The year is 2007. The person is my middle child, now a young man. The situation is high school graduation. Such a proud moment!
I name my hats. Or, rather, they tell me their names. Meet (top) Bette and Matilda, (middle) Fiona, and (bottom) Brad and Bianca.
I am not a portrait photographer by any means. I’ve just learned over the years that I am my best model because I do what I tell me to do. I have also learned over the years that I look best smiling. Serious expressions make me look quite frightening, like I’m dead or something.
It’s not often that photographers include themselves in their own photos. It makes sense since they are usually behind the camera and not in front of it. It takes forethought to create a photo with the photographer included. I set out to make these photos of my hats and I had a lot of fun doing it so I am pleased to show them.
You wouldn’t expect to find a Krishna temple in the midst of Mormon country, now, would you? But here it is and it is beautiful and peaceful. I have long since left my Mormon heritage and journeyed a bit through some of the Eastern religions/philosophies, and although I do not ascribe to any religion and have fashioned my own spiritual philosophies (play well with others, do not run with scissors), I love finding beautiful places of worship.
I first discovered Sri Sri Radha Krishna Temple (link takes you to their photo gallery where you will find stunning photographs of this temple) when I visited my parents in 2004 for their 50th Wedding Anniversary. I entered the temple and was greeted by a very quiet, but helpful person who gave me a short tour. Upstairs they have a meeting room where I sat and meditated for a while. It is a beautiful place. The next time I visited my parents in 2009, I had to go again and that’s when I took this photo.
When I think of my upbringing in Mormonism, I think of being taught that Mormonism is the ONLY true religion and everyone else is deceived. I was discouraged to even look at any other religion, so to find the Krishna Temple in rural, Mormon-dominated territory with MY DAD speaking highly of it tells me that the religion I left has changed to some degree. And that makes me happy.
Imagine six wild children running in and around this tiny brick house! I loved this house. I loved the porch where I sat and watched thunderstorms roll through and saw the rain pour down and yet I kept dry. I loved the living room chandelier and the fireplace and the high ceilings and the worn, wood floors; the living room where I watched my mother lay out fabric and pin crisp patterns to it and cut out a soon-to-be new dress. I loved the pantry just off the kitchen with plenty of cupboard space and its roll-out bins for flour—and for a child hiding in a game of hide-and-seek. I loved the bedroom where I sneaked mandarin oranges from the pantry and hid them on the windowsill behind the curtains only to have my mother, outside in the garden, discover me. I loved the tiny bedroom closet where I laid down pillows and blankets and turned out the light so that it was pitch black and slept curled up and happy.
Outside I loved the Catalpa tree on the right where we installed a swing for summer fun. I loved the lilac bushes in the back, with a hollowed out center where I hid when I wanted to get away from all the inside rambunctiousness. I loved the back yard with the lawn and garden and rocky, weedy expanse that opened up to every other neighbor’s back yard. We called it the short cut; the short cut to the park, to Bright Spot—the neighborhood hamburger stand—to Firestone Tires where we played on the old tire hill. I loved the old barn/garage that my dad dusted with saw wood to keep down the dirt we kids tracked into the house because we loved playing in it.
I loved the outside back bedroom that fulfilled multiple functions throughout our time there; my uncle’s bedroom as he went to college, my mother’s chinchilla room, storage, my first kiss (I was seven). I loved scampering up the tree in the back beside the house and climbing onto the roof and gently tiptoeing up to the very top (so my mother wouldn’t hear me on the roof) and feeling like I owned my neighborhood, the community, the world.
Childhood is a magical time where the world is new and everything is impressionable. I loved my childhood home. I hope my children loved theirs.
Today is my son’s birthday and although we celebrated his birthday a couple days later the year I took this photo, I wanted to say “Happy Birthday” today.
“Andthekitty andthekitty andthekitty andthekitty….(*deep breath*) JUMPED!” so exclaimed my two-year-old daughter twenty-odd years ago when I read to her “A Dark Dark Tale” by Ruth Brown while listening to Alan Parsons “Tales of Mystery and Imagination.” I timed it so that the kitty jumped at the same time the music built to a resounding clash, after which my daughter WOULD NOT PUT THE BOOK DOWN and she told everyone about that kitty while clutching that book. This is one of many memorable experiences I’ve had with picture books.
I would like to introduce you to my friend and children’s book author, Rick Walton (link takes you to his page at Amazon.com). Rick is the author of over 60 children’s books, which include poetry, jokes, and, of course, the picture book. Today he wrote a beautiful post on why picture books are important and why they are for everyone. EVERYONE. That includes children, young adults, and yes, even adults. (That’s me! Yay!) When you finish reading his post, please add a comment about your favorite picture book memory. I know you have one.
