Monday, January 31, 2011

The arrival of Flat Stanley!

The Boy and I have a good friend that we met about 1-1/2 years ago at one of our Jeep-group multi-day outings.  His name is Bub (nickname, I presume).  Bub lives in a suburb of New Orleans.  We really hit it off with him that weekend of wheeling, and The Boy has seen him once since then at the end of last year's BABE Rally.  He was gracious enough to put up The Boy and his dad for a night or two before they made the trip home.  At Christmas time, he sent us New Orleans style goodies - Pralines and a King Cake to share with the family.  He's just one of those all-around cool guys... makes you wish you knew more people of that caliber.

So the latest delivery from Bub was a replacement thermostat for the house (he's an electrician, and had an extra one lying around), and a project to help out his daughters for a Preschool/Kindergarten project...

We got a Flat Stanley!!

I always heard about this project as a kid and never had the opportunity to participate.  Now I have that chance, and I'm all giddy about it like a little kid would be! 

So, Flat Stanley is essentially a picture on a piece of paper (think coloring book design) of a little man.  My mission... should I choose to accept it... is to decorate/dress Flat Stanley as he should be, given his environment.  Once done, Stanley will join us when we go anywhere - my trips to downtown Chicago, to dance, to The Boy's skatepark trips, to friends' houses, etc... and we are to take photos of him in those environments and write about what Stanley did on his 'visit' with us.  Then, after a couple of weeks have passed, we mail Flat Stanley and all the corresponding photos/reports/etc. back to the school that Bub's girls attend... and they can share Stanley's experience with their classmates.

Pretty cool! 

I think Flat Stanley sightings will appear on this blog as well...  :oD 

Project 365 - Day 31

Be at peace.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Project 365 - Day 28

Overlooking Lake Michagan

Urban exploration

I may have mentioned how I've been trekking to downtown Chicago a lot lately (twice this week, even).  Mostly because I have about 8 more dance classes to use, split between Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street.  I was there again today - at Joffrey - for a pilates and a ballet class.  I really love getting out of my normal dance environment to experience new surroundings, new classmates, and new instructors.  I'm a much better dancer for it, and when I return to my normal studio, I feel like I have gained something that I haven't gotten from the classes I typically take.  I can't put my finger on what that is just yet.  Whatever it is, I feel like it's an improvement.

I also try to take advantage of the environment downtown as something different for my photography endeavors.  I always bring the camera with me to try my hand at a little "Urban Exploration."  But do you know what's a little funny?  With all the archetecture and parks and museums and everything... you'd think I'd find all kinds of inspiration, right? 

Not exactly.

I'm finding that more often than not, I'm unmotivated by skyscrapers and fancy sculptures and such.  I favor those images that are nature-based, not manufactured.  Not that I don't agree that the skyline has a certain degree of elegance and prestige... It does.  But in the handful of times that I've been there in the last few months... I find that I'm less and less impressed. 

I'll absolutely take the farm roads and forest preserves any day.  I'll never be a city girl...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Project 365 - Day 26

Binnie Marsh Forest Preserve - Dundee, IL

PS Lightroom 3

I recently got my hands on a copy of Photoshop Lightroom 3... and although I have just the basic working knowledge of it, I gotta say that I'm in LOVE!  It's no lie when they say they created this software package with photographers in mind.  It's done everything I've needed it to do, and I don't even know a fraction of all it's features yet.  I'm really excited to learn it!

I loved the Photoshop Elements program I was using (thank you, Vicki), but I was starting to ask it to do things that it couldn't.  My Canon software was very difficult to work with, and we all know how expensive and how cumbersome the full-fledged version of Photoshop is.  Yeesh! 

Needless to say, I think I've found a great match using Lightroom.  Now I plan to order a book to help me out in areas that I don't understand...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Project 365 - Day 25

Time well spent?

So, here I am... nearly 4 months out of work.  I've put in resumes, made phone calls, visited companies nearly ever day since I've been unemployed... to no avail.

It's disheartening, really.

Agencies that assure they have the "perfect job" for me, or that opportunities are coming down the pipeline and that it should only be a matter of days.  I'm taking the I'll-see-it-when-I-believe-it mentality, as doing otherwise has gotten me nowhere thus far.  I force myself to believe that something better is waiting in the wings.  Without that kind of hope, this whole thing is rather futile.

Oh, and it is.

I've found that this month has been a good one for going downtown Chicago.  Most of the major museums have been running their free-admission weekdays.  I've been to the Art Institute, Shedd Aquarium, Museum of Science & Industry (with the boy)... and all it has cost me was the $4 parking fee at the CTA garage.  The rest of my train/bus fare comes off a pre-loaded CTA card, and not out of pocket.  It's nice.  I've also been taking advantage of some cheap (and sometimes free) offers on dance classes downtown.  Taking classes at Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance have been great ways to keep my morale intact, and keep me physically moving.

Despite all of the mini-outings, I do have my dark days.  My days where I think I'm not needed by anyone, for anything.  Not by any employer, not by friends, not by family.  Despondent days when the only comfort I get is from the cat lying on my lap.  But most days, I do fight back - I make an effort to reach out to friends and family, and I get out of the house.  I go take photos.  I dance.  I go to the gym or take Nemo for a walk.  I find things to research.  Things to make me feel purposeful again.  That dark place is not a place I like to visit - there are dangers in that place that are very real.

