Living creatively, love of photography, and passionate living.

Posts tagged “outdoors

Practice, practice, practice.

Whatever strikes my interest, I just go ahead and take a shot.  This day, it seems it was mostly about texture.

It was such a beautiful day–in the middle of winter, at that!  So, again, I ventured out at lunch with a friend.  We drove down a deserted road and came upon an old barn.  We stopped and got out of the car, cameras in hand.  It turned out to be such a fun afternoon that neither of us wanted to go back to work.  Truly, we could have stayed out there all afternoon and had no trouble at all finding so many more things to capture on camera.

I think we’ll probably go back sometime…

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This is my kind of winter!

Okay.  So, I know we had a terribly hot summer.  And I know I said I wouldn’t complain when winter got here–no matter how cold it got–because it would be such a relief from the however-many-days above 100 we had last summer.  But I have been enjoying the unusually mild winter we have been having the last couple of weeks.  I’m talking upper 50’s and low-to-mid 60’s! Especially, since this week is going back to cold and chilly again.

Because it was so nice last week, I made it a point to get out and walk during my lunch time at work, taking my camera along with me.  These are just a few of the images I was able to capture.

Hope you enjoyed viewing these and it gave you some winter relief if you live where it’s been cold and blustery lately!  Next time, I’ll post the pics from the other day I was out and about.


More Night Images

Okay.  So sorry, I forgot to post last week!  I got busy and thought I would do it on Monday (Tuesday at the latest) and before I knew it, the weekend was here already! 

Anyway…

I’ve been out taking  more night images, trying to get better at it.  I had good opportunity the week before last because we had so much going on here around town.  There were even fireworks!  The weather was so stinkin’ hot during the day that the evening was the only time we wanted to venture out anyways.  My kids were good sports and tagged along most of the time (okay, there might have been some forcing and threatening) and helped carry my “stuff.”  My son even attended part of an outdoor night concert of someone who was before his time — although he has heard me play Eddie Money’s album on my old stereo before.

I had some nice surprises and was pleased with the ones that I was able to capture nicely.  The goal is to learn, even from my mistakes.  Hope you find something you like as well.

This first one is of a guy who had the coolest car with hydraulics.  He put on a show for me when he saw I was taking pictures with my camera.  Unfortunately, another car came up beside him (between me and the white car) and was blocking my view just as he had his car turned all the way on its side and was shooting out all this white smoke!  By the time I ran around to the front side of the car that was blocking my view and readjusted my camera, the show was over.  I was so mad!  I have one of where he is looking straight into the camera and giving me this big smile!  What a great guy.

This couple was just as friendly.  Maybe the guy on the farthest motorcycle didn’t want to be photographed, but the lady on the back of the closest one gave me a friendly wave and a smile.

When I was a  kid in high school, the big thing to do on Friday and Saturday night was to “drag Douglas.’   That’s the name of the main street in our town, and you would see all your friends and meet some new ones by getting in a car and driving along Douglas street.  The cops were good about letting the kids ride up and down the street, as long as no one was breaking any laws.  People still do it, obviously. 

Here’s what it looks like now.

And here are the rest of my night shots.

Eddie Money in concert.

A cool “mistake.”

And a fireworks show along the river.


Water Fountains at Night

It’s that time of year again.  Our annual RiverFestival is in full swing and there are plenty of opportunities for some practicing of  night shooting.  It’s tricky for me, because it causes me to have to use more settings than I’m use to or know exactly how to use.  But what better way for me to get in some practice.  The nights are full of people and events, so I plan on making full use of that.

The festival has changed dates this year, and it’s a month later than it normally takes place.  I can honestly say I don’t like it at this time of year.  It seems like they are trying to shift things and there were some big changes that I have heard a lot of people say they don’t like.  So we’ll see if they keep it this way or switch it back to May.  It’s been extremely HOT and that doesn’t make it any more fun for me.  I almost had heat stroke yesterday.  I know I had a moderate case of heat exhaustion.  My daughter and I were out walking in the heat in the middle part (also, the hottest part of the day and not the wisest time to be out, but my son wanted to meet up with a friend) of the day.  We had umbrellas, but the temp was up around 100 degrees.  We were out for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours — a third of that time was indoors in air-conditioning.  We both drank plenty of water the whole time we were out walking around. 

When we finally stopped for the day, we were driving to get something to eat when I started to feel sick to my stomach and a little headachy.  I was struggling with my window (it fell off the track and I was having trouble getting it to roll back up–yes, the air conditioner is broke right now so we do the old-fashioned way and roll our windows down) and was standing in the parking lot, in the shade, and pulling it back in place.  I guess I exerted enough energy to wear myself out even more after the sun and heat had already taken a beating out of me.  By the time we walked into the lovely air conditioning of the restaurant and I sat down, my legs and even the palms of my hands were sweating profusely.  I had to sit and just try to relax with the ice-cold water bottle on the back of my neck and side of my throat to help cool my blood going to my head.  Finally, I started to feel normal again, and once I ate a little something and drank some iced tea, I felt much better.

My point of saying all of that is that I won’t be doing much at the RiverFestival until the evening hours when things have cooled down some.  As a result, I will be able to do more night shooting in an effort to figure out what is the best way to do it and how to make it all work. 

There are some pics I won’t be able to show just yet, because I am entering the photo contest again this year and hope to win more than I did last year.  Therefore, I can’t show the photos I plan on entering yet until the contest winners have been announced sometime in July.  Here are the results of my first night.  They are pics of water fountains in the area.  There was another one that was of a larger waterfall, but I couldn’t get those to come out right.  I need more practice first!  Plus, the wind was blowing like crazy and I had to stand right in front of the fountain to get the pic I wanted, which meant the water was splashing and blowing all over me and my camera.  I wasn’t going to risk it and just wanted to wait for a calmer night. 

I have to tell you it took me several tries to get the effect I wanted.  I had to mess around with my settings and every time I moved to a different area or fountain, the lighting changed depending on where I stood.  I need to learn to slow down and just take my time.  I didn’t use a tripod.  I probably should, but I don’t want to carry one around and I like the challenge of hand-holding my camera and just using what I have–myself and whatever is around me.  It forces me to use my settings more and to do a lot of adjusting, which is how I think I want to learn in order to know exactly what my camera does when I use this setting or that, and when I turn the dial this way (up or down in numbers) or that.

