Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Wander Lust

Oh, I have such wander lust these beautiful days of summer! And the Farmer's Market didn't help much; getting to see all this exotic, colorful, garb from other lands makes me want to hop on a plane and see the great SomePlace Else.

And doing another stint of "parental ground support" the last few days isn't helping either. I just got Brian delivered to the airport to head out to his internship for 3 months in Amsterdam. We spent hours weighing his check-in baggage, measuring the dimensions of his carry-on luggage, and juggling heavy/light/bulky items, abandoning soap and shampoo, debating on the "bedbugs be gone" product, and I was really wishing for a nice computer program: let me input the variables and just spit out a diagram of what should go where! But now he's on his way to Amsterdam! Think of all the things he could photograph! (Try not to think about anything else, though.)

I got to photograph such interesting body language, and clothing, and color at the farmer's market, while Doug and I sat selling rhubarb pie for his final and HOPEFULLY LAST mission trip with youth from our church.

Doug's adventure is NOT one that I'm envying--not after their van broke down and stranded the group for a night in a small town in North Dakota.

And definitely not after he told me about the day they just spent in 100 degree weather, outside, cleaning up liquor bottles, cutting weeds, and removing dead rotting, horses carcasses. Nope, not the kind of adventure I'm personally longing for. . . .

But, as has happened in the past, when Doug the Defender leaves town, Things Happen (remember the Evil Cedar Waxwings?) Yesterday the power was knocked out, but it wasn't about me personally being harassed this time; about 7000 people lost power because a SQUIRREL chewed up part of a transformer!

If Doug were patrolling with that Super-Duper pellet gun,(first taking it out of the box), no doubt the City would have been Safe from marauding squirrels attacking the populace. I'm not saying he actually has to load it or anything, just patrol around with it (Out of the Box!)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Grand Forks Farmer's Market

Two fun shots from the local farmer's market:

. . . although I don't entirely approve of locking up the local teens. . .

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happy Birthday, Defender Doug!

Happy Birthday to my sweet husband! Now, I won't tell you how old he is, because if I did, you'd most certainly want to steal his identity.

. . . because, who wouldn't want to be Doug?

. . . given that he got this really cool present for his birthday?

My wonderful, brave, protective husband got his very own DEFENDER,

. . . a nifty, 2-battery powered, super-duper, mosquito zapper!

Cool, huh?

So far, this weaponry is getting much more use than the pellet gun. Much more.

And Doug managed to prove that it's effective, and painful, while standing at the top of our steps the other day, merrily swinging it around, while waiting for the mailman to come up the steps, and then somehow managed to scratch his ear with it, and zap himself.

I wondered why he was yelping and laughing, and hopping up and down. And mean, the mailman is not THAT exciting. . .

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Where's Brian??????!!!!!!!

I was really excited about getting this photo! I spotted all this indirect natural light coming in from the windows, and a perfect railing to "collect" my family at Dianna's graduation. This is indoors in the same building that a breakfast/Jazz concert was held, on the morning of Dianna's graduation. Some of my family took the elevator to the top of the stairs, and everyone arranged and grouped themselves in various collections along the railing.
I employed my bossiest self, trying to get everyone quickly positioned for 1 or two shots, and drafted a kind bystander. I knew there would just be brief moments that other visitors to the building would pause and kindly let us get the shot.

I had my external flash (Nikon SB800) all set and ready to go, so that I could get some fill flash, given the backlighting, manual mode, f/7.1, 1/125,ISO 400, and 16-85mm lens at 30 mm.

Here are a few cropped images, breaking the larger photo into 2 smaller to show more of the detail of us. I was really excited about this photo, and pleased that the railing seemed to provide much more casual, relaxed body language rather than the usual line-up.

I put off editing the photo for awhile, thinking about it, wanting to make sure I took some time with it. But guess what I discovered this morning as I took a look at it!

Brian (the guy in the BLUE on the right in this last photo) had pulled a vanishing act! It wasn't until this morning that I realized that he's not in the photo at all! Gone! Vanished!

