Saturday, August 29, 2009

Matting. Framing. Notecarding.

The Coolest Little Thing

I admit it; I'm a sucker for gadgets. What can I say? I just love solutions to life's little problems. Something bright pink, fluffy, and tendrilly caught my eye today in one of the check out stands I was passing up in favor of one closer to the exit I parked near. I debated about whether to turn around and go check it out or just keep going. Yeh, I need to see what the heck that was.

Guess what I came home with.

It's the Coolest Little computer keyboard cleaning Thing!

(Sorry about the eye popping color combination of background and Coolest Little Thing. )

Just slip two fingers into the back pocket and off you go! My keyboard is smiling. I'm smiling. I love my Coolest Little Thing.

Wal-Mart. $1.98. In the check out stands far from where you park.

Save Money. Live Better. Yessir-ee.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Doing Festival Prep

I've been a busy bee. I'm doing all kinds of photo work getting ready for the Fall Festival (I see they're now calling it the Fall Artisans Festival. Very classy.) in Pinetop-Lakeside September 25-27. It's a month away, true, but I only have until August 30th to prepare. I'm leaving for Alaska August 31st and want to have everything done before I go. It looks like we'll be leaving there on our 6 day journey home a little earlier than originally thought. That's a good thing. Though I'd love to hang out in Alaska as long as possible, it will be good to get home with more time before the festival. We'll appreciate that time to recover from the 4000 mile drive, to settle in and gear up.

I've spent a lot of time just trying to get organized. I had to spend hours just getting a handle on what all we had printed, matted, and framed, and what we still needed. Most of my organizational efforts came about because I was drowning in confusion. The Fisherman has so many good photos. Our first festivals were last fall and it was kind of crazy. The Fisherman was in Alaska and I was down here trying to figure out what photos to have printed, which ones to frame, which ones to just mat. He takes thousands of photos every summer so it's a lot of work just culling down to the best ones. I printed and matted a bunch of photos and what didn't get framed went in the matted bins. We ended up with a disorganized representation of his best stuff. We had photos that were framed but not in the matted-only bins, photos in the bins but not framed, notecards of photos not represented anywhere else, great framed photos but no notecards, framed photos in one size but not represented anywhere else. So I've been trying to get better organized, representing everything well but especially the photos that seem to be his most popular. I like to have a lot of notecards because not everyone can afford a larger print. They can pop a notecard into a frame and have a nice, albeit small, photo for their wall.

I've also been trying to get us "coded." To take an initial inventory of what we had in what size and frame status, I wrote descriptions for each photo. When I went back later to put together a print order, I found my descriptions lacking and ended up in a big ball of confusion again. So while I'm matting and bagging photos, I've begun adding a small sticker on the back that tells the specific photo number. This will help enormously when people want to order a different size or different matting. By writing the number on the sales ticket we'll also be able to know exactly which photos sold. Last year was an exciting, crazy, disorganized mess. We went on memory and general descriptions to know what all sold. (We did pretty well at remembering, too. But a year later, only a few sales stand out.) This year promises to be smoother in the areas of sales and record keeping.

I also found out how to Print Screen which is a HUGE blessing in that I now have a notebook with pages of photo thumbnails and their numbers. There are still a few stragglers that were printed from a different list of photos but most of everything is in the notebook now. Right now I'm using it to do the coding and stickering. It's a tremendous help; I don't have to sit at the computer and try to find which file, which subfile, which photo. That would be overwhelming and I can tell you right now, it would NOT get done for this festival. So, yea for the notebook!

As well as all this organizational work, I've been cutting mats, matting the photos, making notecards (by affixing a 4x6 photo to an embossed 5x7 notecard), labeling everything with the business info. It would be really helpful if the photo lab would cut the photos to 5 x 7 instead of 5 x 6&7/8 and 8x12 instead of 7 & 7/16 x 11 7/8. In our mat cutting, we only allow for 1/8 inch overlap on each side. I've been having a heck of a time matting these short photos. It's driving me nuts and I can't understand why they did it. The clock is ticking way too fast this last week and I seem to be in slow motion, not getting accomplished anywhere near my ambitious daily To Do estimates. least we will be getting back sooner than The Fisherman previously planned. If there's anything left, we can do it then. (I would still like to go through all the tent paraphernalia and all our miscellaneous on-site supplies before I head north. We'll see.

It's late...and I had intended to be in bed an hour ago. For some reason I've fallen back into what has become an undesirable habit - that of going to bed late and getting up late. Ever since my turn-around trip to Phx last week, I've been really tired and all off schedule. Tonight was going to be a serious attempt to swing back around to getting up early by getting to bed early and trying to get caught up on sleep.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Can Raccoons Read?

I didn't feed Steve or the other raccoons last night. I'm going to try to taper off. I saw one of them on the porch but I held out. This morning I went out to the porch for my breakfast, reading and writing as usual. In the gravel out in front of the steps I saw a piece of paper. I figured it was a piece of one of the paper plates I use to put food out for the coonies. Sure enough, that's what it was. The plate was torn into dozens of pieces and strewn all underneath the porch. (I think they ate part of it.) This piece was five feet away from any of the others and reflecting brightly in the morning light. It was upside down and as I picked it up, the natural tendency to turn it right side up lead me to discover a loud and clear message as to my friends' opinions of the new feeding schedule.

