Sued51's Blog











{March 24, 2017}   Random Acts of Creativity

Birch Dog

I’ve been meaning to write on this topic for a while, so on this cloudy gloomy vacation day, I decided writing this might cheer me up. There is nothing that gives me more joy than coming across something unique or random off the beaten track. Seeing the blob of blue water or the tree icon on my GPS sends me down roads I might never go down otherwise, and very often I see something interesting. It might be something I see in someone’s yard (I don’t trespass, I use my zoom) or it could be something someone leaves deep in the woods perhaps to say, “I was here” in a more creative way than adding another rock to a tower of rocks. It could range from graffiti (which is not always bad) to a broken or lost item; as long as it is not complete trash, I am happy with it. It gets my photographic juices going and also sparks my imagination.

Graffiti, love

“Good” Graffiti

 

Long after Christmas is over I still smile when I come across ornaments in the woods.

Ornament

Tree Ornament in the Woods

 

And much as I love trees, I admit I am fascinated by carved-up ones.

tree face

Tree Face

 

And what is this broken horse’s head about?

ceramic horse head

Horse Head

 

Guess I’ll never know…

 

 



{January 2, 2016}   My First Day Hike

First Day Hike

The way was clearly marked from the parking lot.

Twenty-five years ago, we were told, the original “First Day Hike” was held at Blue Hills Reservation in Massachusetts with approximately 325 hikers turning out, and as of January 1, 2016, these hikes have been held in all 50 states. The DCR workers were proud to have originated this healthy way to start the new year, and by the end of the day, I felt the same. What a great time it was.

I got there just before noon, and incorrectly assuming there would be no spaces at the main parking lot, I went directly to the “additional” parking. I was glad I did because as I walked to the main buildings I caught these young men doing their version of the “L-Street Brownies” with New Years’ dip in Houghton Pond. Those of us watching in our bundled up clothes laughed, smiled and shook our heads; it was 40 degrees.

first day swim

A chilly dip in Houghton’s Pond.

When I got to the visitor’s center area, I saw people warming themselves by the bonfire and went in search of the “free soup” that was promised. They were still getting it ready, but I found my friend Jenna, who was volunteering for the day. She lent me $5.00 to buy one of the “First Day Hike” hats. I received a free poster for the event and a map. Hmm…I didn’t want to carry them on the hike, so I went back to my car; I had time because the actual hikes did not start until 1:00 pm.

First Day Hike hat

Fire Day Hike souvenirs

Walking back to my car, I saw this lovely lady dressed for the occasion. She happily provided me with a photo.

Holiday Hiking Outfit

Dressed for a holiday hike?

Back at the visitor’s center, I got in line for my soup, and snapped this photo of Jenna handing some out.

Free Soup for hikers.

Jenna handing out free soup.

After eating that I wandered around looking at the sights and snapping photos.

Rangers on horses

Rangers on Horses.

 

A representative from the Trailside museum was there giving a talk about this beautiful owl!

Trailside museum speaker with owl

A representative of the Trailside Museum introduces people to a beautiful owl.

 

People were at the bonfire getting their pictures taken…I asked someone to take mine. 🙂

First Day Hike picture

A souvenir picture

Bonfire

Warming up at the bonfire

Just before hike time, there was a brief program with a brief history of the event and an awards presentation to the man who came up with the original idea. There were certainly more than 325 people there today!

Presentation

Presentation

Crowd

Crowd gathered for the presentation

After the presentation, we broke off to do our chosen hikes. There were four hikes set up of different levels and distances, each led by a ranger. I chose the longest and most difficult, the Buck Hill hike. There were over 100 hikers that made the same choice!

Hiking up Buck Hill

Our group on the trail.

It was a bit slow because there were so many people, but we all found our pace and strung out along the trail. And this was the wonderful view at the top!

Buck's Hill View

View from the top of Buck’s Hill

When we returned from our hike, there were very few people; most had come back from their hikes long ago and gone home. But I did see a few girls toasting marshmallows on what was left of the bonfire.

It was a great time. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

Toasting marshmallows

Toasting marshmallows on what was left of the bonfire.

