Sunday, November 30, 2014

Why Selfies are Weird

I had to change one of my head shots tonight. I thought about taking a new one but I hate cell phone selfies. I don't know why but I can't bring myself to use a cell phone selfie on my blogs and other pages. I have used them but they're usually just terrible. Selfies are just...well, weird and there's no way I can say it any nicer.

They're everywhere, the people who take selfies. On street corners in Washington D.C. or Bangkok, China you will see them. They're easy to recognize. They're the ones standing at an odd angle, arms extended over their heads, making faces at the cell phone, which is held at an impossible angle and their heads canted awkwardly to get just the right look. Only it isn't.

I'm vain. I admit it. It is my biggest fault, aside from my tendency to tell the truth to unwilling victims listeners. No, my vanity is truly bad. I heard a joke once, long ago. A little girl asked her mother if it was vain of her to stand in front of the mirror and think about how pretty she was. The mother replied, "No, that's a delusion." No, I don't do that. I'm making a point. I'm vain.
Image courtesy of  stockimages

It is my vanity that won't allow me to stand in public and contort my body and face just to take a photo that will look horrible. I mean it. It's just too tacky. But apparently, most people don't think so. I can only say, you should have someone else take a photo of you taking a selfie. It could change your life.

You may say that not all selfies are weird but I say name one. There are only a handful of types of selfies. They're very repetitive. The only thing that changes are the subjects and their various protuberances and apparel, which is another blog post entirely. Let's review.

1.  Duck lips: Really, does this need an explanation? I mean there have been videos, expose', slideshows, and blog post about how awful these look. But they keep making them! Did you really even look at those things before you put that up? Your mouth looks deformed and it isn't cute. No one, at least no one I ever knew, made that expression in real life. Seriously. When have you ever looked at your Mama and did that? Had you done so, she'd have slapped you silly. Rightfully so. Really, I don't think anyone but television hookers do that. Are you sure that's the image you're going for?

2. Close-up, really, really, really close up: Do you know how large your pores are? They look like a Florida sinkholes.--- What's those brown blotches on your face? Freckles? Really? --- Wow, I never realized how big your nose is. --- Gee, I never realized how many wrinkles you had! --- had broccoli for lunch.

3. Downward angled shot: I took photography in college so I know that you can shave off age a bit by taking a photo from slightly above level. Overweight folks can slim their features a bit by looking up and using gravity. Older women can reduce the saggy neck in this manner and it does make a better photo. But good grief, you're 20. And a photo taken at an 130 degree angle makes it appear as if you're being attack by a vulture wearing a camera. He's probably after the duck.

4. Mirror,  Mirror: This has to be the golden fleece of all selfies. It often accompanies one or all of the above maneuvers. But think about this. Your head shot is an image of an image of you taking an image of yourself. Really. See, you had to think about that a second, didn't you. And that's weird. Then you add the duck lips.... down right freaky.

5. Location: Bathrooms seem to be the best (in someone's mind) location to take these cell phone selfies. Why? You should think about this. First, no one is looking at you. Take my word for it. They're looking at the room and comparing it to their own bath and thinking:  So, when did you clean that mirror last? Who is your decorator? You should fire them. Uh.... that outfit.... you've gained weight, right? Who's that peaking around the door?

I know there'll be some who think I'm wrong and that's o.k. You just keep doing what you're doing. It provides fodder for writers and comedians everywhere. I probably won't use it again but hey, it got me one post.

Now, I'm not an expert but here's some free advice for anyone planning on creating a new cell phone selfie head shot. First don't. They're horrible. Really horrible. Cell phone cameras are usually bad, I don't care how many mega pixels it has, they take terrible close ups and even worse if you have a flash. Unless you're going for the washed-out, demonic look.

Get a good camera, even computer webcams usually take better photos. Sit back from the camera. You can crop a photo if you want a lot of face in the shot but you can't reduce the same in a close up. If you must use a cell phone, do it outdoors, in good lighting.

Next, fix your hair, brush your teeth, put on something classy if clothes factor into the photo, and for heaven sake, don't poke your lips out. Try a smile. If that doesn't work for you, you can scowl. If you're really in a nasty mood you can snarl. If you want to look cool you can put the sunglasses on and keep your expression blank. Please try not to see if you can look at your own lips.

Use angles with restraint. Tilting the head too far over, looking too far up, looking too far down all do weird things to your face and probably don't help your spine. Experiment with slight angles. The beauty of digital is you can try multiple poses and examine multiple shots, then choose the best one. You can touch up the imperfections with photo software.

