Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Dear Blog....

Dear Blog,

I know it's been a mighty long time since I last wrote, but I've been thinking about you for some time now. Wanting to write, but then not wanting to. My life has changed, no not physically, I'm still in my home, but mentally, I guess. Since my sweetie passed away in September and with his Memorial Service in November I have felt a huge chunk of my life is gone. You can easily say that my sweetie has been "gone" for a long time. Indeed he has, mentally. But physically he was still with me. I could still reach out  and touch him, I could still give him a kiss, I could still whisper in his ear, "I love you."  But with his passing, that too is gone. I truly did not think I would mourn his passing to the extent I have. But one never knows how mourning comes to us. This was not a happy Christmas season. Yes, I spent lots of good times with friends and family, went to church events, out to eat, attended musical events, went on a Christmas House Walk. But with all that merriment, I still felt a sadness, I just couldn't get into the spirit of the holidays. I didn't decorate this year, which is absolutely the first time in my 74 years, that there was no Christmas tree in my home. No decorations, no tinsel, no lights.  Indeed the Grinch dominated my scene this year.

In less than a week it will be a new year, 2018.  I want this to be a good year. Between what is happening in our country, what is happening in the world, and what has happened in my life 2018 merits to be better in everyway. Strife will continue, there is no doubt about that but we can still continue to pray for a more peaceful world, Trump will still be President, but again we can pray for good decisions, and life continues, and that is for certain.

Looking back, I really took some terrific trips this year, Arizona, Door County, Lexington, New Mexico, Colorado, Germany, and Prague. I already have trips planned for Arizona, California, Utah, and Hawaii. Nothing overseas....yet.  My life is blessed with goodness. I have good friends, a great family, a wonderful church community, my two kids....life is good. The loss of my sweetie will always leave a hole in my heart, but knowing that he is in a much better place also fills my heart with joy.

Scenes from Christmas....

Anticipation of presents to come...


Come on Dad, you can pick your friends, you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.....

Joy oh joy...


We have a new doctor in the house....

Are we done yet....

Grands and Great Grands....life doesn't get much better 

Happy New Year Everyone....!!!!

Until next time,

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

November - The Gratitude Month

It's November 1st. How did that happen? I am barely used to writing 2017 on what few checks I do write and it's almost time to begin writing 2018. I just shake my head and wonder how life speeds by so fast. Since my last post on my memories from Colorado I have since been to Germany and Prague. I am traveling as much as I can while I am still upright and able to move about with few problems. You young ones out there, appreciate your hips, knees and ankles because sooner or later they will begin to rebel and not want to participate in daily activities. My pace is slower and rising from a comfy chair, you may detect a groan or two, but it's not stopping me from going and seeing. Life gets shorter by the day and I'm cramming in as much as I can before my whole body rebels and traveling must stop. Again, cherish each day.

My trip to Germany was terrific.  We landed in Berlin, spent a couple of days there and then traveled mostly thru east Germany tracing the path of  Martin Luther. This October the Protestant Reformation celebrated it's 500th Anniversary when Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to a door on a church in Whittenburg, Germany challenging certain practices in the Catholic Church. This eventually led to the "reformation" that ushered in the Protestant religions of Lutherans, Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists. Probably more, I didn't google it. Luther was an extremely religious man, attended university with the intent to become a lawyer but was "called" to become an Augustinian Monk. It was during this time that Luther began to doubt some of the "practices" within the Catholic church, particularly paying for indulgences.

It was a fascinating trip, walking into the very church that Luther preached in, visiting the monastery where he lived as a monk, seeing his grave and the town where he died of heart failure. All this happened in the early 1500's. Our country was a baby at that time, still called "the new world" with colonies beginning to form...the time of Ponce de Leon, Cartier, and Vasquez....you remember those names, explorers discovering this new world. All this while Luther was translating the Bible into German, writing poems and songs, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God" (I'm sure you have sung this on occasion) and preaching that men become closer to God and gain salvation, not by their deeds but by their faith.

This is the month of gratitude (actually every month should be, but November has been labeled the month of gratitude). So I am beginning this month with gratitude that my trip to Germany was totally grand....nothing lost, no injuries, good company, and fascinating sites to see. BTW I have close to 2,000 pictures, so I may be grateful for this trip all month long....snort!

PS - this is the weekend of my sweetie's wake and Memorial Mass, I will be surrounded by my family, prayers are always welcome.

