Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Rise Of Empty Trash

Since I am limited in what I can do for entertainment, or to pass the time when all energy has drained,  I turn to Netflix or Hulu for a little diversion. Much of the stuff there is useless or mind numbing but they do have a good movie occasionally and TV shows I don't mind watching.

I have always liked police procedurals, but so many of the new ones want to dwell on some psychological flaw of the main character, his/her struggle with personal issues. That gets old, and sometimes just flat boring and depressing. I was really sorry that Law and Order ended and I have watched them as reruns so many times that they're useless now. I wish they would have episodes of The Closer, which ended a few years back, but so far they aren't available. Monk is another one I enjoyed, but again have seen too many times and I don't think it is available any more anyway.

I also like a good mystery, one where the antagonist is not patently obvious in the first ten minutes of the show. Then there are several Sci-Fi shows and movies that have been pretty entertaining and well written. And the more cerebral shows such as Madame Secretary keep my attention as well.

Which brings me to my complaint about the content that many movies carry. If you don't like the F-word, or having courage described as a part of a man's anatomy (even for women), then there are slim pickings. That F-word is ubiquitous.  Now, I can understand certain situations where it can be a productive part of the plot, in scenes which are highly dangerous or defining. But honestly, does it need to be every other word in a script? Did the screenwriters not take a Creative Writing course at some point in their life? One of the first things you learn is not to overuse a word so it doesn't lose its impact. It's as if the writers take the easy way out, rather than take time to be creative or pick up a dictionary. They use the word because they can, and because they can they rub your face in it. And no matter what the plot is about, they will make money. And honestly, it wouldn't matter what word it was, if it was repeated so frequently you would get tired of hearing it!

"What the pig do you think you're doing?"

"None of your pigging business, you pigging idiot!"

"Pig you! Those are my pigging medals and I don't want you pigging touching them!"

"Pig, pig, pig! I've given you pigging everything and this is how you pigging treat me? Pig you!"

"Pig! There are some pigging things I don't share, and you should pigging know that. Pig you!"

Ad nauseam.

Anther frustration is the plot line. A lot of movies depend so heavily on CGI (computer generated image), there is not much of a story. Recently I watched Dr. Strange on Netflix. It was OK, it was predictable but nonetheless entertaining in a way. Today I clicked on Thor:Ragnaruk, because I knew it was a big deal when it first came out. Twenty six minutes into the movie, I hit the exit button. Really? What a boring film! And big name stars such as Anthony Hopkins and Benedict Cumberbatch are involved. My guess is that it's an easy paycheck for them. It's rather disappointing!

I don't think it's my age, a good story is timeless. Screenwriters used to be much more creative than they are now, it seems. Presently many movies are remakes of earlier films (that never works!); Ben Hur is a good example. I actually read the book a few years back and even though the original film was 4 hours long, they still had to leave things out. The recent Ben Hur was a crashing bore with the only similarities being the title and the name of the characters. And of course the chariot race, otherwise how could they convince themselves they were making another great movie?

The other genre is comic books. A few of them were good, I really enjoyed Ironman, and Captain America, although I had to laugh at the computer generated main character before he was changed to the hero. No one looks that scrawny and gets into the Army! Now films are constantly being made based on comics. Most of them are so poor they aren't worth watching.

Can't anyone tell a good story anymore?



Live your life one day at a time!


Monday, March 26, 2018

The Bird of The Day

I have become an avid birder, even registered with Cornell Lab of Ornithology so I can note what shows up in my back yard for their information. Granted, I have a limited inventory to take note of at the moment because I can't go out birding to other areas away from my home. But I have learned how to use my long lens (finally) and have become more adept at taking pictures from my upstairs room.

One of my favorite birds is the Eastern Towhee. For years it has been called the Rufous Sided Towhee, but now instead of the broad application, it has been divided into two groups - the Eastern Towhee and the Spotted Towhee. We have the Eastern here, and I love to watch them, but they are hard to photograph because they move so quickly as they feed on the ground, and they like shrubs and low hanging tree branches; they even build their nests on the ground. They have russet colored eyes along with a handsome coat but getting that all in sharp focus has been impossible!


The best I could do, it seemed, was this. The eyes aren't apparent and it's not in sharp focus.

Until.....

The other afternoon as I walked up to the window near my bed, I noticed a towhee sitting on the fence! That was just so unusual. He sat completely still, and he was on a fence! Not part of expected towhee behavior. Muttering to myself "Please don't move!" I turned on the camera and shifted it down to focus on him. Not only did he not move, I was able to get some stunning shots! 








