Category Archives: Uncategorized

Dark Arts, Part One

Here is a first world problem: I got a new smartphone and all the apps are insisting on syncing my contacts and location and searches and tethering me invisibly, irrevocably to the cybersphere. I feel like the apps are whispering about me behind my back. Hungry whispers. I would like to go back to pencil and paper, now, please. Not really. But it is possible to yearn for some privacy even as one reaches out through the world wide web.

So, because I am in a darkish mood, and because I wanted to bring you a gift after my long hiatus, I would like to share with you some exquisitely creepy illustrations by John R. Neill that recently caught my eye and breath. The illustrations are from Glinda of Oz by Frank L. Baum, and the ones I am sharing today are from the pastedown inside the front cover. The image as a whole is stunning:

 

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But here are a few of my favorites pulled out:

 

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

Oh, sad rabbit, I feel for you, surrounded by fiends and lunatics.

 

 

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand...

I gots a present for you, child. Just reach out your hand…

 

 

Oh! Startled chicken!

Oh! Startled chicken!

 

 

The card bird: charming, bizarre, the whole package, really.

The card bird: charming and bizarre, the whole package, really. I also like the face by his left foot because that is how I look in most of my photos.

 

If you have never read the books, you should do so. Oz is a vast world better viewed through words, line sketches and the reader’s imagination than on a screen. I would be interested to hear what catches your eye in the illustration. If you like this post, let me know and I will share a few more images.

A Quick Breath

I am eating a bowl of cereal, standing at the counter watching the sink fill with soapy water. The dishwasher I have just loaded is humming, and the ingredients for my son’s birthday cake await at my elbow. There is an article waiting to be written, company to prepare for, and all my “wanna-do’s” (paint my toenails, push through to the next step on the novel, play with my art & craft arsenal) whispering “pick me! pick me!” I don’t even realize how tight my breath has become until I glance up from the sink and see the maple trees outside my window, leaves dancing in the sun. A hundred shades of green flicker and lift in the light. A deep breath of appreciation slips in deactivating the taut muscles holding me at attention. Right, breathe. As easy and as difficult as that. Lift your eyes up and out. Breathe.
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Does It Make An Impression?

I had such a nice thing happen today. I got permission from Marian Call to use one of her songs to accompany a quirky video I did last summer when the office where I worked was shutting down and nobody but me came in for days at a time and all I was doing was packing up and throwing things out and wondering what I was going to do with the next part of my life and it felt like a funeral. So I dressed casually and listened to my iPod and did the things on my to-do list. One of the things to-do was to remove this huge mural:

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It was a media relations agency. It was not snowing in the office when I took this picture in case that is what you are thinking. That is dust on my lens which is so embarrassing, but there is nothing I can do about it now. Because, as I said, the mural had to come down. There are no more retakes. The tree was made from one long piece of sticky plastic that came off quite nicely with the help of a blow dryer. Each letter was the same kind of thing. Almost right away, I was thinking, “this is kind of cool, with the music on and the slow, stretchy release of the plastic creating an empty space in the clutter.” Fortunately, after I got the first five lines down plus the question mark at the end, I thought, “Maybe someone ELSE is odd enough to find this interesting.” So I pulled out my smartphone and recorded this video and later added in the music of Marian Call, who I adore and who was gracious enough to let me share it with you. Please watch, and if you like, please share. Please also click on Marian’s name anywhere in this post to listen to more of her music on her bandcamp website. Thanks!

Goodbye, Winter…

This winter has been like a crazy houseguest that doesn’t know when it is time to leave, and, just when you think you will have to murder her, she makes a grand gesture and departs. You don’t miss her, but you remember why you liked her in the first place.

(Photos taken this morning.)

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Home

I lie on an old brown sofa that is covered in tiny nylon loops which should be scratchy but somehow aren’t, probably with a dog or two. We bask in a late afternoon sunbeam that slants in through the ground floor window. I am reading, or was reading, or am about to read. In another season, the wood burning stove might be radiating a blistering heat an arm’s length away, with a humming fan pushing the warmth toward the rest of the house, but in this memory it is summer. My mother or one of my sisters plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on the old upright piano. The music literally fills the air, and then my lungs as I breathe it in, where my bloodstream absorbs it and carries it to all my cells. I am lifted, carried by it. The bench creaks softly as the pianist shifts octaves, a page whispers as it turns, a dog sighs with contentment. We listen for the sounds of Dad returning. A well-used dartboard hangs in mute challenge surrounded by dozens of tiny holes. The long wall on the south is paneled in yellow pine, and the brown vinyl floor, excellent for sliding on in socked feet, bears a repeating Moorish design. Bifold doors on the north conceal the treasures of multiple generations: books and toys and remnants of kits and tools that haven’t found a home anywhere else. More curiosities are stored under the lid of the kneehole desk Dad made. Into its sides he has burned the brands used by our ranching forefathers. The room smells of old books and sheet music, tooled leather, lemon fresh Pledge, and dog, with a hint of the medicinal, antiseptic and earthy aromas that venture in from Dad’s adjoining veterinary office. It is the music that always pulls me back though, if not the gravitational center, then at least the magnetic north.

