I like to go to secondhand stores–places like Goodwill, Mel Trotters, Changing Thymes–this gives me a chance to browse other people’s discarded treasures.
I sometimes post my finds to Facebook–things I find especially funny or ugly or both. But I recently went to a Goodwill depot to dumpster dive and I found something I have never seen before–another woman’s life up for sale. As I write this, I am uncertain of how much I will be allowed to tell you. So, this may turn out to be a bit like the hugely disappointing reveal of Al Capone’s Vault by Geraldo Rivera–a whole lot of nothing wrapped with a pretty bow.
For the past week I have been making bizarre requests from friends, neighbors (one of whom questioned why I needed an ax and should she be worried, the other who handed me one with no questions) and completely perplexed, but nice strangers.
I’ve traveled for supplies, stumps, wings and more, keeping safe-distance practices during our unusual interactions, all in pursuit of a life beyond the ordinary.
It always starts with a small idea…and then it steamrolls into a massive production. GISH keeps me hopping for days on end until, suddenly, it’s all over and all that is left are the memories.
And the photos.
Let me share them with you now. (Brace yourselves, if you’ve never experienced unbridled GISH, perhaps you’d best be near the fainting couch or have your salts handy?)
I was complimented recently on my writing, it came via someone with a tenuous Facebook connection. It’s the first time anyone who wasn’t a friend or blood relative (and therefore obligated to like my writing or at least lie to me and say they do) told me they found my writing funny. (But funny in a good way.)
It made me feel, just for a nano-second, what it must be like when famous people get recognized. It was awesome and I thanked him…and then felt like a total fraud because I haven’t given two thoughts to my blog in months!
I sometimes wonder why I do the things I do. I definitely look at the world that way. This week has been a mixture of both wonder and awe, terror and despair. The bigotry and hatred revealed with each new episode of violence has scarred our nation and clouded my spirits. As a humor blogger, I struggle to find the balance between tasteful observation and knee slapstickery. I hope this manages to reach that slippery peak.
I am reminded of a morality fable I heard once (which apparently it turns out is a fabrication, but you can find out about that at the link for Two Wolves.)
It goes something like this:
The Two Wolves
A grandfather was talking to his grandson:
Grandfather: “There are two wolves inside you. One is evil–always fighting, angry, and hurting others. The other wolf is good–caring, honest, and kind. They are fighting a battle inside you every day.”
Grandson: “Who will win, Grandfather?”
Grandfather: “The one you feed.”
I’ve heard this before, but not as the link above tells it. And never knowing that the wolves were described in terms of Black and White.
(Official Sidebar: You can just guess which is the ‘bad’ wolf. The internet is helpful in peeling layers of meaning behind the over-simplified and trite.)
When I watch the world burn and can do nothing about it, I am anxious. I feel the compulsion to do something and, conversely, nothing at all. I am torn between two wolves: outrage and apathy. Why does this keep happening? Why can’t things change for the better instead of the worse. Maybe it just depends on where you want to focus. Which wolf you choose to feed.
Before the world went to hell in a hand basket, I signed up for another round of GISH. So, as the horrible week’s events unfolded, I wondered whether participating in a fun-fun charitable activity was, perhaps, a selfish and clueless overindulgence and a slap in the face to everyone who struggles and suffers in the world. In particular, was it kind of like dancing at a funeral–morally repugnant and questionable behavior that should get me unfriended/shunned? (That said, I invite dancing at my funeral. Joke telling. Maybe a clown? I think you will need to find excuses for joy when a light such as myself leaves the world.)
So, given a choice between morbidly watching the world burn or dancing…I think you can guess what I chose.
BUT FIRST…I did something moral and uplifting.
I watched a terribly earnest live stream discussion about race relations; a topic that has not impacted my very-white life much before but maybe it should:
As a result of listening to a panel of experienced activist, I tried my best to…
DO THE HUNT
(while being conscious of injustice in the world burning around me)
The first item was my most successful–probably because I had energy and my son to help add flair–and height–to the performance.