When I feed them over-ripe apples and grapes I put them on a paper plate. I reuse the same couple of plates. For awhile I brought the first plate back inside in the morning, setting it on the kitchen counter to re-use that night. I often re-use paper plates myself so I thought I'd re-use Steve's plate, too. It was pretty clean, having only apples or grapes on it and I caught myself a couple times grabbing it and almost using it for myself. Determined to NOT use a plate that a raccoon had eaten off of, I wrote "Steve" on it. Lately I've been stashing the plates in a catch-all storage bin on the porch and they must have dug it out to send me a message.
How funny that this particular piece of the plate they tore up was the only one left out in the middle of the path where it glared brightly at me all the way from the door, just calling me to go pick it up.
Well, I know what Steve thinks of me right about now. Tonight, however, I will get in her good graces again as I have some grapes for them.

'S up!

The first clear day I've seen all summer on the Denali Cam.

Mt. McKinley (Denali) doesn't look very big from this far away, but up close, it's pretty impressive at 20,320 feet. The other peaks, Mt. Hunter and Mt. Foraker, stand at 14,573 and 17,400 feet respectively...and right now I can't remember which one is which. As you can see, the perspective of the photo doesn't reveal the 3000+ foot advantage of one over the other.

I had a busy day in the valley yesterday. Left the house at 6:15am and headed straight to the photo lab to place an order. I could have placed in online the day before and saved some time but then I wouldn't have been able to use The Blessed Coupon they gave me last time I was in. It was for 30% off so it was worth it. I also got nearly 20% off because of this membership card we have. And then, I FINALLY remembered that I can take our business license in and from now on not pay sales tax since we're buying for resale! So I saved over 50% in all. Definitely worth the drive down to Phx. I also had a small order to pick up and another lab (had a coupon for a free 5x7...which come to think of it, I don't think I received), some matboards to pick up (saving us $35 in UPS fees), and some mat cutter blades to get (saving about $7 in shipping). So, I spent about $35 in gas and a full day but it saved us hundreds. Not to mention several days in shipping. Days, at this point in my festival preparations, are just about as valuable as dollars. So I'm very satisfied with yesterday's accomplishments.

And I even managed to round up some of my girlfriends for a quick but very nice lunch together at AJ's. So nice to be with my dear friends.

I intended to leave Phoenix by 3:00 or 4:00 pm ("at the very latest", I said over and over to myself and everyone else). I just didn't want to get home after dark. Well, that didn't work. I started out all wrong for that scenario to actually happen. First, my plan to arrive at the first photo lab at 9am was shot when I didn't get to bed the night before until 10:45. So instead of LEAVING at 5am, I set the alarm for 5am. Which meant I "snoozed" until 5:30 and didn't leave the house till 6:15. Then it was a breakfast and coke stop - I needed the caffeine - then later a potty stop. (Huh, go figure.) I got to the lab at about 10:30. So much for placing my order and making two more stops before hoping to call the girls for lunch at 11:30. Ended up pushing off the remaining morning errands and met the girls around Noon. I let go of the notion of getting home before dark. Finished all the errands and hit the Loop 202 in Tempe at 4:55pm. OK, so I'll get home at 9:00.

And then I saw it. I'd been wanting to go check it out for well over a year. It was just on the wrong side of town and too far away. I'd driven past it a couple times on my way out of town but never even saw it. Until yesterday when I went whizzing past it on the Loop 202, just a couple minutes before my exit to head north. The split second sight of it hit me like a sudden gust of wind hitting my face. It grabbed my attention as spontaneity presented me with an invitation. There it is! Finally!

There it is. The Bass Pro Shop. Woooooo. I decided on the spot I was going to go. I knew it would be just like Cabela's (which I love), like stepping into the wilderness only with lots of cool shopping scattered among the "rocks" and "trees" and "animals" and water. I had a nice time wandering around the nearly empty store, looking at all the animals, rustic displays, and the neat merchandise. They have some beautiful women's clothing at The Bass Pro Shop. I mean, some beautiful things. I saw a couple really nice button-up shirts and some special sweaters among the ordinary outdoor apparel items. I also fell in love with a liquid silver watch for $130. Maybe I'll try to make one someday.

So, I really left town at 6:15pm. Got home at 9:45pm. I stopped on "our road" for a moment. (You see, there's The Big Road, Our Road, Our Driveway Road, and Our Driveway. One must distinguish all these unnamed stretches of gravel which one travels to get to one's door. - However, The Big Road does have a real name, which I actually use sometimes.) The moonless sky was so full of stars I simply had to stop and get out of the car and look up. I stopped at the meadow just one property to the east of us. I got out of the car and turned the headlights off. Millions of stars! The Milky Way divided the sky in half east and west. It was a massively long streak of star-filled haziness traversing the whole sky. I looked south to the meadow, and then I looked up, up, up over my head, and then to the north. It was breathtaking. I wish I'd had the courage to stay out there longer in the dark with that blanket of diamonds overhead, but I quickly chickened out. Oh, how much fear has robbed me of in my life. But seriously, though, I kept envisioning some giant elk suddenly appearing 10 feet from me in the dark black air between me and the meadow in which they often graze at night. Must have had something to do with the elk on display at Bass Pro. One was positioned parallel to the fencing they were all behind and it's face was positioned so you could stand right in front of it and look it in the eye just as if you were encountering it in the wild.

