Tag: Pennsylvania photographer

Week in review in photos

The headline is a bit misleading because this is going to be a bit of a “photo dump” of my last couple of weeks. I haven’t really touched my camera much in the last three or four months, due to depression and losses of friendships and then more depression  (would you like me to talk about my depression some more? No? Good, because I’m done talking about it.)

The weather started to warm up a little so we spent some time drawing on the sidewalk in front of the house with sidewalk chalk, exploring at my parents, playing outside and generally all the stuff you do when you begin to emerge from the cacoon of Northern winters.

I’m hoping I get back my love of photography and begin to use it again as a therapy for the times I’m the lowest emotionally.

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The weekend I learned people of ‘a certain age’ don’t actually sleep

Apparently, once you hit 70 or so, you don’t sleep. At least that’s what I’ve learned after spending two nights and three days with my parents this past weekend.

I really thought that older people slept a lot – or at least napped – sort of like cats, but, alas, that is obviously not the case.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I know that aches and pains and heartburn and simple, general old-age insomnia keep many older people awake, so that’s why they don’t sleep. I’m already experiencing it at middle-age. Still, I had no idea that people of a “certain age” only need about five hours of sleep to function each day. They may not function well, and they may function on a bit more of a cranky plane than others, but they function nonetheless.

My daughter wanted to stay at her grandparents one weekend and since we couldn’t that particular day, I told her we would do it the following weekend when her brother was at a sleepover and her dad was working an extra shift. As so often happens when I plan a special weekend, I ended up having two weird health spells while there (translation: I’m hitting that special age when our hormones shift so my nasty monthly visitor came early), which wasn’t fun, but what was fun was watching my daughter spend almost our entire time there sitting next to her grandmother playing with her stuffed animals and telling my mom all she knows  about wildlife thanks to PBS kids’ Wild Kratts. Of course, she did tell Mom that some Jaguares give birth to 300 cubs at a time, obviously not accurate, so I think she may have misunderstood something Chris and Martin told her.

I don’t have a strict bedtime for my children most nights and since this was a sleepover we went to bed late that night. I crawled into my aunt’s old room around 11:30 and since Little Miss hadn’t had a nap all day she passed out within five minutes. I started to drift off at midnight while reading a book.

Before bed I had tried to figure out how to turn off the lamp next to the bed and before I even reached it, it turned off, which made me realize it must be a touch lamp. I decided I must have touched it right and went to bed, only to have the thing turn on a few moments later without me even touching it. That was disconcerting so I found the actual switch and turned that to make sure the light stayed off. I could just imagine my late aunt up in Heaven, if she can see from there, laughing at me until she couldn’t breathe. Back in bed I curled up in the flannel sheets and tried to relax after a weird day of dizziness and high blood pressure (as mentioned before, this turned out to be related to my early visitor, but I didn’t know that at the time so my hypochondria had kicked in. The blood pressure went back into normal range the next few days.).

I closed my eyes and ten minutes later a light filled the room as if the stadium lights at a night football game had been turned on. Zooma the Wonderdog had curled up at my feet, but, of course, when she heard footsteps in the hallway she was off the bed to investigate. I figured Dad had to use the bathroom while Mom was in the one downstairs so I waited for the light to click back off again. It did, but then bam! It was on 30 seconds later. I decided I’d have to join the dog to investigate so I headed down the stairs only to meet my dad, brushing his teeth, coming up to meet me.

“I turned the light off but then I thought I’d better turn it back on because I didn’t know if the dog could find her way back to your room in the dark,” he told me.

“Dad, she’s a dog. I’m sure she’ll be fine.”

I flipped the light back off and went back to bed. It was about 1 a.m.

At 6 a.m. I woke up to use the bathroom and could already hear my dad opening and closing the front door and calling for Zooma to come back inside from her morning potty break. I’d had a long day the day before so I crawled back into bed and a few hours later I staggered downstairs to find my parents somewhat wide awake and freshly baked fish on the counter for breakfast (we aren’t really breakfast-food people.)