Until next time....

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Trip Memories....

Traveling thru Texas on the way to Santa Fe, NM

A trip to Colorado to photograph the aspens in the Fall led by my friend and mentor Lou Nettlehorst, good golly yes, I'm in. That plan began much earlier this year with my blogging/photographer buddy, Jeanne Stone. We have made 2 trips together, one to Charleston, SC and another to photograph the Hill Country in Texas during bluebonnet season. We are compatible companions, even with my snoring and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and nature. We get it when we take 30 minutes to photograph a wildflower, unlike those who do not see how we photographer's see. You guys out there know what I'm talking about.  Jeanne has breathing issues in high altitudes and her doctor advised her to drive to Colorado instead of flying to help her lungs gradually get used to the difference. OK, instead of flying to Colorado as originally planned I flew to Dallas (where Jeanne lives). A wee bit off track but not only did we plan on joining Lou in Gunnison, Colorado on Saturday, Sept 16th we decided to extend our trip by driving from Dallas to Santa Fe, NM...

staying 2 nights in Santa Fe (which was not nearly enough), then drive to Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, New Mexico, the land of Georgia O'Keefe spending one night there (again not nearly enough) and then on to Gunnison, CO to meetup with our group for dinner and a get-together before outings began early the next morning. And what I mean by early is setting my alarm for 3:30 AM, holy mackerel who gets up at 3:30 except maybe to go pee. Lou has a habit of choosing places that are a bit of a drive for those early morning sessions, but it's all worth it for the end results. 

The night we arrived in Santa Fe we ate at a restaurant known for their tasty margaritas. Now I'm a frozen fruity margarita fan so that was a choice I decidedly agreed upon. Jeanne could only take a few sips, while I enjoyed every last drop and didn't feel a thing. While in Santa Fe, we wandered thru the streets, popping into churches to admire their beauty, touring the Georgia O'Keefe Museum and stopping at the rail station where the rail runner still had regular scheduled departures. Notice the rainbow in the scene....I took this as a positive sign that our trip would be filled with good times. It was until the phone call from my daughter came on Sunday evening. 

After leaving Santa Fe we headed to Ghost Ranch, the iconic place where Georgia O'Keefe created some of her finest work. The ranch itself is over 22,000 acres, but to my surprise, Georgia only owned about 7 acres of this grand space. Apparently she tried with earnest to buy the whole 22,000 acres, but in the end the owner, Arthur Pack left everything, except the 7 acres to the Presbyterian Church. It now resides as a retreat and education center with over 300 classes taught there each year. In fact, our humble abode (and they are rather humble, with no AC and concrete floors) was right next to a large group of oil paint artists that were in the midst of their last creation before packing up and leaving the next day. What a panorama for a subject. 

Yeah, that's me on the back of the horse, not the good looking cowgirl in front leading, me on the back of blonde horse, clinging (not really) to the reins and trying desperately to take photos with my big girl camera as we rode around Ghost Ranch for 1 1/2 hours. Please don't inquire as to my butt condition after that ride. Let's just say, I didn't fall off and the scenery was amazing. 

Our two wranglers, very kind to us oldies....

That evening we wandered down to the entrance to Ghost Ranch to capture the sunset. You can see from the wagon that the golden hour was indeed golden.  Wonder if riding in the wagon would be any more comfortable than the back of the horse...probably not. And that sweet little cabin is the one (so I have been told) that was featured in the movie, "City Slickers" with Billy Crystal.  In the visitors center there are a whole slew of movie posters featuring movies that were filmed at Ghost Ranch. 

Next stop (except for a few minor pull off the road I need to get that shot episodes) Gunnison, CO. 

PS - Thank you all for leaving such kind comments on my last post. I so appreciate your prayers and love that you have expressed. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!! 

Until next time.....

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Time Goes By....

Sunset at the Mackinac Bridge

I've been missing this place. Since my last post back in May, (surely it can't be that long ago) a lot has happened in my life. Some great, some good, some gladness, some sadness. I began this blog in May of 2011 when my sweetie was still home with me and I was desperate to find an outlet for creativity. I had found a new passion, photography that was a "hobby" that my sweetie could be with me by my side as I began to hone my photography skills.  I began using flickr as my "go-to" for posting my pictures a year earlier, but somehow I felt the need to write more, post more....thus the beginnings of this blog. After I settled my sweetheart in bed for the night, I would open my laptop and begin writing. It was tranquilizing after a day of dealing with the devastation of Alzheimer's. I purposefully didn't want my blog to be about my struggles or about my sweetie's illness. I focused on the beauty around me and it's here that I found peace.

