Thursday, December 31, 2009

Yeah, It's the New Year, Whatever.

It's New Year's Eve. This automatically makes me think that I need to post some deep, thoughtful discussion of resolutions and changes I seek to make in my life for the next year. All the good stuff about saving more money, getting healthier, volunteering blah blah blah. But screw it. I'm sick, and this cold is making me slow and grumpy.

Why is this the one time a year that we get all riled up about making improvements for ourselves and then by February most of us have blown the majority of the lofty goals we've set? Why are we like this? All talk and no show? We eat all those extra cookies, we go out shopping and buy that new outfit instead of putting more money towards credit cards, plopping our butts on the couch and watching the last season of Lost and forgetting about our treadmill, lingering forlornly in the basement. Maybe it's just me. Maybe everyone of you out there is committed and diligent and dedicated to a new "you." But I'm betting on no. But "this year will be different" we tell ourselves. And that's the beauty and the deceit of the New Year's resolution. We all want these positive changes, we want to be smarter, healthier, happier, better people. But we lose focus, don't set little attainable goals, try to climb the mountain in one leap instead of taking small steps. So this New Year's Day, I think I'm just going to aim for being happy where I am, who I am right at this moment. At least for the day. So here are my New Year's Resolutions for 2010:

1. Drink more, and I don't mean water.  I over-think and over-analyze, and get trapped in my own head. I hear alcohol helps with that.
2. Do more childish, frivolous stuff. Like sitting outside and making daisy necklaces, going to stupid movies, making prank phone calls, picking my nose and flinging it at people
3. Read comic books. I don't know why, that just sounds fun today. I like the drawings and the exaggerated way that women's bodies are portrayed. Plus shiny red boots are cool.
4. Tell people what I really think more often. I do this already but I'm stepping it up, watch out.
5. Tell more fibs. I lie now, white lies usually to get out of something unpleasant or protect someone's feelings, but maybe I'll get more dramatic and ridiculous with my lies. Like fake names and British accents when I'm grocery shopping.
6. Saying yes to pretty much any event or social activity I'm invited to attend.
7. Do touristy stuff in my own city. I need to tour this town like a woman wearing a fanny pack and comfy shoes.
8. Lemons
9. Talk less.
10. None of the above.

What are you resolving to do and then forgetting by February?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Some Small Action

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world." - Mahatma Gandhi

 "It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can." - Sydney Smith

I read Push by Sapphire last night. I read it in one sitting because I had to. It grabbed hold of me and didn't let go until I read the last words on the last page. I had a box of Kleenex next to me, the librarian told me I would need it when I checked the book out last week. But I didn't need the Kleenex, because I didn't cry. Not because the book wasn't painful and gut wrenching and horrifying and moving. It was all of those things, but mostly it made me feel angry, angry and guilty. Angry that though this book is fiction, there are still so many kids that no one notices, no one helps, no one loves, no one feeds, and no one protects.

I should back up quickly and give you a brief summary of the book. I don't want to write a review, there are plenty of strong, glowing reviews out there. But to explain the impact that the book had for me you need to know the basic plot/premise. Push is written in a stream of consciousness style from the mind of Claireece Precious Jones, an obese 16 year old illiterate mother/junior high school student, pregnant for the second time by her own father, living in a house with her extremely violent and abusive mother. No one sees this girl, no one seems to care for her or watch over her. She gets suspended for being pregnant and is referred to an alternative GED educational program. And this school, and the teachers within it, are her salvation. Precious' hardships and challenges are extreme and could be off-putting to some readers. The blunt writing style is a punch to the gut. And ideally no single girl would have to deal with all the dire events and circumstances that she has to face including: rape, incest, physical and mental abuse, HIV, and a tragic lack of education. The sexual and physical violence in the book is horrific. There is no other way to describe it, bleak and horrific. But as disturbing as the events in the book and the characters of Precious' parents are, they seemed real to me.

