purty little thang, so don't you bother none 'bout that.)


P.S. In rereading these verses this morning, noticing their rhythm, I realized that they can be sung to the tune of The Beverly Hillbillies theme song. You want an earworm? Go ahead and try it. I dare you.

P.P.S. I'll make no apologies for any of this. Silliness is in my nature.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Where the Cold Things Grow

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Nine:  Inside Your Fridge

The most interesting thing inside my refrigerator is a pot of chili--not interesting to you, I'm sure, but it holds my attention at suppertime. Other than that, you can see a variety of cool drinks, condiments, and salad dressings, plenty of eggs, cheese, and apples, a bag of salad greens, a tub of cottage cheese, little cups of pineapple tidbits, little cups of sugar-free Jello, and a can of whipped cream to top off the Jello.

I can't guarantee that none of the salad dressings has passed its expiration date, but at least nothing in here is growing blue fuzz. Unless it's the cottage cheese. Maybe I'll just toss out the rest of that without opening the lid. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

Lovely, Indeed, but Not So Dark and Deep

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Eight:  Light

Across the road from my house stands a tangle of trees and vines that appears deceptively dense at nighttime and during most of the daylight hours. In late afternoon, however, for a few magic moments, the sun angles its rays into the clearing on the other side of the narrow patch of woods and lights it from behind, making it glow like a Tiffany lamp.

It's easy to imagine barefoot young girls, wearing flowing white dresses and floral crowns with pastel ribbon streamers, joining hands and dancing in just such a clearing as this one, when the light is exactly like this. I know they must do it the minute I turn off my camera and turn my back.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cheese and Crackers, Crackers and Cheese

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Seven:  Lunch

Here at Casa Linda, lunch, like breakfast, is pretty much the same every day. I'm not a picky eater, and I like to keep things simple. 

This is my typical lunch: some kind of cheese, some kind of whole-wheat crackers, some kind of fruit. What isn't typical is the plate in the photo. The plate is there to make it pretty for you.

Normally, I wrap up the cheese and crackers in a paper-towel bundle, grab an apple or banana or cup o' fruit, a diet soft drink, and a book, then head outside. If the weather isn't nice enough for that, I eat at the table in the den, where sunshine can stream through the glass of the storm door and give at least a hint of a picnic.

Plain food seems to taste extra good when it's eaten in the fresh air. Birds sing, breezes blow, Levi and Gimpy romp nearby, and all's right with the world. Then again, lunching indoors has its good points, too. In here, at least, I'm not expected to throw a tennis ball between bites.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Those Colored Glasses

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Six:  Color

The house we bought when we moved to New York in 1973 had a large, L-shaped swimming pool. My girls were thrilled, even though it would be months before the weather would warm up enough for them to swim. When we sent photos of the house to our relatives, we included pictures of the backyard and the pool.

My mother-in-law was obviously thinking about the pool area when she picked out our Christmas gift that year. She sent us six of these bright plastic glasses:

I've always liked these. I like the way the light shines through them and the way they fit in my hand. They're sturdy, so they don't tip over, and they hold exactly the right amount of something cold and delicious.

My mother liked them, too. She first saw them when she visited us in 1978, after we had moved from New York to Georgia and again from Georgia to here in Louisiana. It didn't take her long to scout out a store that sold them and get a set for herself. From then on, when I visited Mother in East Texas, I drank from the same kind of glass I preferred at home. Mother's glasses came home with me thirteen years ago, shortly after she passed away.

The glasses aren't as transparent as they used to be, a result of forty years of dishwasher etching, but their bright jewel tones are as rich as ever. The red one on the top row has a  tiny chip in the rim, just big enough to worry with my finger while I hold the fat glass in my hand.

That one is my favorite. It always seems to be the flawed things that have the most character.


It's already Saturday again--time for another Saturday Song Selection. I was delighted to find this video that fits today's theme beautifully. The song is lovely, and the children's artwork is so special it may cause happy tears.

The song is "Colors" by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
Thanks to kidkongdw for posting this video on YouTube.
Click here to read the lyrics.

Friday, January 25, 2013

I Used to . . .

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Five:  Something You Made

Today's photo prompt hit me in the face like a splash of cold water. What do I have that I've made? And when did I stop making things? 

