Thursday, December 29, 2016

Earlier in the lives of "Us" Japan 2001

In 2001 Tracy was working in Japan.   That summer his daughter Ashley and I went to visit him for three weeks.   We left on August 6th.   Looking back, the funny thing is, the day before I left on this trip, JR and Chicken got married. (friends of my brother's).  I had offered to do the wedding photo's as Andrew's gift.  He was the sweating, nervous best man.   I shot the wedding and left.  Those were film days.   I dropped the film off and gave instructions to Andrew to pick it up and deliver them to the Bride and Groom.    I went home and packed,  woke up the next day and left for Japan.   One of the people, I met that day, of the many, was a man named Jay Cruz.....

The world was different back then.   Ashley and I travelled back by plane in the end of August 2001 Tracy flew back a few weeks later, just prior to 9/11....

This trip, while it was not our first trip together was a memorable one.  

I have always kept a journal of all my trips.  Below is a summary I wrote to share with friends when we got home.

Tokyo  August 2001

First, let me start by telling you that I love America and I am so glad to be back home.  Tokyo is on the other side of the globe, traveling there takes it’s toll.  Our plane left Rochester at 10:30am on Monday and we touched down at 2:30pm on Tuesday, Tokyo time, (that would have been 1:30am Tuesday Rochester time).  Out return trip, I think was even more grueling, we left Tokyo at 2:30pm Thursday, Tokyo time, which would have been 1:30am Thursday Rochester time and arrived in Rochester at 6pm  after 14 hours in the air and a two hour layover in Chicago.  Our flight from Chicago actually left Chicago at 1:10pm Thursday, an hour earlier then when we left Tokyo, so we got to live through Thursday twice last week!

When we arrived in Tokyo, we immediately became the minority with a disability.  They called us “guy-jing”, (foreigners).   Japan is, obviously all Japanese.  I have never experienced this before,  I soon realized the other countries I have traveled to were all western countries, where for the most part, if I did not speak, I could “blend in”.  This was not the case in Japan.  I am too big and my hair too curly, not to mention my eyes look nothing like theirs.   The language is very difficult to pick up and the writing is almost impossible to decipher, although we did learn some helpful sight words.

The Japanese are very nice people.  They are very polite and very proud.  In direct contrast to their politeness however was the fact that they did not like or accept “guy-jing”. I would venture to say that about 80% of the time when we would get on a train or subway and would sit down (when there was a seat) who ever we sat next to would get up and move.  They actually would rather stand, then sit next to us.  It happened time and time again.  One time I was standing in front of an older lady and she grabbed me by my blouse sleeve and pushed me to the back of the crowd.   One night when we were out, I was denied access two clubs because I was female and American.  Tracy bribed the doorman double the entry fee at the second club and got me in.  (3400 yen, about $30).  I’m not exactly sure, but I think it was a “sex club”,  I got this impression from the videos playing and the activity occurring in the back room.  It was by Shijuku, where the explosion was last week.

Tokyo is a very, very large, populated,  neon city.   People, whole families actually, live in very small apartments, one on top of the other.  The Japanese love their plants.  The front of just about all apartments are loaded with potted plants.  It was very pretty walking down some of the smaller streets, like the one our apartment was on.   During our stay we spent some time at The Imperial Palace.  Unfortunately, “guy-jing” are not allowed into the palace, but we were able to walk around the gardens.   The Japanese gardens are not so much about flowers, but more about meticulous grooming and shaping.   The gardens were beautiful.    The city is very clean.  While people smoke like crazy, you never see a cigarette butt on the ground or any paper/ trash.  Very rarely did we see any graffiti.  They take great pride in their environment, and that was evident in how they keep it so very clean.

Unfortunately we did not have a car, (too expense to have there), and  the other modes of transportation were so expensive that we did not leave the city much.  We walked about five miles each day.  Tokyo has done an excellent job of making itself accessible to people who are blind.  All the streets, subways, sidewalks have different grooved patterns specifically to let them know where they are.  Streetlights have voices that say when it is safe to cross.  That is the extent of accessibility for Tokyo.  The rest of the city is vertical with no elevators or ramps.