You can see how beautiful he is! The female is a dark rich brown instead of black, but has the other markings. Notice his feet? They seem a bit larger than other song birds; I think it's because of how they hunt for food. They make a rapid hop forward, then back, dragging leaf litter off of a patch of ground so they can eat whatever is hiding underneath. They also do that on snow, trying to get to whatever food may be there.

The song they sing sounds like "Drink your teeeeea!" 
This page has a button to click for the song, and for other calls they make. The sound is clearer there than if you play the video at the top of the page.

I keep my camera on a tripod in front of the window so I am ready when I see a bird. It has really helped, since I have to spend so much time on the bed. 

Hope you enjoyed learning about the bird of the day!

Live your life one day at a time!


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Wagon And The Hero

This is one of my favorite stories, and I hope you enjoy it!




The Wagon And The Hero

One of my husband's least favorite things is to go shopping. And car shopping is probably dead last on that list. But sometimes you have to do what is necessary and be thankful that it is not something that has to be done frequently!

In 1988, we had purchased a used station wagon which soon became a driving headache. Among other issues, it leaked in three places around the windshield whenever we had a respectable amount of rain, one of the leaks in the driver's area. After trying in vain to seal the leaks, and deal with the other issues, we finally agreed to purchase a new car on sale. John did some research on cars and we put together a list of possibilities. We watched the ads in the newspaper and decided to spend the last day of the year making the rounds of the auto dealerships.

Dec 31, 1988 was a very rainy, cold and windy day in Charleston SC, and that didn't add to our mood as we started the day out early. After depositing our 5 year old daughter with a neighbor, we began our hunt. We visited several car dealers, made several test drives and had narrowed it down to a couple of choices. The last place we visited was a Nissan dealership. They had a 1988 Nissan Stanza wagon marked down on sale with several thousand dollars off the listed price. We took it for a test drive, and really liked it. After we got back to the dealership, we talked it over, then told the salesman that we wanted to purchase it.





By then it was late in the day, and getting dark early because of the weather. We were tired and weary, but John was vigilant as began the process of purchasing the car with all the paperwork involved. We had been escorted to the typical small, windowless office (really not more than the size of a closet) and then Mickey-the-salesman began playing the game that car salesmen often do, finding reasons to leave the room to make us think he was trying to get a better deal for us. He kept saying things like "let me ask my manager about that - I think I can reduce the price" or "I'll go check about the percentage", or "You're such a great couple, let me see if I can get a lower rate for ______" and then he'd go out in the lobby for a smoke. Yes, I know that's what he was doing! And then of course, he'd come back and assure us that he was trying to get a better deal.

These types of actions were one of the main reasons John hated to buy a car. He doesn't like to argue, he doesn't like stalling and he doesn't like it when someone isn't being upfront about something. He was trying to be patient as we sat there, very weary, with a haze of cigarette smoke hanging in the air. But Micky-the-salesman went one step too far when he came back in after the umpteenth time, sat down behind the little desk and said rather hesitantly "I ..., um, I just found out that the car doesn't have air conditioning. Do you think you need air conditioning?" 

John looked at him for a split second, then rising from his chair he stormed "Do we need air conditioning?!? DO WE NEED AIR CONDITIONING?!?!?! IF THIS WERE ALASKA WOULD YOU ASK US IF WE NEEDED HEATING???" and turned to me and said "Let's go!"

Now my husband had always been an even tempered man, and during the 7 years we had been married, I had very rarely ever seen him lose his temper, and even then it was hardly an outburst. But this so stunned me and Mickey-the-salesman both that we just sat there for a minute, not moving, Mickey's mouth hanging open. John stood in front of me and said firmly "Let's go, honey." and I rose from my chair and followed him out.

When we reached the showroom, it became apparent that John's outburst had been heard by most of the staff still on the clock that New Year's Eve. We marched straight out the door into the rain, and I was still trying to adjust to what just happened. We hadn't gone more than a couple of feet when we heard behind us, 

"Mr. Cook! Mr Cook! Wait! Please come back, we can straighten this out! Please, Mr. Cook!"

 John had opened the umbrella and we turned as he raised it over our heads. There stood the manager of the dealership at the door, and we noticed that most of the salesmen were behind him, visible through the glass. John said "I'm not going to be jerked around like that!" More apologies from the manager, and after hesitating a moment, John said "Okay, we'll see what you have to say" and we returned to the showroom.

