Weekly Photo Challenge: Forward

“Forward” is the weekly photo challenge prompt.  Hmm.  Directional.  Nautical.  Paths…I have a bunch of shots like that which I’ve already posted.  Boring.  Check the dictionary.  Aha!

a : strongly inclined : ready

b : lacking modesty or reserve : brash

: notably advanced or developed : precocious

Inspiration!  Allow me to (re)introduce Emily.  She is turning 22 on Wednesday.  Last year, I did a Birthday Post dedicated to her, but she deserves more press.  Especially with this theme!  Ready, brash, precocious.  She is much more than these, but she is these.  Ready to act, in many senses of the word.  Ready with her emotions, her opinions, her dreams.  Ready, often, to take on any challenge.  Brash, bold, unreserved, “larger than life”.  Precocious….oh, the stories I could tell!  When she got 2nd runner up in the Little Miss contest, they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up.  “An artist…like Georgia O’Keeffe!” she replied in her 5 year old voice.  In first grade, she was given the responsibility of trotting down the hall to the third grade classroom for reading because she was far more advanced than the rest of her class.  Often, however, her teacher would find her in the nurse’s office having an extended visit, chatting, charming, helping out, telling stories.  In high school, she was invited to lunch in the teacher’s lounge by a new staff member who thought she was a teacher.  She is progressive.  She is learning, growing, changing at an incredible rate, still.  And she is someone whom I love so thoroughly and passionately that sometimes, I almost can’t bear it….the rush of oxytocin, almost losing her as an infant to meningitis, the fights we had, the pride when she performs, the fear we lived through…we are bound together and moving forward, deeper, higher all the time. 

So, now, the photos:

Guess which daughter is Emily...

Guess which daughter is Emily…

...and Mema, who is always too fabulous for words

She is really too fabulous for words, but “Forward” describes some of her.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Kiss

Photo credit: my little brother, aged 7.  I set the shot up for him on my Canon AE-1 (a gift from Jim) and asked him to do this favor for me so that I'd have a picture to take away to college.  What 7 year old kid would take a photo of his big sister kissing her boyfriend?  A sweet, generous one.  Thanks, David.  Always grateful.

Photo credit: my little brother, aged 7. I set the shot up for him on my Canon AE-1 (a gift from Jim) and asked him to do this favor for me so that I’d have a picture to take away to college in 1980.

January 7, 1984

January 7, 1984

July 3, 1992.  Recovering from open heart surgery.  Mom tries to kiss it better.

July 3, 1992. Recovering from open heart surgery. Mom tries to kiss it better.

December 2008.  Eyes wide open.

December 2008. Eyes wide open.

The Kiss.  What a photo challenge!  How do you participate in a kiss and take a picture at the same time?  Or if you’re not participating in the kiss, why are you photographing it?   Are staged kisses different from spontaneous ones?  Should kisses be documented, or should they be private?  How many kiss photographs do I even have in digital format?

Well, that last one became the deciding factor.  I have others in hard copy of my kids being kissed: as babies, on birthdays, at graduation and that kind of thing.  I even have one of Hershey’s kisses that my husband arranged on the floor in a heart for the anniversary of our first kiss.  These few tell a timely story, though.  Five years ago today was the last day I kissed my husband.  It was the day after Valentine’s Day.  We went out to dinner at a local bar & grill, came home and watched TV, kissed each other good night and fell asleep holding hands.  He never woke up.  The clue to ‘why?’ is in the third photo.  What’s different about the fourth photo?  Different guy…and my eyes are open.  Thirty years with Jim, full of youth and fairy tale and children and love and kisses, and I was often dreamy and often afraid.  Four years with Steve, and I’m learning to face things, be aware, and take greater responsibility.  Intimacy is even better when you’re fully awake.  IMHO.

Valentine’s Day is For The Birds

Our first Valentine’s Day together, Steve and I attended a presentation on raptors at the Volo Bog Nature Center.  We got to hear about and see up close some beautiful birds of prey and learn more about their habits and how they differ from what the presenter called “sissy birds” – birds who migrate to avoid our Northern winters.   Then we went and had sushi at a nearby restaurant.  The next Valentine’s Day, we went to a presentation on animal mating habits at the McHenry County Conservation District education center.  They provided some great chocolate snacks, warm drinks, a slide show on various courtship behaviors, and a candlelit ski trail hike.  They played a recording of coyote calls to try to entice some real responses, but there were none.  Still, the eerie, cold hillside was suitably mysterious and romantic for those of us who are simply in love with nature.  This morning, we took off from Milwaukee to Madison for our weekly Naturalist Enrichment course at the Arboretum of UW Madison.  We heard a professor from the zoology department give a presentation entitled “Why Do Birds Sing?”  One of the main purposes for bird song is, of course, to attract a mate.  Thus, the Valentine’s Day connection was made again.  Steve asked a question of the presenter to try to find some explanation for the early morning activity of birds in our neighborhood. “What’s the best time of day to sing a love song?”  Several audible chuckles and giggles were heard in the audience, which is predominantly silver-haired and female.  The presenter talked about the morning chorus and the ability for sound to be carried further in the chilly predawn air.  I smiled down at my notes and pressed my knee against his leg.  After the talk was over, a nice lady with short, white hair and a thickly knit sweater came over and leaned across me.  To Steve, she said, “You can sing your love song ANY TIME you want!” 

