Convo Flow of a Pro and a No-Know Non-Pro

A photographer friend gave me a camera a while ago and I have yet to learn how to use it.
It’s on my list.
Today I wanted professional photos of my artwork and since I’m not a pro, I consulted my pro friend.
Granted, I’ve had the camera about a year and by now should have learned its ins and outs, or at least more than On/Off. But I didn’t.
Anyway, here’s our text-versation:
Me: What’s the best setting on the camera to take photos of paintings I’ve done now when the light is so good from my west window?
Him: Automatic is good as anything
Him: Maybe set your exposure compensation 1/2 stop over exposed
Him: Make sure shutter speed is at least 1/60th of a sec (preferably 1/100 or faster) if you are handholding the camera
Me: Yes! That’s the kind of weird professional photographer kind of technical stuff I was looking for! (I was really was, because then when someone asked, “How did you take this exquisite photo?” I could answer honestly with lingo I did not understand but accomplished.
Me: Whaaaaaat?
Him: That said, you artists are very OCD with the photographing of your artwork so maybe take a pic and then if it’s not what you want, explain to me what’s wrong and maybe I could help with ideas
Me: Ha! Yes! Ok I like that!
Texts lag a bit, as you know; crossing in the ether allows for some delay, so his next thought was slightly behind my own.
Him: What do you mean?!!! You asked!!
Me: LOL! Yes I did
Him: And it wasn’t even technical! Next time though, next time
Me: It was totally technical…you can’t go from “fully automatic” to “f stops a half step over xx the short stop with bases loaded at 1/600 of a second past midnight”
Him: Two settings! TWO!!
Me: Problem: my paper is wrinkly and the window is so dirty I’m actually photographing smudged glass reflected upon my painting…I wish I was kidding.
Me: Where are these settings?
Him: Just use auto!
Him: And see what happens
Me: Ok, ok, sheesh…so much yelling…
Him: Then let me know what you don’t like about it. The whole key is trying to keep the whites white; the camera wants to make them gray. Hence 1/2 over exposed.
Me: Yup, gray. Where’s the half stop?
Me: And when was I OCD? I loved your photos [of my previous art, photos he’d taken and suspiciously did not offer to take today] and I don’t remember complaining about a single thing
Him: …
Me: This th
ing [the camera] isn’t touch screen…it’s broken…
Him: …
Me: Um…hello?
Him: …
Me: I broke you, didn’t I?
Many minutes later…
Me: I found the half stop! Yay, me!
Twenty-two minutes later…
Him: Ok. Did you figure it out? Did you get results?
Me: I…got pretty pics…I think. Wanna see? I can maybe figure out how to DL to a FD [flash drive] and IM them to you. [I’m not certain in any way I can DL them…it requires a cord, and rising from this comfy chair and digging into the depths of one of the many kitchen junk drawers for a cord I’m not certain I would recognize if I saw it]
Him: …
Yup, he’s done with me.
But sometimes, poking at someone is just too fun. 🙂

 

 

Prairie Dwelling with what Preys

fuzzy mantis

Yesterday, I communed with nature,
I meant to whack nature down with the tractor, not make peace, but along came a preying mantis to perch upon my hood.
I took the picture without cutting the mower because, hey, I was working. All that vibration and the mantis is fuzzy, yes, but look how crisp the grass appears? Splotchy, browned by August heat, but green thanks to weird rains.
I digress.
We rode the acreage, and the bug made me miss my pups, the two who usually rode the plain atop my lap when I mowed. They are gone. One rode no matter what, ears flapping, toothless, tongue drying in the wind, there for the duration. The other rode until he couldn’t, at which point he clawed my denim leg seeking a point for launch. Brake. Set the pup free. Mow on, while he plodded along behind until the mower quit.
If Fitbit had counted his steps, he would have set records.
Now on a fine Sunday afternoon, a storm to the north sending cool breezes my way while I watch the clouds for lightning, Pup-less, I’m riding with a bug, his oversized eyes upon the changing horizon, my human-sized eyes torn between the sky and the insect. We are happy.
Around the sixtieth left turn, Mantis grew bored. With a pivot I did not see he set upon a path straight up the orange hood of the mower while my subconscious screamed, “They jump!”
Just as danger green-leg stilted in my direction, as soon as his antennae honed into my location, and as his back legs crouched further, tensed to pounce, I may have jerked the wheel to the left.
His tiny form flew past, front legs reaching to nab me.
Whatever he found wanting in the ride, I don’t know. But these days, I travel alone.
An hour later a juvenile rattlesnake sprang from beneath my favorite Vitex bush, and a cicada riding a weeded tree limb cried “foul!” from beneath the oversized plastic lid of the world’s most gigantic municipality-provided trash can.
I told them all to suck it and hit the shower.
All in all, a good day on the farm.

