Friday, June 25, 2010

Oh, Sweet Life, Where the Smell Are Ya?

Two lucky people from Helena hit the Power Ball the other day. They have to split the total three ways (with someone from somewhere else) and will walk away with about $24 million each.

I often fantasize about what I would do if I was independently wealthy. Besides paying my mother back all the money I ever borrowed from her x20 and paying off all of her bills, and paying off my sister’s mortgage and all of her bills, and setting up funds for all of the kids, what would I do with the money?

Well, here is my fantasy:

I would find myself a beautiful chunk of land somewhere, and by “chunk” I mean as many square miles as I could afford to have custom fenced off from the rest of the world. I would like it to be somewhere in the country, with rolling hills and a gorgeous, unobstructed view of the sunset, preferably with a mountain or two in it. I would build an awesome yet humble mansion, complete with swimming pool, full wet bar and movie room – a home that my whole family can enjoy and hopefully come to visit and stay for a weekend or so. It would be a mix of Frank Lloyd Wright and Lewis and Clark; a large, log-cabin design with windows everywhere. It would be multi-level, with one guest bedroom on the main floor that would be handicap accessible but in the coolest and most modern of ways. I would have a kitchen that Gordon Ramsey would kiss my toes to get his hands on (the eff word gushing forth from his mouth – you know, as he does, yet under his breath so as not to offend my mother) and would learn to cook fabulous meals and gourmet goodies that I would whip up for all our family parties. There would be no cabinets on the walls – I am short and can usually only reach the bottom shelf of those stupid things anyway – and instead would have a kitchen with large windows, flooding the room with light, with a large island with all the storage I would need (in addition to a lovely walk-in pantry).

I would have a fire pit built outside so that we could congregate around it on starry nights and make s’mores and grill hot dogs and drink beer and talk.

I would have one spot on the side of the house, or maybe on the side of the barn (see below) where I could project movies. I would invite my friends, family, and neighbors over at least once a month (weather permitting, maybe more often in the summer?) and show the movies while everyone sat on blankets or lawn chairs and brought picnic dinners. I would make fabulous appetizers and desserts to share.

To the grounds I would add petite, two room log cabins; each with a hot tub, fireplace, WIFI, small kitchenette, and a large fluffy bed that you need a step ladder to get into and a fire department ladder to get out of. No television. They would be discreetly dotted around the property but close enough to the main house to walk over to watch a movie or enjoy a family style dinner. I love the idea of giving my family the choice to stay in a guest room in the main house or in one of the cabins for a little get-a-way. I would rent out the cabins whenever I wanted to, if I ever wanted to.

I would have a large pond installed, complete with a natural looking waterfall and koi fish; I would have a gazebo somewhere nearby that was big enough to hold weddings in, and also a rose-covered archway somewhere else for weddings as well. I would have a large barn constructed solely for the use of wedding receptions and local school dances, etc. I would do packages for the weddings for those who could not afford the wedding of their dreams due to limited income or personal circumstances; I would work with local florists, caterers, and musicians and hire them to make dreams come true for those that thought their dreams would never happen. They would be able to have their wedding and reception on site, and then stay in the cabin of their choice for the wedding night. I would invite local high schools to have their proms there, and would see to it that they were alcohol free (on my property, anyway), sophisticated yet fun, and safe.

I would also have a little photography studio built separate from the house so that I could take portraits of people and pets. Maybe I would have some sort of creative art space attached for my love of making greeting cards and jewelry. When the great-nieces and nephews came out, they could paint or make jewelry or whatever they wanted to out there along with me. When my mom, sister, or nieces are there, we could sew or whatever. Probably drink some wine and be silly. That would be awesome as well.

I would have lovely landscaped walkways that joined everything, making it easy for people of all abilities to get from A to B.

Basically, I want a place where I can feel free and creative; a place that can be used to make others happy; a place of comfort and contentment for my family as well as strangers. A place where I could have big dogs and horses; beautiful koi fish; and natural wildlife all in one spot.


