Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Two For The Money

A couple of entries ago, in “Say Cheese,” I wrote about a miracle. Instead of turning water into wine like Jesus did at his mother’s request during that famous wedding in Galilee, I turned wine into photography.

If you remember, Groom and I recently purchased a new camera for our anniversary after weaning ourselves off the bottled grapes. I was thrilled about our new acquisition for almost two days before malcontent and displeasure grabbed me by the ankles and started playing tug-o-war with me as the rope.

Never flexible enough for the splits, I didn’t enjoy the sensation. Here’s the deal. I thought I could share, but each time I got my hands on our new camera and slipped into my “artiste” mode, Groom would see a shot he wanted to take, and folks, he just kept interrupting my mojo.

I would inwardly sigh with exasperation, but hand the camera over anyway. After all, it was an anniversary gift, which came with the implied agreement that we could both use it. The generous, loving, wifely side of me wanted Groom to blossom in his photography skills and I loved seeing the shots he took.


But not while we were in the middle of stalking light.

Bottom line? I wanted to share the hobby of photography with him, but not the camera. I quickly discovered it was like trying to write, but having somebody borrow my pen every third word, ruining my flow.

Now, what to do? My energy is not subtle. Groom knows me too well and he figured something was up about 15 seconds into my frustration. How do I tell the man I love to keep his grubby mitts off our anniversary present?

I have a couple skills in my toolkit, but lying isn’t one of them. I suck at it, which is why I don’t bother. I could tell you my honesty comes from a pure place of integrity, but that would be a lie. It comes from not being clever enough to keep my stories straight. If I tell a lie, I bust myself instantly. The aggro’s just not worth it, so my ineptitude as a liar keeps me honest.

When Groom asked me point blank why I was being snotty, I had to admit I was struggling with either being “nice” or telling him I could no longer share our anniversary camera.

He just laughed. Here I was, hesitant to speak my true feelings yet after I did, he said my energy is much more pleasant when my words and actions line up instead of tap dancing around an issue. Apparently I emit a funky vibe when I am not speaking my truth, which bugs the heckles out of him.

With the truth buck-naked and on somebody’s front lawn (he asked me while I was taking a photo of a neighbor’s flower garden), he said it was no problem, he would wait to take photographs until he could get his own camera.

Oh noooooo. While that sounds lovely on the surface, I knew that would be trouble with a capital T. One, I would not be able to enjoy taking pictures alone, knowing I was being a selfish biyatch while Groom waited patiently as I focused here and zoomed there. For-geddaboutit.

Two, by the time he got his own camera, I divined it would be a bigger, better fancier version of mine and that would simply open a can of one-upmanship worms. To compensate, I would have to upgrade and that would motivate He to outdo She. Nope, I put the ix-nay on the ait-way.

As his birthday falls on our anniversary, or is it the other way around, I suggested that we pool our generous gifts into a fund and get a second, identical camera for him. That way, we could share lenses, batteries, cords, etc., but more importantly, we would be playing on an even shooting field.

In less than a week, funds rearranged themselves to provide Groom with a twin to mine. I was thrilled.

For one day.

Groom managed to find yet another way to vex me. As we roamed our neighborhood, each interpreting light, color and texture to our heart’s content, I was a happy woman until he emptied the memory cards onto the computer and we had a slide show.

Aaaargh, his photos were turning out better than mine. Oh no, I don’t want to leave you with an impression that I’m competitive or anything (of course not), but it irked me that he was already surpassing me.

Let me submit to the jury a recent example. Take a look at the two photos of the red fence. Do you see how straight the wrought iron pickets stand for him? And do you notice how drunk and disorganized they become for me? How does that happen???

My mother has a theory that many inanimate objects with moving mechanical parts are designed with the express purpose to work for men and break down for women. I want to argue that her idea is sexist, but…

Okay, now on to the Fair. On Thursday last, we woke up to the idea of attending the County Fair for pitchur takin’ (fancy talk for the art of producing images of objects on sensitized surfaces by the chemical action of light), but were both feeling reluctant to plunk down the price of admission.