 



{August 13, 2015}   Of Buttons and Badges

buttons, badges

Button collection

The sorting, selling, and throwing out continues as I attempt to downsize.

I found this last week: my button collection (or badge collection as my British friend Brian would say). I made this guitar-shaped “pillow” to hang on the wall and display them back in my music-is-life days. I made one for my friend Jane too. (You can read about our favorite bands back in the 80s here.)

My first job out of college was as a receptionist at a law firm. It was a take-whatever-job-you-can-get time (just like the present). I dressed up in skirts and blazers for my job, but my “rebellion” of sorts (or personal life spillage) was that I always wore a music button. Conservative dress would just be Elvis Costello’s face in black and white rather than the more colorful ones. Our law firm wasn’t one with visitors coming in and out; we represented mostly companies and businesses. The office was one big room with rows of desks where lawyers and secretaries sat together like schoolchildren.

No one there commented about my buttons…except the secretary who sat behind me. She dressed in the latest fashions, wore lots of makeup and dripped with jewelry…and sarcasm. One day I wore a turquoise velour v-necked shirt and wore my hair up. The lawyer she worked for came in and said, “Well look at you…you look almost beautiful today!” To which she replied, “I wouldn’t go THAT far!”  When I left that job she said, “Let me give you a piece of advice…grow up and stop wearing those buttons!” Naturally I just laughed…I was only 22 after all.

I didn’t heed her advice and continued to wear them. I continued to call them buttons until the fateful day when wearing them led to my meeting my British friend Brian. And I met him thanks to a button, a Lloyd Cole and the Commotions button to be exact. My friend Julie and I went on a tour group trip to London; Brian worked for the tour company. As we went to ask him a question, it took only a moment for him to spy my button…er, badge, as I soon learned. We started talking about music and found that we liked a lot of the same bands. Julie and I ended up going out to some clubs with him during that trip and met some friends of his that played in British bands. Over the years he sent me tapes and continued to introduce me to new bands, and became a friend.

All because of a badge. So glad I didn’t listen to Ms. Fashionable’s advice!



{March 13, 2015}   Tidbits from Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe's shopping bag, supermarket, Trader Joe's

Shopping Bag

I love Trader Joe’s. I don’t do all my shopping there, but I love their image, their marketing, and some of the interesting products they carry. And when I go there, I can honestly say the employees make it fun.

I usually shop there for specific products, one of which is Trader Joe’s Rustic bread. Anyone who has been there knows that they have a station where someone is cooking up samples featuring at least one of their products. Last sunday a woman was making a “special” grilled cheese sandwich: one with Dubliner cheese (a mild cheddar they are featuring for St. Patrick’s Day) and fig butter using the Rustic Bread. Right up my alley! I thought it was delicious! So…the Dubliner Cheese and Fig Butter joined the Rustic Bread in my bag. I hung out there for a bit by the little sample coffee cups to watch other people’s reaction to the sandwich and butt in, encouraging them to try it. I laughed and told the lady I was helping her sell it. 🙂 While I stood there, she was telling me other recipes she has tried. She recommended making meatballs in Red Pepper Jelly…mmm…I love red pepper jelly too!

At one point a male employee came over to talk to the woman about a trip she had made to the Providence Bruins game the day before. Apparently her nephew plays for either the Bruins or their opponent, and she said 25 family members went to the game and “he got quite a bit of ice time.” She said they had a lot of fun. The male employee said his niece (or little sister?…I didn’t listen well enough…) was going to be in some kind of production being held in Worcester. He said he had a “gig” that night but he was going to try to make it. Ah, I thought, grocery worker by day, band member by night? My mind recorded all of this for a future story (or maybe just this blog).

I proceeded to the register, and talked to the very pregnant young woman in front of me in line who was trying to control her toddler. I had put my shopping bag down on the floor and he was very interested in what I was buying. I looked in her basket and thought I saw cilantro, which I had forgotten I needed for the turkey chili I was making that day. I told her that and she laughed, “Oh no…that’s just the leaves on the flowers I’m buying. Isn’t that funny?” Suddenly a Trader Joe’s employee appeared next to me and said, “Can I get you anything?” “Yes,” I said, “I forgot cilantro!” Off she went…it took a little bit of time so I started to think they didn’t have any, but meanwhile the cashier chatted with the lady in front of me.

