Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolution 2010

Last year I only made one resolution: take better care of myself. For the most part that resolution was successful. I have taken significantly better care of myself in emotional and spiritual ways; however, I have failed dramatically when it comes to physical care of my body. I began the year with that the primary focus of the three and ended the year realizing just how important it is.

Emotionally, I have realized that for many of the things that used to bug me to no end, I really do not care. Saying I simply do not care carries a harshness that is really most accurate. I do not care about pleasing all people all the time. I do not care if my every action does not fully ingratiate itself to others. I do not care if my time frame is different than yours. I do not care if your feelings were hurt by my honesty. Emotionally, I am going to take care of myself.

Spiritually, I began the year thinking I was most healthy in this area, but through the continued study of the Minor Prophets and then into the Apocrypha, I learned so much more about my own foundations in social justice and its roots in Biblical teaching. That combined with my selection for the AWAB council forced me to continue to grow in my thoughts about justice and the role of religion and my personal faith in those endeavors. The activities of the future continue to influence my thinking in this area as I read and study further what it is the Bible tells us about right treatment of all people.

Physically, though, I completely failed in any attempts to care for myself. I gained 20 pounds in the year. I have not exercised. I have not been careful with my eating. So for 2010, I have to be much more focused on my physical health. I have joined a gym, but I actually have to go. I have to spend the time preparing fully healthy meals all the time and not letting myself slip into settling for fast food because I don’t already have something prepared. Where I have given time to study, I now have to dedicate additional time to my physical health by exercising, eating well, and resting.

My resolution for 2010 continues my resolution from last year, but with the full focus of care for myself, and by caring for myself, I can do more to care for others.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Everglades Sights

The Everglades adventure the day after Christmas proved to be one of the most exciting times I had on the trip to Florida. As a person who has always enjoyed the outdoors, getting to see this unique area was a highlight of the trip. There were the places and scenes I expected to see, like the vast expanses of grassy wetland.
Other than travel along the road and look out across these areas, there was little to do to see it. But some areas quite surprised me. Some of my very favorite sights were found in the Mahogany Hammock. I was taken by what appeared to be rain forest-like growths and while the canopy was significantly lower than one finds in the rain forest, the shadows and thickness, replicated what I would expect to see there.

The growths on the ground and around the upturned stumps of large trees overturned by hurricanes across the years. Lush growth all along the ground with various mosses and fungi also reminded me of documentaries from rain forests.

There are so many different spots and ecosystems to see in the Everglades, I could spend an entire vacation with my camera taking pictures and exploring the area.

Four Christmases?

The movie “Four Christmases” seemed like the most absurd of titles. Who in their right mind would have four Christmases.

I cannot say for certain that I am in my right mind, but this year, four Christmases is exactly what I am having.

Christmas # 1 took place two weekends before Christmas with my parents, and my brothers and their families. It began the festive season with a fun day seeing my parents and nephews.

Christmas # 2 took place a week later in Kansas with my uncle, aunt, cousins and their families. R. and I drove all the way to Wichita for that event, which was as usual, side-splittingly fun. The entire event is so unpredictable, that we can do little else but laugh and have fun.

Christmas # 3 took place with R.’s family in Florida. For the first time in my life, I traveled to spend the holiday with the family of someone I love. It was also the first time I met his family in person. Through the wonders of Facebook, I had been in some conversation with one of his brothers and his sister, but the holiday was actually the first time I met them in person, so that stress coupled with the holiday, but it did not diminish the good time of the holiday. I am looking forward to another fun weekend vacation with his family in a few weeks at Disney World.

Christmas # 4 will take place on New Year’s Eve, as R. and I have our time to exchange gifts. I am looking forward to this intimate time together as we exchange those things we purchased for each other. I have never given so much thought or had so much fun buying for someone else, but most of all, I look forward to that time together with him, starting our own traditions.

If the first three Christmases are any indication, this is exactly the way the holidays are meant to be. Nothing has been extraordinary by way of expense, but every gift has been thoughtful and the focus has been on relationships. With my cousins and our $1 gifts, with R.’s family and some “getting to know you” gifts, and with R. and I, the first meaningful exchange of gifts together and the time to share with one another.

I have never been a fan of the holidays, but if this year is is any indication of want can be, I may grow to enjoy them more and more.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Garden Scape

My aunt describes her decoration theme as "rust." Rust's natural appearance definitely help those rusted items fit into the landscape around them especially in the winter scape.

The old milk can and wheelbarrow, I found interesting. Again I was hoping for snow to have them really pop out of the surrounding landscape; however, with all the dead grass and leaves, they way the merge into obscurity also fit.

I particularly like the way the leaves have gathered around the wheelbarrow and milk-can, much like snow in a drift. I can imagine the snow falling there gathering around in a similar pattern.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Playing with Shadows

My aunt has some old wagon wheels as decorations at various places around her house. As the sunset came I noticed the shadows one of them was casting against the wall.

