Sunday, August 30, 2009

With Friends

Remembering one's youth is fraught with emotion. My friends and I immersed ourselves in memories this weekend.

We confessed our deepest insecurities, replayed our riskiest moments, realized that all our families had their hidden (and not-so-hidden) demons. We reveled in our luck at making it to fifty-seven years in good health, without unbearable loss. But we counted our losses too: parents, friends, babies. We discussed the other kinds of losses we'd suffered, those harder to measure their absence: close relationships, innocence, love, trust.

It was hard to part with these friends who have known me for so long, for the safety they afforded me this weekend, for the unconditional love we have for each other. I felt their loss as soon as they drove away. I honked twice, they honked twice, then they disappeared around the curve to their respective cities and lives.

It made us want to get more of our old friends together, this small taste of memories. We're already planning. I know it won't be as long this time, because it's clear from our remembering that we don't have all day anymore.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

At the Table Again

Twenty-four hours from now I will be sitting at this table with five other women:

Betsy, who was my best friend in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. Her father died of cancer the year we met. We had our first boyfriends together, Joey and Mike. I wanted to dress just like she did, so when my mom bought me a madras skirt and a navy blue oxford weave shirt, I wore it as many days as I could get away with. It was about this time that I realized that everyone's mom didn't make their clothes.

Madeleine, who walked up to me on the steps as we waited for the doors to open on the first day of eighth grade. She was new to our school (fresh from parochial school) and a little wisp of a thing. She asked if I was Mamie, and I don't think I know to this day how she identified me, but we've been friends ever since. We went to college together also.

Emmy Lou, who used to drive me around in her blue Camero so I could smoke cigarettes. She was definitely my most level-headed friend, a great confidante. And she lived in a big, beautiful, interesting house near the country club. She was my best friend in high school.

Lisa, who was a twin, and ran with a different crowd than I in high school. I lived with her and her boyfriend (now husband) after college. She and I live in the same city and see each other at parties and around town.

Trish, my dear sister-in-law, whom I've known since I was twenty years old and started dating her brother. One of the most beautiful women I know, with a heart of gold, she and I are friends as well as relatives.

It's going to be a weekend of reminiscing, laughing, catching up, eating well, listening to oldies. I can't wait.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Me...of Little Faith

As you can see, the cat was just fine with going outside, coming home, and getting up to do it again. Today, she has checked in a few times just to reassure me that she will come back.

Letting the cat outside was the second thing that happened this weekend that tested my ability to let go and let events occur as they will.

I am in the midst of planning a community choir workshop. In its original form, the event needed close to 100 participants to break even. As of last Friday, there were twenty people signed up.

I panicked. And in the way that people like me have of spreading panic, the minister panicked too. We sent the workshop director a carefully worded email saying we were doing all we could, but we were, well, panicking about the low numbers of people participating.

Last year, I hatched a plan to invite Andrew Harvey to the church. We didn't make any money on that event either, and although great things came from his being here, I worried about a repeat. With me as the instigator again.

The director understood what we were saying in the email, carefully worded as it was. He responded immediately saying that money was not important, that it was about singing, having fun, sharing as a community. He was not at all concerned about how much he was going to get paid. And he called me from POLAND to reassure me again. His voice was deep and calm, and I felt calm after we talked.

It is very hard to trust the universe to take care of everything - the cat, the concert, family members traveling here and there, friends who are sick or worried or scared. I've said before that there is no doubt in my mind that I was put here to learn patience this go-round. Add "the art of letting go" to that.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Our friend died at midnight on Tuesday. Appropriate: "Midnight Hour" was one of his band songs.

The two cats were in the kitchen together for two minutes without any griping from Audrey. After two minutes, she got over it, growled, hissed, and went back to looking for mice under the refrigerator.

The darkroom last night was a wonderful refuge. I developed a couple of photographs that made me proud. I also this week blew up several of my color photographs to 11x14 and was pleasantly surprised by how they turned out. I'm putting them in the dining room tonight.

