Monday, December 29, 2008

Congress Shall Make No Law. . . .

Congress Shall Make No Law

For Moody Monday: Resolute.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Path

Path to Beach

I believe. . .

I believe that Nature gives the best gifts of all.
Today I saw a bald eagle fly overhead.

Overhead

(Not the eagle. I think this is a red-tail hawk).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Shore Birds and Surf

Shore Birds and Surf

The Pacific Northwest Coast in winter is an entirely different world. No traffic, no cars, no stores, no crises. Just wind, waves, water and birds.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Planes, Taxis, Buses and Hiking

The Plane that Never Flew

Well, another vacation rife with weather delays. Our trip started Sunday with the cancellation of our flight from Chicago to Seattle due to a blizzard in Seattle, of all places. I can't tell you how exciting it is to take a round trip vacation to O'Hare airport. Not to mention that our luggage could not be retrieved when they canceled our flight.
The next flight we could get to the West Coast was two days later to Vancouver, British Columbia. Now, Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the whole world but that didn't make it convenient under the circumstances. We were able to fly to Vancouver Tuesday but only barely given the weather there. They too were having intermittent airport closures. We met a gentleman in Vancouver who had flown from Toronto en route to Sydney and had been in Vancouver for two days already.

Vancouver airport in snow

So there we were in Vancouver, our luggage allegedly in Seattle. We checked in to a hotel and tried valiantly to get a rental car. No cars to be had in the entire region! We managed to find a bus to take us to downtown Seattle despite plenty of snow in both Vancouver and Seattle.

Richmond

We also managed to take in a wonderful Chinese dinner and a great Chinese breakfast (my first) near the airport and did some frantic last minute shopping in a pan-Asian shopping mall across the street from our hotel. Then off to the bus.
Some 6-7 hours later we arrive in Seattle only to be told that there are no taxis available. Fortunately as our cab driver later explained that was a lie. The hotel had a deal with a private operator and was shunned by local cab agencies. We flagged down a cab by the Seattle Center and headed to my father's house. Alas the cab could not make it up the final snowy hill and we had to walk the last 10 blocks or so. Hiking up a snowy hill seemed the fitting end to our trek, or almost. I say almost because we have yet to see our luggage. It might be at the airport. Then again, who knows? If we can make it from where we are currently staying to the airport tomorrow, we will try to retrieve our stuff. Until then we survive on borrowed clothes.

Trees in Snow

But our spirits are bright though the skies are gray and snowy. I finish with a quote from my older son after an hour of sledding: "Ahh, my butt is cold!"
Happy holidays to all!
Sarala

Monday, December 22, 2008

One for Each Night

Happy Chanukah to one and all, whatever you believe, or don't.

One for Each Night

Saturday, December 20, 2008

December is the Cruelest Month

Yearning to Escape

Actually T.S. Eliot said it was April, but I beg to differ. Tomorrow I leave Chicago for a much needed vacation. I'm not fleeing the snow as some might assume, I'm fleeing my job. December is the month of depression, spiritual and moral crises and physical decline. I need a break from morbidity and morbidness. I need to go where no one needs me for more than a load of wash done from time to time.
Mind you, I love my work. Honestly. But I feel drained and need my moment of replenishment. My husband feels I'm somehow addicted to vacation but he doesn't have my job.
Doing my "drive-by" photography I can turn my brain off except for scanning the scene for a good photo or an unsafe situation. Yesterday, I picked up, I humbly hope, a few good photos. I missed one of a new bird for my life list. I saw my first Kingfisher! He flew before I could cautiously park my car and gingerly climb through the piles of snow. I also saw a car go into a 360 degree spin on the highway. Fortunately no one, including myself was hurt! That was a moment to remember.
The days are going to be getting longer. Three cheers for the solstice. If I ever invent a new religion it will have to involve sun worship and long jaunts to tropical islands.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Red and White House

Best Siding and Trim Award

I just thought I'd share a photo of this strikingly decorated home. And now I'm off to take more pictures. We're having heavy snow here. Hope you are all safe and warm.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dance Mania and a Cautionary Tale

