Chihuly and more

It was a hot and steamy weekend…

…okay.  Just kidding. 

I schlepped down into the city for the second weekend in a row.  If you read last Sunday’s entry, you know that this is a rarity for me.  I blame my friend, Bill.  He went to the Dallas Arboretum a few days ago and posted some great pictures to his blog.  I love the arboretum, and I am fascinated by the Chihuly exhibit that is currently on display though out the gardens.  So, I decided to braved the 100+ degree temperatures on Saturday.  I spent about three hours baking in the sun and taking lots of pictures.  Here are a few of my favorites:

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a red dragonfly before.IMG_6621

 

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I don’t know the species, but this guy was very vocal and not at all happy to have me wondering around beneath his tree.IMG_6725

Chihuly.  I love this exhibit and this piece, in particular.  I’ve tried three times to photograph it.  Unsuccessfully.  This time was different.  I experimented a lot more with my manual settings.  I think it also helped that it was a virtual ghost town and I was able to take my time.  IMG_6878

I almost didn’t share this one.  I wanted to keep it all for myself.  But then, it was my favorite of the day, so how could I not share?.IMG_6881

 

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This squirrel was on to something.IMG_7050

A bee surprise

I’d love to tell you that it was my mad photography skills that captured this bee in midflight, but that would be bare-face lie.  I didn’t even know I caught this moment until I was sorting through the fruits of my labor.

What a nice surprise.

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Things I learned this week

“Knowledge is power.” – Sir Francis Bacon

…or was it Kim Kardashian who said that?

I learned this week…

…that Kristen Stewart cheated on Robert Pattinson, sending a shockwave of despair through the fanatical world of Twilight fans everywhere, shattering dreams of a sparkling vampire happily ever after.  I don’t think my faith in monogamy will ever be restored.

…that water yuppies do exist.  I know, right?  I was just as surprised as you, but my research doesn’t lie.  Until this week, it was a term that was wholly unfamiliar to me.  I stumbled across it while researching houseboats in Amsterdam – a perfect place to hide someone who doesn’t want to be found, by the way.  It’s one of those words that just struck my fancy.  I’m dying to use it in the course of a casual conversation.  I haven’t figured out how I’m going to manage that yet.  When I do, I’ll let you know how it goes.

…that pumpkin patches are rarer than diamonds.  Or, so says my daughter to her friend while enthralled in a game of online Minecraft.   This is good information.

…that an orthodontist visit + a hormonal preteen entering 7thgrade + talks of a full set of braces = E.P.I.C. meltdown.  Take heed people.

…that the Cheer Moms at my daughter’s gym may have finally sacrificed their coach to the almighty Cheer God.   Their perky ponytails, color coordinated tees, and snarky, narcissistic chatter as been oddly absent from practice in recent weeks.  Now who am I going to sit and judge while I should be writing?

…that Jen Garner has made a warm and fuzzy Disney flick.  Excuse me while I bang my head on my desk.

(Pause)

Now that I’ve given myself a headache, I think I’ll go console my broken heart with an Aliasmarathon and a bag of Oreo’s.

that Donald J. Sobol died on July 11, 2012.  I’m not really sure how I missed this, but I did.  He is most noted for penning the Encyclopedia Brown seriesof kid’s books about a boy detective in high top sneakers.  I loved those books when I was young…um…younger.  RIP Mr. Sobol.

…that this week’s awww moment is brought to you by one of the bunnies I stumbled across during a recent early morning walk in the park.  I don’t believe he’s the criminal who has destroyed my flower beds, but I took his picture anyway.  You know, just in case I need to identify him in a line up.

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Around the yard

I had a busy weekend, but I did find the time to step out into the backyard with my camera.  Here are a few of the things I saw.

Texas is hot in the summer and with that heat comes grasshoppers.  All shapes and sizes.  This is one of the more interesting I came across.  He was a bit more aggressive than I would have liked.  I think I may have squealed like a pig when he dive bombed my head.IMG_6217.2
Up in the tree, I saw a tangle of hair snagged on a thin branch.  Logic tells me that it is remnants of a bird’s nest.  Perhaps a knot of hair snagged from the trash by one of the more resourceful species.  Of course, the writer in me envisions something a bit more chilling.  Is it evidence left behind after a sinister crime?  Will I find a body beneath the drooping branches of my Japanese maple?  Hmmm…IMG_6377
My oak tree is relatively young.  This is its first year of acorn production.  Awww…they grow up so fast.IMG_6395
Thunderstorms are rare commodity in my neck of the woods, this time of year.  Usually, the formidable “dome of high pressure” that tends to dominate our weather pattern, discourages substantial storm development.  It’s like we are held hostage by an alien life form who has placed a force field around us in order to deflect anything that will give us relief from the scorching sun.  IMG_6354

A book signing

I went to a book signing yesterday.