I like the way the water droplets in the second one shine like jewels in the air and stand still.  And I think I captured the flow of the water at just the right speed in the first one.  It’s not too milky and not too stagnate.  You can see some of the water droplets captured in a stand-still mode, while the main waterfall flows naturally.  And I tried to get the bottom one when the wind was blowing really hard so you could see the water splashing sideways, but I never could get it just right with the time I had.  My son was with me and he was getting tired and wanted to go home.  I didn’t want to try his patience any more than I already had, because we had a really nice time that evening together.  His sister had teamed up with some of her friends and it was just him and I for the night.  We walked around, had some good food, and then sat and watched the fireworks before grabbing these shots and heading home. 

Stay tuned for more to come of my night shooting practices!


Changing a photo.

Well, I hope everyone enjoyed their holiday weekend and was able to squeeze every moment of relaxation out of it they could.  I know I tried.  I ended up doing a lot of cooking.  Although, I didn’t barbecue even once over the past three days.  I just did a lot of indoor cooking instead.  I guess I was just in one of those moods. 

Anyway, I had planned on getting out and doing a lot of things with my camera.  However, I never seemed to be able to fit it in anywhere.  Then, on Sunday in the late afternoon, I was finally able to step outside and down the street to photograph one of the many downtown churches in our area.  I’m only going to show you one part of what I shot, because I am working on transforming it into something other than what I started with. 

The church is absolutely gorgeous on the inside, too.  Maybe I’ll be able to get inside one day and see if I can take some photos.  But for now, I wanted to focus on the outside.  When I got there, I saw that some repairs were being done and there were wooden railings and scaffolding up everywhere on the building.  So I zeroed in on the top.  There are a total of three domes on top, and I picked the one I could get the best view of at the time. 

Here is the original.  Actually, I shot it in RAW but always make my adjustments and then save it as a TIFF.  This is that TIFF after my initial adjustments.

You can see the scaffolding in the lower right corner.  I removed it and did some improvements with color and tone.

Then I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make it black and white, or just desaturate the color a little, so I played around and came up with this.

I liked it.  It reminds me of something out of an old school book.  But I never stop there when I have captured an image that I see so much potential in if I know I can play around even more and just work it out. 

I knew I wanted to see this as a night image.  And I knew I didn’t want the building to become a silhouette.  I wanted to be able to still see what a magnificent structure this is by keeping some of the lines and curves showing.  So, I knew moonlight would have to be included. 

This is what I’ve done on it so far.

I’m loving it so far!  I know I want to add some night creatures, but I don’t want to make it into something creepy.  I’ve begun to add an angel to it, though I know you can’t see that yet.  I won’t show that until I am completely done with it.  But I love what it’s becoming and I can’t wait to work some more on it! 

I’ll show you the completed work when I’m finished.  I just wanted to share with you one of my work’s in progress. 

See you next time!


Unknown Roads.

Sometimes in life, our world changes.  Maybe it’s because we made the choice to change it, or maybe it’s because it’s changing due to circumstances we have no control over.  Whatever the reason, we have two choices.  Either we can embrace the change or we can be unhappy about it. 

Being unhappy about it doesn’t really seem like it will do any good in the end.  The change is still going to come.  And trying to fight it is only going to waste time that could be better spent figuring out how to deal with it, how to get through it, and how to get on with it.  I’m not necessarily talking about a life or death health issue here.  Some of those are definitely a worthwhile fight.

What I’m talking about are changes that come in life that make us have to make choices.  Like job changes or moving changes or career changes.  Maybe its a change to live with someone like a roommate, spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend.  Whatever the change, we know the road is uncertain.

We can’t see the end result, so how can we even be sure we are doing the right thing?  Well, I don’t know the answer to that.  What I do know is that once you make your choice, don’t look back.  Keep moving forward, one step at a time, until your road gets better. 

You may not always be able to see what’s at the end of the path or even what lies ahead at times.  Everything seems unsure, and you can’t always see things clearly.  But if you have a goal, a plan of what you’re after, of where you want to be or get to, then you can make it through the seemingly scary parts.  Keep your eye on what lies beyond the obscurity.

Because, you know, sometimes it the part of the road that makes us have to take chances and figure it all out without a map to get us through that teaches us the important things in life.  It’s that part that makes us grow and learn and become a better person.  It can be that exact part that makes us proud of ourselves for making it through and coming out even better than when we started this path, this unknown road.

And you might have to make some detours along the way.  But that’s okay, too.  A straight road, while seemingly safe and secure, can make for less adventure, excitement, and opportunity for growth.  You might not always know which way to go.  Some days, you could be heading one direction, a little to the right, and the next week, you could be headed a little to the left.  As long as your still moving forward, that’s what matters the most. 

Traveling down unknown roads can be nerve-racking, or full of uncertainty that brings anxiety.  Change can do that sometimes. But if we remember that we are strong and can deal with anything that comes up as we travel along, we can end up in a pretty good place.  And then, and only then, we can look back at the road we traveled to get to our destination and realize what we endured to get here and how much better it made us.  And then we can smile with pride at how we conquered our fears and took a chance, with confidence, that no matter where our road ended, we made the best of it and we let it make us a better person.

And there are no pretty pictures for that.  We all make our own picture of our lives that fit us.  Go out and find yours!


Good memories, bad pictures.

I took a trip this past weekend with a very good friend of mine to Manhattan, KS to see Los Lonely Boys (YEA!!!) at the McCain Auditorium on the Kansas State University campus.  It was the first time I had ever been to K State or Manhattan.  The campus was awesome.  We didn’t see much of it, mind you, because we didn’t get to the campus till late when it was just starting to get dark.  But what little I did see, I thought it was very nice.  I would love to go back and just walk around some time. 

I took my daughter’s camera–just a small point-and-shoot.  I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take my larger camera inside the concert and I wasn’t sure if it would have been safe in the hotel room or left in our vehicle.  Didn’t want to risk it, so I borrowed hers instead.  But when we left for the show, I was worried I wouldn’t even be able to take hers in, so I left it in the car.  It’s not mine and I didn’t want to have it confiscated.  I’m just not good at NOT obeying the rules.   But when I got inside the auditorium and discovered our seats were in the 4th row from the stage, directly in the middle with no obstructions whatsoever, I was so upset I didn’t risk it after all!