Teens Learning to Clean

At twelve years old, I needed to learn to take care of myself, including cleaning places I’d been.
I was sufficient at making my bed — no change could be bounced from the mattress I assure you, but it passed maternal inspection.
I kept my room tidy, mostly because of the onset of slight OCD. I didn’t share that tidbit; I took full credit for conscientious behavior and order following, as I did love allowance.
I vacuumed occasionally, emptied the dishwasher, dusted, all upon request. I mean, come on, a pre-teen can find one million things more fun to do than home maintenance. At last one normal Saturday afternoon my father declared it necessary that I learn to clean a toilet. The thought made me gag, but gagging in front of the paternal figure would result in a withering gaze — literally, withering; my head bowed, my shoulders rolled forward and down, all involuntary movements — so I soldiered forward into the Listening portion of the lesson.
Dad crouched in front of the porcelain throne with a sponge and a squirt bottle of undefined liquid.
“Now,” he started, lifting the lid and seat together to expose the bowl. “All you do is squirt…” Here he squirted, misting the white toilet edges as well as forming clouds of droplets that fell to the carpet and beaded. “Don’t forget to get under the lip of the bowl, that’s where a lot of dirt hides.”
And hide it did. I had never before considered any such “lip,” or noticed that water sprayed from beneath that ridge, who knew? Who cared?
I was fascinated.
“Now,” he said again, drawing in a breath. He held the sponge, a three inch rectangle of orange foam far too large for such a small space, but I didn’t know that then. “You stick your hand in and scrub the surface.” He began to demonstrate, thrusting the sponge into the water of the toilet and sloshing so much that the bedewed carpet suffered under a tide of chemical water, an onslaught from above, and my internal dialogue began with, Oh, you did NOT just stick your bare hand into the poo water!
That was the day I realized I am unable to hide emotions, whether they be elation or disgust. On this particular day it was the latter and Dad showed that his face, too, cannot hide emotion.
“It’s just water!” he thundered, his frown enormous, his displeasure scarring his face into permanent frown. “Go to your room,” he finished, at which I retreated thankfully, aware I would suffer a lecture later, and that was just fine, because EW!
Today I needed to clean the toilet and that lesson crossed my memory. I felt revulsed anew; I felt dad’s anger pelting me from the past. And I laughed aloud.
Today I didn’t have an overly large sponge, or carpet to worry about. I had a wand, and tile.
I didn’t need my bare hands to plunge into a field of bacteria and only God knows what else; I had a plastic distance to keep me safe.
Though the task is not fun, it’s certainly less life-threatening than back in the days when antibacterial soap wasn’t an item on any store shelf, but a bar of Ivory, costing 35 cents, was the norm and regularly shared by however many hands, dwelling in a soap dish, when those were a thing, until it dwindled into a rind of leftover scum, filling the dish’s ridges, nearly impossible to remove before replacement with a fresh bar.
Immune systems were titanium back then.
Bubs has learned about cleaning the toilet but not the way I did. I haven’t told him of my lessons with it because he would never forget it, as I haven’t, and there’s no need for such a disgusting visual.
I expanded his lessons to include laundry. I’m appalled at what teenagers consider dirty, and what they do not, because Bubs’ scale is the polar opposite of my own. He doesn’t worry with a smell test, he simply picks up an item of clothing and determines its cleanliness by how either the weight of the cloth feels, or how he feels; it’s a fascinating lesson in animal survival: is this adequate to either eat or wear?
“Feels fine to me.”
Is Mom still looking? “Must be dirty.”
Do I want to mess with this any more? “Wear it.”
Do I want to mess with this any more and is Mom looking? “Throw it in the hamper.” One night, Bubs changed from sleep pants into a pair of freshly laundered jeans, straight from the closet where I’d hung them the day before long enough to walk to the truck to retrieve whatever in the world he needed from the truck.
Besides the jeans, he wore a pair of once white socks, this being probably day 3, but my mind won’t let me think more than day 2.
Once back into the house, he changed from the jeans into the comfortable cotton sleep pants, and promptly housed the jeans within his clothes hamper.
If I hadn’t witnessed it, I would refuse to believe it. Turns out, this is common practice with my particular brand of teen. The socks are worn once but thoroughly, and so badly blackened that one wearing is all they get, but jeans worn for less than three minutes need fumigation.
Such strange logic.
And I cannot be alone in being the only laundress regularly washing wrappers: cookies, granola bar, purloined M&Ms; wrappers galore rotate through the wash and rinse along with everything else. If I counted the calories my boy ate discreetly, I’d be astonished he isn’t ready for heavyweight wrestling.
He’s learning to do his own laundry, but his timeframe for such duties is vastly different than my own. I like to always have fresh clothes around, he prefers to walk into the laundry room carrying bundles of fabric so rank that I Febreze the room once his clothes are safely contained within their bath of water and Gain and the wash cycle has begun.
I take no chances.
Toxic clouds are invisible and I refuse to succumb.

