Photography Skills…?

I don’t know what it is, but I apparently am great at photography.  My cousin and aunt said that I really just have a great eye for it.  I see what they mean, but I keep wondering if it is only for certain circumstances that I am any good at it all, that I only have an eye for specific photo situations and events. Sure, I had great ideas for a couple weddings, and a handful of other events in recent years, but they all shared in their nature-tied, almost rustic themes.  Part of me wonders if I just choose to take photos of things that are already awesome, and I am merely documenting those things, as opposed to my taking whatever is in front of me, and documenting it in an awesome way.

That being said, there is another part of me that wants desperately to agree with them wholeheartedly, go find a good quality camera, and start promoting myself as a photographer.  This is the part that tells me how I am always just a very harsh judge of myself, and the standards I hold are far beyond the usual standards for people, thereby making what I consider to be mediocre work of my own to be spectacular by regular standards.  And I so want to believe this part of me…, but I don’t want to be wrong.

Then again, why do I not want to be wrong?  It looks like I want not to be embarrassed for thinking that I have taste, and being called out about it, because I don’t actually have good taste like I’d thought.  Also, that I want not to cause people to believe I am cheating them in any way…. and it looks like that’s about it.  Huh… Well, I know that I have taste.  Especially seeing as how I frown at professional photos that I see all of the time, because I am disappointed that the photographer would allow such photos to be paid for.  As for finding an appropriate value for my “work”, let’s call it, I guess I can easily enough ask different people for guidance, and always verify with the “client”, shall we say, regarding an agreed upon value of the work.  And, regarding my earlier concern/wondering, I could always just do photos for those similar settings, if it turns out that I’m only really great at those types of setups.  Well, that’s too simple, almost.

Fortunately, the key word there is “almost”.

So, I guess that means that I am looking for a camera now, because my phone is not satisfactory for anything above instagram quality.  😛

Post-a-day 2017

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Mass, Cats, and Weimaraners

Do you remember Wegman’s Weimaraners, the beautiful pictures and skits of the Weimaraner dogs with human arms?  (William Wegman started all of that.  Here’s an example.)  And we hopefully all know the musical Cats.  (Look up some photos quickly, if you need a frame of reference for the picture to have in your head of the style.)

Now, today at Mass, both of these things were relevant.  My mom and I have had a somewhat silly time in Mass together the past several years, mostly due to a little book we found at, I believe, a dollar store.  (It was a book of comic-type frames, based on The Bible and Christianity, and was entitled According to the Good Book.  I can tell more about that another time, though.)  We do not actively seek out distractions, of course, but we do inform the other if ever there is something truly worth noticing.  This morning, after the priest had pointed out some facts relating to the scene choices of the stained glass windows, my mom leans over to me, and whispers that, “Baby Jesus has adult hands,” and “Saint Joseph is a lion… He was in Cats.”

Momentarily unable to comprehend, I noticed that she was looking at one of the windows.  Sure enough, she was right.  I let her know that I agreed with her, and that the baby Jesus reminded me of the Weimaraners with human arms.  We said nothing more, but both struggled to calm ourselves from the our silent, trembling laughter.

A while later, the little girl in front of us, did something wonderful.  She had already tickled us to silent chuckles earlier with an adorable, “Let us praaay,” mimicking even the tones of the priest, immediately after he had said it, as well as her unreal timing with leaning backward in her mother’s arms.  During the singing of the Amens after the whole bread and wine changing to body and bread deal, the music powerful and faith being declared strongly through song, we look up to see this little girl facing her mother, held around the waist in her mother’s arms, leaning back as far as possible, arms draped down, hanging limply behind her, and her head dropped back… at the last “Amen”, she raised her arms straight up in the air, as though praying to and praising the great Lord above.  It was truly beautiful, despite the comedy of the timing of her actions.

So now, this little girl, just as Mass is almost finished, finds the little envelopes at the end of the pew.  The envelopes are for collection (donations) to the Church for a specific cause, and the cause was labeled with a golden starburst-shaped seal on the front of each envelope.  When she finds the envelopes, she grabs them, and scoots back toward her older brother, and declares quietly, “I got invites!”  The priest says another line or two, and then we hear her say, “Should we go?”  I think my mom and I instantly began crying with laughter.