I used to make clothing for my daughters and myself. I used to paint bold designs directly onto walls in my house. I used to make Christmas ornaments and paint bright pieces of fruit on carved wooden plaques to hang in my kitchen. I hooked rugs. I painted still lifes in acrylics; they weren't masterpieces but were decent enough to frame. I did crewel embroidery, using stitches so tiny and distinct that a cluster of them realistically represented a woven basket or a fern or a flower. I used to clip pictures from newspapers or magazines and sketch enlargements of them for the sheer fun of it. Pictures like this one I found tucked away in a folder of old poems: 

I don't do any of those things anymore. The last thing I sketched that I liked was a picture of Butch as he slept a few feet away from me. Knowing he'd move as soon as I did, I drew with what was available: a ballpoint pen and a folded paper towel. It was a good enough likeness that I wanted to keep it, but paper towels, I soon learned--especially those that have been folded to keep crumbs from spilling--get tossed in the trash without a second glance.

These days "something I make" is likely to be no more complex than meatloaf or soup or a salad, and the only thing I ever draw is a conclusion. It feels like all my creativity leaked out a long time ago, while I wasn't looking. Sadly, I never even noticed it was gone.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Will You Accept This Rose?

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Four:  Guilty Pleasure

I missed the entire first season of The Bachelor by choice. The promos didn't interest me. Then, near the end of the second season, my sister mentioned that the latest bachelor was from our hometown in Missouri, so I tuned in to check him out. From then until now (the 17th season) I've seen every episode. And also every episode of The Bachelorette,  Bachelor Pad, and (so far) three special wedding events

I know. I can't believe it myself.  

I can't think of a single redeeming quality of this show, yet there I am again, every Monday night, sitting on the sofa in front of the TV, dinner plate balanced on my lap and diet soda handy on the table right beside me. And I'm happy that the show is coming on. And happy that it's two hours long.

So why do I watch? I used to tell myself that the fun thing about the show was trying to predict who'd be the last bachelorette standing. These days I go online and read spoilers, so I know who the "winner" is almost from the beginning. And still I watch. So, no, that part's fun if you have more self-discipline than I do, but that's not what has me hooked.

Here's what I think it is:

I enjoy people watching. As an introvert, I've spent plenty of time lurking near the periphery of parties and other social gatherings, just listening, watching the other people there, paying attention to their facial expressions, body language, behavior in general, trying to detect their true natures. And I think that's what appeals to me about The Bachelor: It's a great opportunity to observe total strangers and make judgments about them. Those judgments might change from week to week, depending on how the show is edited, but it's affirming to know by the end of the season that I picked out the "good people" early on. What makes it better than real life is that my judgments, right or wrong, have no consequences--for those strangers or for me.

One part of the show I especially like--and maybe the part that generates the most guilt--comes at the end of each episode, when the bachelor passes out roses to the bachelorettes he wants to keep around for a while. I love watching the women's faces while they're all lined up, waiting to see whether they'll get a rose or get dumped on national television. How wicked is it to get such a kick out of watching them squirm?

I am not proud of this, but I'll keep watching anyway. It could be worse. At least it isn't Honey Boo Boo.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Relative Term

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Three:  Something Old

My house is full of old things. I've been thinking about them, trying to decide which one to photograph for today's post. You've already seen some of the oldest items I have: the letter written to my great-great-great-grandfather in 1858, my great-grandmother's family bible  from the late 1890s, the bone-handled knife that was my grandparents' wedding gift in 1919. I haven't yet shown you my grandfather's WWI army enlistment document or the pouch of rations booklets my great-aunt saved from WWII, but those deserve respectful posts of their own someday.

So I looked around. And decided, finally, on this:

I first became acquainted with Frances Denney's Interlude in 1967, and it immediately became my favorite scent. I wore it for years and years and years, never tiring of the fragrance or the frequent compliments it generated.

It's still available, apparently. The bottle hasn't even changed much. And it's still drawing rave reviews. It tickled me to read some of those reviews and see that they were as much about memory associations as they were about the product.

When I came across this old bottle of cologne in my house, I was surprised to find it. I had  stopped wearing scents in the early '90s, after grass and pollen allergies suddenly expanded to include other people's colognes and aftershave lotions. According to my calculations, that makes the bottle of cologne in the photo more than twenty years old.

Old is a relative term, don't you think? Twenty years seems ridiculously old for cologne, but you see the cracked-glass lamp that's behind it in the picture? That lamp was my mother's. I don't know for sure how old it is, but I dug around a little bit yesterday and found it in a snapshot dated December 1960. And that walnut table the lamp is sitting on? That's actually the Danish Modern cabinet of a sewing machine, a gift from my father when my younger daughter was ten months old, making it 48 this month. The lamp and the sewing machine are much older than the cologne, yet I don't think of them as being past some unspecified expiration date.

