Monday, May 7, 2012

Door Ways

I have always been intrigued with door ways and entry ways, both from a photographic perspective and psychological perspective.  The idea of going through a door, choosing one door vs another. 
This first photo is of my doorway.  The one I pass through everyday out into the world and then back home again.  From safety to possibility.  From  isolation to socialization.  The second photo is one I took several years ago when I went to visit Rachel in New Orleans. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Old Town School of Music

The Old Town School of Music is one of Chicago's most unique cultural centers.  Founded in 1957, Old Town has moved to various locations finally ending up close to me in Lincoln Square.  The school offers both individual and group lessons in many instruments (including djembe) as well as all types of dance classes.  There are now 6600 students that take weekly classes a third being children.  Concerts featuring music from around the world are a daily happening.  Completion of a new building across from the old building in Lincoln Square boasts state of the art in both acoustics and ecology. 

I bring this all up because I am now one of their newest volunteers having gone through the 2 hour orientation yesterday.  As a volunteer I can earn points to use towards classes and concerts.  I can meet new people and there are an awful lot of old guys taking guitar lessons.  A friend who use to take guitar lessons there says it will be like shooting fish in a barrel.  We'll see about that.   Oh yea and I can help the school promote music and culture with in my community. 

In the new building

Part of the new building

Cute guy playing a Dobro.  Sounded great.  Says he has been playing for years.
 Pictures taken with the new camera.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Indian Dinner with a Friend

Today my battery was charged, but hurrying out the door this morning at 6 am, I forgot my camera.  I would have like to have photographed the colorful dishes and sauces at the Indian restaurant where I joined a friend tonight. Instead  I returned home and I threw a couple of objects together with the left over wine that Wesley had brought to dinner.  The funny thing is he doesn't even drink.  A nice rich Bordeaux to compliment the Indian food.  My previous experiences with Indian food left me a little cold, but tonights dishes (we chose the buffet) were all delicious.  I didn't quite understand what I was suppose to do with the sauces even after the explanation but just over rice they were wonderful.  Nothing too spicey.  Everything flavorful.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Early Birthday Gifts

I bought myself an early birthday gift today.  A high end, compact,  point and shoot, Canon, digital camera.  I have been wanting one ever since I lost mine a few years ago at the Lincoln Park Zoo.  I will not be giving up my Canon Rebel with my 6 different lenses.  This camera though, will be much more portable and afford me the opportunity to take daily photos for my blog.

Unfortunately the battery in the new camera had to be charged before I could use it so I was not able to shoot any photos today.  This picture  was taken a few weeks ago in the Chicago loop during my first Photography Meetup.  It is my favorite picture of the day.  He was happy to let us take his picture and of course we all gave him something for the priviledge.  It had started to lightly  rain as we moved on and he began playing "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head".

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I don't have to go far to take photos of my favorite subject, flowers.  I pass this Clematis vine everyday on my way to work or play.  Just a few days ago there were nothing but buds.  I was suprised to find the vine so full this morning.

This spring was very odd as we got 2 weeks of very warm weather in early March.  Spring almost came and went before I had time to notice.  But then it cooled and although many of the flowering trees had come and gone the flowers stayed around for quite a while.  The lilac tree  two doors down that started blooming at the first of April is just now turning brown. I can still find a few tulips and dafodills blooming.  The peonies are coming any day. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Photo Blog

I met my friend Beth in the hallway at work today.  We had a chance to chat for a little while and Beth told me about her friend who takes photographs everyday and then post the one she likes the best to her blog and writes about it.  A follow up to the 365 day project.  I thought it was a great idea.  And so I am going to try to incorporate my photography and my writing.  Every day?  We'll see.  Today would be a good day to start except I didn't take any photographs if you don't count the one I took with my iPhone and published to my Facebook check in.  But I did take some photos over the weekend when I got to gether with my new photography meetup group.  I will start with one of those.
Chinatown.  Such a different look from the rest of Chicago.  I like Chinatown.  It brings back fond memories of when Susan came to visit.  At that time the shop keepers didn't mind you coming into the store and taking pictures.  Now they all say, "no pictures, no pictures."  Someone in the group suggested it was because photographers block the aisles so paying customers can't get through.  I don't know we didn't ask.  My old friend Michael always liked going to Chinatown, looking for wierd things in the shops.  My dining group just had dinner here the week before.  Eleven of us with bottles of wine and the restaurant couldn't find a cork screw.  And my new friend Wesley immediately ran out to find one to save the day before the bus boy finally came up with one. 

