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Focusing

HPIM1671I spy with my little eye

Thanks to gracious visitors to my own site, I’ve found lots of fun and interesting blogs to follow since I started my little blogging resolution in January. Thinking initially that I’d found just one more way to lose myself in the internet and hone my procrastination skills, I’m pleasantly surprised to report that I’ve actually been using these resources to fuel my imagination and expand my blogging horizons. I recently viewed a post by Cee Neuner at Cee’s Photography, where I learned about a photo challenge hosted by Ailsa Prideaux-Mooney on Where’s My Backpack? Each week, Ailsa suggests a theme, and encourages both aspiring (me) and actual (Cee) photographers to share the photos they believe best represent their interpretation of said theme. In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, Ailsa had declared last week Travel Theme: Green, and though I did not submit anything for the challenge, I kept it in mind when I was walking on Thursday.

It’s amazing how much you see when you have a specific focus. Knowing that I was looking for green, my eye was drawn to stuff I know I’ve passed a hundred times without noticing. For the first time on Thursday, I noticed that one of my favorite houses along the canal route has bright glossy green shutters–in the past I’d been too busy taking in the overall imposing brick structure of the home and the mystery of its always-burning ceiling light in the second floor window to notice the shutters. I noticed how many of the canal boats sport green–from dark forest green hulls to intricately painted folk art in kelly green on the bows (one visiting boat that is not usually moored there was even christened “Greenfinch”–thanks for playing!). Of course, there were endless opportunities to photograph plants. I found an old log covered in a thick-piled carpet of spring-green moss, and some dark green clumps of snowdrops cowering in the shelter of a sturdy hedge. And then I saw the algae garden growing on the exposed wall of an empty lock along the canal (pictured above). At first, I was quite taken by all the different kinds of algae in such a small area, then by all the shades and textures of each variety. Unfortunately, being on the opposite side of the canal precluded me from taking any macro shots (too cold for a swim, and no boats in sight approaching the lock who might have let me hop aboard for a few quick snaps), but my hands were itching to pet the velvety carpet of algae on the left, glide over the slimy glop in the middle, and lift the trailing strands of the clump anchored at the top right.

Whether I ever publicly respond to Ailsa’s challenges or just use some of her past suggestions to guide future photo walks, I like the sense of purpose I felt going out in the world armed with a theme. It was a powerful experience to note how much my eyes were opened to new sights and how I gained new perspectives on familiar sights. For too long I’ve been so busy looking at the forest that I didn’t see the trees…

 
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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in How It Is, Observations, On Me, True Life

 

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Speechless

100_2794Too old for this new trick

I’m not normally one to back down from an intellectual challenge, but I may have met my match in the Icelandic language. In attempting to skim a magazine or read a menu, nothing about it looks familiar…in Icelandic text I can’t find any words adopted from other languages. According to David, our tour guide today, if the Icelanders need to use a foreign word (think Internet, for example) they will import the meaning, but will create their own new Icelandic word for it. Talk about dedication to not diluting your language!

Here’s what else I gleaned from David’s explanation of the language today (for reference, David is an Englishman who’s been living in Iceland for twelve years–it took him four solid years to learn the language): Icelandic is descended from old Norse languages, as the Vikings were the ones to settle the country. There are 32 letters in the alphabet (including multiple versions of vowels and at least three different characters for the “th” sound) and each one has one and only one very distinct pronunciation. If you saw a “c” in a word (which you wouldn’t, because they don’t have them–they don’t have a “w” either, but they did consent nevertheless to use the internationally accepted WC to let folks know where the toilets are) there would be no confusion about whether it was a hard c or a soft c like in English. When tourists attempt to pronounce Icelandic words (like street names) using the pronunciation rules from their own native language, the Icelanders have no idea what they are saying. Apparently they found great amusement in the world’s news anchors trying in vain to pronounce Eyjafjallajökull, the name of the volcano that erupted in 2010 and practically brought European air travel to a halt for weeks; the American military gave up hope of ever saying it right and dubbed it E15 because it was spelled with an E followed by fifteen other random letters.

Another reason I would hesitate to learn Icelandic is the grammar. Apparently, each noun, pronoun, and adjective has a gender, and is declined in four cases based on that gender, and whether it is singular or plural. (Check out all the ways to spell chicken [underlined] in the above photograph of a Subway menu board.) Verbs are conjugated for tense, mood, person, number, and voice. I’m not sure I know enough about my own English grammar to even know what all those terms mean. The sentence construction is then further affected by whether the person to whom you are speaking is a male or female, young or old. In the end, each word ends up having between 12 and 35 different spellings. That’s a headache I just don’t need at this point in my life.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2013 in How It Is, Observations, True Life

 

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Jailbreak?

