The beautiful birthday girl

Today my mother celebrated her 39th birthday once again, which she has been doing for a few years now with style and grace.

This is last year’s birthday picture, but she looks just as cute this year. Maybe cuter.


Happy birthday, mother o’ mine!


Singularly unimpressive

I posted on Facebook last week that one of my “bucket list” items is to see a flash mob performance, and a friend promptly informed me that one was to take place at our local mall this evening.


Color me stoked! I could hardly wait to go see it!

So I waded into the fray of weekend+holiday=HELL traffic out to the mall, arriving in plenty of time to take a turn around the shops. By the time I came back to where the event was to take place, people were lined up three and four deep all around the railings on the second level overlooking the center court area. Uniformed mall security guards were posted on every stairway looking very stern. It seemed as if everyone was waving a cellphone in the air taking crappy videos.

The singing started right on time, and the instigators appeared to be two different groups of about four people each. They sang one verse each from four familiar songs, and that was it. Over and done in less than a minute. Apparently everybody came to watch, and almost nobody (including, ahem, me) came to sing. It was the most underwhelming public performance of any kind I’ve ever seen. I almost felt bad for being there.



I wonder why it went so poorly? Certainly it was well attended, and the mall management didn’t interfere except to make sure people didn’t overload the stairways. The songs were well known, so there was no reason for spectators not to join in. But I have to say, as much as I hated to think so, I looked around at that huge crowd and those uniformed guards and I wondered if we were all just sitting ducks for yet another lunatic with a gun looking to get his name in the news. Perhaps a lot of other people there were thinking the same. It’s hard to lift your voice in praise and hope and joy with visions of the past week’s events in your head.

This is what I had hoped it would be like:

Maybe next year.

In the meantime, I am keeping this item on my bucket list because I still want to catch a “real” flash mob performance by chance someday. I want to be surprised and uplifted by something beautiful that happens when I least expect it. I want that for all of us.


Remember that half-marathon I was in training to walk? That took place today, but I wasn’t there. My number will be recorded as DNF: Did Not Finish. Because I didn’t actually start.

Yeah, I know: Nothing to be proud of. But the fact is, I am not physically ready to walk 13.1 miles at one time, and I was not going to attempt it and end up hurting myself.

Sadly, my training schedule got derailed by a combination of too much time to put it off, abysmal local air quality because of forest fires for most of the summer, lack of a buddy to do the event with me, and too many personal and business distractions. What it always comes down to, of course, is lack of motivation, and I was not motivated by the idea of spending four or five hours (or more) alone in a crowd. It wasn’t the walking itself that was too hard to do. If I’m going to be alone, I want to be at home with my dogs getting something productive done, like mowing the lawns and doing laundry. I’m fine with being alone when I am alone. I am not fine being alone surrounded by hundreds (or thousands) of strangers all day.

When I signed up for the walk, my friend G. planned to do it with me. But she developed some very serious back problems and can’t do much of any kind of exercise anymore. If I were a more competitive person, I might have said “well, I’ll do this event for her, I’ll carry the flag for both of us!” But alas, I am more of a cooperator and a collaborator than a competitor. I wish we could have done it together, encouraging each other along the way. I feel so bad for her that she can’t run, can’t walk, can bike only a little, and is in pain most of every single day. She’s my age, trim and otherwise fit and way too young for this kind of disability. She handles the whole situation with a lot of grace, but it’s hard on her in so many ways. If I could give her my healthy back, I would because there are so many things she needs it for–to do her job (which requires her to stand all day), to keep up with her kids, to walk and run with her dogs, to dance with her husband. She needs it so much more than I do. As long as I can sit upright and type at the computer, I’m pretty much good to go.

But we each get what we get and just have to make the best of it, I guess. Some might say that I’m not doing the very best I can with the body I have because I’m not walking or running half-marathons, but I did get my yards mowed and my laundry all washed today. I moved a bunch of furniture around yesterday, and set up photo equipment. I also cleaned my house and cooked a wonderful dinner for myself and a friend tonight. I did what needed doing and was grateful for the physical wherewithal to be able to do it.

I’ll watch the calendar for the next local long-distance walking event and we’ll see what happens. Perhaps next time I will both start and finish.