Oh, and one last thing. Get a real person to take your photo or get a tripod. Ditch the mirror. Really.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

We Went Down To Georgia

 All times are Central despite our crossing over the time line to Eastern.

On Wednesday, we left left at 9 a.m. going down to Georgia. It was a cold day and the weather gloomy. We expected to arrive by 5 p.m. However, the expected 7 hour trip became something much longer. We didn't get there until nearly 8 p.m. We hit construction at the junction of I-65 and I-24 in Nashville, as we always have for the last four years. That slowed us about half an hour. Then, we were 34 miles from Chattanooga when traffic came to a virtual stop. If we moved at all it was between 10 and 30 miles an hour. It took us 2 hours to move 34 miles. As we rounded the last curve we saw the cause of the delay.

On the left hand side of the east bound highway the median was a large grassy section that slopped up to the interstate going in the opposite direction. An east-bound trailer hauling apples had turned over. I guess his load shifted as he rounded the curve too fast on the mountainous road. At any rate, there were thousands of applies lying in a pile next to the road. They'd managed to take all the empty boxes and pile them up on the incline of the median. I've never seen so many apples and was very tempted to roll down the window and ask for a sack full. I resisted. We continued on our way and made pretty good time from that point on. But then, it was already after 5 p.m.

We arrived without further incident. I did have a couple of hours where it felt as if I was riding with two five year olds, rather than a 35 year old and an 8 year old. Their voices were beginning to take on a similar whine. I had no cheese and wished again for apples.

Checking out the dolls.
Our Thanksgiving holiday was a lot of fun. Sarah was so excited to be there that she went from one to the other hugging and kissing them for some time. Poppy and Uncle Dale (who is actually Aunt Phillis) had a grand time with Sarah during the morning. A few times Poppy and Sarah appeared to be about the same age and they were having the best time of all. 

This actually worked in my favor. I was able to sit and relax and watch. They had decorated the house for Christmas and Sarah had presents under the tree. She got to open one gift a day and she loved that. 

Giving Amy a little attention
Sarah found my cousin's dolls and my aunt pulled them all out for Sarah to enjoy. Generally she doesn't care for dolls but these seem to captivate her and she played with them the whole time she was there. 

We celebrated communion at my Aunt and Uncle's house Thanksgiving morning. That was nice. I'd never seen that done before but I would encourage anyone to start that tradition.

Dinner was to be at 5 p.m. at my cousin, Dan's house. My aunt and I went early to help out, although, as it turned out, I was more of a referee than anything else. I sat at the bar and watched as the bout progressed.

Cousins: Janie, Me,
& Alexis
Dan and my aunt did all the cooking. Please do not ask them who did more or who the best cook is. I listened to the debate for about two hours. The argument was never settled to either of their satisfaction. I remain neural, although I felt a bit like I was back in the car with the 5 year olds.

I can vouch that both are excellent cooks . All the food was good... except the green beans and that is another argument that was not settled but rather depends on who you ask. Nothing was burned and there was tons of smoked turkey, ham, pork chops resembled steaks, dressing, Ford hook beans, potato salad, broccoli rice in a cheese sauce, mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, and dessert. 
L-R: Uncle Dale, Garrett,
Aunt Phillis, Alexis, Me, Mike.
Front: L-R: Harper, Sarah

I may have forgotten something  but no one went away hungry. We took food home, except for green beans, and ate it the next day. It was still good.

There were probably a dozen of us at dinner. I didn't count but someone did take photos and I'm sure I'll get some more of those later. There are a couple here. I have no idea why Dan wasn't in the family photo. Probably cooking. Which segues into our next item of interest.

Friday we just spent time back at my aunt and uncle's house. No shopping for me. I don't do Black Friday anyway so wasn't disappointed. Sarah was able to play more and we even braved the outside. It had warmed up and was a beautiful sunny day in the back yard.

We debated coming home on Friday but I was concerned about the traffic issues on Black Friday. After Wednesday's problems, I wasn't in a hurry to deal with that again so soon. We waited and it was a good decision.

The traffic was not a problem except around Chattanooga and Nashville and even that was so tame Mike was able to navigate without any help at all. He's doing much better at it with each trip. 