Another few moments later, we hear the brother say, “Your party lipstick,” and we see him doing her lipstick for her with a fake lipstick.  I comment to my mother that ‘I bet Cats is playing at the party.’  And we continued crying with laughter.

Now, I am aware that this is not ideal Mass behavior, as we are well taught as children.  We are nonetheless human, and so we have our little tidbits of fun at Mass here and there.  Besides, it is a beautiful art to find unsuspecting joys in unsuspecting places.  And come on, who wouldn’t agree that Saint Joseph must have been in Cats, based on that window?
The Nativity, as portrayed by today’s lovely stained glass window

The “Party Invitation”


Post-a-day 2017

Weddings and Children

A few years ago, I became aware of something new in terms of weddings, parties, and events: the effects of the presence of young children.  At my cousin’s wedding reception, some of my family and I were near a couple with a baby.  I had been strongly working to tune out he baby’s cries, when my aunt commented to another cousin of mine, ‘This is why we didn’t allow kids at your wedding.’ (Although, now that I write that, I feel like it might have been the cousin to say it about her own wedding.)  It wasn’t that the baby was a problem.  That was not at all the case.  It was simply that the baby altered the atmosphere significantly for all of those around it.

This weekend, I experienced one of the strongest respects for the ‘No Children’ policy.  Children are great, and I need not be convinced of this.  I love children on their own turf, in their own environments.  However, my former belief that excluding children from events was just because people wanted to get stupid drunk is now history.  Without children, the atmosphere is at ease.  Period.  With children, almost every single time, at least one person is always a little stressed (watching the kids), and likely several people end up stressed and annoyed, as well.  When a child is constantly running around, an unidentifiable parent allowing the child to be roaming free, things are at their worst for the other guests, because there is a sense of obligation felt to watch out for the young, solo child.  Even when a child is attached to its parent, seeing parenting skills that are less than extraordinary is stressful just to see.

As I watched yet another person take away an incredibly breakable object from a kid tonight, – I even got to take away calmly a ceramic dish from this child earlier in the evening – my annoyance was raised just that much more.  The kids were all really sweet and nice.  But kids are incapable of being fully respnsile for themselves and their behavior, and these were kids.  As I noticed with my stress levels last night, one rogue child can ruin a party’s mood.  And much more so than an annoying adult.  When an event is designed for children, then kids can be themselves, through and through.  Weddings and most events of a similar setup are not designed for children, but for adults.  And so the presence of children really just doesn’t work.

Post-a-day 2017

Cousin fun and virgin drinks

Tonight, we had family gathering time.  As usual, it ended up in a long music session, filled with guitar and sing-a-longs.  I love my family, and I love how musical we are.  However, that is not the point here.

The family time tonight reminded me of the first time all of us were together at once: my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  At the party, my cousin Allison and I, and possibly also one or both of her brothers, took on the task of ordering unique drinks from the open bar.  You see, we wanted to take advantage of the open bar, as the rest of the family and attendees were doing, but we lacked the age to enjoy the alcohol aspect of it all.

And so, we improvised.  At ages 15 and 12 respectively, Allison and I took full advantage of the open bar in terms of experience.  We initially ordered a virgin beverage, because we liked the specific beverage.  However, we soon turned to our own game of coming up with ridiculous drink orders.  We ordered things like a virgin rum and coke, and a virgin bourbon water.  We just picked the drink we actually wanted, and found an adult mixed beverage that contained the desired drink, and then ordered it virgin.  That way, we were ordering drinks at the bar, the way a bar is designed to be, and we enjoyed all the regular fun of ordering special drinks at an open bar, with the added enjoyment of the puzzle and ridiculousness.

I sure do love my family.

Post-a-day 2017

Family and music

I love my family.  And I miss getting to spend time with them.  I had somewhat forgotten the existence of one of my cousins, because I hadn’t actually seen him in so long.  I knew he existed, of course, but it was as though I had accepted that it wasn’t ever an option to see him.  And so, it was a wonderful surprise – though I knew in my head that he would be here ahead of time – actually seeing him and spending time with him tonight.

