Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A bone to pick


This is not my picture...

...for so many reasons, but the first and most obvious is that it's currently promoting the (pictured) camera bag on this site whose target demographic is women photographers.

I am a woman photographer (genus Amateur, species Hobbyist) who spends or considers spending large sums of money on the equipment involved in such an endeavor. Therefore, I feel reasonably confident that I am included in the aforementioned target demographic.

Which is why I can't understand why any company/website would think that a photographer savvy enough to need a bag to carry extra equipment would ever use something so COMPLETELY IMPRACTICAL to the function of making pictures! Let me tell you from experience, trying to frame a shot with two handfuls of camera is difficult enough without a 10 lb sack of rocks hanging from your elbow, throwing off your center of balance by at least 30 degrees and just generally wreaking havoc with what should be carefully contrived angles.

I'm completely insulted that the advertisers would think that just because I'm a woman I'd fall prey to their blatant sexist marketing of this brass-bedecked, handcrafted leather... leatherrrrr... llllleathhhh.... gahhhh... look at the shiny....

Damn you, clever capitalists!!!!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Do you mind? I'm eating.


Almost forgot that I took this today! I've been trying to get in the habit of packing the small camera every time I leave the house and was rewarded for my efforts this morning on my way to check our mail box.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gift from a wise man.


Weeks ago, a box came from down range with myriad little funny-pages wrapped gifts for Ro and me. I couldn't even imagine what they'd be, so I didn't try. Thus, I was surprised and elated to find this had my name on it!

I won't lie, yesterday was rough. It's not the first Christmas I've solo'd as a parent, but certainly the first where there felt like something was missing. It wasn't devastating, tho, and Ro kept the holiday cheer going with a sunny disposition, even tho the weather was dreary in the extreme. Skype helped us out a bit, too, allowing a brief video call that morning where we opened gifts as a family (how COOL is the 21st century, right?!) and another convo later in the evening with a better connection.

I found some liquid cheer about 10 ounces into a wine bottle, which was helpful not only in the evening, but later that night as I fell asleep with a smile on my face. Everything looks a little brighter this morning. Of course, that's probably the light reflecting off of the 6 inches of snow dumped on us yesterday, but whatever - I'll take it!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gah! Make it STOP.

You know the snow is bad when you'd rather walk than dig out your car.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

57/365




These trees are in a park just across the street from our housing area. To be honest, I don't think about them much in the summer time, but they sure are impressive with all that snow on them!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

People fatigue.


You know what kind of weather I hate? Flurries. What the hell is the point of flurries, Mother Nature?? Big, fluffy, dry snowflakes are pretty. Tiny, nearly-invisible ice-daggers that kamikaze past your eyelashes into your eyeballs are NOT SO MUCH.

It was so cold this morning when I took the dog out that my jeans started to hurt on my legs. 17 degrees is not for wimps, and I, apparently, am a HUGE WIMP. But Heidi had already been cooped up two days without relief on account of the weather and she was about to dig a tunnel under the door in desperation. The cold doesn't seem to bother her. I think the fires of her crazy keep her warm.

I really would have liked for R to be home today. First, I would have looked forward to him trying to talk me out of going outside at all. Then I would have resented the fact that he didn't offer to take the dog out for me. The resentment would thaw, however, with the cup of hot coffee and warm body he offered me upon my return. Then Heidi would try to crawl in our laps and she'd be so adorable with the puppy eyes and he with the ear-fondling and doggie-speak and I'd forget that there was such a thing as "cold."

It seems like the busier my schedule gets - the more interaction with the Army community at large required of me - the lonelier I get. Or, if not lonelier, more sensitive. It's like every conversation I have, every phone call I have to make, every person I smile at in passing becomes this little tear in my psyche, all adding up to a gaping wound until I just want to hide under the covers for a week to heal. Not exactly the kind of upbeat, positive attitude I'm supposed to be exhibiting as (jazz hands:) FRG co-leader!

One of the ways I miss R the most is for his ability to appreciate my susceptibility to social fatigue. Which is truly one of the greatest things about him, because he doesn't suffer the same. Oh sure, he gets tired of people, needs a little bit of solitude to regroup, but by and large he's a social creature. The act of interacting with people past his limits doesn't hurt him like it does me. And yet, he's perfected the art of being still - emotionally, physically and intellectually - around me when I need it, but still being there.

That skill of his is what allows my optimism to shine through. Without it, I just feel bombarded until I hate the idea of people, let alone having to interact with them. It doesn't help that the intense cold and upcoming holidays put me in hibernation mode.

