Blogging101 Day Four – Identify Your Audience

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Note: Wow, this is a tough one.  I’m not sure who my audience is.  Really, though, the assignment is to write a post “that someone in particular will see (and appreciate).”   The idea is that even if we are writing just to write, which to me means writing to either express my thoughts or to figure out where they are going, there’s some particular person or class of persons we are speaking to.  I don’t know.  Maybe this is one of those instances where I’m just trying to figure out where my thoughts are going.  I hope to know by the end of this post who I am writing it for. At this point I don’t feel overly confident of that.

Photography, Guilt, and Self-Appreciation

It’s a beautiful, cold, sunny, snowy day and I’m feeling guilty about not being outside with my camera attempting to make some snow images.  Ever since I decided to get more serious about my photography I’ve been fraught with guilt. (I’m so excited to have an opportunity to use the word fraught!)

As a component of my resolution, I have reactivated my membership in the Fine Arts Camera Club and have begun attending meetings of the Evansville Photography Group.  Both of these groups meet once a month and have Facebook pages where members can post their work and share and discuss all things photographic.  I’ve learned a lot from these folks so far and have enjoyed the learning and the gatherings.  And their work is inspirational.  And it’s also intimidating – both in terms of quality and quantity.  Hence the guilt.  I feel guilty about not sharing my work.  I feel guilty about not taking more images.  I feel overwhelmed about the vastness of what I have yet to learn about equipment, procedure, post-production, software.  Gaaaaaaah!  And, of course, I’m afraid that if I do share my images they won’t be good enough.

One of the first things I learned when I began taking photography classes is that it’s not about the camera, it’s about the image.  In other words, vision trumps equipment.  Now, I’m not sure if my instructors and book authors really believed that, or if they just wanted us to get hooked before we realized how expensive this hobby (or profession, in some cases) really is.  The digital divide does exist in photography. Now that we’ve graduated from film to digital photography more and more of the control of the ultimate image moves from the photographer and the darkroom to the camera and the computer.  Cameras and software are changing and improving almost moment to moment.  If your camera, like mine, is seven or eight years old, its sensor has been surpassed dramatically by more recent models.  And if you are, like me, still on a sharp learning curve with photo editing software use and acquisition…well, you get the idea.  And the new stuff is EXPENSIVE.  And my old stuff was EXPENSIVE, so I don’t want to have to replace it all.

So, that was a long rant and sounds way more negative than I usually try to be.  When you really get down to it, the main problem with my photography is that I don’t do enough of it.  We all know that in order to be good at something you have to do it and do it and then do it some more. Right Malcom? [As an aside, in seeking out a link to Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule, I found far more links to sites that “debunk” it.  However, I hold firmly to my belief in its value in principle…with certain modifications like adapted practice, obviously. I’m sure even Malcom knows that.]

cadillac ranch 6

Cadillac Ranch

So there are a couple of solutions here.
1. Focus, excuse the pun, more on making photographs.
2. Continue to learn from and be inspired (not intimidated) by my fellow photophiles in the groups that I joined.
3. Continue to learn more about the software and equipment that I currently have and use.
4.  Don’t be so dang vain about sharing.

Well, there I went from “what on earth can I write about” to self analysis.  And really, although this is MY blog, I don’t want to be entirely “I” centered.  That’s just boring to that unidentified reader I am supposed to be writing for today.  Which brings me to the realization that this post was mostly written for my most appreciative reader – myself.  Nice job, Jeanne!  If you’re still with me, thank you! I’ll try to be less self-centered next time.  I promise.

There’s Nothing Like a Snow Day

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snow dayWith apologies to Bostonians, linemen, snow removal services and mail carriers, I must admit that I love a snow day.  Maybe it’s because my entire life has been spent in education – getting it, giving it – and and inside me is that little kid who just wants to sleep in and then curl up with a good book and watch the weather through the window.  And only a little part of me is that kid who wants to put on boots and mittens and go play in it.  Well…not much of me  at all.

I’m retired now, so in theory every day should be a snow day if I want it to be, right?  But I still need some sort of permission (excuse) to just spend a day in the house doing whatever pleases me.  If school hadn’t been canceled today, I’d be planning and preparing for then going to the Boys and Girls Club this afternoon to do a cooking class, as I do most Wednesdays.  Retired or not, life usually has a great deal of structure. So, snow.  Permission granted to spend the morning reading in my PJs.  I have all sorts of chores and projects circling around waiting for me to begin them, but I feel like I can pick whichever ones I want and my day will still be lazy and illuminated in that lovely grayish-white snow light that gives one permission to just be.

Maybe tomorrow the weather will be just as good, er, I mean bad….   Sorry, Bostonians, linemen, snow removal services and mail carriers.