“Good grief, don’t you two sleep?” I asked.

“What? I was up at 5:30…” Dad told me.

“Yeah, but you didn’t go to bed until 1,” I pointed out.

He shrugged.

I imagined he would catch up on his sleep the next night. Instead, I was again woke up at 6 a.m., the next morning, after going to bed too late again, this time by Zooma jumping on the bed and a bright, artificial light filling the room. Apparently, Dad still didn’t think Zooma could find her way back after her morning potty break.

The last night we were there, my 4-year old daughter and 12-year old son were eating tomato soup with their grandfather at 10:30 at night.

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I was glad it was only soup this time.

One other time we were stranded at their house in a snowstorm when my mom began shoving several pieces of chocolate into my then 3-year old daughter around 11:30 at night. Fine, maybe Mom wasn’t shoving them in, but simply opening them one-by-one so my daughter could shove them in. We were awake until at least 1 a.m. the next morning. When I discovered the empty wrappers, I asked my mom what she was thinking and she giggled and said “I don’t know! She was just so cute!”

I swear when people hit grandparent age they forget about all those rules they had when they were parents. I can’t imagine my parents ever letting me shove candy down my gullet that late at night, or even being awake that late at night.

And also when they hit grandparent age, they apparently, forget how nice sleep can be.

 

Spring has finally sprung in Pennsylvania but it’s always possible another snow storm will come

“There are robins on the hill,” my dad said and we rushed to the windows and “ooohed” and “aahed” because in Pennsylvania we know that the sight of the robins in our yards means spring has sprung. Sure, the grass may still be brown and yellow, the trees may still be naked, and the flowers aren’t yet budding, but when the robins appear, back from their trip South, we know it won’t be long.

Soon there will be flowers (and for our family sneezing), warm days spent at the playground (though we already squeezed a playground visit in this week),

I have to be honest, during our first warm day this spring, I found myself briefly wishing for cold again. After months of waiting for weather warm enough to get the children out of the house, I felt a rush of anxiety at having to talk to people again while walking the dog and pushing my daughter up the hills on her bicycle. I’m anti-social at heart (which is weird, considering the 13 years I worked in newspapers) and find the older I’ve become the more I prefer sitting at home, reading a book, writing nonsense on here, or watching another episode of “Somebody Feed Phil.”

Not having to wear a coat to walk to the car or around the block was welcome for those three warm days, before cold weather set back in, though. I walked to the local diner on the second warmer day, after a family friend invited me for lunch. I was fed what was possibly grass with some dried cranberries, the smallest sunflower seeds I’ve ever seen and a pile of oregano. Apparently, I’m not as “natural” as I like to think and found myself wishing the black beans sprinkled on as my source of protein was a huge steak.

Showing that I’m not yet prepared for the normal warm weather walking of five paces behind my daughter on her bike while trying not to let the dog yank me onto my face on the sidewalk on her short leash, I decided to try to cut corners and let the dog pull my daughter on her bike. I wasn’t really going to leave the leash hooked there long, but truly thought the dog might pull her forward a few inches instead of yanking the bike onto its side and leaving my preschooler laying under it at the exact moment a local police officer drove by.

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The officer’s SUV slowed down and he looked through the tinted window at me as I lifted her off the sidewalk and checked her skinned elbow and grabbed the dog’s leash to keep her from running away. He gave me a thumbs up as if to ask “You okay?” and I gave one back to let him know I was and then waved a ‘thank you’.  One thing that is nice about small-town life is the local police presence.

He drove away and I looked closer at the mark on her arm was about the size of the top of a pin, but you would have thought she had almost lost her arm the way her lower lip was pushed out and she started making demands we turn around and go home. In the past two weeks, she’s become very attached to bandaids and seems to think she needs them on even the smallest scratches.

Even her animals are receiving their own bandages, especially if the dog happens to grab on to one of them and run off with it. Also in the past two weeks, she has become much more stressed about – well, everything. I had a feeling what she needed more than a bandaid was a nap after a couple of hours at the playground earlier with her dad and even more running through the house chasing the dog, before our walk.