To make a long story short, we received the installation of the A/C at cost (we checked to make sure that part was true - it was), and another discount off of the price. We drove home the blue Stanza wagon and it served us for many years; our then 5 year old daughter later drove it when she was in high school. But the best part of the night was the affirmation that I had married a fair man who would not be pushed around. He was my hero! 





Thursday, January 11, 2018

Fish Sauce

I've been disappointed that I have not been able to blog as I had hoped, but I am too crashed to think clearly. I spent 5 hours at the doctor's yesterday and I have tumbled even deeper into crash-land, so I thought I would repost this story from many years ago, and I hope that you enjoy it! 







TO BE HONORED

Today's story gives an example of how we honor one another. Sometimes to do so requires we step out a bit from our comfort zone.

Back in the early 1980's, our church sponsored a family immigrating to the US from Laos. Several of us signed up to take turns orienting them to their new home, helping them learn English and the other myriad details it takes for someone adjusting to a culture  completely foreign to them. I was single at the time, and signed on to be one of several drivers to escort them to various locations - medical exams, customs, grocery store, various appointments and so forth. The family included  the parents, and I think 3 children (I'm not sure of the exact number 30 years later!). It was both fun and awkward, as only the father spoke the most rudimentary English and I understood nothing of what was said when they spoke among themselves. But we laughed a lot and I grew fond of them and could only imagine how it most have felt to have left everything they ever knew, and come to such a different place. They had only been allowed to bring a certain weight per person on the plane, so they valued all that they had brought with them from their homeland.

As I got to know the family better, and they were more comfortable around me, the mother invited me to stay for dinner at the end of one afternoon. I knew that this was a big honor and I agreed and while she prepared the meal, I played with the children. When the time came, I was seated and the food was passed to me to put on my plate first. Bits of meat and vegetables and a large bowl of noodles were passed around and we settled down to eat. As I raised my fork (they used chopsticks) I realized they were admonishing me - "No, no!" - and making motions for me to stop. As I did, the father handed me a bottle, motioning that I was supposed to sprinkle the contents all over my food before eating. As I took the bottle and opened the top a strong fish odor almost made me gag. It was fermented fish sauce, and I found out later that they eat it on almost everything. They had brought it with them from Laos and had brought a new bottle to the table just because I was there. I hesitatingly sprinkled a bit on one area of the noodles on my plate and they, thinking I was being polite, gestured laughingly "No, no! More!". The children joined in, everyone waving their arms and laughing until I had put enough on my food to suit them. Then they in turn applied it liberally to their food. 

Pungent. Extraordinarily pungent! That's the most polite way I can describe it. As I put a mouthful in, I had to literally will myself not to gag and insult them. They were delighted - "Oh, good, good! Ahh!" and I smiled and nodded, and continued to slowly eat, praying constantly that I would be able to swallow the next mouthful. Then the next, and the next, until at last I was finished. As they offered me more, I shook my head, smiling and patted my stomach and they just beamed. I felt like a house divided, smiling and nodding on the outside, wretched and churning on the inside. As the evening drew to a close, and I was making my way to the door, the father said "Wait, please.", turned, left the room and almost immediately returned carrying something carefully in his hands. Then he handed me, almost reverently, my very own bottle of fermented Fish Sauce! I was almost speechless (for several reasons) and all I could say was "Thank you" as they continued to beam and nod their heads.

I was so nauseated for the next 24 hours or so, and it was a combination of being tense as I ate, and eating something so unfamiliar. Of course the nausea passed, but what stayed with me was the lesson they taught me. That bottle they gave me was one of the precious few things they had been able to bring from their homeland and they only had a limited store. They were expressing their gratitude by giving something of great importance to them, and they were genuinely happy to do it. Although I never opened the bottle, it stood as a reminder that no matter how little you have, when you give from your heart, the gift becomes precious and both the giver and the receiver are honored. I laugh now about the story, but I am thankful I had the experience!

Live your life one day at a time!





Friday, December 29, 2017

A Story Of Christmas Past

I posted this story back in 2011, and thought it was time to read it again. I hope you enjoy it and pray for a blessed 2018 for everyone!


Christmas Past

When my parents were first married, my mother became interested in a certain china pattern, Silver Pine. She was hoping to collect enough pieces to have something special for company. Then over the next decade, six children arrived and the few pieces she had collected were stored, and labeled in her mind as "someday...".  As my siblings and I became adults, and our parents grew older, we struggled every year with the "what do you get your parents, now that they really don't need anything" problem. One summer a novel idea presented itself during a conversation with my Dad. I asked him just how much my mother had of her "special dinnerware" and together we hatched a plan to really surprise her. 

