Wednesday, February 24, 2016

I Remember...

This week in my writing class one of our writing prompts is I Remember... This is intended to be a free writing prompt, meaning write down anything and everything you remember from any point in your life. At first I glossed over this prompt and moved on to the second one, Write About the Family Dinner Table. But when that prompt wasn't going anywhere I went back to I Remember... I thought the prompt would be too vague for me to focus, but once I started thinking about it I realized I could come up with a lot of things. To help narrow down my focus I picked a topic to remember about. Since it is cold and flu season, I chose to write down things I remembered about being sick as a kid.

I remember my dad making me hot lemon water laced with a little whiskey when I had a bad head cold. I don't remember my dad being a drinker, an occasional tall can of Schlitz beer on a warm summer afternoon was the extent of his drinking. Maybe he kept the bottle of whiskey just for my colds, I don't remember him ever making this concoction for my younger brother when he was sick.

I don't remember throwing up often as a child, but when I did have the flu, my mother would place the Farberware stainless steel 6 quart stock pot along side my bed for those just-in-case moments. The funny thing is, that was the same stock pot she made soups and stews in, the even funnier thing is that I repeated the same pattern with my daughter.

I remember my chest being smeared with Vicks Mentholatum, I hated the warm, burning sensation it created.

I remember being dressed in my flannel granny nightgown, my arms wrapped tightly around my loved-to-death brown teddy bear.

I remember how I loved the citrusy orange flavor of Bayer Children's Aspirin. I would sneak into the bathroom medicine chest to find the bottle, I figured out quickly how to align the arrows and pop the top off. I enjoyed one or two of those orange treats even when I wasn't sick.

I remember my mother coating my nose and lips with Vaseline. She would smear it on so thick that it would clog both my nostrils, no wonder my lips were so chapped, my mouth was the only orifice left to breath through.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Didn't Intend

I didn't intend to stop at the beach yesterday. Now those of you who follow me on Instagram are probably saying "Yah right Sarah, you go to the beach everyday". But I really don't, I go on Mondays every week, and maybe one or two other times during the week in the winter. Now summer is a different story, but we are a long way from summer.

My intention yesterday afternoon was to do some antiquing. To escape the blinding white of winter shooting, I have been doing some still life photography. I am enjoying the challenge of lighting, prop placement and post-processing. I also found the perfect table to set all this up on, it is the perfect size to nestle next to the north window in our bedroom.

My husband called before I left the house to "check-in" and see what I was up to for the afternoon. I said I was going out. I told him I would probably do some shooting while I was out. Having spent the morning writing, I needed some visual stimulation. Shooting usually means to me, dressed in my winter wardrobe and paisley rain boots, carrying my iPhone. But at the last minute I decided to throw my camera backpack with my Canon in it into the car, just in case I needed more than my phone.

I set off for two antique stores with my mental list of photo props I was looking for. After a couple of hours of wandering the aisles of other people's cast off treasures, I decided to call it a day, not having found one thing that was on my mental list. Although I did find a couple of small, vintage bottles; look for those in future posts.

Leaving the second store I had the intention of stopping at a marshy nature preserve near by. But I was chilled to the bone from wandering this second store, I swear they don't have heat in there, maybe that is to keep the antiques preserved. So even though my car temperature gauge said 37 degrees, I felt damp and chilly, and decided to skip the preserve and return home, start making the soup for supper.

As I was driving along the lakeshore towards home, I looked in my rear view mirror and saw a cop two cars behind me. Why does this always seem intimidating? On that road I will never be guilty of speeding, going too slow is a possibility though. The road to the beach by parent's home was approaching so I signaled and turned off the main road, watching the cop car cruise on past.

This beach of my childhood is filled with memories, and other than the months of July and August it is almost always deserted. Known only to the local and summer people. I turned into the empty parking lot, and parked. I debated about getting out and walking down to the water. Having been warmed by my car's heater for the last twenty minutes, I felt ready to do a little outside wandering. I grabbed my iPhone off the seat next to me, hoping to capture that color combination I love; golden dune grass, gray sky, pale blue water and stark white snow.