Old cologne, on the other hand, has an ick factor. I wouldn't wear it even if I didn't have allergies. Nevertheless, curiosity got the best of me yesterday. I threw caution to the wind, took the lid off the bottle, and took a big whiff. You know what? It smells as good as I remembered.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thinking Outside the Shoebox

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-Two:  Your Shoes

At the bottom of the photo above are two pairs of shoes grabbed from my closet at random. ("Random" in this case means they were at the top of the heap.) These are representative of the shoes I wear now: always flat, almost always with non-skid soles.

At the top of the picture, lined up carefully and lovingly on an overturned basket, are a few pieces from my collection of four-inch shoe sculptures. Those represent the kind of shoes I always imagined myself wearing.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Reflections and Connections

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty-One:  Reflection

In this photo the northeastern corner of my den is reflected in the dome-shaped glass that covers a wedding portrait of my great-grandparents, Dora and Joe Elliott. Seeing them this way, with my bookshelves appearing to be behind them, makes me feel as if I've captured an image of their spirits standing together in my home. I know that isn't true, but I like the idea of it anyway.

Today is Dora's birthday, which coincidence escaped me until I began writing this post. She was born this day in 1871 in Neosho, Missouri. Her grandson, my mother's youngest brother, was born on her 65th birthday in 1936 and was also named Joe. Five years later, on Dora's 70th birthday, my mother worried the family (according to her later recollection) by not showing up for their double birthday celebration. That was the day she eloped with my father.

How's all that for some reflection?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Way Love Grows

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twenty:  Someone You Love

The brand-new photo snapped for purposes of today's challenge is this one, showing my hand holding a Christmas card:

The delightful boy in the picture is my great-grandson, Owen. He's the someone I love. His mother, my granddaughter Kalyn, took the photo on the card. She's someone I love, too. Kalyn's mother is my daughter Kelli, whom I also love.

Love, in a heart where it exists at all, expands effortlessly and boundlessly to encompass each new generation, each new child. It's like magic, the way love grows.

Saturday, January 19, 2013


One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Nineteen:  Sweet

These little newborn shoes are yellowed with age and flattened from fifty years of storage, but every time I see them I remember the tiny feet that wore them when they were brand new. How pink those little tootsies were. How soft when I pressed them to my lips. How sweet, those perfect baby feet with their nibbly toes.


Basking in thoughts of babies, I'll dedicate this week's Saturday Song Selection to both my daughters, precious baby girls who grew up to be bright, beautiful, loving women. I wonder if they've known, as they've navigated their lives so far, that they've held my heart in their hands every step of the way.


The song is "For Rosanna" by Chris de Burgh.
Thanks to Winsford MM for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here for the lyrics.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Grab Your Coat and Get Your Hat

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Eighteen:  Something You Bought

While I was Christmas shopping for others, I bought this knit cap for myself:

It might make you think I'm a sports fan. I'm sure that if I were a sports fan, I'd join the throngs who cheer for LSU, but the truth is I've never been interested in sports. Unless you count gymnastics and figure skating.

This cap was the first one I saw on that shopping trip, and I'm a big fan of warm ears.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nourishing the Enemy

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Seventeen:  Water

Frankly, I'm sick of water after nearly two weeks of rainy days. This morning, waking up to the beauty of early-morning sunshine streaming in through lace curtains, I breathed a sigh of relief and felt my face reshape itself into a big grin. Thank goodness for a dry, sunny day!

Minutes later, outside with the dogs and the camera, I took a few shots of the puddles of water still standing in the backyard; they're shining like glass today but didn't photograph well. I thought about taking a short drive to snap a picture of a still swollen canal or bayou, but (now that I don't have to) I avoid getting out on the roads during morning rush hour. 

In the end I decided to post this close-up of water droplets on one of the several varieties of weeds that are trying to take over my lawn. The rain has been good for them. They're looking greener and healthier every day.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Early Morning Mist

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Sixteen:  Morning

I took this photo of a treetop just beyond my back fence early yesterday morning, when the air was damp but not actively dripping for a change, and I could take the camera outside without damaging it.

It's raining again this morning, so a picture of the same scene today would look slightly blurrier.

Actually, the image above is a fairly accurate representation of my relationship with mornings. I'm not a morning person. I like mornings just fine, but the early hours aren't the best part of my day. My mind is misty then, like the sky in the photo, and my  thoughts shoot off in all directions, criss-crossing each other without apparent direction,  the way these branches do. That makes me a slow starter. It takes a little time--and often a little caffeine--for the mist in my head to burn away.

