Laughter: Relationship Necessity

Laughter is the lifeblood of my most important relationships. Sometimes it is all we can do. After we have talked, struggled together, cried, and hugged, if we can still find the smallest of reasons to laugh at our circumstances or ourselves, the relationship will survive. Laughter is precious.

I would not say that any of us in our family are gifted comedians. Other than my husband who is master of “dad jokes” and teasing, our humor tends to be more on the dry, satirical side. I am not good at telling jokes, never have been. I laugh quietly with an occasional explosion. When something is really hilarious, I like to watch others laugh more than doing it myself. But I am laughing on the inside…

Master of Dad jokes. DO. NOT. GET. HIM. STARTED.

What I can say about my family, and the relationships we have built, is that we like to look for the humor in ordinary circumstances and play that up any way we can. Whenever I get “needy” for fun I love to text my girls and get a conversation going. It often breeds laughter because, for some reason, it’s easier to be ridiculous with the instant written word. We get funny, pretty easily and I so enjoy those times.

The girls love to add memes to family photos.

An interesting experiment that anyone with a smart phone can try is to let predictive text write for you. Pick a like minded individual to text and start choosing words as they are offered to you. Sooner or later you are going to have to laugh. Try it.

You can also build a laughter bond by looking at old photos with your adult children and pointing out how trendy you all dressed years ago (not). And the hair, always the hair…

Since the digital age, I have saved photos of my girls that make me laugh. It is so much easier to get them in funny poses or crazy situations. I’m not sure how those photos make them feel, but when I look at them and laugh I simply could not love them more.

I keep this one with me in my planner, for low moments.

Every now and then, we sit with each other, talk and laugh and enjoy the comfort of it. It’s not so much the things we laugh at, it’s the sharing of a funny moment with someone I know will remember and treasure it as much as I do. It kind of cements that tribal feeling.

It’s not just a family thing, of course. I feel the same way with others as I work at building relationship with them. Conversations are better, healthier, when they are mixed with frequent laughter. It’s a tool, a good one.

Art in Building Relationship

It helps to have a loose definition of “art”. Mine is “anything I like to look at”.

My daughters have always shown interest in artistic pursuits, from painting and drawing to writing poetry and stories. I like to think their early attempts showed promise, and I have kept quite a few of them to frame.

But now that they are working adults, I’m lucky to get time with them looking at other people’s art. Even that is a great way to spend time together and gets us talking, and finding out surprising things about likes and dislikes. Something as simple as sharing a great pic online or on my phone is using art to enhance a relationship.

I saw this cutie in J’s yard this week and had fun showing it to the family. Seriously, I would print and frame this. Art, right?

You don’t have to live in a metropolitan area full of museums and art shows to do this. I am now in a small town in northern Wisconsin and we have art walks, a “touristy” shop featuring local art, and small collections of great art in some of our major buildings – like the hospital and medical clinic. And of course there is the outdoors, where art is everywhere for the camera to find.

This stack of fabric is an art exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum. I have something almost like this in my sewing stash.

One of my memorable outings was to a museum in Seattle with my daughter E. This was probably during one of our April birthday week celebrations and what I saw there stretched my definition of “art” in some fun ways. Actually, walking around E’s house and seeing what she likes to look at is also quite fun, and stretching.

Some of my “faves” at E’s house give me clues to her minimalistic longings and the whimsical side of humor.

I’m thinking, lately, of what my art says about me. And what I would like it to say…

Fall Fun

I’ve just spent a considerable amount of time changing the header that you see on my blog from leafless, bare trees to beautiful fall colored leaves. I’m keeping this one up until the first snow because I want to remind myself of all the FUN I’ve had walking in the woods, taking drives, and photographing our beautiful autumn 2021.

Although I don’t have to go out any further than our parking lot to see some color, I do go out, taking Mom on drives in the car and hiking and biking on the trails. Things change daily. We’ve gone from mostly green with a few brilliant splashes to mostly bare with a few brilliant splashes. Even though the leaves are getting mostly on the ground now, they are just as beautiful. It’s like finding little gems all over the paths and lawns.