I love hanging out with retired professors! And I love that my daughter lives just a few blocks away from the Arboretum and invited us over for “breakfish” afterwards.  Valentine’s hugs all around and more conversation about her upcoming wedding.  Very satisfying way to spend the day, indeed.

Nerd love and natural love to everyone!  What a wonderful world!


Did I mention it's still cold here?

Did I mention it’s still cold here?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Home


Home.  A weighty concept in some ways, but also tending toward the sentimental.  It can connote fortification, shelter….and yet, homey can be quaint and trivial.  We invent and reinvent our relationship to home throughout our lives.  A place to go to, a place to run from, a place without, a place within.  Maybe the truth about ‘home’ is that it is changing and fluid.  That’s what I want to illustrate. 

This photo was taken out of my bedroom window, from within the warm nest where I find safety, comfort, and respite.  And yet, the window is transparent.  It doesn’t completely shield me from the cold visually, nor does it keep me from feeling it (it’s an old drafty house, not well insulated at all!).  It lets me come face to face with the physical realities of frost and even pulls me beyond the immediate perimeter of my house, across the street, up into the trees, and all the way out of the Earth’s atmosphere to the Moon.  And still, this is all my home, too.  The Universe is where I live.   Home is near as well as far.  And why should I not feel safety and belonging in all of the world’s manifestations?  Cold and death and distance and infinity do not annihilate me, nor do they exalt me.  They are familiar and comforting, too.  I do not control my home as I do not control the weather…I live in it.  And life is bigger than most of us imagine.  

For another picture of home, mundane and temporal but nevertheless real and interesting, my last post was about our home business, Scholar and Poet Books.   Please click here and take a look!


Scholar and Poet Books – Announcing Our E-Bay Store!


Our online store is up and running with over 200 items — finally!  Check out the link in my sidebar to visit the site and find out what I’ve been photographing.  Our Rocky Horror Picture Show Scrapbook is up for sale for the next 6 days.  Buy It Now or give us your Best Offer…the perfect Valentine’s Day gift!  Or check out our Vintage Toys and Games & Puzzles.  Our first vintage toy sale was a thrill for me.  He was a little Schuco wind up toy, a clown faced monkey that played the violin and shuffled around in a circle, made in US zone Germany right after WWII.  He was in his original box and in excellent condition.  We asked what we thought was a reasonable price after having researched other items of the same ilk…and there weren’t many!  Within a few hours he was snapped up by a buyer in Braunschweig, Germany.  It made me very happy to think the little guy was going back home!  We shipped him off and just received confirmation that he arrived safe and sound and is making his new owner very happy.


This is the latest adjunct to Steve’s online book business which he’s been running from this location for about 5 years.  In the process of buying books from estate sales, he’s also been in the position to pick up other items as well.  He used to rent an antique mall booth to display and sell these things, but now we’re doing it all online.  I am his new business partner, and so far, I’ve been “specializing” in Children’s Books, Toys, Games, Puzzles and Hobby Kits.  That means I get to research where all these curious things originated and when they were manufactured.  I tell you, I’m learning a LOT!  Frequently, it’s a LOL experience, coming face-to-face with humorous cultural idiosyncrasies and fetishes.  There’s a lot of history thrown in as well, which I find fascinating. 

So pop on over and satisfy your curiosity.  There’s much more to come!  Haven’t even begun to list the German LPs, stamp collections, and QSL cards…

Examining Entitlement – the “Feed and Frustrate Formula”

I am working on finding The Middle Way in my life and on communicating what I can of that journey to anyone who might find that helpful…with my own children in mind as always.  The other day, I came up with a phrase that I am finding useful in describing the continuum of experiences needed to grow and develop as a person:   “Feed and Frustrate”.   We all need a certain amount of feeding, starting in infancy when we are in our most dependent phase, and continuing through adulthood.  We have physical needs, emotional needs, and intellectual needs.  How do you determine what is a ‘need’ and what is a ‘want’ and what that certain amount actually is?  That’s a good question and leads to examining entitlement, which I will get to in a moment.  I want to take a look now at the other end of the continuum and describe our need for frustration. 