Up and down, up and down. Life.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cat TV

Audrey discovered the bird feeder today and got whiplash from following the birds and the hummingbird.

And for the first time, she escaped outside. Now she's stalking the doors and windows looking for an out.

I promise I won't make this a cat blog, but please indulge me for a post or two.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


If you're a fairly regular reader of this blog, you've seen pictures of my cat Chippy. He's about fifteen years old. When he was younger he was a real hunter, but he's slowed down and can't hear much at all. He's always been sweet and adaptable. When we take him to the vet, we put him on the checkout counter, where he stays until time to go back to a room. Dogs don't worry him a bit.

This weekend one of my daughters moved to a place where she can't have a cat. And she has a cat. For weeks, I've been telling her I don't want to take the cat. Loud and clear: I DON'T WANT THE CAT. And of course, on the way to pick up some of her stuff (see earlier post - I predicted this, remember?), my husband said, "We're taking the cat too." Whee doggies, I was ticked.

So we brought the cat home. Put her "stuff" in the entrance hall. She has been an indoor cat, so "stuff" meant a litter box. And blanket and carrier and mousey toys and food and the sweetest pink food and water bowls I've ever used to serve a cat. And did I mention that her name is Audrey Hepburn? And that she's a beauty?

But as flexible and adaptable and laid back as Chippy is, Audrey is that nervous and shy and skittish. She's the kind of cat you might not see for days unless you put her food out in the open. We've gradually introduced her to the rooms of the house (my daughter had three rooms) and she is a very nosy little lady.

Okay, so we're growing to like her. But she does not like Chippy one bit. He sits like royalty about five feet in front of her as she hisses and growls. I guess he can interpret the sign language without hearing the sounds, because fairly quickly he walks on toward the door, probably hoping to get out before she slaps, um, claws him.

Today, we're trying to work on that. I let Chippy in the house and went about my business. About an hour after he had come in, I went looking for the two cats, and they are as far away from one another as they can get in the rooms we are opening for Audrey. Chippy is in our bedroom, cool and collected:

And Audrey is sitting in the doorway in the sun, napping after being on the lookout for birds and voles:

I guess Audrey is going to be around for a while. She's going to have to learn to tolerate Chippy. He's the cat boss around here.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Construction Blues

We are in the custom residential building business. The only time we have ever had a problem getting work was after 9/11, and then I think people objected to building big houses because it just didn't seem right. We weathered it. But this recession is causing a serious depression, both in our business and all of a sudden in me.

I am a very optimistic but realistic person. I look at what can be done and do it. I look at what can't be done and figure out how to do it anyway. But I'm flummoxed about how to outlast this latest economic situation.

There are several things working against us right now:

1. The people who are building houses don't care about getting the best. They care about getting the most for their money.
2. Illegals, who don't pay income or payroll taxes, are undercutting our subcontractors.
3. Banks, who have stolen money from you and me, are still not letting go of any. And their fat cat executives aren't spending any of their bonuses on big houses either. At least not in our area.
4. This recession, unlike any we've seen, has touched the pocketbooks and portfolios of every single American.
5. People are nervous about Obama, our growing debt, wars.

There are more reasons, I'm sure.

I feel like a rat in a maze. And somebody keeps moving the walls.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Yep, tonight was all about developing my first darkroom black and white photograph. I did it! It is something I photograph in color at least once a week: the view off my deck late in the day. It is not in focus, but there is a magical quality about it that works. The photograph above was taken in color but converted to black and white. It is similar to the one I made tonight - I wanted you to have an idea of the way it looked.

This was a very exciting night for me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Ninety-nine percent of the photographs on this blog are as they came out of the camera, whether film or digital. I do not own PhotoShop, and except for an occasional crop or rotation, do not edit. I pride myself on this, in fact, and if a photo doesn't meet my standards, well, I just don't put it out there.