The whole book seemed real to me. It didn't seem like an exaggeration or a myth or a stereotype of poor African American teen mothers, rather the story of one particular abandoned girl. Maybe my brief months of experience as a foster care social worker in Philadelphia gave me a glimpse into some similar lives. Site visits to homeless shelters with the mom who had seven kids, no job, no hope of a job and sixth grade education. Visits to an apartment where the floor had a hole big enough to see down into the hair salon below. Grandmother raising her four grandchildren on a monthly social security check. Mothers who were recovering addicts and prostitutes, just trying to keep that job as a CNA so they could feed their families. Parents and grandparents struggling to break the cycle of abuse and addiction they were raised within. But most of them were trying their best, working long hours, making sure their kids got to school, protecting their kids from addicted spouses, and trying.  Just trying to make up for their mistakes, trying to make better choices, with very little help from the community.

For me the point of the book isn't simply the drama of Precious' life, it wasn't that all these horrible things happened to Precious, instead it was that despite all of the degrading, damaging acts perpetrated upon her, she is able to rise above, find support, and slowly dig herself out of a life she didn't ask for or deserve.  Through education and the support of friends and teachers, Precious creates a better life.  And that's why the book had such an impact for me. Precious is powerful, she is strong, she is brave. But she is also severely damaged, poor, struggling, and she may always be. But she is learning and trying. She's trying everyday to improve her life for herself and her son. And I felt guilty. If girls with the deck stacked so firmly against them like Precious exist, and clearly need more help, and I have the education, mental health and time to offer, then why am I not doing more?

My understanding and knowledge of what it must be like to struggle and fight constantly just to create a safe, peaceful and healthy life is limited. I am a white girl raised in the middle class suburbs of the Midwest. And here's where the guilt comes into play. Why was I so lucky to be born into the family and life I was born into? Why did I get new clothes, and healthy meals, and love and support from so many people when there are so many children who don't? But really that's a silly and selfish question. If this book bothered me so much, in part because it took 16 years for Precious to get the help she desperately needed, then what am I doing personally to change that?

I firmly believe that if you don't like something that's going on in your community then you need to figure out ways to change it.  I couldn't continue to work as a social worker/case manager. I couldn't handle the depression and sadness I felt everyday while working in that job. I was too weak for it. The joy and satisfaction I found in working with children couldn't outweigh the overwhelming limitations and frustrations that exist within the child welfare system of our country. And so I quit that line of work to protect myself. I quit social work all together. And I think the idealistic young part of me died a bit when I made that decision. I felt like I had no impact, couldn't make the big changes that were needed, and couldn't keep myself together in the middle of it all. But now, ten years later, I've realized that my ability to make an impact doesn't have to be enormous. I just have to take action. Take some small action to get out and help others in my community.

So instead of just working in my career as a non-profit client administrator, thinking about Push and telling my friends to read it, I emailed the Literacy Kansas City program today and signed up to attend their Volunteer Orientation session in January. Reading and writing are enormously valuable and treasured parts of my life. I want to help someone else discover the power and beauty of reading. Maybe I can help in my small way, in my small corner of the world. And for me, that's the power of Push.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Sands Holiday Special

It's Christmas day, I don't feel like writing, so here's my last seven days picture and here's something that Joe and I wrote for our Christmas card. Hope you had a wonderful day and enjoy the rest of your holiday. Drive safely if you are dealing with any of the insane snow that we have been dealing with here in the Midwest. It does make things a little more exciting though when chaos reigns on the streets and people, including us, just flat out ignore the traffic signals. You kind of can when there's a foot of snow on the ground and not a car in sight.

Joe and Kassie - 2009 by the Numbers

16 - Frank Lloyd Wright homes and buildings toured

17” - increase in television size (diagonal), Joe tells me this is very important

4,400 - mustards viewed at the Mt. Horeb Mustard Museum in Wisconsin

21,000 - photographs taken by Joe throughout the year

9 - States visited: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin, Nebraska

53 - firework shells exploded in Blair, NE on the 4th of July

57 - books read by Kassie, most of them finished

7 - Kansas City Youth Jazz events photographed by Joe

1 - Porsche Boxter S borrowed from the generous Gronbergs

1,700 - miles driven from San Diego to KC in borrowed Porsche, 650 with the top down

2 - jobs still thankfully employed in, at GE and Support Kansas City

92 - pairs of earrings made and sold at 5 art shows by Sands Jewelry

50 - degrees constant temperature keeping us cool touring the Cave of the Mounds in Wisconsin

2 - nephews, Mr. Connorpants and the newest Sands boy, Jackson

18,557 - participants – we were 2- in the Omaha Race for the Cure 5K Walk/Run

1 - raging case of poison ivy all over Kassie’s ankle and leg, damn yard work.

