what's making me happy this week 03.23.14: kumail, adam and peter

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photos:
1) i love the glass doorknobs in our house and won't let my husband replace them, even though some work poorly
2) the ceiling of the lobby of the university of michigan's museum of natural history where we had an after hours event
3) a late lunch of jap che and bi him bap with my daughter at bell's diner. you can see us in the mirror and a sign of spring hanging above. i have one just like it at home.
4) i love my pug's shadow. i wish i could get it without the sidewalk cracks so you can really see his curly tail
5) my daughter was in my office and arranged my fruit to let me know how she felt about her organic chemistry exam
6) my daughter came downstairs to excitedly explain an organic chemistry eureka moment to me using her whiteboard, which really just confused me and lulled me to sleep. you can see my pug is alarmed that she is invading our space
7) old iron fence shadows
8) lunch at the lunchroom in kerrytown, loved our bahn mi sandwiches

Walking back from lunch this week I overheard someone say to another person, “We’re lucky it’s so warm out today!” Moments later someone else smiled at me and said, “Nice day!” The same day my outdoor running buddy, whom I have not run with since October, texted me, “Want to run tomorrow morning?”

So by now you have deduced the weather here in Michigan has changed. It’s sunny and…30 degrees outside! No NOT Celsius. That’s good old American 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

You may think we are a sad and uncivilized lot here in the mid western United States. Uncivilized? Yes. Sad? No. We are HAPPY. It’s balmy! The snow is melting! We are on the other side!

Also making me happy this week:
1. The Detroit Tiger’s Baseball home opener is March 31, a week from tomorrow. Ernie Harwell announcing Tiger’s games on WJR radio was the background to my childhood summers. And even though Ernie Harwell is no longer announcing, listening to a Tiger’s game on the radio while making dinner is better than a glass of wine (and even better WITH a glass of wine). Winter is over friends: the boys of summer are back.

2. Kumail Nanjiani. I was thinking of this episode of Portlandia when I was looking into our cell phone plan this week…Anyone who has a cell phone plan will be able to relate, but may not find it funny.

3. I loved, LOVED, Adam Savage’s (of MythBusters fame) story on the Moth podcast about talking to his kids about online pornography. I was a little worried at first…but he nailed it. No pun intended. (Naughty!)

4. What made me happy about these rejection letters to famous people published by Mental Floss (by the way, greatest magazine, a subscription is a great gift for any nerdy person) is that in fact I found most of them to be very kind. May we all be so kind in our rejections.

5. Finally saw the movie, The Desendants. I loved it, despite the fact that I watched it with my mother who made a disapproving noise whenever anyone dropped an f-bomb, and there were about 3,456 f-bombs dropped throughout the film.
I love movies and books that begin with characters you really don’t like at all, and then slowly their humanity and vulnerability are revealed as you watch them evolve into better people.

6. It makes me happy that I finally finished Donna Tartt’s, The Goldfinch. Emphasis on FINISHED. Powered through nearly 800 pages waiting for someone in this book to redeem him or herself. Waited to care about someone. Still waiting.

Yes, I know. I read Stephen’s King’s review in the New York Times where he states, “The Goldfinch” is a rarity that comes along perhaps half a dozen times per decade, a smartly written literary novel that connects with the heart as well as the mind.”

And yes, I also heard NPR’s Maureen Corrigan’s review. “The Goldfinch far exceeds the expectations of those of us who’ve been waiting on Tartt to do something extraordinary again, ever since her debut novel, The Secret History, came out in 1992. Hell, I feel like I’ve been waiting for a novel like this to appear not only since I read The Secret History, but also since I first read David Copperfield.”

Wish I would have read Brit Peter Kemp’s review in the Sunday Times before being seduced by Corrigan and King. “Outdoing even The Little Friend, famously a decade in the writing, The Goldfinch has taken 11 years to appear. These epic gestations are attributed by awed Tartt admirers and devotees of websites such as Donna Tartt Shrine to uncompromising perfectionism. “It’s because of perfectionism that man walked on the moon and painted the Sistine Chapel, OK? Perfectionism is good,” she has stressed. But it’s hard to spot much of it in this ineptly put-together book….Melodrama and sentimentality abound (Pippa, “like a fairy” in a gauzy green dress, is a particularly fey fabrication). Similar-seeming formulations recur. One character is “like an elegant weasel”, another like “an elegant…polar bear”, a third has an “elegant black-clad body like a python”.