At the moment, while I'm clearheaded, I'm taking a closer look at this photo and noticing all those dark clumps in the treetop. Are they nests? If so, I hope they're bird nests and not those of some other, less desirable creature. They appear to be made of mud. And look how many there are, all clustered together in the tallest part of the tree like some sort of avian, high-rise condos.

I've just now searched on the Internet and in the Audubon bird guide book, trying to figure out what kind of birds build nests like these, but those searches were cursory and unsuccessful. If you know the answer, will you tell us, please? Otherwise, this could end up as one more unanswered question among those that already clutter up my foggy morning brain.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Hour

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Fifteen:  Happiness

I showed you a dog picture when the photo challenge prompt was "makes you smile," so maybe you aren't too surprised that I'm posting another one to represent today's theme.

Gimpy and Levi

Happiness? They have a lot to do with my happiness. Toys have a lot to do with theirs.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Books: The Places We Go and the People We Meet

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Fourteen:  Something You're Reading

"Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home."
--Anna Quindlen, How Reading Changed My Life

E-book text has been distorted in this photo 
to avoid copyright infringement.
What can I say? I'm a diehard rule follower.

I am a nester. A homebody. Home is a sanctuary, a place where I can do as I please, scratch where it itches, and, more important, let the walls fall down and simply be who I am. But I like to travel, too, and I enjoy meeting new people--just not too many of them at one time. Does any of that help to explain why books have played such an important role in my life?

From the comfort and safety of my home, I can open a book and find myself in another place or even another era, having an experience that may be exciting, frightening, romantic, enlightening, deeply moving, or all of the above. I can get so well acquainted with the characters that they become friends--or enemies--almost as if they were flesh and blood. I learn who and what they care about, what motivates them, what scares them, and whether or not they can be trusted. And I learn all of that quickly, without a lot of real-life dilly-dallying and annoying small talk.

As much as I love books made of paper and ink, I've learned to appreciate the fact that I can download an e-book at any time of the day or night, which means I'm never without late-night reading material. The library is still the most cost effective way to read, but I'm grateful for my Kindle.

The e-book I'm reading right now is Murder on the Mind by L.L. Bartlett. It's about a former private investigator who is recovering from a brain injury and suddenly finds himself having visions of people and incidents connected to a real-life murder. I chose this book because the writing seemed good and the Kindle edition was free on It turns out that the price was a pretty good marketing strategy. The book is part of a series, and, at a third of the way into it, I feel pretty sure I'll be willing to pay for others in the same series.

Finally, I'm going to turn this particular photo challenge topic into one of my regular "What I've Been Reading" posts. Opportunistic much?

Murder on the Mind by L. L. Bartlett:

Crazy Little Thing by Tracy Brogan:

The Inner Circle by Brad Meltzer:

To read a description and reviews of any of these books,
click on its image above.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Not Yet Ready to Bag It!

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Thirteen:  In Your Bag

This photo challenge is eating my days, chewing them up and swallowing them, leaving me with a messy house but a smile on my face. I'm enjoying the pursuit of the goal.

The search for photos that fit each day's theme has made me pay attention to everything around me, things that are so deeply imbedded in my surroundings that I never even notice them anymore. Now I'm seeing them again as if for the first time. It's been a fun, eye-opening experience, but it comes at a cost. I know that If I continue to neglect other responsibilities until the end of the month, the people at TLC may resurrect Clean Sweep and come to my house to shoot the first new episode.

I've decided to give myself permission to tweak the rules of this challenge. Just typing that last sentence strikes me as silly, because I've never actually seen any specific rules. I assumed that the object was to take a new photo each day to represent that day's theme, and I've been following my own assumption religiously. How anal-retentive is that? Especially since I've had the list of prompts for the entire month from the beginning.

It's been extremely time consuming to start each day with a brand-new search for a shot to match the photo prompt, then upload the images to my computer, choose the best one,  edit it if necessary, upload it to Blogger, write something about it, post it, then spend the rest of the day thinking about how I wanted to interpret the next day's theme. From now on, I'm not going to consider each new day a blank slate.

As I said, I have the list. I know what prompts are coming up. I'll take brand-new photos for everything on that list, but they won't be same-day photos anymore, unless I fall behind and have to scramble. Taking the photos in advance will relieve a lot of the pressure by allowing me to put a blog post together in bits and pieces. Doing it all in one fell swoop (why do I always want to say "one swell foop"?) is more than I can handle. 


