This week's "Photo Friday"
19 July 2010
Yesterday, I went for a walk at the new 100 Acres Art & Nature Park at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Two artists are living in a floating island in the lake right now. I'll have to go back again with the intent to bring something to trade and make a visit to the island. You can read about their project "Give and Take" here.
The camera, of course, was present on my walk. It's amazing the things you see when you start looking for them.
When I got home, I spied this beautiful blue creature on my patio table:
And these, that came home from the Farmers' Market:
"This is Just to Say", by William Carlos Williams. They were so sweet and so cold.
11 July 2010
03 July 2010
This week's Photo Friday challenge is "Bloom". Since I like to shoot flowers, the most difficult part of this challenge was deciding what photograph to use. I shot this at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, May 21, 2010.
This was my second choice, also shot on the same day:
Here's a link to several others.
Enjoy the holiday weekend!
25 June 2010
The play, really a reading of several monologues by five actors, had some funny lines but dealt with a predictable catalog of "women's" issues surrounding careers, marriages, children, and health, divorce and death. While I enjoyed my evening, I not likely to remember much from the play in a week. But, later that evening, when I was unable to fall asleep, I decided to try to draw some examples from my own wardrobe over the years. What works as a device in the play, similarly, provoked me into thinking about various episodes in my life.
I'm not skilled at drawing, but voila! It is what it is.
As an adult, I came across a photo my father had shot one Easter morning. Alongside my 3 sisters, I sat on the porch, posed for the camera. We all were in brand new dresses and shiny patent leather shoes, with matching hats: four little ladies -- almost. From left to right, Michele, Helene, & Patrice sat primly, smiling, legs crossed demurely, their hats seated jauntily atop neatly brushed curls. At the end of the row was me: knees apart, dress rumpled and grass-stained, socks fallen, mud-covered shoes, straggly hair, hat in hand, unable to hide the fact that no amount of AquaNet could keep the curls from fleeing as soon as I went outside.
I suspect I never saw this picture when a child because my mother was aghast when she saw it. Many of the pictures from my childhood were similar. I knew from an early age that I didn't have a career in modeling ahead of me.
One of my favorite dresses when I was 6. It's was a hand-me-down and you can find a picture of the real dress in an earlier post. I felt like a princess in this dress, the green velvet vest the most luxurious item I owned. I thought I was beautiful! I wore it for every holiday for a few years, long past a proper fit.
It was certainly different than the scratchy wool uniforms we wore to school: Red plaid, white blouse with peter pan collar, navy blue tie, navy blue socks, serious looking shoes. I think they were saddle shoes, before those became retro and cool. We drew bell bottoms & flower power signs in our notebooks -- the closest we could get to dressing how we wished. Just before the start of the school year, all the moms would gather in the gym for a uniform exchange. For some girls the jumpers were too big at the start of the year. For petite me, they were too big and too long all year. There wasn't a chance in the world that I would ever fail the nuns' random tests to be sure that your skirt was only so many inches from the floor when you knelt. I detested the color red for years.
In Jr. High, my parents' placed me in a public school. Nobody knows me, I thought. Here's my chance of being cool. That lasted until my mother came home one day with my new school clothes. She also had a special surprise: she had my sister sew an outfit -- a pantssuit, with bellbottoms! -- for me. Nearly 40 years later, I still don't know what she was thinking and wonder if my sister really hated me that much:
Red and mustard colored paisleys on a sea of brown. Brushed velvet. Pants and vest, worn with a bright yellow blouse. I think the idea behind the vest was to hide my blossoming bosom. My hopes for being considered cool were gone before I got on the bus. Years ago, when I taught school, I thought that the years between 12 - 15 were like walking down the school hallways naked, one's emotions so exposed , a chronic state of being self-conscious. And then I think about the 7th Grade Pantsuit. Naked would have been better.
I still feel horrible if I wear yellow.