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By Friday night the warm air had faded and I was receiving texts from my husband, who was at work, reminding me to turn on the heat. I refused, telling him it was still warm out and I wouldn’t close the windows and turn the heat on until I couldn’t feel my fingers or toes. This resolved faded shortly after that declaration and I found myself craving a warm cup of tea and the shawl that used to be my aunts. 

For now I’m happy to sink back into a little bit of introvert isolation, content with the excuse that it’s simply too cold to go outside and interact with others. And who knows, maybe we will have a March blizzard like last year and I’ll have even more of an excuse to stay inside.

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Let’s focus on living instead of dying

People are depressed. I mean it, people. People all around me are depressed.

I can’t turn around without someone standing there or writing somewhere that they are in mourning. The people who are having family members dying, or announcing cancer or abuse is all around me these days. I don’t get why it seems to be happening more and more but it’s probably because I’m getting older. Maybe I was in a fog as a kid and don’t remember all the death and tragedy as much?

I don’t know.

Or maybe people simply tend to share more sadness than happiness and that’s why we are all in the gutter of attitudes some days. We need to share sadness and sadness will happen, it can’t be helped, so don’t get me wrong here.

My brother has been going on for a couple of weeks about he and his wife’s plan for deleting their social media. It’s a good thing but you would think it’s a religious experience for them with all the philosophical statements my brother makes. Or maybe he’s just dramatic (thank God I never am. Ha. Ha.)

My brother has been answering some who ask about his reason for kicking the big “fbook” to the curb, by saying he wants to “make the best of his remaining years.”

He turns 50 in June and in his world 50 is the new 80. But it seems to be where we all are these days (including me) – this impending sense of doom and negativity. We remind ourselves so often that “life is short” and “you never know WHEN YOU WILL DIE!!” in warnings that are supposed to be encouraging that we have forgotten to remind each other to simply live.

I get it. We only get one trip around the sun.

We all die.

Life is short.

That message has been drilled into my head a lot over the years and just in case I didn’t get it I lost three relatives in nine months and a handful of community members passed away as well.

Death is coming.

It’s around the bend.

The grim reaper stands at our door.

But not yet.

Being realistic about death is fine.

Being honest about it is important.

Grieving is important and talking about our grief is very important (so this is not meant as a scolding to those who are grieving), but for all that is good and holy stop reminding everyone they are on the path to death, finding ways to weave it into conversations.

About two years ago death loomed over me like a dark cloud. Test results and severe hypochondria coupled with a mental breakdown had made me decide I had blood cancer and there was no hope. Every day I thought of death and how it was coming and eventually I stopped living. My dog of 14-years died, my aunt’s health was not good, and my husband’s uncle passed away.

One day I was out in our yard trying to make a garden, though I didn’t know why because I was sure I wouldn’t be around the enjoy it. Suddenly I heard a voice within me say “Stop focusing on death and start focusing on living.”

The voice of God? I don’t know but I know I hadn’t been thinking any positive thoughts on my own for about three months at that point.

We can’t really live if all we do is think about how we are dying.

We need to remind people they are on the path of life and life is good much of the time. Maybe telling ourselves we are simply walking toward a new life in the after life is a better idea.

Soon spring will be here and flowers will bloom and birds will chirp and the sky will blue again.

Why don’t we all look toward that new life instead of the grave?

Four is the new terrible twos

“I’M NOT DOING ANY MORE SCHOOL WORK UNTIL MY BROTHER SITS NEXT TO ME AT THE TABLE!!”

Her little voice pierced my eardrums and grated on my nerves like fingernails on a chalkboard.

Papers, pencils, and crayons scattered across the floor with a swift move of her fierce little hand. Next, she took aim at the battery for my camera and the charger it was connected to sent that to the floor with a bang.

DSC_3479For the last week, I had been laying my hand against her forehead to see if she was coming down with something, anything, looking for any reason for her Horrid Henry-like behavior. Since no fever was detected next on the list was to call the local Catholic Church to see if they still perform exorcisms in between press conferences to defend their innocence in abuse cases.

