September 2011 Archives


Last Saturday I was lucky enough to get to hop in my minivan and head up to Berkeley, solo, to attend Andrea's Instant Magic Workshop.  I brought my Poppa's late 1960s Polaroid 230 Land Camera, a whole lotta Fuji peel-apart film, a notebook, and a pen. 

It took me a long time to make the switch over to digital photography.  I was stubborn, with all these highfalutin romantic ideas about film, and then I won a little Cannon point and shoot in a writing contest and was kinda like, OH HEY - THIS IS CHEAP AND FUN!  I think it's been four or five years since I used film at all, and the idea of paying twenty bux to get a roll of film developed makes me uncomfortable.  I've come to embrace digital editing, especially the ability to crop and get tight images even without a macro lens, and I am a fan of messing with the exposure settings (usually go darker), contrast (more, please), color saturation, and green tint.  And the best thing is that if you don't like the results you can just start over.  If 'revert to original' was a key on my keyboard, it would be worn out by now. 

I have been following Andrea's blog and photography for a long time, but first met her just last year when I took another of her photo workshops in San Francisco.  Just like that last workshop, this one left me feeling really really good and hopeful and happy, even though this time?  My photos they didn't come out so hot. 


studio flowers

The colors are pretty, right?  Yellow makes you happy, doesn't it?  But this has room for improvement.



Here I was hoping to capture the pretty pretty blue of the sky against the white wall and lamp with the magical crystalline Fuji film, but guess what?  I have forgotten what the hell I need to do manually to help that process along.  Because who worries about settings so much when you can just make adjustments to everything later?  (not me)

There were a couple of familiar faces from last year's workshop, and one of them was Kim.  Last year she gave me her card and it's been hanging up on the wall of my cube at work ever since.  She's a kickass photographer.  So, around the end of the day I was looking at some of the photos she'd taken with some integral film made by the geniuses from The Impossible Project (different than the peel-apart, and probably what you think of when you think 'polaroid') and I said out loud, Okay - I need to replace my longlost Polaroid so I can try out some of this film.  And she was all, Oh.  You need a camera?  HERE YOU GO.  And gifted me a Polaroid One Step.

I know!

And then, Andrea said, Hey!  Need some film for that?  HERE YOU GO.  And she gifted me a pack of film

So I got home and loaded up the camera and couldn't wait to take some photos. 


I've taken a few and they are cruddy.  It's NOT the camera or the film.  It's me. 

See this one:

 flower tree

I took it out behind Scuba's house the other night, because the sun was going down and the leaves and flowers were all lit up and golden and firey and lovely.  But the overall light was too low and I should have known better. 

Okay, so then later I thought I'd try getting a shot of these bright paper flowers I have.  If they filled up the frame, the shot would have been pretty good, but not being able to get in close and not being able to crop means you need to frame shots differently.  In my stubbornness, I ignored that and came out with this:

paper flowers

Now I am panicking, because I didn't even tell you about the dud self-portrait I took (not gonna scan that one, uh unh) and there are only eight photos per roll.  So when you add in this one, taken in way too-bright light to not have compensated somehow:

paper flowers & shadow

I'm halfway through the roll with nothing to show for it.  YIKES!

But, Scuba and I are going to Monterey for the weekend soon, so maybe I can pull a rabbit out of my hat with the last couple of shots and not feel like such a putz.  Monterey likes to pose for photos.   

I'm not giving up on myself.  I think I can figure it out and quit wasting so many shots.  If nothing else, it's a reminder to slow down and think, a reminder that sometimes you have to make all the adjustments before you act, instead of getting to tweak things after.

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The home office bulletin board

This is the bulletin board that hangs over my little funky green table desk in the home office corner of my bedroom.  It goes on to the left a little more than you can see in this photo, and in that space there is: a great picture of me with my dad; the postit note written confirmation code for a BIG credit with United Airlines from all the shitty dying and funeral travel rescheduling I had to do this summer; a picture of my three oldest kids when Sophie was still a baby; a drawing Sophie made for me; and a tarot card.  This very one, only on mine you can read the word Prudence across the bottom.

