Shape Of Water Series #1

I really liked the concept of the photo series I did with the peonies, so I’m going to repeat it with this theme. I again enlisted the help of BG in creating some waves and movement in the pool so I could take photos of the play of water and light that happens when it is in motion. I did this last year and came out with some phenomenal photos and I wanted to see if I could pull it off again.

Nearly 600 photos later (easy to pull off when you are in action mode and holding down the button), and I managed to get quite a few. I was surprised by how few, but I also attempt to try and do some of these with my macro lens as well as my zoom. The macro lens just does not respond fast enough to get focused. I did get some while using that lens, but not many. I did get more than enough overall to run these as a series, though.

Like with the peony series, I’ll mix in other subjects along the way.

Peony’s End Series #8

This is probably going to be the last of this series and also just so happens to be one of my favorites.

One of the things I love about this one is that there are three separate flowers, all in very different stages of life. It just almost has that maiden/mother/crone kind of thing going on, but narrowly misses that symbology.

When I first pulled this one up on my computer, it gave me the feeling of the kind of image you’d see in the background of a rustic wedding theme. Like something you’d see on a wedding web page or even in the background of an invitation, especially if it were to be softened and faded out a bit. Of course, that made me want to play a bit.

Peony Cluster In Various Stages - Soft Version
Peony Cluster In Various Stages – Soft Version

Some photos just really work with that softer focus kind of look. I really like both versions and couldn’t decide which I’d rather post, so I’m doing both since this is the end of the series.

And just because… I have the soft one in a pretty black and white as well.

Peony Cluster In Various Stages - Soft Black And White Version
Peony Cluster In Various Stages – Soft Black And White Version

Getting Tied Into Knots

I’ve spent the last month or so being a little bit in awe over how far BG’s dance studio is willing to go to try and give these kids as much of a recital and celebration of all their hard work as they can while still attempting to maintain that balance of safety and required distancing. They have bent over backwards and twisted themselves into shapes resembling pretzels in an effort to try and pull off that incredibly fine line of balance.

They have put in hours and hours for each class and each teacher recording and uploading instructional videos so the kids could continue to learn their routines in preparation for being able to return to class. This often means more than one video for each individual dance. One for the slower, breakdown instruction of the steps and at least one more for the routine in time with the music. Often, it also means multiples of these as they are often done in segments. Many of those teachers also work other, full time jobs.

They have had to make major changes to choreography to eliminate any kind of pairing and contact, like hand holding, to work on maintaining distance between dancers. They’ve changed how they work within the studio so that there is more spacing between dancers, changed the timing of the classes to create gaps so the lobby isn’t overwhelmed and to give them time to sanitize between classes. They’ve implemented the requirement to wear masks and rules for being able to even attend in person classes.

We have now finished out our second week back and it has been… interesting, frustrating and a little shocking to see how it is all trying to unfold.

The studio has lost a large number of students for this last part of the year. I’m making assumptions, but this is in part because some parents have chosen to just not allow their child to participate because of the risk. Some because it is outside of their normal times and have other commitments (we are usually done by the end of May). I’m also certain that there are probably a few parents that refused to send their kid because of the mask requirement. It seems the younger the class, the fewer students came back. It looks like the older group that BG is in is mostly all there.

I have been absolutely floored by the varied responses to all of this, at least in the group that BG interacts with the most.

One is the very blase` attitude towards the mask rule. It is more of a paying lip service kind of thing than something that is respected. Inside the studio, masks are on only a portion of the time on a lot of the girls. Outside, the girls are still gathering in close groups and in cars with no masks at all.

Another is the same sort of attitude from a decent chunk of these kids with regards to actually respecting all the work the staff put into making all those videos. So many girls don’t know squat when it comes to the routines. Even routines they knew before everything closed have now been forgotten. BG was absolutely stunned at how many hadn’t even looked at a video in all the weeks they were away. Yes, there are a few legitimate excuses as to why (not having the access to the app or decent enough internet to view the videos) but that is only a small fraction of the whole. I could go on forever on all the ways this is a problem because there are so many parts to this, but I’m still blown away by it and even more impressed by BG’s dedication to making sure she went back to class fully prepared. I think she is a little impressed with herself because of it as well.

Did I mention that my girl has danced nearly every single day while she was away from the studio?