A bit out of the norm for me.  There are very few things that can entice me enough to schlep down into the city, fight crowds of rude strangers,and waste hours standing in line doing nothing but waiting.  I won’t do it for a Black Friday deal.  I won’t do it for a movie premiere.  I wouldn’t do it to meet Sting.

I will do it for Daniel Silva and his master Israeli spy/assassin/art restorer, Gabriel Allon.

I went early in the morning with the intention of getting some writing done.  I did, though not as much as I would have liked.  You see, I have a problem.  I am an addicted people-watcher, so writing in public often proves distracting.  Yesterday was no different.

While I sat in the café, sipping a venti unsweetened iced green tea, my writing flow was continuously interrupted.  First, there was the two women who wanted to know if my name was Kristin.  No, not me.   Then there was the older woman in a burnt orange blouse, lime green Crocs, holding a moderately sized postal box.  Her fidgeting was what initially caught my eye.  She didn’t order a drink, couldn’t sit still, and at times, paced.  At first, I thought maybe I should be worried about the contents of her box.  I mean, if I were writing this scene, there would be something like wires, a brick of C4, and a cell phone detonator in that box.  After ten minutes or so, I realized she must be waiting for someone.  I imagined it was a date with a man she’d met on a matchmaking website.  I wondered if she shouldn’t have maybe picked a different shirt to go with those shoes.  She definitely was not dressed for husband nabbing.  Turns out she did not have a bomb, and she wasn’t on a blind date.  She was a calligrapher.  Inside the box were beautifully addressed wedding invitations.  The bride-to-be was late, paid by check, and didn’t seem to notice the older woman’s lack of fashion sense.   I was disappointed.

Around eleven, a flash of movement in my peripheral drew my attention away from Anna and her troubles.  It took a second or two for my brain to register what my eyes were seeing.  Jerry Garcia, wearing a brightly hued Hawaiian-style bowler shirt over faded blue jeans and Birkenstocks, was unwrapping a straw for his blended frappuccino – caramel macchiato with no whip, if I were a betting gal.  As he walked away slurping, I texted my husband.  His reply: “You know he’s dead, right?”  Killjoy.

At noon, I moved my party upstairs.  I wanted to get my choice of seats.  I did.  Row one, seat 4.  Right in front of the podium and signing table.  A half an hour later, an older gentleman sat down one seat over from me.  He quietly read his book – not a Silva novel. Tsk tsk.  A few minutes later, a bulldog of a man with a shiny bald head sat between us.  They were friends, but their meeting here was by chance.  They chatted like catty women.  First, bemoaning the pros and cons of employment.  The bald man has a job in the surgical department of a local trauma center, the other was an IT technician who failed to keep up with changing technology.  He blames his troubles on his age – 68.  As happens, they soon began to compare their various health issues.  These conversations always make me smile.  It’s like a competition.  Who has had the most surgeries?  The most chronic diseases?  As it turns out, both men have had prostate cancer – with troubling complications.  I could describe for you in grave detail the extent of their complications, but it would likely scar you for life.  I know I will never be the same.

Thirty minutes out from the main event, the venti iced green tea I drank earlier came back to haunt me.  I needed to use the restroom, but I didn’t want to give up my prime seat.  I asked the elderly woman to my right if she would hold my spot while I ran downstairs. She smiled, patted my arm, and pulled a menacing cane from underneath her seat.  She said: “Go right ahead, honey.  I got my cane. I’ll whack ‘em if they get too close.”  Yikes.

silvaAt 2, Daniel Silva arrived with little fanfare.  He was much as I expected.  Handsome in that scholarly way, with an unassuming air and an intelligent wit.  He spoke of his characters with the love of a proud father.  I found it endearing.  I also thought he exhibited a great deal of patience with the group gathered, especially during the question and answer segment.  Some asked interesting questions; some did not.  A few even bordered on offensively stupid.  He handled it smoothly, though there were two occasions when I swear I saw his right eye twitch.

Or maybe not.

I had two books signed, took several photos for the little old lady with the cane and her friend, and left before the SRO crowd swooped in for the kill.

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10 things I learned in my 30s

Yesterday, when I sat down at the computer, my intent was to write a new blog entry updating my outline revisions and finish last week’s “Things I learned.”