A few minutes later, via email, Kimmm informed us that she had two extra free tickets to the fair and told us “folks with new cameras neeeed to go to the fair at dusk to get frustrated and amazed by taking photos of lights and sunsets.”

What? Free tickets just like that? So off we go that evening and between us, can you guess how many shots we fired off in less than three hours? If you said 500, you’d be right. Although we each took some amazing shots (not presented here yet), I noticed that Groom still did better in certain situations. Take a gander at the carrousel horses and the clowns. Crikey!

I’m delighted to report that I am not really in competition with Groom. He inspires me and I am determined to become the best photographer I can become. This sounds cliché, but I am in competition with myself.

I am also noticing that I am an emotional photographer, my camera reflecting sundry moods. When I am tired, the images blur. When I am nervous, the photos are shy. There is a magic that happens when I am focused and my heart is open.

Discovery is an enchanting process. My eye follows faces, while Groom’s traces places, buildings and flowers with bees. I like urban portraits - tattoos, piercings, street fashion and haunting bone structure.

Some of our photos overlap, as we think from very similar angles. Yet we are constantly surprising each other with a glimpse into larger views or a detailed world that the other didn’t notice. It is stoking the already kindled embers, as you can see by this last photo of the fire dancer. Passion caught as our initials are danced into flame.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Here Come Da Judge

I have so many things to write about my head is full of gallimaufry, a hodgepodge, a jumble, a confused medley that my fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up. I have no idea how many words will actually end up on the cutting room floor versus which will survive. I’m sitting on the edge of my seat, wondering how this will all turn out.

If it reads like I’m catharting, you’re right. Well, that’s curious. I just looked up cathartic and it means to evacuate the bowels. I was using the word in its purging sense, but I always thought it meant emotionally.

I can tell you right up front that judgment has been the theme of the week. In the last few days:

1) I’ve been accused of judging someone.

2) I’ve been apologized to because someone else judged me.

3) I’ve imagined that other people were judging me and

4) I’ve been paid some righteous compliments.

That being said, I feel like I’m in the middle of a big judge sandwich.

Similar to Howie Mandell and his infectious fist-bump, there’s a new little virus making the circuit. I don’t know its progenitor, but the catch phrase is “let’s put a pin in that.” In context, it seems to get used when something is said that another person doesn’t want to deal with on the one hand, but doesn’t want to appear as though disregarding it on the other.

Acknowledging it on some level , they’ll say, “I hear you, but let’s put a pin in that.” I guess we are to imagine a giant floating cork board and whatever words have been spoken are to be impaled with a large pin “to be dealt with later.”

Phew! I drove you around that little cul de sac just to say I’m going to stick a pin in all that judgment stuff for a moment and introduce a little Hebrew action into my current situation. Can you guess my favorite Old Testament character? If you said the talking Donkey in Numbers 22, you’d be close, as she’s my second choice.

However, for the purpose of sorting out all this judgment energy, I’m calling out Solomon.

Solomon lived a most fascinating life, starting with his movie star parents. Most little boys think of their daddies as heroes, but in Solomon‘s case, his father, King David, was a hero of mythic proportions even in his own lifetime. Not only did he take out Goliath with one fell swoop of his slingshot, but he killed lions with his bare hands and was an epic murderer, “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands,” (I Samuel 18:7).

In fact, Solomon wouldn’t have drawn a breath if his father hadn’t been driven by lust, both blood and sex. King David satisfied his dual appetites by ravaging a rooftop bather and then killing her husband. Apparently God was none too thrilled with that last detail, so took His revenge on the little love bastard by smiting it. Don’t you judge me.

The second child born of this fornicating couple, although by this time I think they might have exchanged vows, was Solomon. As an aside, wouldn’t you love to be married to a man who “took” you, murdered your husband and then because God was angry at him, caused you to lose your first born?

Anywho, as if growing up under the shadow of the Celebrity King, the stuff of which legends are made wasn’t enough, Solomon had to live with the fact that papa was a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14.