One of the things I love about spending time with him is his musical gift.  He can be given any instrument, and, whether he has ever played it before or not, can be playing lovely music on it within a maximum of a few minutes.  We always end up humming and whistling and singing beautiful music together, whether we have an instrument or not (though we often have at least a guitar).

Tonight was no different.  He pulled out one of my favorite songs, and early on in the visit.  Oddly enough, I hadn’t listened to or sung/played the song in years, and so it was a fun surprise.  I had to look up the words, because it had been so long, but it was too good of a song not to get all the words right (“White Man” by Michael Gungor Band).

As he fiddled around on the guitar, my mom and I sat with him on the porch, listening to him play, and working on our puzzle/mystery boxes we were creating for his brother’s wedding reception this weekend.  The kind of music he was playing reminded me of why I ever wanted to learn to play guitar in the first place.  I want to play John Denver and Jim Croce music, and other things similar in style.  It has always been my long-term, distant future goal, since it really isn’t the easiest music, but there are plenty of things I can learn as stepping stones (and I have learned a good bit of them).  I just don’t play when I don’t have the company of someone else’s music.  

When I am with my cousin, we almost always take the time to sit down and teach me something new and, of course, beautiful to play.  Now that we are back living in the same country, we might actually be able to set up semi-regular music meet-ups for the two of us.  We’ll see.

Gosh, I love my cousin.

Post-a-day 2017

Kill Bill and Mailboxes


Have you ever seen “Kill Bill”?  It’s a spectacular film (and set, actually), and I fell in love with it when I was around the time of middle school.  My eldest brother was in college, and he had me watch it with him one time.  I was enthralled.  I couldn’t tell if I actually wanted to be like Uma Thurman in the film, or if I just liked marveling at her humbly.

It ended up being one of the few pieces of Japanese culture that has stuck with me (before I moved to Japan, that is).  Not that the film is Japanese itself – it just has Japanese things in it, specifically a samurai-like relationship to swordsmanship and fighting.  Quentin Tarantino was the first director whose name I remembered, as well as the first whose style I learned to identify.  I’m not sure I would have been a fan had I not seen Kill Bill as my first full exposure to him and his style.  However, I absolutely love his directing, and therefore end up loving movies that otherwise make little sense at my being a fan of them (blood and gore and anger are really not my thing).

All of this aside, however, something from the Kill Bill films stuck with me even stronger than anything else.  The scene where the money briefcase is opened, revealing loads of cash, and then, suddenly, as a chunk of cash is removed, a poisonous snake shoots out and bites the man who opened the case, killing him.  It is such a sudden event, and it includes such a confirmation of the guy’s mortality, that it hit me hard.  While I mentally am totally comfortable with the scene, I suppose there is a sort of psychological response that I had not anticipated would last for so long as it has: I don’t stand in front of the mailbox to open it.  I stand to one side, and open the box.  Then, I lean over to see inside the box, still at an angle to it.  Once I have verified the absence of any snake, I then reach in and pull out the mail.

This was an immediate response to having seen this scene.  It was intentionally done, each time I went to check the mail.  Now, more than 15 years later, I still do it.  I kind of chuckled at myself today, as I noticed that I was doing it, completely unaware of what I was in the process of doing – avoiding a snake attack.  I mean, seriously, a snake in my mailbox?  Possible, but insanely unlikely.

Like I mentioned, it might be something psychological deep down… but it also could be just that I grew so accustomed to doing it intentionally, that I ended up sticking with it unintentionally, even after the snake idea was long out of my mind.  I find the latter to be more likely than anything else.

But I could just be crazy.  That would explain a lot, I imagine. 😛

Post-a-day 2017

The stairs attacked me

I fell on the stairs tonight.  More specifically, I fell up the stairs.