“You’ve got your hands full!” he said.

“Yes” she said, “and another coming soon. What were we thinking?!” We all laughed. And then, here was my employee with the cilantro. “It was the last one!” Ah…aren’t I lucky? I was having a good day.

Finally as I left the store and walked back to my car, I suddenly heard a booming and amazing male voice singing, “Oh Jamie, oh Jamie.” I looked around thinking maybe Trader Joe’s had hired a singer to entertain their customers. Yes, and no…the source of voice was a Trader Joe’s employee collecting the baskets! And no…he wasn’t mentally challenged as far as I could tell, but what a voice! I was too far away to acknowledge that I thought he was great (that’s how LOUD and strong his voice was) but I got in my car smiling from ear to ear. The only thing that would have made it more perfect is if my name was Jamie.




One of Life's Big Questions...

One of Life’s Big Questions…

I have struggled to answer this question for probably my whole life, but last week I had an experience which showed me one very good answer.

One of my oldest friends lost her partner and best friend; he succumbed to a fatal illness in a short period of time. Attending the wake, I watched her standing alone to greet the mourners. I admired her strength and poise, even as I could see in the unguarded moments, the strain of the past months peek through.

I was impressed by the number of people who turned out on a week night — for her — despite more snowflakes and very cold weather, during a winter when travel had become an endurance test for everyone.

At one point I met one of her bosses. When she found out that I was a very old friend, she proceeded to tell me what a great worker my friend is: how skilled, how professional, and how well-respected. “I wish I had ten of her,” she said. “And she is completely humble.”  I thought to myself, how wonderful to not have to promote yourself because your work speaks volumes…and also to have someone you work for respect, love, and admire you so much. She gave me the heads-up about something that my friend did not know: she was going to receive an arrangement from a very prestigious client. When they found out what was going on with her, they said, “We want to send flowers.” “That is UNHEARD of,” her boss told me, “But they like her THAT much!”

My friend held a small dinner after the wake at a local restaurant. I sat at the end of one VERY long table. She was fussing over whether we had enough food and was worried that the family-style serving was not working, but not one person was greedy and filled their plate. All appreciated the food and appreciated her. Everyone knew this was costing her money she didn’t really have, and yet she wanted to show her appreciation to her friends.  She had been unable to work very much during the time her partner was sick, and she works in a field that when she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid.

Despite the terrible circumstances, I felt happy for her as I looked down the long table full of supporters. Her life had been particularly difficult lately, but even without her recent challenges, her life wasn’t necessarily one that many people would look at as a “picture” of success. But it was clear as a summer sky to me that night.

A successful life does not have to be one with all the trappings and media accolades. It can be one where, when you are struggling, you are overwhelmed by love and support, respect and admiration in your own corner of the world. To me, my friend won an Oscar.



{January 27, 2015}   Photography: A Life Skill?

I recently attended a beginning digital photography class through a Photography Meetup Group. I felt so fortunate: the instructor was an experienced photographer and the class was well-prepared, and helpful…and it was only $5.00! I met some nice people and chatted a little.

I processed the experience in my mind as I drove home. It struck me that many of the people I talked to at the class were not hoping or aspiring to become photographers. They had their own individual reasons for coming that involved unique ways of using photography skills.

One woman was an elementary school teacher. She talked about using her own photos to teach her children about nature. I told her about a photography walk I had taken at an Audubon Bird Sanctuary, when I had the opportunity to observe and photograph a hawk capturing and devouring a mouse (yes, I know it sounds gross), and she understood why I felt excited and lucky about that. She said, “Wow! I would have loved to have been there and got those pictures! I would use them to teach my kids about nature.”

Hawk

One of my less “gross” hawk pictures…

A woman sitting behind me was a graphic designer. I overheard her tell the instructor that she wanted to learn to take good photos to use in her designs so she didn’t have to pay for other people’s pictures. She thought it was a way to save money and improve her work.

Yet another woman was a crafter who taught knitting classes. She looked at this as just another “craft” or artistic outlet in her repetoire, and part of living a creative life.