Party Scene1

I had a busy but fabulous weekend. My younger son and I danced in three performances of a local Nutcracker production. I was the equivalent of an extra on a movie set, part of a group of around 10 adults who adorn the party scene. My son was in a starring role and it was wonderful to see him dance. It was tiring but fun and now it is hard to get back to a work/school routine. Fortunately next week is winter vacation!
One bit of ugliness happened yesterday which marred my joy in posting photos of this event. I've always had some reluctance about posting pictures of children, mine and others. I read once on a photography forum about parents objecting to other parents posting birthday party pictures with shots of their child in it. Since then I've tried to be ultra-sensitive.
Here's what happened. Yesterday I threw caution to the wind a posted a couple of pictures of the ballet. I wanted to share the photos with my friends and possibly other parents in the community. I figured with hundreds of people in the audience, many taking pictures or video of their own, what was the harm? After all last year someone posted some video on YouTube.
One of the nicer photos was of the Nutcracker and Clara interacting with the Snow King and Queen. All are in costume and it was beautiful. Well, one of my photos on Flickr was marked as a favorite (a Flickr way to earmark photos) by a stranger. I went to his site because I like to check out the folks who favorite my photos. Generally we share a love of photography and have a particular interest in common. Being "favorited" is usually a compliment.
Turns out this fellow chose this particular photo because the Snow King was wearing tights and he has a fetish. Literally. His Flickr groups include "Men in Tights" and "Tights Fetish." I blocked the guy immediately and pulled the photo from public viewing. I wish I could chew him out though. I don't care what turns him on at home but the kid he was ogling is 14! I am so glad said kid's parents won't know about this. I feel a bit contaminated myself.
Moral of the story: beware what you post. There are ugly people out there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Fish That Got Away

Seeing Double

Today, I had planned a day of photography. But another of a string of emergencies or "urgencies" got in the way and I only had a quick half hour to take a few shots. During a bout of internal whining I realized that life is full of opportunities that get away and I need to stop focusing on them.
It happens to me often enough. I'm on vacation and the kids were tired so we skipped a certain stop that I wanted. Work prevents a photo op. I made one choice that closed the door to another.
Whether these escaped "fish" are big or small, sometimes I need to remind myself that life is full of choices and that regrets are rarely helpful. Another case of do as I say, not as I do, doctor. Or to put it another way, physician heal thyself.
I just started a book, The Sharper Your Knife the Less You Cry, by Kathleen Flinn. This woman threw caution to the wind and lived out a dream which was to enroll as a student at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. As she puts it: "I could go now or spend my life wondering why I didn't. 'Life is not a dress rehearsal,' I whispered to myself."
Good for her, I say, but for me, right now, I need to get on with business. There is no life altering moment around the bend (that I am aware of) but I have no intention of having my epitaph be full of regrets either. I freely chose to be a certain kind of doctor, the compassionate kind who gives up photo ops to be there for her patients. I chose to have kids which means fewer side trips and less freedom to go where I want to while on vacation. But I also choose to go on vacation next week and not be there for my patients for 10 days. And I choose to take an afternoon off of parenting to take photos. Life is full of compromises. So be it.
My epitaph will hopefully be something like, "She lived well, played well, worked hard, indulged in her creative side and really, really cared about people."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

London Shop Fronts and All About My Thursday

Last Call

Roaming around the internet (as if I have nothing more important to do), I found this photography blog. It reminds me of what I hope to accomplish with some of my city photos. Anyway, I thought I'd share it.
Speaking of nothing to do: after much ado, I decided to take the day off today. Normally Thursdays are my longest day--I generally work from around 11:30 to 10. Tack on a 35-45 minute commute each way and it makes for a very long day.
The plan for today was go out for a brief photo shoot. The light is beautiful and the snow adds to the effect. I went out yesterday and had a great, if brief, outing. The only catch was the streets were pretty slippery and the sound my anti-lock brakes make as I slide past the stop sign into the intersection isn't pretty!
At 12:30 today I need to pick up my son from school. It's a short day--one of those teacher institute things, I think. Then we do a bit of shopping to work on our costumes and make-up for tonight's dress rehearsal. At 4 my son has his Nutcracker dress rehearsal which I join at 5. I think I might be a little anxious about the performances coming up--they are Saturday and Sunday. Last night I dreamed that I had forgotten the rehearsal today and arrived late and that I lost my costume. Of course, none of those things will really happen.
I feel a bit cheated though because I had to schedule an urgent appointment this morning. This means no photo outing for me. I didn't have to schedule this appointment but it was kinder not to let it wait until next week. So photos will have to wait.
Winter is long and there will be many other opportunities to stalk the snowy streets of the south side.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More on this little house



JL pointed out that this is a Sears Craftsman House. I'll take his word for it. What a great bit of architectural history, though. The Cook County Assessor's Office has this picture of the same house posted for 2000. It was in much better shape back then so I "borrowed" the photo.
I can't believe how much I learn off my internet network! Thanks JL and thanks to the Flickr contact who steered me to the county site.