It is picture book month. And so, I am required by law, as an official author of picture books, to climb on top of my soapbox and explain:
Why Picture Books Are Important,
And Why They Are for Everyone
Picture books are often seen as literary baby food, the stuff we feed children until they have the teeth to eat real food.
I would argue, however, that picture books are not baby food. They are not just for young children.
In fact, I would argue that picture books are perhaps the most important literary format that we have.
Here are 10 reasons why I believe this:
1. They are the first books that children fall in love with, that turn children into lifetime readers. Lifetime readers become lifetime learners. Lifetime learners become lifetime contributors.
2. Picture book language is often more sophisticated than the first chapter books that children read, and therefore an excellent way for children to learn language. It is here that children, and others, can learn vocabulary, imagery, rhythm, shape, structure, conciseness, emotional power.
3. The picture book is the most flexible of all literary formats. You can do almost anything in a picture book. This flexibility encourages creativity, in both writer and reader. It broadens the mind, and the imagination. And given today’s challenges, we desperately need more creativity, broadened minds. Imagination.
4. The picture book, with its interaction between text and illustration , with its appeal that the reader analyze that interaction, helps develop visual intelligence. It helps us look for meaning in the visual. And since most of us are surrounded by, and inundated by visual images our whole lives, visual intelligence is an important skill.
5. Some of the best art being created today is found in picture books. Picture books are a great resource for art education.
6. The picture book appeals to more learning styles than any other format. It is read out loud for audible learners. It is written and illustrated for visual learners. It often asks you to interact with it physically for kinesthetic learners.
7. In fact, the picture book, of all formats, is probably the best format for teaching an idea, getting across a point. Because picture books are short, all messages, knowledge, ideas expressed in a picture book must be boiled down to their essence. They must be presented in a way that is impossible to misunderstand. If you want to learn a difficult subject, start with a picture book. If you want to express a powerful message, a picture book is one of the most powerful media for doing so. Many middle, upper grade, and even college instructors have recognized the value of using picture books in their teaching.
8. The picture book does more than any other literary format for bonding people one with another. As a child sits on a lap and is read to, as a parent, a grand parent, a teacher, a librarian reads to a child, extremely important connections are made, bonds are formed, generations are brought together.
9. The picture book also has the broadest possible age range of audience. Few four-year-olds will appreciate a novel. But many grandparents enjoy a good picture book. I have read picture books for upwards of an hour to groups including toddlers, teens, parents and grandparents, where all were engaged.
10. The picture book is short, and can fit easily into the nooks and crannies of our lives. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there, plenty of time for a complete literary experience.
Picture books are poetry, adventure, imagination, language, interaction, precision, and so much more.
Picture books are not books that children should be encouraged to “graduate” from.
For picture books have something important to say, to give, to all ages, all generations.
Picture books are not just books for young children.
They are books for everybody.
I want to thank Rick for granting me permission to publish this wonderful and well-thought-out article on the importance of picture books. Please take time today to pull out your favorite picture book and revisit it and the memories.
Patience. It took me a year to find the perfect piece. I wanted a pot rack so badly but I didn’t want to spend a fortune on it and it had to be simple to assemble. I wanted it to look like it had been crafted professionally, which meant not any piece would do. It had to have substance to it and it had to fit my personality.
I hunted through my favorite Goodwill stores weekly, religiously. Initially, I had in mind a small, wooden ladder attached to the wall and the pots would hang from the steps. I thought that would be perfect; creative and funky. But it had to be the right ladder. I never found a ladder—ever. Not even close. Perhaps because a ladder isn’t my personality?
At times I almost found what I wanted. Almost. There were a number of almost-new wooden shelves that could work. But some had heart cutouts and I have an aversion to the heart shape (you won’t find any hearts in my house…except the one that keeps me alive), and others, well, they were just shelves. Nothing interesting.
I told myself, “You’ll know it when you see it, Dezra.” I would see an interesting metal piece, pick it up, and ask, “Are you the one?” And it would whisper back, “I don’t know, am I?” I would put it down and walk away. My philosophy is, if it is the one, it will continue to speak to me after I leave. Then I walked out the door and forgot all about it. “Nope, you aren’t the one,” I whispered to the air.
After a year of searching, I got desperate. I live in a small apartment and my pots and pans take up prime shelf real estate. I needed to make room and I had a bare wall just waiting for a pot rack.
So Friday while making my grocery list, I jotted down “Pot Rack.” On Saturday I went to a Goodwill store and within minutes I walked out.
Whoa! Wait a minute! I walked out—with a pot rack holder!
What? How did that happen? What happened to, “Are you the one?” What happened to, “I don’t know, am I?” What happened to if it is the one, it will continue to speak to me after I leave? I left, and there it was with me. A pot rack holder. And there was my receipt, $5.99. And there I stood, wondering how it happened. And a huge smile spread across my face. Because, yeah, it’s metal and it fits my personality.