Frustration, challenge, resistance, a force up against we must push is a very necessary part of development.  Consider the emergence of a butterfly from its cocoon.  Many well-meaning folks have discovered a curious thing.  If, in their effort to be kind to animals, they assist a butterfly in its struggle to free itself from the structures surrounding it, the insect will weaken and die.  The butterfly needs the activity of straining to get fluids moving to its wings, to strengthen them for flight and to dry them out.   A similar thing happens if you facilitate a chick in hatching from an egg.  The work to chip away at the shell, the time and effort it takes to accomplish that task on its own, is vital to the chick’s health and makes it more robust.   Without that hindrance, the chick remains weak.  We need to frustrate our children and ourselves enough to stimulate our ability to access our own strengths. 

Working out the balance of feeding and frustrating is a lifelong endeavor.  I find myself looking at my adult children and wondering how I did as a parent.  I became a mom at the tender age of 22 and felt all those biological and hormonal urges to protect, provide, nurture, and “spoil” my kids.  I also had a pragmatic sense of limitations.  My mom might say that’s the Scotch in me.  I am frugal.  My kids call me “cheap and weird”.  I’m not sure I had a notion of the value of frustration, even though I’m sure I frustrated my kids unintentionally anyway.  So, they didn’t get everything they wanted, but I’m not sure I taught them a “work ethic” or a “frustration ethic” very well.  I am not sure if my parents taught me that, either.  Regardless, the responsibility of developing that ethic is my own.  It is the responsibility of each individual to examine their ideas of entitlement and challenge themselves to develop the resources necessary to achieve their goals. 

I like to learn through story and art.  I think of examples of characters who live out their “feed and frustrate” scenarios and find some tales to be inspiring, some to be cautionary.  Too much feeding as well as too much frustration can lead to helplessness and hopelessness.  One story I’ve been following lately is that of a young man who is an NBA basketball player in his second year as a pro.  I like watching Jimmy Butler play.  He has the kind of untapped strength that seems to increase with the number of challenges he’s given.  While his teammates recover from injury, he gets to play more minutes, and he seems to be growing up before my eyes.  I did some background checking and learned that he was abandoned by his father as an infant and kicked out of his mother’s house when he was 13.  A friend’s mom eventually took him into her home and gave him some strict rules to follow…and he blossomed.  The feed/frustrate formula made him confident in his ability to improve himself, which he keeps on demonstrating on the basketball court. 

This idea is not only pertinent to individual lives, but also to systems.  Politically and economically, how are we balancing the feed and frustrate formula in order to support a robust society?  Are we giving too much assistance?  Are we giving too little?  It’s a good thing to re-evaluate over time. 

So, perhaps I’ve given you something to think about.  How do you see the feed/frustrate balance in your life?  Where do you think an adjustment might help?  If you’re a writer, what is happening on this level in the story you’re working on now?  How does that dynamic work in your characters’ lives?  Thanks for listening to me hash out my thoughts! 

And one more point.  “Ahem!  This theory, which is mine…” footnote reference to Monty Python sketch featuring Miss Ann Elk...I own it and it’s mine.  I might use it in an article or something.  If this gives you an Aha! moment and you want to share it, please reference this blog post.  Thanks for your respect!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unique

I really like the photo posted on The Daily Post at Word Press today for the photo challenge.  The single, blooming red tulip in a field of budded yellow ones is an immediate visual image of what it means to be unique.  Outstanding in your field, the only one of your kind, different from all the rest.  Snowflakes.  People.  We’re all unique like that…so does that make being unique – not so unique?  Tricky concept, really. 

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week photographing vintage games, toys, and books from an estate and putting them up for resale on e-Bay.  Part of that time has also been spent researching the object to find out if other people are selling it and for what price.  Manufactured goods are not so unique.  They’re usually mass produced.  But after 50, 60, or 70 years, they begin to be more rare.  Others of their kind have been destroyed or lost for good.  They begin to show wear in unique ways: non-duplicated tears, rubs, bumps, scratches.  But usually, there is another one of that item’s “siblings” out there, somewhere.  I guess what I’m learning is that differences and similarities are rather fluid.  We are the same AND we are different at the same time.  We are connected in mass and atom and substance in numerous ways that we only dimly understand.  Categorizing and separating is something that we like to do because it narrows the overwhelming complexity of the world into an order that our little brains can comprehend.  But it’s all a game, really.  The truth is closer to wonder, the moment when you see something and exclaim “Look at that!” not because it’s necessarily different or special or anything else but just because it IS!  Wow!  There it is being the way it is and isn’t it marvelous!! 

Okay, with that in mind, here’s something I picked up at Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky, and I didn’t know what made it the way it was, but it seemed familiar and strange at the same time. 


My best guess is that these leaves are from the tulip poplar tree.  The lobes are not formed in the typical way on these individuals.  Mutants?  Perhaps.   I only found one that was like a perfect heart.  The yellower one was a relative, sort of the link to the “normal” tulip poplar shape.   I examined the edges very carefully to determine whether someone had shaped them on purpose.  They appeared to be completely natural. (oh, and the acorn is just for composition and because it had a really sexy luster!)

Variety, diversity, uniqueness.  “And I think to myself…….what a wonderful world!”