Boys becoming men

I photographed a group of teenagers preparing for their homecoming dance tonight, and spent nearly all my time with just the boys. I got to witness a key social occasion in the lives of boys who are on the cusp of becoming men, and I was quite intrigued by it.

They all needed help getting dressed, both from one another and from the mothers and sisters who were in attendance. Tying ties, hitching suspenders, even threading belts posed challenges that only four hands working together simultaneously could solve. Some were meticulous about every detail and were dressed well ahead of time, while others arrived late and threw themselves together in a matter of seconds. They debated whether to wear their shirts in or out, and fortunately feminine wisdom prevailed and everybody tucked in.

They were boisterous and funny and really seemed to be enjoying themselves. One of the younger sisters said to one boy “ooh, you’re looking mighty fine.” And he responded with a twirl and a grin and said “why thank ya, I’m feeling mighty fine.” So cute.

Homecoming is a time for boys to practice a whole range of grownup behaviors: Dressing formally, buying and exchanging flowers, asking for and escorting a date, formal dining, and, of course, dancing. There’s a lot of pressure on the guys (and in high school, on their parents) to make the whole thing happen, from the flowers to the limo to the photographer to the dinner. All the girls really have to do is pick out a pretty dress and be ready on time (although, to be fair, I didn’t observe their preparation ritual so I could be wrong about this … and I, uh, have never attended a formal dance with a date other than my camera, so I really don’t know diddly about how the distaff side prepares).

When I was in high school, all my friends were continuously and enthusiastically interested in formal dances such as homecoming and prom, and we could not understand why nearly every boy in school was either blasé about or outright hostile to such occasions. It was so very, very important to us–how could the guys not care? But now I understand better how challenging it is on their side, and how a boy might feel he’s not ready for all that responsibility at one time.

When the Hummer stretch limo arrived, though, the boys were ecstatic; it was a huge hit. They grabbed their corsages and bouquets, piled in and headed off across town to pick up their dates. I trust they are still dancing the night away even as I write this.


Market day

A couple of my readers have been strongly encouraging me to make a trip to my local Saturday Market and take some pictures, since they’ve heard it’s pretty cool and want to vicariously check it out. I have trouble motivating myself out of bed on Saturday mornings, let alone out of the house, but today I finally managed to do both. I didn’t end up with a photo essay that encompasses the entire experience–you’ll have to come visit me and see it for yourself, guys–but here are a few pics that I hope give you a bit of a feel for it.

The first thing you need to know about the market it that no dogs are allowed. Heh. I saw at least 20 dogs there, including these unrepentant trespassers. Look at the big guy grinning!

They sell every kind of produce, of course, from apples to zucchini, but for me, the farmers’ market means just one thing: tomatoes!

If you can’t find a dreadlocked hippie at the market, you’re not even trying. This guy is actually a vendor for an organic farm, natch, and one very cool dude.

Two-time Olympic gold medalist, cyclist extraordinaire and genuinely nice person Kristin Armstrong was there signing autographs and making new friends as she does everywhere she goes. She is an amazingly inspirational woman.

I guess a local artist decided this bike rack needed a bit more color. I like it!

These late-summer days start off deceptively chilly but heat up nicely by noon. This kid knows how to stay cool. I was about ready to shuck my shoes and join her but decided to just head for the shade instead.

After a couple of hours of walking around in the sun, I was starting to feel like this little guy, who was snoozing on the seat of a rickshaw while his people played music for tips.

My haul for the day: two heirloom tomatoes ($4.50), one bag of fresh basil ($4), one breve Mexican mocha ($4.30) and a copy of the local alt weekly (free). I’m thinking Caprese salad for dinner tonight.

Happy Birthday to Annabel

The lovely and amazing Annabel–first baby for her parents, first niece for me, first grandchild for my folks–has crossed the threshold of childhood and entered her teens today, and she’s made this transition just as gracefully as she does everything else. We are so proud of her.

Here she is with her daddy, whom she greatly resembles, on her third birthday, 10 years ago today.

Make a big wish, blow out the candles, have a wonderful day and a magnificent year. We love you, sweetie.