Can you tell I think about this A LOT?

What is your fantasy?


Monday, June 21, 2010

Um, Could Someone Please Dial Down the Weather A Notch? Thanks.

Remember those nice, lovely pictures I posted about my Saturday drive? Well, Sunday was not in the mood to play nice.

At 4:30pm it was hailing so hard it was making my teeth rattle. Here is a fuzzy picture of one the larger hailstones that landed on my front steps:
There were larger ones than this out on the lawn, but there was so much lightning I was scared to go get one! At about 7:45pm, I could not resist the siren song of the pizza delivery conglomerates, so I caved in. I went online to Domino's, but they were offline and not taking online orders. I could have called but was too lazy. So I tried Papa John's; same story. I figured that the power was out or something since the power at my house had been going on and off a few times. I then decided that Dairy Queen would nicely fill the void, so I threw on my shoes and grabbed the camera - just in case anything interesting popped up from the hail storm.

I headed down Main Street and got to Hillview where the intersection was completely closed with fire trucks and police cars. You could either turn right and go back up into the Heights neighborhood, or you could turn left towards the river. I opted to turn left, figuring that perhaps the Albertsons parking lot had flooded or something and that was why the street was closed. I turned right on Joyce, which runs parallel to Main Street, and tried to look through the buildings to see what all the hub-bub was about. Couldn't see anything wrong at all! Hmmmm... I continued down the street and turned right on the little street that leads to the DQ; pulled up to the DQ and realized that it was all dark. CRAP! That was when I knew the cosmos was conspiring against me - having fast food just was NOT in the cards for me today!

The DQ is situated on top of a hill; you can follow the road behind it down the steep hill into a large Target parking lot where there is a little strip mall to the right with a MacKenzie River restaurant, a 31 Flavors, Radio Shack, etc. There is a McDonald's at the far end of the parking lot. As I was coming down the hill towards the lot, I was shocked to see that it was pretty much empty except for a few fire trucks, Battalion Commander is that insulation? And...sheet rock? What the...? To the right of the lot I could see clots of vehicles parked, people running to the top of the grassy knoll (no relation) that bordered Main Street with cameras and children in tow. I could see the bright yellow DO NOT CROSS police tape strung everywhere. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?

Well, at the time that hell's fury in the form of hail was raining down upon my house at 4:30pm, a tornado touched down on Main Street. I live about 1.5 miles away; never heard the sirens or anything. No less than six businesses, including the McD's, were either heavily damaged or destroyed completely.

I stood dumbfounded along with many of my fellow neighbors. It's one thing to see something like this on TV, but to see it first hand? It is awe-inspiring. The 18,000 square foot business complex across Main Street that housed a Kawasaki dealership and the owner's sister's active wear shop is pretty much a total loss. The upside? Amid the debris of the ruined building and scattered brand new motorcycles, T-cat, the owner's kitty, had ridden out the tornado and lived to tell about it. The Lake Elmo Coin Op had no windows left, and most of the lettering had been ripped from the building.

Housed in the same little strip were a dance studio and a barber shop - both completely destroyed. Fas-Break Glass is completely destroyed; the roof ripped off and dumped into neighboring Alkali Creek (along with a pick up truck); siding torn off the walls down to the plywood covering the studs. The Main Street Casino and Restaurant is heavily damaged, along with McD's.

For reasons only the tornado knows, it skipped diagonally from the glass company, over the top of the small strip of stores with the Subway and the liquor store, bypassing the large, 3-story hotel that was sitting right there, and slammed into and danced on top of the Rim Rock Auto Arena in the Metrapark. This is the building where Billings holds all of its large venue concerts, rodeos, trade shows, and conventions. The Billings Outlaws - the arena football league team that we are all so very proud of - held its last regular season game there...the day before - on Saturday, with thousands of fans packed in. Most of the 97,263 square foot roof is gone or collapsed; the building is a total loss. It will have to be completely demolished and rebuilt because it is now structurely unsound.