Blogging101 – Renewing My Neglected Blog

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It has been over a year and a half since I posted to my blog.  So much has happened during that time.  Why didn’t I write about it?  I’m not sure.  Well, many reasons.  Probably the greatest one is the inertia that hits me when I contemplate a writing task that requires some form of introspection and creativity.  It’s difficult to write.  And it’s difficult to adequately and honestly express one’s feelings.  I have very little difficulty when it comes to writing tasks that are instructive, factual, or straightforward narrative.  It’s the “deeper,” more personal stuff that daunts me.  Also, maybe I’m a little lazy.  And I want my writing to be perfect – which fosters procrastination.  Ok, so enough about NOT blogging.  Let’s just get on with it.

I signed up for Blogging 101 to force myself to return to Sillisoup, the aforementioned neglected blog.  It’s interesting to revisit my original purpose in starting the blog.  Almost immediately, I deviated from that purpose, because really I just wanted to be able to post thoughts, experiences, and photos.  Also, I discovered that although other family members thought a location to share recipes, ideas, etc. sounded like a good idea, the collaboration never materialized.  Metaphorically, the blog tittle, which originally referred to my family’s signature soup (sausage soup – that name was already taken), could be taken to refer to the “soup” of content that represents the constantly shifting smorgasborg that constitutes my consciousness and interests.

I hope that as the days progress in the Blogging101 experience, I’ll be able to write about some of the significant things that happened during the year and a half I was absent from Sillisoup.  And of course, I look forward to opportunities for contemplation about the now. Further, I will look to my fellow bloggers for input, inspiration, and camaraderie.  Most of all, I hope that this experience will turn into a habit that generates a newly revitalized ongoing blog!

One thing I know about any creative endeavor is that in order to do it well, one must do it, then keep doing it, then do it some more.  That’s certainly true of writing.  Whenever I go into agonies about writing I remember the truest thing I ever read about writing – at least as it pertains to my perspective on it.  It was on a poster put out by a publisher of college textbooks: “In writing, the only hard thing is to begin.”  So here I am, beginning. Again.  Then tomorrow, another beginning.  Perhaps after a while it’ll feel like I’m in the middle and it won’t be as hard.

Thoughts Upon Reading David McCullough’s The Greater Journey – Americans in Paris

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Product DetailsJuly 5, 2013
Observations thus far (19 pages and two chapters in): First of all, the title of the book is, in my case, very apt since this book is definitely a greater journey than my usual novel reading.  Which, by the way is in no way taking away from the value of reading a well written novel.  It is a greater journey for me because it is so rich in historical, literary, and artistic references that I am constantly having to note, remember, or wonder about the people and events in the story.  I’m left wanting more and excited about what I’m learning.  At the same time, the story is gripping and ever so readable.

I think it’s interesting that “artist” and “writer” were considered noble and popular professions at the time of the story – the first half of the 19th Century.  It seems it was respectable and common for young men (Who cared about young women?! But that’s another story.) to aspire to those professions – at least in urban, educated societies.  We still have artists and writers, of course, but just tell your parents that you’re going to be an English Major, and see what happens!  At best, they’ll suggest a minor in Business.

As a side note to that thought, I wonder if those graduating from high school and college today, with the emphasis in education on “career preparedness” and the move away from arts education and the liberal arts, would have the background information in history, literature, and the arts to understand and enjoy the references in this book.  And if most of the characters and events are new to them, would they enjoy the book?  Maybe.  But it would be harder work.

August 29, 2013

At last, I have finished The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris.  It is a very, very, readable story, but it was slow going because I wanted to study, take notes, and try to remember the history part of it. It was my “study” book, while others I was reading at the same time were more for entertainment (Find Me by Carol O’Connell), book club (The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe)  or reference (It Starts With Food by Melissa and Dallas Hartwig).  I’ve decided that I really enjoy having a book going that is something to study, almost like taking a class.  And since history is a subject about which I have much to learn, and since I loved this book so much, I’ve ordered David McCullough’s 1776 American history is a great place to begin.

Reading and Research Notes:

Frances Elizabeth Appleton LongfellowPainter George P.A. Healey is one of the artists featured in the book.  He arrived in Paris in the 1830s and to study and paint.  [His portrait of Frances (Fanny) Appleton (p.9), who married Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, now resides in the dining room at the Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, MA.]  Ultimately, Healey became one of America’s most noted portrait artists and painted images of many significant figures in American history of both his own time and those who came before.

File:NPWillis-Young.jpgNathaniel Parker Willis, a young and very handsome, “even beautiful,” writer and journalist who traveled to Europe during the period, was later described by Wendell Holmes, another expat of the times, as looking like an “anticipation of Oscar Wilde.” (p. 10)  Love it!  Willis was paid by the New York Mirror and wrote a series of “letters” during the 1830’s about the doings of Americans in Paris and about life in Europe at the time.

A little gossip: Chopin had a love affair with George Sand (p.165).