We’ve had an unseasonably long period of warm weather this October. Instead of being shocked by early snows, I’m still picking raspberries and working in the garden (in shorts and T-shirts). I know that will change and I can’t help it, I’m sad. Summer is too short, autumn is beautiful and winter is… long. Really long.

So here is a sampling of what I see and enjoy on a daily basis. It’s only a small percentage of the number of pictures I have on my phone and in the cloud. Finding things to photograph is definitely one of my “fall funs”.

Town of Hayward Recreational Forest
Out on the Birkie trail
A walk along the river
Driving the fire lanes with Mom
Even in the parking lot

Four Brothers

Truly, a most random post, but I warned there would be some… Mom actually suggested it and I am glad to comply.

First,

A picture of her four brothers, singing together. John, Ervin, Don, and Wendell

And next,

A picture of my four brothers (her sons), singing together. Ron, Gary, Bob, and Dennis

Just kind of fun that we have this singing thing going on from one generation to the next.

What interesting characteristics do you see in your family photos that you might not notice any other way?

It’s June

It’s June, only 20 days away from the longest day of the year. The sun was still quite a way above the horizon at 7:30 pm when I took the picture above. In spite of this, last week we had a couple nights below freezing. The night it got down to 28 degrees, my new potato plants froze. They had just gotten above ground and were looking so healthy and strong. Everything else in the garden got covered with tarps and sheets and survived. It is light now at 5:15 am so maybe everything will grow fast and produce before the short summer is over.

I took several walks this week. It is scary how fast the trees went from bare to fully leafed out. It’s like they know they have to hurry. The wooded trails are SO BEAUTIFUL! My walks go slow because I am always stopping to take pictures, or identify bird calls. It all looks lovely to me and is like medicine for my soul.

Even things that are nearly spent can be lovely (and that should be comforting to those of us who are nearly spent…)
Birch trees are so unique. White trunks just aren’t the norm.
The streams and marshes are full of water, flowers, reflections.
Who could refuse a path like this?
Looking a fern in the eye is kind of amazing.
Black water reflections captivate my camera (and me).
Canadian mayflowers are even a little late here. A natural garden in the pine forest.
Such a contrast from my winter trail. And to think that all this was just waiting in the cold ground and appears in its season without any help from us.

Yesterday’s walk was past a beaver pond and a large marsh. I pushed through the bushes to get a view of the water and watched a family of ducks swimming. The cattails started rustling and moving and out of them came the largest raccoon I have ever seen. It had a grizzled white head and was prowling through the marsh, probably looking for nests with eggs. Later I saw a pretty box turtle digging a hole in the dirt for her eggs

It was a good walk. I am still counting steps – 13,000 yesterday and 10,000 today. The last two weeks I have been working on getting the garden going instead of walking, but even then it was easy to get 5,000 to 7,000 steps tilling, carrying mulch and fixing fence.

Suddenly, it is summer in this crazy, wild, northern place.

It’s a good thing it doesn’t have to be a very big hole.

#eveningwalk

It’s been a harsh month, this August has. When I’m on an emotional roller coaster for days on end, this place where I walk is like a medicine for everything that is wrong with the world. It’s not long or strenuous, less than half an hour for most but longer for me. I never tire of stopping to look for the beaver, or pulling out my phone to check the name of a plant or flower. I know which direction to look for deer and usually see several. My walks in the evening are graced with sunsets and in spite of having lots of trees around, I can see lots of sky and clouds.

Each scene that I photograph is like a gift from God to me. For every one I capture there are dozens more that I don’t. In a way it’s special to be the only one witnessing these moments that are physical, but also spiritual in a way that is hard to explain. I guess it’s realizing how big nature is, how complex, how constant, and that it was created by someone bigger, more complex, and more constant. But it’s also wonderful to be able to photograph and share what I see. It is just too magical out there for me to be the only one that sees it.

My life problems line up differently after the evening walk. I’m reminded of a different perspective. I’ve been calmed, loved, amused and often surprised with some new discovery. Sometimes I look through the lens and see the scene take on a different look, even more awesome than I thought (although sometimes less awesome). I must share with you this evening walk.