Item 20. The Summer Olympics got canceled, but that doesn’t keep a focused athlete like you down. Show us your entry in the Socially-Distanced Games.
I was trying to synchronize our toilet paper rolls mid-air. (The last image was the winning shot, but I loved all the pictures taken with the help of my son’s ABA aide. He is unnamed for his privacy, but shout out to a very patience guy.)
Item #___ (Oops, didn’t copy this one) Take a time lapse recording of yourself sculpting a monument out of a playdough and smashing it, or something edible and eating it.
As usual, I missed the part where you had to sculpt AND eat at the same time. And I froze my sculpted spuds so I could recreate a Winged Victory feast.
In a fourteen second recap, you can watch me munch on my icy statue:
You’ll note my rather spacy behavior increases the later the event runs. (As does my very blue eye shadow.) I only managed 4 hours of sleep and I would pay for it later! Oh, would I pay!
But before that bill comes due…there are more GISH-y items to fulfill.
Item 37. Create a Fundraising page for your team, and get family, friends, and others to donate. (Highly abbreviated description)
This was one of the serious but important items, as GISH is intended as a fund-raiser as well as a fun-raising time. We joined the GISH sponsored Racial Justice and Equality Fundraiser to support the NAACP. Which I have never done before this weekend. We didn’t make the 10 donor minimum required, but we did raise $230. And that isn’t bad for a 24-hour time period! I would thank everyone personally, but most people gave anonymously. So, to all you all, you know who you are, thank-you! You give me hope.
Which leads to my biggest and most embarrassing endeavor.
Item 32. In the style of Eurovision: write and perform an original, uplifting song of hope using instruments of your own creation.
I had no idea what Eurovision was before I picked this challenge. I watched about an hour of eye-popping performances and did my best to replicate their…um…energy. I opted not to dress as a minion of hell only due to time constraints and a lack of lycra.
(Warning, this ‘song’ is both painfully earnest and shatteringly bad. I recorded it at four in the morning because I couldn’t sleep thinking about it. Might I recommend a tall glass of alcohol–or maybe shot glasses. You can take a swig whenever I say “Hope,” Peace,” or “Justice.” I had NO alcohol beforehand, more’s the pity.)
Like red wine, you may never get the stain of those lyrics out!
In case you couldn’t understand my exhausted 4:00 a.m. warbling, here are the lyrics–which I slaved over, so stop laughing, damn you!
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And here’s what you can do.
Listen for an answer In their cries of pain If you can’t feel, then you can’t heal I’ll tell you once again.
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Pain pushes back Against unreal attacks You can’t see the future If you’re always looking back.
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Consider possibilities In what the other person sees. Don’t debate or interrogate Dialogue is a two-way gate
We need Hope, Peace, and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace, and Justice Here’s what you can do.
Change happens in uncomfortable spaces Who’s gonna win these human races? The only hope we have for peace Is just…us.
We need Hope, Peace and Justice And it starts with me and you. We need Hope, Peace and Justice You know what you can do.
Wow. I’m sure that’s going to win lots of awards, but before you are quick to condemn my words, know this, I borrowed them from the speakers of the aforementioned “Racial Inequality and Injustice” live stream. A lot more qualified people than me recommend that, instead of hiding behind our white privilege, we use it to make things a little more fair out there.
I am not good with conflict; I actively avoid it whenever possible. But, (*heaves a huge, uncomfortable sigh*), apparently that is part of the problem. A lot of good, earnest people have stood back and let the angry, hyperbolic, asshats speak for us all. Perhaps the bigots and racists just need to be told that they are bigots and racists. Is it possible they don’t know?
Oh, I’m sorry. *Gets down off soap box*
Now, back to GISH!
I loved the idea of this next item, but my execution was more along the lines of after Marie Antoinette meets the guillotine–a bit choppy.