You know how sometimes you can't find something, but you feel compelled to keep going back and looking in the same places to find it--the key, or the phone, or whatever--even though you've already looked at that exact same spot several times and it's not there. Our brains just seem to want to complete the gestalt. Well, because I could swear I had also "bossed" Brian into position along with everyone else (who all, I might add, were extremely cooperative, and kind, and SHOWED UP IN THE PHOTO), I keep going back to this shot and searching to see if Brian is really there, but I've misplaced him somehow.

Nope. Not there. And I don't think the magic eraser of Photoshop did away with him either. See that railing in front of everyone? Do you think it would be bad form for me to next time HANDCUFF a certain family member into place for the group shot?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Transitions and A Book Review: "Home Safe", and the 2004 Metro Swat Team in France

More of the graduation of my youngest one. . . St. Olaf has this really sweet, sentimental ceremony, as part of their graduation events that they began 3 years ago. They "transfer" the light from a class 50 years ago to the current graduates; this year it was the class of 1960 passing on the light to the class of 2010.

The ceremony began at 9pm in the chapel:

Actually, it really began hours before, with the seniors strolling through the campus, searching out their own personalized lantern with their name on it. After the ceremony in the chapel, the students headed out to their lantern on the campus, to light the lantern. Dianna, of course, did not find her lantern in advance, so finding it in the dark was momentous:

She was pretty blissed out when she found it and there's something about young ones, and Bill, and flames, that are a near magical combination:

Now a segue of sorts. I'm reading a book, "Home Safe," by Elizabeth Berg, and I admit that when I began it, I had mixed feelings about it. I thought it was insipid, and lame; a free book through Barnes and Noble on my ereader that made me want to skim it (and I did, initially.)

But then it got better. I'm still not quite finished with it, and I'm struck by the relationship between the mother and daughter. Helen, the main character, is a writer whose husband dies abruptly. Helen is a somewhat clingy woman who turns to her only child, a daughter, Tess, to fill the void created by her husband's death; Tess will have none of this.

As the novel goes on, there's real growth in the main character, as she examines her relationships and thinks through more of what her needs are relative to others, and how to meet her own needs. At one point, she's teaches a writing class to a small, odd collection of characters. I love this part of the book! The writing "samples" presented by each of the students are like a little collection of "people-paintings!"

One of the assignments she gives the students is to write about a loss that had a surprising outcome. As I read this, I thought about a "loss," I experienced in life when Doug and I took a trip to France, along with Dianna and Brian, to meet our oldest, Scott. We were in Paris, using the Metro, and struggling with the language barrier and culture shock. Trying to be more efficient, I told my family to throw away their metro tickets once we used them so we wouldn't keep mixing up the used tickets with the good ones.

Bad move.

A metro swat team swooped down on us and demanded our tickets. Only Dianna had listened to me, which meant that only Dianna and I were in Violation of the Metro Law and couldn't produce our ticket stubs. We were fined big bucks, (and they were more than willing to use our U.S. credit cards.) But as Doug and I reached for our wallet, we "discovered" that our wallet was stolen. We told Dianna and Brian to head back to the hotel, and we'd go to the previous stop to search for the missing wallet. Doug and I were in a panic, and I distinctly registered the look of alarm on Brian and Dianna's faces.

Except the wallet wasn't missing. In the chaos of our "arrest", I'd somehow dropped Doug's wallet into my purse and it wasn't "lost" at all.

That's not the "loss" I'm talking about. I'm talking about the alarm on Brian and Dianna's faces. They told me that they were not worried about finding their way back to the hotel; they were worried about their parents, (their incompetent, discombobulated, probably dementia-ridden, parents) who might now get lost in the subway system of Paris and never, ever, find their way back home. The look of alarm was a look of concern and protectiveness; they did not think we could handle what we were about to do.

Let me state here straight out that Doug and I are not losers. We are not incompetent, and as far as I know, are not showing signs of dementia. We're just typical middle-aged folk who get rattled occasionally and don't have the laser-sharp short-term memory and multi-tasking ability of the typical 20 year old.