The concert was great and I loved every minute of it.  My legs were shaking from the excitement of the music and constantly tapping my foot on the floor.  These guys are just so good.  My friend and I were gettin’ our groove on, boppin’ around in our seats to the music, getting up a couple of times toward the end to shake our groove thing (Yes, I grew up in the 70’s, sorry.  I haven’t a clue what kids say today.) My friend can scream like no other and was not afraid to show her appreciation with a hoot and a holler whenever she could.  I even gave a few cries of gratitude myself with a couple of closed-fist shakes and waves. 

**This video was not taken by either my friend or I, but it’s a good one, nonetheless. It’s long, so just be aware.

We stayed the night and got up in the morning to barely grab a couple of bagels and orange juice from the complimentary breakfast set up.  On our way out of town, we stopped at the most fabulous place to eat called Coco Bolos.  The smells were drawing us in from the street, and the flowers and colors of the building, along with the outdoor patio on such a beautiful sunny day were beckoning us to go inside and taste!  I’m so glad we did because the food was excellent.   The food was fantastic and the atmosphere was so nice.  And this is where I would have had these great images to show you of the meals we had, the artwork hanging along the bar wall, the chairs (red and black with curved legs) along the bar, the awesome bathroom with black toilet and sink and artistic tilework along the backsplash.  They had stereo piped into the bathroom with another quirky chair in the corner, a large oval mirror and tilework coming under the door but not completely covering the concrete floor. 

I hope I can go back sometime this summer.  But I’ll have to make a plan of it because it’s a 2 1/2 hr. drive from where I live.  Maybe I can take the same route and retake all the beautiful pics I missed on the way up and back because I didn’t know her camera well enough to realize all but 7 of the pics did not come out properly.   When I questioned my daughter about why they didn’t come out, she tells me then that you have to hold the button “like this” or you’ll end up thinking you took them when you really didn’t!  Ugh! 

Anyway, here’s what I did take on the way back, on the road and as we made one stop in Council Grove (most of those pics didn’t come out either).

*This was a really quaint church we saw in Manhattan before we got to the restaurant.  Didn’t get the steeple pic, though.

*These next two are from the man-made lake in Council Grove.  My friend stopped so she could use the pit stop, but I was afraid of possible spiders under the rim, so I passed and just prayed my bladder would hold out till the next stop.  It did. 🙂 

*These next few are from the town of Council Grove on their main street.  I really like stopping in the main area of small towns here in the mid-west.  We did a little shopping and they had a really neat soda fountain in one store where we shopped.  No pics came out, but great to see and talk with the lady in the shop.  She was really pleasant and asked us where we were from. 

*We headed home and I only got one shot out of all the rolling hills, the green pastures, the horses and the cows, the old churches and barns… but what a great time I had with a really good friend.  And what fun and fond memories I’ll always have — even without the photos to remind me!


What a wonderful night for a moondance!

Last night was the night of the Supermoon.  Something about the closest the moon has ever been to the earth, or in a long time, or something.  I didn’t even know about it till my friend told me.  So, I got my camera ready and was anxious to see if I could get some good shots.  But, it was cloudy most of the day and I wasn’t sure if the clouds would clear up by evening.

After getting back from the grocery store with my son, I told him it didn’t look like it was going to be a very good night for moon gazing, much less picture-taking.  We looked everywhere in the sky, but could see nothing.  Then, when coming back from picking up my daughter from a play, there it was … big and bright and shiny.  The clouds had started separating and it was like a curtain was being pulled back for us to take a peek.

I ran inside and got my camera, and my son accompanied me to the drive way, where I had a perfect shot between a couple of trees.  I didn’t have a tripod (still not yet! what is wrong with me?!) and so he let me use his shoulder part of the time to lean against.  Then, I just started leaning against my car to try to hold steady.  We were “ewwing” and “awwing” all over the place at the sight.  The clouds were just so spectacular, the way the moon cast it’s light upon, in front, and behind them.  The best part was spending time with my son.  He had just as good a time as I did.  I hope I made some great memories for him and that he will remember the night he and I stood in the chilly night air gazing at the moon!


Lion Dance, Celebrating the Asian New Year.

This time of the year is the celebration of the Chinese New Year.  As a result, I spent my Saturday chauffeuring around my son and some of the other members of his Lion Dance club to 4 different venues between two cities (very close).  We were out from 2 till after 10 that evening.  My son is the only non-Asian member of the group.  They all accept him in as if he is one of their own.  He’s sort of like an understudy of the group, of which there are a few.  He is, essentially, the “back-up” of the back portion of the lion.  Which means he has to follow the foot steps of the front end, and, when he gets good enough, will carry the front man when they do jumps and lifts.  For now, he steps and shakes his booty when required to do so. 

It is physically demanding and requires them to stay in a bent over position for a large portion of the dance.  They do a lot of running, push-ups, and some weight training to help them stay in shape.  I have started to see a change in my son’s physique, which is normally of the “string bean” variety.  However, he has always been incredibly strong (it use to take me and two other nurses to hold him down when it came time to give him his vaccines when he was just a toddler) and has been increasing his muscle mass around his shoulder and upper arm area, not to mention the workout his thighs and calves are getting. 

Their first performance of the day was at the home of a man who was hosting an Asian New Year celebration for family and friends.  Thank goodness after having the last few weeks of freezing temps and snow/ice, we had a break and the weather was near 70 on Friday and the day of their performances as well. (Didn’t last though.  Back to 26 degrees as I type this on Sunday morning.) Everyone gathered outside as the show started.

The lions danced around and made a show for the audience while the host held his grandchildren up for a closer look.

As is part of the tradition, money was put in a high place above the ground for the lions to find and cause them to use their acrobatic skills to entertain the audience as well.  “Where is that money?  I know it’s here somewhere. I just need to stay on this guy’s shoulders long enough to reach it!” 