20 - kitchen cabinets and 8 drawer fronts painted glossy bright white

175 - rounds shot through a Ruger .22 up at The Hill, mostly by Joe

2 - power supplies and 1 motherboard installed by Joe

32,600 - photographers all over the world shooting for the Scott Kelby Photo Walk – we were 2 - on the Country Club Plaza

1st - blueberry pie baked by Kassie, blueberries handpicked with help from a three year old, thanks, Aedan!

1 - NFL Football game attended, Kassie’s first, tailgating was the best part.

1,000 – Happy Holiday wishes we’re sending to you and your family!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why My Ovaries Might Be Hurting Today

Mr. Jackson and Aunt Kassie
This is my 7 Days Day 6 photo, ignore me obviously, I'm in my pajamas and wearing no makeup, so thankfully Jackson is the star of this shot.

I'm sitting at Joe's parent's kitchen table right now, uploading photos, talking, listening to Joe and Jim talk about photography equipment, taking photos of each other while testing out lenses and while they each eat sausages in a suggestive manner. I'm trying to convince them to use these pictures as Facebook profile shots so you can all enjoy them, but don't hold your breath. Yes, they are both over 30, but they're still boys and they're still brothers, so shenanigans and gross out humor prevail. Ok, they are distracting, I'm now in our bedroom trying to write.

Anyway, the last few days have been filled with friends and family, and clearly a lot of kids, babies, and toddlers. And I love this. Joe and I don't have kids at this point, but our friends and relatives have some smart. funny, adorable, wild little munchkins that we get to hang out with. Yesterday we got to listen to the constant screaming, laughing and running sounds of Katrina and Matt's triplet boys, with Bethany's daughter Annalie thrown in the mix.

Then in the evening we had the pleasure of having dinner with Hillary, John and their daughter, Sophia. Hillary is pregnant with identical twin girls and due in just a few short weeks, so while she sat in her comfy bedrest recliner, Sophia and I sat next to each other at dinner, we ate our crab rangoon together, we watched a little of a horrible sequel to the Little Mermaid together, and we had fun using the iPhone to take pictures of ourselves. Sophia was the creative director of our photo shoot. She suggested photos of our necks, sticking out our tongues and eyes closed. Very artistic.

And of course there are our nephews. Jim and Katy's boys, Connor and Jackson. We are all staying at Joe's parents log home for the holidays and it's perfect. Connor is running around making reindeer noises and trying to feed Jackson marbles, unsuccessfully. And Jackson is the sweetest, cuddly little guy. Currently he is wearing a little brown outfit with ears on the hood that makes him look like a baby Ewok. Is there anything cuter? Ok, enough blogging. Everyone's laughing in the other room so I'm going to go check out the action. Oh, and I'm still in my pajamas and it's 11am. I probably should go take a shower. Merry Christmas Eve!

Nana and Mr. Sleepy

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pole Girl, Dip Punk, Betho, and Me

Getting our brunch on, with silverware!

So we've made it to 7 days Day 5! And what a perfect time for 7 days and real life convergence. All four of us pictured above are participating in the 7 days project and just happened to make plans to get together this morning. Freezing rain tried to keep us stuck at home but we braved the weather, brunched, and took numerous goofy photos, thankfully in a room that we had all to ourselves.  Here are everyone's creations from our silver photo shoot:

Katrina, Bethany and Joe met in high school and have been great friends ever since.  And though they live in different cities and aren't able to see each other as frequently as they would like to, they have the kind of friendships that when they get together it's as if they just saw each other yesterday. I feel lucky to be friends with them myself. And as Bethany has said before, everyone's spouses get along too! After brunch today we headed back to Katrina and Matt's house where the kids ran and screamed and jumped and played, Bethany's mom, Debbie helped mediate while the other adults nerded out and talked photography, HTML, blogging, family drama, and Picasa. It was great. Now we just need to make this happen more than once a year!