And that was the marking of a "loss," of a passing of a light from one generation to another; they thoroughly believed they might have to retrieve us from our foibles and protect us, somehow, from ourselves. Not true, at that moment, but someday, too soon, that moment may come.

There's something about the college graduation of your youngest that is a marking of a passage, completely different from the graduation of the oldest. It's a bittersweet thing, not all bad, not all good. Life goes on.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers in Our Midst

Many years ago, my father died, rather early in his life. But since then, I've been around men who are excellent fathers. . . and excellent nurturers. Here's one, sweet, sweet Robert, my brother, basking in the attention of one of his nieces, Joyce.

And here's another good, good father: the ever-playful Bill, casting his opinion on something important to his son, Andy.

And yet another fantastic father, my brother, Lee, who is ever-so-slightly older than me--just a smidgeon--not even a full year. Here Lee stands tall with his two wonderful sons, who seem to have also acquired kind, generous, personality characteristics that could make them wonderful fathers some day. Next to Dianna is the beautiful Maria. We all retreated to a room indoors just at the conclusion of Dianna's graduation. As names were being announced during the graduation, we noticed a subtle but certain speeding up of the announcements as black clouds and roiling thunder started to crash the party.

And this is, of course, one of my all-time favorite fathers, a man who leaves me absolutely flabbergasted by the depths of his ability to father and so very genuinely "be there" for our three children. This is a shot of him patiently waiting for our son to get dressed for Dianna's graduation, after having ferried said offspring back and forth across the city, from his own school commitment, back to his apartment. If there were an award for "Dad Transport Services," Doug has definitely earned it during the month of June (and our kids don't even live with us anymore!) Right now, Doug should be sitting in a lounge chair, with his feet up, watching a game on TV, but he's out zapping weeds, and possibly messing with a little gadget I bought him to zap bugs. (He may be nurturant, but he does have this Chief Defender Destructo-mode thing going on these days. Maybe it's all sublimation?)

Now, MaryAnn, the oldest of my little sisters, is certainly not a father, but she is clearly raising her son to be a loving guy--more potential good-father material in the distant future.

Happy Father's Day Everyone!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Graduation Fun & Games

Dianna's school, St. Olaf, had a Celebration Banquet the night before her graduation. As lovely as it was, I was disappointed that after we attended the orchestra concert, then choir concert, and dashed over to the banquet, we were left we little choice for seating.

Normally, this wouldn't have been a problem, except that it meant that the 14 of us could not all sit together. And we so wanted to! This is a shot of Lee & Maria's family, as we gathered together, here and there, as our group coalesced into a bigger group to attend events together. It was an extremely hot day--90 some degrees! Above zero! That's melting territory for North Dakotans!

At the dinner itself, Dianna, Doug and I sat together at a table, and looked longingly at our relatives seated further away. Well. . . . we knew we'd get to be together more, soon, munching on biscotti and chatting. . . .

I had one of those dreaded moments just before this dinner, at the Very Special Concert Choir--the Concert Choir that has been described as the "Gold Standard" for the rest of the country.

It was one of those moments when just during the very sacred, extraordinarily beautiful stretches of music, when you can almost hear a pin drop, that the cell phone which you are absolutely certain you have put on "vibrate" becomes possessed with a demon life force and bellows out at 1000 decibles Abba's "Mama Mia."

Nice song.

And here's a shot of a handful of "The Cousins". My Brian and Scott are not there, and Ronnie, Robert, and Laurie's children aren't there, but it's nice to see a little gathering of "the kids."