Commenting on the improvements to Paris made by Napoleon III during the dictatorial second empire (1852-1870), the author says, “And with order and prosperity the people might continue to forget the loss of their essential liberties.” (p. 209)  So Maslow!  If our basic needs are met and we have a degree of “prosperity” , it seems to be human nature to be less likely to question the politics and ethics of our leaders.

Mary Cassat came to Paris with her family at the time of Napoleon III’s coup d’etat.  She was 7.  It is speculated that her interest in painting began then.

Most Americans who came to Paris in the early part of the 19th century arrived by ship at Le Havre and proceeded overland by diligence (a very large stagecoach-like vehicle) for 110 miles southeast to Paris. “Most memorable on the overland trip was a stop at Rouen, halfway to Paris to see the great cathedral at the center of the town…. It was their first encounter with a Gothic masterpiece…far more monumental, not to say centuries older, than any they had ever seen.” (p. 21-22)

 Cast of Characters

Among the Americans living in Paris during the 1830’s and on were artists, writers, and medical students.  At the time, Paris had the most advanced medical schools and hospitals in the world.  Among those studying medicine in Paris were Wendel Holmes, James Jackson, Jr., and Mason Warren.  A school principal, Emma Willard came to Paris to broaden her own education and in turn to improve the curriculum at her school.  Thomas Appleton was uncertain whether he wanted to be an artist or a writer, but while visiting Paris and other locations in Europe, he wrote letters and journals depicting the city and the lives of the Americans who were living there.  Charles Sumner, a lawyer, was “the ultimate industrious scholar” and studied voraciously and widely across disciplines (p.59).

Teacher and writer John Sanderson wanted to be “the Boswell of Paris,” and his book Sketches of Paris: In Familiar Letters to His Friends; by an American Gentleman in Paris “would be widely read on both sides of the Atlantic.” (p. 58)

Other noted writers who spent time in Paris during the period include Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Ralph Waldo Emmerson, and James Fenimore Cooper.

BENJAMIN SILLIMAN. Por Morse, 1825. (Cortesía de la Galería de B. Artes de la Univ. de Yale).

Benjamin Silliman by Samuel Morse

Noted Boston portrait artist George Healey came to Paris to study his art, as did Samuel F.B. Morse, who later achieved his greatest fame as an inventor responsible for the telegraph.  Artists of the time spent a great deal of time copying the masters in the Louvre as part of their training.  Also, Paris’ atelier were considered the best in the world at the time.  Morse’s huge painting Gallery of the Louvre was completed during his student years in Paris. He saw himself as “a cultural evangelical” bringing home the great works to his own people for their benefit and that of the country (p. 65). He went on to paint portraits of many great Americans.  [Note of interest: among Morse’s portraits was one painted in 1825 of Benjamin Silliman, who was his science professor at Yale. Silliman is also one of the faces in the gallery in Morse’s House of Representatives.]

The Louvre was built in the sixteenth century for Catherine de Medici.  It opened as a museum to the public in 1793.  At the time of this book, Parisians were admitted only on Sunday, but, fortunately for the American artists, “etrangers” were welcome every day (p.41).  Appreciation of art, architecture, and beautiful gardens was not confined to only the wealthy.  The French too time to savor “l’entente de la vie,” the harmony of life.  The Americans contrasted this philosophy with the tendency at home to “measure value  [of property] by the capacity to answer some practical, physical need” (p.44).
“…The conviction of the French that the arts were indispensable to the enjoyment and meaning of life affected the Americans more than anything else about Paris….” (p. 47)

Notes from part II

Samuel F. B. Morse went to Paris to study art and became a significant portrait artist.  However, he was also a scientist and is probably best known for his invention of the telegraph in 1938.  In 1844 the telegraph was completed between Washington and Baltimore.  Before the end of the century, transcontinental cable was laid for the telegraph between the US and Europe.  In addition, in 1840, Morse became a portrait photographer using Daguerreotypes.

Richard Rush, American Minister to France secured the bequest from the Englishman James Smithson that made possible the establishment of the Smithsonian Institution (p. 180).

Margaret Fuller, whose “letters from Paris” narrated life in that city for the New York Tribune, died in 1850 with her family on the trip home from France when the ship they were on went down in sight of Long Island (p. 190).

After studying medicine in Paris, Elizabeth Blackwell, the first American woman doctor, founded the New York Infirmary and College for Women (p. 194).

In 1849, William Wells Brown, lecturer, writer, ardent abolitionist, and fugitive slave, spoke at the request of Victor Hugo at an international peace conference to great acclaim from the Parisian people.