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took “forever” for the red lion to try to get the money from the place it was wedged in the pole of the basketball goal post.  He kept trying and trying.  Both lions took turns and were getting nowhere.  I felt sorry for them because I know they must have been exhausted by this point.  Trying to get that big head around where he could reach his arm out and make a grab for it was impossible with that hoop in the way. 

In the meantime, the band (which consists of a drummer and a guy playing the cymbals) played on and on and…excruciatingly…on. 

Now, it was time to send the blue lion back in.

Finally, with a little help from one of the guests, the money was retrieved and the grand-daughter was a happy little girl with a smile from ear to ear.  (That lime flavored icee didn’t hurt either.)

The guys had time for a little soccer and a snack, and then it was time to head back on the road to the next stop about 30 minutes away.  We got there early so while they waited outside for a bit, I inspected those head pieces a little closer.

Now it was time to open the show.  These guys were shakin’ their money makers!

A little crowd-pleasing dance through the audience and a few stunts

… and we were off to the next place, a high school celebrating diversity and talent.

Applause, applause … and off to the last show.  This was a celebration at an Asian club where there was food, music and dancing, and maybe some drink (but I couldn’t really tell because I’m not familiar with Asian beer and I only had a 7-up anyway).  Oh, and my son finally got his shot at fame here.  Since him and his partner hadn’t been practicing as long as the other club members, they were allowed to cheat a little and use a chair.  My son says their success rate in jumping and landing correctly without sliding (You try that with a pair of those slick-fabric pants on and a curtain around your head while one of you is holding a giant bobble-head of a lion!) is only about 50/50 right now, and a fall would look worse than being assisted by a chair.

A little switcheroo of players, and the last stunt of the night is performed while more money is gathered for the lion club. 

Then everyone headed home and to bed.  It was a long day.  We did have fun, though.  And I love that both my children explore all kinds of cultures and groups and get to know the world through their experiences.  As a result, they can easily adapt to any situation or place.  They live in the real world, as do I, and openly accept and are eager to learn about and embrace (whether they agree with them or not) anyone or anything  new and different from what we are used to or know.   Their friend base is larger because of this, their tolerance for others different from them is greater than the average person’s, and they have a desire to want to know more and experience more outside their own four walls of home and their city. 

I wish more people would get out and experience something new outside of their own culture and what they are used to and what feels “safe” to them.  Think of how much better a place the world would be!


My Blue World

(I knew that image of that disco ball I shot would come in handy one day!)

Picking this weeks post was really hard for me.  I thought about it being the first post of the new year and all that and wanted it to be something special.  I tossed a few ideas around in my head and couldn’t quite settle on anything.  I tried a few things out, and became frustrated.  Nothing seemed good enough or significant enough. 

I read some other blogs and still couldn’t come up with anything special.  I have some changes I want to make and some new things I want to add, but they’re not quite ready. 

Then, early Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I went to see Cirque Du Soleil.  The show was called Alegria.  We were both excited and eager to see this show.  We’ve been counting down the days for a couple of weeks now.  I was so hoping I could sneak my camera in and get some pics, but I knew that was going to be out of the question.  The tickets clearly stated “No Cameras/Recorders.”  And then I thought that it was probably for the best.  Not just for the performers (although I’m smart enough to know to turn off the flash), but for me as well.  Without having to focus on getting good shots, I could just sit back and fully enjoy the show.  And did we ever!

It was stunning!  The music is still playing in my head, several hours later.  Of course, the acrobatics are the thing that is the main focus.  But the overall effect of the music, the colors, the costumes, and the mood produced along with the acrobatics, made for the best experience and fantasy I have seen in a while.  It was perfect for getting me out of my world and into a world of over-stimulated senses that left me feeling inspired and refreshed! 

I came home  to put that new post together and all I could think of was the color blue. 

I love the color blue.  It always calms me and makes me feel relaxed and happy.  I like wearing blue and think it’s a color that flatters everyone.  I want to share with you some of the different shades of blue I have found in some photos I have taken.  I hope they make you feel soothed and calm like they do me.  And I hope you will feel inspired at the start of this new year —  like I do now after seeing Alegria!


Long, Quiet Days

It’s late.  Christmas is over.  New Years Eve is ahead. I’ve been so busy the last couple of weeks and haven’t really given much thought to posting during this time, just because so many other things have taken priority. I’m sure everyone knows how that is right now, too.  But now, I’m sitting here in the late hours of the night, listening to Sade singing about the “Kiss of Life,” feeling calm and mellow.  I went through some of last year’s winter images I took around here.  I found a few that are kind of reflective of how I feel right now.  So, I won’t write much, but instead offer you a view of some winter images and wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a very Happy New Years.  Peace, people.


A Two-Day Bus Trip to Pueblo, Co.

I took a trip this weekend with my two teenagers to Pueblo, Co.  It was a spur of the moment thing.  We had never been there–never even been to Colorado.  It’s only one state over from us, and we went by bus. 

I hadn’t ridden a bus in years to anywhere.  I think the last time I rode a bus was from Wichita to Grand Prarie, Tx. when I was 17.  This bus ride took us around 9 hours, one way.  We left early in the morning around 5:30 for the bus.  We slept some along the way, and watched the scenery when we were awake.  This time of the year, everything is brown from Wichita to Pueblo.  All the small towns in between looked pretty much the same.  We saw lots of cows and a two-day old train wreck.  It was still smoking and there were smashed up train cars piled up everywhere.  Glad we weren’t traveling by when it happened!

We got to Pueblo mid-afternoon and checked into our room.  Then we quickly changed from our traveling clothes to a fresh set of clothing and called for our taxi.  The town is spread out and having never been there before and not having much time, we didn’t want to wander too far.  So we chose the Riverwalk area since it had food, shopping, and some sites.  The weather had been fine all day, but the evening was going to turn cold so we dressed to stay warm.

We found out when we got closer that a Christmas parade was about to start in 30 minutes and some of the roads were being blocked off already.  We jumped out of our cab and began the walk around the area.   We started down by the Riverwalk and there were Christmas lights everywhere.

There was a mountain range just beyond that scene, but it was too dark to see by photo. 

There were little shops along the river, and this great little food stand was grilling some hamburgers and hot dogs that smelled sooo… good. 

We decided since it was already getting dark, we’d better hit some shops first and try to see some of that parade before we decided where we were going to eat.