At the start of 8th grade, I told me mother that The Pants Suit didn't fit me any more. It stayed in the back of the closet until it found its way into a GoodWill bag, with the aid of a younger sister who would have received it as a hand-me-down. My clothes weren't more hip, though I did have Five Minutes of Sartorial Fame in 8th grade during a 50's Day contest. Happy Days was the new rage, and somehow dressing up in our parents old clothes was suppose to show our school spirit. I was never much for those types of events, but I decided to wear one of my mother's dresses. While every one else was dressing in poodle skirts or leather jackets & rolled up jeans to look like Erin, Richie or The Fonz, I wore my mother's "Going Away" dress, the dress she wore when she & my father left for their honeymoon. I thought the deep purple, ribbed knit dress was lovely. It had sparkling rhinestone buttons and a short matching sweater. I wore my mother's matching pumps, the highest heels I had ever worn. With an china pencil, I drew seams on the back of my hose. To complete the June Cleaver look, I wore my mother's pearls and my Grandmother's fox stole, complete with --shudder -- feet. I think my school might have had Tim Gunn's soulmate on the staff: I won the faculty award for best dressed and was given the title The Queen of the 50's.
More fun than actually winning, was the taunting I received from the popular mean girl who thought that she would win with the custom-designed poodle skirt her mother had made for the day. I can still hear her saying: You really shouldn't have won; I gave the idea for the contest to Student Council and I was supposed to win. You were suppposed to dress, like, you know, a KID from the 50's, not somebody's MOM from the 50's!
I started my first post-college job in the early 80's. Like everyone else, I wore serious looking suits, which meant that they looked like men's suits, with big shoulder pads. And silk ties, tied in neat little bows, to look feminine. Yeah, um, no. I'm hopeful that look is never revived.
I started branching out a little in the late eighties, wearing dresses, even though we were told it was very MidWestern, and not very chic.
I had a teal skirt and blouse, that looked like a dress, that I thought looked really great.
And a more "professional" looking dress. Why more professional? Probably the damn bow. It took me a dozen years to realize that I look good in Red.
Eventually I moved away from the bows, and thought I was daring if I showed any cleavage, like the pink & blue dress that I was wearing when I met my first husband. He invited me to a Halloween party the next weekend, although it was actually the weekend after Halloween. I wore green pants and sweater strung with christmas lights and candy canes. This was before there were battery operated lights, so I had to plug myself into a wall socket so that people knew I was a Christmas Tree. I got lost on the way to the party and had to stop for directions. They might have been tempted to direct me back to the insane asylum. I later thought of this as the Nightmare Before Christmas Costume.
As I moved into middle age, my wardrobe became more monotone. While there was the occassional purchase of something really awesome, like the Beautiful Green Suit, made from a brocade like fabric with small gold buttons,
mostly my closet reflected only one color: Black.
And, of course, the LBD:
These days, I work in an office with a casual dress code.
It's casual, not business casual. I could probably show up wearing exercise cloths. If I did, they would be black.
28 May 2010
21 May 2010
09 May 2010
17 April 2010
Coming to terms, in slow increments, one member of my parent's generation at a time, with being part of the senior generation of the family is an odd thing. Though it is a path that many travel, there is no roadmap. I remember my mother commenting after my last grandparent died, that she and my father were now the elders, with no parents. That sense of orphanhood was something that I didn't understand 30 years ago, and I am only beginning to get a glint of what that might mean now, despite the fact that my father has been deceased for 14 years, his sister for 16, his twin cousins and their spouses for over five years, his own twin for a year.
As we drove through the city, we passed places that seemed vaguely familiar. I saw that park where I think we sometimes would view July 4th Fireworks. Place names seemed familiar, although more from the retelling of events rather than any firm memories of experiences. Could I have possibly remembered my sister pushing my brother out of the car at the corner of Shermer and Beckwith? Mom seemed to think that I was an infant. Or was that another child? The story has been told so many times that it is my memory, even if that memory is only of the family tale. I certainly knew the intersection as we drove through it.