I've had that deck of tarot cards for over twenty years, since the day that I walked out to my car and found it sitting in the road next to the front tire of my Volkswagen Rabbit, still in its brokenish box.   

I don't read tarot cards myself, mainly because I think it's probably a crock, but even if it's not I do believe that the future isn't set, so what is the point in trying to predict it?  I'm busy doing stuff, you know? 

Since my dad died (I can't get used to saying or thinking or writing that), my step mom has been going through all of the things he saved.  There were a lot of things.  Really a lot.  Some of them are now mine, and if my house were on fire, I'd run back in to grab them.  The thing is, she had a huge job, going through all of my dad's things and figuring out what to do with them.  Sometimes I came home to a box on the front step, and when I opened it I could tell that she'd taken a drawer (what most of us would call a junk drawer) and put it in a box and taped it up and mailed it to me. 

Dude.  I cannot say I blame her.  It was a lot of stuff.  And now I have for-real Property of NASA stickers and a few other things from his desk that probably weren't supposed to leave the building. 

My dad retired last October and he was already sick and not able to do things.  But there was so very much he wanted to do.  He was a woodworker who had rheumatoid arthritis that was getting so bad he couldn't button his shirt and it was hard to drink his coffee in the morning.  But still, he'd order books from Amazon about woodcarving because he wanted to try out some new methods.  He was a person who loved to tell stories and laugh, but he also had COPD and rarely was able to say what he wanted without stopping to cough.  He was a hard worker, who loved his career, but had all these things he wanted to do when he retired.  And then he retired and started to get to do some things, like work on the animation and photography stuff he was so passionate about, but mostly he was visiting doctors and planning for the future and telling me how even though he was retired he was still busy all the time but he was getting to cook more.  We started talking more often, which was nice.  Better than nice.  It was really wonderful.

Then on April 1st, my step mom called and told me that my dad had stopped breathing and she'd called an ambulance and the paramedics had resuscitated him and he was alive, barely, in the hospital on a ventilator and that cancer they found in his kidney at the end of March?  It was also in his hip and his lungs.  And he had stopped breathing because he had a staph infection in his lungs and it was not looking good.  I flew to Houston right away. 

My dad never went back to his house again.  The only times he went outside were when he was being transferred from a hospital to a rehab and back to a hospital again.  He never had another good meal (he was a total foodie), or a beer (sweet lord, did he love his beer), but he didn't complain and was happy to get to see his family and he was so blown away by the response from all the people who loved him.  He really was.  He told me all the time how lucky he felt to be so loved, and he said that he shared a room for awhile with a guy who had kids in town that never even once stopped by to see him, and he felt so bad for him.  I'd call him every day, a lot of times twice, and he said that his roommate's phone never rang.

It's been nearly three months since my dad died on the first day of summer.  Almost a whole season has gone by and I am having a harder time with this now than I was then, I think.  I cry in the car because I would always call him when I was driving to and from work.  I cry in the shower, because, well, when I'm sad I always do for some reason.  I cry when I look up at that bulletin board over my desk and see photos of him.  I thought about taking it down for a little while, to give myself a break, but since I saw what cancer and infection did to him, and because the last time I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek he wasn't alive anymore, I still need to be able to look at those happier images of him to push out the other ones.  And I didn't even walk in past the last row in the back of the chapel at the funeral viewing.  [Note: DO NOT have one of those for me.  PLEASE.  The viewing, I mean.  Funeral it up all you want, just don't have an open casket.]

Almost a week ago, I got news that one of my friends died.  When I was about 20 he was my very best friend, though we'd not seen each other much in the last ten years.  I named my first kid after him, like we always joked that I would.  I ran into him a few times around town over the last couple of years, and we'd hug and make plans to meet for coffee and then both flake because we were busy.  I wanted him to give my boys guitar lessons, but with their insane schedules I never set it up.  Cause there was always later, right?  The rest of this is still too fresh to write about, apparently.