Joe on the Glodoodle
Bethany drawing a lovely portrait of Joe with the Glodoodle. Yes, that is a camera where  his nose would be.

The Kiddos
The Wild Bunch

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Shuffle off to Omaha, Now with Freezing Rain!

Loaded and Ready

See above, car is packed and now I'm in the car! Joe is driving so this blog writing isn't unsafe or anything, I promise.

We are headed up to Omaha for holiday festivities including the traditional holiday over-eating (which I will be trying to avoid), possible weather hazards included simply to test Joe's impressive winter driving skills, gift exchanging with family while wearing pajamas, playing and cuddling with adorable nephews, great meals and conversations with wonderful family and friends and including a gaggle of spunky kids, the Eggs Benedict feast Christmas morning at the grandparent's, scene of an annual brutal battle where cousins vie to see who can scarf down the most in one sitting. The winner was Mandy, surprisingly, a couple of years ago. And then we will come home exhausted and happy, to wrap up Christmas with my family and more out of town friends. I love the holidays.

But on to a more important subject. In light of all the travel that takes place around the holidays I thought I would list the things that I require to make our road trips comfortable, entertaining and distract from the tedious scenery that makes up some parts of the Midwest. (Especially if you've made the drive to Omaha as often as we have. Only so many fireworks stores, ultra conservative religious signage and gas stations I want to look at for 3 hours.)

- iPod, this tool is vital in providing entertainment, audio books, music and now with the addition of the iPhone to our family, the internet!

- Podcasts- yes, I loooove these. We will certainly listen to these on the trip tonight: The Dan Savage - Savage Lovecast: sex advice call in show, informative and racy, not for children!!  This American Life : Public radio show with an intriguing mix of fiction and nonfiction stories about regular and not so regular Americans. And possibly one of Joe's photography podcasts, but only if I fall asleep in the car. This does happen occasionally.

- Joe, no road trip is quite complete without Joe. He likes to do all the driving, we both know exactly how much to talk in the car, which is vital. This reminds me of a great line from Best in Show. "We have so much in common, we both love soup and snow peas, we love the outdoors, and talking and not talking. We could not talk or talk forever and still find things to not talk about."

- The ability to remove my shoes and stretch out. This sounds silly, but when you are six foot tall you don't take leg room for granted.

- Layers, especially traveling in the winter, the temperature seems like it's always too hot or too cold in the car, so layers.

- This trip will also require two additional things: David Sedaris' Santaland Diaries and Six to Eight Black Men stories. We must listen to these when traveling for Christmas, it's tradition. If you haven't heard them yet then do yourself a favor and go buy them now. You can buy them here. You're welcome.

What makes your road trip must-have list? Do you sleep through them? Photograph scenery? Magazines? Dead silence? Elmo on the DVD player? I'd love to know how you pass the time in the car.

Now I'm going to go enjoy my road trip, and my holidays. You make sure to travel safely, have a lovely time where ever you are, eat some scrumptious food and hug someone you love right now, for no good reason, other than it's that time of year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Is it Christmas yet?

Bit of a deficit

I am not inspired creatively today. Work was a bit quiet and tedious and I was monumentally distracted. I have a list of things that I need to finish up tonight before we head out of town for the holidays, I have presents to wrap, a house to clean, bags and gifts to pack and the 7 days photo seemed more like a chore today than I expected. Just over thinking it again, I suppose. So I took a picture of our Christmas tree. It only makes an appearance for one month every year. It's colorful, personal and filled with our family stories and memories, and Darth Vader. Plus if I stick my hand in the shot then it's a self portrait, right? That ornament was in desperate need of straightening anyway.

Tomorrow should be better because I plan on taking my picture on the road and blogging from the road! And I will have five glorious days off work with plenty of friends and family to see. And who knows, with the weather forecast for tomorrow it could get pretty dangerous and exciting! Stay tuned...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

And the Festivities begin...

Andre's Cookies

(Most Photos by Joe Sands, except those he is in obviously, and this one of me eating, why did I take a picture of myself eating? We women generally shy away from this kind of thing. But it was delicious!)

Joe and I have the pleasure of celebrating about four different Christmases each year. One of the few perks of having divorced parents means that you get to spread birthdays and holidays out over an extended period of time! So more celebrations and more presents!