You see, I was carrying up my laundry, for which I had no basket.  There were bunches of socks in the pile, and I had strategically hugged myself to the pile, in order to keep the many socks from falling to the ground.  Unfortunately, as I was stepping up to the top of the stairwell, I found myself suddenly stemmed to the ground with a loud s-smack!

I knew that I was on the ground and that I had somehow tripped, but had almost no brain capacity beyond knowing that.  I realized that I was about to cry terribly, and wanted my mom got help, in case I were injured.  I managed to call my mom with a very calm voice before I broke into an almost hysterical blurriness of tears.

For some reason, I was filled with a warm feeling of something truly special and loving at my mom’s response.  She was on the phone with family, and I heard her say, “Let me call you back in just a few minutes,” immediately after I called her.  There was little panic in my voice, but she had heard the splat.

When she arrived, I was crying on the cat-pee-infused floor, – she ripped up the carpet a while back, but still hasn’t gotten the particle board part replaced – on top of my laundry, half-sprawled on my forearms and knee, with my left leg lifted slightly in the air.  She asked me what had happened, but I couldn’t speak at first, and couldn’t move almost at all for the pain.  She said that she didn’t know how to help me until I could at least show her where I was hurt.  After a good set of seconds, I finally forced myself to sit in my right side, and pull my left leg around for her to see in the narrow landing of the top of the stairs.

She instantly could tell that my knee was swelling already.  I finally could speak a little, and pointed out that my toe was bleeding.  It was slow to begin, but then blood just seemed to be pouring out of it.  By the time I was able to stand myself up, and attempt walking, – it hurt – my sandal was getting covered in bright red.

Half an hour later, I am lying here on my bed, occasionally shivering/shuddering in pain as another throb goes through my toe.  The ice is helpful, but the weight of it seems to make things hurt more (as is so often the case with an ice pack).  I’ve already felt around, and, though it was painful, it seemed like my toe is all in one piece.  But that is not so much the point of my sharing this – that I had a big fall, but I am okay.

You see, it reminded me of this other occasion, when I had a similarly odd experience, and it was here, too, at my mom’s house.

Several years ago, – I think it was in high school – my mom had made some soup for dinner.  The soup was ready in a pot on the stovetop, and she had told me to go serve myself.  I grabbed one of the black ceramic bowls we use, and ladled some soup into it.  The next instant, there was soup and shattered ceramic all over the place around me.  It covered the floor.  I was still holding the ladle, I think, even, but the bowl was gone, in pieces on the floor.
I was paralyzed with shock and fright.  I couldn’t immediately comprehend how things had happened, but I knew that the bowl I had been holding was now all over the floor, and that it was dangerous to move.  I likely was barefoot or in sandals, making it that much more dangerous to move.  I couldn’t comprehend the full situation, and that was an additional scary factor to the shattered ceramic around me.

I began to cry.  My mom was already walking over to me from the living room.  She told me that it was okay, and she held me while I cried and said that I didn’t know what had happened.

She cleaned up everything, and then brought me soup on the sofa, where I had settled physically to help me settle emotionally.  And she wasn’t even the slightest bit upset or annoyed at any of it.  She was just there for me, and she took care of me.  She loved and cared for me, with no contingencies.  I felt like a five-year-old in what I had done and how I had responded, and was initially almost ashamed that I was actually around 17.  But my mom didn’t seem even to consider that.  Age wasn’t on her mind, even.  I needed help, and she gave it.  I needed love and care, and she provided.  And without hesitation.

Tonight was the same.  Usually, her phone calls are not cut short, but she tells the person to ‘hang on just a second’ or just whispers a, ‘What?(!)’ to me as she holds the receiver away from her face a bit.  In tonight’s situation, even though it turned out to be my grandma on the phone, my mom instantly responded to my need, ending the phone call immediately – she didn’t even wait for my grandma to finish what she was in the middle of saying at the time -, and coming to help me.  Again, I had made what felt like a childish error, and again did she seem not to care less about that fact.  I was in need, and she took care of me, without hesitation.  

That experience of love is one of the most beautiful ones I have ever known.  Talk about being ashamed or at one’s worst, and being loved anyway…

Post-a-day 2017