100_1385
Scaling walls to find creative freedom

It’s been years since I’ve done any creative writing. Once I hit high school, writing became strictly research papers, persuasive essays, and lab reports. I’ve gone through random spells of journaling in the past two decades, but there’s been no creative writing. No poetry, no short stories, and certainly no novels. And it wasn’t just that I wasn’t writing creatively…I wasn’t even thinking creatively anymore. As I got older and life filled with more and more responsibilities, I allowed all of my creative outlets to shut down–writing went first, then crafty projects followed, and for several years I even stopped reading because there was “no time.”

Making this commitment to blog daily throughout 2013 might just be my own personal prison break. I’ve scaled the wall of responsibilities, both real and imagined, crawled carefully over the barbed-wire of my own inhibitions, and now find myself standing, somewhat bemused, in the world of anything is possible. I’ve read three books since January, and have two currently in progress (that doesn’t hold a candle to my high school reading pace, but it’s a vast improvement over the wordless drought that’s parched my life since the mid-90s). For my first tentative attempts at fiction in more than twenty years, I’ve found great support from other writers in the blogosphere, and I credit that encouragement for a marked increase in the number of spontaneous creative thoughts I’ve been having the past week. I hope the trickle implies that a dam burst is imminent. For the first time, I feel like a notebook that goes everywhere I go might actually be an ally in capturing some of these thoughts for future use, rather than an enemy sitting in silent accusation, adding more pressure because of its disuse. The taste of creative freedom is as addictive as Oreos, and I find myself willing, even eager, to spend more and more time in front of the computer chasing words and ideas down long-disused pathways, brushing aside cobwebs with every step. Maybe there’s a glimmer of hope, after all, that I can be a writer, not just in thought, but also in deed.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in How It Is, On Me, On Writing, True Life

 

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Martha

HPIM1619Like I really need another project…

Hey handsome! Because you are away on business this weekend, I was unchaperoned at the local auction today, which meant all my, “Ooh, I could use this old ______ for ______” ideas went unvoiced, which meant there were no exasperated eye-rolls to curb my enthusiasm for crafty DIY projects, which meant I bid on more junk than I normally would have. Good news, though! I only won one lot, a stack of 46 2-foot by 2-foot tin(ish) ceiling tiles. Yes, I can hear you…”What are you going to do with THOSE??”

Well, here’s what the Martha Stewart side of me was thinking while I was waving my bidding number around. I don’t plan on actually sticking them to the ceiling, because they collectively weigh a ton (four trips to load them all in the car), and I don’t fancy them dropping on our sleeping heads in the middle of the night. Instead, I envisioned them as a headboard whenever we finally get rid of the sleigh bed, or possibly as wainscoting in the dining room. But when I got home and started looking on the internet, there’s all sorts of cool things I could do with them…tile them into a backsplash in the kitchen (these may not be the best size/pattern for that), hang them as wall art in the living room, substitute them as the panels in the kitchen cabinets, bend them into funky birdhouses for the garden. Dishfunctional Designs has all sorts of ideas I hadn’t even considered!

And wait, babe, here’s some even better news. I got all 46 of them for the ridiculous price of just £24 (about $36). If worse comes to worst, and my inner Martha never gets this project off the ground, we can just sell them on for a serious profit–they go for upwards of $9.50 EACH online. Trust me, it could have been worse; I could have come home with a pair of tortoiseshell veneered display cabinets, purchased by the original owners for £85,000, but now fire-damaged and “requiring major restoration.” Common sense didn’t totally desert me in your absence; I realize there are some limits to the projects I should tackle! Love you!!

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in How It Is, On Me, True Life

 

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Uncle

100_1548Longing for an end to winter

I guess when I saw the sun for the entire day on Monday and was able to shed the outermost layer of my typical winter armor, my mind and body got this crazy idea that winter was on its way out. Tuesday tried to ease me out of that idea by bringing back the clouds while maintaining the mild temperatures, but Wednesday blew in to remind me that both calendar-ly and meteorologically, it is still winter. Thursday and Friday conspired to reinforce that knowledge by becoming progressively cloudier and colder, and then today, that big bully Saturday thought it’d be fun to spit snow at me all day while Winter pinned me down.