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

Today was our first Christmas get together of the season with Joe, my dad, stepmom and brother. We've established our own traditions, non traditional traditions that we relish.

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

We don't have a big fancy dinner with an enormous turkey, we don't dress up or stress out. We get together, eat snacky things like pigs in a blanket, dips, cheese and crackers, olives and sliced veggies. With a fire roaring in the fireplace, we veg out and watch Love Actually at least every other year, sometimes substituting a little Wii bowling. We exchange gifts, often of the iTunes, educational, or cooking variety (we are nerdy like that) and we just hang out.

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

This year we took the dogs for a walk around the park since it was mild and sunny. And a good opportunity to walk off a little of the diabolical peanut butter bars. Bars so buttery, chocolaty and mouthwatering that they are only made once a year. It was a good day. And on my quest to lose weight, today wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad either. A little exercise, plenty of veggies, and just a few indulgent treats.

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

And more importantly I got to spend all day with some of my favorite people. Thanks, Dad and Kristy and Joe and Mike, for making today another warm, funny and joyful celebration. I love you guys.

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

Stallings-Sands Christmas 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy, Cold Toes

Happy, cold toes

Today begins the Winter 7 Days self portrait project on Flickr. I blogged about this back in October when I first participated and I love this project! Bethany invited Joe to join the 7 Days Flickr group back in the summer and after watching him have such a great time setting up photos, trying new lenses, and commenting and chatting back and forth with the wonderful 7 Days members, I had to join in. So I joined in the Fall 7 Days group and felt so welcome and just had fun tapping into a different side of my creativity. So we are back for the Winter run!

I meant to bring our D50 this morning to take some shots while Tara, Kristen and I got pedicures and manicures to celebrate Tara's wedding in Hawaii next week. But I forgot. And then I was so relaxed, my hands were so lotiony and I was having so much fun that I totally forgot to even take pictures with my iPhone while we were there.  When we finished our fun bonding beauty treatments (my first pedicure/manicure in about 4 years, sad) we slipped on the lovely spa flip flops and went out to our cars to head home. And it was snowing. And I needed gas. And I was wearing flip flops in 20 degree weather. But my forgetfulness brought me a perfect photo op. Next time though, I'm getting gas BEFORE the pedicure.  And by the way, my toes are sparkly purple. I'm tempted to keep wearing the flip flops around on my errands just so I can look at them.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Outing Myself, Oh the Humiliation!

Ok, so ever since I started writing more frequently on this blog I've thought about writing on this particular topic. This topic runs my life, has run my life since I was fourteen and it also couldn't be more boring or more personal. Great combination, right? I'm talking about my weight problem. I need to lose weight. And not the vanity 10 pounds that so many women struggle with, riding up and down the scale. I'm talking double-digit-not-ready-to-mention-amounts-publicly weight loss. But if you've seen me in say, the last twenty years, you know I've got a battle ahead of me.

Two things trip me up in my constant weight loss struggle - cookies and french fries. Actually, I eat too much of the wrong things and I don't exercise enough. Shocking! So in the last three years I've lost a good solid amount of weight. Yeah, me! But I've slipped out of some of my good habits, let some of that weight creep back on and I still have a lot I need to lose.  I want to lose weight for several reasons: purely for my own health - I'm getting older, don't want to turn into one of those sad folks who need to be removed from their homes with a crane, and I would like to avoid getting and then losing my feet and eyesight to the fat lady diabetes. Vanity and fashion - I'd like to shop at any women's clothing store I feel like instead of being shuffled into the plus size section, which is only half as stylish as every other section, and I'm young so I don't want to dress in a poncho and comfy pants yet. I have been told on numerous occasions by kind and well meaning people that, "You have such a beautiful face." Great, I like the compliment, but I don't like the implication that from below the neck I resemble Jaba the Hut in boot cut jeans. And finally I would like to become a mother. I know you can get pregnant and be overweight, but I don't want to. I don't want to pass on my own bad habits and self deprecating comedic avoidance of this topic on to a child, especially a girl child, so I have to tackle these issues first for myself.