In bed by 10:20.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Knitting & Thinking About Mom

Mom taught me to knit several times in my life. This last time, a few years ago while I was living with her, it finally stuck and I got really into making scarves. I'd come home from the store and show her all the new yarns I couldn't resist and which ones I was planning on pairing together. Whenever I completed a scarf, it was a little triumph that I celebrated with Mom by showing her the finished product. If it was an especially nice one, we would delight together in it's beauty.

Every time I've completed a scarf this summer, I've found myself thinking it's time to show Mom. I miss sharing this interest with her. I miss how my tiny adventures in knitting brightened her day. To measure the fringe for a scarf I usually use a book to wrap the yarn around. For one of my recent scarves, I looked among my books and found one of the right width. As I carried it over to the couch, I realized it was my "Losing A Parent" book I'm currently reading. I smiled sadly at the irony and mentally said, "Come see my new scarf, Mom."

I was looking through some photos tonight and realized that, though I mentioned in an earlier post that Mom taught me to knit, I didn't post any photos of some of her gorgeous afghans. So here's some of her amazing handi-work. SHE was a knitter.

And here's some of my not-very-amazing scarves of the summer. Not amazing or difficult, but I still like them. This pink one is for my niece, Kelsey, who I think, is in love with pink. Always has been.

OK, I tried 3 different ways to try to get Blogger to leave the following horizontal photo alone. But no, it arbitrarily decided to rotate it to a vertical shot. I wish there was someone to actually ask at Blogger. But seeing how they offer all this blogging stuff for free, I can understand why there's nobody standing by to answer my questions. I love the colors in this one. It's very lacey as you'll see if you click to enlarge.

And here's another cozy one. Again with the blues, purples and greens. I'm loving those colors lately. A couple years ago, after a lifetime of disliking nearly every blue known to man, except blues with greens mixed in, I began liking Cobalt blue. It started with glass. These colors remind me of water. I have really been drawn to "water" colors in the last couple years.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Woo Hoo! How Fun!

Oh my gosh! I got my first comment from someone I don't know! And he's all the way from the UK! I'm so excited! I'll have to go out on the porch and tell Steve that she's now known all the way "across the pond." I returned the favor by commenting on his brand new blog, called A Day In The Life. It appears he is quite an outdoorsman and that he and his wife plan on doing a lot of kayaking. One of his favorite books is The Shack (which I also list) and he follows a blog by a Baptist mission team. Cool!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


Five or six years ago, about 6 days before we went to Phoenix for Christmas break, we began having a nightly visitor. A little masked bandit began climbing the tree outside our dining room window trying to get at our bird feeder. As you've seen with our cats, The Fisherman's great at naming critters. When I asked what we should call him, he said, "Steve." So, he was Steve. He came every night for six nights but then we went to the valley and were gone for over a week. We didn't see our new friend, Steve, the rest of the winter.

The next winter, lo and behold, there came a racoon. I excitedly told The Fisherman, "Steve's back!"

"That's great, but...," he said, trying not to burst my bubble too much, "how do you know it's Steve?"

"I don't. It doesn't matter. They're all Steve! Any racoon that comes to us is gonna be Steve!"

So, we had a Steve. And we began to feed our Steve. We'd put cat or dog food out on the porch to see if he'd come up and eat. Sure enough he did. Every night. It was so fun. I loved Steve.

Each night I'd go out onto the porch and shake the cup of food so he'd hear it from wherever he was hiding in the night. I'd spread it down on the door mat we moved out into the middle of the porch for his placemat. I'd say to the dark, "Here's some food for you, Stevie Steve." Then I'd go back inside and go about my business. When I'd hear him though, I'd slip to the door and open it an inch or two to peer out at him. As he would start to scurry away down the steps, I'd say in a sing-songy, lilting voice, "It's o-kay." Pretty soon, he began coming back. Eventually he let me be out there with him while he ate just five or so feet away. If he got scared, I'd just sing my little "It's O-kay" song and he'd come right back and begin eating again.

He would never take his eyes off me, though, and would blindly reach for pieces of food with his paws. It was so fun to watch him. And to listen to him. Boy are they noisy eaters. Dog and cat food puts out a mean crunch when eaten by a racoon. And grapes? Well! Let me tell you, racoons do NOT have good manners when it comes to smacking their food! It's the loudest, funniest thing.

One time, I decided to give him a dog biscuit because I was running low on dog food. He had grown so comfortable with me, I decided to see how close he would come if I held it out to him in my hand. It was one of those giant dog biscuits about 4-5 inches long. I took hold of one end and held it out. He crept closer, sniffing. As he reached the bisquit, he sniffed it, paused, and then instead of stopping and trying to take it, his gentle, sniffing nose went the extra 3 inches and actually touched my finger. Then he pulled back. I was thrilled. It was so exciting and so cute. I broke the bisquit up and tossed it on his placemat and let him eat in peace.