Shaker Town near Lexington, KY

This blog gave me that outlet that I needed, and I posted almost daily for several years. Then I began to let my posting slide, I began to skip short periods of time, then long periods of time, now so irregular that I will be surprised if anybody finds this. Blogging has become almost a thing of the past, Instagram has taken over. I don't know about you, but I find it difficult to express feelings on Instagram. And I'm sure not crazy about ranting and whining on Facebook. My soul hurts from all the negatives that are posted on Facebook. We've had so much sadness and devastation in our lives recently that some days scrolling thru social media becomes a burden. Yes, I do agree that it's a good platform for keeping in touch with friends and family, but so much more has filtered thru.

Sunrise in Door County over Lake Michigan

Oh my, when I began writing this post, I didn't realize that I would get off track with social media. Now, back on track....I've traveled quite a bit since early spring going to Mackinaw, Michigan, Lexington, Ky, Door County, WI, Santa Fe, NM and finally to Gunnison, CO. Ofcourse having my camera always attached to my body.

North of Santa Fe, NM

While I was on my last trip to Colorado for a week-long photography workshop I received a call from my daughter that my sweetie had been admitted to the hospital with a UTI.  He has had a handful of these attacks since he has been in a care facility, always responding to the medication and after about 3 days in the hospital he returns to his residence. Not this time, he developed a serious infection and there were few options. Prayerfully and with a great deal of thought, I made the choice to place him under Hospice Care, knowing that his quality of life was not what he would want for himself. With all in agreement that this was the right choice, my sweetie passed in no pain with his family by his side on Thursday, Sept 21st. There were many tears shed that night, a lot of hugs and a beautiful prayer and blessing from the hospital chaplain. As we were leaving the hospital the night nurses that had cared for him earlier in the week came to us, also with tears in their eyes and gentle hugs for our loss. 

Santa Fe National Cemetery 

I took this image above less than a week before my sweetie died, not knowing that within a few days I would be making the decision for his ashes to be buried at a cemetery similar to this one with a gravestone like the ones above.  My faith, my family and my friends were there for me when I needed them the most.  I am at peace with my decision knowing that he is resting in God's hands, whole again and without any pain. Fifty-three years of marriage to a wonderful man.

Until next time.....

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The Latest....

Very busy week. And continues....I hosted the Presbyterian Women's Luncheon for the 3rd year in a row this past Wednesday, It's a bring a salad luncheon, always decorated tables by a hostess, and a guest speaker.  We average around 75 women at these luncheons and it's always been a fun thing for me to do. I was asked to chair the luncheon 3 years ago when I wasn't even a member of the church. That immediately prompted me into becoming a member and its been and continues to be a loving and spiritually fed relationship. I've decided to not chair again next year, 3 years is enough. I give the opportunity to someone new.

Last weekend was my friend Marti's, 5K run brunch to raise money for Purdue University Cancer Research Center. She calls it her 5K because normally she would run or walk a 5K to raise money, but she opts for a more personal and more delicious way to raise money. In order to enjoy the delicious brunch she serves, we are asked to donate money toward this very worthy cause. In the last 6 years this group of women that attend and others who donate and cannot come to the brunch have donated $21,000.

I'm off to Michigan tomorrow morning to meet up with a photography friend of mine in Mackinaw City, MI.  Winnie and I met last summer in Chicago at the photography convention held each year in June. We immediately became friends and have since been on a photography trip together, photographing the Michigan Lighthouses last September. And now tomorrow we meet again for a few fun days of photography together. Winnie is from Michigan so she will be my tour guide to all the fab places to photograph. It's a bit cooler up there than its been here. This week has been warm, almost too warm, 91 on Tuesday, and now the 80's. Checking the forecast for the trip and what to pack, it's obvious I'm going to have to bundle up and not take my 2 piece, obviously it won't be needed. Forties and fifties with a possibility of rain, so keep your fingers crossed the weather won't stop our adventures.