Project 365 - Day 24

Lamp seen at Shedd Aquarium - Chicago

Friday, January 21, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

Project 365 - Day 17

This is what happens when it's dark and rainy, and you forgot to bring your camera with you during the daylight hours. :o\

Friday, January 14, 2011

Project 365 - Day 14

Giant Newton's Cradle
Museum of Science & Industry - Chicago, IL

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Project 365 - Day 12

I got to thinking about something today. 

Why is it I have better, more in-depth conversations with people I (barely) know from common-interest internet forums than I do with people that are supposed to be my friends? 

Some of these people from the forums are people I’ve never met… or have only met once or twice in my life… but yet I know more about what is happening in their day-to-day life than I do about those I see on a semi-regular basis.  I know about what’s going on with their kids, spouses, jobs, interests, fears, etc.  They entrust me with a lot of information, and I feel like I receive a lot of respect.  It’s nice.

But with friends nearby, it often seems that most conversations are very fabricated.  Very scripted.  Very cautious.   It seems that I have to quite literally ‘pull’ conversation from people.  It makes me wonder if there is something that’s being hidden.  Something I’m not supposed to know.  Something they are too afraid to say to me.

The thought bothers me a little.  I make all sorts of efforts to be genuine enough to people I come across, whether it be online or otherwise.  Whether it be something they want to hear or not.  But I don’t think I’m receiving the same in return.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Project 365 - Day 11

This pigeon looked like it was trying to check out something behind me...

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Friday, January 7, 2011

Project 365 - Week 1 Recap

So, week 1 of my project is complete.  Upon reflection, this has certainly been more of a challenge than I thought before I started.  Life gets in the way, and I find myself struggling to find something acceptable to post sometimes.  When you're used to seeing everything all of the time, it's hard to actually "see" anything different. 

I am receiving positive feedback, which is nice.

I just enrolled in a Digital Photography class at the local community college.  It starts in a little over a month.  I'm hoping between that class and the class that follows it, I will be able to improve a bit and gain some knowledge and techniques that I don't already have.  Maybe learn some of the little nuances about my camera that I don't yet know.  If my pictures improve a lot by mid-February, you'll know why.

In the meantime, let's see what week 2 brings...

Project 365 - Day 7

Nemo's prized possession... guarding his other prized possession.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Project 365 - Day 6

Trolley Park - South Elgin, IL

*This isn't framed how I'd like it, but I enjoyed the colors and the lightplay... and it was better than anything else I took all day.*

Project 365 - Day 5

Paul Wolff Forest Preserve - Elgin, IL

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Project 365 - Day 4

Cobwebs in the basement of my house... thinking that maybe I should be cleaning instead of taking pictures. :o\

Everyone's false sense of security...

"Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing."

- Helen Keller
It's words such as this that begin the thought process about things that I've done in the past that were deemed 'unsafe' by family and friends.  Mostly my solo wanderings and winter camping.  Instances where someone was informed ahead of time about my anticipated general location... and that's it.  There were no promises that I'd be in the exact place I hoped to be... not because I didn't want to, but because I probably had to alter my agenda.

It's the naysayers that said...

"What if you run into some crazy person that wants to attack you?"
"What if a (insert wild animal of choice here) attacks you?"
"What if you hurt yourself and can't get back?"
"What if you get lost?"

Like in everyday life in our beloved civilized society, you make accommodations when you take trips out into the wilderness.  You have a game plan for many different scenarios.  Can you plan for everything?  No.  But you work to be as well-informed and as well-prepared as you can.

Then you take the leap of faith and just do it.

You know, we can apply the same general statements to our trek out to the local grocery store or to grandma's house...

"What if someone tries to mug you and steal your purse/wallet?"
"What if your credit/debit card won't work because of identity theft?"
"What if you get into a car accident along the way?"
"What if your car has a mechanical issue?"

It's the same false sense of security that you have if you don't know enough about your surroundings, and if you don't have some semblance of a plan ahead of time.  It happens even in society.  Often times, it happens more.

Here's a little food for thought:

Compare the number of incidents of attacks on hikers/campers (by person or animal) vs. the number of attacks (murders/robberies/etc.) you hear about on a daily basis in the communities where you live and work.

How many people fail to carry a simple first aid kit and/or fire extinguisher in their vehicle... and if they do, how many of those people would know how to use these things if they needed to?

Think of the people that are so reliant on their GPS systems in their vehicles.  If they are unable to get a signal, how many of the GPS disciples would be able to fall back to simple map reading?  How many of them would even carry paper maps?  How many of them would be able to distinguish what direction they face without the aid of some electronic device?

It's things like this that make me chuckle at people who try to convince me that solo wilderness travel is such a bad idea.  They don't understand that I'm likely more prepared to go out into nature than they are to go out into the streets. 

Does this give me a sense of security?  Not really.  If it did, I'd let my guard down... and we all know that's when bad things happen.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Project 365 - Day 2

Sign at an old, yet restored gas station on the the old US Route 66 in Odell, IL.

Saturday, January 1, 2011