In rereading everything I just wrote, I've recognized another reason why this challenge is devouring so much of my time: I'm wordy and long-winded. I should have just changed the rules in my own mind, kept my mouth shut, and saved your time as well as mine. I doubt anyone would have known the difference. Or cared about it if they did.

(Ahem.) Back to today's challenge . . .

Here's a photo I shot just this morning to show you what's in my bag:

The tan leather organizer (a Pouchee,  which I love) contains credit cards, checkbook, cash, cell phone, keys, address book, sunglasses, comb, a combination mirror/hairbrush, a pen, a few blank index cards (for taking notes), a pack of chewing gum, and an emergency protein bar. The little floral bag at the lower left of the photo holds toiletries: dental floss, toothpicks, lens cleaner packets, breath strips, and emergency medications such as low-dose aspirin, Tylenol, antihistamine tablets, and Imodium (in case I'm eating out and won't be home for a long time). Sometimes I drop a lipstick in there, too. The brightly colored item at the bottom of the photo is a neat packet of tissues.

That's it. My purse is tidy. If only I could say the same thing about my house. And my mind.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

There's a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea . . .

. . . aaaaaand . . . there's a crack in the driveway by my house.

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Twelve:  Close-up

Okay, now, sing along with me:

There's a crack in the driveway by my house,
There's a crack in the driveway by my house,
There's a crack, there's a crack,
There's a crack in the driveway by my house.

There's moss in the crack in the driveway by my house.
There's moss in the crack in the driveway by my house.
(You know how the rest of this verse goes.)

There's rain in the moss in the crack in the driveway by my house.

There's an acorn in the rain in the moss in the crack in the driveway by my house . . .

. . . aaaaaand I took a close-up shot of the acorn in the moss to post for you:


It's also time for a Saturday Song Selection. This week's song is a current one for a change, one I've been listening to a lot since I heard it recently on "The Voice." It's a beautiful song. I'll admit that its connection to today's post is vague, but I really wanted to share it with you, and there is a subtle reference to photography in the lyrics: "Don't want your picture on my cell phone. . ."


The song is "Here With Me" by The Killers.
Thanks to BrBa1015 for posting the video and lyrics on YouTube.

Friday, January 11, 2013

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Eleven:  Where You Sleep

This is it. This is where I sleep.

It's also where I spend my last waking hour each day, reading and, frequently, because my cholesterol medicine is to be taken with food, nibbling a short stack of unsalted crackers, washing them down with a caffeine-free Diet Cherry 7-Up. (I can eat crackers in my bed anytime, baby.)

I love that last hour of the day when the house settles down. The TV is off, the dogs are asleep, and the sounds that seep in from outside are mostly pleasant ones: the croak of tree frogs, the hoot of an owl, a distant train whistle, or maybe--especially lately--a steady rain.

It occurred to me to make the bed before I photographed it today, to pile on the pretty shams and tatted-lace throw pillows you can see peeking out from the corner of the photo. But I don't sleep with those pillows and, to be honest, I don't always make the bed. Sometimes I just close the door.

The pictures on the wall behind the bed are my own water-lily photos, enlarged and framed last year as a thoughtful gift from my stepsister, Donna. The white object hanging by a cord over the headboard is the temperature control for an electric blanket, a 2012 Christmas gift from Kim. On the nightstand, all within arm's reach, are books, tissues, a clock radio, a lamp, a TV remote control, and a telephone. On the chest of drawers is a jewelry box that belonged to my great-aunt Hazel, a lovely antique glass dish that was also passed down through the family (Mammaw's, I think), and two dark cherry-wood boxes, one containing Kadi's ashes, the other holding Butch's. Their collars and tags rest on top.

I like this room. It feels good to me. When I lie in that bed, the reflection I see in the tall mirror hanging on the closet door is that of an old woman who is happy, safe, and contented.

Where do I sleep? I sleep in serenity.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Color Me a Kid Again

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Ten: Childhood

Today's topic was a tough one for me because there were so many options. Should I post about my own childhood? My children's? Childhood in general? Those choices were narrowed down somewhat by the fact that it's storming outside and the photo I post needs to be shot today. Then I thought of something that's inside my warm, dry house and symbolizes practically everyone's childhood: crayons.

Which child among you didn't love them? The bright colors, the way they smelled, the way they felt in your fingers, the way they melted if you were able to sneak one outside and leave it there long enough to watch the process?

Each year at the beginning of school I begged for the big box, and, usually, I got it. Money was tight at our house, but one thing Mother understood was that art sometimes depends on having the right shade of pink.