I have written before about the relationship between my photography hobby and my writing. It now feels like an essential element of my personality and life and also a way to expand my “vision” in my writing. I think learning to observe the details through taking photos will improve my poetry and my ability to focus.

iphones have become everybody’s way of documenting their lives on social media. Can anyone image a life without digital photographs now?

So…do you think photography has become an important life skill?




Resolute

Boat Owners Summarize It…The Ultimate Tweeters…

“Resolute” is the adjective version of “Resolution.” My desk’s version of Webster’s dictionary defines it as “marked by firmness or determination; unwavering.”

The last couple of years, I can’t say that I have been a shining example of that word, but I have also realized I didn’t do a good job of setting myself up for success. The “resolutions” I wrote in my 10-year journal were too broad and unspecific (e.g., send out poems, learn Photoshop), and thus, impossible to accomplish. For example, I did send out poems (a few) but out of those few, none were accepted for publication, which left me with a feeling of complete failure. This year I decided what I needed was specific goals, not RESOLUTIONS; strong as that word appears to be, it didn’t work for me. (I know it doesn’t work for many other people either…how many people join the gym and try to go every day…giving up after a week or two?). So I thought I’d share my process this year in case it might help someone else.

I began by creating categories for different areas of my life: health (which included food, exercise, and spiritual and emotional health); education and career; money and finance; and hobbies/social. I also created an “other” category to be a catch-all for organizational goals and all those practical things we all feel we “should” want to do. Then I took some time and just wrote down whatever came into my head…a type of free writing. After I felt I written down quite a bit, I examined the goals and tried to make them specific: for example: “eat better” became “make a recipe from a cookbook once a week,” which is certainly a relatively easy goal to accomplish. I classified my goals also into “easy,” “doable,” and “stretch.” I also looked for overlaps, which would imply that those were more important goals to me, such as taking classes (which appeared in the education and hobbies category). I knew I couldn’t or maybe didn’t want to accomplish everything I wrote down, so I tried to see which were the ones I felt most strongly about. The ones I wrote up as weekly tasks will be scheduled into my calendar (something I vow to be better at…keeping schedules), making them more likely to get done.

This is the gift I give myself this year: I am setting myself up for success. The “easy” goals will allow me to feel I am accomplishing things; accomplishing them will give me the energy and keep me encouraged enough to tackle some of the harder goals. I think at the end of the year, I will feel more successful and more content.

The other thing I realized when I sat down to write my “summary” of my year in my journal was that I knew I had accomplished a lot of practical chores — thanks to monthly “to do” lists — but because I didn’t keep my lists, I didn’t remember what all those chores were. Again, this kept me from feeling successful. So…I decided to create a “to do ” book instead of just “to do” lists: a “chores” journal I guess you could call it. Now I can write my list weekly, move anything that doesn’t get done to the next page (the next week) and have a record of what I accomplished to look back on at the end of the year. I will be giving myself “homework” assignments for the week.

This may seem like a waste of time and overdoing things, but I think it will teach me a lot about myself: what things do I procrastinate on? Which things do I find are easy for me, and which do I find difficult? Also, maybe I will find that some of the things I tell myself I want to do, just aren’t really important or maybe I have some “fear” issues to overcome. These thoughts lead me to share one of my favorite Joan Didion quotes:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear.”
Joan Didion

Happy New Year to all…may you feel it is a successful and productive one!

 

 



{November 5, 2014}   Talking to Ourselves

cartoon

Talking to Yourself

I have a confession to make: I talk to myself…a lot. I have done so since I was a child when my brother would harass me with his “talking to yourself” song and make me feel bad (and how many times in my life did people give me weird looks and tell me I was crazy…more times than I can count). But the reason I am able to confess this in such a public way now is because I’m not ashamed of it anymore. Now I realize how many people do it…a lot.