She was sitting with her head down on the table, her little feet dangling off the bench, kicking them back and forth as she revved up for her tantrum.

She was wearing the same outfit she’d had on for three days – a long sleeved dress and long pants with a brown leopard pattern. On Saturday she’d fallen asleep before I could negotiate a peaceful ending to the outfit change. On Sunday I knew we’d never make it to church if we stopped to let her pick the ten outfits she normally does before she gets dressed.  I promised myself I’d begin a peaceful settlement when we returned. Negotiations failed and I somehow let it go an extra day. So there she sat, her clothes probably caked to her now, while she started her new tactic of whining instead of verbalizing.

“Your brother is in the bathroom, I can’t make him sit next to you,” I told her, throwing up my hands in exasperation.

“I won’t do work ever, ever again if he doesn’t sit with me!”

I ignored her and went to the kitchen to start cleaning the pan for lunch.

Her brother came down and I asked him to sit with her but now she had worked herself up to a wail, the same wail she’d been sounding for almost a week now – anytime she didn’t get what she wanted, when she wanted, even though half the time she never said what she wanted, but simply cried and whined and kicked her feet.

I burned my hand in the hot water trying to clean out the cast iron pan to make lunch. It made me even grumpier.

“I DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU WANT!” my screams were now matching her own and for good measure, I tossed a fork, which bounced off the counter and shattered the McDonald’s collection Garfield class I’d bought for my husband to replace the one he’d had as a child.

Now I was mad at her and myself. It was a standoff of uncontrolled emotions and suddenly I realized I had dropped my emotional maturity to the level of a 4-year old. A 4-year old who was still trying to figure out how to navigate her emotions, while I was 41 and supposed to already have it all figured out. I shouldn’t have a fuse as short as a preschooler and I knew it.

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“Let me hold you,” I told her finally, no longer caring what her original breakdown had been about. She climbed into my lap and leaned into me her little body warm and heavy against me. Tears were still rolling down her cheeks as I rubbed her back and absentmindedly patted her bottom as  I rocked her.

It grew quiet and she sniffed.

“Mama?”

“Yes, sweetie?”

“Are you patting my butt?”

“Hmm….um..yeah, I guess I was. I thought it was your lower back.”

She pulled away and looked sideways at me.

“Okay. That was disturbing.”

She climbed off my lap with her finger in her nose and shook her head.

She’s been skipping naps of late so when she passed out against my chest early in the afternoon, an hour or so after this. I texted my husband and said, with much relief, though a bit of regret, “she’s asleep and I have to pee.”

I held that pee in until my bladder almost burst because I had a plan to enjoy the last chapter of my book in blissful silence.  That hour free of preschool manipulation was certainly welcome.

And then my preteen began to extol the virtues of his latest video game discovery and the silence was broken, but, hey, that’s life.

 

Winter wonderland? Not exactly. . ..

I won’t lie, seeing all the beautiful photos of winter wonderlands taken in a rural area after a snowfall always makes me a little jealous.

I live in a small town but it’s not really like one of those picturesque small towns in the movies, at least in the part of town I live in. This isn’t meant as an offense to my town because it isn’t the slums either. The people are nice and the area is quiet and fairly peaceful. The houses are pretty enough but there are also a ton of power lines, a school parking lot and a couple chain link fences around baseball fields interrupting the backgrounds of my photos.

To get to the more picturesque parts of our area I’d have to drive a little and if the roads are dangerous or the temperature is as cold as it was this past week I am limited to what I can photograph.

Before the Arctic cold set in and the heavier snow of this weekend’s storm set in we were able to go outside and Little Miss decided she loved snow. She ran up and down the sidewalk with her arms out, declaring “I love the snow!” I’m glad she does because I’m really not a fan of it. First, it’s cold. Second, it’s wet. Third, it’s slippery. All good reasons to not be a fan.

Since we don’t live in the country where we can photograph lovely scenes of trees and ponds covered in a layer (or two) of snow we are left to photos of the kids enjoying the snow with houses, telephone poles, power lines and the occasional snow plow or garbage truck behind them.