In preparation for today's photo, I looked in the old file box that still contains cards and drawings my girls made when they were little. I lingered over each one, loving it as much now as I did the first time I saw it. Because I couldn't choose between them, I decided to go with the oldest crayon drawing in my house, one of my own:

This one, drawn when I was "3 years, 3 months" old according to Mother's handwritten note, is pasted into the yellowed pages of my baby book. Mother labeled parts of the drawing: "ears," "belly button," and (eloquently) "titties," presumably because that's what I called them when I pointed them out to her. She also noted, "Slightly crooked but she explained she was bending over looking for her shoes and stockings."

That drawing is one month shy of being 67 years old. And that pile of crayons under the book? Those are the ones I have now. Crayons were with me early in my first childhood and, by golly, they're with me in the second one.

I don't melt them anymore.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013


One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Nine:  Daily Routine

My daughters and I agreed a few months ago that I would send a text message to both of them every day within a designated time frame. If they don't hear from me, they'll call; if I don't answer, they'll check with each other, then one or both of them will come. 

I knew I'd find reassurance in the addition of this safety measure to my daily routine, but it didn't occur to me beforehand that I'd look forward to their brief responses as much as I do. That little text exchange has become a happy connection, a bright spot in each day. They always send a few short words that make me smile.

It's raining hard today. Here's the message I sent (complete with typo):

Good morning! Hope you stay safe and dry today--and hope you can still tread water jist in case. Love you SO much!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

When I Look to the Sky

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Eight:  Your Sky

Is there any other part of nature that can alter one's mood as easily and as frequently as the sky does? I can't think of another one. 

Usually, when the sky is blue, I am not. At dawn on the days when the sky is pink or yellow and at sunset when it's a fiery orange-red, I feel alive, inspired, energized, and ├╝ber-lucky to have a ticket to that show. Even when the sky turns black and foreboding, there's an energy about it that stirs excitement. Who can be bored when lightning flashes, thunder crashes, and rain pours down in heavy sheets? 

Then there are the gray days. They range from drab to downright gloomy, and they settle around my shoulders like a dirty, wet, woolen blanket. I fight those gray days. Unless I stay indoors with the lights on and do something to generate some inner sunshine, I sink under the weight of that wet blanket and begin to brood.

Here's a photo of "my" sky from earlier this morning, when it still held a little patch of promise:

Right now it's rainy. Not thunderstorm rainy, just drippy, droopy, shades of gray, an ordinary rainy day. But I'm here with you now and happy to be here. 

Now, if you want to test whether or not the sky can really lift your spirits, click here (to go to my photo blog) and see the sky as I saw it from the same spot just four days ago. Trust me, it's worth a mouse click.  

Monday, January 07, 2013

Favorite Words to Live By

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Seven:  Favorite

It's been somewhere around forty years since I first heard Max Ehrmann's "Desiderata" recited by a group of sixth-graders, twenty-seven years that a framed copy of it has been hanging in my home, and nearly seven years since I wrote here about how much it means to me.

It now hangs over a bookcase near my backdoor, where I come face-to-face with it a dozen times a day and stop to read it more often than you'd expect after all these years. It covers many of the basic premises of the Bible, except they're mostly stated as dos instead of don'ts. I like that about it. I also like that it doesn't contain any references to hellfire and damnation. While threats can be motivational, I suppose, they've never inspired me at all.

Here's the text so you can "go placidly" and be inspired yourself:

by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story.  <<>>  Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.  <<>>  Keep interested in your career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.  <<>>  Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass.  <<>> Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.  <<>>  You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.  <<>>  Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.  <<>>  With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Canine Comic

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Six:  Makes You Smile

There are plenty of things that make me smile on any given day, but as soon as I read this photo prompt, I knew I'd post a dog picture. Living with Levi and Gimpy is like living in the circus: They look like lions and they act like clowns. 

Even when they sleep, they're funny. Here's Gimpy, napping with his head tucked into a tight place, to prove it:

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Golden Earrings

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Five:  Something You Wore

When I was a child, it was rumored that there were two kinds of women who had their ears pierced: gypsies and floozies. Nice women wore earrings, of course, but they were the clip-on kind. The kind that inflicted torture on tender lobes.

By the time my daughters were young teens, pierced ears had become mainstream, and my girls were allowed to follow the fashion. I was chicken, though. I believe it was on my 42nd birthday that my mother and sister took me to an East Texas mall and convinced me to get my own ears pierced.