Thursday, January 12, 2012


One weekend last November, I found myself feeling lonely and sorry for myself.  While waiting for a call that never came, I searched for ways to stop ruminating about situations not under my control, for ways to focus on myself, and for ways to discover what I needed and wanted in my life.  Ways to take care of myself.  As the long weekend stretched in front of me with nothing planned, I picked up a book and began to read.  Suddenly I left my world of pain and anxiety and entered into a completely new one.  I finished the book by the end of the day and started another. 

Months can go by without me picking up a book.  I forget how much I love to read.  But reading is about more than just distraction though a very good distraction.   It is about taking care of myself.  It is a purely selfish act.  Something I do to and for myself.  A solitary act unlike watching T.V or seeing a movie. With good writing, even fiction teaches me something about life I didn't know before.  And reading seems to stimulate my desire to write.

When I rediscovered the magic of reading, I decided to buy myself and early Christmas present, the Kindle Fire.  I had downloaded the Kindle app on my iPhone and was reading via my phone but the Kindle fire quadruples the reading page.  And the Kindle Fire is more than just a reader.  It is like a smaller version of the iPad but at a third the cost.  The dangerous part pertains to the instant access to Amazon and obtaining anything I want to read in an instant.  The books cost less than even paper backs but they still add up, though some new authors offer their books for free.  The other problem with the Fire is you can't share the book when finished with it.

I have read a dozen books since November, a new record for me. But when ever I start reading again I am always reminded of my father.  As a child I never saw Dad even pick up a book.  He read the news paper and perhaps an occasional magazine but never a book.  And then he retired.  Perhaps like me he began to read because of stretches of time with nothing to do and then became addicted.  He loved mysteries.  He drove to library frequently.  I wondered if he would have taken to a Kindle or other reader or he would have preferred a real book in his hands.  Then it occurred to me that he would have love an electronic reader.  When ever he visited the library, Dad would only check out the brand new books.  He said the older books were too musty and bothered his asthma.  Never a problem with my Kindle.  Today, January 12, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of Dad's birth.  Happy Birthday, Dad.  I hope where ever you are, Mother still lets you read.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

More New Year Stuff

I have figured out why it was necessary for me to start my meetup groups. I told people that it was because I am shy and that by being an organizer, I have a role to play and I feel much more comfortable. But then I realized that was only part of it. The main reason I had to organize meetup groups was so that I would have to actually go.
Friday night was my first movie meetup group. I had worked all day and if I wasn’t the organizer, I would not have gone. I would have stayed home. Instead I walked 3 blocks, hoped the train for two stops and walked to the movie theater just around the corner from the Western El stop. A friend from my dining group was already there. That was a nice beginning. In the end 13 people showed up. We saw The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I had seen it the previous week but someone in the group had suggested it and I thought it might be a good beginning. I have read all the books and have seen all the Swedish movies based on the books. Some of the others had also read the books or watched the earlier version of the movie. Some had done neither. It made for good discussion after the movie at the Turkish. I always worry organizing that things will not work out, but they usually do and people don’t judge you if there are a few kinks. They are generally grateful to you organizing the event.
Organizing groups also makes you realize that you really should show up for other people's groups that you have signed up for. So yesterday morning I got up and thought of a hundred reasons why I didn’t need to go to the meditation retreat I had signed up for. But I went. I have only done a little meditation, mostly through a study I had done last summer at the hospital. I was surprised that this meditation was not much different from that. I guess meditation is meditation. A whole day of it was just a little too much for me. But the teacher also gave a talk about mindfulness and the connection between the meditation and trying to be present in our lives. We ate our lunches mindfully and we kept silent except for the instructions and some question and answer sessions. It was an interesting day. I felt amazingly calm and peaceful. The good and the bad of not talking was I didn’t have to make conversation with strangers but I didn’t get to meet people either. I could have stayed after but I was tired and I was meeting Kate for dinner. A jump back into the real world.