How was such a child supposed to grow up and become a man in his own right? Well, he managed somehow, and became known as the wisest person ever to live, “No one before you was your equal, nor shall any arise after you equal to you.”

Receiving many sermons from the pulpit, my little antennae would tune in when Solomon was discussed for his world was lavish, extreme, filled with wine, women, song and plenty of perks. When I heard he had “700 wives, princesses, and 300 concubines,” I actually sat in the pew and worked it out mathematically. Hey, he could make love every day to a different woman for almost three years without repetition.

I sighed over all the booty he was getting, oh wait, I don’t mean all the booty calls, I meant all the treasure troves (like pirate booty) he received for his wisdom. Not only did he have access to all the secrets of the Universe, but he was wealthy beyond measure and was a rock star.

I admit it, that story impressed me in my younger years. Okay, it still does, but my thirst for Wisdom started at a very early age. Hey, just because I like the idea of being connected to God AND financially rewarded for it, don’t you judge me.

Here comes a little personal reveal: I secretly wish to be that wise. I know, the position has already been taken, but a girl can dream, right? I’ve set out to learn the difference between judgment, discernment, tolerance and acceptance since they are all intertwined.

So that we’re on the same page, I’m going briefly define: “Judgment – the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively and wisely.”
“Discernment – acuteness of judgment and understanding.”

“Tolerance – a fair and objective attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality differ from one’s own: freedom from bigotry.”

“Acceptance – the act of receiving something offered, favorable reception, approval.”

Now it’s time to take the pin out and address things directly, although not in order. I’m going to begin with #3 — that I’ve imagined other people judging me — and #4, receiving righteous compliments. And by other people, in this case, I’m specifically talking about old high school ghosts.

Suddenly, this week, by the powers vested in FaceBook, I’ve been contacted by a number of high school chums and what they’ve told me has differed wildly than what I had going on in my head. I attended a private Christian high school and graduated with about a dozen kids. It was a very small pond. The school was more of a preacher or preacher’s wife- in- training camp, and as I was not going to become either, I did not fit into the box.

And there was a lot of pressure to fit into the box. I neither rebelled nor conformed, but approached getting into the box with more of a, “No, but thanks for asking,” kind of attitude. I knew at an early age that being myself was more valuable than becoming what they wanted. I was arty then, I’m arty now. I knew I didn’t want to be a baby factory then and I didn’t become one now. I stood up for myself when required, but picked my battles strategically.

This unnerved some. An open rebel was a cause they could understand, or living a life with the lid closed was another familiar path, but choosing to be oneself in the midst of heavy duty conforming pressure without wildly rebelling was something altogether alarming.

The upshot is that several of those I’ve communicated with told me that my path seems like the better option with 20-20 hindsight. In the intervening years, they buckled under so completely, that they’ve had to literally destroy the box — their lives, in order to get out and start living an authentic life.

Even though I had a few early detractors, that only served to reinforce my resolve. Although it’s had a few thorns, my path now holds a new sparkle that I didn’t see before.

I’m not living with a secret. I don’t long to break out and finally live my true self, as I have already committed to that.

Now for a glimpse into this week’s righteous compliments… “I give you props for knowing who you are and being comfortable in your own skin. In a world of conformists, it’s refreshing to know those people who can say ‘This is who I am. I’m not afraid to be a little less conventional and it’s okay.”

From somebody else, “I have so much more respect for you now. I can see that you are comfortable in your own skin.” (Whoa, two different people, two different conversations!)

And another, “You seem like a person who does not go to grouping once a week to get fed, but is constantly connected to God. You don’t seem to compartmentalize your life, but instead approach your art with spirituality, your spirituality with art, your creativity just flows into everything you do.”

Can you stomach one more? “Judgment is simply having an opinion about something, and while you may have your opinions, you are very tolerant and accepting.”

Okay, before you gag, I tell you this to process it, and for your own sakes. Seriously. I had all this judgy stuff built up in my head and as it turns out, it was mostly my imagination. Perhaps there are some of you who feel burdened by judgment. It’s so refreshing to simply ask instead of assume, the answer might surprise you.