People were already starting to stake out their places along the street.  We kept walking and found a couple of places to go inside and look.  Other places, we just looked in from the outside.  The lights were warm and inviting everywhere we went.

The parade was starting and people were lined up everywhere along the streets.

It was such a small town atmosphere and everyone seemed friendly and in a good mood.  Lots of families and couples, and plenty of singles who were probably going to hit the bars afterwards.  Afterall, it was Saturday night.

We stood along with everyone else and watched for a while.  There were so many lights on the floats, and there were all kinds of vehicles with lights strung on them.

Before the parade was over, we decided to go get something to eat before everyone got the same idea after the parade.  We liked the way those hamburgers smelled on the grill and decided to head back that way.  So glad we did because they were delicious!  The guy tending the grill really had the smoke going by the time we got back there.  The night had gotten darker and colder by then, so we bought our food and took it inside to eat.

Afterwards, we got some hot chocolate and started walking toward the Union Depot to call for our cab back to the hotel.  It was really cold by then and the parade was just about over.  The area was well-lit and the building was decorated with lights.

Just as we got to the intersection in front of the building, fireworks went off and we had a great view of the colorful shower of sparkling lights!

What a perfect ending to a wonderful, spontaneous night.  We didn’t plan any of it.  We just took off and decided that whatever happened, whatever was there when we got there, we were going to have a fun time and adventure.  I’m so glad we did it.  

When we got back to the hotel, it was only around 8 p.m.  But we were so tired from getting up early that morning that we had no trouble falling asleep.  Good thing, because we were up by 1:30 in the morning, throwing our small bags on the bus and heading back to Wichita.  We slept most of the way back after stopping for breakfast at 5:30 later that morning. 

For a person who likes to plan things in advance, this trip was a nice change to my routine lifestyle and gave us all time to be together and leave everything else behind for a couple of days.  It also made us slow down and smell the roses, because we weren’t going to get there in a couple of hours like we would if we had been on a plane.  The bus made a couple of tiny stops in a couple of tiny towns where we could stop and stretch our legs and get some snacks.  It was a good time to think in between sleeping, relax, get away and be together as a family. 

Give it a try sometime.  Slow down in your life and remember what it was like when you were a kid and weren’t always rushing around everywhere.  Take a trip to somewhere you’ve never been.  Go on a small adventure.  Get away and come back refreshed and renewed.  You never know what you’ll find.


‘Tis the Gift to Be Simple

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free,

‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,

And when we find ourselves in the place just right,

‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,

To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,

To turn, turn will be our delight,

Till by turning, turning we come round right.

                                               by Joseph Brackett

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             I have always loved that song. I can remember learning it in grade school, along with “My Country Tis of Thee” and “Go Tell Aunt Rhodie.”  I love hearing the “Tis the Gift to Be Simple” song.  The first two lines are my favorite.  This is supposedly an old song written to be a dance tune (hence the “turning, turning” instructional lyrics) written by an Elder of the Shaker community.  

I think of those first two lines as part of a reminder of two of the many things I am thankful for not only at this time of year, but all year round.  And they are usually the simple things in life for which I am truly grateful.  Like my eyesight and my hearing.  These really are not “simple” things, but they are things many of us have and probably take for granted. 

Once, when I was in my early twenties, I had a bright pink rose hanging on my bedroom mirror, along with a watercolored asian fan and a string of the blackest  beads on my mother’s rosary.  There were other little colored trinkets–yellow tickets from a concert, a brightly colored scarf.  These were some of the things I treasured for whatever sentimental reasons, and that I kept out where I could see them on a daily basis to remind me of how good some things in life can be. 

I remember waking up one morning in particular, and the sun was shining through my bedroom window, the rays of light pointing to my mirror where all my special things were hanging.  I was so struck by the color of everything all at once.  The bright pink of the rose, the green leaves, the yellow ticket, the colorful scarf… it was beautiful.  I immediately gave thanks to God for the ability to see, for my eyes, for the way all the color He created brought me such joy just looking at it and the feeling it gave me–happiness, euphoria! 

It was like that morning, everything seemed so intense in its color.  It was all I could see about anything I looked at that day.  Maybe that is why color is always the first thing that grabs me when I look at anything.  And why fall is my favorite time of year–all that color. 

So I am sharing with you some of the most recent images I took of fall this year.  I almost missed getting some photos because we had a really cold and windy blast come through that took many of the leaves off the trees in a matter of a couple of days, instead of lingering for a couple of weeks or so.  But I did manage to get a few, full of color and of joy.  

What simple things in your life have you given thanks for lately?  Let’s all be thankful for the seemingly simple things in life.   Happy Thanksgiving!


Looking In From the Outside

My daughter had a night lecture she had to attend on campus, and I offered to take her and wait while she was inside.  She didn’t think it was going to be too long, so I didn’t mind waiting.  I took my camera along, always hoping for an opportunity to learn new things about how to shoot in different situations. 

I know that for most night shots that you really need a tripod because of the low light.  I just haven’t broken down and purchased one yet, so I do the best I can with just hand-holding my camera.  I’ll try to steady myself against a wall or something.  Although, it was so windy that night that I could feel the lamp posts swaying as I tried to steady my back against them. 

Anyway, these are the shots I took. 

One thing I did notice was how many females were sitting close to the windows in direct view of anyone from the outside.  I don’t try to be a worrier–unnecessarily.  However, the fact that I was able to observe and even take photos of them got me to thinking that it would be so easy for some “creeper” (as my daughter calls them) to watch an unsuspecting person’s moves and habits.  I am going to show these to my daughter and let her know to pick a seat toward the interior of the building if she has to do any late night studying–and always go with a buddy!


Things that go bump in the cemetery…I do believe in spooks…

I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do, I do, I do, I do, I do believe in spooks!  So said the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.  And, I think I have to agree with him…just in case. 

I mean, I know my God, my Creator, my Spiritual Highness and my Supreme Being exists for me.  But, I know there’s evil out there, too.  And it scares the bajeebers out of me!  I know not where it lurks, at any given time, and I’m on constant guard (at least on a low simmer most of the time) in case it tries to catch me off guard.  Although, I don’t think I live in fear, per se, just a bit cautious.  I do believe that God will protect me if I call on Him if needed–at least that’s what I’ve been taught. 