Orange Scones

Aunt Lou was a horror. Mean as a rabid badger, stingy as Scrooge, but without the change of heart in the end, and forgetful, that she was evil and that she had breakfast an hour ago.
Each morning at 7:30, she wanted breakfast, from somewhere out in the world. I didn’t want to cook and she I agreed that didn’t want to eat anything I made, so out into the world we went.
My grandfather joined us, out of kindness for me, I shall always believe. He was a delightful buffer: kind, generous, and he laughed at my jokes. But when it came to the first meal of the day, Lou held sway.
She chose from her two restaurant options — I had no say, leaving my morning mantra to be, “McDonald’s or Panera, Lou?”
She would mull the options while I backed the van out of the garage and winded our way through her closely built neighborhood, then turned right onto a main road that took us to the crossroads: left if she said McDonald’s, right if she said Panera.
One sunny Thursday, she chose the bakery, and right we went.
At the restaurant parking lot, getting out of the van was an easy task. She had full faculty, only needing a cane for stability, and Grandpa was independent. Though they were mobile, they were slow, especially Lou. I watched the order entry line grow as we turtle stepped our way toward the end. And as always I glanced into the display case, its wares on full display.
Scones were running low, particularly the orange flavor, and those were my favorite.
I counted in my head. As long as only one other person ordered a scone, I would be good.
How could I point the ambivalent toward cinnamon or chocolate chip instead of the delightfully glazed orange beauty solely displayed in the middle of a silver baking tray?
“What are you going to get, Lou?” I asked her, trying for small talk.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, per usual.
“Grandpa, how about you?”
“Just a coffee,” he answered, his standard breakfast.
Piping in because she demanded attention, Lou said, “I want that orange scone.”
What?
My hopes were dashed by the very person I’d trucked into this establishment, and now I was required to sit and watch her munch my breakfast between her four natural teeth? And it never failed, she always left half of her breakfast on her plate, so the insult continued. I wouldn’t get my choice, plus I’d have to leave a delicious half of it behind.
It wasn’t fair.
“I don’t know,” I said. “That cinnamon roll looks pretty good.”
Lou glared at me before inspecting the case. “Hmm, I don’t know.”
“Remember how good it was yesterday?”
“Hmm. Yeah, I guess,” she muttered, though I knew she didn’t remember at all.
Finally it was our turn in line and the cashier asked for my order.
Grandpa stepped up to order his coffee, then it was my turn to order for myself and Lou. Fortunately, Lou pointed a knotted finger toward the bakery case and said, “I want that cinnamon roll. And a hot coffee, black.”
The baker retrieved Lou’s selection before turning to me.
“Oh, I’ll take that orange scone, I think.” I tried to sound complacent, insouciant. I nearly drooled just watching the pastry being scooped onto a plate.
And then I nearly passed out when the lady pulled a radiant, brand new tray of gorgeous, glistening orange scones from beneath the counter.
Grandpa laughed outright. He knew my ploy and knew I’d been bested.
It’s been 9 years since Lou died, and my grandfather reminds me of the orange scone story at every opportunity. The man has a steel trap for a brain.
And every time he mentions it, which seems to be every time I visit with him, I blush.