I was an antiques dealer at the time, and had access to auctions, and shows where  I could find some pieces to fill in her collection. I contacted all my siblings so everyone could participate. I made a list of things she would need to complete a service for eight, plus serving dishes after my father gave me a list of what she had, and started searching. I ended up finding most of the things on eBay, and since I had several months in which to search, I could patiently search for pristine pieces. By the time Christmas arrived, I had found everything we needed and even some ice tea glasses which matched the dinnerware. All of us chipped in to pay for the things as the plan progressed and we were all excited about the big day. 





That Christmas, we gathered at my parent's home, and all of us unloaded our car and piled the boxes on the living room floor. My mother was very curious once she got a look at the pile of wrapped gifts, but we wouldn't let her know who they were for until it came time to open presents, then we made her wait till last. She and Dad sat down on the hearth and after opening the first box, she was speechless and had tears. Box after box was opened and china was laid out on the hearth and you could just feel her excitement! There were enough plates for a service for 12, large and small platters, gravy boats, oval and round serving bowls of different sizes, dessert plates, salad plates, soup bowls, cups and saucers, and of course the ice tea glasses.  After everything was opened, she looked at us, saying she just didn't know how to thank us, but the look on her face said it all! We quickly washed the dishes and used them for Christmas dinner and that was the loveliest table and one of the happiest Christmases I remember. Now that both of my parents are no longer with us, it is a very special memory!


I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas and is looking forward to 2012!


Live your life one day at a time!


Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Memories

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

On 20 Nov 2010, I wrote the following and thought I would share this again. It is still so very, very true and has grown even more in the past seven years since I wrote this. Many blessings!




No art right now, maybe later today. It's a lovely day here in the mountains of South Carolina and I hope I can spend some time outside. As we approach Thanksgiving, I am struck by the weight of the stresses of the day versus what is really important. It has been a rough year for me health wise, I am preparing for the 2nd surgery on my right eye, and it's the 3rd surgery of the year total. We have had a heart breaking month of events with our adopted son who struggles with severe emotional disabilities and other disorders; he is 18 and can not live at home and walked away from his residential care a month ago. He is now in trouble with the law and we really can't do anything to help him, except pray, which we do. My husband has had health issues, although not serious, they have been draining for him. Both of my sisters have had health issues this year, one of them very serious and it continues for her. All of my brothers have had family issues that have caused a great deal of pain. I continue to struggle with the ME/CFS and progress is slow. There have been many minor issues as well, but I don't want to list them all.

So, in the midst of this, what do I see as important? God's mercy. His grace. His love. The promise of eternity. That today is not forever. When the Bible talks about where your house is built (on the Rock or on the sand) and the storms that come and beat on it, it is an apt picture, for the storms do come and believe me they do beat down on you! But there is an unbelievable peace in the midst of the grief, a peace I cannot explain but am experiencing, that gives strength and sustains me. This life is simply not all that there is. It just isn't. The birds sing, the leaves glow, there is a breeze in the air. And frankly sometimes in the midst of grief, these things can almost seem irreverent, almost seem like a slap in my face and I want to shake my fist at them and say "How can these things be, this beauty, this loveliness, when I am in such pain and the world around me is upside down??"

But these things, this loveliness, is a promise. It's a statement to me, that no matter the darkness of the moment, the moment is not all there is. The moment does not define me. Instead I am defined by my Creator and the promise is that I will someday be in a better place where there is no pain and no grief. I am grown by the grief and pain, I am stretched by it but because of God's love of me, I am not overcome by it. There is much beauty around me and I will see it, and drink it in and be grown by it as well as the grief.

I am thankful for what is really important!

And now, I will take the dogs outside and enjoy this moment.

A P.S. to this, our adopted son has stabilized in the past couple of years and seems to be learning a bit of responsibility. It's a day to day issue with him, but we continue to leave it in God's hands.


Live your life one day at a time!


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

RECHARGING

Several years ago, I wrote a blog once or twice a week. I shared stories from my life, demonstrated different art projects I was in the process of creating, and sometimes shared my views about specific topics. I stopped because of several reasons - I had read that to succeed as an artist my blog should be all about art and specifically my art to keep people's attention and anything else I wrote about would only distract from possible sales. Since I was becoming less and less able to be in my studio, I obviously wrote less and less about anything. 