One of the things the studio prides itself on is making sure all routines and music are appropriate for the age of the dancers and the audience. With recent events being what they are, they determined that some of the music that was being used in the high school hip hop routine edged too close to potentially being insensitive so they’ve had to find other music to replace it and remix it all. They’ve attempted to do so in a why that allowed them to keep the choreography, but slight changes have had to be made.

They have also had to completely rework the schedule and layout of their normal recital. Instead of 2 shows, splitting the age groups, they have had to split it into 5 to attempt to keep the gathering sizes down. They also have to submit the dressing room assignments and layout to the city for approval to show they are meeting guidelines along with limiting family for each dancer to only 4 people.

The family limit creates an issue, so they’re working to get it live streamed so those that can’t be there can still watch. This includes purchasing new equipment.

There is just so much that they are doing to make sure this all moves forward. It is kind of blowing my mind how much effort they are putting into it. It has also got to be massively stressful and frustrating because it has caused all kinds of problems as well.

One of the teachers won’t be able to be at the studio for the rest of the season for personal reasons and the other teachers aren’t familiar with her routines. Routines that very few of the girls actually know and there is a whole host of issues with.

I found out yesterday that some of the costumes won’t be here in time for recital, including the one for BG’s ballet dance, a costume they had planned to use for multiple dances as one of the things they do to cut cost, wearing a skirt that belongs to the studio, isn’t something they can do this year. They have attempted to get something else that is supposed to arrive this week, but the original costumes have already been bought and paid for and this second costume is costing them.

I feel for the staff. They are doing everything they can, but… it is really kind of a giant cluster. I don’t envy the position they are in. It is costing them a lot of money they wouldn’t have normally had to spend (the extra costumes, the new equipment for streaming and for sanitizing the studio), costs that they aren’t passing to the families. They are in a position to be forced to decide whether or not they are going to police the dancers on masks and following the rules for being able to attend class (pretty sure one dancer just took a trip to Mexico).

I have wondered a few times why they are so persistent. I understand in a lot of ways why they would want to be, wanting to make sure they can honor all this hard work, especially for the seniors, but the reality of everything still makes me wonder. It is going to be so vastly different as it is right now. There is still a huge chance that this is all going to be canceled as the number of cases in our area are starting to climb, though we still have extremely low numbers in comparison.

I admire and really appreciate their hard work and effort. I really do. I’m also left questioning if this is all worth it. I’m questioning BG’s safety, though she is adamant about being safe in what she does, others really, REALLY aren’t. The short classes at the studio don’t bother me so much. The exceptionally long days, like yesterday where she is there for over half the day, and the actual dress rehearsal and recital, two days where she will be at the venue for nearly the entire day surrounded by these other kids, are such a huge concern for me.

I still don’t know what the studio’s expectations are regarding parents in my position that have a girl that is required to be in all 5 shows as far as audience attendance goes. I don’t like the idea of dropping her at the venue to be there all day and only attend the show that is specifically hers. I also don’t like the idea of spending these entire two days at the venue in the audience either.

I am so torn up and twisted about this whole thing. BG has even said that she almost wishes they would just cancel it. She doesn’t want to not have a recital, but she’s also stressed about it all. This is such a hard thing. I do understand a bit why they feel the need to keep going, but at the same time, I really don’t.

I can always just pull her. I’ve considered it, but I don’t think I’ve reached that point yet. Also, she is 16 and should have a say and she hasn’t reached that point yet either. I’ve asked myself over and over what would need to happen to make me reach that point, but I still haven’t come up with an answer.

The recital is about a month away and a lot can change between now and then. In one way, I’m excited to see BG perform the dances she has worked her ass off to learn and to see her be a part of some of the traditional parts of this event for the first time. At the same time, I’m a stressed out, worried mess that wishes the whole thing would just get canceled.

 

 

 

Yesterday’s Project: Laptop Bag

Apparently working on all those masks inspired me to keep sewing. Also apparently, making 35+ masks wasn’t ambitious or challenging enough, I had to find a project even more difficult and time consuming.

I had been thinking about getting a bag for the new laptop (which finally came!!) when I ordered it. My old computer was too big for any standard laptop bag and I didn’t bother trying to find one that would fit because it was rare I took it anywhere. Bigger does not always mean better and my old one was heavy and way too big for comfort even if the larger screen was awesome. My new one is smaller and so much more versatile, I knew I’d want to take it with me, especially for those times I’m having to sit at dance, so I needed something to carry it in.