Remodeling During the Middle Ages

A book club friend discussed remodelling her kitchen. She’s tried three times for the perfect green tint for her kitchen island.
“Will you try again?” I asked her, to which she replied, “Eh, it’s good enough.”
Pause.
“Twenty years ago would you have gone after the elusive perfect tint? Would you have tried again?”
“It’s such an odd color,” she thought out loud. “It’s the perfect color in the hallway, it makes me so happy, but in the light of the kitchen, it isn’t quite there.”
“Close the windows in your kitchen. Maybe try some blackout curtains,” I teased.
She laughed, preceding a discussion of window blinds and how infuriating they could be. So difficult to clean, never to be white again, certainly.
“I clean them in the tub,” remarked the third of us.
“Me, too!” exclaimed the fourth. “I use a Clorox bath and wipe each slat.”
I died inside, thinking the tedium of that task would bore me to tears.
“How do you dry them?” someone asked. “I hang them, let them dry.”
How quickly conversation devolves when you age. Our topics of conversation are now domestic, never discussed during book club before. Usually we talk about kids and how fun it is to be away from them for a while — how we love them, love them so, but boy, a tiny bit of alone time is a beautiful thing. Racy jokes; smutty books; silly indulgences when the kids are asleep. Where do we eat next? We’re foodies, I tell you. And if the restaurant includes a bakery, well, let’s go there two months in a row.
I returned the conversation to the original topic, this observation of aging ladies. “So, would you paint the island again, if you were younger?”
To which she paused. “Maybe,” she said after consideration. “Probably,” she affirmed a moment later. “But now, the current color will work. I’m not worried about it.”
“But will you peruse the color swatches next time you head to Lowe’s, just in case?” She considered the question. Her brow lifted, her eyes cast downward while she thought. “Yeah, probably,” she conceded, sadness in her tone. She’s had an ongoing project, adding two closets to the interior of her home. She used dead space to create storage, a brilliant solution. But with the construction came the decorating, with paint, lots of paint.
“I try to do the walls, for the feeling of achievement, but then there’s the trim.”
We groaned. The trim, ugh. Talk about tedium.
“I listened to seven audio books while I worked,” she added, her eyes wide, disbelieving. “Seven!”
Because one can’t read when painting, they must have it read. A great arrangement, if one enjoys the reader. Usually the kiss of death is an author reading their own work; authors are writers, not actors, an important distinction. “But no, not this time,” she assured me. “He’s really good.”
Giving in on projects was certainly an aspect of aging I had not considered until my onset of ripening. I didn’t know my arm skin would fall to sweep the floor, either, though I had visual cues all my life; my grandmother’s arms, when bare, were a spectacular harbinger that perhaps a few chair dips wouldn’t harm my triceps.
Did I do those dips? Heck no, those are work. They require things like moving a chair, clearing a space, doing the dip. Moving a chair exposes dirt; clearing the space requires a dust mop at least, a warm sudsy bucket of Pine-Sol Rain is preferred; doing a dip means sweat, which means a shower, taking more of my precious middle-age-lady time when I have this singular day away from the job each week to play out the rest of my life, the house stuff, the teenager and all of his stuff, bills, pets, and the ever expanding pile of laundry tames and beaten into submission.
Sometimes Tuesdays can’t come soon enough because Mondays leave me exhausted. Then I do it again seven days later.
Seems I am truly gerbil-like.