I cannot believe I'm writing about this publicly, ugh. Anyway, back to the reasons that I am torturing my pride by writing about this. I need some help. I need to keep my focus, I need to motivate myself, especially around the holidays, and I need to get my ass in gear. So I'm not turning this blog into a weight loss blog entirely, I hate those, but I am going to make a point to track my successes and failures more publicly. I'm holding myself accountable. So if you hate this kind of thing, just skip those posts. But if you could give me a little support I think I might be more successful with this "project" than I have been in the past. I think part of the problem is that I'm focusing on having to change every aspect of my life in one huge undertaking and that never works. I'm entirely too much of a black and white thinker for my own good. So I'm starting with little baby steps. More exercise, 3 to 4 times a week and increase from there. More fruits and veggies and less delicious cookies, maybe thinking about some South Beach/Atkins hybrid after the holidays, just to cut my adorable addiction to white flour and sugar based carbs, really the best of all carbs. So let me humiliate, shame and detail my struggles, praise my successes, and keep reading, share your own struggles if you dare and help me kick my ass when I need it. If you need to slap that cookie out of my hand, go right ahead, I give you permission. My ass thanks you and I thank you.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Martinis and Marriages

This last weekend was a bit of a wonderful whirlwind. One of my favorite people, the lovely Tara, is getting married to Mike the day after Christmas on a tropical beach, and because we will not be able to attend, and yet certainly wanted to be able to celebrate with them, Kristen (another of my top ten favorite people) and I decided to throw a little engagement party for the happy couple.

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party
 The happy couple!

Now I love throwing parties. I love the planning, the anticipation, the prep work, the invitation choices, the menu selection, choosing the music, pulling together guest lists etc. I love being a hostess and anticipating our guests' needs and maybe this is stereotypically female, but I don't care. More than anything I want to make sure that everyone's having a good time, well fed, properly hydrated and laughing.  But I don't have a big house. So throwing a cocktail party for 30 some people is not a strategic possibility in our modest ranch. But Kristen has the perfect, well decorated, open floor plan multi-level party house, and so the planning began!

Invites were crafted, menus debated (yes, deviled eggs made the cut), houses cleaned, trim painted, decorations adorned, and suddenly it was the Friday before Party Night!  Joe and I hit Costco and the grocery store for supplies and then the cooking commenced. Since Kristen and Sean were handling all the venue prep and Sean made his famous Buffalo Chicken Dip (spicy cheesy heaven) and brown sugar bacon wrapped smokies (sweet evil meat on a toothpick), Joe and I took on what really turned out to be a CRV full of food and drink and dishes and martini glasses and cupcake towers and at least 60 festive napkins. Though certain husbands held some unfounded fears that 60 might not be enough.

Either way, Friday night began the frenzied cooking! We chopped fresh herbs, roasted spicy rosemary cashews, we sliced crostini, we deviled two dozen eggs, we rolled logs of goat cheese in paprika and dill (which I thought Kristen was going to pull up a chair next to and eat by herself), we whipped up Paula Dean's red velvet cupcakes and iced them with cream cheese frosting.

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party
The Makings of Cream Cheese Frosting

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party

We shook and chilled pomegranate blueberry martinis and we had such a blast doing it. And with very little marital strife, and with some fabulous team work, we all kicked it out! My one brief moment of ridiculous stress related nonsense was my sense of jealously that the cupcakes that Joe iced looked better than mine. Seriously, I was jealous of Joe's piping skills. Ridiculous.

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party

But with all the prep and cleaning and anticipation and cooking completed, the party itself was a delight! A wonderful gathering of Tara and Mike's friends and family. Warm and fascinating, funny and kind, a great collection of teacher friends, college roommates, old high school friends, parents, book club friends, siblings, and cousins, and truly a statement about how special Tara and Mike really are. We talked and snacked and drank until midnight celebrating the happy couple. Drinking a chilled martini, popping one of Kristen's rich peanut butter balls in my mouth, chatting with new friends, and celebrating Tara and Mike blending their lives together!

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party
Tara and Mike's Engagement Party

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party

Tara and Mike's Engagement Party

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Photographer

It seems like nearly everyday (ok, really once a week lately) I come home and find a package in the mail from Japan or Singapore or Korea or China. You can tell this from the bizarre and exciting customs labels. What are we buying from China or Korea or Singapore? Banned anime? Computerized hamsters?  Bizarre furry tofu delicacies? Nope, cheap, high quality camera supplies: filters, lens caps, tripod ball heads. And why? Because my husband has become a professional photographer.