This thought struck me yesterday as I listened to a coworker: a lovely woman who I don’t think is crazy at all. And suddenly I became aware that many people I work with chatter away to themselves all day. I hear them as they use the copy machine, which is near my cube, and I listen to the mumblings that float over the walls. Is it more prevalent now than when I was young or am I just noticing it because of close working conditions? Is it an age thing? (Most of the people in question are over 40.) I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but I allowed myself to observe some of the functions this conversation seemed to provide for my coworkers (and myself):

  • We are helping ourselves get through a task (speaking the steps helps us to be involved in what we are doing). For myself, I find this especially helpful when I am doing something really boring when my mind tends to wander. It keeps me in the moment.
  • We are reminding ourselves of things. When I am interrupted, sometimes I forget that I had a planned list of things to do. “After I finish copying this material I need to put this on Joe’s desk and then stop at Kelly’s and pick up that file from her before I go to the bathroom on the way back to my desk…”
  • We “blow off steam” after an encounter with someone. “Boy, was that customer rude!” or “What a jerk!” It helps us get rid of frustration.
  • We are trying to make our own fun and keep ourselves entertained. I love hearing the little asides people mumble about conversations going on over the cube walls. They say it soft enough to not seem like they are participating in the conversation…and yet, loud enough that some people can hear and appreciate the comment.
  • Lastly, I think it relieves loneliness. Most workplaces discourage stopping by someone’s cube to tell them about an encounter that didn’t go well (or did); we are all supposed to keep our minds on our work and not socialize. And let’s face it, going to lunch with people who all sit silently around a table and look at their phones is not very satisfying social interaction.

So after writing all this I did a search and came up with this article. I guess I forgot that function of encouragement. That’s a big one.

Since it is now “okay” to talk to myself, I can at least make it work for me by making it positive instead of negative. Heck, maybe if someone overhears me congratulating myself they may join in.

All I know is that the constant chatter of people around me reminds me that I am not alone and I find it comforting.

What about you readers? Do you talk to yourself?



{September 30, 2014}   A Walk in the Country

Wompatuck State Park

Wompatuck picnic table

Every Sunday I try to head out for a picture-taking excursion and nature walk. Sometimes I encounter lovely little surprises I don’t expect — animals or interesting plants — that I document on my other blog. Often I have what I call “adventures”  — a right place/right time moment — meet some people and chat briefly. But mostly I soak up the peace and relaxation I need to get myself through my busy week. This Sunday I didn’t have a lot of time so I decided to go to a local park called Wompatuck.

I pulled into the entrance and…stopped. In front of me there was a line of cars…hmmm. I hadn’t been there in years, but I didn’t remember there being a fee to get in. I could see someone stopping cars at the entrance, but I didn’t see any money being exchanged. The line was moving…my turn…”Are you here for the event?” I was asked. I replied, “No,” and was told to “drive on through.”  Oh-oh, this might not be the peaceful walk I had envisioned…but there’s over 3000 acres here, I should be alright.

I squeezed through an area of cars parked on both sides of the road: state policemen with vests and park rangers. Then I drove by a field with a stage set-up, a bouncy house, and various other tents. No time to stare — I had to pay attention to my driving as there were many people milling about and I didn’t want to hit anyone. I was beginning to regret my decision to come there, but I didn’t have time to turn around and figure out somewhere else to go. I told myself to make the best of it and drove on. Anxious to get away for my quiet walk, I drove about 3/4 mile down the road and found a place to pull over and park my car. I figured I would walk for 1/2 hour and then turn around and walk back.

It was a warm and sunny fall day and many bicyclists passed me as I snapped pictures of the woodsy setting and the first bit of color of the season. I began to relax and enjoy myself. Thinking about future excursions, I picked up a map at the camp ground office located there then turned around to walk back to my car.

fall road

Early fall

Just over halfway back  I heard a woman singing. Her beautiful voice urged me on and I walked a little faster toward it. There was a picnic table in a clearing so I thought I would sit down and listen for a bit. As I approached the table I could see the woman standing with a man seated on a stool playing a guitar by a trail. There were people running by. Ahh…I thought, it’s a road race. [turns out it was an event sponsored by a local country radio station to benefit a local hospital…click here if you want to find out more]

picnic table

Peaceful Picnic Table

As I walked over to get a closer look, I saw another photographer taking pictures of the runners. We passed each other and she smiled and said “hello.” I recognized it was going to be one of my “adventure” days and decided to embrace whatever was going on. Today was not the day for just a quiet walk; it was a time to be sociable. I decided to walk over to take some shots and told the woman I thought she had a wonderful voice. She thanked me and gave me her card; her name was Erin Ollis. Check out some of her songs on her web site!