I considered making something when one of my items showed up with some foam padding around it, but it turns out that was too small to work. The idea of doing one myself stuck with me though and I spent the rest of the time until it finally arrived working on trying to figure out how to make something that was also padded enough to give it some protection.

Something clicked and I remembered an old insulated bag I used to use when the kids were playing baseball years ago. It was one of those “potentially useful” things that I couldn’t force myself to get rid of even though I probably would never use it again. I’m glad I held on to it, because it was perfect!

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag To Re-purpose

I had fun ripping this apart to get to all the pieces I needed. It also made it easier to wash everything before I used it because baseball grime was not the aesthetic I was aiming for in this project.

Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts
Laptop Bag: Insulated Bag Broken Into Usable Parts

At first, I thought I’d use almost all of what came out of the bag except the outer printed fabric. I ended up using the black fabric that had been the outer base of the bag, most of the foam insulating pieces, one of the strap webbing pieces and the zipper. The rest didn’t work for this project or was more than I needed.

I didn’t have a pattern, so I looked at some bags online that I liked and made a few modifications, then traced my laptop on craft paper. After adding room for the seam, a little extra and then tossing in another inch or so “just in case” (SO glad I did because things fit with just a tiny bit of extra room, so any less may have been too much less), I used that for the starting point and made a pattern of my own with the plan for the finished piece.

All of the fabric I used is fabric I had on hand. There wasn’t a single piece of this project that I had to buy. I even did the edging material on my own instead of going and getting bias tape.

Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point
Laptop Bag: Cut Out Pieces & Midway Point

All of the main layers are padded. The main outer pieces have the foam from the insulated bag, including the narrow sides. The main outside pockets (one on each side) and the inner divider have a layer of blanket batting. The only pockets that don’t have any padding at all are the two smaller outside pockets.

Laptop Bag: Finished Inside
Laptop Bag: Finished Inside
Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown
Laptop Bag: Finished With Goodies Shown

I have room in this for almost everything that I’d drag with me to sit at dance with the exception of my camera. I can easily fit my laptop, my tablet, my phone and any number of other things in here. Pockets are amazing! And I made sure to have plenty.

I have never done a project that was this complex. It really pushed my problem solving abilities to the max trying to figure out how to get all the pieces together and keep clean, finished seams on the inside in all places. Turns out, it is absolutely impossible to do that in its entirety on a sewing machine.

I had to do the last main seam by hand and it ran the outer edge from the zipper, along the base and sides and up to the other side of the zipper. By hand. I absolutely despise sewing by hand. There would be way more nudist colonies if we were still forced to sew our own clothes by hand. I’m absolutely certain of that fact.

Getting that zipper to curve over the corner and down the side was a massive challenge as well. So was trying to get ALL those layers sewn together and not have any slip and get missed. I think I pushed the max sewing depth on my machine with this project.

Laptop Bag: Finished Back
Laptop Bag: Finished Back

Even though this was a massive challenge and a pain… literally, my fingers feel beaten up and bruised today!! … I’m insanely pleased with how well this turned out. I’m kind of shocked at how well I managed to not only create a pattern that would work, but pulled off some of the kinds of details I did, like those “pleats” that give the small outer pockets extra depth. Not only did I figure out how to make it work, but I manage to actually get it to work. It is so rare that what is in my head comes out the way I expect or hope!

It took about two days start to finish. This is so not perfect and there are quite a few little goofs, but they are all so minor. Even my horrid hand stitching doesn’t look too horrid. I am so happy with this. I won’t EVER do one again, but… I’m so happy with this!

Laptop Bag: Finished
Laptop Bag: Finished

I learned a few things from this and the mask making project. One was a well needed reminder of how much I love sewing and I really miss doing it. I also learned that I have a decent handle on creating and/or modifying patterns, though this was really more of another reminder because it is rare that I do a sewing project and not modify the pattern at least a little.

Another? I WAY over buy fabric when I’m working on a sewing project. I have so much extra scrap fabric, and bigger pieces too, that it is ridiculous. I have one massive storage container full of extra fabric and a couple of smaller ones that have fabric in them as well.

Lastly? I still really, really HATE hand sewing. It hurts to type right now because the tips of the fingers I was using, or stabbed with a needle… there were lots of stabs… hurt to put even that much pressure on. Ow!

But hey! I have a cool new bag to haul all my goodies around in!

 

Strawberry Season

The strawberry plants I bought for BG are putting on berries. She’s been able to pick probably a half dozen or so. Just enough for everyone to have a taste and for her to have a treat here and there.