While there we lived in a “western apartment”.  We laughed at ourselves each morning when we got up and left the apartment, we had created such a western atmosphere in there that when we walked out the door, one of us would often comment, “oh yeah, we’re in Japan”, once we hit the “unwestern street”.  The apartment was about 500 square feet, it had a small kitchen, a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom, modern toilet room (we had a very modern space aged toilet – thank God! Which in Japan is a luxury I soon found out), a shower room and a room with a sink and mirror.  The last three rooms were no bigger than a closet.   The shower room was about four feet by four feet. Half was a shower and then there was a tub about three feet long by two feet wide and three feet deep.  What you are suppose to do is fill the tub, take a shower then dip yourself in the tub after you are clean.  You are not suppose to empty the tub, the whole family uses the same water to “dip” into.  We didn’t use the tub in that manner.  The apartment cost $2000 a month.  Everything in Japan is half the size it is in America, for the most part including the people.  The refrigerators there we call “dorm” size here.  Our apartment didn’t have a stove; it had a fish oven. (we never used it).  Our disability came in when we realized that in Japan we didn’t know how to use the washer and dryer, run the dishwasher, or use the microwave.  All the buttons and knobs to operate these appliances were written in Japanese (there were no pictures).  In an attempt to use them we just began turning knobs and pushing buttons until something would happen at which point we liked to believe we turned on the machines correctly and everything would turn out the way we wanted.  After three weeks, I believe I got the correct sequence down for operating the washing machine  (even though we laugh, because we’re still not sure I didn’t just put it on to the rinse cycle each time).

We did have a television, but no cable so everything for the most part was in Japanese.  We had gotten to the point that we would make up the news as we were watching it in the evening.  Particularly the weather report.   While we were there, a typhoon hit Tokyo.  I had called that weather report correct, much to our surprise.  We spent that evening visiting with friends on the US Airforce Base.  Most of the movies on TV and in the theaters are American movies and interestingly they sub title them in Japanese, so we were able to watch videos and movies, and understand them!

The streets in Tokyo are very narrow.  They drive on the left side of the road and the steering wheel is on the right side of the car.  That took getting used to when catching buses and crossing streets.  The subway station that we took most frequently was about a mile away from the apartment.  We walked that at least once a day there and home again.  I could summarize my trip as three weeks spent on a treadmill and stairmaster.  There were always, ALWAYS stairs to climb, and no matter where we went or how we were getting there we always had to walk a distance to our mode of transportation.  

Each time we would head towards the subway we passed a little pet store, among other types of shops.  Once the stores open each day, they expand out onto the sidewalk.  The sidewalks were crowded with people to begin with, now add groceries, produce, pets, plants and they were very tight.    The sun was very strong there so, whether it was raining or not, people used umbrellas.  While walking down the street we frequently had to duck to keep from being poked in the eye by an umbrella, or we had to step aside to the ringing of a bicycle bell.   Bicycles are very popular modes of transportation and they ride them on the sidewalks.   The pet store was our favorite to pass each day because of the caged animals, domestic pets that we stopped to play with daily.  The most interesting of which were the cute little caged squirrels, that would reach their little paws out to us crying to be freed, (we thought anyway).  Yes, squirrels.  We would stop and rub their bellies and they would hold our fingers in their little paws.  I have a new love of squirrels.  Ashley and I were trying to plot a way that we could free the squirrels before we left, but we never had the nerve to follow through.  We even considered buying them to set them free, but they wanted 2980 yen per squirrel,  (about $270).

 Tracy worked a portion of the time we were there, so Ashley and I took to exploring the city on our own.  It is a very safe city, so we never worried about being mugged or harmed.  We had mastered the subway system there.  The city is broken up into districts or sections.  We lived in the Hiro-o district.  We knew the symbols for that and Rapongi, (the stop on the subway prior to Hiro-o), so we always could figure out how to get home, even when we couldn’t find a subway map with English on it.  Japanese people, as I had mentioned are very polite and proud.  There were a few times we had gotten lost and would attempt to ask someone for directions.   We had our address written on a card in Japanese, so we could always show that and ask for help if we were really in trouble.   However rather than say, “I don’t know”, the Japanese would give you some sort of information, even if it was wrong,  so we never knew if the directions we were given were actually correct.  We learned quickly to ask several different people and head in the direction most often given.

When Ashley and I were our own, we ate many of our meals in a good old American chain, like McDonalds, KFC, Subway or Pizza Hut.  The reason we did that was, you go into a Japanese restaurant and the menu is all in Japanese and you have no idea what you are getting, as I was traveling with a 14 year old, her tolerance for surprise food was very limited.   Go into an American Chain and there is always pictures with the menu.  Not only were there pictures, but 90% of the employees in them spoke English.
My standard drink is ice tea.  The Japanese drink ice tea with milk in it.  I tried everything once, the milk in ice tea I wasn’t really crazy about.  In Tokyo there are pop, juice, water, cigarette and beer machines on every corner.   Smoking is a popular thing in Japan.

Early in our trip, Ashley and I though it was very nice of the people in Tokyo to give out little packs of tissue on the street.  The packs had advertising on them.  Soon we found out that they did that because the public restrooms do not provide toilet paper.  Not only that, there were no male/female restrooms for the most part and there are no porcelain bowls.  You squat to use the facilities consisting of a hole in the floor.  You also squat in most homes and establishments, unless they are “westernized”.   