The miraculous thing is - not one single reported injury. No one died. No homes were destroyed, although there was one home that got its front porch removed, and a few houses where skylights shattered and let in waterfalls of rain and hail; but considering what could have been...
So, there you have it. The cosmos literally moving heaven and earth to keep me from DQ.

Next time, a supportive phone call will do nicely. Thanks.


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Some of my photography

I love pictures. I'm not sure when this love developed, but I do remember spending hours, several times a month, going through the bottom drawer of our secretary where all of our family photos were kept. It drove my mom nuts. "Are you in those pictures AGAIN?" I never, ever, got tired of going through the albums, slides, and loose pictures that made up that treasure.

As I grew into my 20's, I fell in love with the taking of pictures. After moving to Oregon, I was under too much stress, so I spent a year living with my mother in Sultan, Washington. While I was there, I bought myself a "real" camera: a SLR with auto focus! I felt so incredibly grown up and was very impressed with the pictures it took. It's a far cry from the little Kodak Insta-matics I had grown up with (remember the flash bulbs that you had to buy? Remember the ones that came eight to a cartridge, and when the first four were used up you had to flip it over?). I took a photography class that was offered in Monroe one night a week by the adult education center. It was probably the best investment I ever made. After that I bought as many books on photography as I could afford. I still have most of them. A few years later, after my uncle saw my love of photography, he sold me his old Canon AE-1. At that time the camera was probably 20 years old, but I jumped at the chance to own it because it had several lenses with it. Being able to changes the lenses made me feel like a "real" photographer.

As the kids grew older, I started practicing portrait photography on them. I love taking portraits. The kids were very photogenic, and fortunately for me, they never got tired of me wanting to take their picture! I never had any special equipment. I just made do with what I had. I hung white bedsheets on the wall, or sometimes I purchased fabrics from the store that I thought would make pretty backgrounds. I used my living room lamps (without shades) for accent lighting, and my sister's living room had the perfect south-facing window to give me tons of natural light - which is still my favorite lighting to use. I experimented with black and white film. This was before digital photography was main-stream, and I must have invested thousands of dollars in rolls of film and developing costs. The hard part about photography with 35mm film is that you really don't know how the pictures have come out until they are developed. Your subject could have blinked in every single picture, and you just wasted all that time and money for nothing. The days of waiting for the film to be developed was agony for me! For a while, there were these really cool machines that some photography shops had where you could feed your developed negatives into the machine and then crop, enlarge, and play with color saturation and hue, then print your own pictures in whatever size you desired. I even looked into how much it would cost to purchase one!

Here are a few of my portraits from that time period. These are scans of inkjet printed copies, so the quality isn't that great, but you get the idea.

This is an old friend Ginna with my cat Chloe:

And this is Alisha; it was a black and white photo, and I messed with color saturation and hue to get his blueish/purplish cast to it:
I love Reanna in black and white; her eyes are gorgeous. It's hard to believe that she is only about 12 years old here:
On a side note, I just learned how to put a copyright watermark on my photos! I never posted any of my work before, just because I was a little paranoid. Now that I know how to do it, I will post more in the future.
A few years later, I was in the midst of full blown depression and I lost my love of photography. After moving to Montana, I tried to switch to landscape photography but discovered I really wasn't very good at it. My beloved old Canon AE-1 had been stolen while I was still living in Portland and I could not find another one. My insurance company had replaced it with a modern AE-1 Rebel, but it just wasn't the same. I still had all the lenses for the old camera, but you can't use them with an auto-focus, modern SLR. Then, one day out of the blue, I went into a pawn shop while living in Missoula. Now, you need to understand that I had never been into a pawn shop in my life, and there were no less than about 25 pawn shops in this small city. So, I cannot explain why in the world I picked this one to go into on that day. I was looking at the cameras in the case, when low and behold, there sat an old Canon AE-1. It looked exactly like mine, but I knew there was no way it could be... I had the owner take it out of the case for me. I gingerly turned it over to see the bottom, and there it was - the very distinct crack in the case that happened when my mother dropped it in a parking lot on a beach trip. This was MY camera!! The one that had been stolen at least five years earlier! I nearly burst into tears. I told the owner the story and told him I could not afford the $300 tag; he took $100 off and I bought it with my rent money. I was overjoyed!
My sister is the one that drug me, kicking and screaming, into the digital photography age. I had poo-pooed the whole digital thing as a fad that would never really catch on. I knew in my heart that nothing could compare with 35mm film. Let's just say that it's a good thing I am not a stock broker! I said the same thing about fax machines when those came out! She had bought a digital SLR camera and starting taking pictures of her grand kids. I grudgingly had to admit the pictures were first rate, and then being able to see them immediately and also emailing them around was a definite plus. I was finally sold when I had been out for a visit and used her camera myself. I. Loved. It. The following year, my wonderful sissy bought me the same camera and had it shipped to me at work as a surprise!
Lately I have been rekindling my love for photography. I have been reading a few blogs that have been inspiring; and since I will be moving back to where my family is very soon, I hope to start taking portraits again.
In the meantime, I keep taking pictures of what is available. You never know what you might see, so yesterday I went for a drive. I suffer from weather-induced headaches, and the last few weeks have been no exception. Yesterday was so pretty that I could not stand to be in the house, so I went for a drive - with my camera.
A thunderhead building to the south of Billings. Picture taken at Sword Park, just off the main road to the airport.
A wispy cloud formation to the southeast.

Big Sky country. This picture is taken at the far west end of Wicks Avenue, where the houses end and the prairie takes over.
An old church that was moved to this spot a few years ago in several pieces. They are still working on getting it all put together and restored. When it was first moved here, there were no houses around. That has changed now.
Another view of the church, converted to black and white.

On the way back down Wicks toward my house is a very large, modern church. This prong-horn antelope was with a group of three of his friends across the street from it.
They decided to run across the street to the church's parking lot.
The first three await the arrival of their friend.

The party of four.
These two gave me a pretty pose.
I will post more pictures in the future; I hope you liked these.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Learn More Crap About Me

I have a screaming weather-induced headache today, left over from last night's massive thunderstorm. So, because I feel like chewing gum on the bottom of someone else's shoe, I am posting another one of those "get to know people" emails that came to me at work today.

I would like to invent one of my own, but with different questions. They all seem to have the same ones all the time! It would be amusing to see if someone ever forwarded me the email that I originally started. Any questions you would love to see? Leave it in the comments!

Please to enjoy:

We will be going into the new 2010 edition of getting to know your family and friends. Here is what you are supposed to do, and try not to be lame and spoil the fun. Change all the answers so that they apply to you. Then send this to a bunch of people you know, INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. Some of you may get this several times; that means you have lots of friends. The easiest way to do it is to hit 'forward' so you can change the answers or copy and paste. Have fun and be truthful!
1. What is your occupation? Administrative Assistant with short-timer’s syndrome
2. What color are your socks right now? White, with gray toes and heels (they were made that way, not dirty)
3. What are you listening to right now? The blood pumping through my ears
4. What was the last thing that you ate? Quaker Instant Grits, butter flavor, with half a packet of Truvia.
5. Can you drive a stick shift? You bet your sweet bippy I can.
6. Last person you spoke to on the phone? Frank Carlson, one of our sales reps
7. Do you like the person who sent this to you? I LOVE HER!!
8. How old are you today? Old enough to know better than to answer this question.
9. What is your favorite sport to watch on TV? Football, the Olympics, Iron Man Triathlons, those Red Bull air races.
10. What is your favorite drink ? Lemonade
11. Have you ever dyed/colored your hair? Helloooo – have we met? Yes. I have and will again.
12. Favorite food? Pizza or Mexican
13. What is the last movie you watched? Daddy Is In Heaven With Nixon
14. Favorite day of the year? My first paid vacation day.
15. How do you vent anger? Swearing. Lots and lots of swearing. And cake.
16. What was your favorite toy as a child? Cars and miniature horses. I also had this toy that was a plastic lemon attached to a plastic cord. You looped it around your ankle, and then swung your foot around so that the lemon went around in a circle. Then you jumped over the lemon with your other foot. I wore a hole clean through that stupid lemon from all the hours of scraping it on the driveway. My dad thought I was nuts. I couldn’t figure out why they used a lemon instead of a ball or something.
17. What is your favorite season? Spring.
18. Cherries or Blueberries? Cherries.
19. Do you want your friends to e-mail you back? Nope. I just want them all to know that this is all about me, and I couldn’t care less what their answers might be.
20. Who is the most likely to respond? The ones that want to. Why is this important?
21. Who is least likely to? The ones that don’t want to. Again, this is important because…?
22. Living arrangements? Renting a 2-bedroom duplex. Just me, my significant other dust bunnies, and my 500lb television.
23. When was the last time you cried? Last night while watching So You Think You Can Dance. But they were happy tears.
24. What is on the floor of your closet? Shoes, boxes of shoes, clothes that don’t fit.
25. Who is the friend you have had the longest that you are sending to? My Sissy!!
26. What did you do last night? Drove home in a vicious thunderstorm, watching out of the corner of my eye for tornados, as fast as the ripping wind would allow because my bedroom window was open and I didn’t want to sleep in a soggy bed. Then I watched TV and ate beef jerky until my contact lenses dried out.
27. Plain, cheese, or spicy hamburgers? Cheese with mushrooms and bacon.
28. Favorite Dog Breed? Great Dane (harlequin, specifically)
29. Favorite day of the week? Saturday.
30. How many states have you lived in? Five – California, Oklahoma, Washington, Oregon and Montana
31. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds. I’m not really a pearl person.
32. Favorite flower? Tulips, roses, snap dragons and sweet peas.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Think I Popped A Blood Vessel In My Eye

I haven’t blogged lately because there isn’t anything going on. Just the regular old same old stuff.

But then this article about people protesting the National Spelling Bee in DC caught my eye on You can read the article here.


These people really, I mean REALLY, think that we need to dumb down our culture in this country even more than it already is? These people need to either get jobs or find a hobby that keeps them out of the general population. It’s too much trouble to spell “fruit”, so they want it changed to “froot”??? Oh. My. Freaking. God. These people are IDIOTS. People in this country (myself included – let’s be fair here) are already way too dependent on their computer’s spell checker as it is, and I would estimate 85% of those people (myself NOT included, thank you very much) don’t have the brains it requires to operate it correctly. I used to have a manager that would send out these horrible emails full of spelling and grammar errors. I was so embarrassed that she was my boss. Didn’t she notice all of those squiggly red and green lines all over the place? They aren't there for decoration! DUH.

I guess I am outraged by this because it’s like these protesters have just given up on themselves and our society as a whole. “It’s too hard to do it the right way, so let’s just get someone to change it to the easy/stupid/wrong way to do it so that we don’t have to apply ourselves and elevate our status level on the planet above the apes and chimps.” I can’t believe people actually wasted time in their lives to make signs and picket a spelling bee. I wonder if any of them were spelled correctly…

What’s next? “It’s too hard to count change. Let’s make everything in the world free so that I never have to do math.” Yes, let us kowtow to the stupid and ignorant just to make their lives easier. You don’t have to be a calculus whiz to make change at the (enter fast food establishment/retail outlet of your choice here) – especially when the cash register does all the work for you already. (Want to seriously screw them up? If your total is $4.05, hand them a $5 bill and a nickel and watch them try to figure out what they are supposed to give you for change. It’s a hoot!)