How often do we build a case against ourselves and use other people to support it? I had not had contact with these school mates in over twenty years, yet I was accusing them in my head of being judgmental. Turns out I was wrong.

In this week, two other people volunteered heartfelt apologies for judging me. Wow, I told you there was a lot of judgment energy to suss out.

Those apologies were so empowering, I would also like to practice forgiveness. To anyone, past or present, that I have hurt by my words, by less-than-flattering images I’ve carried in my head, for releasing negative thoughts, for unkind words, for energy that made you feel less-than, and for anything that I’ve done to cause you pain, I am truly sorry.

I’d like to leave you with something Oscar Wilde taught me. “Be yourself. Everybody else is already taken.”

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Say "Cheese"

I remember the first time I heard it. Well, heard may not be entirely the correct word, as that image conjures up voices in the head. Perhaps memo is a more accurate term.

Okay, let’s start again. I remember the first time I got the memo. It contained three words and no explanation. “Stop Drinking Wine.”

I promptly ignored it and booted said message to the recycle bin.

A few weeks later, those three words reappeared in my mental “in box.” This dance went on for about a year with the same memo coming in and me ignoring it. In August of 2007, the message doubled in size to six words, “Stop drinking wine for thirty days.”

In that moment, I let loose a victimy sigh and said with great melodra-martyr flair, “Fiiiiine.”

As I was walking with Groom at the time and my dramatic exhalation came out of nowhere, he looked at me with appropriate puzzlement. I did not have a chance to utter a word before our cell phone rang. It was my dermatologist calling and she said, “I want you to stop drinking wine for 30 days.”

Are you kidding me??

My face is often rutilant and Doc suggested cutting back on the vino as a last ditch effort to minimize the ruddiness.

Before you picture me as a lush, you should know that my fermented grape juice consumption was limited to a glass a day. No, not day, per evening with dinner. I admit it, I indulged in an hour of pleasurable ritual every night. These 60 minutes comprised a special trinity: a glass of cabernet, a television show and delicious food.

As Groom and I broke bread, we relaxed, allowing the stress of the day to disappear with each sip of mirthy grapes. We tuned out, the television performing an hour of mental dialysis.

I did not want to give it up.

When I folded the phone after talking with my skin doctor (darmnit, I can’t hang up anymore), having committed to my version of Lent, I had the task of informing Groom of my impetuous decision to forgoo the happy juice.

Now I knew better than to announce to Groom that WE were temporarily abandoning one of our pleasures, so I simply shared the interesting timing of my intuitive guidance with the dermatologist’s request.

Groom decided (on his own) to join me. Phew!

I will not regurgitate the list of doo-doo that hit the fan, but trust me when I say all manner of mierde leapt from the woodwork and challenged us to see if we were serious in our commitment.

People reacted in a variety of ways to our month long wine-fast. One couple, prior to our decision, had made the proclamation that if we ever stopped drinking they would NOT be amused. They were true to their word. The invitations to dine became less frequent until they were non-existent.

It was a long 30 days.

The surprise was that by the end of it, we’d lost both our taste and desire for Bacchus’ titty.

A year of abstinence later (okay, not quite, but one glass per month as opposed to 31 felt like abstinence), I received another memo. Uh-oh. This one also contained six words, scarier than the first. “Stop watching television for 30 days.” What???

If we thought people reacted strongly to us eliminating wine from our diet, we were thoroughly unprepared for the hostility that came forth because we turned off our boob-tube. In hindsight, wine was an easier addiction to see, but television? Well now we were stepping on people’s toes just by making that decision for ourselves. Yikes!

Another unexpected result was that we tasted our food and noticed when we got full much quicker than when we were hypnotizing ourselves with the magic box. I was accustomed to stretching out my dinner for a full hour and without the digital entertainment, I pushed my plate away in less than half the time.

We also ate half as much.