NOW, however, I realize what a stupid move that was of me. I knew racoons could have rabies, but I always thought, "Well, he's not foaming at the mouth and he doesn't show any signs of rabies, so he doesn't have it." Wrong. That's a wrong assumption to make. I found out an animal can be only a carrier of rabies and therefore doesn't have to be inflicted with it or show any symptoms of it themselves to pass it on. I'm much more leary now. As cute as they may be, they ARE still wild you knuckle head!

When The Fisherman's Mom moved next door to us, she joined in with the Steve feedings. Then, I moved to Phoenix to take care of my Mom. The Fisherman's Mom (Mom V.) took over completely and would call me sometimes when she'd see him. One night she called and informed me that Steve appeared in her front yard with HER three babies! Our little Steve was a girl. And a Mama at that! For Mom V., Steve became exculsively Stevie, as if short for Stephanie. I still say Steve, and if I say Stevie, it's as in Little Steve. It took me a long time to switch from saying "he" to "she" and it's still natural to think along the lines of he and him.

Oh, yes. Steve is still around. I was a bit concerned because Mom V. moved away last October. By then, with all the babies over the years, I'd realized it was not right to feed them. She was teaching her babies to eat from us and perhaps NOT teaching them to forage. I thought they might all be in trouble with no one feeding them. I thought they'd be gone forever. Every now and then, though, Steve would show up for The Fisherman. And every now and then he'd put some food out for her.

Now that I'm back living up here full time? "Well," she says, hanging her head, with her hands behind her back, and tracing her toes on the floor, "I, uh...well, I uh...still sorta...feed her. Sorta every night." I'M SO BAD! I just can't resist. I just don't want to resist. But I really should stop. The other night somebody - we have a second adult now - came by with FOUR babies. AND growled at me from about 10 feet away. I didn't see the babies hanging around under the tree and was so puzzled why this otherwise meek racoon was suddenly growling at me. When the babies started noisily clawing their way up the tree trunks, I realized what was going on. I'm thinking this might be one of Steve's babies grown up with babies of her own.

If I don't put food out, they scale the porch post and take swings at the hummingbird feeder. This is what I came home to one night.

Click on the photos and see how cute the little footprints are.

What a mess! I threw a couple buckets of water on the sticky mess and it washed right off. Just like it did the next time it happened. I don't leave the hummingbird feeder out at night anymore.

And no, they're not all Steve to me now. There is only one Steve. Trouble is, it's been over three years. I'm having a hard time identifying my Steve. Both of these two adults are more skittish of me than Steve was when I left. That's understandable. I am surprised at how identical racoons look. I've tried to notice anything distinguishing about Steve over the years so I'd know her when I saw her again. But, alas, the only way I really knew her by was the wound on her shoulder which I watched heal and then watched turn into a funny patch of fur for quite a long while. There's no such sign of a fur ailment now. But I do believe one of them is her. One of the two adults has a fatter tail. One of them has a darker head. I'm sure Steve is the one with the greyer head as she's getting older just like I am. They only recently started showing up at the same time so I can do some comparisons.

How can I think one of them is really Steve? There is one that doesn't completely run away when I sing "It's o-kay." There is one that always stops on the stairs and turns back when I say that. I think this is my Stevie.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

And Another Thing

I remembered another snippet, or tidbit, (or snip-tid, or tid-snip, or...?) of trivia to mention.

I wore a brand new, never been washed, dark green pigment dyed t-shirt on Monday. On Tuesday morning I realized it had dyed my armpits green! And it didn't even come off in the shower! Only some serious, and slightly painful, scrubbing made any impact at all.

Lesson learned: never wear a brand new pigment dyed shirt without washing it first.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Was I Thinking?

OK, so a couple hours after posting last night I was crawling into bed and realized I hate the name "Random Life Soup" for a bullet point style post. What was I thinking? Any ideas for a new name? Any of you? Any of my 3 readers? Words like "snipets" and "tidbits" describe the miscellaneous aspect of such a post. Hey, maybe I should just call it "Miscellaneous". There's a thought! I welcome ideas.

Last night I could not get to sleep! That "writing movie" yesterday really did a number on me. I came home and wrote in my journal for an hour and a half on the porch. Then came upstairs to write my random bullet point post which, believe it or not, took a couple hours. With all the other computer stuff I did, it was after 11pm when I went to bed. And when I did, I was still writing! So much so that I had to grab a notebook and write some things down. I put the paper down, rolled over to go to sleep, and boom! There I was, not thinking, but writing in my head! So, on came the light (the flashlight this time because I'd used quite a bit of power being on the computer all night), and I began scribbling again. It was fun. It was the first time I really had such a volume of stuff actively "writing" in my head. This happened at least one more time, maybe two. I finally got all the topics out of my head and the mental writing began to fade enough for me to settle in to bed. I didn't dare look at the clock but the last time I did it was 20 till 1:00.