Erin Ollis

Erin Ollis on the Trail

 

 

When I got back to my car I decided to drive down the road a bit to see what I would see. The map I had picked up showed a boat ramp on a pond. I thought I could drive there to take some pictures, but it turned out I couldn’t, however… there was another singer! My adventure was continuing…so out of the car I went to check him out.

 

 

Alec MacGillivray

Alec MacGillivray

 

I didn’t talk to him, but I took his picture and listened a bit. He was at the top of a long gradual hill, and as I watched the runners and walkers struggling toward me I decided to do my part to cheer them on. I began to walk in the opposite direction (downhill) and offer encouragment. Once I started walking, I just kept going. Someone said, “You’re going the wrong way!”

runners

Runners Struggling up the Long Hill

As I went farther along I saw some volunteers handing out water to the participants. They were happy to pose for a picture for me!

Volunteers

Volunteers

I looked at my watch and saw it was time to head back to my car; I had someplace to go. I smiled the whole way back though. I had gone out for a quiet walk in the country. I got some country alright! In a very small way I shared in the goodwill and caring of a lot of people on a gorgeous fall day; I felt part of humanity instead of running away from it, and it helped me forget some of the negative stories in the news lately.

 Country Heals. In more ways than one.

Country Heals

Country Heals

 

NOTE: IF YOUR PICTURE APPEARS HERE AND YOU WANT ME TO TAKE IT DOWN, LET ME KNOW.




Forgive me my absence. Being “time-challenged” I tend to be late for events, but working two jobs tends to make time fly in a broader way…fall already???

I had a weekend off from job number 2 and decided to take a couple days off from job number 1 and have a party! (Not really, just relax a bit.)

So I came home Friday night at the start of my four days of bliss to…a water leak in my apartment — sopping wet ceiling tiles on the floor of my closet. REALLY???

My landlady came over with her maintenance guy (another tenant) and I began removing things from my one and only packed closet to the living room: the only place I had any space. As I discovered wet journals and photo albums, I felt my stomach turn over…why does it have to be the things that I can’t replace?

We determined that there was some kind of invisible water buildup that had expended itself; there didn’t seem to be anything still leaking. Also, thank goodness it was NOT toilet water from the upstairs apartment. (This had happened before to tenants before me!) So…that was BLESSING NUMBER 1.

As I went through the wet journals, I discovered that many of those that were soaked were unused or partially used ones; only two of the wet books were actually filled with my life’s story. Most of the dripping papers were typed and printed poems, not penned material. Also, the small stack of literary publications that contained my published poetry were completely dry and undamaged…BLESSING NUMBER 2.

I was a bit teary about the photos, so my landlady offered to stay and help me get the photos out of the plastic-pocketed albums so they could dry out and be salvaged at least for scanning. It turned out only 4 albums were soaked; the rest were dry…BLESSING NUMBER 3.

We talked about people who lose everything in hurricanes and fires as we sat on the floor and cut open and discarded the photo album plastic pages. Surrounded by pictures, we talked about life in general, what we had been through, and what we were grateful about. My landlady joked as she held up some of the photos and asked me about them. “Everybody has these same photos,” she said, “Backyard barbecues, weddings, and scenery.”

At 11:00 pm, with barely a path to walk in the living roon, we finished the salvation project.

photos on floor

Photos, Photos Everywhere

Photos

A path through the photos

The next morning as I gathered up the curled photos and tried to group them by subject or timeframe to put them in shoeboxes, I found myself thinking about what I learned from the experience. I found that some pictures were generic…without the context of the other pictures from each book, where was this tree? This seashore? This sunset? Did I really need these? As part of an overall impression of a place or a trip or a moment in time, they were important, but as pictures on their own, what did they tell me?

There’s always a positive takeaway from moments like these, if you look for it. It’s just another step on the downsizing journey to learning what is important. It’s just…life.



et cetera
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