We have had horrific winds the past couple/3 days. It seems to be dying down to normal, but man, it was whipping the trees to the point of breaking. Lots of dead limbs fell to the ground and I think my sweet clematis which had grown so well and was full of blooms, received one too many gusts and snapped. Now the top half is all wilted, full of buds, and the bottom half seems ok. But darn, just when they were beginning their blossom season. That's the thing about nature, it gives, but it also takes away.

I'm skipping bookclub tonight. First time I have done that in a long long time. I didn't have time to read the book and I'm still in need of packing for tomorrow. Shame on me, for not being better organized. Organize seems to be a foreign word in my vocabulary, something I just don't understand.

The porch is back in service again. A big thank-you to my son-in-law, Sam. I always tell him he's my fav, course he's the only one I have. Sam arrived early Monday morning, took my Christmas boxes (yes, I had stored them on the back porch) to the basement, removed all the porch furniture, then began the cleaning process. We were (notice I said we, I did a little) done by early afternoon. I also conned him into digging up a huge hosta and moving it to a new location, getting all my pots out of the garage and placing them in the appropriate spot, and helping me to set up my little gardening fence. I've enjoyed my coffee on the porch for the last 3 days. Love my porch.

Planting will begin after my trip to Michigan. Didn't want to put anything in the ground until I return so I can baby the newly planted. Hope your spring has sprung and that you are able to enjoy the newness that comes each year.

Until next time....

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Verse That Spoke to Me...

Last Wednesday we completed our Bible study of David in the book of Samuel. David was a man after my own heart. A sinner, but never doubted the love of God. On the last day we were asked to read one of the 73 Psalms (out of 150) that David wrote and to choose a verse that truly spoke to us. Psalm 40 verses 1-3 truly spoke to me...I quote "I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God."

When my sweetie really began to decline with Alzheimer's Disease, I truly felt I was in the pit of despair, in the mud and the mire. This was not what I had imagined to develop and ruin our golden years together. I was in despair over the very fact that he had been diagnosed with this devastating disease in his early 60's with symptoms beginning when he was in his late 50's. My sweetie will be 78 years old in August. I was in despair trying to find a solution to give myself a little respite from the 24/7 watch and care that was required, I was in despair watching my sweetie turn from this loving caring father and husband into an angry man, I was in despair trying to make the right decisions for an impossible situation. But through that despair, God steadied me, he took my hand as I walked this path and set my feet on solid ground. He was there when I made the decision to place my sweetie in a care facility, He was there when I had to move him into a different place because of the extra care that he required, and He was there showing his love through my circle of friends and family.  My sweetie continues his life in a nursing home not far from our home, I find him always in good care, clean clothes, clean shaven, and regular haircuts. The nurses tell me he has no problems, and eats well. He has not been sick for well over 2 1/2 years and has lived this life in a care facility for almost 7 years.  It's been a Long Goodbye, needless to say, however God continues to steady me.

He has given me a new song to sing when I returned to my former Presbyterian faith and brought me to a church that has reached out and embraced me with its kindness and love. I have developed deep friendships, serve as a deacon, attend Bible Study, and help whenever the need arises.

He has also given me a new song to sing with photography. I began my passion for photography during the period when I had to be with my sweetie 24/7.  It gave me a creative outlet and one that I could accomplish with my sweetie by my side. Now that he is safely in the care of a nursing home, I have expanded my passion through workshops, photography trips, selling my photography thru greeting cards, calendars and framed prints.  Photography has also brought new friends into my life, people I would have never met if it wasn't for this passion of mine. So, yes, I will sing a hymn of praise to our God for bringing all these new "songs" into my life.

And yes, those verses from Psalm 40 truly, loudly spoke to me deep in my heart and soul. "Many will see what He has done and be amazed."  Amen

Until next time....

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Macro Kinda Weekend!

Uh Oh, slipped again. Not surprising is it??!!  I always have such great intentions and then I so badly fail. I think blogging is a habit that you establish and just like any habit it takes repetitive action to making that habit become a regular part of your life. About the only habit I am actually quite good at is crawling into bed at night. Not so good at crawling back out in the morning, but I usually manage to get up between 7:00 and 8:00 AM and then coffee making is an absolute must, Drinking at least 2 cups prior to starting my day, whatever that may bring, is a habit.