And then...I was wide awake just after 4 am! Not writing again, just not able to sleep. What's the matter with me?! Crazy. I've got to get back on some sensible schedule like I was finally developing in recent weeks.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Random Life Soup

I debated what to call this post. It's going to be a bulleted list of random miscellanea (yes, that's actually a word; I looked it up) of things going on in my life. It reminded me of soup, since I just made chicken chili last night. So I settled on Random Life Soup. Perhaps there will be more of these so titled entries at other times when a list fits better into my schedule than the more lengthy posts I would much prefer to write.

So. Random Life Soup. August 11, 2009.

* I got some pre-cancerous patch of skin frozen off my nose today at the doctor's office. I considered going blog wild and taking daily photos of the developing ugliness - and titling it "Wanna See Something Gross?" But then I thought better of it.

* I am working hard to get us ready for the Fall Festival (Sept 25-27) and the Wildlife Festival (Oct. 3-4). I have been inventorying what we have, seeing what we need, ordering, cutting mats, matting photos, packaging photos, re-inventorying, and then doing it all some more. I have yet to frame - my most dreaded task but I am determined to begin tonight and put it off no longer. (Rrreah! Too late now as I proofread this much longer than intended post! Not happening tonight!) Also on the list is making note cards by affixing 4x6 photos to 5x7 note cards. I have set up shop in the basement because, frankly, there is no peaceable room elsewhere in the house. My cats are becoming lonely kitties because I spend hours down there working while watching movies on my laptop. I'm home, but they don't get to see me....or nuzzle my elbow as I work like one Bobo is doing now.

* Had a very "down" day of those midlife identity crisis, beat-your-self-up kind of days where I wondered about the usefulness of my life, why I'm still really just a child inside, will I EVER grow up, and what am I to do with my life in this newly opened chapter. Feeling weighed down under a boulder of such burdens, I took out some water color paper and drew a little depiction of how I felt. It was mostly words, forming a sort of concrete or rock wall that took up all but the lower inch of the paper. Under this burden was a tiny little, bent over, stick figure crawling wearily beneath the squashing weight. Overly dramatic maybe, but such is the way I think any of us can feel at times.

* I went to the same church on Sunday. After my bout with .....with... whatever that was on Saturday, my Sunday was filled with people. People reaching out to me. People introducing themselves to me at church, people I know making a point of grabbing me to give me a hug or say hello before I left, and running into an old friend at Wal-Mart afterwards. (You always run into people at Wal-Mart after church up here. I'd forgotten that.) In the back of my mind I faintly heard the echo of Saturday's skewed vision which cried "useless" and it was being softly and unknowingly challenged by all these people on Sunday. I could almost feel the sweet little smirky smile on God's face as He said, "Useless? People care about you; do you know that?" Well, DUH! How easily we can lose sight of the obvious when all we can see is a mountain of burden placed suddenly on our back by a skewed, negative perspective. I intended, Saturday night, to do a companion drawing, one of opposing nature. One that listed, in some sort of depiction of life and freedom, the things the Bible says GOD says about me. But it grew so dark on the porch outside, and I grew tired, and I could not find a design to my satisfaction, so I decided to wait. I must make a point of getting it done. Funny how often the good stuff comes less freely. It reminds me of a line by Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman" when she is recounting her life and how she ended up becoming a prostitute. When challenged by Richard Gere that she could be so much more, she says, "The bad stuff's easier to believe." Hmmm. Yes.

On to more Soup Ingredients!

* I bought my ticket to Alaska. I'm flying up and driving home with The Fisherman in September. I'm looking forward to seeing the north country in Fall, excited to be with my husband, and taking another (the same?) road trip with him. I'm even SLIGHTLY looking forward to living in our van home. Although it is with a bit of trepidation I state this because I have been warned that through the passage of the summer "it's not going to be as neat as it was when the summer was new", and that "there's not as much room as there was when I was there before". Yikes! I am also somewhat anxious about two other factors this trip means. 1.) It means I have to have EVERYTHING done for the festivals by August 30th. And, 2.) it means we will most probably be arriving home just 4 days before the festival! Yikes and double yikes!

* Today I saw "Julie and Julia". Loved it. If you haven't heard of it, it's about the lives of Julia Child and a woman named Julie who starts a blog about cooking all 524 of Julia Child's recipes from her famous cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". It's very cute. Meryl Streep plays Julia Child and, as usual, does an excellent job. It seems over the last several years, I have been seeing quite a collection of "writing movies." I'm loving writing more and more (still not sure I have anything to say or not, or if I can begin to say the things I have an inkling I MIGHT be able to say...someday) and I seem to keep stumbling upon movies about writing or with main characters who are writers, whether or not the story line revolves around their writing. I am tucking them all away as little treasures of inspiration and encouragement as well as tidbits of advice and warning about the field of writing. Included in my little collection of writing movies are: Finding Forrester, Little Women, Becoming Jane, Miss Potter, and even the partially risque The Holiday, and now Julie and Julia. Even Dances With Wolves inspires me because of how he narrates from his journal throughout the movie.