31. GISH keeps you so busy, you need to clone yourself to get the List done! Create a single image compositing at least 3 iterations of yourself working to completing a GISH mini hunt Item
After finishing almost all of my assigned tasks…and abandoning one…I decided to use all my many years watching forensic programming to try my hand at carving up a human being…
Now that I have your attention. I give you…a tasty lesson in anatomy:
Item #: ???? Sorry, I threw this thing together as a last-minute project and did not copy the verbiage. But, I think you can guess what they asked for.
Here’s a few staged photos with the body.
The hardest part was figuring out how to dispose of the body! (If I ever become a spree killer, we will know the moment I started down that path.)
I always enter GISH with high enthusiasm and end up crawling across the finish line, one arm outstretched, to get the last thing in before collapsing.
The One Last Thing:
Item 13: Celebrate the gift of virtual travel by creating a internationally recognized building or monument out of Amazon boxes.
My biggest challenge was I HAD NO AMAZON BOXES. None. I put them in out for recycling last week. LIKE AN IDIOT!
So that was GISH, slam bam, thank you ma’am until 3:00 O’clock p.m. (our time)….and then they added an extra hour! Unheard of! But my kid knew he was getting a trip to KFC after GISH was done and he was having none of this, “But, son, can mommy play one more hour?” nonsense!
Honestly, my kid was so fantastic, it was unbelievable. I had help with him for only two hours and then rest of the time, he was good…until…
IT’S PAYBACK TIME
I was absolutely fried waiting for bedtime to roll around. That’s my excuse for not noticing how odd the kid was being about staying in the basement.
I try to drag him up at 9:00 pm but give in and let him get a little more time downstairs…
10:00pm rolls around and he’s apparently drawn a line in the sand over what he wants–and he wants to sleep in the basement. Which is a no-no because it has no egress.
He refuses to come upstairs. I refuse to let him stay there.
Cue Krakatoa explosion.
My kid melts down like he’s a glacier under global warming. He vents. He fumes. He hits and bites himself. He tosses a giant bin of books like he’s a member of an ultra conservative cult that loathes reading. He breaks my heart. Every time.
I spend the next TWO HOURS calming him down and figuring out he’s got gas! We finally crawl into bed after midnight. I sleep like the proverbial dead. The next day, the kid wakes up happy like yesterday never happened and asking for bacon! Kids.
So, if any of you were feeling a bit judgy about my decision to employ humor, art and theatrical creativity to survive this week, now you know, I experienced the riots in my own special way. And for me, they never end. They can come at any time. And I just have to stand by and wait for the fires to burn down before putting my kid back together again. It’s a co-dependent, Humpty Dumpty kind of relationship, but it works. Mostly.
Stay strong my beloveds. It’s a cruel world and you don’t want the wrong wolf to win!
_______________ You Made It Through Bonus_________________
I participated in a 24-hour fundraiser this weekend. You might not have noticed me other than by my absence.
I was busy…
I spent at least five hours constructing my homage to a famous album cover. I thought it was only a cake on the cover. I was certain. And then I looked at the actual album and said…”Oh, shoot.” (Or words to that effect.) But rather than finding something easier, I doubled down on the crazy.
I also took part in a Zombie Teleconference. You can check out the video link or here’s a picture of me on the couch with my son for evidence….of questionable parenting.
I also did this to demonstrate “camouflage in an urban setting with the goal of kid avoidance” skills:
Despite my valiant efforts, the kid found me.
The beauty of GISH is in how it pushes you somewhat outside your comfort zone. I didn’t set up a Zoom meet-up, but I participated in three. In addition to Zombie Conference calls, we had a sing-along to The Police classic: “Don’t Stand So Close to Me!” I am now much more impressed with those acapella groups that coordinate a sing remotely. Not one of us could keep time, nor pitch. Sorry Sting.
I juggled, quite badly, with some equally toss-and-catch-challenged individuals. But being good at things isn’t the point of GISH. It is entirely possible to go through a whole weekend and miss the point in the effort to finish just one more task. But I tried hard to pay attention.