Following a long and exhausting tour of England on behalf of the anti-slavery movement, Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, came to Paris with her family, keeping her presence in the city as quiet as possible.  She spent a great deal of time visiting the wonders of  Paris and spent many hours viewing art in the Louvre.  She was especially transported by Theodore Gericault’s The Raft of the Medusa.  She saw it as the work of a man “who had not seen human life and suffering merely on the outside, but had felt in the very depths of his soul the surging and earthquake of those mysteries of passion and suffering which underlie our whole existence in this world.” (p.217)

The Shaw Memorial

Sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens came to Paris in 1867 at the age of nineteen to study his art.  In describing his early years when he studied at the National Academy of Design, he said, ” I became a terrific worker, toiling every night until eleven o’clock after class was over, in the conviction that in me another heaven-born genius had been given to the world.” (p. 242)  Saint-Gaudens’ rise to success as a sculptor is described in detail in this book and is quite fascinating.  His Farragut Monument, unveiled in 1881 in Madison Square Park in NYC, launched his career as a prolific monumental sculptor.  His Sherman Monument (with Victory) stands at 59th Street and Fifth Avenue at the entrance to Central Park.  Among his other works: the statue of Lincoln in Chicago’s Lincoln Park (1887), The Shaw Memorial in the Boston Common opposite the State House commemorating the 54th regiment massacred in the Civil War in 1863 (commissioned 1884, unveiled in 1897). He died of cancer in Cornish, New Hampshire at age 59.  Later his home became The Saint-Gaudens Memorial and remains a property of the National Park Service.

notes from part iii

French architect Henri Labrouste is credited with saying, “In architecture form must always be appropriate to the function for which it was intended.” Later, Paris-trained American Louis Sullivan amended it to the more well-know “form follows function.”  So in quotations “less is more”?

Henry Adams lived and studied in Paris during the period and was great friends with Augustus Saint-Gaudens.  Adams wrote a monumental multi-volume History of the United States and, more personally, his autobiographical The Education of Henry Adams.   Interestingly, his great-grandfather, John Adams, more than a hundred years earlier at a desk in Paris had written a statement of his purpose in life:

I must study politics and war that my sons may have the liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.  My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study paintings, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.

The Place I Write – My Study Tells the Story of My Life

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Note:  This post is written in response to the WordPress Writing Challenge: The Devil is in the Details

my studyThe room faces east, so in the morning, my favorite time to write, the sun streams in the large double window and glows off the terra cotta walls.  In fact, I must reluctantly adjust the blinds to block the rays that hit my face as I sit on one of the two comfy patchwork-patterned club chairs with laptop, my first cup of coffee  on the table beside me.  This room more than any other in my house is a warm embrace filled with the story of my life.  Each of the many family photos hanging on the walls and littering the tops of file cabinet, desk, sewing-machine table, and bookcase  has its own story to tell.  The one on top of the photo-printer of my Mom with her four small children on the grass in front of our home in the “projects” in Cleveland  shortly before my father abandoned our family and her long odyssey into poverty-stricken single motherhood began.  The one of my sister Susan smiling from an outdoor cafe table some forty years later when the five of us returned on what we called the Pilgrimage to Cleveland so our Mother could revisit the city where she grew up, married, and gave birth to four of her five children.  The nose-to-nose portrait of my two happy, beautiful daughters that they had made as a Christmas gift for their parents ten years or so ago when they were still in their twenties.  The close-up of the flawless, wide blue-eyed baby face of my niece, born following three miscarriages to my “baby” sister, whose only heart’s goal in life was to have children.  The snuggling, smiling heads of my Mom and my only brother who spent every week day with her during the two years of her treatment for the cancer that ultimately took her life. The portrait of me taken by the College PR department when I began my 25 year career at Ivy Tech, a favorite of my Mom’s that hung on her picture wall until her house was sold.  I never liked the picture much, but it was her favorite of me, and now I’m thinking I looked much younger, thinner, prettier then.  Pictures of my children, brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, even one of my ex-husband playfully kissing the cheek of my brother-in-law, all carrying stories of the joys and sorrows of their own lives.  It could be overwhelming – but somehow it’s mostly reassuring to know my place among them.

The other clutter in the room comes from piles of projects.  Magazines to be read, binders and files full of papers to be put away or dealt with.  I’ll turn 65 this year, so there’s a tote-bag full of information on Medicare to wade through.  A box of travel information and mementos that I will use to help me sort and identify the 1500 or so photos I took on my trip with friends this past summer to Hungary, Austria, Yugoslavia, and the Czech Republic.  So much to do.