* Thinking also of separate but agreeing "words" I've heard lately about what we spend our lives "doing." One, a conversation with a friend. The other, my continued reading of Ken Gire's, "Seeing What Is Sacred." Both have basically said the same thing in the last 7 days, and it is this: that while, yes, we are each given gifts, abilities and talents, and that, yes, God has intention and purpose for us in His giving of them, the most important purpose He has for us is much simpler than the using of those gifts. The ultimate purpose of our lives, which overrides all specific utilization of our talents and gifts, is our relationship with Him and with others. When our life is over and summed up, it's not so much the questions of "What did I do with my talents? Did I create art? Did I write a book? Did I run the company well? Did I reach the potential of my gifts? The questions God is interested in are more along these lines: How well did I trust Him? Trust Him with ME? How well did I love? How well did I love Him and how well did I love others? What did I do with all those people, precious to Him, whom He brought across my path while I was using the talents and gifts He gave me? - I think they're right, that God's focus for us is much more simple and basic, quiet and beneath the surface. It's the quiet strength of an intimate relationship with Him that really trusts Him, receives His love for us, and loves Him dearly in return. And it is loving others. Others. Me. We make up a WE that is the focus of God's love, and His pleasure. My high school Young Life leader said something to us once. He said, "There's only two things that we know are eternal from this life: God's Word and people. Spend time in these two areas." Simplified down, it's how well we love. I add to that, how well we trust. Trust Him. (See yesterday's post about the True Faced blog post on Trust as well as the post itself here.) Trust and people are not exactly the strong suit of this fear-prone introvert who prefers to write from behind a computer monitor.

* So...a balance. I prayed that God would teach me the balance between having creative passions and I think even dreams given to me by Him, and the higher purpose of loving and trusting Him and loving others along my way. Wow. Mmm, mmm, mmm. And, wow.

*Oh...and a man sat behind me in the movie today who could very well have been Captain Sulu from the old Star Trek. He even sounded like him! I'm telling you, he was the spitting image in both face and voice. What he would have been doing in my po-dunk neck of the woods I can't even imagine. And he was with a white haired, average looking woman, not with his "partner" (correction, "husband", but I'm not going there) whom I would expect to see him with. ....As if one expects to see Sulu at the movies in small town Arizona. (And, yes, I realize, it probably wasn't actually him. But I'm tellin' ya...)

Monday, August 10, 2009

True Faced Blog - Trust

I just read the most recent entry on the True Faced blog. It's an article about trusting God, called "King of My World?". It is written by John Lynch, the preaching pastor of my "forever church", Open Door Fellowship. In it John describes his childhood difficulty trusting anyone, the scars he still bears today, how trust is what's been bringing him to health and healing over the last 20 years, and how trusting God is the base for nearly every other blessing we can receive as Christians. He describes many of us when he relates how we easily trust God for all but the things most important to us; then we don't want to let go of the helm. He lists reasons why we don't trust God and lists the things we must remember in order to embark on this process of growing in trust.

Please read it. It's wonderful. I think I need to read it every day, as I am so prone to operating in all the "selfs" John mentions.

P.S. Read the previous post, also written by John, to find out about their new book, Bo's Cafe, scheduled for publication September 25. It's being promoted by the publisher and author of The Shack. It's all about grace. Can't wait!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

An Unconventional View

The room I stayed it at my friend's cabin felt like being in a tree house because of the large windows on two walls bordering the bed. The last night was so beautiful with the almost full moon shining so brightly that the sky held it's blue, the pine trees were clearly visible as silhouettes, and oak leaves shimmered with the light. With all the windows wide open, I decided to sleep with my head at the foot of the bed so I could lay down facing the window and fall asleep gazing at the moon and silhouetted trees.

This is what I gazed out upon.

This photo was taken at 6:00 in the morning but I know you can imagine the bright moon behind one of the branches and the black trees.

I also could lay on my back, look straight down toward my feet and gaze out the second window.

It was so fun. I just breathed in the beauty, the fresh cool air and the moonlight. It was soothing, beautiful, and peaceful. I feasted on it and marveled at it with excitement while at the same time it filled my soul with quietness, rest, refreshment and grace.

Lying there in bed, there was so much window surrounding me that I almost felt as if there were no real walls between me and the trees. I was so close to them, there on the second floor, that it seemed I was right in them.

It was an unusual maneuver, switching ends of the bed. But I'm glad I thought of it and went ahead and did the unconventional. I enjoyed the best views and it made me feel even closer to the woods just outside. And nature brings me closer to God. Sometimes something great awaits us but we can't fully know it by sticking to "normal". I'm learning to look for things I might ordinarily not see. I'm learning to step in different directions to find what beautiful views are hiding behind the back side of conventional and customary.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Gettin' My Kicks

Guess where I was this weekend!

I was gettin' my kicks


It's always hard to get away for a girls' weekend. The five of us can never seem to get away at the same time. This time we had 4/5 of us. And instead of a Girls' Weekend it was a Girls' Sunday-Monday-Tuesday. We had a wonderful time at our friend, Sherri's, cabin in Williams.

To get to Williams, I had to go through Holbrook. Beautiful downtown Holbrook. I passed the corny Wigwam Motel and decided it was worthy of a turn-around and a photo. Have YOU slept in a wigwam lately?

It was a turquoise car in front of a "teepee" that made me turn around.

They actually had several old (or outright junker) cars parked in front of the "rooms" as part of the nostalgic re-enactment.