The piano, the sofa, the dogs and the people are all gone or in exile now and the house is in others’ hands, but that moment, repeated with minor variations over and over throughout the first half of my life, is omnipresent. That is home, where I started and where, sometimes, I go to restart. No matter when or where I am, I can always return to that couch to drift in words and music and sunlight, surrounded by the presence, or imminent presence, or the remembered presence of people and love.

Thank you, Mom and Dad and Sisters. Thank you for giving me a home.

What moment or place do you go to, when you need to go home?

Re-Feathering the Nest

It feels like a day to clean out, reorganize, and start fresh. I have a boatload of photos that I need to categorize in a sensible fashion. I want to redo the categories here on Wordtabulous.  My projects remind me of how, a few weeks ago, I watched some chickadees working on a nest in a tree in my backyard.

I love their little black caps!

I love their little black caps!

Then, after last week’s snowstorm, the nest looked like this:

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This has nothing to do with the post, I just like how it looks like an ice cream cone.

Today there is nothing left of that nest but a few scattered bits of grass on the snow beneath the tree. What I hadn’t realized is that the birds weren’t building a new nest, they were demolishing an old one for scrap to use in a new location. Talk about green construction.

It isn’t healthy to cling to stuff that doesn’t work anymore, be they ideas, systems, behaviors, or old ball point pens, but taking the old stuff apart, learning from it and reusing what is still good appeals to me. Do you have a closet, a desktop, a lifestyle or something else that needs a fresh start?

Consistency, Surprise, and a Note to Readers

To all of you who read here, you may be wondering what the hell I am up to (especially lately) with the zigs and the zags on topics. It must be very confusing for those who think they have found here a fitness blog, or a photography blog or a quasi-humor blog, only to see the next post and wonder how many different people write here. This is the thing: I have a lot of interests, a nimble attention span, and a low tolerance for  uniformity. I am approaching my two year Blogaversary and have resigned myself to the fact that my “niche” is more of a blanket. This does not bode well for popularity; all the rules say that to be “follow-able” a blogger needs to be consistent with content. Oh, well. Popularity has never been my strong suit anyway. If you are also a member of the quirky, random tribe, and like what you see here, please follow my blog and let’s see where it takes us. If you have arrived expecting something else and are feeling confused and would like to find the nearest exit, let me just say thank you for stopping by and you are always welcome back. (The door is over there.)

I would like to add that there are certain things that I do often enough that it thwarts my no-consistency approach. Granola for breakfast and tea once or more daily, for instance.  Most days I take time in the morning to face east and greet the day. I take an insane number of photographs of sunrises. At least on this count, I can say that doing the same thing over and over doesn’t yield the same results. This morning, I didn’t expect much from the dawn. It is early March, and this time of year gray skies usually win, but today I got a surprise (click on the picture to see a larger version):

Photo by Lynnette Dobberpuhl

Photo by Lynnette Dobberpuhl

Regardless of what you were looking for when you got here, I hope you found something you can use. Peace!

So You’ve Strained an Intercostal…

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Hi, folks. I am not a doctor, nor have I played one on TV, but I would like to take a minute to share a bit of info about a subject literally near to my heart. The intercostal muscles are a group of small muscles that run between the ribs and are responsible for helping shape and move the chest wall when you breathe. Despite the fact they are located in your chest, these muscles can be a major pain in the rear. When one is strained, usually by coughing or by a fall, it can be excruciating, and without an x-ray may be difficult to distinguish from a broken rib.