How to Paint a Mondrian

Start with one house.

Fixer Upper

Close crop the siding.

Mondrian by Isulbrick

Rotate and color on Photoshop. Sample colors off reproduction of original Mondrian.

Faux Mondrian

The original Mondrian:

 


Thanks to Seth, a Flickr contact, for noting the resemblance between Insulbrick (an old type of siding) and art.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Moody Monday--Old and Decrepit

Burned and Abandoned

Glimpses of Chicago

B is for Blue Gloved Snowman

I'm enjoying my ambling through the far south side of Chicago. I've found new neighborhoods with each outing. Much of this area is flanked by large industrial complexes. I suspect the neighborhoods were more prosperous when the steel mills were active although I shudder to think of the pollution. The ethnic mix is broader than in my immediate neighborhood, as well. As I ventured into some more Hispanic areas, the Christmas decorations were more in evidence. Some houses were a bit over the top in my book.

Xmas on Hoxie

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tasteful Paint Job

Blue and White

Continuing a selection of homes from Chicago's south side.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Neighborhood Block Clubs

Block Club

Someday I am going to learn about Neighborhood Block Clubs, but today I need to go to work.
Happy Wednesday!

7300 s Drexel Block Club

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

O is for Out There

O is Out There

In search of new sights and new sites for my photography, I have been roaming ever farther south in Chicago and slightly out of Chicago. I've discovered new neighborhoods, small patches of wilderness, factories, boat docks and garbage dumps. The far south side holds onto its authenticity in the way the wealthier suburbs do not.
Small brick cottages line the streets instead of tracts of ranch or faux-colonial homes. Even the awnings have character. Don't you just want to know what enterprising awning salesman convinced half the neighborhood that they needed awnings with their last initial, I guess, on them?

Sweet Home Chicago

The obsessive compulsive collector in me wonders if I could find the whole alphabet. Now that is really out there!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I won!



I can't believe I wrote the whole thing! 50185 words.
Now I can get back to being a "normal" blogger. If there is such a thing.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Crossing the Finish Line?

Tomorrow is the end of my writing marathon. I'm still playing catch up but I think I will make it yet. 44,807 words is the latest count.
I took a few pictures yesterday but I probably won't get any posted until this is over tomorrow night.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

NaNo Home Stretch or Over the Hump?

the Action Road

38322 words!
So will I be able to do 10,000 words on Friday, Saturday and Sunday?
Wish me luck.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Took Me Long Enough

Happy Food

I finally got out and took a few photos. I've been preoccupied with writing, Nutcracker rehearsals, work and family obligations and my photos had been placed on a back burner. Today I dragged my sorry self out of the house and rediscovered my love of photographing Chicago's South Side. I discovered a few new areas that I will have to get back to.

Love Garden

NaNo update: 33160 words.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Boy Who Walks into Walls


or, Johnny Potter and the Order of Idiocy

Yesterday older son got the see the inside of the ER. Things were relatively quiet there so he only had to wait 6 hours to be taken care of.
The story goes he was goofing off in the hall at school and he ran into a display case. Apparently no blood was lost but he has a non-lightning-shaped scar on the middle of his forehead. Nowadays wounds are closed with glue. Neat!




Last night was Dad's turn to sit in emergency rooms. Mom was working late so she managed to break from work to run to the emergency room. There she sat and teased older son for a bit until she had to run home to pick up the car to pick up younger son. She dropped him off at home and went back to work where she proceeded to save the world, leap tall buildings in a single bound and otherwise cure cancer and mental illness. And she didn't utter even one unforgivable curse.