Today, though, I was playing around with the photo editor that came with Microsoft, and whoa! It made everything look so awesome. I have to share a few of the changed photos:

I still maintain that an edited photograph is photographic art and not photography. But after looking at the improvements I was able to make, it sure is tempting to alter the color, brightness and density of a photograph to enhance the image.

To me, changing my original photographs is a compromise, and right now I'm not willing to do it.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stuff - Literally

(Disclaimer and apologies: I'm going to use the word "stuff" quite a few times in this post.)

I have some friends from elementary and high school coming to my house in a few weeks. Although I told them not to expect me to weigh the same as I did in high school or to have clean closets, I spent this weekend cleaning my daughters' closets and a few other nests of stuff in preparation for their visit. (At least that was my excuse.) To say that I cleaned the closets out would be incorrect; I cleaned them up. The girls all live in small spaces and don't want to take much of their stuff with them when they move from place to place. I don't blame them. But all this cleaning up made me think about why we keep stuff.

This statistic was sent to me on Facebook when I commented about the cleaning: 1957 Personal Storage Industry: $0. 2007: $12 billion a year. I wondered: why did our parents not have all that stuff but we do?

Then, in an amazing show of synchronicity, the message at church yesterday was about stuff. How we measure our lives by it, how we use it to fill up empty spaces, how it determines whether we're (temporarily) happy or not.

So stuff. What has changed? Certainly the media feed our frenzy for stuff. Newer, better, faster, more beautiful stuff. There are so many more places to buy stuff than there were when my parents were raising us. Online stores put the world's merchandise literally at your fingertips.

We are, though, attached to our stuff. In my daughters' closets are their childhoods: stuffed animals, kindergarten papers, t-shirts and sweatshirts from vacations, caps and gowns, award certificates and art. Getting rid of it is like the last gesture at ridding my house of that time of life, and I admit I'm reluctant.

Then there is the survival mentality that I have: what if I need it? Blankets, batteries, books, dishes, candles, camping equipment - they all fall into this category. I'm afraid that we might have an emergency like Hurricane Fran (or worse) and I want to be prepared. I'm working on this, trying to develop an attitude that there will always be enough, forcing myself to only buy what I need for the week or the month. It has helped cut down on the stuff for sure.

But I still have to restrain myself on my way home from work every day to keep from shopping. For groceries, books, and sometimes clothes. More stuff that I will eventually clean out and take to Goodwill or the used book store or throw away because it's out of date. I decided yesterday in church that I will try coming straight home and meditating for a few minutes, replace my need for stuff with some substance. I will try filling up the inside instead of the outside.

And frankly, I'm hoping like hell it works, because cleaning out stuff is too much like work.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Be Very Afraid

One of the advantages of having a boat is that you can go swimming in places that are very private. One of the disadvantages of swimming in places that are very private is that critters that you don't particularly want to party with swim in these very same creeks and rivers. On our way to Cape Romaine a couple of years ago, we would pretty much see an alligator every mile or so. I did not want to stick even so much as my toe in the water while we were anchored out.

Now this fellow lives in a small pond on Bald Head Island. With probably a hundred or more turtles. Who swim around him, climb on his back, share the food/sticks/leaves/rocks people illegally throw into the water. He is so sick of turtle meat that a human toe would be very tasty.

Sometimes I have to tuck my fear away and brave the water. Yep, there are sharks and jellyfish and stingrays and sometimes alligators where we go, and they are scary. But you can't live your life afraid. I can tell you this though: I'm not going to be lolling around in those little creeks on a raft with my toes dangling in the water! There's a fine line between fear and caution.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Clouded Vision

This past weekend, I was obsessed with clouds. It started in the car, where I snapped pix with my phone:

Then, the next day, as we rode around on the water, I tried out my polarized filter:

And finally, we anchored and cooked out with friends. I, however, was unsociable, and sat on the front of the boat taking more pictures of clouds.

They posed perfectly.