I was delighted with the look and with the fact that I could wear earrings that didn't pinch, but my body wasn't as excited as I was about the style change. Over and over my earlobes became infected until finally I gave up and let the pierced holes heal closed.

After that I tried for a while to go back to wearing clip-on earrings, but I was older then, and wiser, and no longer willing to tolerate the pain that went along with having something shiny dangling from my ears. I gave up earrings altogether. That was probably at least 15 years ago.

And yet I still have most of them, matching pairs tucked away in a drawer. I don't know why I've kept them. They aren't valuable. All but the smallest ones are gold-plated at best, and there are no special memories attached to any of them. Now that I've pulled them out to photograph them, it would make sense to get rid of them, but, honestly, I don't know if I'm ready to do it.

When I realized this morning that I'll probably put the earrings right back where they came from, I asked myself why I'm attached to them. The only answer that seems to make sense is that they represent a time when femininity was a larger part of my life than it is now. A time of earrings, high heels, flirty dresses, and strong attractions to good-looking men.

I've moved on from those days and haven't missed them in a long, long time. My life today is happy and full, and my style leans more toward casual and comfortable. But those days, those girlier days? They were mostly good ones, too.


It's Day 5 of the photo challenge, and it's also Saturday, so I've selected a song that fits nicely with today's photo. (If I'd gone in a different direction for the photo challenge, you'd be listening to lyrics that contain the words, "blue jean baby queen.")


The song is "Golden Earrings" by Willie Nelson.
Thanks to Panaglotis Giaourtsakos for posting the video on YouTube.
Click here for the lyrics.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Rural Route

One-a-Day Photo Challenge
Day Four:  Letterbox

My first instinct was to post a picture of a mailbox for today's photo challenge, but that didn't seem very creative. There are other kinds of letterboxes, after all.

There's the treasure-hunting hobby called letterboxing. It sounds like an interesting pastime, but it isn't one of mine, so I have nothing that relates to it to photograph.

There is also letterbox video, which is what you see when those black bands appear above and below the widescreen movie you're watching on your (old) television set. I probably could have flipped through enough channels to capture a shot of that, but I didn't want to spend my morning watching TV, and I get hooked so easily.

So I went back to Plan A:

(Mailbox lettering obscured to preserve privacy of neighbors.)

You know what? I had fun! I walked to the end of my driveway to see whose nearby mailbox provided the most scenic background and started snapping pictures. Our road is a busy one. To avoid alarming drivers by aiming my lens in their direction, I pointed it up into the trees a lot. And there were woodpeckers in there!

Photographing birds is much more fun than photographing mailboxes. Most of my woodpecker shots are blurry--all that rat-a-tat head motion, you know--but a couple of them are really nice. And on the way back up the driveway I captured a nice shot of a hawk landing in a tree in my neighbor's yard.

Not a bad way to spend a cold winter morning.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Better Late Than Never

In her comment on my last post, Alison, who writes at "Inspired Work of Self-Indulgence," invited me to participate with her in a one-a-day photo challenge for this month. Since I already post a different photo every day at "A One-Pic Pony," I wasn't sure if I wanted to accept another commitment. Then I asked myself, "What's the worst that could happen?"

It's not as if I've never broken a commitment. I've been married and divorced twice without being plagued by guilt, so I expect I can live through missing a photo deadline if I have to. Not that I intend for that to happen. Besides, this challenge is different, and it could be fun.

On my photo blog, I choose whatever image (old or new) appeals to me at a given moment--as long as it's my own photo and I've never published it before on that blog. For this challenge I'll be taking a new picture each day and tying it to a theme that's already been designated for that day. That concept appeals to me.

So, Alison, thank you for the invitation, and I'll be happy to join you. As I'm already two days late getting started, I'll catch up right now:

Day One: You

That's you as in me, not you as in you. Since time's a-wastin', I took my camera to the bathroom mirror a little while ago and shot this self-portrait, sans makeup:

That's my skeptical, I-don't-know-if-this-is-gonna-work expression. It's not glamorous, but hey, at least I was out of my bathrobe. (Note: For the record, the only touchup that was done to this image was the digital erasure of two spots of toothpaste from the mirror. I wasn't about to polish the whole thing just for this.)


Day Two: Breakfast

What do you mean, "Yuck!"? It's water and a protein bar, and the best thing about it is I get hydrated and nourished without having to give it a lot of thought. Besides, that protein bar has chocolate and peanut butter in it -- and no sugar!