I blurred his face in the photo to preserve his privacy. Silly I know but I did it anyway.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A Feast for Da Gulls

A Feast for Gulls

Seagulls at the local dump? No tailgaters at a Chicago Bears game. I didn't go to the game but since I was stuck in traffic for a good 45 minutes I had time to take a few photos.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mother son teams

Jazz Dance

It is funny to me that two people have commented on how my son might find it embarrassing to have his mom up on stage with him. What you have to understand is my son is only 11 years old. He still thinks I am cool (except when I'm nagging him to do his homework). He's more embarrassed that he is a boy that dances than that I am a mom who has a bit part in his show.
I know this might change one of these days. I'm glad he doesn't think I'm embarrassing to have around. I try to be a cool mom without being a mom who tries too hard to be cool, if you know what I mean.
With my teenage son, it is the reverse. I'm embarrassed to be seen in public with him. Some times he gets into what I call "doofus mode" and I just want to hide. I think it is the overdose of testosterone or something that makes him act more juvenile than his 5 year younger brother.
I still can't focus on blogging and photography. Too much of my energy is invested in getting my NaNo story off the ground. I finally passed the half way point. 25669 words.

Monday, November 17, 2008

NaNo NaNo

Remember Mork and Mindy? Not if you're young.
I spent the weekend doing chores and typing madly. Progress is happening but I'm still playing catch up, hence not much blogging and fewer photos.
Word count is at 22772.
Tonight I have dinner to prepare, homework to help with (gotta hate those dangling participles) and a Nutcracker rehearsal. Yeah, I'm dancing in a local Nutcracker for the second year in a row. No, I'm not even remotely good at it. They just need my warm body as an "extra" more or less. My younger son has a lead role, though. He's the Nutcracker. Literally.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

More on Writing

Three

19,771 words.

What have I learned from this, my second year doing NaNoWriMo?
I think actually a lot. Last year I wrote on a whim. It was a story that I had stored in the back of my mind for years but there was no reason to believe it would ever go anywhere.
This year from reading, thinking and going to a writing workshop, I'm focusing more on the craft of writing. Dialog, imagery, point of view are going through my head fully as much as plot. I still can't do metaphors. Well, no one's perfect.
And surprise, surprise, I actually think the writing is better. For a first draft.
I have 30,000 more words before I have to figure out the ending to this story.
This is a good thing because I don't want to drop the thing mid thought or end with a trite "and he lived happily ever after."
I'm also thinking a lot about keeping up the tension of the story line. I want to know what will keep the reader moving from one chapter to the next. A good story has to be more than a string of interesting events. After all, I'm not trying to write a soap opera script! One theme is the growth of my character as a person. But I'm not sure what else will draw one forward. My essential brilliance as an author? I don't think so.
Well, live and learn.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cause it's work, work, work. . . .

17022 words. I'm shooting for 25,000 by Sunday. It is starting to feel more doable.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NaNo Update

Keeping up a steady but too slow pace. Now at 13,600 words. I had a few ideas for plot elements today which should help. I'm planning a writing marathon this weekend. I need to be at least at 20-25K since this weekend marks the halfway point. At least there is a long weekend coming up for Thanksgiving, even though I will be cooking turkey and entertaining too.
No time for a picture. Work calls.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

School Days

Avian Group Dynamics
Avian Group Dynamics

I thought I'd post about a strange experience I've had recently. A few weeks ago my secretary convinced me to join Facebook so we could play Scrabble together. This has been a lot of fun and there are a couple of other good word games.
Shortly after I joined, my best friend from middle school contacted me. We've kept loosely in touch but it still was a surprise to hear from her (plus I still can't think of her by her married name and it took me a minute to place who had written me). Through her I was "friended" by another classmate and next thing I knew there was a small list going around of people from my school. There were only 12 in my graduating class and about half of them are on the list and a number from the classes above and below.
At first the chatting was fairly simple reminiscing. Do your remember this class and that teacher? But it didn't take long before the conversation brought up old, painful memories. I was probably the least popular kid in my class. I didn't fit in for too many reasons to go into here. Kids that age form cliques and many of the kids in my group had known each other since they were babies (three were first cousins) and lived in the same neighborhood. I was definitely an outlier in personality and background and arrived at the school in 5th grade so I was the "new" kid.
So, like I said, here I am again on the outside. They're chatting about playing "spin the bottle" and I'm figuring I wasn't invited to that party. They're chatting about cheating on a test and I'm remembering refusing to cheat and being furious that I would get a bad grade because I hadn't memorized the answer sheet. I then remember feeling that vengeance was sweet when everyone in the class except myself and one other got caught red-handed.
Well, today, two people had the courage to post a bit about the mean spiritedness that was common at the school. And here come the rest of them posting that they are offended that someone would say that their happy memories had flaws and maybe there should be no more chatting. I guess I'm still being the silent partner. Leave me out of it. Funny how 35 years later, the group dynamics haven't changed all that much. The mean kids still come across as smug and self-satisfied and the shy loners are still not popular.
I didn't like going back to the old feelings. I'm a different person but the memories still aren't all that happy. Funny how hard it is to escape one's past.