Joyce and Andy, the two little ones in the photo, were the later arrivers to the "party." They drove a personality-disordered camper from the Chicago area to St. Olaf in southern Minnesota. This prima donna vehicle likes to take them hostage along the side of the road, whenever it can, and we ALMOST got to spend an extra unexpected day with MaryAnn and Bill & co. (This is MaryAnn of the Scrapfest, and Bill of the cacti and palm trees, in case you are wondering.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Cupcakes, Birthdays, and Supercells

I just love my "tribe"! They make me really, really happy! This photo may look familiar because Maria, a dear member of my family, is sitting just to the right of my brother, Lee, all the way to the left, and Maria also posts on POTD. She often posts photos of extraordinary, absolutely inspired, tablescapes, and in case you are not feeling enraptured enough, she often includes evocative poetry along with it.

Just before Dianna's graduation over Memorial day, we got to celebrate David's birthday. David is Lee and Maria's youngest son. Doesn't he have the sweetest, most cryptic smile? And that guy off to the right of David is my delightful, younger, never-ever-no-matter-how-hard-he-tries-will-be-as-old-as-me, little brother, messing with his Nikon D40.

Robert had the great wisdom to recognize the near-perfect nature of my sister-in-law, Barb, and marry her. Oh, if only he were always so brilliant in his actions (and here, I just won't mention that little boat incident in Voyageur National Park, where we had to be rescued by Mad Max by moonlight.)

It's such a delight to catch three delightful smiles all at once! And here, on the left, is John, Lee and Maria's oldest son. John is a creative, artistic, and very thoughtful, young man; in my living room, I love looking at the bamboo plant he gave us at his high school graduation, graced by a glass bead made by him.

I love the sparkle in Maria's eyes in this photo. Do you think I could convince my brother, Lee, to let Maria run away to live with me in North Dakota, so we could hang out together more? (Wait! I think Maria is a sane person! What sane person wants to run away to ND?)

Yummmm! And these are the cupcakes I'm promising anyone who helps me and Doug move any of my kids next time we're drafted:

And just to further drive home the point that running away to ND might not be sane, I'd just like to gripe about our weather a little more. (You know me: I'm practically a gold-medal Olympian weather griper, and have earned it by living here for *gulp* 32 years.) Today, we had 19 tornado spottings in the area, and a supercell. A supercell is the worse of the four classes of thunderstorms, often producing severe weather events such as tornadoes, but also torrential rains, flash flooding, hail, and straight-line or updraft winds at dangerous speeds, and severe lighting. . . . just about everything but frogs, I guess. At one point at work, I left my 3rd floor of my office to take to the basement, but I guess I was a wuss; all the workers on the ground floor of the bank just continued to sit around working, with all their glass windows around them. Not me! --even if I do rather like tornadoes and storms!

Sometimes ND weather makes me feel like I'm permanently trapped in a bad novel that begins with "it was a dark and stormy day. . . ."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Special Moment!

It's the moment they all wait for, that special moment after 4 years of hard work, agonizing over tests, grades, papers and dorm life:

And from the smiles, you can see it all seems worth it at the end. . . even in this dreary, scary, economy:

Of course, Brian did not actually present Dianna with her diploma, but he would have if she asked him to!

I am shocked that it's been nearly a month since I posted last! There's something about getting in the garden, graduation, and moving young adults hither and yon, up and down the stairs, to and thro, back and forth, that can just knock the wind out of the middle-aged! This last weekend may be our last batch of "ground support" for awhile, but shouldn't there be a statute of limitations that comes with this adult chore?

Fortunately, at Dianna's apartment, one of her roommate's boyfriend burst from his car, announcing "The muscle has arrived," and it had! Total music to our ears, and FYI if any young adults when to impress the middle-aged, just put that energy to use and you will be our Friend for Life!

(And I, personally, would feed you cupcakes!)

I'm glad Maria, my sweet, brilliant, kind sister-in-law filled you in a bit on life in our family while I recharged batteries, but I'm so glad to be back in "blogging mode!"

Many nights I fell asleep thinking "but I have to blog about this," but there was no time. Words would swirl around in my brain, and now there's so much blogging matter floating around in my cerebellum that I think I'm oozing brain neurons! And that ain't pretty! I barely know what to start, but as Anne LaMott would say in "Bird by Bird," (her book on writing), I'll just have to start, photo by photo, one day at a time!