For me, alarms went off early on when Tartt uses the phrase, “tugged on his sleeve”. Any respectable high school English teacher would justifiably CHOKE a student who used that cliché in her writing.

7. Feeling happy that I got my irritation with The Goldfinch off my chest. Thank you. And consider yourself warned.

Happy, happy week to you!

resolutions

January 15, 2014

resolutions

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photos:
1) back hallway to the nat sci (natural sciences building) auditorium. i was showing my daughter around campus to her classes and had to take her down this ancient and somewhat creepy hallway, because i love it.
2) one snowy day, cold day my husband made blueberry buckle for the neighbors
3) the wonderful organ and organist at the beautiful and historic michigan theater, my favorite place to see films. art films, no commercials and an amazing pre-film organ concert
4) there was a fire down the street from us on main street, the photo is so ugly but i found the remains of this concrete and cinderblock building shocking. it used to be a pizza place that i disliked, beer coolers were the main feature of the place and it had a very macho vibe to it. i don’t think it did much business
5) my sassy sister (not a great photo of her). she may or may not be making a snarky face about a her mug christmas gift. this is the photo that shows up on my phone when she calls me. makes me laugh every time.
6) my dog on my daughter’s leg (she took the photo!)

It is mid January and I am still thinking about new year’s resolutions…which is about right for me. I have a hard time keeping up.

I have never made new year’s resolutions before, but this year, I wanted to give it a try. I have been looking for a thoughtful, comprehensive way to think about goals for 2014. But as I skim article after article on this topic, maybe thoughtful is not what I want after all.

Some articles on new year’s resolutions include 20 question inventories about the past year: “What surprised me this past year? What disappointed me this past year?” My house was generally a mess, which was disappointing, but no surprise. I don’t have the time, memory or attention span for such an inventory.

Other articles provide lists of possible areas/resolutions to consider when making resolutions. I like the lists in this article on personal goal setting because, in addition to considering the normal fodder for resolutions such as finances and weight loss, it includes areas that to me are equally as important such as artistic, education, and public service. (I found this article about lifetime, LIFETIME!, goal setting to be very intimidating, so I’m just using her list, not her process.)

Going through these list I realize I have many, many things I want to work on this year, including finances, competing in a triathlon, reading more, thinking about a product or products for an etsy shop, learning how to make videos, being a better parent, my professional life and what I should be doing to prepare for a job change, socializing with friends more, helping my mom more, keeping up on my blog and keeping my house cleaner…GAhhhh! This resolution business just sets people up for failure!

So I’m going to follow the advice of Natalie Houston in her article, Pick One Thing (published in the Chronicle for Higher Ed, but really applicable to all.)

Houston keeps it simple: pick one goal, define a small action toward the goal, keep track of your success, get support. For myself, if I make steady progress on that goal, I will start on another goal, but not until progress has been made on the first goal.

My first goal is preparing for an outdoor triathlon. I picked that as my first since I have already started making progress on this. I am saving money for a bike. I am in my second triathlon training class at the Y and am signed up to do the indoor Y-tri in March (15 minutes swim, 15 minutes indoor cycling, 15 minutes on the treadmill). And I’m pretty good about keeping up with my exercise plan. So I think I can add another goal.

My next goal is to work on keeping my house cleaner. I believe that housekeeping is overrated for sure, and our house is never (never, ever) going to be featured on Design*Sponge. We all work too much to make this a big focus of our lives, even our big kids work very hard at their academics and are busy outside of school. But somewhere in the past few, mad, years we have crossed the line from messy to gross. Embarrassingly gross. Something has to be done.

My sister in law recently posted on Facebook this 45-minute daily (DAILY?!) speed housecleaning routine. For my first step toward my goal of having a cleaner house, I thought I would give it a try…with modifications. (Daily…haha.) First modification: I will not be making my own housecleaning cleansers/products.

The author’s ability to do all on her list in the 45 minute time is likely because she has 45 minutes of uninterrupted time in her home, which I never do. Last night I made the mistake of leaving the bathroom door open 4 inches while I brushed my teeth before going to bed. First it was my dog crying outside the door for me. His eyesight is so bad he can’t see that the door was open.

Then it was my son coming to comfort my dog, “Mom, look how cute Finny is! Mom, no LOOK! You have to look! Oh look again! He is resting his chin on my leg. He is so cute. Mom, mom, look, LOOK!”

I love my son, and my dog and I am glad that my 16 year old still wants me to look…I’m just saying, I can’t get 5 uninterrupted minutes on my own, not even to brush my teeth. Still, I have to start somewhere…

I WILL be posting on my housekeeping progress. So you have that to look forward to…haha.