Without the wine calories and then naturally cutting our dinner proportions by half, Groom managed to lose around 65 pounds. I wish I could cluck about any figure improvements for myself, but I just wrote about my clothes not fitting last week, so I’ll say nothing more about it…

The wine-fast led to the television diet, which led to the weight loss. Each contained a surprise benefit that I didn’t know about ahead of time when I decided to follow my guidance. You’re right, I guess that’s why it’s called a “surprise.”

For a small excrement of time without my wine, I mean increment, I felt antsy. But without my television, I felt downright itchy. It provoked existential angst, “Who am I without the relationship to my T.V.?” Until I stopped watching, I had no idea the dependency I had created and I was not enjoying the withdrawal symptoms.

One morning during my DT’s, while traveling north along the coast from California to Oregon, I was taking pictures with my pocket camera in Arcata. A third memo fluttered into my awareness, this time in the form of a question.

“What would happen if you developed a relationship with your camera?”

In that moment, I decided to take pictures of anything and everything. After a few months of pursuing this, I knew I was outgrowing my pocket-size Olympus, yet a relevant quote from a camera magazine pointed out, “The best camera is the one you actually take with you.”

I was actually taking my little camera with me everywhere as it fit conveniently in my purse. Would I really haul around a larger one? I’m not inclined to research a bunch of statistics online, reviewing which camera merits the best rating. Techni-babble makes me verrrry sleepy. No, I decided to do my study in the field.

This research included knowing what kind of photography I wanted to pursue and then discovering which camera would be the best tool for the job. Anytime I saw a person carrying a serious looking camera, I’d ask them about it. What kind, how did they like it, what was the shutter response time, could I hold it, etc.?

I was pleasantly delighted to discover how friendly people with cameras were and how much information they were willing to offer. I kept notes and yet could not seem to make a decision. What if I chose the wrong one? What if a better one came out as soon as I did make up my mind? What if I outgrew it? What if what if what if???

Apparently the photography Muse became exasperated with my indefinite deliberations and made the decision for me. At a family BBQ a few weeks ago, Brother-In-Law arrived with his brand new camera. I gravitated toward it instantly and he was very generous in letting me play with it during the evening.

Naturally, I asked him all kinds of questions and he answered that he liked it just fine except for…Except that he discovered too late that an even newer model had been introduced to the public with an HD video feature that he was salivating over. Ah, my fear being played out…what if I plunked down the pennies from the piggy bank and then an even better camera vied for my affections??? Now he was in existential angst.

The next day I received an email from Brother-In-Law, offering the camera, a case, two batteries, chargers and four lenses for an amazing price. If I said yes, then he would go High Def.

Ah, what to do?? I consulted Kimmm, Bee Bugg and Goat Mama, all photographers. Kimmm had the funniest, least technical answer. She said, “Why are you even questioning this? Of course this is your camera. It so fits your story arc.”

Huh? I have a story arc?

“Yes,” she affirmed. “You do. Of course a camera would be delivered to your house at a next-to-nothing price.” She just laughed and shrugged like she was talking to a simpleton.

On Saturday, I was holding my new acquisition, wondering a few things about it when a man appeared in my booth. With no introduction or preambles, he said, “What would you like to know about your camera? What would you like to know about photography?”

I was stunned. An inner prompting told me I had manifested a tutor and there he was, showing up. Groom watched the booth as I wandered around the outdoor marche with Kimmm and Richard, having a fun photography lesson.

There are many more words I could use to describe the experience, but I’m going to save you about 1,000 of them, as that is what the current market value of a picture is worth.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Empress' New Clothes

Baby’s got back. She’s got junk in her trunk. And by “she” I mean me.

I love manifesting. That is, having an idea, putting it out there, releasing my attachment to the outcome and then discovering the delightful way in which it comes to me. For instance, the other day I was quite bored with my wardrobe. I wanted new clothes. That afternoon I went for a walk with Groom and we stopped by the Post Office.

Turning the key and opening the metal door of our postbox is always a thrill as I anticipate it to be full of goodies, surprises, cool cards, fat checks, affectionate notes, missives from far away lands, invitations to dine and miscellaneous greetings.