Boys 'n Fog

I gift you with a picture.

Boys 'n Fog

NaNo word count--more behind target--11,238 words.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Writer's Block?

NaNo is moving slowly. The concentration just isn't there. 10,320 words to date. At least I beat the 10K goal. I should be closer to 15K if I'm to keep this going at a steady pace.
It has been fun to revisit the scene of the crime (last year's NaNo novel) as it were. Makes me hope I get to go "home" to Seattle this winter. That's the plan anyway.

Pacific

I saw a few flakes of snow today. I have a feeling it is going to be a long winter. I don't know how my friends in even more northerly climes make it.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Insane Asylums and Other Good Neighbors

Men's Department

So here's a rant. Some days I'm just sick of the incivility of people to one another. A few years ago I had a run in with a man who left his car blocking my garage. When I asked him to leave, he refused, defended his lack of consideration, and when we had words called me something unbelievably nasty. In all my years as a mental health professional, working with people who were psychotic, intoxicated, violent, criminal, or agitated, no one has ever called me anything that nasty before or since. That particular day I lost my temper and did some things I regret. I won't go into the details but I regard that day as one of my worst days ever.

The Psychology of Insanity

So today some idiot is blocking entrance to the alley where I park is again blocked. Same issues--we live 1/2 block from an elementary school and folks who come to pick up their kids seem to have no consideration for the neighbors or other drivers. Today's idiot literally had blocked the entire alley. I waited patiently for him to move to no avail. The drivers behind me started honking. I honk at him and he still doesn't move. I pulled forward and he rolled his window down. I said that if he didn't move so I could enter the alley I would call the police. He finally moves and I have to maneuver backward against the honking traffic to get into the alley since I had pulled forward to talk to the jerk.
At this point I discover that I can enter the alley but this idiot and the ten other cars that are still in the alley make it nearly impossible to enter my garage anyway. I also start to get cold feet about entering my garage in front of these people. After what happened last time, I'm afraid of retaliation if these people know where I live.
I circled the block two times before dropping my son off to walk himself home while I look for parking. I also call the police and ask them to clear the alley. They are the University police not the city police. I hate to call 911 for a parking problem and our non-emergency police line (311) leaves you on hold for hours. By then the alley will be clear anyway.
When I get home I call the school in question and ask to speak to the principal or an administrator. The secretary says they are busy, after all school is just letting out. I explain my problem and the woman is sympathetic but says there is nothing they can do. She says they have issued memos about the alleys and not blocking roads or double parking and the parents just ignore them. She suggests I call the police. Sigh. I explain that I have had some nasty experiences with their parents before and she says she can relate. People in their office have been accused of being "white haters, black haters and Toms," she tells me.
The police came by and cleared the alley. The people will be back on Monday ready to spread more ill will.
Some days I just hate people!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Wordless Wednesday--Red and Blue

Nature knows no winners (or losers).

Red

Blue

And a quick NaNo update. 4542 words. I'm playing catch up so I'm working hard.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Obama Wins!

Blue

Blue blue my world is blue
Blue is my world now I'm without you
Grey grey my life is grey
Cold is my heart since you went away

Red red my eyes are red
Crying for you alone in my bed
Green green my jealous heart
I doubted you and now we're apart

"Love Is Blue" was written by Pierre Cour and Andre Popp. The English lyrics were written by Brian Blackburn. From The Dating Advisor.

No Electioneering

So I had a few minutes to tour Hyde Park with my camera on election day. I found a few interesting political signs and bumper stickers but none for McCain. I'm sure the red voters are there so they must be in hiding.

Change

Voting was a breeze. The lines were amazingly short. Did everyone around here vote early? The lines at 6 PM when I strolled by my polling place were even shorter.

No LInes at This Polling Place

There seemed to be a lot of good cheer going around especially in the local Starbucks which was giving away free coffee if you said you had voted. By this evening they were sold out of nearly everything edible.

Too Little, Too Late

Some of the political stickers I found suggested a new old saying:
Old Democrats never die; they just fade. . . .

Glenn Who?

I hope you all voted whether you reside in a red or blue state.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

How many words?

Four Hundred Fifty Five

Actually I'm at 2205 out of 50,000 total. I'm a bit behind my daily goal but my meeting ended today so now I can get to the real work.