The second week of our trip we ventured out to tackle Fujisan. (Mt. Fuji).  Mt Fuji is the highest point in Japan.  It is about two hours outside of Tokyo.  It is a beautiful mountain, which even though I bonded with it, I never saw the whole thing from a distance (except for pictures) as the weather never allowed.   We tackled the mountain the day after the Typhoon hit.   We headed out to Fujisan about 7am.  We had to take a subway to the JR, (Japanese Railroad) to a bus.  The ride out was beautiful.  We passed beautiful countryside and many many rice paddies.  We arrived at the mountain and headed up on our way.  Climbing Fujisan is a popular activity in July and August.  It was, by the way about 85 degrees that day.  My description of the climb will never do it justice; the pictures may help to explain what I mean.  Mt Fuji is 3776 meters straight up!(that’s 12,388.45feet, or 2.34miles above sea level).  There are ten rest stations along the way.

The hike starts out kind!.    Actually it was quite beautiful.  Lush trees, mild incline and millions, I mean millions of butterflies.  It made me smile.   Then it struck, we passed the tree line and I believe that I found hell on earth.  Yes, it was pure hell.  The terrain quickly turned black,  and rocky.  You know the lava rocks in your gas grill, enlarge them 100 times, that’s what we were climbing.  At the sixth rest station the mild incline disappeared we began about an 80 degree rock climb up.  IT SUCKED.  Pure hell.  At the start of the climb we bought walking sticks, every station you make brands your stick.  That was a little fun.  There were many people on the climb with us, not actually with us, but climbing also.  I noticed that most of the Japanese were in climbing groups with guides.  This was one place that the Japanese were extremely accepting and helpful to us.  Everyone we climbed with, passed or passed us greeted us with “good afternoon” “good luck” or “you can do it!” of course in Japanese.  We quickly learned to greet them, “ka-ne-chee- wa”.  This climb was pure torture.  I knew that every cell in my body was alive.  At one point I was struggling so much that a tour guide, (my hero) adopted me as part of his group.  He was very much like a mountain goat.  He ran up and down that mountain like he was born there.  He was dressed all in white,  with jeannie pants on and an embroidered vest.  He wore shoes that looked like mittens.  He showed me how I should be climbing.  I didn’t have climbing gloves and he gave me his.  He didn’t speak English, but spent a lot of time with me. He routinely would check with me to make sure I was all right.   When his group would make a station before I did, he would stand at the top and cheer me on until I got up there, then he would congratulate me.   He was my “sensei”, my personal teacher.   

It was a difficult climb, but what got me was when 70 and 80 year olds would pass me up.  Unbelievable!   As it turns out, the Japanese know how tackle the mountain.  They do it in two days, where as we were trying to do it in one.  You can stay in the huts, different stations for 7000 yen a night, ($64).  The accommodations consisted of a straw mat on the floor that you shared with maybe thirty or forty other people.  It cost 100 yen a squat on the mountain, (80cents).  Fluids were quickly going through my body by way of sweat; I didn’t have to worry about squatting.

At the 8th station, about 3100 meters up (7 hours into the climb), I started to get altitude sickness.  My head was throbbing; I was dizzy, nauseous and crying.  I actually told Tracy (you get a little loopy at this altitude) that I would rather lay down and die on the mountain than go one step further.  At that point it was dusk and we headed back down.  I think if we had made provisions to stay overnight, we could have made it.  We didn’t have reservations, so couldn’t stay.  Who would have thought, you need reservations to sleep on a straw mat 3100 meters in the sky with 30 others!  My sensei and his group stopped to sleep at the 8th station.  

Because of the typhoon, the mountain as very rough.  It had also wiped out the “slide” down.  So we had to climb down the same way we went up.  While I found hell on earth going up, I found God coming down.  It took us three hours to climb down, we all fell hard at least once.   The whole three hours coming down I prayed to God to get me off the mountain alive.  My body was shot, it was indeed God who got me down!  Getting home we took a bus, a train, the “bullet” and a subway.  While it was free to climb the mountain, transportation that day cost us $400.

The following day our friends in the airforce made it to the top in 7 and a half-hours.  I am so proud our armed forces are in such good shape!  Our Japanese friend, Joon made it in 4 and a half-hours. (unbelievable).

Tracy had found a nightclub spot where most of the “guy-jing” hung out.  Some Japanese people hung out there, but for the most part it was full of people from all over the world.  Our favorite spot, interestingly enough was a little corner bar called, “The Advocate”.  It was there that we met our Japanese friends, Joon, and Hiro, and a few others.  We met our Airforce and Navy friends.  Even thought the Navy boys were young enough for me to have given birth to them, it was fun to be around Americans, comparing Japan experiences.  We met and hung out with people from Australia, Malta, England, Germany, Brazil and Columbia.  These were all people who were there working either with the US Armed Services or with some technology company.  Hiro by the way is a concert pianist, who will be working as a translator at the Eastman in October.  