We're always a bit nervous coming over the mountains. Not because the roads are bad, but the diesel trucks are problematic. They move too slow or too fast and you don't want to be in front of or behind them. But there isn't any place to go, so you bite your nails and stay as clear as possible. However, this time, there were not nearly as many as I've seen on weekdays.

Sarah slept for a couple of hours in the early morning, which made her trip less stressful. We stopped at Cracker Barrel at Clarksville, TN around 11 a.m. for lunch. This is about two hours from home. Sarah likes to shop there. She got a Ty Baby owl named Owlivier. He's rather cute but we now have a fairly well rounded zoo. She brought a whale back from Uncle Dale's garden. I bought another cape, a red one trimmed in black faux fur. Sarah said I look like Big Red Riding Hood. We are not amused... very much.

We finally were on the last leg of our journey. After we left we more or less counted the miles. I slipped the camera over the back seat to see if Sarah was excited about getting close to home. I'm not sure....

We made it back to Evansville from Atlanta around 2 p.m. Considering we got up at 5 a.m. and were on the road by 6 a.m. , we made relatively good time. Now, I'm going to bed. I hope you've all had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Real Thanksgiving

Courtsey of: MorgueFile Free photos
Thanksgiving Day ends for us. We've had a wonderful time surrounded by lots of family. I forgot how it felt to hear half dozen people talking, children squealing, the house filled with good smells and twinkling lights. I haven't had a holiday like that in a long time. I grew up with that but those days are long gone and there is little to no joy in them for me.

So to say I'm thankful for opportunities like this Thanksgiving would be an understatement. Sitting in a restaurant of other strangers is not a celebration. It's a meal. Being surrounded with the noise of people you love is a celebration. My children have so little of that because the military took us to distant places and dropped us where we had no family. These days death, divorce, and distance has left me with even less.

Christmas is around the corner and I know how very empty a holiday can be for widows who are far from their extended family and for whom a trip home is impossible and a visit from any family is unlikely for a number of reason. If you know someone who will have an isolated holiday meal, you might consider the gift of sharing your family celebrations with them. Invite them now, introduce them to others, and involve them  in some way in the coming weeks with your celebrations. Have them bring their family recipe to share with your family. For widows or single parents with little to no family contact, isolation around the holidays is very painful.  They may have known the warmth and chaos of a house filled with kitchen chatter, half dozen arm chair quarterbacks in front of the t.v., and running children. The absence from their lives makes holidays miserable.

Be thankful if your house was full. Let it overflow to someone who's isn't.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Just an Update on Life

Today is Thursday and the 20th day of NaNo. I have ten days left to beat this but it isn't looking good. I'm officially over 5000 words behind. I might be able to pull it off if I can write about 2030 words a day. If I couldn't write 1667 a day, why would I even thing I could do more than 2000? It isn't reasonable.

I've managed to bully  my neck into some sort of uneasy truce. I try and not put it in awkward positions, give it medicated patches that make me look as if someone attacked my neck, and take a pill to help the nerves and it leaves me alone for the most part. Now and then it sends signals to my brain that remind me it is still in bad shape. Just so I don't forget who is in charge, I think. I've been fighting severe fatigue all week. Three hour naps in the morning. I hate that. Brain isn't working before noon. Doesn't work well afterward either but I'm functional. I'm on the tail end of my steroid dosage and I will be sorry to see it go in one sense only. My pain has been minimal. I won't be sorry to lose the constant hunger.

Any plans I had of getting a part time job have sort of fizzled. I've been ill nearly every week since I retired. I'm looking for work at home things. At the moment, I'm doing some online surveys which will get me Amazon money or Paypal money. Not much but you know, you can do a lot with $20 on Amazon. Really. I've also signed up for as an Amazon affiliate. So, I'm plugging that in this post. If you shop amazon, use the links on this page, PLEASE. There is one in the menu bar above and a search box to the right.

Why would I ask yo to do this? Because every time you use it they give me credit and if you actually buy something, I get credit. I'm a bit strapped for cash. I lost half my income and part of my health care. I have a disease that causes bouts of severe pain and limited mobility at times. Some days I can barely walk. So, use my page to go to Amazon. They don't charge you for it. Believe me, you're not helping me get rich.

I have a lunch date with a girl friend who is moving away. Loraine has been such a good friend for five years. We met through NaNoWriMo and I've enjoyed meeting up with her for lunch and having some nice long chats. She and her husband and new son will be starting a new chapter in Nashville, TN and I wish them well but I sure will miss her a lot.