I was not the first person to walk the trail over the dune to the water, I followed the trail of footprints. Reaching the shore, I was pleased to see less ice and more water due to the warmer temperatures, but what I wasn't seeing was that perfect color combination I was looking for. Disappointed I began the climb up the dune, returning to my car. As I was slowly driving towards the exit gate, I saw it, the clump of golden dune grass lit up by the weak February sun, set against the sparkling blue-gray lake water. I stopped my car in the middle of the parking lot. Knowing my iPhone wasn't going to get the shot I wanted, I reached into the back seat for my Canon. I fitted my 85mm lens on and stepped around the car to capture the image that gave my heart that fluttering feeling.

*I have been reading my friend Lissa's blog, who I met through Instagram, were she journals about her daily life. She inspires me to record small snippets of my life on a more regular basis. I am working on the small part of it. Her blog is Electric Journal.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Preserving Stories

I am suppose to be working on a writing class assignment that is due tomorrow. But instead I am caught up on something I read in Monday's lesson --- things that touch me are worth writing about.

Something touched me this week...I read that another one of my dear friends is throwing in the towel on her blog. This saddens me; another creative, inspiring voice is exiting the scene. 

I completely understand the need to take a break from blogging now and then. I do it myself at least once or twice a year. I find it refreshing to step back for a short time and experience life without the need to write about it or share it with the world. But eventually I miss this space, miss my readers who are my friends, and most of all I miss the growth that comes from pushing myself within this creative space. 

In early January, I was contacted by Artful Blogging magazine to write an article for them about my blog. They wanted more than the "What Does Blogging Mean to Me" response. They preferred for me to write about a specific event or experience that was significant to my blogging life. Needing some kind of starting point I scrolled through the archives of my posts. What a trip down Memory Lane that was --- seeing past adventures, vacations, creative series like Walk and Click Wednesdays, Backroad Adventures, The Coffee Shop Chronicles. Those posts brought back delightful memories and confirmed the joy of the journey that blogging has taken me on in the past four years. 

I know without my blog, I would not have done most of those things (who am I kidding, I wouldn't have done any of those things). It was the accountability of my blog, sharing my adventures with my readers, pushing myself to learn and get better at photography and writing that kept me going. There is no question that these things have shaped me into who I am today.

Looking back at those old posts, I realized though that the main reason I blog is to document my life, to preserve my stories for my daughter and my future grandchildren. My great-aunt Viola was the family historian on my dad's side of the family. She did a wonderful job keeping all the old photo albums, still, at best I have old disintegrating, black paper photo albums filled with black and white photographs, spidery handwriting labeling a few details under most photographs. But I want to know more; what is my great-aunt's relationship to the guy in the photograph? Were they dating? If so, why didn't they get married? Is that why she remained single her entire life? These are the things I would love to know, but yet will never learn because she passed away over a decade ago. She died before I reached the curious age. 

I want something different for my daughter and her family. I want them to know the stories. Even if something were to happen to my blog someday within the inter web workings, there are still boxes of notebooks in our storage room filled with first drafts and sometimes second drafts of these blog posts and various memoir style essays about my life. I would never have written any of that down if I didn't blog.

I realize that blogging isn't for everyone, and it doesn't need to be, but I sincerely hope that you are doing something to preserve the stories of your life. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Monday Beach Shots

Last summer I made weekly trips to the beach with my camera. It was delightful walking along the shore of Lake Michigan in June, July and August.

But what about in the barrenness of winter? Not quite as delightful. But still the beach, the water/ice and the shore were calling me. Thankfully this winter has had much less snow than in recent years, so  getting there hasn't been as problematic as it normally would be.

December 14, 2015
On Monday, December 14 I made the first of my weekly Monday trips to the beach. I decided I wanted to document the changing landscape of the beach over the winter months, plus it was a good excuse for me to get out photographing at least once a week.

December 21, 2015
I don't plan on taking the same shot every week. I want to be open to whatever moves me each week. By the second week I thought it would be fun to document the weather conditions, and temperatures.  Even though the weather looks ominous in this shot, it was 46 degrees.

December 28, 2015
December weather was good to us. I did forget to record the temperature this day, but my note says there was a howling wind.

January 4, 2016
All good things must come to an end...the snow came. We had gotten a couple of inches over night and the temperature was 25 degrees, but the sun was shining brightly, giving me a nice long shadow.