After the funeral, I got out the trusted GPS -- and my brother's not so trust-worthy directions -- and drove through the neighborhoods my parents lived in when I was a preschooler. I pointed out each of the houses where we lived, retelling stories. Then we headed north and toward the lake to The Address. Even my husband understood where we were headed when I gave him the number. Known only by its house number, if there was a family homestead in my family, it was this: my Grandmother's house.
Several years ago my husband was visiting my cousin and needed to login to her PC (on-site support and maintenance is the cost of boarding for free in Gotham). Over the phone, from my desk at work, I asked him if he knew what my common password was. I don't need your password, he said. I need hers. Change the leters, keep the digits, I said. I bet that's it. Puzzeled, he tried and was successful. That random number has meaning?
Yes, it does. Standing as a presence almost as monolithic as my grandmother, is that house, a house so symbolic in my father's family, it is known only by a number. I later learned that my father and my brother have also routinely used some variation of the address for passwords and lock combinations.
My grandparents moved into this house in the 1930's and lived there until long after the War when their children were grown and on their own. Eventually, they sold it to my Aunt. In total, the house was owned by someone in my family for over 50 years.
When I was a child, all family holidays happened at this house. There were numerous versions of holiday photos of my grandmother's 25 grandchildren. At Christmas, the aunts wore appliquéd aprons with trees and candycanes, the uncles sparkly vests with Santas and Snowmen. I suspect those accessories never left the house, but they've been memorialized in Kodachrome. At Easter, we all gathered on the front steps, smiling in our new Spring coats and hats. But, despite the family traditions of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, the iconic family holiday at The Address was Independence Day.
Every year we would gather on the 3rd of July. It was mandatory to arrive at Aunt Peg's the day before so that we would be rested for the events on the 4th. There were foot races, pie eating, and watermelon seed spitting contests for the neighborhood at the school. When we were really young, since we didn't live in town, we were coached on what address to give should we win. Even if I couldn't remember the street, I knew the house number, as if it was a Jungian ancestral memory, stored in my DNA. At noon, there was a parade down the main street, only a block from the house. We'd arrive early to claim our places, having rode bikes which we had decorated with cards in the spokes and ribbons on the handlebars. We wanted to be in the best position to catch candy thrown from the floats, and trail the end of the parade for a few blocks, adding to the cacophony of the parade. Afterward, there was a large picnic in the backyard, with all of my cousins, my father's cousins, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins, many whom I couldn't ever remember their names.
Somewhere toward dinner time, we'd end up playing hide & seek. The twist was always that we had to play inside, where we weren't suppose to be playing. But The House had so many great hiding places, how could we pass up the temptation?
Off the kitchen was a butler's pantry, with spacious cabinets that were perfect for hiding. There was a transom over both doors to the pantry, so you could hear the seekers looking for you. There was my Uncle's office, just off the main stairwell. Getting caught by an adult in that room was sure to bring a scolding. It was also a great place to hide because of how one had to get there. Since it was off-limits, and there were always adults in the living room, you had to approach the room from the back entrance. This meant that you had to walk down the scariest hallway in the world -- unlit, long and narrow, with floorboards the groaned even under a child's foot. Downstairs, in the basement, was the creepiest basement corner ever. Beyond the dim laundry and the darker workbench area, was the worst excuse of a dank add-on bath that one could imagine. And in the corner, where the older kids hid their smokes and dope, it was even darker. There were plenty of places to hide, but some so scary that you couldn't wait to be found.
In the evening, if we didn't go to the park for fireworks, we would climb the stairs to the third floor to peer out the windows. From there, one could see the fireworks that were set off from the football stadium a mile away. The 3rd floor attic was rarely unlocked, but it was as mysterious as the basement and beckoned with more adventures of exploring years of collected and forgotten objects belonging to three generations.