I won't bore you with my whining today. I should start making my New Year's List of Lies soon. You know, those things you say you're going to do or stop doing next year, only you never seem to accomplish any of them? Yeah, that list. I'm thinking I'll do one this year just so I can rub my nose in my failure next December.

Have a great day.

Monday, November 17, 2014

No Holiday

The day dawned blinding white and bitter cold. Sarah and I were trapped in our cozy shared habitation and we were happy about it. She because there was no school. I because it was a sunny, snow-filled day and I could curl up and do nothing. Well, these days I usually can. 

We did our gratuitous standing-in-the snow photos shoot and she wandered around for about 10 minutes before coming in and getting back into her PJ's.  I put on a pair of sweats and proceeded to vacuum and put away the laundry, both of which warmed me nicely. She has since gone out again due to boredom but is back again because it is "freezing". She says she will be glad there is school tomorrow.

It is November again. I hate holiday months. There are no good ones. None. Even if it weren't NaNoWriMo, I'd know it was November. I can count on my mind to play home movies that will insure that I remember. I was reviewing my posts for ideas and ran across a post from the early part of this year: Hauntings. And realized that for several weeks now, I've been a bit down in the dumps, not wanting to write, not wanting to read, not wanting to decorate or celebrate. It served as a realization of why I feel so depressed.

For me, for the entire holiday season, this is the norm. November, December, January and the first part of February are really awful months. So, how do my holidays roll? Thanksgiving Day, November 27, usually I eat out with Mike and go our separate ways. Christmas Day, December 25, depends on if anyone is here but usually a repeat of Thanksgiving, except I have to fix something. Since Jerry died, it is usually sandwiches.  My wedding anniversary, January 11, uh, there's no one but me to remember it. Anniversary of the death my husband, January 29. This is my black day. Valentine's Day, Feb 14, what would I celebrate?  

Gotta tell you that you haven't lived until you sit through all those holidays hearing a clock tick in your head, and on the wall, waiting for the next miserable day to pass so you get through it and not think about it. I hate November. I hate December. Most of all I hate January. They're cold, empty, isolated, and are generally the most awful time of year I've ever lived. It doesn't even end there. Mama had a stroke December 24 during our family celebrations and died January 2. I was 17. Daddy died December 10, during my college finals, and we had a funeral instead of Christmas. 

Apparently, all my holidays were to be hell of one sort or another. I could go really whinny and tell you about all the holidays when daddy lay drunk while I, Mama, and Billy tried to have a real holiday on virtually no money (cause it went for the liquor). Thankfully, family always saw we had gifts. But I don't remember opening any gifts. I do remember the spirits that insured there would be very little Christmas Spirit and having to be quiet in case we woke him up. We won't do those stories today.

NaNo is usually the only bright spot of the season and has probably become my one real holiday. It ends quickly but leaves a much happier memory. This year, it isn't working so well, I'm afraid. I'm three days behind on word count. 

Don't get me wrong. I don't sit around and brood about the miserable holidays. I don't have to think about them. There is so little fanfare for me that I could easily forget them if I didn't look at calendar, watch t.v., get online or go shopping. They're thrown in my face with all the images of children, turkeys, huge family dinner tables, and people laughing, hugging, cuddling, and sharing. Here, in this house, there are no bright spots, no laughing  people, no gifts, no tinsel, no shiny lights, and an empty table. I'm not inclined to manufacture them for the sake of saying I had them. They add nothing to my days except a lot of work. It is no wonder people commit suicide more during these months than at any other time. 

No, I don't think that way. I try not to think about anything. Let me give you something to think about. 

This year, when you sit down with your family, if you see a family member that seems not quiet with it, sit down and actually have a real conversation with them. Ask them what's bothering them. Tell them how very much you love them and mean it. Make an extra effort for each person.  I don't care how busy you think you are or how bad Aunt Lou smells. Just do this. You never know. In a few months, that very person may disappear from you life forever. And your last memory will be the one where you were just too busy to notice or take a minute of your time to make their last holiday a good memory. 

If you're a family member with a problem that will alter the lives of those around you in some profound way, you have a duty to inform those people you care about most. It isn't your right to carry it alone. Stop trying to spare anyone. You're selfish if you think you're doing a good thing. You're not doing it for them, you're doing it because you're a coward. Sit down and tell those you love what is wrong and leave them with a memory of how much they meant to you by allowing them to share the load and to be the best they can be for you. Caring for someone else's needs, sharing the heartaches, bearing their burdens is the greatest gift to give and to receive. No one had the right to cheat their family of an opportunity to do that. So, if you're not around in a few months, they'll know you were honest, that you loved them, and they had a chance to make everything right.