Joe keeps denying his professional status, but by stringent Olympic standards he has been paid for his photo work so he qualifies as a pro now.  I think he's been interested in photography nearly as long as I've known him. And honestly, hobbies that require expensive and complex equipment really get him excited. I think he likes researching and determining which equipment he needs and then how to expertly use that equipment nearly as much as actually taking photos or building the furniture.  Plus Joe "has the heart of a teacher" as he jokes, but it's true. He loves to help people learn how to use their cameras and he's patient and methodical when he does it. And I can't leave out his tendency to take lots of pictures anytime there is a baby around. This isn't creepy, I actually think it's really sweet, but I digress.  After one of my nonprofit clients asked him to take photos for one of their concerts, he was hooked and not surprisingly so were they. So now multiple concerts, bat mitzvahs, and engagement photo sessions later, Joe is a professional photographer.

I wanted to write this post about his photography because I want to encourage him to pursue it professionally and I want to let him know, publicly, how gifted I think he is.  I'm certain that I'm a little biased since I love him madly, he's my favorite person on the planet and I'm married to the guy, but I think he is going to be incredibly successful if he pursues this new business.  Seeing the growth and improvement in his work over the last year has been impressive.  He tries to give the credit to better lenses, cameras etc, but that's crap. He's just gotten really really good.  So if you see him, have his email, catch him taking adorable pictures of your baby, or what have you, please tell him to "go for it"! Tell him how good he is, tell him that he's talented and smart and makes people feel comfortable and that he should do this thing. Take the risk, we all think you should do it. And if you need a photographer, give him a call, he's very reasonable, and he has his eye on a new lens, so any photo jobs could help make that happen. Because really it's all about the equipment.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Tetravex, Facebook and Unblock are to Blame

I haven't blogged lately. Works been busy, holidays, time with friends and family and sheer laziness have taken over, but the biggest distraction from my little blog has to be my new toy, the iPhone. So to get myself back in the groove of writing and not taking this whole thing too seriously, a list of the cool things I've enjoyed doing in the last three weeks since I blogged:

- Bought ridiculously fun iPhone
- Became addicted to a little game called Runway, I now fantasize about becoming an air traffic controller.
- Traveled to Omaha with some good friends and forced them to listen to David Sedaris' You Can't Kill the Rooster on the way there. The word motherfucker is used repeatedly and hilariously. I apologize for the foul language. I won't say it again.
- Baked my first ever batch of cinnamon rolls, pumpkin cinnamon rolls. It wasn't that hard, just time consuming and I got to use the rolling pin. This happens maybe once or twice a year.

- Had Thanksgiving dinner with my mother, my father, my stepmother, brother and husband, and it was ok. I was surprisingly unconcerned about whether everyone got along or not. This is rare for me. I usually am very concerned about everyone having a good time. Maybe I'm learning that this isn't my job. Maybe.
- Went to Old Navy at 8pm on Black Friday, didn't buy anything but just seeing what looked like a clothing hurricane made me laugh.
- Borrowed four books by R. Crumb from the library and just stared at the drawings for a few hours. I wish I could draw.
- Bought new glasses. They are kind of nerdy and they make me happy. I might wear them more than twice a year.

- Had a great lunch with two friends from high school whom I haven't seen in over a decade. This is why Facebook is cool, not to see what vegetables you're growing on your "farm", but to connect again with some fine old friends.
- Saw the most amazing Kansas sunset, flaming purples and pinks and it lasted only about 2 minutes because it was so windy.

-Wandered around the Kemper Museum of Art and the Joslyn Museum, deciding which pieces I would steal (this was Tara's question.) Favorite piece from the Kemper: Jaime Wyeth's painting "Sophomore at Bowdoin" and from the Joslyn: the multiple statues in stages from nun to prostitute in the Mexican Folk Art Collection. Joe was nearly kicked out of both museums for taking photos. (Actually they just politely asked him to not take any photos, he complied.)