For example, when I made this simple poster with my son, you might not be impressed unless you know how hard it is to get my kid with the program–any program. It felt like a Mom-Win. The kind you can feel good about.
While I am proudest of my Let It Bleed album cover, I am also glad that I tried to do things I am not stellar at.
Drawing, for example. With about an hour left to GISH IT UP, I sat down with my son and he painted his ‘calendars’ while I drew a picture of what my soul would look like as a bird house–with a flame alight inside:
I know I cannot draw well, but I’ve learned from taking part in GISH that it doesn’t matter. You don’t have to have talent to enjoy doing something. If it brings me a moment with my son, who lives in a hard-to-reach world even if he’s only a room away. It also let me connect with people in other countries and time zones. (This led to a momentary zombie conflict, but it resolved without any brains being eaten.) This is what victory can look like despite being quarantined.
If my shaky squiggles and flowers give me joy, that is reason enough. Art serves the soul. Creativity expands your horizons–even if you can’t leave your house. When we were little kids, we knew the power of a box of crayons and a blank sheet of paper. There are worlds to build and dreams to pursue.
But now, after getting four hours of sleep in 48-hours, I’m ready to “Take a nap. A good one.”
And this is how I really look when sleeping:
Ordinarily I’d make an effort to wrap this all up with nice tie-ins, but I am literally falling asleep at the keyboard. Instead, I’ll let you know that I would do it all again…but probably not all in one day!
Fondant: a French word meaning your floors will be sticky and covered in sugar, and your cakes will be beautiful but too sweet to eat.
Memory is the golden shore where summer waters lap. Where sanded children shriek like gulls, And mothers shade their eyes and search The ever distant beach for tears or missing faces in the surf.
There the castles build and fall, where triumph tragedy becomes. And sticky mouths suck greedy gulps of sugar-saturated pops— Rainbow colors melting down.
See criss-crossed marks burned into skin which will no permanent memory make To keep from repeating the mistake of measuring the sun by an SPF span. Boiled-lobster faces whine and belated zinc is applied in futile effort to rewind time.
Gritted bodies, tired, worn but happy with a day’s respite, Ride the chariot once more toward the sinking orb Which threatens little from its perch on the lip of the world, Leaving a flip flop token of remembrance behind.
You’ll find no ribboned concourse marking childhood’s end. It is fleeting, passing, and no trumpet heralds its demise. So, measure well those steps you take on burning sands They will the hourglass wind down and scorch tender flesh In haste to reach Lethe’s waters.
I attend the Meijer Garden’s Orchid show every year, if I can. This year I was exceptionally lucky in more ways than one–in having child care and in running into the nicest couple who helped me take even better pictures (with much less swearing at my camera) than usual.
To Vicki and Lou, many thanks! You may take credit for any of the flower images that follow!
It is hard to narrow down my choices to just a few special interest pictures. I took over 350 shots and did stop to tweak a few digitally. (Which sounds much worse than it actually is.)
You’ll notice that there is a yellowish cast to many of the photos. I blame the lighting that is intended to enhance the floral display, but plays havoc with getting a true color capture.
Sometimes it is hard to capture an image for more reasons than lighting. (Operator incompetence springs to mind, for example.) So cropping is the next best thing to actually getting a good shot the first time.
I was struggling mightily with my Canon EOS (I can only assume EOS stands for Exceptionally Obstinant System) when Lou offered a few hints. And then, when I still couldn’t manage to get my camera to ‘point and shoot’ for me, he fiddled with about a half-dozen settings until he figured out the problem. Honestly, I can’t tell you what he changed, but it was like he put the fear of Kodak into the thing, because it stopped hiccuping afterward. Yay Lou!
I tend to prefer a nice crisp image. I liked centered shots, but sometimes, the size or arrangement of the flowers made this nigh impossible.