January 11, 2016

Intersting changes from one week to the next. Much colder at 18 degrees and windy, and the nasty ice.

January 18, 2016. I decided to mix things up a bit and take a video. A chilly 14 degrees with a wind chill of -4. I was the only crazy person out there that day. 

January 25, 2016

A beautiful winter day, 36 degrees and sunny. Those are ice chunks and ice rings floating in the channel.

February 1, 2016
February arrived and it was time to take my first of the month self-portrait. Totally unprepared but yet determined, I propped my iPhone up in the crevice in this log and set the timer. I think it only took 10 tries or so. A beautiful 34 degree day, I got lost for an hour out there. 

February 1, 2016
Some weeks offer a bonus shot. I knew as soon as I saw this shot that it was the shot of the day. Edited in Stackables and iColorama, two of my favorite editing apps.

February 8, 2016
That brings us to this week's shots. While cloudy with some threatening winter clouds, it wasn't snowing and the temp was a warm 34 degrees. I decided to climb to the top of Mt. Pisgah for a shot down the dune to the beach.

February 8, 2016
My favorite shot thus far, and an example of the stairs on the dune. Edited in Stackables.

Once a week seems a very manageable project for me. I will miss a Monday here or there due to travel, but for the most part I am always getting groceries and going to the gym on Mondays. The beach is my reward.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Favorite Childhood Foods

While dining on an appetizer of crispy, golden tater tots paired with glasses of spiced cider and handcrafted amber ales, I made the announcement "Tonight when we get home we are going to tackle the writing prompt that has been on the dining room chalkboard for the last two weeks". Moans and protests followed, but they knew I was serious.

For the past few winters we have been doing semi-nightly ten minute writing prompts. We would usually begin at Thanksgiving when our daughter, Mallory would be home from college. My husband and I would carry on once she was back at school until we could be reunited for Christmas break. This year that writing routine has been absent. The main reason is that there are no more college breaks, there is only working, eating and sleeping.

Determined to get our writing group going again, I dug through prompt writing books, and notebooks filled with ideas. I made a list of possibilities, closed my eyes and picked one. I wrote it on the chalkboard so they would know I wasn't kidding. Then life got in the way for a couple of weeks. I had two writing deadlines, one taking longer than I anticipated. Finally at the end of January everything was submitted, I was ready for my group. That readiness led to my announcement while enjoying tater tots at the local brew pub.

Our tasty snack consumed, it was time to go home and face the chalkboard. Once home, I sent everyone off to gather their notebooks and writing utensils, we reconvened in the dining room to take one last look at the prompt before beginning. I set the timer on my phone for ten minutes, pressed start and the sound of pen and pencil on paper began.

Glen and Mallory made long lists of memorable foods. Glen's consisted mainly of meat; tacos, ham and gravy, a ground beef mixture with a sweet/sour flavoring set upon half of a rusk bun, cow tongue, smoky links and fondue. Mallory's list contained typical childhood delicacies; chicken nuggets from Wendy's, hot dogs, grilled cheese, kid size chocolate syrup sundaes, chocolate shakes from Burger King, Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Poptarts and lots and lots of chocolate milk. Maybe this explains her lactose intolerance now, she overdosed on dairy as a child.

My story was different, it wasn't a list of favorite foods, it was about one specific meal - Creamed Ham, Eggs and Mushrooms in a Chafing Dish. My mother has never been a skilled chef in the kitchen. Our suppers usually consisted of Hamburger Helper, not quite baked frozen pizza, and liver and onions. This is why Creamed Ham, Eggs and Mushrooms in a Chafing Dish was so different; the fancy copper chafing dish, real ham, real mushrooms, cream of mushroom soup not just ladled into a bowl, and hard boiled eggs. We didn't have it often, but I do remember my mouth watering every time I saw Volume Six of The Women's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery sitting on the counter...

The buzz of the timer sounded. Our little family gathered together, each taking a turn to read our writing out loud. As each of us read, I marveled at how there were so many stories within simple lists, and specific meals, all derived from a ten minute writing prompt. Our first writing exercise of the year was complete.

What special foods do you remember from your childhood? I would love to hear.