Still Focusing on Focusing; It’s Tough

This morning after a workout at the gym that I pay but hardly visit, I felt fractured by tasks for the day. I have one day off for the week and it’s full. Grocery, car wash, laundry, book club meeting, pick up the boy and his friend after school, take them into town for minor errands they don’t want to make but hey, if they’re together, it will ease my pain — misery loves company, especially from the video game department, so if Bubs is happy, I’m happy in my solitude, perusing store shelves and indulging the impulse buyer within.
On my way to the truck, I realized I was too scattered to think straight. I needed a new mindset in order to focus.
Cue the meditation app I seldom open. It was a day of unique experiences, I guess.
So in the truck, on the road, I’m listening to a silky British voice floating from my phone to help me focus: breathe, let calm reign, settle the disquiet; it’s a full blown 20 day course, it seems.
“Focus,” he coaxes, but I’m mulling my list: grocery, carwash, school, et cetera. Mindfulness is helping only in that I realize I’m not mindful.
Therefore, I pushed Replay on the app and swore to focus, on his words, his instructions; his focus was solely my focus. Oh, except I was driving.
Still, I refused to turn the app off entirely, because, British accent.
I took deep breaths as instructed, mindful of my breathing and his voice; thus I was calmed. And focused. On breathing, and listening, so though my mind was still separated into bits, it was mainly only two bits, floating over the slightly subconscious To Do list. Oh, and driving.
Later, back at home, I sat at my desk to finish a report, finish an episode of The Crown, and design my latest drawing. All at once.
Laptop warming, waiting for instruction to go to Google docs.
TV warming, ready to queue into the next Crown episode, and me, staring at blank Bristol board, placing figures in my mind to draw later.
Scattered. Fractured. Again. But still breathing, though unconsciously.
After the enlightenment, for the rest of the day, I’ve tried to work one task at a time. So while I type, I have one ear open for Bubs as he plays his video game — moms know to listen at all times, even if only halfway. Netflix is on Pause, scrolling advertisements for new shows I need to watch; Netflix says so. Occasionally I peer toward the monitor. And I type, halfway, with lots of typos, because I’m attempting to finish. The quicker I type, the quicker I get back to the Crown and her realm of fascinating shenanigans.
So, still scattered, still fractured, but taking deep breaths now, because I’m focusing on at least one thing if it kills me, though, ironically, it keeps me alive. This is the gerbil wheel my mind rides every day. It’s exhausting. Yet I don’t sleep well, because though my gerbil tries so hard to rest, the wheel turns, distracting the rodent enough to, if not hop back on, then at least watch it spin.
I’m off to my meditation app, for the sleeping lesson. Forty-five minutes of sounds from a laundromat, that’s all I need to focus upon.

Turns Out I’m Not a Carpenter…Very Disappointing

I wanted to install new flooring in Bubs’ room. He’s newly adolescent, and it happened over night. No exaggeration: he woke a different person than when he went to sleep.
Reeling from shock, I realized his adorable Boy Room was no longer appropriate, plus, truth be told, the elderly incontinent, blind, deaf, adorable pooch who can’t see well enough to Go Toward the Light may have destroyed the already-aged carpet in the Bubs’ Boy Room.
It was time, in many ways, for a makeover.
I bought flooring, the click kind, as advertised in the three-minute video that assured me I could install the flooring all by myself. The video  promised. 
And I am gullible.
Long story short, and utilizing the skills of my dad and a full day of his time, I learned how to use a saws-all — I’m not certain that’s the correct trademarked name — and I also learned that once baseboards are removed, they expand.
Did you know that? News to me. Naively, I thought wood parts would retain their size after removal, but they don’t.
And the flooring that was so easy — according to videotaped footage probably filmed in the confines of Light and Magic — was NOT so snap-simple, amateur-friendly, easily accomplished by a desperate-for-the-boy-to-have-a-Young-Man-room Mom.
Nope.
I mean, NOPE.
Let’s just say, no one wants to look super closely at the final slats, when Dad had returned home, inserted at one in the morning in an exceedingly hot, increasingly tiny dwelling of a mere eleven feet by the same.
Because, dang, it’s ugly.
Ugly, mostly because of my new friend Super Glue. It’s true.
And the baseboards? Well…they’re back in place, with the help of a two-pound sledge.
Nails were not necessary. Those boards, they aren’t moving.
Unless I renew my love with this new “saws-all” thing I’m fond of…
Meanwhile, the room is beginning to retain odor, and I can no longer blame the dog — no, he’s not Found the Light; the teen’s door stays shut 24/7, whether inhabited or not — and clutter is obscuring the newly installed flooring as well as the giveaway shine of glue.
I feel cheated.
1. The room is really no different.
B. I’m not a carpenter. I really wanted to be good at that stuff. Sigh.