But I did have to rise and get moving this past weekend. I enrolled in Mike Moat's Macro Photography class months ago and this past weekend I enjoyed 2 days of listening to him and practicing macro photography. Mike is a down to earth kind of guy, t-shirt, casual pants, comfy shoes, stubble on his face, and usually a baseball cap on his head. He is self-taught, and has truly made a success of himself. Appears regularly in photography magazines, won awards, sells many of his prints, and makes a living with this and teaching workshops both in person and on the web. He doesn't use fancy equipment, in fact I have a more recent camera than he does, he still uses NIC software and Photoshop Elements to edit his photos. So he is a proven example that you don't have to have the fanciest and best of everything to be a good photographer. And he shoots strictly JPEG instead of RAW.

Look at all those little specs, I am assuming they are dust. I could go in and clone all of those out, but no, I am not doing it. I am not placing this image in a competition. Just an example of how clear and precise you can get with a tripod and your F stop set at the highest level or closed,(which always confuses the heck out of me) depending on your lens.

The thing is.....you absolutely must use a tripod to take these close-up photos with everything clear and sharp. Now I don't have a good relationship with my tripod(s). You notice that tripod was plural which means I obviously have purchased more than one on my photography journey as well as ball-heads.  I have purchased multiples of those as well. But I heard this past weekend that this happens to many photographers, so it made me feel a little less guilty over my legion of tripods. I would like to become "as one" with my tripod, but I'm afraid that's not gonna happen until my hands become so shaky that all of my shots are total blurs. I feel so restricted using a tripod, and for some reason it's difficult for me to compose a shot using a tripod. I know, call me crazy, but I'm afraid I will still only use a tripod when the circumstances are such that there is no other option.  IE; this weekend, when we were shooting at 32 and 40 F stops to have everything in focus. No way can you hand hold a camera at those settings and get a clear shot.

However with an F-stop at F/5 or F/ 8 I can get clear shots of my subject with a nice soft background without a tripod.

Most of my photography is accomplished with natural light, outdoors usually and I honestly don't want everything in focus for the kind of photography I enjoy. Night photography is a must for a tripod, so I will definitely use my "current" tripod for any night photography that I might encounter. Sunrise - sunset are also easier accomplished with a tripod.

These last few images are what's happening now in our neck of the woods. The dogwoods are in full bloom, the wildflowers are peeking out and my lilacs which bloom later than the old fashioned kind are still in tight buds. We have had a lovely Spring, more than enough rain (4 inches last weekend), some warm days, some cooler, but all in all one fine Spring season.

Have a great week.

Until next time.....

Friday, April 21, 2017

It's Been Awhile....

Who is spreading that rumor that I have deserted my blog? I wouldn't call it deserting as much as taking extra long breaks. Yeah, that's it, long breaks.

I must admit that I didn't pick up my camera much during the months of January, February and into March because it was a totally boring winter. No beautiful snowfalls, no frozen icicles, no snowmen. Just brown, trashy road slop and bare limbs. Altho I did get some pretty good bird shots with the bare trees.

Well, now that's it's spring again in my part of the world, the camera has now returned strapped around my shoulder and ready to face the world.  I actually planned on a drive to the arboretum today because I know the magnolias have almost dropped all their pretty petals and the bluebells should be in full force, but the wind is also in full force which makes capturing those sweet spring flowers a little daunting.

My last three months haven't been a total camera loss.  I did go to Arizona in March and spent 10 lovely days in the sun and warmth visiting with my FOL buddy, Terri. We managed to get to the Desert Botanical Garden twice, the Butterfly Wonderland, and a nice lunch and walk in a local park. Always fun to get-away when you have had just a little too much winter.

After my return from the fun and sun, The Chicago Botanic Garden was having a huge display of orchids. Ofcourse this was a must-do for me and my camera. I did not realize there were so many types of orchids, both in size and color. Stunning doesn't even come close to describing the beauty.

OK, it's now taken me 3 days to write this one post. And you wonder why I don't post daily.  The wind seems to have calmed somewhat so I am going to try the Arboretum again today. I have over the past 12 months or so really lost my vim and vigor and have become extremely lazy. Thus probably the reason I haven't kept up with this blog. I don't know if it's age (you know I just had another birthday, 74 argh that sounds so old) and I still love to travel, take photos, be with friends, but sometimes naps in the afternoon become a priority. Hopefully with the new season upon us I will shed this feeling of laziness and get back on track with life. Have a good week, and hopefully see you again soon.

Until next time.....