They even had one of the teepee rooms open for viewing.

Not too bad for a funky, historic, nostalgic experience. There were real customers with their SUV's parked in front of their very own teepee.

After reading this sign, I realized with new appreciation that I was on the famous Route 66. I also realized I would be in Flagstaff and Williams on this trip, too, and that they, too, are Route 66 towns. I felt a blog post coming on. I had a lot of fun looking for photo-worthy scenes along the way.

Holbrook is not a very hip or happenin' town. (I would say that's a massive understatement.) It feels kind of like a 1950's ghost town complete with a Sinclair dinasaur and well, a teepee motel. Here's another Holbrook attraction:

Once back on I-40, running fairly parallel to Route 66, I stopped at some really interesting rock striations along the highway. The stone and earth were very crumbly, like sandstone.

The cool green veins looked and kind of felt like dry clay. The white made me think of quartz but it, too, was pretty crumbly.

I picked up a couple small pieces and two big pieces to take home. Did I tell you yet that I love rocks? The small ones will go on our rock sill and the big ones will go in the "yard". I'm wondering if they will melt away into a pile of mud if rained on.

I had planned to leave early and stop off in Flagstaff to visit the downtown shops and art galleries. I love the gallery shops there. They have glasswork, jewelry, paintings, clay, and other interesting things. Lori drove up with Jance and her husband who had some brief business to do there. We met up (after a grumbly convoluted escapade with the cursed one-way streets) and Lori and I took off for the shops across the street/highway/Route 66. There were lots of pictures I could have taken along Flagstaff's Route 66, San Francisco Ave., like the railroad station, the historic buildings and such along the street, but time was running short. We spent most of our time a block or so up from Route 66 and here's some of what we saw.

I just love the detail of old buildings. Today's architectural detail is so different. I am really drawn to the details of old and the natural materials they used.

We loved this sign and the metal branches that it hangs from.

(Anyone seen Jerry or George? Elaine or Kramer?)

I am a real textural person. I love lots of texture and surface depth. Like this textured stone work. I also really like the stone church in the background, too, even though it was rather pink. We didn't get very close to the church but something about it made me think it was more of a natural pink than a painted pink.

We arrived at Sherri's cabin Sunday afternoon, eventually. Let it be known that Lori and I, when we get together, well ...we can really talk. Now, take that fact, and add in a factor of We Haven't Seen Each Other in Weeks. Multiply it by We Haven't Actually Spent A Good Chunk of Friend-to-Friend Time In Months, throw in a dash of Not Thoroughly Transcribed Directions and a pinch of Not Paying Attention To Them Anyway, and you get .....a little bit lost. Not terribly, but we did manage to pass just about every turn we were supposed to make, including Sherri's driveway, and have to double back. After missing a couple turns, we were finally on track and supposed to take the second of two loop roads with the same name. We saw the road and passed it, looking for the second one. But then I said, "I HOPE that was the first road." We laughed and made fun of ourselves thinking "what if we did it again and passsed the first road without even seeing it?!" It would be unbelievable at that point.

You guessed it. We drove for about half a mile, never seeing a second loop road. We ended up in a dead end where we had to turn around AGAIN. The road we had seen was already the second road of the loop where we were supposed to turn. Then, we made the correct turn, kept on laughing at ourselves and drove right past Sherri's house for a long ways before we said, "Uh oh! Where's her house supposed to be?" We ended up driving ALL the way around the Loop right behind her property and emerging onto the main road from the FIRST Loop Road. Well, we quickly got to make the proper turn onto the SECOND Loop Road and realized the directions said her house was the second on the right. We were laughing so hard our stomachs hurt by the time we finally found ourselves in front of her cabin (for the second time). Sherri just happened to call my cell phone right at that moment. I answered by saying, "Do you see us driving around and around?"

What started out with a Lucy and Ethel escapade (we've had those before) turned into a wonderful relaxing time with dear friends. The cabin and setting was beautiful. Best of all was being with each other and having time to play" together, talk and reconnect. Sherri served us all weekend with wonderful meals she loves preparing. We ate dinner on the deck surrounded by 60 foot tall Ponderosa Pines with big ole tall trunks where the branches didn't start until about 30 feet up. I love that kind of forest.

It was a great time. Relaxing mornings. Beautiful views. Breezes through the pine needles. Teryx rides around the dirt road neighborhood. Walks. Talks. Reconnecting and catching up. Dinners on the deck. Cool evenings. Open windows. A nearly full moon. Going "into town" to visit the Quilt Mercantile. Seeing all the Route 66 nostalgia and tourist stuff on the main street.

...Stopping for a drink and sitting outside a nice little coffee shop.

The coffee shop we stopped at had these interesting stools. Grey metal welded together with brass solder. This was the second time I'd seen this pairing and mixing of metals

I really liked how the designer took a functional element that is always deliberately disquised - the weld - and intentionally made it design element of focus by using a different metal to weld with. In Flagstaff we had seen some glass jewelry cases that had brushed steel framing on the edges of the glass but the hardware and solder was all in brass.

...Seeing the old buildings and more decorative architecture.

...And elk spotting at night.