- Ate the best home cooked meal I have probably ever had : braised short ribs and polenta, with carmelized brussel sprouts. Oh, Kristy, thank you.
-Read five books, watched several Paul Rudd helmed films, laughed so hard that a little tea came out of my nose, started three separate blog posts that never came together and finally put up the Christmas tree, including my favorite Christmas decoration, the cheesy 1960's ceramic tree that belonged to my grandparents.

- Being told "You're so domestic and that's why I love you" by my younger brother. Thanks, I think.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Hey There, Sports Fans and Book Nerds!

I am not a sports fan. I don't really enjoy watching sports on TV. The extent of my own sports activities involved participating on a soccer league in elementary school (we were awful,) intramural volleyball in middle school and early high school because I was tall and had a solid serve, a brief love of tennis and tennis camp with an 8 fingered instructor who fascinated me, and watching my brother's vast array of sporting events: soccer, basketball, t-ball, football, and on. But I really spent more time entertaining all the little siblings of my brother's teammates, making flower necklaces, playing tag, organizing an uprising, you know the usual babysitting activities.

Ominous clouds

We've established my lack of passion for sports. So it will come as no surprise to you that I've lived in the same city as an NFL team for most of my life and had never attended one of their games, that is until a couple of weeks ago. In my 34 years I'd  only been in their stadium for the U2 Achtung Baby concert in high school. (Which was stellar by the way!) But I don't really feel like I'm missing anything with my lack of interest in sports. It just doesn't do it for me. And attending my first NFL game didn't change that essential fact, but attending a game was vastly different from just watching it on TV. I felt like I'd stepped into another world, a fascinating, delightful world filled with new customs, cultural expectations, indigenous costumes and musical traditions involving lots of Kid Rock.


And tailgating, oh, the tailgating! Sitting around outside in a parking lot on a Sunday morning, talking and hanging out with friends and family, while eating savory and not so nutritious foods? Plus the excuse needed to drink alcohol before noon? I could do this every weekend.

Morning juice

The Abell Grube's

Michael and Jaime

These were some of the most memorable things from my very first NFL game:

-The disgusted look on Kristen's face anytime the cheerleaders were on the field.

SeanThe Chiefs Cheerleaders, oh yeah!

-Joe got stung by a bee. He thought he had a piece of bbq brisket on his thumb and he squeezed it. That brisket was actually a bee.

-The continuous use of the music of Kid Rock throughout the game. The hoped for possibility that Kid Rock was actually performing songs at gunpoint while being held hostage in one of the enormous speakers.

-Tara seat-dancing to Kid Rock.

Tara and Mike

-The fact that one of Joe's coworkers spilled his beer down the back of the guy sitting next to me, but not a drop got on me.

 -Enormous US flag, really, really huge, accompanied by a strangely negative patriotic-seeming country song.

Enormahuge Flag

-Fly overs from several military helicopters and jets, our seats were up high, quite high, so the jets and helicopters seemed to be flying within my arm's reach. My inner 12 year old boy was stoked.

The upperdeck

-The vast collection of gold and red clothing choices. My favorite was the piled on Mardi Gras bead necklaces and knitted red and gold snood wearing girl a couple of rows in front of us. And she was stumbly druuuunnnk too.

-Joe giving me some condescension free lessons in football. I think I understand, but I'm pretty sure I still don't care. That's harder to teach.

Joe and Myself

-The little dancing chiefs player statues outside of the port-a-potty line in the parking lot. Amusing while waiting, and inspiring the 350lb bib-n-brace overall wearing guy in front of us to dance right along.

-Many, many over-the-top polished and coiffed ladies with prom hair and make up, but wearing baby size jerseys, high heeled boots and painted on jeans. How is that comfortable? The best girl had this serious heavy black eyeliner that swept up at the edge of her eye so that it nearly reached her eyebrows. I'm not even sure I would know how to apply that correctly.

-The actual game was not good. Our team got one touchdown, it started raining, it started raining harder and we left around half time.

Michael and ShannonThe family

-Yelling, shouting and whistling loudly. These activities are generally frowned upon in public. I like that they are encouraged at sporting events. I yelled and hooted with relish and enthusiasm.

-Going home, changing out of my rain soaked jeans, picking up a great book, shrugging off my sporty facade, and getting back to the book nerd that I truly am.