Last year, on my 40th birthday, my grandmother died.  She's the knockout on the top and bottom middle in the photo up there.  We were close and I've been missing her lately, too.  Since then, six more people either in my family or who I was really close to have died.

So, I don't know, I guess this is the year that I deal with death, yeah?  One of my responses has been to start clearing out my old things. Things like that dumb box of tarot cards I've held on to all these years.  I took them from the box and spread them out, not to tell my fortune but to see if any of them were ones I wanted to keep.  And, there was Prudence, the prettiest one and fitting, I guess, so I tacked it up on the board. 

For me, getting rid of things is less about worrying about other people having to deal with all my stuff, and more about only hanging onto what's important and by extension guiding my life toward the things that make me happiest.  But, also, I don't want to be saving too much to do later or spending too much energy saving things that are only going to end up in the garbage.  Cause I think of all the time and energy that my dad put in to saving and filing every single paystub and paid bill and check register he ever put his hands on (it seems) and I wonder if he might not have made himself more time to do the things that he was saving until he had more time.  Maybe there's not more time. 

This is for my friend Tim, who was super proud of his original Beatles Flip Your Wig Game

You can check out some of Tim's music here.  And, yeah, that's a much younger me in that music video for the song Hair at the bottom.  Tim's the one singing and playing guitar and breaking my heart in two.    

So the big kids had a big trip planned with their dad and stepmom this summer, and Scuba suggested that we bring Willow along with us on our big trip to Maui at the same time, so that she could have a big trip, too.  So, we did, and the fallout from the big kids was really minimal.  Maybe we'll find tacks in the bed or ground glass in our coffee over it sometime soon, but they're all acting normal FOR NOW.

The first thing we did when we got to Hawaii with Willow was take her to the beach so she could see that some oceans are warm.  Cause, dude, the Pacific in northern CA is not ever warm, not even a little. 

Hawaii August 2011 1 146.JPG

This photo is straight outta my point and shoot, no editing. The light in Hawaii, it makes me happy happy happy.

Okay really the first thing we did was go to Costco and buy bacon and booze and other essentials for the condo we rented, and stop at the ABC store for beach mats and towels, but right after that we walked across the street to the beach right by our condo to watch the sun go down.

Hawaii August 2011 1 136.JPG

She was impressed, to say the least.

The next day, we drove to Ahihi, which may be my favorite place on the planet, second only to my grandparents' houses. 

Hawaii August 2011 1 165.JPG

Scuba gave Willow her first snorkeling lesson, and she took to it immediately.  He tried three or four times to bring her back to shore, but she insisted on staying in the water longer, even when she got a little cold. 

The rest of our days were spent in the water and at shave ice stands.

Side a da road shave ice.jpg

Side of the road shave ice from a food truck near Makena Beach.  Her favorite was Ululani's in Lahina.  Mine and Scuba's, too!

We ate well and slept well and played hard and shopped.  The weather was perfect, we all got along, and there were only brief homesick tears.  I think three long trips this summer on top of a week of day camp were a little much at one moment for a very tired Willow.

I didn't take enough photos again this trip, but I did get some of Willow at the very fun and 100% kid-friendly luau we went to at Polynesian Village.

Hawaii August 2011 2 052.JPG

She kept calling Chief FiaFia That crazy Canadian dude, until we FINALLY got through to her that he was from Samoa. 


Hawaii August 2011 2 053.JPG

and hula dancers:

Hawaii August 2011 2 054.JPG

Need to teach that kid to bust out the shaka in her Hawaii photos!

One of the best things we did this trip was get Willow and Scuba ukuleles.  She got an impromptu lesson from a Hawaiian family in the airport while we were waiting for our flight, and it was so fun to watch.  I've had my ukulele for a year now and I rarely practice, so maybe with the three of us all learning, I'll make some headway.  And then we can make a video.  Like this one
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