54 out of 365. It's too soon for me to be feeling this way.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sniff this.

I'm REALLY, SUPER picky about scented candles. Ever notice how the more specific they try to get with their scent, the more they smell like Play-Doh? Christmas smells are sacred, y'all, I'm totally not willing to screw with that.

But this candle is the real deal! No, I don't know what ACTUAL mistletoe smells like, but this little glass full of wax smells like Christmas, and that's good enough for me!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Spilling my guts.


I'm really kind of disappointed in myself for not following through on this project with better consistency. I thought that this photo-a-day goal would help me avoid those days when I just want to flip the whole world the bird and hole up in my cave like a modern day Grinch.

Not so, evidently.

I'm a thinker. I get lost in my own head sometimes and it can be really difficult to reorient on outward goals when I'm caught up in thoughts that rattle me. Last week, the gals over at Left Face pointed me in the direction of this post, written by a former marine speaking about the state of today's military and how it relates, in his opinion, to an argument for the return of the draft.

It wasn't his advocation of a draft that took me aback, however, but his observations about the social elitism for members of the military encouraged by Americans in general. One of the points that the author of the article tried to make was that members of the military should be considered no different from any other civil servant.

My problem with that is there is a risk level associated with military service that is missing from many other types of government jobs. I do believe that all types of civil service should be honored, and I do think there is an imbalance with regard to the honor military service receives as compared to, say, a postal carrier, but I think that imbalance comes from lazy citizenry - not a lack of worthiness. "Support Our Troops" has become this catch-all, subjective sound bite that really stands for, "Give them whatever they want as long as we don't have to think about it, pay for it, or put our butts on the line for it."

Although the article never really gets into the damage this mentality does when it rubs off on the military community, I see it as an insidious helplessness that infects soldiers and families. It's as though the lip service paid to adoration and hero-worship is supposed to sustain us through the very real difficulties of living with the effects of a military at war. The "I-am-Special" attitude that the author attributes to the military mentality is a superficial symptom of the diseased infrastructure and bumbling leadership we are forced to deal with.

Are there individuals who try to take advantage of this social pedestal? Of course there are - in every walk of life, every job, every social strata. But it is also true that military service requires a different level of adjustment - up to and including sacrifice - that should be supported by a different level of resource management. When that management fails to meet the basic needs of soldiers and their families, how else should we speak up for ourselves other than to say, "Hey! Remember us? We perform a specialized service and we need specialized support!" And when we are consistently put off or ignored altogether, the "I-am-Special" mentality becomes the hollow, desperate chant of people who are essentially forbidden to help themselves.

Would a draft help all this? I don't think so. I don't think picking men at random and plunking them into one of four variations of camouflage uniforms would seriously change the attitudes of the public and the policy makers toward military service members at large.

That being said, I do think that mandatory public service for each and every citizen - male and female, in every conceivable aspect of civil service - would go a very long way toward balancing the disparity between what Americans say they support and what they do support.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Wistful


Heidi and I left early for our walk this morning.


It was quiet, foggy, cold.


It's days like this when I think it'll break my heart a little to leave.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I lick you. I mean like you. Okay, both.

This morning I received a request for help from one of gals in our FRG. I don't want to say she sounded desperate, but the subject line in her email was in all caps with exclamation points. It concerned an adorable li'l puppy - okay, not so "li'l" but definitely adorable - that she was taking care of on short notice because his owners had a family emergency. It was a totally thoughtful and generous thing to do, considering the family in question had only 24 hours to high-tail it to the States.

When faced with predicaments like that, one doesn't take time to consider that the dog isn't yet housebroken, or that he's only about 6 months old, or that he might not get along with one's cat yet be absolutely addicted to the leavings in said cat's litterbox. Or the fact that the bundle of cat-crunchy-munchin' energy is deaf. Or that one isn't necessarily a dog person.

Are you beginning to see the need for the caps lock key and a few exclamation points?

To save my friend's sanity (rapidly depleting after two sleepless nights), I jumped right in there and offered to take the pup off her hands for a few hours, days or weeks, depending on her recovery time. As it happens, the owners had a back up plan that would be implemented later in the evening, but when I brought him home, I thought it was for at least an overnight stay.

First, we introduced Heidi and Skylar in neutral territory, where they got on famously and played like dogs are supposed to. This reassured me, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't have reservations about how they'd get along in the house. It's Heidi's territory after all, and she isn't known for her level of restraint when it comes to demanding attention from any and all warm bodies in residence.