IMG_2165In one corner of the room, my large desk is surrounded by and cluttered with items of form and function.  I love the framed print by N. A. Noel on the wall above it of a little Amish girl holding a white cat.  It looks so much like my younger daughter and Happy, the cat we had when my girls were growing up.  A tearful Rachel held that cat in her arms years later when, old and ill, it was put to sleep.  Next to that hangs a canvass print of a photo I took of the reading room of the Library of Congress – my Mecca – on that lucky day when a friend and I happened to visit it on a rare day that it was open to the public and photography was allowed.   On the short side of the desk corner wall are four square painted canvasses depicting keyboard symbols  &, !, @, and “.  The chrome and brass desk lamp came from a shopping trip in Indianapolis many years ago during a visit with my friend Sarah One, so designated because of the later acquisition of my friend Sarah Two.  And then, there’s the pencil mug, the Gertrude Stein in the shape of her harsh square face, ears and all, with the small figure of Alice B. Toklas perched on the handle.  This treasure I acquired from a catalog many years ago in another life when I was a stay-at-home mom, gardening, canning, and doing needlepoint.  Also holding desk tools is the green and gold stein, the only remaining memento from my undergraduate years.  And on, and on.  Amazingly, as crowded as the room is with memories and physical clutter, it’s still a restful place for me, a place of comfort.  All the unfinished chores will wait for me.  When I’m here, the lurking threat  of possible boredom disappears.  There will always be something interesting to do.  For now, though, the face of the  baby Ben alarm clock my sister gave me and the sunlight leaving the windows for the roof are reminding me that this day must move on.

Does God Facebook?

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Well, I’ve had an interesting morning.  It all started the other day when I read a post in my Facebook News Feed from someone, I don’t remember who – you know how it is when you’re online, who had  commented on a post from God.  My first thought was, “God has a Facebook page?”  I wasn’t sure how to feel about that, and I’m still not sure.  Notwithstanding my personal beliefs, I found it difficult to imagine the God of any creed I’ve ever been acquainted with at the keyboard of a computer wading through pictures of his (more on this designation later) FB friends’ Friday night beer escapades and kids’ sporting events, updates on this morning’s reluctance to go to work,  and ever more clever comments relating to pop culture.  And what would his posts look like?  Would he keep it light (Still love ya’, guys! How ’bout some sunshine today!), or discuss developments in Syria or the famine in Africa? Then questions arise about who he friends or doesn’t friend.  And what if he unfriends you?  And how does he feel about making verbs out of nouns?  And then the God on FB conundrum brought to mind my puzzlement over God and Jesus bumper stickers.  Dizzying. All of this floated around my consciousness for the past several days, leading me to today’s interesting morning.

I decided it was time to do a little research.  So, I searched Facebook for God.  (Wow!  That sounds so metaphysical and deep.  Disappointingly, it was quite literal.  Maybe I should try the more abstract version some time?  Nah.)  The search netted ten results.  Four of them were sites with the straight-up God designation; three were community sites with God as part of the title that shared quotes, images, and stories intended to inspire belief in God; two related to the video game God of War; and one was for the Godfather movies.

Now, forgive my seeming digressions here, but I was talking about the interesting aspect of the morning’s labors, and any time you’re on Facebook, or really the Internet in general, digressions are inevitable, and usually interesting.  So let’s start with the spiritually incongruous God of War sites.  These are created for fans and constituents of the video games of that name apparently dedicated to blood, violence, and vengeance perpetrated by its hero, Kratos, who was wronged by the gods and is spending eternity seeking revenge.  Probably an oversimplification, but I could only hang out there so long.  Know, however, that there is an action figure that pretty much tells the story, and I assume it can be yours.god of war

So moving on then, the Godfather site was much as you’d expect.  Favorite quotes from the tough guys, movie nostalgia, general mobster adoration.  And, of course visual depiction of the God(father) himself.godfather

All right then, long way around, let’s get to the straight-up God sites themselves.   One of them was what was called an “Interest” page.  When I clicked my way there, it appeared rather different than the usual Facebook offering of posts, comments, etc.  Instead it offered a definition of God (apparently the creator of the site – there was none of the usual “About” information for the site) from Wikipedia, the bible of all information, divine or otherwise. It then consisted of: 1)Photos of my friends and God (sample below)friends with god2) an About God section that informs the reader that he “Appears in” Paradise Lost and lists several Books “About this”, including five titles – two by believers and three by, well to put it gently, skeptics like Christopher Hichens (God is Not Great) and Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion); and finally a section called “Posts by my friends about God” – including two posts by one of my Facebook friends.   From this site a learned a number of things.  God is invisible or just full of hot air (see picture above).  He is really open-minded and doesn’t take himself too seriously (see book list above), or else wants us to think that.  He’s a real populist when it comes to research and lets Wikipedia define him.

The author of the second God site was a self-proclaimed phony: “We’re not trying to pretend we’re God. We’re only trying to share, Love, Peace, and beautiful pictures which involves (sic.), God and Jesus.” Sheesh!!

That left me with just two contenders for the real God Facebook page.  The next possibility was identified on the site list as a Public Figure.  Good start.  In the information About the site, the author provided lengthy Personal Information beginning thus: “God is the English name given to the singular omnipotent being in theistic and deistic religions (and other belief systems) who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism.”  And on and on at some length.  Promising.  Furthermore, you can follow Our Lord on Twitter!  There were lots of God quotes, exhortations to Click “like” if you love God (kindof needy, but OK….), inspirational pictures of pretty scenery and eagles, and like any good Facebook page, you can post or comment.  No mention, by the way, of Syrian conflict or African famine.