Japan is caught between being high tech and very simple.  The cell phones, “J phones” are in everyone’s hands over there.  Not only are they cell phones, but also they connect you to the web, and they take pictures.  I had a ball one night taking pictures with one of my friend’s phones and emailing them to my family.  

One night we invaded a karoke bar.  What an experience.  The Japanese LOVE, I truly mean Love their karoke.  It was fun to watch.  Fashion is very westernized.  The latest craze is kind of bizarre, I have no idea where it comes from.  The girls, teens and 20-year-olds dressed in Shirley Temple type outfits with anklets, patent leather, lace and frills. They actually wore these outfits like crazy and styled their hair in pigtails.   Periodically you saw a Japanese girl, woman on the street in a Kamono.  I bought two at a second hand store.  They are beautiful, silk and hand made.  Japanese don’t like second hand things so I got the two of them for 3000 yen about $26.

During the course of the trip, while I saw many many Japanese, I saw about 20 individuals with disabilities.  At one point however, I realized that one young man I saw a few times on the subway at first I thought nothing of then it occurred to me that he had Down Syndrome, and I hadn’t realized it, because he looked like everyone else.  Only once did I see a group with 5 people and two “staff”  the rest were by themselves.

I spent a day with psychologists from the National Institute on Disabilities.   They were wonderful.  They all spoke English very well, and in fact all except one of them had studied in the United States.  One of the functions of the Institute is to prepare teachers to work with children with disabilities.    They were eager to hear and talk about inclusion.  Children are not included in Japan.  To go to school there children have to take and pass an entry exam. The average size of a “normal classroom” is 35 students.  40 is the maximum that can be in a class.  All students wear uniforms to school.   Children with disabilities are sent to special schools and facilities.  They are also grouped by the severity of their disability. 

 I spent an afternoon and evening at an agency similar to The Advocacy Center.  As similar as Japan can get.  The Agency is located in Yokohama.  So I also was able to see Japan’s beaches and the Pacific Ocean from the other side of the world.  At this agency, they work with parents, supporting them to support their children.  In Japan parents are responsible for their children their (the children’s) whole life.  People do not become their own guardians once they turn 18.  Financial support comes through the parents.  If the government is going to provide funding it is through the local government where the parents live, no matter where the child lives.  Most children live at home, with their families, in their communities.  It is believed in Japan that when you have a child with a disability you will have good fortune.  Families with children with disabilities are believed to be blessed,  they are held in high esteem.   About 50% of people with disabilities live in facilities.  They told me that is where people go when their parents died.  All go out into the community to work.  There has been a recent turn in events over the past five years.  Manual, traditional jobs are disappearing with the advancement of technology.  Five years ago this agency placed 2000 people in farming and or fishing jobs.  This past year they placed 200.  They are facing a new challenge and are not sure where to take it.

My meeting with the Agency people was a very eye opening experience.  They did not speak English.  I had brought a translator with me to assist with communication.  To start out with 10 of us sitting in a big room around a large table.  My translator, John was American.  He has a child with a disability.  He is fluent in Japanese, and recently took a job there.  He is moving his son over in January, so he was very interested in the services available.  What was interesting for me was how this meeting made me feel.  It was so odd.  Whether it is true or not, I feel that I didn’t get half the conversation.  Nor do I feel that what I was saying was relayed the way I meant it to.  I felt very stupid, inadequate and over whelmed.  I sat there and smiled most of the time, nodding my head.  With the translation, this group thought my transition training was a very odd thing, because it sounded as if we felt we had to be pro active and avoid problems before they occur.  They told me that they didn’t expect problems with people with disabilities and when there was a problem, they handled them as they occurred.

We talked about self-advocacy.  They have self-advocacy groups that meet four times a year. They are very proud of that.  One of the groups wrote up a list of requests for the government to take care of.  Number one and number three on their list had to do with transportation.  They wanted more accessible transportation, (imagine that, a world wide problem) and the second one regarding transportation was that they wanted the people who you asked for directions in the subways to be more friendly and to give understandable, simplified directions.

Towards the end of my stay with them the group wanted to show me a 20-minute video on employment.  I said no thank you a few times and finally gave up and watched the video after they insisted.  Of course, I have no idea what it said because it was all people talking, lecture style about employment apparently and it was all, of course in Japanese.  My interpreter summarized it for me at the end.  He took a whole 3 minutes to summarize a 20-minute video.  I really felt lost, and at a great disadvantage.

We all exchanged business cards.  The Members of The Institute asked me to come back and spend more time with them in the future.  Sho, who was my connection recently, spent a year at The Center for Human Policy in Syracuse.  He is trying to come back for a few weeks next year. 