What followed is a five hour blur of madly thrashing tails, flying dog drool, joyously wriggling dog bodies and a few bruised human kneecaps. After 19 months with Heidi, I thought no carbon based life form could match her energy level. Today, ladies and gentlemen, I was proven SO WRONG.

Although I was prepared to hold to my offer of unlimited emergency dog sitting, I can't say I'm overly disappointed that another family has stepped in. For starters, Skylar's owners will feel much more comfortable knowing personally the hands their dog is in. But no less important than that is the fact that Skylar also exceeds Heidi's capacity to fill the room with noxious gases that a Bond villain wouldn't touch. Seriously. I'm going to have to repaint.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Happy (slightly belated) Birthday to me!


OMG, YUM!

Would it be wrong to just pop the tops on these babies and pour 'em into my mouth at the same time?

Thanks, Chris!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A ghost of Christmas past.


When R and I got married, we started a tradition of buying a Christmas tree ornament from each place we visited as a family. I don't know if when he suggested it, R knew how perfectly it meld our separate traditions into something uniquely suited to the three of us, but that's what happened. Our tree is like this perfect representation of our lives - what we came with, and what we added together.

We don't really have room for a tree here and I didn't think I minded it last year when we just skipped that part. But this year (I think for obvious reasons), I was really longing to unwrap those memory-laden ornaments and hold them in my hand.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sweets for my sweet.


I have a hard time with care packages. First of all, after nearly nine years at war, military infrastructure is such that R has better access to some American items down range than I do living on post in Germany! Also, I'm not a big fan of sending "stuff" for stuff's sake. After watching him pack and repack his rucksack to accommodate a command-issued list full of redundancies, it doesn't seem sporting to send boxes of items that he'll have to store. Or eat, and frankly, that just gets stored around his middle, right?

But it's Christmas. And maybe it's not about the "stuff" but when you're 2,500 miles away, it's pretty hard to whisper "Merry Christmas" into a cardboard box and hope that the holiday spirit makes it to the middle of the desert intact. Here's where tradition comes in to save the day, because homemade treats, brightly wrapped packages, colorful cards and shiny ornaments all sing out"Merry Christmas!" and will make it to the desert (mostly) intact.

I didn't think it was possible, but I'm finding that my inherent practicality and infrequent sentimentality intersect at Christmas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sweetness.

Baking a delish gingerbread rum cake. This is NOT conducive to my deployment weight loss plan.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pastoral


One of my regular walks with Heidi features this old farmhouse. You'd think I'd be bored after walking the dog past it about 25,000 times, but in the spring and summer, the house is completely hidden by the amount of foliage those trees bust out. So in reality, I've only seen it about 3,000 times and, much like German beer, German farmhouses don't get boring until after at least seven in one night.

*ahem*

That analogy doesn't work at all, does it? What I mean to say is, this many-windowed charmer is still enchanting and I will miss it when we're gone.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy


Dropped the ball again, didn't I? This every day stuff is WAY harder than I thought it was going to be!

Had an eventful weekend; got everybody together to make banners to send to the guys down range for Thanksgiving. Had a really great turnout throughout the battalion and we're sending some very colorful and creative messages down there!

From a photography standpoint, major fail on my part. Didn't take my big flash and tried to do without one at all, but there was just too much movement and too little light. Also, should have taken the kit lens, which is considerably wider angle than my Tamron zoom and even if the Tamron does stop down to f/2.8, the larger aperture was no match for the poor light in the room. Should have gone with the image stabilizer lens! Lesson learned: don't try to be all artsy-fartsy when large groups of small children in dark rooms are involved!

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Silver Lining

So yesterday was kind of a heavy topic, and my usual blogging habit would be to step away for a few days and let that settle before I put anything else up. But the nature of this project doesn't really allow that, and I'm afraid my true, schizophrenic nature is really going to come out over the course of this year! Because today is a new day, and a new picture and attitude prevails.

Silver Lining #4 to the Deployment: A full year of PROPERLY SQUEEZED TOOTHPASTE TUBES.


My husband is a tube-masher, with little regard for the uniform thriftiness and order of squeezing from the bottom up. Now, I'm not so OCD that I will re-shape the tube every time he uses it (anymore...), but I will admit to getting some measure of satisfaction out of seeing this perfectly squeezed, flat-fin tail of a tube every time I brush my teeth. As silver linings go, it's reaching, but not insignificant!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day


I don't have any sort of meaningful insight about Veteran's Day.

I can't; my husband is deployed.