Today, I had a brunch with my dinner group.  The largest group yet.  Seventeen people.  The problem with sit down meals is that you only really get to talk to the people around you.  I had a number of new people I only got to say hello to abut they looked like they were having a good time.  The food was good and the bottomless mamosa's were great!  Next on the agenda for the group is pub crawl in two weeks.  An over 50 pub crawl.  3 pubs, one restaurant.  Twenty people have already signed up.  The good thing is we will be able to mingle more and talk to everyone instead of just a few.  I am still trying to decide what my third group will be.


It is the first of the year. A time for new beginnings. As I said in my last blog, I have great anticipation for this year. And I tend to want to make lost of new years resolutions. My brother John wrote to me and said he started to make resolutions but decided maybe he was good enough. I loved that. He also said he is too old to worry too clueless to care. He has 4 years on me. I hope in 4 years I will feel the same.

I came across a website called something Zen. It is a blog from a guy that has made tremendous changes in his life. He said that in order to make a change you have to change a habit. And that you can only change one thing at a time and it takes 30 days. He says that your mind cannot really focus on more than one thing at a time. The key here is focus. I am reading a book called Fast Thinking, Slow Thinking which supports this ideas. Fascinating book, but slow reading.

So potentially if all the habits stuck, you could make 12 changes in the year. At first I thought no, no, no, that is too long. I have to do it all now. Or O.K. is that one habit in each of the 8 areas in my life I have identified that I need to focus on to have a move balanced life? And then I thought about what I had actually changed, and the answer was not much. So I have decided to give it a try. Blogging was not first on the list. I’m not sure it is on the list at all. It just seems like something I want to do right now. First on the list was to drink 2-3 liters of water a day. My good or bad eating habits seem to begin with my water intake. I am however sort of cheating because I have also given up carbonated beverages at the same time which means I have also given up caffeine. Is that all part of the same thing or is it really 3? Anyway the water is going well, but I am drinking juices and hot chocolate and other things to compensate for no pop as we call it here in Chicago. What I have discovered this week is I don’t lose weight drinking more water and giving up pop. I thought I would.  But I feel much better, I have much more energy and I think I am generally sleeping better.

At the beginning of February, I will change another habit. What will it be? I am focused on my diet at the moment so I am thinking it will be not drinking calories or maybe limiting it to 100 calories a day just so I have have something to drink other than water.  We will see.  I need to fit in exercise somewhere because I have joined a gym.  One of my new friends took me to water arobics and it was a blast.  The gym is a little pricy but it has two pools, an indoor track, lots of classes and the crowd tends to be a little older.  And it is cheaper than the cable I gave up. 

Somewhere, sometime, I need to fit in photography to my habits.  Blogs need pictures.  Maybe I will just dip into my archives next time to add a little interest. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Christmas and New Years

It is January 2012.  Christmas has come and gone.  A good Christmas other than the fact I worked Christmas day and was pulled to the geriatric unit.  At least my patients knew it was Christmas.  The regular staff seemed to all be pretty cheery but I just found it depressing.  I think it is because I worry I will end up like those patients. 

We had our Christmas dinner Christmas eve.  Quiet day with Kate and Charlie and Rachel and a friend of Kate's.  Good food.  Good company.  We missed Judy who stayed in Springfield with her boyfriend.

This is sounding like a Christmas letter and that is not my intent.  I actually almost got into the Christmas spirit.  I bought a few gifts.  No decorating.  But I did have two experiences that made the season a little brighter.  I was walking home from the El and a man started talking to me.  Apparently he is a roofer and  it had started to rain so he was getting off early.  He was so excited because his whole family was in town and now he was going to get to start the holiday.  His younger sister who he said he hadn't seen in 10 years was going to be at his house.  His joy was contagious.  A day later I was waiting for a bus and the man next to me told me he was going to be flying to Mexico later on that evening to surprise his parents for the holidays.  He was also very excited.  It is nice to see  people enjoying the season.  It is nice to see happy people.

The New Year is always a time I look forward to.  A chance to renew myself, to set goals for myself, better myself.  2011 was not a bad year.  I had new experiences, I made new friends.  But I also feel that I have done some purging of late helping me to get ready for things to come.  My roommate is moving out and I am looking forward to living by myself again.  I've ended a couple of relationships that weren't working.  I just canceled my cable.  I've started a new movie group.  I am continuing my old wine and dine group.  I am looking for more groups that better fit my needs. 

I would apologize for this ridiculous blog except I promised my kids I'd quit the self deprecating behavior.  So I hope all of my readers had a great Christmas and are going to enjoy the new year as much as I am.