Three plants won’t be enough to have a large batch, but she has been having a blast going out and checking every day to see if she has one ready to pick. It has been fun to watch her enjoy it and 3 plants in a pot is easy enough to take care of.

I should have enough lettuce and spinach for a salad or two soon as well. That has definitely been a learning experience. I really enjoy the idea of having a few things like this growing. I just need to figure out a better place than these pots if I want a few more next year.

I don’t want a full blown garden, but these little bits have been fun.

Peony’s End Series #4

This peony had a friend. And apparently also one of those little red mite/spider thingies. I didn’t know about the red visitor until I brought this up on my computer. This little friend stuck around long enough for me to get a few shots before he slinked back behind the flowers.

Snail On Peony
Snail On Peony
Snail On Peony
Snail On Peony

Strawberry Moon

I made the time last night to attempt to get shots of the strawberry moon. I lucked out in so many ways!

I found a new amazing spot to get moon shots. In the process, I also found a new amazing spot for sunsets, but that’s for another post. The sunset spot is in a different location, but I was stoked to finally find places nearby with a phenomenal horizon view that wasn’t on a busy road. The location for these wasn’t quite ideal, but it was still so much better than most I’ve attempted.

Strawberry Full Moon
Strawberry Full Moon

 

Strawberry Full Moon
Strawberry Full Moon

While these aren’t perfect, I was still impressed with what I got as I really kind of wasn’t prepared and I felt rushed. It gives me a place to start doing more of this.

Strawberry Full Moon
Strawberry Full Moon
Strawberry Full Moon
Strawberry Full Moon

And…

I got to do this with Hubby which was amazing and reminded me of what we used to do very early on when we got together. I was taking a beginner photography class at the community college at the time. He would drive around while I took photos. Multiple times those drives sent us chasing after hot air balloons in an effort to get close enough to get some good photos. It was this amazingly fun time and something we both loved to do, but because we started on kids right away since we wanted to keep them close in age with my oldest, our photo outings didn’t last terribly long.

It was so much fun last night to do this with him. I think it just might be something we try to do more often now that we are actually in a position to do so again. We had so many reasons not to for years and kind of forgot how much we both enjoyed this, even if all he did was drive me around and follow my crazy prompts of “Oh!! Stop here! No! A little more that way!” all while watching for other cars to be able to actually do those things.

It wasn’t quite as wild as some of our adventures in trying to get me in position for just the right shot, but it reminded us of a really simple pleasure, which is exactly what we needed.

Thoughts On Current Events

I am tired. So very, very tired. Tired of feeling fear and frustration and anger and absolute shock down to my very core at the fact that so many people have so very little care for their fellow humans. Too many don’t seem to care if their actions or inactions are harming others, be it physically or mentally or emotionally. I see too many people acting as though what is important to them takes all priority, superseding and disregarding what is important, even life preserving or sustaining, to others, especially if involves money. I feel all of that and yet, I know that how I’m feeling isn’t even a drop in the ocean to what so many others are feeling right now.

For a long time, I have thought that a lot of the lack of care just comes from ignorance. From the fact that people just don’t know enough of the background, the facts or the science to fully grasp a situation to be able to act in a more compassionate way. Sadly, I don’t really believe that much anymore because I’ve seen more willful ignorance, desperate grabs for, or to attain, power, and greed in the last few years than I’ve ever seen in my life. I’ll own that may just be because I wasn’t paying as much attention before now. Or maybe it is just being shown more blatantly and openly now.

I have spent my life trying, and often failing, but at least attempting, to see situations from a variety of sides or try and put myself in another’s position in an attempt to understand. Like most people, I tend to view things through a lens of certain perspectives that have been shaped by how I grew up and who I was surrounded by. Not all of those influences were good and it has taken me years to identify and understand how wrong I’ve been on certain issues in the past, but I’m working to try and improve that and remove that toxic attitude from my mindset.

One of the first perspectives I learned to view things from is the alternatively abled. I grew up with a family member that was an amputee needing to wear a full leg prosthetic from near the hip down. One that wasn’t the best made and had a fixed knee forcing the use of a cane and a limp. I watched them struggle to walk through a packed parking lot when all the handicapped spots were taken, being sore and tired before even reaching the store. Spots that were taken by vehicles with no markings indicating they belonged there. I remember being somewhere around maybe 10 years old or so the first time I witnessed this and feeling so incredibly upset on their behalf even though they didn’t utter a word. It has stuck with me and I always have this frame of reference to how I see things now.