This image, in particular has a wonderful play of shadow against the object creating it. Some of the shadows actually seem to appear from nothing as the spokes seem to be going in different directions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Getting Squirrelly

While playing around with the camera, a fat and frisky squirrel came out of it's nest and started running around and basking in the sun on the limbs of the big tree outside. The squirrel clearly did not want its picture made as it made every move it could to stay on the side of the limb away from me as I walked around and around the tree trying to get a clear picture.

It finally made its way out on a small enough limb that I could get most of it.


I do consider myself to be somewhat smarter than a squirrel, so I switched to the telephoto lens of the camera. I was not going to let it hide from me and ended up with this really nice picture from across the yard.

Can't Hide from the Telephoto

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Berry Christmas

I am constantly looking for subjects now that I have the new camera, so while relaxing for a little while at my aunt and uncle's house in Kansas this weekend, I went walking around their yard looking at subjects I could frame into pictures.

I always hope for snow when I am there, but did not have such luck on this visit. Still, the bleak winter browns and grays provided a backdrop for color to stand out.

These two shots of a dead bush with its berries drying, and still clinging on really stand out for me among the shots I took as I walked around the yard. There are a number of different angles I took and the camera was snapping so fast that looking through several of the pictures, they seem to be animated.

I do love the natural subjects much more than people, but while in Florida on my next trip, I am hoping to be able to hone in on some people as subjects for the pictures.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Label FAIL

I really should not pay so much attention to labels on products, but in looking over the bottle of margarita mix I won in the work holiday drawing, I noticed the misspelling below. I found it particularly funny because on the day before I was lecturing high school students about homophones and sure enough, there is a homophone error on the back of the bottle of margarita mix.

I wonder if the person who was printing out the labels maybe had had a few tests runs of the product before setting the printer for the bottles to run through.

Better yet, the mix is actually "Diet Margarita Mix". It has 80% fewer calories than regular margarita mix.

Yes, it was the company Christmas lunch and we are having a push on fitness and healthy eating throughout the workplace, but diet margarita mix?

I wonder if they sell "Diet Jose Cuervo" to go with that?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Playing with Photo Editor

I have begun to play around with iPhoto to edit different photos and see what the effects can do. Of course I had to play with the stump photos and given the grays and blacks naturally in the pictures, going with the black-and-white option was the first thing I tried.

The first photo change involved the picture after I converted it to black and white and then did the color enhancement.

This photo was converted straight from color to black and white. It is a little lighter than the photo with the color enhancement. There are benefits to each one, but I think the one with the color enhancement has a little more detail.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trying to be Techy

In my job, we have begun to push for all things to go high-tech. Our presentations have flash-video or now, actual brief movies as I have learned to do iMovie in the most novice of ways. Still, I am learning new things.

In addition to the iMovie, I set up a Twitter account to post information. I'm debating the idea of doing a work-blog to answer questions for people since so many people have questions about the college application process and financial aid.

Should I do videos to YouTube from those iMovies I'm making?

Technology frightens me somewhat despite my desire to have the latest and greatest. By having the latest tech toys, I appear to be much more technically savvy than I really am because I do not use any of the technology to near the level I could be using it.

Becoming proficient takes so much time, and while I realize that proficiency will make me more productive and will save much time in the future, it does nothing now to make time available to me.

However, if this post works, then I will be one step closer to modern technological proficiency, for this post will be done via email.

Now if I can just get twitterfeed to work again....

Hotmail: Trusted email with powerful SPAM protection. Sign up now.

Plant in Water

Another photo from the past weekend. Not everything is stumps, but plenty of those in variations will be posted.

I actually had this photo printed in an 8" X 10" size for framing. I simply love the way the plant rises out of the collected water. It seems to be surrounded by fog but that is simply the hazy day reflected on the still shallow water around the plant.

I'm not seeing anything extraordinary in the photo. I just like looking at it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Photo Blog?

My Christmas gift to myself this year was a new camera. I purchased a Nikon D3000 Digital SLR camera since I had been using only point-and shoot digital cameras for the last few years. I've missed taking "composed" photographs and am thoroughly enjoying the new camera.

One of the places in which I see some of the greatest beauty is an old stump pile that has has been on my parents place since before I was born. The charred oak stumps make for some great black-and-white photos as well as stark contrast in color pictures.

My favorite of the "stump" pictures this weekend features some of the local weeds and the new tree that has grown up through the stumps.

I am learning to upload the pictures rapidly to my computer and organize them effectively. This means it will be much easier for me to post pictures and information about the events around them.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Stick in the Mud

Even in the best of circumstances I am not the most "fun" person around. I am fully aware of it and admit it freely. I have a fairly straight-forward and serious demeanor and once I'm fixed on a way of doing something, I am just that, fixed.

Some would even call me a "stick in the mud."

I usually don't think I am that bad, but Saturday as I took the boyfriend, R, down to meet my family and see the place where I grew up, stuck in the mud is exactly how we found ourselves.