When my cousins and I reminisced at Uncle Sid's funeral, we naturally talked about the 4th of July parties. I remember catching my cousin Helen smoking an odd smelling cigarette in the basement, of walking into the bathroom where my cousin Richard was shaving, of a spin the bottle kiss, just a peck on the check, when I was nine with someone whom I was certain wasn't related (what's a 3rd cousin anyway?), of sulking on the squeaky porch swing rather than watching the fireworks from the attic the year two of my cousins -- both my age -- were allowed to go watch the show at the stadium but I was told that I was too young. How I disliked my mother that summer!
To my father, The Address was always his parent's house, though his sister's family lived there. I still know which street light he shot with a BB gun from his bedroom window and got away with blaming his brother. I know which stair creaked loudly, learned from late nights as a teenager sneaking out with my cousins. It is the smell of my aunt's perfume, and my uncle's grilled hotdogs, with a strong note of perked coffee and stale smoke. I know the house's rough stucco walls, and the thorny hedge behind the garage, and the Jewel at the corner between my Aunt's and Grandma's house. It is the place with a grand piano in the parlor and my great-grandfather's water colors hanging on the walls. It is the house with clanky radiators and wobbly fans that greeted us and kept me awake the first nights of any visit.
I thought I might be saddened by driving by the house, as I hadn't seen it in years, hadn't been inside it for over 25 years. I had heard that the newest owners had done extensive remodeling. I'm sure that they've redone the kitchen and certain that they would have added a dishwasher. If I were a gambler, I'd bet money that the scary basement bathroom no longer exists, the hallway is lit, and the floorboards don't squeak. And, while I can understand why they would have removed the French doors and the front porch, extending the living room, I missed seeing the old screen porch. But I can still smell the scent of the screens during a rain storm. The old yellow brick lady still seemed the same. An extensive remodel, even to the exterior, can't erase long set memories.
I considered substituting other numbers for the actual address of the house when I began writing this. Since I know that some in my family have used that number as passwords, I can't reveal what it is. I even studied the photo to be sure that the house number was not visible. Oddly, no number I could think of seemed to work. Even if it had the same number of syllables, the same rhythm and cadence of the sound, it didn't seem the same. It took me awhile to realize that The House Known by A Number is more than just a house, more than just a number. I couldn't call it by something that wasn't its name. Substituting a number wouldn't work because The Address is the essence of what a home is, and it signifies all that was my extended family when I was a child.
11 April 2010
A is for Anna or Airplanes or Awe. B is for Books or Buttons, or Birds... P is for Photos, or Palwaukee....
My maternal grandmother, Anna, was a possibility, but it seemed a topic both too large for a single blog post and too much in the fog of childhood memories to be much of anything unless I worked on it for a very long time. I wrote a short story about by grandparents 25 years ago. Instead of writing the blog, I pondered how I could rework that story into something worthy of submitting for publication. But I didn't do anything but think about it. The story isn't of a quality that I would want someone else to read, but there was a lot of emotion surrounding the writing of it that I can't bring myself to edit it.
I thought about writing about airplanes: My first time in an airplane. Riding in a sailplane with my father. Musings about my grandfather who trained to be a pilot during WWI. My son studying astronomical engineering and deciding to pursue a career in the Air Force.
My first trip in an airplane -- at age 12 and without any family -- was an adventure, but not all that spectacular. Flying in a glider was one of the most peaceful, meditative experiences I've ever had, but I'd be terrified to try to pilot one. I've learned recently that there used to be a photo of my grandfather on the wall of 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant. Maybe sometime in the future, when I'm in the Chicago area, I will venture out to the 'burbs to see if it is still. I wonder if it is at all like the photo that my father kept on his dresser throughout his life, the one I would stare at and dream up what adventures the smiling pilot in what looked like a Red Baron outfit might have had. I should find the photo before I write about it, I thought; it could be P is Palwaukee. I could write volumes about my conflicting feelings about B's decision to join the USAF, but that decision is his, not mine and I know he wouldn't be comfortable with me writing about it. Airplanes as one blog post? I don't think so.