 

Z is for Zigging and Zagging

Eldering — the new word I made up because it sounds more “Lord of the Rings” (think of the LotR term for 111:”eleventy-one”, because that’s cute, cute, cute) and less “Getting Old and Crusty” and is therefore a more interesting and less cripplingly depressing word — involves dodging left when crap is coming at you, and juking right when it’s coming from behind, pun not intended and yet hilarious.
Ya gotta zig and zag or you’ll get plowed, that’s my point. Life is not a straight shot. To be upright and moving forward sometimes seems a monumental task, yet we do it, dodging obstacles all the way to the end.
And whew, the end of a long stretch of Crapola on a Cracker, that terminal moment when the worst is behind you and hey, it’s sunshine and roses from here on out, is the best. It’s rest, a long sigh, a heavy breath of relief. It’s the Corpse Pose after any-amount-of-time-in-Yoga-at-all. The BEST.
And before we know it, BOOM, there’s another thing to dodge, whether it’s an enormous life event or a tiny dramatic thorn that threads its way through your psyche and shreds all sanity and reason.
I may be dramatic, yet you get my point because we’ve all had these Events, these Changes, and we’ve been through our own enormous share of all of that.
We Zigged. We Zagged. We survived.
Therefore we can wear socks with sandals and use words like Whippersnapper if we want, because we’re survivors.
We Aged, We  Conquered. We Rock!!
And thus I end the A To Z of Aging, with the words, “We Rock!”
I mean, how cool is that?

Q is for Quiet

drawing of shushing womanSomewhere in the past, I lost the beauty of Silence.
School, work, relationships, pets, money money money, all drowned out an appreciation of Peace.
Then I started working at a library and found it again.
And though I work in the loudest library known to man, the threat of Silence exists around every stack of books.
It’s a library.
And as such, the need for Quiet, which has been drilled into us all since our first encounter with story hour and the idea of “check out,” is housed within, looming large even amid the chaos.
Aging has brought the Quiet, which descends at night.
As much as I love it during daylight hours, I loathe it’s existence in the deep dark sky.
It’s not Peace. It’s a virtual presence of a Something Frightening I can’t quite pinpoint.
Now I have panic attacks and wars within myself to meditate, find my breath, all that.
I say a little prayer and fall asleep to reluctantly greet the dawn.
(I’m not a morning person and too particular about a certain hour-span of daylight. I’m a mess.)
Every year it worsens, this fear within unsettled air.
Aside from lamps blazing all night, and prayer, I have no tools for combat.
I feel like I’m in the middle of youthful rest and elder forgetfulness, so that fear is only a companion; a constant, whether it’s feared or not.
A conundrum for which I have no solution.
So if you’re driving by and see the light on in my window, it’s just me, combating an unseen villain, probably scrolling the Netflix queue and waiting for dawn.

L is for Lag Time

You know my favorite household accessory is the fire pit, but my very most favoritest household appliance is…the gas-powered lawn trimmer.
It slices, it dices, it can cut your meat. It’s fabulous.
It’s really a stick with a motor. Literally, a motor-on-a-stick. There’s just no other phrase for it. Then, you add whatever business end item you need.
Got some high weeds? Add the brush hog head thing.
Need some alignment to your driveway? Take off the brush hod head thing and snap in the dealie that has metal blades that spin super fast and spark when they hit concrete. (I really love that one.)
It’s so versatile!
But here’s the rub: at however many RMP that head/blade/spinny thing rotates, whatever that actual number may be, it’s stupid fast. And it vibrates. And it makes my whole body tense up just trying to keep the thing in control because I do love a neat line to my driveway.
Truly, only a few years ago, I was not as aware of this shaking/controlling/using-all-my-strength thing as I was just yesterday when I pulled the cord and let ‘er rip to edge the back acres.
Oh my stars.
Two Aleve, eleven hours of sleep, and I still hesitate to even consider joining the yard for anything more than a hearty hello.
Grow, grass, grow. Do your worst. This chick needs to rest.
That’s the thing about aging: the Lag Time. I don’t remember needing to rest between acres before, or stopping for things like water breaks and catch-my-breath moments. Who needed breath? Who needed water? I had a whirligig on a stick and I was vanquishing hidden corners and I was happy doing that for hours!
Today? Not so much with the vanquishing and a whole lot more with the resting.
Sigh.
This aging thing is really eroding my love of high powered lawn accoutrements And that’s must mean.