Over the years I’ve had other friends and family that have dealt with so many various different issues; physical issues, mental issues, overall health problems; all of them facing extreme hardships, inconvenience, discrimination and judgement because of those issues.

More recently my frame of reference comes in part from the struggles of MCG’s family with her sister in a wheelchair. Seeing their battles for the access they are supposed to be given being ignored or disrupted so that someone could have a closer spot. Or people ignoring simple, common sense things like giving ample room in the spaces that are specifically designated for the use of those with chairs and not blocking a ramp access even though a vehicle is clearly marked as having a ramp. Simple. Basic. Common sense type of compassion and care for a fellow human being.

Lately, it has been a struggle to not get overwhelmed by all the negative feelings about how little people are willing to just take small measures to care for each other. Like wearing a mask. It is such a simple thing for the majority of people. Cover your mouth and nose when you are going to be in close contact with someone. It should be simple, but it isn’t.

Nothing is perfect. There will always be exceptions to the rule. A person that is hard of hearing and relies on being able to lip read as their main form of communication and understanding of others is cut off when masks are worn. Being a person of color wearing a mask can be more dangerous to their life than not wearing one for reasons completely unrelated to the virus. There are small portions of people that have legitimate medical issues that make wearing a mask dangerous. Though I have got to point out that is such a small number. You won’t pass out from wearing a basic mask, even for several hours, unless you fall into that small category, so please do not try to co-op someone’s legitimate health issue for you own selfish means.

No one deserves to get sick and die because another didn’t want to wear a mask.

No one deserves to have their lives deemed as less value than another’s or as less value than a minor inconvenience or over concerns of image.

No one deserves to be put in the position to choose who they are going to try and save and who they are going to have to let die because they don’t have enough equipment and protective gear to help all those that are in need. That doesn’t even bring in the gross disparity on what we spend on health care versus what we spend on police or military or a damned wall.

No one deserves to be on the other end of that decision only to be the one to die.

No one’s life should be worth less than the cost of necessary medical care.

On top of all of that, as if that isn’t enough, is such a volatile, ugly, blatant issue of the complete and utter disregard and care for our fellow humans, and exponentially more so for those of color, from the very people that are supposed to protect us and all the surrounding viciousness if you are deemed to be on the wrong side of that line. That ugliness is amplified and inflamed by those in power that were elected to protect ALL citizens of the country, not just the wealthy, white few. Inflamed when those in power say things like racist hate groups have “very fine people”, but those protesting injustice are “thugs”.

No one deserves to die just because their skin is black.

No one should live in fear of going for a run, to the store, standing in their yard, watching birds in a park, sleeping in their bed, or because they are wearing a mask to help protect their families, neighbors and friends. Afraid because of how they were born. Because the color of their skin means that they are likely to be a target for violence. And ONLY because of the color of their skin.

No one’s death should ever be justified because a police officer can simply say they were in fear for their lives with little to no evidence of legitimate fear beyond the color of the dead person’s skin. If a police officer is that fragile and operating out of that kind of fear, they have no place being a police officer. At that point, they have stopped being a protection to the public and are instead a danger to it.

No one deserves to die because we give unchecked authority and damn near blanket immunity to a body that is armed as well as our military.

No one deserves a death sentence for a minor crime because the police deemed them a threat on the sole fact that they were black.

No one deserves bodily damage, or worse, sentences well beyond what they would have been given in a court of law if convicted of whatever violation, just because they were out past a curfew in protest of all the above or because they were simply standing on their front porch when that armed force walked through their neighborhood.

No one deserves to die just because their skin is black.

For those in the back… No one deserves to die just because their skin is black.

I try to live my life by four seemingly simple rules/goals.

  1. Be Safe
  2. Be Healthy
  3. Be Happy
  4. Don’t Be An Asshole

It seems to me that #4 should be easy and a part of having a basic care for our fellow human’s lives and wellbeing. Sadly, it seems like too many people just don’t care enough to have a rule #4.

Yes. It makes me so very tired. And heartsore. And afraid for all of the kids that are old enough to see all of this going down right now and what their futures are going to look like. At what kind of people they are going to grow into from this volatile, rotten ground they are forming in.

My wish for the future, for all of their futures, is a world without so very many assholes.