Still, I love the photographs of them enjoying the snow. I will deal with the lack of rural snowy images and hope that someday we move somewhere I can photograph a more attractive scene behind my children.

What’s the weather like where you are? And more importantly, do you have a good background to photograph in?

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What do you mean it’s winter?

We’re still in denial that it’s winter here, even as snow falls outside our window and forecasters warn us that we could wake up to a foot or more tomorrow morning.

The kids and I have severe cabin fever and long for the days we could spend our days in the backyard with Zooma The Wonder Dog in the warm sun. Sunlight isn’t something we see much of these days so if it peeks out from behind the clouds, we either rush outside into it or we sit in the square of it that shines on our floors.

When my dad decided he would take the kids down to see how frozen his pond was last weekend I rushed to get my coat on, even though 1) I didn’t want to go out in the cold and 2) my 4-year old needed a nap. I needed to get outside and photograph something – anything. None of the photographs were exciting but at least we experienced nature – freezing cold, cough-inducing, nose running – nature.dsc_1810

Once at the pond Dad cut a hole in the ice and measured it. Since it was only two and a half inches none of us could go out on it – except for the dog. The youngest didn’t mind since she was still crying, partially from the cold, and because it was clear she desperately needed a nap. I had to carry her both up and down the hill which isn’t as fun now that she’s almost 30 pounds and solid muscle. Once back in the house she fell asleep within a few moments and I decided maybe we’d continue admiring the sun from inside the house, at least until the temperature rises again.

 

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Logged back on Facebook. Experienced full body shudder. Logged back off.

After 30-days of Facebook detox I logged back on this past week and almost immediately regretted it.

From someone calling someone else they disagreed with a Nazi to fear-mongering posts about health issues my heart was pounding within a few minutes and I logged back off again and reached for my Teddy Bear.

Facebook has become a landmine of stress for this anxiety-ridden soul, which may be something I need to seek out a therapist for, or it may be simply a sign I need to stay off Facebook as much as possible.

The odd thing is that I don’t even follow any controversial people or news pages so the fact every day people are now flipping out on each other over the simplest of things seems to be a sign that we’ve lost respect and decorum. Obviously this has been happening for a long time but nowhere is it more evident than in social media where people forget there are real people behind the computer or smartphone.

This latest incident involved a thyroid expert I follow who had been featured on a show people didn’t appreciate. She wasn’t exactly called a Nazi but she was told the views of the people were Nazi views, which makes me realize that this far out from World War II some people need to read some history and remind themselves what a Nazi actually is.

Since I haven’t yet seen this particular organization call for the extermination of all Jews, but in fact supports them in many ways, I don’t see how they received the Nazi label, other than this is what certain groups seem to call people now when they don’t agree with them.

Well, anyhoo, based on of the idiocy that is modern discourse and the tendency for everyone to be offended by everything, I’ve decided Facebook may be a once a month thing where I check in on some friends and family but then log back off. My blog posts and photos on Instagram are automatically shared to the platform and luckily don’t require me to log into my timeline.

If you’re going to stay on Facebook and want to avoid stress, I highly recommend avoiding scrolling your timeline and instead visit the individual pages of friends or family members. That way you can avoid being slapped in the face by bizarre articles about girls who think they are boys because a therapist told them they were, people who think anyone who wears black shoes are racist, and politicians calling each other Nazis and immoral while they all conducting themselves in immoral ways.

You can also avoid headlines like “three foods to avoid in 2019” and “What you’re eating/wearing/drinking/thinking may give you cancer” and “New test will determine what day you’ll die” and the ever popular “The end of the world is near. Read here for the signs of the end times” (save yourself some trouble with that one and see the headlines and article topics above for those signs).

Bottom line? If you don’t have to use Facebook, avoid it. Go out and experience life. Take a walk, read a book, study God’s word, watch a comedy, write a silly blog post or two about Facebook or notice you have children and play a game or two with them.

You’ll be better off for it.

I know I have been.