My trip was a very interesting one, one I won’t soon forget.  I had many new and educational, eye opening experiences.  And Fujisan will forever haunt me!.  While it was hell on earth, if for some odd reason, If I ever go back, I am going go conquer that mountain.  For now, I think I’ll take a few weeks to get back into the western hemisphere time zone, stay on flat ground and show anyone who will look, my photos!

Monday, December 26, 2016

Our Chosen Family

We’re back ....

Family…. chosen family.  

We are gay, straight, male, female, Puerto Rican, Russian, German and Italian.  Two of us were born on Islands, one in a foreign land.  

We are from 33 to 61 years old, two of us born in January, two in October.  Two of us are Boomers, one a Gen X'er and one a Millennial.

One of us is an orphan….  three of our Mom’s are still living.   Our closest Mom lives 1118 miles away by plane.  Our furtherest Mom is 6259 miles away and we talk to her every day!

We have five college degrees between us and too many different jobs and professions to list.

We have  been married four  times, two marriages have been knowingly to lesbians (& I’m not one of the two  lesbians nor  have I ever been married to a lesbian).   We've been divorced three times.  One of us has never been married.  We have two children and a niece and three nephews who I love as my own.  We have eleven grandchildren of sorts.   

We have thirteen siblings of the thirteen only two who are full blooded siblings.   They happen to both be sisters.  We have ten step brothers and sisters, five of whom we have never met .  We have one cousin who we consider a brother, he is responsible for bringing us together and we adore him.    Eleven of our siblings are still living, that we know of….  

We have lived in five states,  one US territory and seven countries.  Between us we have traveled to forty seven states, three territories, and  thirty five countries.  We are fluent in three languages, and can get by in four more.   One of us has dual citizenship.  
We have three pit bulls.  Three of us love dogs, one of us prefers them stuffed!

We’ve owned nine houses, we currently own four and today we are living together in one.

We have five vehicles, a BIG jeep, a pickup truck, an SUV, a family car and a sports car.  We have two giant jet skis.  

We sit down to a family dinner every night.    Our favorite gifts are experiences,  okay…. two of us love jewels just as much!

Two of us started together nineteen years ago,  one more joined us sixteen years ago and we became whole seven... (you can read about some of our early antics in previous posts, going back to February 2011) 

We all greatly dislike cold weather, snow and ice...the other thing we all share is that our life stories so far are way better than any reality TV show and probably just as hard to believe.

The only thing we ever argue about is who is going to pay for dinner.   It’s always a race to the server to pay first.  We have never been mad, angry or disappointed with each other… well except for that time halfway up Mt. Fuji, when I wanted to kill Tracy for deciding the night before  while out drinking in Shinjuku that it might be fun to climb the mountain the next day.      Oh yeah...then there's that time Tracy got mad because we asked about purchasing something from a person who came to the front door.  (notice the pattern here, it's part of his charm!)

You can find us all together, in pairs, trios or solo.  All and any combination of us works!   

We love and adore our birth families…..  We also love  and cherish the  family we have created here.   We are colorful.  We are diverse.  We are us!  

                       We wish you all a fabulous New Year!!!

                                                         Janet, Jay, Tracy & Kosti!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Ameri-ssian!

Well, "the Ameri-ssian" keeps asking if I'm posting about him, so today will be a whole post about him   His name is actually Konstantine, people call him Kostya for short.... Still to formal for me, I call him "Kosti".   He is actually "Ameri-ssian", with a very heavy Russian accent.   He says "no", I say "Yes".... I get to listen to him, I should know.

So what is there to say about him..... oh so much!

Let's start with communication.  Communication can sometimes be fun.... We had a whole day craziness once due to "fifty" and "fifteen" in "Ameri-ssian"..... Fun fun funny!!!

We are sort of in paradise right now.   Southwest Florida weather,  living with good friends,  lots of laughs,  2 blockheads (dogs).... but when it comes to communication it can all turn on a dime.   That can be funny or it can be hell...depending on the circumstance.   Here, we'll stick with the funny!

Kosti is a very kind soul.  Loves his Moma..calls her every day!  He is a very sensitive man, cute and stylish... He does have his own sense of style, all his very own...can be good...can be interesting.   He and I have very very different tastes and that's what makes the world go round, right!   He's a great cook and likes to take care of his man.    And...most of all he likes to be the center of attention.  Parties are always a story the next day when the women swoon all over him....  & they do!   What can I say?  We love him!   He keeps life interesting.

He loves his Man,  Me and Popi Jay his dogs and his Momma!  Oh and let's not forget bling and mani-pedi's!

                                        I wish you many good belly laughs every now and then!  
                                                                          Pacca pacca....


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

How to Get Over Yourself and Get Out There!!!