I thought about changing the biographical theme of the meme to one of ideas... A is for Awe, A is for Achievement, A is for Advantages, A is for Anger... I quickly moved away from that idea. What would B be for? M? Z? It sounds like it could easily be preachy, or cloying, or just plain boring.
Thinking of Z, I thought I could start at the end of the alphabet and work to the front. Maybe then I would think of something for a post titled A is for .... But, what would I do for Z? Z is for... Zero. I came up empty. Zero. Zilch. Zzzzzs.
And so it is when one wants to write but can't. You come up with all sorts of reasons why you don't want to tackle something, or why you want to write about something else first, or you get tangled up with thinking that someone else won't like it, or you haven't all of the information or knowledge, or experience to write about it yet. I started a novel in November, participating in NaNoWriMo. I laid out the sketchiest of all possible outlines, but it was, at least, a plan to guide me. But I've gone months without working on it. Sometimes, when I'm stuck in traffic, or my mind wanders from a task at work, or I'm out taking a walk, I listen to the voices of my characters. They have told me some amazing stories, hinted at things about themselves that I have yet to learn. But, they have yet to inspire me to sit down with the manuscript after several months. I haven't abandoned them, but I seem to find ten other things to do when I plan to write. Perhaps I'm not disciplined enough. Maybe I'm afraid that I'm not good enough to write anything others would want to read. Maybe I just don't want to take on such a challenging, difficult thing that might consume more time than what I want to give.
The thing is when you want to write and can't, the cure seems to be that you just have to do it. Not quite ready to pick up the novel quite yet, but I want to write more often. Even if it is painful to do so. Even if I want to distract myself with a hundred other things. I want to find some sort of writing mojo, to stop talking about, or thinking about writing and actually write.
And so I will begin with A. A is for .... My next post.
05 April 2010
* Number of books for Emily's TBR Challenge: 6
* Number of books written about for TBR Challenge: 1
* Best book read so far this year: Olive Kitteridge. Awesome.
* Number of posts this year: a meager 16.
* Number of photos posted since Jan 1: 18. This is NOT a photo blog. Not a photo blog at all. But I'm sure enjoying my new DSLR camera, a Canon EOS Rebel XSi.
* Thought about renaming this blog Books, Birds and Bull. The bull is that I write about books. Below is a bird that entertained me today when I was working from home. Let's see: Work? Distraction? Joy? Yep, Joy wins.
* Number of holes this little guy drilled into this tree today: 6 in this photo. I thought about telling him to stop hammering on my tree, but I think he would say that it is his from root to crown.
* What the bird found interesting: these tasty (presumably) little critters.
* Varieties of flowers in the woods: at least 6, plus naturalized daffodils, crocus, hyacinths.
- Trout Lillies
- Cutleaf Toothwort
- Spring Beauty
The Spring Beauty is my favorite wildflower. See the little ant crawling on the blossom?
* Number of movies so far this year: 6.
* Kept track of number of miles walked in January (16 total). Feb & March: 0. I'm a lazy slug. Am working to correct that. So far this month, walked 4 miles.
* Saw William Eggleston Demographic Camera exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago last month. Liked the exhibit, was intrigued by the odd photographs of Elvis' house, not so sure what I think about the new Modern Wing.
* I'm looking forward to returning to the Art Institute to see Matisse: Radical Invention in May. Will also see The Taming of the Shrew at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre - a new production set in 16th century with new contemporary scenes by playwright Neil LaBute that are suppose to frame the Shakespeare work, "providing a 21st century lens" on the Bard's work.
* It's half time in the NCAA game, with Butler behind by 1 point. Blue is growling at those Blue devils! This city is wild. Eavesdropping on conversations in the restaurant this evening, it was apparent that lots were heading downtown to the game. However, the people who were wearing their tickets around their necks: don't you think that was either a) just a bit stupid or b) a bit show-offish? Go Dogs!