The final God claimant identified itself as a Comedian page.  Well, we all know God loves a good joke, and the author was very diplomatic, “If you are offended by religious humor or satire, please make sure not to like the page.”

So, what else did I learn from my research into God’s  Facebook presence? Well, he’s pretty well liked.  The God Interest page had 7,513,991 “Likes”.  The God with the Twitter feed was liked by 3,673,942 people.  Only 250,250 folks liked the phony God.  God the Comedian was liked by 443,175 people.  Sounds pretty impressive until you hold it up against the 8,427,276 likes for the Godfather.  Furthermore, the combined likes for the two God of War sites totaled 5,589,065.

There was one more definitive finding (see pronoun reference in first paragraph).  See if you can figure it out from the profile pictures taken from the God Facebook pages.

Some things never change.  So be it!

Another New Year: Looking Back

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IMG_2155It’s January 2, and I’m posting my New Year’s reflections.  I’d like to say I’m writing on the second to avoid the day one rush or the cliche of all those New Year’s resolutions on the first day, but really, I was just procrastinating.  This certainly leaves an opening for my first resolution, but I think I’ll just side-step that one.  Must be realistic. I’m really more interested in looking back on 2012 than in planning for 2013, which is not to say that I won’t attempt both.

Yesterday I spent some time reviewing my previous blog posts.  I started Sausage Soup a little over a year ago, actually on October 31, 2011, the anniversary of my Mother’s birth.  At the time I started the blog, the idea was that it would be a forum for cooking and other creativity for my extended family.  Rebecca and I first then other family members had talked with much enthusiasm about the concept and after some time and study (see comments about procrastination in paragraph one), I got it up and running.  Since its inception, Sausage Soup has seen just one posting from someone other than me.  So, I think perhaps the group blogging concept is flawed, at least in this instance.  I think perhaps individuals have their own priorities.  Perhaps blogging by nature is a personal rather than a group endeavor.  Maybe it was a marketing failure on my part.  It doesn’t really matter.  I’m enjoying the opportunity for personal reflection that blogging offers, so the evolution of Sausage Soup is really rather lovely.  A blog is a living thing.  It is what it continues to become.  If the others wish to contribute, they are welcome.  If not, I’ll carry on with my own rather intermittent postings.  I’m not very good about the self-discipline required for developing habits, but I’d really like to be more consistent in posting. (OOPS!  Was that a New Year’s Resolution slipping out?)  I really do live more consciously and reflectively when I’m planning to write. (See this post.)

There were so many significant happenings in my life in 2012;  some I wrote about, some I didn’t.  For my own record, I list a few of the latter below in no particular order.

  • My friend of over 30 years, Laurel Rold, died of ovarian cancer on December 5.  She was just 64 years old.  Our children grew up together.  Laurel was a force of nature – strong, passionate, bright, witty, outspoken, honest.  Her loss is overwhelming to those of us who were fortunate to have her in our lives.
  • I took a trip in August with Corinne Smith and Ann and Wal Wallis.  We flew into Budapest, Hungary, and spent several days there before boarding a river boat for a cruise down the Danube to Prague with visits to several countries in between.  It was a wonderful experience, and I plan to share pictures from the trip (of course!).  The problem is that I am attempting to process my pictures using the Adobe Lightroom program.  This means I’m trying to learn the program while editing the images from the trip – and it’s taking far too long!  However, I’m determined to make it work in spite of the absurd delay in the final editing project.
  • I began volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club assisting with after-school homework and (primarily) teaching cooking classes.  It’s really great fun and I’m becoming very popular because the kids love to cook and eat and share their creations.
  • I took an Art History course at Ivy Tech.  I learned a lot about early art – an area of weakness in my education since I usually avoid all that at museums in favor of more recent work.  I also learned that I need to audit classes in order to avoid things like tests and papers.  I’ve already written enough papers in my education and career, and I’m retired now!  I also audited a Basic Photography course – I took the course many years ago for credit, but wanted to learn more about Lightroom.
  • My colleagues and friends Mary Jo Dentino and Mike Petty retired from Ivy Tech.  Their official retirement dates are this month.  Mary Jo was the Dean of the School of Business and Mike was Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Mike hired me 26 years ago and was my boss throughout my years at Ivy Tech.  I learned a lot from Mike.  Mary Jo’s career spanned the years I was there and evolved from adjunct faculty to School Dean.  She has been colleague, mentor, and friend and will continue to be the latter.  I mention these retirements both because of my personal interest and because I consider this to be the end of an era at Ivy Tech.  Both of these individuals grew the College and grew with the College.  It’s a very different place now than when all of us began there.  Mike and Mary Jo made extremely significant contributions to the College.  Their contributions will remain even as they move on.
  • Tom Ferrari, husband of my friend and colleague Constance, was diagnosed with mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure.  There is no cure, but Tom is receiving treatment to prolong the length and quality of his life.  It has been a rare and touching experience watching these two people face and plan their present and future with such courage and love.
  • I’ve blogged here extensively about Rachel’s marriage in June to Bret Aaker.  I think, though, that my acquisition of three grand children by virtue of that marriage deserves its own  mention.  Henry (12), and twins Lucy and Frannie (8) are such a joy in all of our lives!  In fact, I’ll end this post today with pictures of them.
Lucy and Frannie at the Albuquerque Museum.