My job is to keep myself at an even emotional keel so that I can function alone twice as well as I do when he's home. In addition to that, other people are depending on me to set an example of "dealing with it" and not least among those people is my thirteen year old daughter.

I can't shout at media outlets that insist on focusing on fallen veterans that a dead soldier is dead every day of the year, not just Veteran's Day.
I can't scream at well meaning acquaintances that I don't need the pity that always saturates their "Thank you for your husband's service," as though my only choice is to endure it.
I can't give the military and government a giant middle finger for cutting support funding for family programs at the same time they get on TV and profess to be "so proud and grateful" for what we do.
I can't watch tribute programs or documentaries that talk about soldiers who come home in pieces - both physical and psychological - because letting myself dwell on those horrors means spending the next 11 months in constant terror.

Look, I'm not against Veteran's Day. I think it's an important national and cultural ceremonial marker. Necessary, even, for those who don't live close to the military. But it's not my holiday. It's not a freaking holiday. It's my life, my reality, my day-to-day existence. I won't wave my flag harder or sing louder or do anything else just because it makes the rest of the nation feel better.

I can't; my husband is deployed.

Maybe someday after his retirement I'll pin a little flag to my lapel and be glad for the extra day off from work. But for now I'll just do what I've been doing - functioning twice as well alone as when he's home, avoiding the news, struggling to live the Serenity Prayer - living through a war.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

This is so meta!

Taking a picture of the new computer on which I'm viewing my pictures! Great googaly moogaly, how I love new toys!

This moment of meta joy was 2 months in the making, but it did turn my craptacular day around, so I pronounce its worthiness to be adequate.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Babies!

Okay, so besides being one of the most pitiful snapshots I've ever taken, the above photo also explains why I didn't get any other pictures today! These baby girls were hanging at our house this morning while their Mama drove to the airport to pick up visiting family. Despite the fact that one is perfectly content to sit in one spot and watch the world pass by, and the other - tho very active - is quite satisfied to make her own fun, these girls Wore. Me. Out.

Oh, wait... you probably think I mean the two baby girls? Oh no. I mean all four of those females pictured above. I think it's hilarious that the flash spotlighted the dog, because she clearly felt she should be in it! Heidi just couldn't understand why these two little interlopers were getting all HER attention. At one point, she literally burrowed between Ro and one of the babies to separate them, then rolled over on her stomach and thumped her tail on the floor as if to say, "No, see... your hands go here. On my belly. Remember? You no rub anybody else's belly when I'm around. I can haz all ur attention??"

Ro shocked the hell out of me by sticking around to play, cuddle, pick up when fussy, feed and rock to sleep the twins. Typically, Ro's M.O. is run in the opposite direction from babies, who heretofore have freaked her right the heck out.
"Ah! It's looking at me funny! And making weird noises! What do we do??"
"Well, Ro, I believe now we change it's diaper."
But today she was a total champ and even declared afterward that playing with the girls was the best part about her day. Which was actually the EXACT OPPOSITE reaction I was looking for. I figured that a double dose of baby would be almost as good as a depo provera shot, but unfortunately these babies were much too angelic to fulfill that purpose.

So yeah. They were only here for five hours, and I needed a two-and-a-half hour nap after they left! ....Well yes, okay, I probably would have taken the nap anyway. What's your point?!

These girls are the daughters of one of our FRG's families. A young family who had complications at the delivery and for whom we all kind of went out of our way to help out. It was one of my first "acts" as FRG co-leader and... well, it made an impression. Anybody who knows me knows I'm not a "joiner". I don't particularly like interacting with people and I sure wasn't looking for more responsibility. But while I got involved out of mainly frustration and a desire to make my own receipt of information easier and faster, I've had a few unexpected pleasures, as well. This family is one of them. There are days when I want to throw in the towel - when I think, "I want to NEVER TALK TO ANYONE AGAIN." But then there are days when I get to smell sweet little baby heads, or hang out with genuinely nice people, or somebody just says, "Hey, you have a hard job. Thanks for doing it," and I go... Oh yeaaaaahhhh, it IS worth it. :)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Ground view

Sometimes it's not practical to take my big dSLR out. I'm afraid of getting rained on, Heidi is being psycho-dog on the leash, or I just don't want to be stared at. At those times, I dig out the Canon Powershot SX100 that we bought a few years ago for my first foray into digital. It's a fine little camera (not as fine as the new Canon S95, by my saying so puts my husband's head in imminent danger of exploding - "ANOTHER CAMERA?!") and among its many desirable traits my willingness to put it places I would never put my big camera. Like on the ground.