Do you have new goals for the new year? Or good ways to approach a new year? I’m listening!

New Year BWA bwa

January 5, 2014

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photos:
1) a tray of santa cookies, a tradition in my husband’s family
2) driving by the university of michigan stadium (the big house) on a wet winter night. they were getting it ready for the holiday classic hockey game. 100,000 people came into to town on new year’s day to watch the detroit red wings play the toronto maple leafs.
3) spingerle cookies setting overnight before they are baked, my husband made these and they are my favorite holiday cookie
4) the women’s locker room at the ymca in rochester where my mother lives. i know it is creepy to take a photo in a locker room, but i liked the color and the repetition of the mirrors and i was discreet…which probably makes it creepier
5) downtown ann arbor on new year’s eve, the night before the big hockey game. we walked downtown because we were curious about this pre-hockey game new year’s eve party, and we were up for a nighttime walk. smelled like cigarettes, cigars with a twinge of pot. it was like being in a college bar, but outside, in 16 degree weather (-8 canadian) …and college bars no longer smell like this since smoking is illegal in public places
so many leafs fans!
6) we did enjoy our nerdy new year’s eve of a board game, pandemic, along with chocolate fondu….
7) my daughter, ridiculous new slippers and mindy kaling…a well suited trio. i loved mindy kaling’s book by the way. she is a smart, funny and powerful woman in a field dominated by males. and its a very fast read.
8) shadows from our night time walk on new year’s eve. the white streaks are snow flakes falling in front of my lens.

What breaks my heart about a new year is the very clear demarcation of the passing of a significant amount of time. A whole year. We all have a finite time on this earth: a finite amount of time to learn, to love, to laugh, to become better people, to make the world a better place, to find peace, to show gratitude for all that we have…Did I spend my year wisely?

I don’t want to even think about the time I wasted on Netflix, Buzzfeed, Youtube and the raunchy entertainment section of Huffington Post.

(Do you see why my daughter often teases me by calling me Debbie Downer, and sings this song from Rachel Dratsh’s Debbie Downer skit from Saturday Night Live? Or she sometimes does the shorthand two-toned, horn sound, BWA bwa, just to let me know I’m being a downer.)

So I’m trying focus on this shiny, new year. A new year provides an opportunity to be reflective, to bring into focus what is really important or what most needs attention in our lives. A new year provides an opportunity to hit the reset button and to tweak our course in life.

I haven’t quite pulled my priorities together for 2014, as I have been too busy panicking about 2013 being over. Forever. Never to return again. (BWA bwa)

I have some ideas; I’d like to participate in a triathalon, and/or a long distance cycling trip. I also want to get on top of our personal finances. My husband has always taken care of this and I’ve had so many other things to do, that that was fine with me. Now that I have a little more time, I’d like to be more on top of things.

Instead of making a list of things that are rattling around in my brain at the moment, I would like to find a more comprehensive way to think about how to plan a year’s goals so that when it ends, I feel satisfied and at peace.

That may require a personality transplant, or me quitting my job, which is to say, it may be impossible. (BWA bwa)

I will let you know if I find a good framework for this planning process—let me know if you find one first.

I wish you a peaceful, satisfying, love-filled, sometimes raucous, sometimes surprising, sometimes challenging, new year.

photo 111: assignment 8, hard light with detail

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photos:
1) wakefield chair and our puppy finnegan (deaf and nearly blind and nearly 12)
2) finny and his bunny, see how finny’s tail uncurls when he sleeps? it also uncurls when he’s upset
3) my favorite creamer, though it has never held cream, usually maple syrup
4) experimenting with salt on a black mat board
5) i loved the shadows these wooden rabbits made, i used them for my shallow depth of field post as well

It has been some time since I have written about my photography class. Being without photos today, it seems like a good day to get back to it.

According to my instructor’s assignment sheet, alternative titles for the Hard Light with Detail assignment include “sunny light”, “directional light” or “undiffused light.”

My instructor included a specific requirement of ensuring there was good detail in both the shadows and the highlight. This is tricky, which I think is the point!

When you are shooting in bright light, it is both easy to have have light areas blown out and over exposed, and shadows underexposed. The goal is to get the exposure as close to perfect as possible, by bracketing and then making minimal corrections with the exposure brush (in Lightroom). Bracketing is trying a range of fstops.