In all honesty, I didn't intend to get stuck in the mud and through the wonders of four-wheel drive on my truck, I managed to avoid it; however, my 14-year-old nephew, trying to be clever and do an end around in the muddy field with his pawpaw's truck, did not. I backed into position in an attempt to pull him out, but he was so thoroughly stuck, I bogged in as soon as my tires started spinning.

Two trucks stuck in the mud.

At the back of a muddy pasture.

That's exactly the way I wanted to introduce a boyfriend to my childhood home.

He was quickly on the phone seeking assistance from New York in the brief moment he found a cell phone signal. Judging by the comments his friends left on the Facebook photo he posted, they were not much help.

My nephew was quickly dispatched to the house to get the tractor and a chain. I suggested he run since the whole mess was his fault. Judging by the short time it took to hear the tractor start, I think he sprinted the 1/3 of a mile back to the barn to get the tractor. Shortly afterward, we were free of the mud and on our way to the rest of Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Car Wash Fail

Though it is somewhat hard to see in the photo, in the back of the truck are rolls of carpet padding and carpet. As best I could tell they were brand new and the woman was getting the truck washed with them in the back.

Friday, December 11, 2009

My WTF Moment

This week while attending a conference, the information on one of the Powerpoint slides shocked me so much I wrote WTF next to the statement on the handout. Just as I wrote it in bold read ink, I remembered what “WTF” means and thought maybe it should not be in my notes from a professional conference.

I am no stranger to profanity, but as one who believes in the power of language, I use it sparingly and almost never in professional conversation. I use it so rarely, one supervisor implored me to use it more in his presence so he would not feel so conscious of his frequent “f-bomb” laced tirades in our leadership team meetings.

Despite all my care in using language, WTF was right there on the page in bold red ink. Am I slipping so much that C would be proud of me (and comfortable around me)? As I pondered the benefits of a scratch-out or white-out, I wondered if using it in the abbreviated form really was the same.

After all, 90% of the time I type "LOL" I’m not even smiling. It is to texting what Dr. Hibbert’s laugh is to uncomfortable situations on The Simpsons: it just happens!

The ubiquitousness of texting and Internet chat has created so many short-cuts and simplifications of language that a unique vocabulary emerges across those media, and in the moment of shock, thinking “they really didn’t just say that did they?” I put down the most succinct response I could. The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that “WTF” next to the graphic will draw my attention back to the statement for any future reference.

There on my notes for posterity to see and my one-day archivist to ponder is WTF in bold red ink.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Continuing in Love

Revelation 1:17 - 2:7

Amos continually preached the message of social justice, but in Revelation, the Son of Man steps forward to continue the sermon. Christ makes it clear that He continues to be in control. As He addresses the church at Ephesus, we have to consider the kind of Christian we are to be.

Through the season of preparation for the coming of Christ, he reminds us of the virtues of faithfulness, patience, and action. He reminds us, too, not to abandon the love that distinguishes us from the world. Central to the virtues is love.

While we consider his coming to us, let us take time to dig deep and find even more love to reach out into the world.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

What I Won't Be Giving

This season I have spent more time actually thinking about Christmas gifts than I probably have in the last five years total. I’m thinking it is R and all his organization that have me thinking about making spreadsheets for the holidays and such, but this really is going overboard. It is only the first week of December and I’m 2/3 done with the shopping.

Where is the stress?

Where is the panic?

Where is the last minute grabbing of gift-cards?

There are several gift cards in the mix, but that is because they have been requested. One of these days my nephews are going to learn to trust my taste in music and take my choices as an opportunity to broaden their musical horizons.

They could use some clothing suggestions from me too, but that will come with time.

One gift “suggestion” that keeps coming via email and other advertising is the once ridiculed product of late-night infomercials: the snuggie.

They now have pattern snuggies, team snuggies, and most disturbingly an HRC snuggie. The Human Rights Campaign should know better!! They are going to give a bad name to all the gays!

2009 has been a year of political setbacks for GLBT rights, but the HRC snuggie may have set a new low.

Fortunately, most of my shopping is done, so I can guarantee those on my Christmas gift list that they will not be getting a snuggie - UT, HRC, leopard print, or otherwise.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Plumb Line

The following is a passage I contributed to my church's Advent Devotional Book.

Amos 7:1-9

plumb line - (n) A) a cord that has at the one end a weight, B) a line directed at the center of gravity of the earth.

The plumb line continues to be one of the simplest tools available to us. Despite its simplicity, it is remarkably accurate, and no matter what resources are joined to create it, the resulting measurements remain the same.

Amos pulls out the plumb line in his prophesy against Israel. Agains the destructive visions God shows Amos, Amos manages to persuade God to relent and have mercy on the people. However given the image of the plumb-line, his interventions go unheeded. The standard, the judgement is true and unfailing.

As Christmas approaches, we see that God did indeed set the plumb-line amongst the people. Through Christ, the one true standard for following God’s will came to be and showed us how He would have us live by living the as our perfect example.