That didn’t happen.  I just wasn’t feeling it.  I was having one of those days when every neuron in my brain was misfiring.  Ideas banged around inside my head like jumping beans, but I was powerless to capture and harness them.

Eh, it happens sometimes.  So, I checked my email, trolled Facebook, hit a few entertainment sites, and wondered if Catholic school is really the best choice for Suri Cruise.

That’s when I noticed the date.

July 16.

Hmmm…it appears that I have survived the month since my 40th birthday without suffering any adverse side effects.  A stark contrast to a decade ago.  Turning 30 nearly did me in and I spent four years recovering.    However, the years that followed were a time of great personal growth for me.  I discovered a lot about myself, the world around me, and my place in that world.  Here are 10 things I learned in my 30s:

10.  Eating junk food makes you fat.  In my twenties, this was a foreign concept.  I ate what I wanted, drank what I wanted, and suffered very little in the way of consequences.  In my thirties, my body rebelled.  All of those excess calories translated into excess pounds and my jeans size suddenly expanded – from size 4 to size 14.

9.  Losing weight requires effort – and sweat.  With excess weight gain comes the desire to shed those pounds.  Of course, laziness and gluttony made me fat and my first instinct was to find a method to lose without exerting too much energy.  A quick fix.  I tried the Cookie diet, the Atkins Diet, the South Beach Diet, the starvation diet, the “screw it I’ll just stay fat” diet.  I bought pills and potions and patches.  Nothing worked, and why would it?  The fact of the matter, and something I had to learn the hard way, is that if you want to lose weight, you have to change your lifestyle.  And by change your lifestyle, I mean you must put down the potato chips, get your ass up off the couch, and sweat – a lot.  Every single day for the rest of your life.

8.    Love the skin you’re in.  Cleanse, hydrate, and moisturize.  Do it twice a day, everyday and your skin will reward you with a healthy, youthful glow.  Trust me on this.

7.    Change is painful; change is good.  I’ve never been one to embrace change.   Early on in my thirties, I shied away from it, built a nice safe bubble around my life, and stared out as the world passed me by.  Then suddenly, that world shifted.  In the span of just a few months, I lost my home to fire, my father to cancer, and learned my mother had breast cancer.  In the blink of an eye, everything changed.  It was devastating, yet empowering.  I discovered through it all, that I am strong, capable, and resilient.

6.    Take heart in lessons learned.    Contrary to what I like to tell myself, I don’t know everything.   I have found that life is more than happy to fill in the blanks.  I just have to pay attention and take heed.

5.   A happy life begins with happiness within.   In Henry V, Shakespeare wrote, “Self-love, my liege, is not so vile a sin, as self-neglecting.”  I’ll admit, I’ve never completely comprehended the true meaning behind Shakespeare’s words, but I like the quote just the same.  To me, it embodies the struggle of self-acceptance I endured throughout my 30s.  I am a personality fraught with flaws and quirks and insecurities, and I have learned to like me just as I am.   After that, the rest came easy.

4.   Being a joiner is not a bad thing.  I am, by nature, an introvert.  I prefer to stand on the periphery – watching, assessing, judging.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that – most of the time.  However, to fully engage with life, I found that sometimes I have to step off of the sidelines and into the fray.   It’s scary, but the rewards are endless.

3.   The only way to conquer fear is to face it head on.  Anyone who knows me, or reads my blog, knows that I have a laundry list of phobias.  I am scared of flying, boating, drowning, camping, bears, sharks, brain-eating amoeba, and math.  If there is one thing that I learned in my 30s, it is that one can’t live their life defined by fear.  It stunts personal growth and makes for a boring existence.  So, in the last few years, I’ve gone whale watching in an inflatable raft (yikes), taken a sunset cruise into the shark infested waters off the Keys, flown a dozen or more times, and taken four semesters of math – back to back.  I’m still working up to camping with bears and swimming in a lake full of brain-eating amoeba.  I don’t feel the need to rush.

2.   Nurture healthy relationships, eliminate the bad.   Relationships are hard.  They are even harder when they don’t work.  It took a long time for me to accept that sometimes it is best to cut my losses and walk away.  Once I did, I was free to devote my energy to the relationships in my life that do work.

1.   Youth is relative.  If you perceive yourself as old, you are.

Early morning walk in the park

The other morning, just as the sun was rising, I went for a walk in the park by my house.  I sat on a bench, listened to the sounds of the dawning day, and watched a robin shake off after a bath in a mud puddle. 

It was a great morning.

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