Lucy and Frannie at the Albuquerque Museum.

Henry at the Albuquerque Museum

Henry at the Albuquerque Museum

Lucy at Albuquerque Museum

Lucy at Albuquerque Museum

On Writing and Interconnectedness

Recently I received emails on the subject of writing from two different sources.  Seems like a message from the universe.  The first, forwarded to me by a good friend who knows I like to write, comes from James Somers’ blog and is entitled More people should writeNow, before I get into the details of Somers’ case for writing, let me just say that in my guilty little conscience the title said, “People should write more,” wherein “people” means “I”.   After all, I haven’t written in my blog for over three months.  And, supposedly, I love to write in my blog.  I think I’ve said before that “the hardest part [in writing] is to begin.”  But enough about my guilt – for now.

Mr. Somers contends that when you are in the habit of writing, it changes the way you live.  You pay closer attention to what’s going on around you in anticipation of writing about it.  You’re more curious, more thoughtful.  Writing makes you think.  And when you write, you’re sharing your thoughts with people who care about what you think.  When you write to or for your friends you become closer to them, and in turn you draw thoughtfulness out of them.

Cesky Krumlov, Czech Republic
[Not particularyly relevant – I just thought the post needed an image.]

One of the “amen brother!” comments   that followed his post led me to another blog posting.  This one comes from a computer science major at Sanford University and is titled More people should photograph.  This blogger agreed that writing makes him a more aware and thoughtful person and then describes how photographing people helps him in the same way.  This really hit home for me because of my love for photography and how a passion for creating images makes me more aware of the world.  When you capture an image you’re making a statement about it, you’re interpreting your own vision of it.  It becomes an event and a memory.  But back to the blog post.  Ben Rudolph (I learned his name when he replied to a comment I made on his post), described how, inspired by a facebook page called The Humans of New York, he began photographing people around Stanford he found interesting.  This, he says, expanded his horizons in a way similar to the way writing did.  It made him more aware of people, it allowed him to learn more about them.  Now, all of this really struck me personally because my big barrier to advancing as a photographer is my reluctance to approach strangers I want to photograph.  This reluctance has stopped me from making some images I would loved to have created.  Yet another message from the universe:  Get over it.

The second article about writing that showed up in my email was from the Tomorrow’s Professor email newsletter (coincidentally, sponsored by the Stanford Center for Teaching and Learning).  The article is by Rick Reis and titled The Practice of Writing [#1209, not yet up on the website, but I’m sure it will be soon].  While this piece was perhaps intended more for the “publish or perish” crowd of the academic world, and after all I AM retired, its message resonated for me.  Dr. Reis’ contention is that writing must be nurtured by consistent practice.  He suggests that “we treat writing as a creative, life-inspiring practice,” and that we must overcome the psychological and emotional barriers in ourselves that stand in the way of writing.  He advocates making writing a consistent enjoyable ritual, a “book-marking of time.”  Hmmmmm….self discipline, consistency.

So finally then, all that Web interconnectedness gave me my message from the universe: write, photograph, communicate -consistnetly.  To experience the world more fully and to contribute to it more meaningfully, one must nourish what is worthwhile.  Nourishing takes time and commitment.  We all know that.  But sometimes the universe must conspire to remind us.

Interestingly,  just reading these various postings and planning to write about them as I went through my days filled my mind with other thoughts I want to write about – thus proving their validity, at least for me.  So, another day….

Wedding Season, Part III

Rachel and Brett’s Wedding Week

Place ring here.

Getting Gorgeous
The week of the wedding contained all the traditional wedding preparation activities, like the ritual mani/pedi fiesta for the bride, her sister Rebecca, her Mom (i.e. me), her sister-in-law to be Sarah, and her cousin Amanda.  We had a good time, although the designs chosen by some of the more adventurous members of the party challenged the creativity of the manicurists.  You’ll see those designs in the picture gallery posted below.  Rachel chose to have a little heart painted on her ring finger so Bret would know where to put the ring.

Rebecca goes glam.