I was not disappointed. Inside was a notification that I had a package. Standing in line, I felt like a kid at Christmas. What might it be?? When it was finally my turn, a postal worker sporting a jazzy comb-over handed me a box. I made myself wait until we were back at the homestead to open it.

Slicing through the packing tape with a lime green box-knife and lifting away the tissue paper finally revealed several layers of beautiful fabric. Wait a minute, not fabric, clothes! Accompanied by a card, the handwritten note from my cousin in California (named Frida Maria) explained that she had been inspired to design new outfits for me.

I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to try them all on.


My backside is much bigger than either of us realized. There’s a big gap where the clothes don’t fit. When I thanked her profusely, I admitted the size discrepancy as she was telling me about some more designing ideas.

Her solution? She made herself a fake bottom for a more accurate fit. A faux bottom, imagine!

Shall we take a peek at the junk in my trunk? Yes, I’ve been dragging baggage around with me and also working deliberately to let it go.

On Saturday, a vendor I’d never noticed before stopped me as I walked past his booth. He engaged me in conversation and made an observation saying, “You look like a very happy person.”

Admittedly, this is still a fresh, new feeling and his comment took me by surprise. I don’t know why I confessed this (little vestiges of my story still clinging perhaps?), but I replied that until recently, I had been a very angry person (Okay, before you mention it, yes, I just now realize I need to stop saying that. You are witnessing the last trace of something no longer in existence disappearing into this moment. Thank you).

His candor took me to the next level of surprise. “For you to be so angry, you must have been victimized.”

His words struck like an arrow to the center of my heart. We’re not talking sweet, valentine cupidy arrows with red fluff, but sharp, hitting-the-target with accuracy poisoned tips. I felt the wind knocked out of me. His face was so kind and because he was speaking with such compassion, I had a moment of clarity, seeing the bigger picture.

“That’s an old story,” I said, “stuff I’m leaving behind.”

Or was it? His use of the word “victimized” set my teeth on edge. Recognition can be humbling because this next part is humiliating to admit. I’ve been victimizing myself and blaming others for it. Until this weekend, I’ve been using other people and what they say, don’t say, do or don’t do as excuses for my moods.

I carry gigantic, nay, colossal, mammoth, grandiose expectations. Expectations that other people will behave in certain ways in order to make me feel good, and darmnit, if they don’t keep letting me down.

I have put my emotional well being in the hands of other people and then feel victimized by the smallest of things. No really, they are ridiculous. In fact, the smaller the “slight,” the more pain they seem to inflict. A glance I can’t interpret, someone choosing to sit in a chair across from me rather than immediately next to me, a thank you I feel warranted that does not come, someone taking longer to answer via email that I think is appropriate.

This is how I am victimized. Can you believe it? When I write this out loud, I am cringing. Why stop there? I look for rejection everywhere. As a friend says, “You go where you look.”

When I look for rejection, I find it. Evidence is everywhere to support my belief, whether it is a useful one or not. I also get plenty of praise, but as that does not fit the old program of Rejection I’ve been running, why pay as much attention to that?

When I feel rejected, it is because I am attending and nurturing my ego, the smaller, undeveloped part of myself composed of a thousand little hurts.

When I am attending and nurturing my spirit, things look very different to me. When I reframe my view through the eyes of Love, I see others as individual reflections of the Divine, each unique and beautiful, doing the best he or she can.

I carry my weight around my belly and bum, second chakra: Money, self-worth, sexuality, and creativity. As the clothing attests, I have a gap. Not everything fits anymore.

I could look at the ill-fitting clothes as an excuse to feel bad. In fact, it’s so tempting to allow just about anything as my excuse to get out of the flow. I’m not sure why my ego’s favorite flavor of mood is to feel like mierde?

However, I could also consider the gap as a signpost that I’m expanding and that it’s all behind me now. As I look in the mirror, it’s more empowering to understand it’s simply a reflection of where I am rather than making up a story about what anybody else is doing to me.

And with that, I shall bid you adieu.