The top photo is the one I turned in for a grade. But you can see in the other photo of my puppy, that the light has blown out the detail in the rug.

My instructor suggested shooting in the early and late hours of sun, with the sun at the side of the subject, and shooting from a low angle. The texture of the subject will be more dramatic. I’m not sure I’ve captured a lot of texture, but I love shadows, so I enjoyed this assignment.

I have 4 more assignments to cover…and then maybe I’ll try the assignments all over again, before I forget things like bracketing!

a look back at spring

September 16, 2013

a look back at spring

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photos:
1) hand shadow holding a petal in michigan league courtyard
2) table shadow in michigan league courtyard
3) looking out through the courtyard wall
4) one of my favorite doorways on campus, at the dental school, i should photograph it at night
5) stenciled near the power center (i googled the date and I think this must refer to the uc davis police pepper spray attack on occupy wallstreet protesters)

Searching for something to post about, I came across these photos I took on campus in May? April?

I remember that day.

I met my daughter in the Michigan League courtyard. She had just recently returned home from her first year of college. The whole summer was before us. The students had just left town for the summer. There were parking spaces to be had. The trees were in excessive bloom. It was a day to pause for a moment on the sidewalk under a petal-raining tree and to breathe and be grateful. I did and I was.

Then we fast forwarded to here and to now.

Do I sound nostalgic? I am a little, but happy for fall. The students are back, with their energy and brilliance and shiny, shiny selves. (Were we ever so shiny? Ah yes, before we had kids…or maybe before we had mortgages. Responsibility is dulling.)

Walking my dog this morning I was excited to see burning orange leaves on mostly green trees. Maybe tomorrow I will remember to bring my camera. Soon I will be pausing to breathe and to be grateful, under a tree raining copper leaves.

I hope you will be too.

lockdown

February 23, 2013

lockdown

Yesterday we learned via robo call that our daughter’s college had an emergency and it was on lockdown. I don’t even have to describe the images that came into my head. You know the images.

I texted her, “Please call me when you can.”

She replied, “I can’t. I’m so scared.”

With no additional information, we, and she, and her fellow students and professor, had no idea what was going on. They only knew it involved a gun.

The incident turned out to be less threatening than we were all imagining. Someone just a block off campus, not a college student, had threatened to shoot another and was locked in his apartment. The police were trying to get him to come out, which he eventually did.

While I think I did pretty well in crisis mode, I felt like wailing and gnashing afterward. How do I protect my daughter, and my son, in this crazy world? How can I care and comfort her in such a situation from so far away? I wanted her home. I wanted her here where I could protect her. I wanted to impose my own lockdown.

But even at home, I can’t protect her from these situations. When she was a freshman in high school we had another robo call about her school being in lockdown. This was not at some college in another state, but at her sweet little high school in downtown Ann Arbor, just a 10 minute walk from my office, in a relatively safe and comfortable community.

A robber who was holding up a jewelry store downtown had run from police toward the area of the school. That time we received good information throughout the crisis via more robo calls. We knew what the situation was. We knew the police were immediately inside the school with tracking dogs (the police station is about 3 blocks from the school) and we knew when the lockdown was lifted when they found no robber.

We also learned after the lockdown was lifted, first via text from our daughter, that someone in a dance class noticed a man’s feet sticking out from behind the curtain of a storage area. As the teacher tried to get the students out of the room, the robber realized he had been discovered and yelled, “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I just want to get out of here.” The students stood aside as he bolted from the classroom and the building. (He was found shortly after hiding, wrapped in insulation, under the porch of a home.)

I can’t protect her from everything. If she is going to live in the world, if she is going to do meaningful work in the world, if she is going to change the world for the better, then she will have to live, LIVE! in this sometimes-dangerous world. Keeping her under my wing safe from all that is scary and hard would just make for a miserable person who is unable to cope as an adult. So, no home lockdowns.

My comfort in these lockdown situations is that in both cases she was not alone; she was with friends and with kind strangers. Some of the strangers are now her friends. Yesterday she and her classmates were in it together. They shared information; she shared her jolly ranchers. They tried to make each other laugh. They took care of and comforted each other.

Our children are not alone and it’s best for them, and for us, to learn that they can find strength, comfort and compassion in the people around them, and in themselves. All of the love and safety we have provided them when they were young, they can find and cultivate in others as they get older.

I will always drop everything to try to comfort and to be with my children when they are facing a crisis, now and 40 years from now. But I am learning that I will be part of a bigger support team, with members who will be right by my children’s side much more quickly than I can be.