Of course, hair and makeup for Rebecca, Rachel and me was part of the ritual for the wedding day.  Sergio Salvador, the official wedding photographer was on hand to capture those moments.  Rebecca went for the big-hair, glamorous  makeup and had false eyelashes for herself and Rachel.  Unfortunately, they turned out to be uncomfortable and both girls removed them before the ceremony ever began.  It was a great look while it lasted!  Rachel’s regular stylist did a beautiful up-do, as planned.  While we were at the salon, Frannie and Lucy were having their hair done by Amanda at our rental house.  All styles are displayed in the photo gallery.

Party Week
On Wednesday evening all the parents gathered for a parent-exclusive dinner with the bride and groom at the house I had rented for the week.  Madeline and Jedd and Amanda went out to dinner with Chrisi (Rachel’s best friend) and her husband Mike and managed to have a good time without us.  Tom and Sally had not yet met Bret’s parents, so this was a great opportunity for all of us to become better acquainted before all of the larger wedding events.  The house had a wonderful patio courtyard with a grill, so we (well, Bret) grilled pork tenderloin and paired it with a big green salad (and lots of wine 🙂 for a simple dinner and great conversation.

Nature Pointe

Thursday’s rehearsal and rehearsal dinner were held at Nature Pointe, the wedding venue.  After getting off to a bit of a rough (well, ruffled) start due to a booking overlap with another wedding party’s rehearsal, our rehearsal was both fun and productive and the picnic sponsored by the grooms parents, Judy and Jerry Aaker, was perfect.

Rebecca, as the wedding officiant, was a paragon of preparation (oooo…nice alliteration) and organization.  The flower girls and Henry, his Dad’s best man, took their roles very seriously.  On their own initiative, Frannie and Lucy practiced their pacing for the procession diligently and repeatedly while Rebecca worked with the rest of the wedding party.  Henry learned about how to hold his hands during the ceremony (relaxed behind his back) and managed during the actual ceremony to keep them there for a remarkably long time before they found their way to his pockets.

Judy Aaker, friends Jacque Martin & Caroline Kelly, & Lani Lucky (Bret’s sister)

Having the rehearsal picnic at the wedding venue was especially pleasant.  It was a great facility as the guests were able to visit and eat inside or out, and the pool was available for the guests who wanted to take advantage of it – like every one of the children!  Bret and Jerry grilled hamburgers and hot-dogs to accompany all the other delicious fixins’.  An added benefit was that the guests were able to become familiar with Nature Pointe and the somewhat complicated route to get there prior to the wedding day.

Sarah and Malkie Aaker (Bret’s sister-in-law and nephew)

The Silliman Family – Jeanne Albrecht, Mary Gibson, Emily, Wade Gibson, Tom and Sally Silliman

That evening, Bret and Rachel hosted a cocktail gathering at their home, so the party just continued!  On Friday, Rebecca arranged for a cocktail hour at the upstairs outdoor lounge at Seasons in downtown Albuquerque so that the out-of-town guests could gather and spend time together with the Bret and Rachel and some of their in-town friends.  Wedding Week was pretty much Party Week.

The Big Ta Da!
After a year of planning and a week of preparation and partying, the big event began at Nature Pointe on Saturday, June 30, 2012.

Approximately ninety guests, many of whom arrived on the specially decorated school-bus (how appropriate since both bride and groom are teachers) shuttle, gathered on the spacious patio for an outdoor ceremony at 5 PM.

The wedding party was all family.  Looking incredibly handsome, Henry was his Dad’s best man and Lucy and Frannie led the procession as flower girls.  Tom and I escorted Rachel up the “aisle” we had configured on the patio where the guests were seated.  Rebecca officiated her sister’s wedding.  The ceremony was a heart warming combination of traditional and non-traditional and was highly personal thanks to her having submitted questions to the bride and groom ahead of time.  Jerry Aaker, father of the groom, provided the benediction at the end of the ceremony, and at the beginning and end of the ceremony Rachel’s aunt, Mary Gibson sang songs   Rachel and Bret had chosen.

My heart was so warmed to see the great happiness and love that was so evident in  Rachel and Bret’s faces as they held hands and spoke the vows prepared by Rebecca with such care and love.

Then, of course, we all, family and friends did what we all do best – party!  The band, Le Chat Lunatique, played their jazzy-bluesy songs as we ate, mingled inside and out, and danced the night away (well, until 10 PM).  Sergio and his assistant were on hand throughout, and here’s a link to the whole shebang.
Rachel and Bret Wedding Pictures – Sergio Salvador
If you prefer a smaller collection, I selected some of my favorites and they are posted below along with some I took during the week. (Click on any one image to view a carousel of enlarged images.)

Still to Come:
“Wedding Season: Afterword
– Yours, Mine, and Ours: reflections on the importance of family, friends, and chosen family” and
“Amanda and Jedd Wedding – Memories & Reflections from MOB, Madeline Harris”