All it takes is one step and then another and another and soon there you are... "out there".

In November I held my breath and took a leap.... here I am!!!  The future is bright!   We've been here in Florida since the end of January and life is oh so good.   My husband has never been happier. What's not to be happy about?   The weather is great!  We're living with some crazy friends and the opportunities for "getting out there"abound!

I have been jumping on every opportunity  I see to learn all I can about photography.   I joined a few groups, and sign up for everything.  I scour the paper and internet for anything that might be interesting.   I'm taking steps all over the place.

I signed up and participated in a "photo walk" workshop in early February around beautiful Naples, Florida.   The group was led by the incredible travel/landscape photographer,   Brian Jannsen.   Check him out!   His work is stunning.  I was honored to be able to learn from him as we walked around this incredible town.  During the walk, Brian mentioned that there would be an opportunity for a great shot of the full moon over the Naples Pier during the early morning hours on March 23, 2016.    This was in February,  I filed it somewhere back there in my brain.   While gazing at the moon last night, I realized that today was the day for that photo opportunity!

Naples is a little over an hour away.   To get there in time, I would have to wake up and get out of the house by 4:30 am!   Yikes....  I thought about it all evening.  Finally I decided I would just have to get up and I did!  

I stopped talking to myself about why it really wasn't a big deal, why I didn't have to go, why it really didn't matter.   I started to remember that it might be a great  opportunity for a once in a lifetime shot!  All I had to do was to get over myself and go!  I stopped thinking about it and just did it!   I prepared everything before I went to sleep last night.   Woke up this morning and went.   I got there, tried to take some images of the moon and the pier, but really didn't like what I was getting.   Then Brian showed up!   Yay!!!  After a brief conversation, he answered a few of my questions and voila !!!   I was able to capture some okay images. (better than what I was taking before his guidance).  Then taking what I had learned previously and doing some additional exploring in the area, I stumbled upon it ... some magic!  

My husband looked at this image and thought I made it up!   Silly guy, this is straight out of the camera.   While I like it,  I wish I could go back and do it over.   I would do somethings a bit different.   That's what it's all about isn't it?  Getting over yourself, getting out there and taking a shot.   Learning from you did and doing better the next time.  

Now I want to get out there in the early morning hours more often!   I still have over a month to explore this part of our country!   Who knows what I will come up with.  I do know I will revisit this location in the image and try it again!

Well thanks for checking in....  The crazy Russian we are living with keeps asking if I'm posting about him....  Stay tuned for the crazy Russian's story!


Sunday, March 13, 2016


We've been down here in Florida living a "snow bird"life for over a month.  Life is good!   This change in lifestyle has given me the time to reflect on many things along with the time to spend on me!   While I have been lax in posting here, I have been very active on Instagram and Facebook.  There was a point early on that I feared my activity on social media would alienated some of my friends.  At first I understood and felt bad.   I stopped posting about how warm it is here, how happy I am and all the great experiences we're having.....     Then I got to thinking....

I believe there is a natural balance to life.  There are good periods and things in our lives and there are bad periods and experiences in our lives.   We are all born into different families.... with that comes certain advantages or disadvantages... a variety of opportunities .... values.... skills.... I could go on.  I also believe that by our mere existence, bad things will happen.  We don't have to do anything and boom~someone we love has cancer or a tornato will blow through and we lose everything.  We can't escape the bad, but we can minimize it.  We can look for the "silver lining" we can appreciate the good when we can see or feel it.   No matter how bad it seems at the time, there is always someone out there going through worse.   I believe the we should not look to create bad, we should focus on creating a happiness and love around us.

I very strongly believe that there is a natural balance to life.   We all go through tough times, but if we are open to it and recognize it, a period of good will follow.  I hurt and am sad when I see people I love  and or care about going through hard times.  I hope I can offer some relief or understanding to their situation.  I am happy and thrilled when things are going good for them.

I love my life.... I love the good, bad, happy and hard times.  Everything I have been through has made me who I am.

My life is good right now, very very good!  I hope that the people in my life are happy for me.  Remember, I think life has a balance.    I remember when I was 10 years old, I thought that was the best year in my life.  I didn't think it could get any better!   If my life was a novel, that would have been foreshadowing.  Little did I know that probably was one of the best years of my life.... I had it all!  I had a home, unconditional love of my family.  I had a "traditional" family, (you know two loving parents, siblings)  I had friends. We lived in a neighborhood where people talked to each other, visited and spent time together.   I had  Grandparents who adored me! I had Aunts and Uncles, cousins I loved and did things with.    I had it all!!!!!!   While some S#*t did happen earlier in my life, it was nothing compared to what I would face in future years.....Thinking back to that day I proclaimed 10 was the best year of my life, I now realize it was all those great people who made it the best year of my life!