How do you center on a flowering bush, for example? I chose to close crop the surroundings so that you could ‘feel the profusion’ of the yellow flowering orchid with about the longest name I’ve ever seen.
The next image, I only snapped one photo. Fortunately, I got most of the massive bloom in focus. But shooting from a distance and trying to avoid all the other glamorous contenders makes photographing them a challenge.
I particularly liked the name of the next flower–though I took about 8 shots, none really captured the drama of the beauty which was a cross of a Victorian Bride and a Speciosum.
I aimed for the mystery implied by the name, instead, my picture is more of a question unanswered. It was like photographing a herd of children–each face looking in a different direction.
How can you not love the pinkness of the Vanda Princess Mikasa? There should totally be a Japanese Anime character in a frilly pink frock to go with this.
The next flower I had to finesse the shot from an angle, because taken head-on, you got a lot of background noise in the way of giant tags dangling from other flowers. You could try to move the pesky things, but then you ran the risk of damaging someone’s priceless petals. I am many things, but a bud abuser is not one of them.
How many pictures is too many? I suspect you will judge for yourself. Perhaps you glide past them in quick processional to get them over with? (As if you see things like this every day!) Maybe you do.
I, however, get a two hours span once a year. That means every single flower deserves its moment in the digital sun.
The orchid show runs through Sunday, January 26, so I am racing to get these online in time to lure you down the garden path to orchid indulgences.
How can you not when such tongue-twisting temptations abound? A quick search on the internet will tell you some of their secrets.
The unpronounceable Phragmipedium Kovachii below, for example, is particularly tricky to produce. It can take 8 years of growth from seed before this shy flower blooms. That does tend to increase one’s appreciation knowing how rare these pink petals are.
Sometimes it can be hard for a particular lovely to stand out in a crowd.
But it’s worth it to single out the bloom, or blooms, that catch your eye. Even if you have to crawl around getting the perfect angle.
How the displays are set up can make a huge difference. One of my favorite arrangements was actually incredibly hard to shoot–due to the small size of the dangling flowers and the driftwood base that was their platform. It was phenomenally crafted, but annoying to photograph.
Petals so fragile and delicate could be easily overlooked:
In fact, if I hadn’t run into Lou and Vicki, I might have missed the tiny sparkler that was easily overshadowed by its surroundings.
Other arrangements were difficult to capture because of the number of branches or direction of growth. Such was the case with the Oncidium Cheirophorum.
It was a beautiful plant–but with blooms so far apart as to appear a bit drunken and in danger of falling over–unless you cropped the focus to one spray of blossoms.
Such as here:
It just goes to show, you don’t always see the whole picture no matter how well a subject is photographed!
I’ve always loved looking at the world through a lens. I don’t know why. I just do. Maybe it is because I can crop out the messy bits that just don’t fit; I can focus on what I find beautiful and take it home with me.
I’ll throw in a few more favorites before toddling off to bed. I can’t show them all, you’d never stand for that sort of nonsense, but I’ve tried to capture the essence of the show.
The confused blooms that seem made up of many colors and patterns:
Some I could not put a name to–either because my snapshot was blurry or the flower was an orphan without parentage delineated.
There are vendors providing all sorts of sales regarding orchid paraphernalia, but one stood out as an artistic eyeful:
It is kind of hard to write something funny about getting a diagnosis of breast cancer, but it helps if you were signed up for G.I.S.H. (W.E.S) before even a hint of trouble arose on the horizon. GISH(WES) stands for The Greatest International Scavenger Hunt (the World has Ever Known.) It may not cure cancer…but it sure cured getting the diagnosis.
Recently someone asked me how I managed to potty train my autistic child. I said something like, “I went through hell and back, that’s how.” Without blinking, they asked directions for the road map to hell. I finally found the notes I used back in 2010 on a back-up drive (whew), and in reviewing what I went through, I decided this might make a better post than my review of Men In Black: International. Though, with fewer references to poop. For all the autism parents out there, this one’s for you.