I spend most of my days laughing (as much as possible, because I just like “funny”) with my friends and family.  And I always try to stay positive about my life and any situations that occur.  But, I’m also realistic.  I’ve had the “if there’s good in this world, there has to be bad, too” discussions and contemplations.  And I’ve read about the unexplainable evil possessions that take over some innocent victim’s soul, or a family’s house, or those who would attempt to build on a sacred Indian burial ground, etc.  The T.V. is full of all types of ghost hunter shows and such. 

But just writing about this stuff or talking about it out loud or hearing about it makes the hairs on my arms stand on end.  I’m a big scaredy cat, I guess.  I’ve had some experiences that made me shake in my boots, so to speak.  And I don’t know if I’ll ever quit being afraid of the dark, no matter how old I get.  

I’ve always been afraid of cemeteries.  Yes, really!  Could you tell?  But this past summer, I wanted to find my paternal grandfather’s and grandmother’s graves.  I hadn’t been to them in years, and I never really visited them that often before–because I’m afraid of cemeteries, remember?  So, I set out with my son and daughter, to find their markers in the place that I remembered them last. 

I picked a bright sunny day, of course.  And we left early in the afternoon.  The cemetery wasn’t that far from our house.  We’ve driven by it plenty of times, and, occasionally, I would point out to my children, “that’s where Grandpa’s mom and dad are buried” while pointing in the general direction as I drove right on past.  But this time we drove straight there.  I pulled cautiously into the driveway on the side of the cemetery where I remembered them being buried.  I knew we were going to have to get out and walk, but I still tried to park our car as close as possible to where I thought they were–just in case we had to make a run for it. 

My kids, being the adventurers they are (teenagers, you know–they know no fear) took off immediately to check the place out.  Crap! They were going to make me brave it alone.  Why the heck did I bring them for, anyway?  They were suppose to be my backup just in case we ran across something horrible coming up from the ground that might try to grab me by the leg and pull me under. 

After crossing the same area back and forth numerous times, I finally found my grandfather’s grave and marker.  I was so ecstatic that I forgot to be scared about where I was at the time.  His picture was on the headstone and I couldn’t believe how much my dad looked like him.  I could only remember him from when I was very little.  But what I remember about him most are the wonderful smells of food cooking at his house.  …and that he seemed very big (tall). 

I knew my grandmother had to be close by.  I began to walk the area back and forth across, searching for her headstone.  The afternoon had really warmed up, and the sun felt good on my face and back as I walked along.   Finally, I saw it.  Her picture was on her headstone, too.  She was younger than I remembered her, but her smile was the same as always.

I whistled for my children and motioned for them to come over to where I was standing.  There were so excited when I showed them their great grandparents.  I had my camera with me and I took some shots of their markers.  Then I told my kids everything I could remember about my grandparents.  They soaked it all up and walked along with me as I spoke to them. 

We walked a ways more, and then I told them I was going to take some shots of the area.  It just seemed so peaceful and calm.  I found my uncle’s grave and took a shot of his headstone.

As I was walking around, the kids had gone off in another direction to continue to explore, I realized that I was enjoying myself  and felt at peace.  I thought about my grandparents, about my grandmother’s garden and the smells of garlic and cilantro that grew next to the rose-bush with the bright red flowers in her backyard.  I remembered her mother, my great-grandmother, sitting inside in her bedroom, her long silver hair in two long braids that reached to her waist.  She would tie them up across the top of her head, and I thought she was beautiful.

I wasn’t scared of where I was anymore.  The afternoon was gorgeous as the sun headed to the horizon.  I took more shots of the peace I saw and felt.

The sun was really getting low now.  We prepared to leave.  We said our last good-byes and promised to never forget, and maybe even come back sometime soon. 

That was this past summer.  I haven’t been back since.  But I have my photos that I made and printed off and gave to my dad for his birthday.  He cried… I hugged him and it was nice. 

Halloween is just about a week-and-a-half away.  So, I think I’ll just keep driving by until maybe the late winter or early spring.  Maybe then I’ll be able to go again.  In the meantime, I’m starting to feel that creepy feeling again about the cemetery.  I mean, you just can’t be too careful…you just never know…

I DO BELIEVE IN SPOOKS, I DO BELIEVE IN SPOOKS, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO BELIEVE IN SPOOKS…!!!


Look Up In The Sky…

It’s a bird, it’s a plane… Yeah, no, it really is a plane.  Or should I say “planes.”  This past weekend I took my family to see the airshow that was going on at the military base.  Only we couldn’t get in, even though we thought we were getting there early.  The line to get in the gate was 2 hrs. long, I heard someone say.  The roads were backed up like nobody’s business.  So, rather than waste my precious gas sitting in a line of cars waiting for my turn to scramble for a parking stall in the lot and then a seat (which we were sure NOT to find at that point, and we forgot the lawn chairs anyway), we turned around and headed for a vacant lot behind the base where we could park our vehicle and plant ourselves for the show.

We hadn’t been in about three or four years, and we usually just go to a park close by and sit and watch outside our car.  This year, I wanted to get up super early (HA!) and make sure we headed out soon enough to be able to get inside.  Apparently, we didn’t get up early enough.  (Surprise, surprise!)  At least we were smart enough to pack some water and a few snacks to last through most of the show.  The weather was GORGEOUS!  The sky was so blue.  But, then, toward the end of the show, a cold front came through and the sky went dark grey.  So, they had to cancel the Thunderbirds–which is the whole reason I like to go in the first place!  It started to rain and the kids and I headed to a local hamburger joint down the road and ate a very late lunch.

They may have rescheduled the Thunderbirds for the very next day, since it was a two-day show.  But it wouldn’t really matter because we couldn’t get back the next day to see them.  It was cold and grey again the next day.  By the middle of the afternoon, the sky cleared and the sun came out.  Another beautiful afternoon. 

Later that afternoon, while I was running errands with my daughter, we were at the mall when I heard what I’m sure was the Thunderbirds go overhead.  I was heartbroken I had to miss them.  I really look forward to seeing them.  Oh, well, there’s always next year.  It was good to get outside with the kids, who are older teenagers and don’t really spend as much time with me as they use to so I really enjoyed our afternoon.