As a young person I hit that balance really fast.  I lived some really good times,  and then the down.  It took many years before I could see the good, but when it happened it was great.  My sister and I were always determined to recognize the good when we found it.  We would look for it.  We knew that if we had roofs over our heads, people in our life who loved us and were alive and healthy that life was good!  We knew it, celebrated it and let it happen.  We knew at any moment the natural order of things could change, and tragedy could strike and all we did to cause it was wake up in the morning.    We had a good 25 years!  Life was good.   Balance!  The past 10 have been rough for me, really rough, but you know what..... right now life is good!   Life is so so good!  If you can stand it, and if you can be happy for me, come on this journey with me.  I will let you into this good life we are living and share the joy!  Please don't be jealous, or envious or hate me!    Look for the balance in your own life.   Take control of it, recognize it, call it out.  

Today is one of those days, I can't help be seeing how good I have it!   Tomorrow I will bring you up to speed on the life of a "snowbird".

Go fine some good in today!   Hugs  all around!  


Monday, January 11, 2016

This year.....

My word for 2016 is "Transition".    I am loving this word.  I recently left a career of 32 years when I realized it had turned into a "job".   Now don't get me wrong, jobs are good and jobs are necessary.   People usually talk about jobs as a means to bring in money.  I think if you choose a career and stay in it, you should love it.    Slowly over the past 3 years it went from  being a career  ~ doing something I loved and believed in with every fiber of my being into a job, that I went to every day.  I hated Sunday nights, and hurried through each day on a race to get to Friday.

I still believe that what I was doing was important and necessary.  I still believe it could be something I would commit myself to, but and this is a great big BUT..... change began 3 years ago in the environment.  It first started out slow, then snowballed into an environment that I didn't feel comfortable in.   I noticed my health was being effected.  I wasn't sleeping.  I hated getting up and going into work each day.   That was the biggest issue for me, (aside from my health)  I had spend the past 29-30 years loving going into work....  What I did love and what kept me going and hoping things would change was the people.   I loved the people I was working with, both the people on my team and the customers.....  I just loved them so!!

Now let's step back 40 + years.... I have always had a camera in my hand.  I have always been snapping pictures...  My original major in collage was fine art, with a concentration in Photography.  I went to school in Rochester, NY and was fortunate, thanks to my professor Richard Margolis ~ to do an internship in the darkroom of the George Eastman House!!!!  That was amazing.   It was also 30 years ago and the house and museum have undergone renovations since.     Midway through my Sophomore year of school the Dean called me in and asked my "Why" photography and where I thought I was going in Rochester as a Photographer?  She had good reason, I had another passion where I was excelling.   She had suggested I look more into that and keep photography as a hobby....
I took her advice and graduated with a degree in Special Education.

Zinggggg.... let's fast forward now to today.   I have always been shooting, people, weddings, events, landscapes etc.   This year I am going to transition into taking pictures for "a living".   I am trying to be plan full.   I am trying to take it step by step.  I do think I need to find a happy medium here and not be to plan full leaving space for flexibility and creativity.  Come back here to check and see how this journey is going.

To continue with the "Transition".... I want to transition into a simple life.  I have so much "stuff".  Who needs all these "things" and this much "stuff"?  I don't think I do.  We shall see.  The first step towards the "simple life" I want to take is that of moving to a  "Capsule Wardrobe".   Whew.... let me tell you, this is a process.   I started out by taking everything out of my closet, peppered by making a list of what I think I am going to want and need.  I think I want to limit my capsule wardrobe to 40 items.  I've been reading a lot about capsule wardrobes and I am going to put my own spin on it.  So, 40 items, not counting PJ's ~ (work out clothes don't count either, but let's be honest here, I don't work out! ).   We'll see how this goes.  I think I'm going to like it!

The third part of my "Transition" ... I am going to be 56 years old in 2 weeks folks!  56!  I love my age whatever it is, but let's be honest, if I want to make it to 100, I need to start paying attention to health, nutrition, cardiovascular health etc.   I am going to transition into paying attention to that.  Not sure how, other than by trying to eat better nutritionally and walking more.   This will evolve and the year goes on.   Let the 2016 Journey begin! 

That's my planning so far for the year.  It's Monday night and that means, "The Bachelor" !  So I am going to go and prepare for my night with my sister and "the Bachelor"!!! Yay!!!!

See you soon.....


Monday, January 4, 2016

Welcome 2016!

Well today is the first "work day" of the new year, my new career, a new direction.  It's also the season premiere of ....   Drum roll..... "The Bachelor"!!!   Yeah, now you may think I am crazy or silly but I love this day.... and I'll tell you why later....

First, let's talk about the first day of work for me as a Photographer.... I watched 2 on line classes, did some editing and I spoke to my "I.T. Vice President"!   :)  That would be my russian, the Kosti Man!!!!!!!