Day Three (Today): Something You Adore

I adore Levi's eyes. He's been with me for two years now, and I still get a little rush every time I see how beautiful they are. Unfortunately, he wasn't particularly interested in showing them just when I wanted to take his picture, so you can see a piece of my hand at the bottom of the photo, lifting his face into the light.

P.S.  I'll bet he could hypnotize people if he could learn to maintain eye contact.
P.P.S.  I envy his natural eyeliner.

How Full Is Your Glass?

My daughter dropped me off at home yesterday just after dark. We'd spent the afternoon  seeing a really good movie (Life of Pi) with a new friend, and I was in a great mood. Coming from the cold and rain into my cozy house felt like walking into a warm hug, and Levi and Gimpy made me smile with their obvious delight at having me home again. Life is good, I thought for the umpteenth time of the day.

The good mood lasted through the evening, only beginning to wane after I read something online that oozed negativity. I know I'm susceptible to getting the blues after too much exposure to other people's bad moods. In fact, it's taken me years to learn that sometimes I can do or say something to lift someone's spirit, and sometimes, for the care and well being of my own inner child, I just need to step away.

Anyway, that set me to thinking about optimism versus pessimism. I know some people for whom the glass always seems to be half full and others who usually find it half empty. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized that "half empty" and "half full" don't cover all the variations. There's a whole scale of possibilities in that glass.

My own optimism, for example, is frequently tempered by an innate ability to spot a potential problem the way a hawk spots a field mouse. (It's why I'm usually never caught in the rain without an umbrella.) My kids would be quick to tell you that once I think I've uncovered a possible glitch, I feel compelled to point it out. That's true, unfortunately, but only (as the lawyers say) out of an abundance of caution. I don't dwell on it. So, most days I could declare confidently that my glass is half full, but on other days I might say, "My glass is already down to half full; isn't it good that I noticed it so I can refill it before the reservoir goes dry?"

Consider another woman I know. I see her infrequently (by choice) because her glass is always, always half empty or below. Also, it's always someone else's fault. Her response to the half full or half empty question would likely be, "While I was away today, some sorry son of a gun (and I'm pretty sure I know who it was) came to my house and drank half my water. He thinks I'm stupid, but he's got another think coming! He prob'ly tells everybody, 'Oh, she's got plenty of water.' He believes he's, like, entitled to any and everything I have, and he couldn't care less whether I live or die. People can be sooo cruel."

So what about you? Is your glass clearly half full or half empty? If it's not so clear, how would you characterize it?

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Repetition: The Key to Successful Training

The morning routine around here has been the same for a long time: get out of bed, use the bathroom, let the dogs out, give them a treat when they come back in, grab a protein bar and a bottle of water, and sit down in front of the computer to read while I eat breakfast. A couple of weeks ago the dogs added another item to that list, and it, too, has become a regular part of our routine.

While I'm sitting at the computer, Levi and Gimpy come running around the corner together--it's always both of them--put their front paws first on my knees as they rise up on their hind legs, and then on my shoulders. The trick to getting them down without using force, I've discovered, is to ask one question: "What?" As soon as they hear that word, they jump down, turn around, and walk away, watching me over their shoulders to make sure I'm following them. They go only a few feet away, then promptly drop into a sitting position and look back and forth from my face to the basket of dog toys that sits on top of Gimpy's crate.

The first time they did this, I was charmed by their collaborative efforts. I'd love to know how they communicate with each other when they come up with ideas like this. I still find it charming, in fact, so I'm always quick to move the basket down to the floor for them and wait while they choose a toy. Nine times out of ten they each choose a tennis ball, even if there are already half a dozen identical balls scattered around the den in plain sight, but they check out all the toys carefully before making their decisions.

Gimpy seems to get more excited than Levi does about the selection process. He watches Levi closely, waiting to choose his own toy until he sees what Levi takes out of the basket. Once Levi has made his choice, Gimpy quickly picks a toy of his own. Levi takes his toy to the futon, Gimpy takes his into the crate. About a minute later, Levi leaves his toy on the futon, jumps down and walks away. That's Gimpy's signal to drop his toy onto the bedding in the crate and go get whatever toy Levi left on the futon. And then--if you have dogs of your own, you already know this--Levi goes into the crate and gets Gimpy's toy.

That's it. Every day, like clockwork. They steal toys from each other all day long, of course, but they only ask me to get the toy basket down once a day. Since there are almost always other toys scattered around, I don't think this exercise is as much about their needing something different to play with as it's about training me to perform consistently at their command.

I don't know what kind of grade Levi and Gimpy would give me, but I think I'm doing a pretty good job.

Levi (rear) and Gimpy