Believe me, the alternative... is no holiday.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Day 12 & Assorted Maladies

What a long week and a half this has been. I was lagging behind on word count most of the first week of NaNo but managed to catch up yesterday. If it were not for our write-ins I'd be further behind. My Co-ML had a write-in Friday night at Panera Bread and I went to that. We had 11 people attending. That's the largest we've had in a while. 

I've been doing virtual write-ins online with several members of the group and we've combined them so that if there is wifi where we're hosting a live write-in we also do a virtual write-in. Saturday we were at the library and last night I did a write-in at Panera Bread on the east side of town while Tammy was at the library on the west side of town. I'm actually ahead slightly today and don't have as far to go to hit the day's goal of 20,000 words. 

I woke to heavy, grey skies and a horrendous headache and pain in a variety of places. Went for blood work and everyone who saw me said, "You're not feeling well today, are you?" I wonder how they knew? I wasn't moaning and groaning or writhing in pain. I carried my Kindle and tried to read while I waited, answered check-in questions, got my blood work. I didn't even have to argue with the lab tech about getting the blood from the back of my hand and what gauge of needle to use! She just agreed and got the butterfly. 

It is cold. It is a painful cold. Despite the Prednisone I'm in pain in my hands, neck, shoulder, and feet. Small bones. Not good. Once I start decreasing the dosage of Prednisone the pain escalates in proportion. If I could take it all the time, I would. 

I see the doctor in three weeks. I wish I could see her sooner and get it over with and maybe, just maybe find something that works. Nothing is working. 

Back to NaNo. I don't care for the story. It isn't that I hate it. There just isn't a story there. I wish I'd gone rebel and worked on one of the other stories I have in progress. I'll get my 50K, more than likely but it will be 50K of boring prose with no purpose. I think this is the first time I've had that happen. I usually know when there is a story. Generally, the problems I face is painting myself in a corner and having no idea of where to go from there. This is different. I don't feel any interest in it. 

Of course, you should pay no attention to this any of that because we are in the middle of the 2nd week slump and this happens every year. We'll see how things look next Monday. By Saturday, the 15th, we need to be at 25,000 words. After that, things tend to move pretty fast.  I'll keep pounding away at the keys.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

To All Who Served and Who Now Serve

You were not chosen to serve this nation. 
You chose to do so. 
The choice to defend those who would not or could not defend themselves is a calling of which few are capable. 
It requires strength, determination, and dedication to something beyond oneself.
Some of you gave your youth, some gave your lives.

The hope our nation offers to her people 
is only as good as those who defend her. 
You not only guard this nation, 
you guard all that she represents.
You are the watchmen on the wall and 
our last defense in perilous times.

To those who gave their all to protect this land, 
to all who have served and are now serving,
we are forever in your debt.

For your service and your sacrifice, I am eternally grateful, not only for myself but for my children 
and their children's children. 
May the God Heaven forever guard you and protect you as you guard and protect all that I love.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Swimming with the Fishes

So... it begins. I got my first day of NaNo done and I'm nervous at how easy the words flowed onto the page. On day one. Without much effort. I ended up with 2122 words. The required is 1667 a day.

I think I'm terrified.

However, I'm rather impressed with my cover. This year NaNo allows you to create a cover for your novel and put it on your profile. Well, you could before but they created a special place for it this year. I couldn't resist. I love playing with the photo program and I had fun once I got started. I only had one problem.

Did you know there are not many free photos of dead bodies floating underwater? Really. I mean, I couldn't even find one on Google! I finally located a photo of a woman floating underwater with a copyright that would allow me to alter it. I used her head.

To top it off, there are plenty of fish photos but none with a dead body floating in the water with the fish. I got lucky in that the fish in the photo happens to be rainbow trout. This matters because I got the idea for the story during a visit to a fish hatchery in Branson, MO, a rainbow trout hatchery. Wasn't that lucky.

With my two free photos I started to work in and the end result is shown here. I like the way her head is surrounded by a fish and algae. It sort of just happened. It isn't a perfect but I think it came out pretty good.

My friend, Doug, asked if I was writing a gangster novel. Actually he said, "Please tell me you're writing a gangster novel?" I'm not but then, it's early days yet so, who knows.