Friday, June 22, 2007

word geek

i run pretty hot & cold when it comes to pursuing photography. i've taken classes, done some reading, messed with photoshop. for whatever reason i get overwhelmed by the technical stuff -- apertures and fast lenses (a fast lens?) and choosing the right ISO and anticipating the need for exposure compensation and... well pretty soon, i just figure why bother. i mean if i'm going to do it i want to do it right -- no cheating by using the auto mode -- and if it's not all exactly right then you get crappy shots. and oh yes, oh yes: for me there have been crappy shots aplenty.

but i persevere. elaine and i are taking an online course on "available light photography." appealing to me for lots of reasons that are not all that exciting so i shan't elaborate. one of the requirements of the course is a light reflector but of course i go into overdrive. which one? how big? silver or gold? there must be a difference or they wouldn't make them in silver and gold so i have to pick the best one!

my googling took me to helpful site, actually. but what really got me going, convinced me that i just HAD to keep working at this photography thing, was one little word: chiaroscuro.

what is that, you ask? well, i didn't know either. and i didn't care. i found the word so appealing that i decided i had to learn what it meant and how to apply it. crappy shots be damned! but of course i wouldn't have crappy shots any more once i understood the mystery of chiaroscuro.

word geek. that's me.

oh, and for those who are equally charmed? here you go (courtesy of

chi·a·ro·scu·ro /kiˌɑrəˈskyʊəroʊ/
–noun, plural -ros.
1. the distribution of light and shade in a picture.
2. Painting. the use of deep variations in and subtle gradations of light and shade, esp. to enhance the delineation of character and for general dramatic effect: Rembrandt is a master of chiaroscuro.

lovely, no?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The fruits of our labor

Hey! Look what we're doing!

Front patch


Tomatoes * Sara, pointing out the zucchini

Friday, June 15, 2007

Magnificent women: Elaine #1

I love my aunt. She is funny, normal, nearly deaf, totally no-nonsense and a little kooky. She was probably the person my Mom was closest to on Dad's side of the family, and because they had daughters that were the same age (within two days!) who were best buddies all through childhood, they got to know each other pretty well. Aunt Elaine was there when Mom died, and a few minutes later whispered into my ear "you made her world." I carry that with me to this day, never really believing it's true but selfishly hoping I made her world a little happier.

And she was here, every weekend for I don't remember how long, to help us take care of Dad when things got bad. She sat with him for hours, and helped us watch Sara, and loaned us her car for a month, and always brought kindness and laughter and rest with her -- she somehow came and absorbed up some of the ickiness of life so we didn't have to manage it all by ourselves. She saw how hard it was and didn't judge or henpeck, or tell us what we ought to do; she just jumped in and did and never asked for or expected anything in return.

It's a lot to ask of one person, to fill the void that two have left behind. And though I'll never actually ask that of her I secretly hope for it, for her to remind me who my parents were, and what they would say or do or think about the things that matter in my life.

Lucky me, Aunt Elaine somehow manages to do just that. Not in the easy way that would sound preachy or artificial, but with ease and authenticity. She taught me that baby oil can help get that crusty junk off Sara's face when she has a cold, and treats her like her own grandchild rather than just her neice's daughter. She shows me the things that seasoned moms know but doesn't offer unsolicited advice or patronize me when I seem clueless. I think of her as Sara's Aunt Nonny, and have come so close to asking her if we can call her that but for some reason haven't brought myself to do it. I think it's because I'm afraid she'll think it's silly, or maybe it's because I'm afraid I'll cry. Beats me.

Elaine gets it just right, and she'll never know how much it means to me. Even if I tried to tell her, she would never really know.

Yep, she is definitely one of my favorites.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mother/Child - Child/Mother

I have nothing new to offer about the many facets of motherhood. That being said, here's my latest "discovery."

I don't know why it is but I can't seem to shake the feeling I had when I was about 18 years old. You know -- feeling very grown up but at the same time being utterly clueless and hopelessly in need of parenting. Maybe that was just me but somehow I imagine it was true of many people to some degree or another.

The thing is, I'm 36 and feeling not nearly grown-up enough and I have no parents. (Maybe this is also true of many people to some degree or another.)

I learn more and more about myself every day that I spend with Sara. There are moments that feel so incredibly familiar and I realize that they evoke some kind of memory or connection that I shared with Mom. It's almost like she's there. Last night Sara threw her arms (those soft, squishy, skinny little toddler arms) around my neck and hugged me so tight and I felt so connected to my mother and my daughter at the same time that there were tears coming down my face that I couldn't have stopped had I wanted them to. But as wonderfully familiar as that moment felt, I'm convinced that I was actually feeling it as my Mom did. And it was... great.

Of course for every great moment there is the opposite. (Of course there is.) Tonight it came when I let both her and me get too tired, too cranky, too sickly-feeling and we both fell apart. She cried and screamed and squirmed (wet in the tub, natch) and I yelled and smacked her hand and immediately felt that nauseating remorse that reminds me that I'mjustthisclose to becoming one of Those People that you see on the 11 o'clock news with a horror story about shaken babies and deadbeat mothers who ought to rot in jail. And no amount of apologizing or consoling or asking her and God for forgiveness can unring that bell. It's icky.

What it all comes down to is this: I'm basically the same poseur I was 16 years ago. I like to play grown-up but the fact of the matter is I still need my Mom. Thing is, I've got this sweet little girl who needs me to be the Mom and I really don't want to blow it.

Time to grow up for real, eh? Yipes. How the heck am I supposed to do that?

Friday, June 01, 2007


Everybody has that thing inside of them that makes them... I don't know. Happy. Or ha-PEEE, as Sara would say. (I think her word is more authentic if you want to know the truth.)

Singing is what makes me happy. I don't do it enough and I miss it. It's that thing that connects with me somehow, that takes words and makes them alive -- not just spoken once and lost forever but living and breathing and moving forever. And it doesn't matter what I'm singing as long as it resonates for me. There is the same joy in a 500-year-old sacred motet as there is in a Dixie Chicks hit from 1998. I love that.

What makes me even happier is that Sara seems to love singing, or at least music, too. If the TV is on she can toddle around for hours paying no attention at all but as soon as there is music she stops dead in her tracks. Rob insists that there there is a music video on CMT (yes people, that is indeed Country Music Television) that mesmerizes her. And lately I have ressurected our tradition of listening to music and singing before she goes to bed at night.

It's the sweetest thing. She can be a terrible crank but as soon as I start the music she settles. Whenever there is a pause between songs she stops and listens, then says in this quiet little voice "moh." Sure enough another song starts and she begins to clap, saying "ha-PEEE, ha-PEEE.'

Oh, Bear. You make your Mama so ha-PEEE too.