In my previous post,  I walked away from a career of 37+ years.  Whewwww.  That was big.  It is sad as during the last 2-3 years of my career the situation took a turn for the worst.  It was a perfect storm if you will of things moving in a direction where I did not fit.  A direction that did not align with my integrity, I tried, but I couldn't do it.      After much soul searching and a great deal of support from my Husband <3  Love of my life, I walked away.   That folks was in November.    The next day we left for Florida.   Great big YAY!... fill my days surround by love!  My husband ~ Jay,   my "day husband" ~ Tracy and "my wife" (who also doubles as my I.T. VP) Kosti.....   They all fill rolls, they all love me to no end, they all make me happy and they all treat me like gold.  I am a lucky person to have the three of them love me unconditionally.

Before we get into "The Bachelor" which is an important part of this post.... Let's talk about 2016.

2016 is going to be a great year.     Almost 40 years ago, I thought I wanted to be a photographer.  I began my collage career in a Fine Arts Program for photography.   Even though fate took me in another direction completely,  I never put down my camera.  Today it becomes my focus!

I've made some decisions about this year.  First, it is going to be a great year.  I am going to take every opportunity to enjoy every minute.  I am going to really focus on loving for nothing.  I'm going to build a business.  I know there is more, I am will come back to that later this week.   "The Bachelor" is starting so let's go there!

Way back when when the series started, by sister  ~ Carol,  got caught up in it.  She loved watching it, never missed an episode.  I used to give her some much s&*t for watching it.   It seemed like such a silly premise.... It was also at a time when reality TV was fairly young.  Aside from "MTV's REAL World", you could count the reality shows on one hand.  I think it was just "American Idol" (which Carol loved also),  Survivor and  The Bachelor.  Given she loved the show so much, it was so far out a concept, I thought as the little sister it was my job to pick on her relentlessly.  ...and I did!   Teehee...  She loved it and watched, it was fun.    Shortly after The Bachelor began a spoof on it hit the airways!  "Joe Millionaire".   What a stinking hoot!

It just so happened that the night of the "Joe Millionaire" debut, Carol and I were on a trip together.   That night we were both to tired to go out so we stayed in our hotel room and came upon this show, we decided to watch.   It was hilarious.   We laughed so hard and so much!!!   I have to say, that night is truly one of my very very favorite adult memories that I have with my sister.   We laughed and laughed and laughed..... Okay so what does that have to do with "The Bachelor?   Fast forward a few years and Carol was diagnosed with cancer. During her illness I often found myself next to her watching The Bachelor.  I stopped making fun of her and began to enjoy our time together watching this show that she enjoyed so much.  At times we would reference Joe Millionaire and laugh.  We laughed, we cried, we smiled and we spent time together, her and I sharing the show.     Carol lost her battle with Cancer.  She fought the good fight.  She had a good life, short ~ but good.  She left an incredible mark on the world.  I love her so.

Let's step back in time again... when we started watching The Bachelor back then,  there was no  Reality Steve , we had to watch the season to the end to see who he (or she) chose to see if they chose our favorite.... to experience the insanity each week.   (Today I fast forward via Reality Steve! :))

Carol and I would watch and would make our predictions....  We would laugh, cry and watch the show together.   That's my point.  It's one of my last activities I did with my sister.  As corny as it was and as much ridiculousness as there was, I loved it and I love my memories with Carol from that time....

It's been 9 years since I spent that time with Carol, but every season of The Bachelor,  I look forward to the season opener.  I  prepare for an evening with my sister, even if it is in my mind.  I make myself all comfy.  I make some tea and sit back and watch.  Sometimes I even have a conversation with her about the girls (or guys) and who I like.  It is a silly happy place for me.   Isn't that what life is all about?  Find what makes you smile and do it!   Now, at the end of the night I check out Reality Steve and decide how many episodes Carol and I will watch or will we just watch the reunion, the final rose and after the final rose ceremony....

So folks here we go....I've set the night aside, so looked forward to it, sit here with Carol and watch!!!!  (on a side note, my incredible husband just made banana bread and the house smells so darn good!!!)  I do think Ben is a cutie!  So far a russian, a big rose head, twins and a little pony....
Oh wait, he's calling his Dad.... oh nice new twist!  Cute.....

Okay.  Let me go have some one on one time with Carol and The Bachelor....  my fun, my smile, way to start the new year!  Call me crazy, call me silly!

Go out and do something that makes you smile!   Who cares how silly it seems.  You're the only one who matters when you smile!  Go find your smile!!!!!!!!!!

                {{{{{{{{{HUGS to You ALL}}}}}}}}}   (oh no, the big rose is a dentist? and she's doing an exam?????  oh it's gonna be crazy!)