In the course of my life, I have managed to strain these muscles THREE times, each time from coughing. A strained intercostal, in my sad experience, feels like being stabbed through the ribs with a jagged object. My pain was inconveniently located deep inside my breast, just under the breast at the outer edge, and in my armpit.  In my case the pain was generally mild until I coughed. However, if I was coughing a lot, the injury would be aggravated to the point that it hurt when I breathed deeply, or pretty much all the time.

wpid-IMAG0916.jpgThe first time it happened, my doctor diagnosed either a pulled intercostal or broken rib, but didn’t offer to take an x-ray as the treatment was the same:  take ibuprofen to control pain and inflammation and reduce activity as needed. Exercise or lifting heavy items can make pain worse. Gentlemen, you have one up on us ladies because without bulky breast tissue it is much easier to bind your ribs, which I have heard can help with pain. Ladies, you will find that grabbing your breast and trying to push it in when you cough doesn’t help at all. One thing I discovered does help if coughing is a factor is to create a little traction. If you feel a cough coming on, grab the top rail of a door frame with the arm on the side of the injury and bend your knees until you feel a good stretch, then cover your cough with the inside of your other arm (because nobody wants your nasty germs, especially if they result in the blazing pain of a strained intercostal.) Take your ibuprofen, drink plenty of water, try not to swear, and in three to six weeks the worst will be over. I am sorry. I wish it would go faster. Primarily because I am nursing one myself right now.

Good health to us both!

Re-Thinking Food

I am doing something very uncharacteristic of me. I have started a nutrition log. Normally, when I feel the need to improve my body, I work out a little harder or more often. If things have really started to get out of control, I’ll temporarily give up cookies and candy and try to get a little more fiber in my diet, but usually my dietary rules are to try to avoid fast food and show a little restraint around the sugars. However, the job I had (until last December) really cut into my workout time, and then I was sick a lot  this winter. Add to this a strained intercostal muscle I got from coughing, which won’t go away until I stop coughing, which I am starting to worry will never happen. It hurts like the blue blazes, and significantly dampens my desire to exercise or otherwise breathe deeply. Girl Scout cookie season has come and gone. As a result, I have been getting more cushy in a predictable way. Cushiness in sweaters in Minnesota is one thing, but we will be celebrating our survival of our oldest son’s K-12 experience (aka, his graduation) by taking the family on a trip to Hawaii in June and the idea of cameras and swimsuits converging upon me in my present state has me uneasy. Looking for help with discipline I decided to take advice from one of the fittest people I have ever met: Kevin Wells, an avid fitness and nutrition enthusiast who also happens to have diabetes. MyFitnessPal, he told me, was the tool to get.

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I have only used it a couple of days, but it is free and pretty helpful so far. It calculated the daily calorie intake needed to meet my goal (no surprise, 1200–it’s always 1200, isn’t it?) it offers a huge food catalog to choose from and lets me create my own items (good for the homemade stuff) so I can easily track how many calories I have eaten and gives me a countdown of how many  I have left. Someday when I start exercising again it will allow me to log that in so I can boost my daily calories available. I am a little obsessive with the app right now, as I get used to the practice of denying myself, and trying to get the most out of my caloric budget.

This has gotten me thinking about the food I have taken for granted. We have mountains of food at our disposal. Some of those mountains are what I think of as “throwaway” food, food that we consume for fleeting pleasure rather than nourishment. I have either piled these throwaway foods on top of what I consume or substituted them for the real thing (as if skipping lunch so I can eat a whole sleeve of thin mint cookies makes it a better idea.) When I use the MyFitnessPal app to plan for my daily intake, I see that I can get plenty of food even on reduced calories, if I work in enough vegetables and fruit. For me, doing this is as easy as making a conscious, if somewhat reluctant decision. Meanwhile, 868 million people, or one out of eight on our planet, is chronically undernourished because of 1.) scarcity of food due to famine or war and 2.) poverty combined with rising food prices (Reuters article using United Nations figures.) For me and for most people I know, the most difficult issues around food are understanding the nutrition labels and deciding whether to buy the store brand or name brand for better value. I don’t suggest we stop eating in solidarity with our hungry brothers and sisters or even give up all things sweet and fun in our diets, but I can say that the next time I am tempted to eat a half a box of “nothing but calories” I will stop and consider how insane that is when there are literally millions of people, including children, dizzy with hunger out there. One other thing I will do is to make sure a portion of my charitable giving goes to alleviate hunger. Locally, food shelves are happy to take non-perishables and even happier to take monetary donations. Most use special buying programs so they can stretch each dollar they receive. Globally, there are many charitable organizations focusing on hunger including The World Food Program, a program of the United Nations, or a personal favorite of mine, Feed My Starving Children, which packages nutritious dried meals for distribution to the hungry worldwide.

It is too easy to stop thinking about food when we get to the scale or the mirror. It isn’t enough to consider carbs and calories. I’ll probably never be thrilled with a photo of me in a swimsuit, but while I can always cover up a “not quite ready for beach body,” food as an issue of justice and compassion deserves our full attention.

What throwaway food hijacks your best laid nutritional plans?