Not so burning bush.


Still trying to play catch up. Something is desperately wrong with the Deutchland portal to Yahoo and Flickr, and sometimes Blogger. It's maddening. But also, there is the fact that "trying to stay busy" has somehow morphed into "OMG-the world is spinning too fast! Make it stop!" But unfortunately I set myself on this speeding bullet of personal projects, FRG madness AND GUESS WHAT?! The housework still doesn't do itself! What the heck, man?

Lucky Thirteen

Sometimes, you just aren't feelin' it, y'know?


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Not my fault!


Interwebz having fits, tried to log on but couldn't for a long time! Here's day 12...

Yay! The Tuscany photobook came in the mail! And it looks HAAAAWE-some. It looked awesome on Snapfish when I was putting it together, but I was prepared for a noticeable difference - a certain anti-WYSIWYG, if you will.


That's part of what took the book so long. First, I had edit the picts, then I had to format the book to my satisfaction. Then I had to walk away from it for 30 days so I could preview it with relatively fresh eyes. Then I had wait for the prints to get here so I could make sure the site printed in a quality that wasn't complete crap. (It's very inexpensive, so you can understand my hesitation.)


Aside from the fact that my prints took a long time to ship, I was pleasantly surprised that the quality was very good, even going so far as to crop my edited pictures appropriately, instead of trying to force it onto a single size for their convenience. So I ordered the book, and voilá! Hardbound memories, made to order.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

9


I finally got to talk to R last night.

Pffft. Listen to me, "finally." When he deployed in 2003, it took two months to get my first letter and I thought that was awesome! Of course, we weren't married then, so perhaps my perspective was somewhat different. The other thing that skews my perspective this time is living in Europe. "Down range" is no longer halfway across the world, and in fact is only ahead by a single time zone. It feels closer and quite frankly I don't know if that makes it easier or harder. On the one hand, logistically he could be back home in a couple of hours, but in practice he's as unreachable as the moon.

Took Heidi on a long, meandering walk this morning. Bright fall colors have begun to darken to that charcoal gray grunge look, but this tree is hanging onto its red. These spots reminded me of something utterly alien to northern Europe - as though a bit of Africa had set up shop beside the river. I spent several minutes observing it from different angles, and this shot is my favorite. Very straight forward and direct, which is an acurate reflection of how I'm feeling today.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Family Time

All three of us on the floor today, and Heidi expresses her approval.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Flirty Witch.


Rather at the last minute, Ro decided she wanted to "dress up" to work the school function she was earning extra curricular hours at this evening. So we recycled a costume shirt and hat (for the third time - at least) and in the end she was glad to get in the spirit, as after her shift was over she got her boogie on with her friends and had a great time. This is the only picture I took today, and that's just fine with me.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The scene of the crime

I was really mad today. Like, scrunch my face up and growl menacingly until the dog runs and hides under the bed mad. Unfortunately, my dog doesn't take me at all seriously so it's more like grumble intermittently and pout until I can't stand my own company mad. Is that the next "stage" in this whole, adjusting to the new normal crap? Because it sucks. And it's pissing me off. I'd like to go back to feeling normal now, thankyouverymuch.

I did a lot of cleaning today but I was still mad. So I decided to channel that energy into murdering a plate of brownies. Pretty gruesome, innit? Wait 'til you see me on the scale tomorrow - now that will be ugly.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Day Five

Ugh! Only five days in and I already dropped a day! I really let yesterday get away from me. Started out strong and goal-oriented, but didn't take care of myself and burnt out by noon. I have a little stretch routine I try to do first thing upon waking up - usually right there in the bed, but now that R is gone, I've moved the furniture to have floor space in the living room. Yesterday, not only did I skip the stretching, I pretty much forgot to hydrate after my bagel and two cups of coffee. Yeah. No wonder I crashed at noon and woke up three hours later with a massive headache. The lesson here is not to be so focused on my to do list that I forget the everyday stuff!

Speaking of everyday stuff, I took Heidi out to our favorite walking route this morning and was rewarded with a 20 minute break in the cloud cover, allowing the low, streaking autumn sunrise through. Really magnificent.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Triptych feather


The only thing I can think about when I look at this picture is the old joke:
Erotic is using the feather,
Kinky is using the whole bird.

I guess leaves aren't the only thing that fall in autumn. A flock of pigeons were picking over a recently harvested corn field this morning. Heidi chased them off and dozens of these feathers were left behind.