Now, all I need are the S-hooks. I wanted to make my own so that I could have various lengths. I opted for copper wire because I can distress it to better fit in with my decor. I found it by-the-foot at Ace Hardware. I bought 10 feet.
Total cost of my pot rack (excluding hardware to fasten it to the wall since I already had that at home) was $11.89 plus tax.
Not a bad price for year-long patience.
Last night in a phone conversation, my dad said, “Every night before I go to bed, your Mother says, ‘I’m going to attack you.’ Then she hugs me and kisses me.”
Yes. My family makes me happy, quirks and all.
I love crockery. I love the clacking sound it makes as I pull it out of the cupboard and the shattering sound it makes if I drop it. I love the hefty feel, the comfort of something solid in my hands. And I love the patterns. I’m crazy when I go into second-hand stores. I pick up stray crockery like children pick up stray kittens. I have to rescue them!
But I’ve been good since I moved into a one-bedroom apartment. I got rid of most of my crockery (ouch!) and kept what was meaningful to me. So here are my sets:
The salad plates I’ve paired with this set aren’t really part of the set…and they aren’t complete. I don’t have FOUR! I only have THREE! But I had to buy them anyway because they’re so colorful.
I figure I have 28 dinner plates, 19 salad plates, and 24 bowls. And that’s not counting my Christmas dinnerware.
I would like to say I don’t know why I love crockery but that’s not true. I grew up with a very pragmatic mother who didn’t spend money on needless items. And she had no aesthetic bone in her body so she bought the most boring white and brown Melmac set she could find and we used it until I moved out. I hated it. It spoke of poverty. It spoke of pragmatism. It spoke of ugly. I didn’t want that in my household.
So I buy crockery to feel secure. I buy it and it makes me happy.
Tomorrow is the big day for RefreshIndy as they host their first re:build Web conference. Justin Harter and Tony Dewan have done a great job at conceiving, co-ordinating and hosting this conference. I went to visit them today at the venue and was astounded. It is an art center with all the artsy, artistic sensibilities an art center implies — which means this will NOT be your ordinary, sterile Web conference! I snapped a few pics as they were setting up. Take a look at this place!
I am looking forward to tomorrow when this space is filled…because it will be filled (few tickets still available). And if you see me (I’m the one with the camera), say hello.
“Hey, Dezra,” I said to myself (Yes, I talk to myself). “Now that you have a second computer and it looks pretty and it’s newer than your Mac Mini, you need a second computer desk to match.”
“I know, I know,” I replied (Yes, I answer myself). “But I have to be judicious with my finances right now. I can’t afford to buy one.”
“Well, you have to do something. It’s sitting on your couch like a couch potato, taking up room and doing nothing—like a couch potato!”
Sigh. Ok, I thought. So what to do? I decided to put it out to the Universe. In my meditation this morning I stated my need/want and said, “So what do I do?” Then I listened. I have learned over the years what to listen for and it went something like this…only not in words but in…um…a complete sense, a gestalt, an intuition. But I will put words to it since that’s the best way to explain it.
“Hit-second-hand-stores-like-Goodwill-and-spend-$30-or-less.” Only faster (hitsecondhandstoreslikeGoodwillandspend$30orless… and, yes it capitalizes proper names because it’s cool like that).
Haha! Yeah right. So I thought back to it, only slower, “No, let’s say between $30-$50. I can’t imagine I’ll find anything I like for $30 or under.”
I hit four Goodwill stores. In the first one I saw a little desk that would do in a pinch and seriously considered it—it was only $12.99, way under the $30. I could paint it to update it. It had wheels so I could roll it to accommodate my area. But I walked out without it. (thisisnottheone)
Stores number two and three were a bust. Then came store number four. (Sorry, but if you’re looking for a suspense build up at this point in the story, you’re not getting one. This is the last Goodwill of the day and I’m writing a blog about bargains so if you haven’t already guessed that I found what I was looking for at store number four, then you need to take a class on logic—or something.) I found my desk! Yep. The desk is perfect. It has dark wood, a pull-out keyboard and a pull-out printer shelf. It is on wheels. It is almost perfect—few scratches. It is small for my small area. It is serviceable. It is elegant.
And here’s the kicker. It was $29.99! Yes! UNDER $30! Woohoo! But wait! There’s more! Take a look at the receipt.
It was yellow-sticker day. In Goodwill language, that means all items with a yellow tag/sticker are half off. I really did get it for $30 or UNDER! Way under! Way to go Universe. It pays to listen.
So now I have a computer area. I have two computer desks; one for the Mac and one for the PC.
I am grateful to people who donate their items to second-hand stores. I love finding bargains! (you’rewelcome) (Aw man, I was going to say, “Thank you.” So THANK YOU.)