Well, silly me! I miss being able to share my thoughts and my stories and I really want to share what happiness I am able so what the heck, I am going to do it my way. I will reprint the stories and also write new ones and when I am able to create, I'll add it in. 

I hope you enjoy and I would love any feedback!



HOW THEY MET

When World War II drew in the United States, both of my parents stepped up for the sake of their country. Dad was from a small village in the center of South Carolina, Mom was from a small village in south central Pennsylvania. Dad enlisted in the Navy, and Mom as a nurse in the Navy WAVES. Dad was on a ship off the coast of Germany near Bremerhaven in the North Sea. The North Sea area is known to be quite unpleasant in winter storms and during that winter, salt water froze on the ship's rails and the seas were so rough many of the personnel were very seasick and they wondered if the winter storms would ever stop. Dad contracted pneumonia and later ended up in the hospital stateside near Baltimore. 

Mom was working on his floor and they met when she was with some other nurses making rounds. They would see each other often, Dad would joke around with her and wanted her to go on a date, but she said no, he was too young for her. Then she found out he was actually two years older, so she finally consented. They spent a lot of time together until Dad was discharged and went back to South Carolina; Mom was discharged as well and she went back home to Pennsylvania. 

They wrote each other frequently and then Dad had an opportunity to go to New York for a lodge group convention. My grandmother said after Dad left that when he came home, she didn't think he would be alone. Mom and Dad were married in a small outdoor ceremony in her hometown, then had a short honeymoon in Washington DC. 

Traveling to South Carolina by bus, they lived with my grandparents and I was born ten months later. Using the availability of the G.I. Bill, Dad enrolled in Auburn, took a part time job as a city bus driver to support the family and my brother was born about sixteen months afterwards. My maternal grandmother came to live with them to help out until my father graduated.

An interesting evolution in marriage took place after World War II: for the first time very large numbers of people married someone not from their hometowns or even their state. Dad had a brother in the Marines, and two brothers in the Army and they all married women from other states, which happened all across the country. Up until then, people generally married someone closer to home. 

A postscript to this story is that all of my uncles, and of course my Dad, came home safely from the War. It was not that way for many families, and we are all very thankful!!

Mom and Dad on an outing to Steeplechase Park
before they were married.

Mom in her uniform.

Written on the back of a photo
Mom sent my grandmother!

Wedding Day!

An article in the local paper 
about married student life. 

Graduation Day!



Live your life one day at a time!










Saturday, October 22, 2016

Escaping The Walls

Yesterday a precious friend called and wanted to take me out of the house for a ride. She has a VW Rabbit convertible and it was a windy but beautiful day, a bit on the cool side, so I dressed for a top-down ride. It was magnificent! We went on back roads so deep that there was only an occasional car, and we would pull off to the side to listen to the music of wind swirling around the leaves of trees overhead. We stopped by empty fields to watch a small flock of birds swooping and flying with group precision, landing and taking off in sync as they searched for leftover grain or seeds, reminding me of the murmuration of starlings, which fly in the thousands. 

We drove further, around curves, and going uphill and down on small roads, spying newly built homes tucked into woods at the tops of hills, and homes so old the windows were not aligned. We found a farm which specialized in Scottish Highland cattle, which I never knew was there and I was overjoyed to see the sturdy, shaggy beasts as they stared back at us. Sadly, they would not let me get close enough to get a clear shot. We laughed at a small pickup hauling a house shaped shed behind, as if the driver was wandering the countryside with his home attached. We stopped under a thick border of trees to listen to a large flock comprised of blackbirds, starlings and grackles overhead, scolding and whistling as they thronged on every available branch, restless and noisy. 

We passed a home where it was obvious the resident inside supported none of the current candidates as their yard sign proudly proclaimed "Newt 2012". We paused to listen to water cascading down rocks and envying the homeowners nearby who had set up chairs beside the creek to take in the relaxing sound. There were driveways which led to homes unseen, as they curved in one lane through the woods, and hand carved gates standing aside in invitation by the side of others. 

It was the most glorious day, and around curves we would catch a glimpse of the nearby mountains with patches of bare rock gleaming in the sunlight. I felt my body becoming weary and knew that I had to head home, but so grateful for my friend, who thought of me and took me away from the four walls which were my constant visitors. It was so nice to taste the world and be reminded that it was there, because I so often forget. 







 And here's a video taken in England of the amazing murmurations of starlings!

https://youtu.be/eakKfY5aHmY

Live your life one day at a time!





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