Here are the pics I took.  Enjoy!

 

 


A Walk in Summer

I took a walk along a nature trail.  The sun was high and the temperature was warm.  After walking alone for a while, I began to feel as though I was being led  into a whole nother world…so I followed.

Where the road would lead, I wasn’t sure.  So I just walked, curious as to what I would find.

There were tall grasses and small ponds.

A curved road said to keep going.

As I rounded the corner, I saw a broken tree and a bridge.

I came to the front of the bridge and stopped.  Where was it taking me?  What would I see when I got to the other side?

I started to cross over the bridge, when I heard a noise coming from the water below me.  I peered over the edge and saw…

 I spotted the one that had just splashed into the water as he went below the surface.  I watched these two for a moment, and then continued on.  When I got to the other side of the bridge, I stood still and quiet, and looked.

Being alone in a space like that stills you and causes you to slow down, no matter what you were feeling an hour or more ago. It relaxes you and makes you pause to be in the moment–you have no choice.  The simple beauty is overwhelming. 

I started to walk around the path led by the curve of the water and came across more color in the form of flowers and leaves and shadows.

I got to the other side and looked across.  A different view…

I headed back around and was halted time and time again by the beauty of nature and the colorful shows it was presenting me.

I’m going back soon…and next time, I’m staying longer.


Sentimental School Years

I have a son who is a senior in High School.  Every year at the beginning of the school year they have a big celebration to open up the beginning of the school season called “The Big Do.”

We’ve gone every year since his freshman year. 

It’s a chance for everyone to get together and start the year off in a good way.  The weather’s usually nice and many kids and parents attend.

They cook up tons of hamburgers and chicken and set up tables and chairs on the front lawn.

There’s musical entertainment (probably the music department teachers)

…and the school clubs make up all kinds of yummy treats and ethnic meals to help make money for their clubs.  I try to buy something from a few clubs to help them out.  This year, I bought some refreshing lemonade from the “Students Against Prejudice” club. 

It’s a family atmosphere and the younger brothers and sisters play around the pond that sits in the middle of the front lawn.

They have a dance afterwards for the school kids–the first one of the year.  The school is the largest one in the state and has a very diverse population.  I went to the same High School when I was his age.  Back then, it was a Jr. High and a High School.  They combined them years ago into just a High School. 

It was a bittersweet event for me this year, knowing that this will be the last one I will be able to attend with my son.  (My daughter usually goes with us, but she had her own event to attend at the college she goes to a few miles away.  She also attended a different high school because of her area of study.)  I didn’t allow myself to get too emotional about it, because we still have the rest of the year to get through before his graduation.  I’ll save my tears for then.

And, who knows, maybe I won’t cry at all.  I didn’t cry when my daughter graduated a couple of years ago.  I was very proud, of course, and excited for her thinking about her future and her starting college.  But it might be a little different with my son. 

Why?  Because I spent all these years getting my kids through grade school, middle school, and high school, and they’re coming to an end. 

All through their school years, I’ve been preparing them to move directly on to college after high school.  I spent some of their high school years taking them on to the nearby college campus for lunch and to just walk around any time my daughter had some small thing she had to do at the college for one of  her high school classes.   I thought it was a good way to expose them to college early on so they would want to go and to get them use to thinking it was just a natural progression after high school in continuing their education.

The first time we went, my son was still in middle school.   I told them I went to this college myself and walked the very same sidewalk we were walking along, looking at all the artwork on campus.  (I was an art major.)

Love that one!  But this next one is my favorite…

Walking along this building with its huge pillars made my son become excited about going to college.

Those pillars are pretty impressive!

My daughter attends this very college now, and my son is planning on following her there next fall.

But through all this time that I have been preparing them to move on and eventually leave me and this home of ours that we have shared so many memories in, I forgot to prepare myself. 

I mean, sure, I’ve thought about them moving out and growing up and starting to have lives of their own.  I’ve thought about them dating and getting married eventually, getting jobs–real ones–and having kids of their own.  But I didn’t really give that much thought to myself and what my life will be like without them here everyday.  Not deep thought, anyway.  Maybe because I don’t want to get sentimental and emotional to the point of becoming one of those moms that cries endlessly over the fact that her children are moving on.  Because THEY’RE SUPPOSE TO MOVE ON!  And my rational mind tells me this is how it’s suppose to be. 

But my heart pulls at me and reminds me how much having them around me everyday means to me.  And I could really go off into an emotional abyss right now about all the things we have done together and all the things we have been through as a family, basically, just the three of us (like the three musketeers, which is what I have always called us).  But I just can’t go there yet.  And I’m going to put off going there for as long as I can.   And maybe by putting it off for as long as I can, I will somehow be able to become so busy through it all happening that I will forget to cry for myself because I will be too busy being happy and excited for my son graduating and moving on to college with his sister. 

Until then, I’m going to enjoy all the school activities that my son wants to be a part of by chauffeuring him around to all his functions (he’s still only 16 because he skipped a grade ahead and he can’t drive till he’s 17–which he won’t be till near the end of this school year), and enjoy all those late night trips to the store to get supplies for this or that project that he waited till the last minute to remind me about, and enjoy all the treats he needs me to make for his club’s bake sale or fundraiser, and whatever else comes up this last year of his in high school.  And I’m not going to complain.  Instead, I’m just going to savor every rushed and hurried moment and every retelling of the day’s events and every lunch I make for him and all the other moments of this school year.  I’m going to burn them into my mind so I never forget a single moment.  Just like I tried to do with my daughter. 

…and I’m going to take a million pictures!


My Train Obsession.

 

Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved trains.  I have many times sat in my parents car as a child waiting for the train to pass by so we could get across the road and get on with our errands.   My dad always had a way of making that wait seem not quite so long by telling us to count the cars and see how many there were all together.  We made a game out of it to see who could count the most and not lose track.  We would get ready, excited to be the one who got the number right, as the train approached…

And, of course, we  waved at the conductor who was ALWAYS smiling and happy to see us.  Train conductors are so friendly, have you ever noticed that?

Then the cars would start to go by and the counting would start!

I loved looking at all the different types of cars and all the different colors.

I liked watching the wheels go so fast along the tracks.