Elk spotting. Man, that was fun. The community's developer has a large parcel of land that includes a meadow and watering hole. The road into the neighborhood goes right through his meadow. Every night about 50 elk and deer come from the woods and graze for hours in the meadow. It was awesome! There was even a big bull elk with a huge mature rack. Lots of mamas and babies, too. And the deer...they were so sweet with their dainty bodies and faces, and their big ears. It was way too dark to get photos, but I sure wish I could show you what we saw. It was beautiful, exciting, amazing, and so much fun. We also saw a grey fox and a skunk.

There are selected moments of our time out there by the meadow that are emblazened in my memory. Like when we saw the bull for the first time. And the cow elk walking into the watering hole and hearing her splashes. And the whispered hysterical laughter that erupted in the van when I spontaneously and unnanounced let out my amatueur female elk call. (Yeh, but when the elk called back to me, I was asked to do it again.It was so fun hearing them call back. That's me, providingt entertainment on multiple levels. Actually that's NOT me. I'm usually too shy to do my elk call in front of anybody but it just came out.) But I think my favorite memory of our wildlife "shining" time was the deer bedded down for the night, just off the road and slightly uphill. Our headlights shined on her and she just calmly stared back at us, not moving at all. Since we made a circle on that road, we got to see her twice. She was so beautiful, so peaceful, so graceful. Mmmmm, what a gift.

The whole time was a gift. My friends are such gifts. Getting away with them was so good.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Wolf Encounter

Today I went to a lecture and open house conducted by a wolf sanctuary in nearby New Mexico. The sanctuary director brought an Arctic Wolf with him, a new and young ambassador for the wolf species.

This two year old weighed about 100 pounds and was all white. Full grown is 3-4.5 years and he could gain another 20 pounds or so. (Wish I could give him 20 of mine!)

I enjoyed petting him throughout the day, and even got a arm full of that wet nose at one point. This was the best photo I could get, though. It was at the end of the day and nearing my last chance to have someone take a picture. There were crowds and crowds of people all day long. They recorded over 600 people who signed the guest register. All day long he had a crowd of people, mostly children, around him. At this particular point, most people had gone and the Sanctuary crew was beginning to tear down the tents and merchandise tables. He was rather nervous and I didn't want to crowd him; based on current indicators he was likely to move away if I got any closer. I figured a mediocre picture was better than no picture. Barely.

Check out these feet.

I wish I had my foot in there as reference, but you can look closer at the photo above and see his back foot. His toes spread out to a space about 4 inches across. They looked disproportionately large for his body, which was pretty big. Wolves have a unique stance. Their back legs spread out wider than domestic dogs, so says Mr. Director. I also noticed what seemed to me a greater angle at which the the foot rises to the ankle on the back legs.

Wolves are naturally very uncomfortable and nervous around humans. It takes lots of exposure and several years for a wolf to settle in to his role as ambassador. This guy is on his way to being a great ambassador for his kind.

His purpose is to travel the area meeting people and, accompanied by his handler's lecture and casual conversations, dispel two myths: that wolves are ferocious killers dangerous to humans, and that, hey! wouldn't they make a cool pet! Their sanctuary, Wild Spirit Wolf Sanctuary, exists to "to educate the public, to rescue abused and abandoned captive-bred wolves and wolf-dogs and to provide our residents with permanent, safe Sanctuary."

These little girls seemed to have a very calming affect on this wolf. They were gentle and he let them caress his back, head and ears.

I really like this next picture.

The little girl in front was so calm, quiet and loving. She seemed to connect with him. The second little girl was equally quiet and gentle, stroking his back during this picture, but I deliberately cut her out of the frame because this image was so sweet. There just seemed to be something special going on between this wolf and these two little girls.

We hope to visit the sanctuary sometime in the coming months. They have a photographer's tour designed to enable quality photos without a fence in the way. I am learning that, because wolves are so skittish around humans, it is VERY difficult to get a photo of them in the wild, nearly impossible. It's actually common for photographers to visit such sanctuaries in order to get their pictures. All those amazing wolf photos you see? A lot of them are taken in such places. When I first learned of the idea, it felt like cheating. Now that I know most photographers do it, well, it still feels a little like cheating but it feels like "acceptable" cheating. I think other wildlife photos are captured under similar conditions. Not all. But some. Trying to take photos of this one today was pretty difficult as he kept nervously moving, always aware of his surroundings, easily feeling trapped, looking away, skittish and elusive. I was very happy to get the few good pics that I did today, in very rare moments where he was not surrounded by people.

I'm coming to agree that, in the end, it doesn't really matter that much if photos are taken in a captive setting. These animals are still wild (one of the director's main points). It still takes the same skill to take the picture. You just are ABLE to take the picture. The point is to capture an image of a wild and beautiful creature. Getting photos out there is important because, as Steve Irwin was known to say, if you get a person to love a creature, you'll get a person to want to protect that creature.

There were times in the day when his handler could read that the wolf felt trapped. The handler was constantly aware of when children needed to move back or to one side or another of the wolf. This was a moment when everything seemed cool to encircle him. I think there are several little girls and boys who began to love wolves today.

It was a pretty darn neat day for this canine lover.