A lot of generous people live in this world and I am grateful for them.
I mentioned to a friend one day in passing that my computer was nearly 10 years old. Now that I will be working from home for a bit it’s frustrating because there are many things I can’t do due to the antiquated processing system. Days later I get a call. “Would you like my PC? It’s three years old but the hard drive is brand new.” He was getting a whole new system.
So I went to pick it up and this is the complete package he gave me:
Later that evening I set up the above shot for this blog. I pulled out my camera. Its familiar heft was comforting to me and halfway through the photo shoot a stunning revelation hit me. My camera and lens were given to me anonymously after I had my camera gear stolen!
These are major gifts! Given by generous people!
I sat there and stared at the camera and at the computer equipment and was overwhelmed. The day I lost my camera equipment was a big blow to me and my photography career. But it returned to me through a generous donor (I still don’t know who this person is—and I don’t know if this person knew that the camera that was stolen was a Canon 30D, so to gift me with a Canon 30D was wonderful!). And now that I will be on my own for a while because my job is ending, I needed a newer computer…and there it is. I do ask myself, “Why me?” But then I have to put that question out of my head and just accept what is, because whatever it is, is beautiful. And I am deeply grateful.
My goal is to pay it forward. Not just once, but many times over.
I have to.
I want to.
So to all you generous people out there:
We shall never cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
-T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets)
Coffee mugs make me happy. Not just any coffee mugs. MY coffee mugs! I have three!
They each have a story.
Coffee Mug #1: The Original
I found this mug a long time ago. It had a nice, hefty feel to it and it holds a LOT. It also appealed to the grunge in me at the time. This coffee mug made me happy. Then in December of 2009 it broke and I was devastated! Thus my journey into mug-land began.
I started with Meijer since that is where I got The Original. But Meijer didn’t carry them anymore. So I went to Target and Home Goods. I even dared the scary peopleofwalmart but nothing.
Meijer had some white-ware that had a single mug that would suffice until I found one that I really wanted. So enter…
Coffee Mug #2: The Interim
I was not happy with this mug. It felt delicate. It was white. No personality. But it was all I could find. I never stopped looking for a real replacement, though. However, in time I grew accustomed to this mug. The memory of the heft of the original mug slowly diminished and the delicate nature of this mug became the norm. As I stopped looking for replacements, I started appreciating the simple beauty of this mug and soon I forgot all about The Original. This one made me happy.
Then the rapture craze began. My balcony became the rapture balcony because I outfitted it so that I could comfortably watch all the people being raptured. One day while in Goodwill I found my….
Coffee Mug #3: Rapture Mug
Doesn’t that just look like a rapture mug? It has flowers. It is blue and green, the color of sky and earth. It talks of English gardens and heaven. It whispers of faraway places but keeps me in the here-and-now. I couldn’t pass it up. I found it at Goodwill and it even came with a plate. When I drink on my balcony, I use this mug. This one made me happy.
One day while strolling through Goodwill looking for a dress to wear to a wedding, I saw…. Could it be? After all these many months of searching? My eyes zoomed in on the mug of my dreams….
Coffee Mug #1 & #4: The Original Returns
My mug returned to me.
Life is cyclical, like a spiral, where the end meets the beginning only on a different level. I have taken a year and a half journey through mug-land. I lost a treasured mug, which made me open my eyes to different mugs. I learned to accept and love mugs for what they are rather than what I want them to be. I have been gifted with special mugs that came into my life at the right time. And in the end I return much richer to the place where I began.
Whatever is this? you might ask.
“Why, it’s a clear bowl!” Whatever is it for?
One day when I was feeling particularly sad, I emptied the dishwasher. When I saw these tiny, little bowls I smiled. I smiled so big that I realized I was smiling. And in that moment, I recognized that there are so many little things that make me happy I wanted to keep track of them. I use these tiny, little bowls to put a teaspoon-of-this or a tablespoon-of-that in them while I gather all my ingredients. Then, when I’m ready, I toss the ingredients into the dish I’m making with such a flourish, I feel like Emeril or Bobby or the Barefoot Contessa (does she flourish?) and that makes me happy.
So raise your glass to the tiny, little bowl!
One day shortly after getting riffed, I smiled. I saw something that brought a smile to my face. (No not the following movies, something else that I will post later).
I realized I have all around me, things that make me happy.
Stefan Sagmeister is a designer I highly admire. He came to the Indianapolis Museum of Art where I met him. I am very familiar with his work, especially the work based on “Things I Have Learned In My Life So Far.”
I admit that the execution of these words are in imitation of what he does (only he does it so much better).
But I needed the creative challenge and I wanted to do something that would make me happy.
And I wanted to start documenting every time I smile so that I can always remember that no matter how difficult life gets, there are things that make me happy.