Sometimes, if I watched too closely, I would get dizzy.

After a while, it seemed like this train was just going to go on and on.  Good thing I knew how to count past 100!

I would sometimes wonder if there were any hobos that had jumped on the train as it was going by.  And where were they on their way to next?  I watched a lot of  T.V. back then and the hobos were always hitching a ride to somewhere, stowed away on an opened car, in almost every train movie I saw. Maybe there was one on this train…

I really liked it when cars would go by with brightly colored paint on them.  I thought it was so cool.  I knew it was vandalism (though I may not have known that word yet), but the artist in me thought it was great that someone was brave enough to take a chance of getting caught doing something like that just so they could “color” on the trains.  And, secretly, even though my dad said it was wrong to do that, I was glad they did because it broke up the monotony of too many cars going by that looked the same.

Finally, the end would come.  What?  No caboose?!  Yes, sometimes, they would end the same way they had begun…

Everyone would tell my dad the number of cars they had counted, including the engine and the caboose, and my dad would compare it to the number he had counted and announce the winner.  I loved it when I got my number to match his. My sisters and brother (my youngest brother hadn’t been born yet) would all tease and make a fuss, or holler with glee–depending on whether their numbers were right or wrong.  It was a fun game and a good way to pass the time waiting for the train to go by.

There are a lot of trains that run through the city where I live, and I have spent numerous times trying to dodge their path so as not to get held up on my way to work or running errands.  But I really don’t mind that much if I do get held up, because I think back to all the times I counted the cars as a kid and the fun I had with my family doing the little things like that while we were together.

As I grew up, I always loved the sound of the train the best–even more than counting the cars.  We lived a few blocks from some train tracks and I would awaken many nights to the sound of the train in the not-so-far distance.  It never made me scared or annoyed.  In fact, it’s always had the opposite effect.  It comforted me.  I still can hear the train at nights when I’m in bed and ready for sleep.  I’ll listen for it as long as I can, hearing it rumble off into the night far away.  And whenever I’ve traveled anywhere out of town, when I hear a train in the distance, I feel like I’m not that far from home after all, and I find peace.


Solitude, once again.

Ah…the start of the school year has begun.  How do I know this?  Well, because my own children have started their High School and College school year.                 …and because I have the park all to myself again.  

That’s right, no more screaming and splashing sounds from the swimming pool during the early morning.  No more dodging kids on bikes as I make my way around the park for the second time.  And no more mothers gathered at the swing sets in groups of two and threes while their small children run up and down the slides and throw sand at each other in the sand box.

Don’t get me wrong, I love kids.  And there are times when all that noise and activity is comforting.  It lets you know there is life going on all around you every day no matter what your day has been like. 

But, there are just times when I like to walk alone through the park and enjoy the solitude and peace that lies there in the midst of all the trees and grass, under the blue sky with the sun shining down on me. 

My park is close to the house where I grew up, within walking distance.  I still live near the same neighborhood, and I love walking through the park at any time of the year.  There are lots of beautiful trees to look at as you walk along, big and tall, that provide a break from the sun as you meander your way around the area. 

There’s also plenty of park benches for you to stop and sit a while, taking in all the fresh air and sun,  or watch the senior citizens playing a game of tennis, or the kid on his skateboard who looks like he probably learned to skateboard before he learned to walk…

or the guy who brings his dog to play frisbee for the exercise…

or the kids trying to get in one last game of ball the day before school starts.

All I know is I am so glad to have such a beautiful park near to where I live that I can go to anytime I want to spend some time outdoors, walk for exercise, to sit and enjoy when I just want to think and feel alive, and to just have some solitude.  Thank goodness for school!


Little Pink (and blue, and yellow) Houses…

I love that song by John Mellencamp  (and many of his others).  But that one in particular reminds me of this row of houses–turned apartments–that were a couple of blocks away from where I grew up.  I would walk by there some days on my way home from school and look down the street and see all the different colors and think how wonderful they were, sitting there like giant frosted cookies. 

And what made those houses even more magical to me was the street they sat on with its curved road.  The block is really more of a half-block.  There are the five houses that sit on the one side–turquoise, yellow, cream, pink, and coral (not pictured, it’s empty and being worked on).  Other apartments sit across the street in varying buildings.   The street itself is quite narrow, and vehicles are only allowed to park on one side. 

I use to imagine myself living in one of those apartments on that block when I turned old enough.  I thought how fun it would be to get up every morning and go outside to go to work and see all those colors.  How could you possibly ever be in a bad mood if you lived in such

colorful surroundings?!  It certainly made me happy every time I walked by and saw them.

I still feel that way whenever I drive by that street on my way to my parents house to visit.   And, it’s funny how they sit on that one little, half-block, tucked in on a curved road that no one hardly ever drives down because it’s so narrow.  Because I think of it as our little neighborhood secret.  Like there’s this space where these houses sit and the people who live there must all be very artistic and poetic and musical.  I mean, they couldn’t possibly have boring office jobs and live in such colorful houses.  It just wouldn’t be right. 

I hope that whoever does live there enjoys being there as much as I imagine. 


Colorful Fruit

Ah… Today, I was finally able to get out and do some shots. I’ve been busy working and by the time I get home, it’s all I can do to keep from diving into my comfy bed and falling asleep to old reruns of Green Acres. Speaking of green, I found the most colorful fruit at my local grocery store and couldn’t help photographing them before I let my family devour them before they even had a chance to make it to the refridgerator.

I took my camera outside into my backyard. The day was perfect and I was partially in the shade. I set them up, casually, and went to work shooting them while brushing away those tiny gnats that can really irratate you when you’re trying to concentrate. Even so, it was just nice to be outside in the spring air.

The color was so invigorating, I could have spent much more time out there. I took about 32 shots all together. These were the ones I had time to work on and finish up before I had to make supper.


Spring Flowers

Yea!  I was finally able to get out and take a few new pics of spring!  We had such a cold winter, and now that spring has finally arrived it’s all I can do to stay in the house and get my home chores done.  I JUST WANT TO BE OUTSIDE ALL THE TIME!!  So, I took my camera and went looking for those things that make me happy about spring.  I took so many pictures of the tulips, but narrowed it down to these six to share.  Enjoy!