Uncle. I cry uncle. Winter, please let me up now. I’m tired of layering sweaters to survive at work, tired of pulling on three pairs of socks when I wear my wellies, tired of slathering endless layers of moisturizer on my wind-chapped cheeks, tired of scraping frost off my car windows, tired of counting down the hours until the end of each day when I can go home and defrost my aching bones in a steaming hot shower. Please, give me a chance to pack away my flannel pajamas and woolen mittens. Let me open the windows to air out the house. Make way for lambs, daffodils, green grass, and most of all, sunshine. Uncle, Winter, UNCLE!!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in How It Is, True Life

 

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Willpower?

imageTrying and failing to resist temptation

I am supposed to be on a diet to undo the damage sustained after fifteen months of packing away any kind of British comfort food set before me.  However, I am currently in Brugge, smack dab in the land of Belgian fries, Belgian chocolate, and Belgian waffles.  The city of Brugge has both a chocolate museum and a potato museum–if there’s a waffle museum, we haven’t found it yet. Within the 1.66 square miles of the canal-ringed old city center, there are more than 40 dedicated chocolate shops, sometimes three or four in a row on the same side of an ancient cobblestone street.  Thankfully, waffle shops and fry carts aren’t quite as numerous, though they definitely aren’t hard to find.  It’s too bad they were not distributing willpower when we entered the city, because rolling around an intravenous drip of the stuff would have been about the only way to save my diet from the warm waffle with ice cream and dark Belgian chocolate sauce I had late this afternoon, right before my dinner of Flemish beef stew with Belgian fries (the waffle shop closes at 6:00 p.m., so we couldn’t risk eating dinner first then coming back for dessert).  One thing I know for sure: I would have regretted leaving Belgium without experiencing its famous cuisine far more than I’m going to regret the extra miles and extra sit-ups the indulgence will cost me in the gym next week.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in How It Is, On Me, True Life

 

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Caution

100_0807Caution: Road Ends in Six Months

We are almost to the end of the road here in England–this week marked the start of our PCS (Permanent Change of Station) countdown. Well, we can’t actually count anything yet, as we haven’t received our official release date, but we know it’s coming in about six months. At Tuesday’s departure briefing, we were handed a binder full of pre-move to-do lists, which is currently lying next to the sofa, waiting to be divvied up this weekend into his and her responsibilities. The days are flying by, yet I still have a whole list of my own to work through before I am forced back into the “real world” later this summer, and become slave once again to the demands of a full-time job. I’ve got high hopes that with steely determination, careful time management, and creative multi-tasking, I can cross off every item on the PCS checklists, as well as my own, before we set sail for the other side of the pond.

Places to See/Revisit

  • Holland
  • Brugge
  • Northern Wales
  • Iceland
  • Paris
  • Germany
  • London
  • Oxford
  • Cotswold Villages
  • Portsmouth (Mary Rose Museum)
  • Sulgrave Manor
  • Highclere Castle

Things to Do

  • Organize/scrapbook Japan memorabilia
  • Refinish chair
  • Restore lantern
  • Restore shoe last
  • Organize pictures on computer
  • Sort/purge documents on computer
  • Purge emails
  • Take class/renew teaching license
  • Suss out job opportunities in US
  • Polish horse brass collection
  • Lose another 10 pounds
  • Crochet Aran afghan
  • Frame auction pictures
  • Shadowbox antique Monopoly game
  • Purge old magazines
  • Import folder of recipe clippings into computer program
  • Create inventory of household effects

Whew! That’s a lot of stuff to do! Not sure how I’ll fit it all in around the daily routine of work, laundry, house cleaning, cooking, and blogging, but I am determined not to leave England with a backlog of unfinished projects and a load of regret about not making the most of the time I had here. I’m about to buckle down and make the next six months ones I can look back on with pride and a sense of accomplishment. I’ll revisit this post from time to time to cross off completed items…feel free to nag, encourage, bully, and cheer in the weeks ahead!

Last Sunday while I was trolling The One Minute Writer‘s archives for something to spark my imagination, I came across “Six Word Saturdays,” an idea they had picked up from the weekly series over at Show My Face. The idea is to sum up your current situation in just six words, then expand as much or as little as desired.  TOMW hadn’t done a “Six Word Saturday” prompt since July of last year, but I thought that starting today I would adopt it as my own end-of-week tradition–an easy, no-stress way to wrap up the blogging week. Lo and behold, when I clicked over to TOMW this evening, today’s prompt is “Six Word Saturday!” Great minds think alike. 🙂

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2013 in On Me, True Life

 

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