Shadow play on the quaking aspen screen
August flowers are purple and gold
The fence hasn’t been electric for years, but there’s something picturesque about the sign.
My camera loves the way the light comes in horizontally at this time of day.
Even from a distance she knew I was there.
The sky is really the only and the best place for clouds to be appreciated. So big.
The patchwork barn. Not much light left but I always have to have a barn picture. I love this barn.
Most evenings the sun gives a parting wave, a touch of warmth in a cool blue sky before it turns dark.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things E

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North Carolina, here comes the sun…

Early Morning

Early morning is really a collection of my favorite things.

As night wears on I begin to ache physically from inactivity and wake frequently. I am always relieved and eager to get out of bed when I smell the aroma of coffee at 6:30. I program the coffee maker the night before because it makes me feel like someone has anticipated my need and has been in the kitchen before me. I am easily fooled.

Although I hear traffic in the distance, I know no one is coming to the door, or calling at this hour. I used to have to prepare for the day and travel to work. But I don’t do that now and the change is refreshing. On the average day, I have at least two hours before there is anyone in my world that I must deal with. There is a lot of peace in this.

I read things carefully chosen to remain in my thinking during the day. Sometimes I have the luxury of thinking about a passage long enough to memorize. I have rediscovered memorization and it is a joy, a challenging joy.

I write. I give it all up, in my journal. Once it is out, I know myself better.

I sometimes make a list. I love lists and they actually help me get things done.

I watch light appear magically, making the night go away. And then I see it is the sun. On days like today it stays oddly dark and there is thunder, but I know the sun is out there because it always has been.

It’s early morning and I am alive for one more day. There is purpose in that and I am eager to find out what it will be (almost all the time…).

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sunrise over inter-coastal waterway.

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Wisconsin sunrise

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Florida sunrise and clouds Inter-coastal waterway

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Florida double sunrise, pond reflections

*All photos private property, contact me for permission.

#AtoZChallenge: A Few of My Favorite Things B

For this year’s A to Z Challenge I’m being Julie Andrews and going on about my favorite things. I suppose there are people young enough to have no clue who Julie Andrews is or when she did this. Seriously, you need to watch “The Sound of Music”. It’s part of classic movie knowledge. Remembering your favorite things will keep you from being afraid, and who doesn’t need some of that these days…

Barns

I am seriously in love with old barns, wherever I find them. I love their muted colors. I love their changing shapes as they age, sag, and fall. I love the stories that are hidden in their walls, stories of people working, of animals taking shelter, stories of changing culture and times past.  When driving through the Midwest particularly, I have been known to brake suddenly and pull off the road to get a photo of a ghost of a barn so picturesque that I could not pass it.

One time visiting my parents in northern Wisconsin, my dad wanted to show me a barn he thought I would like. He didn’t know who it belonged to but it looked abandoned. And indeed, it was. Dad stood by the gate as I trespassed  investigated the barn inside and out with my camera.  The memory of that time will always be burned into my memory, with the help of those photos.

Dad waits
Dad, keeping watch while the photographer was busy

Old Barns
This was an unusual barn with angles I couldn’t figure out.

Old Barns
Hinges, latches, distressed wood beauty

Barn and daisies
Countless views in this field of daisies

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And just as beautiful in other seasons. I couldn’t resist going back.

I think the fascination comes from my own childhood, growing up on a working farm, and gradually seeing the barn I knew well change roles. It contained the hayloft that was at once both the perfect playground and the source of my scariest dreams. It was the dairy barn where I learned to milk cows and hunt for new kittens. Later it was the storage place for furniture and machinery no longer in use. One section of it became the hen house for our flocks of chickens. As the leaks began and it leaned a bit, it was propped up with braces and attempts were made to put metal on the steep sloping roof. And then one night, in a storm, it went down completely. We weren’t ready for that and it was shocking.

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One storm, and it was a pile of rubble…

One of my favorite barns is still in our family. It belonged to my grandfather, and is now a landmark in the greenspace surrounding my brother’s small housing development. Photographers sometimes pay to take pictures there.

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The patchwork tin roof, where my grandfather regularly risked his life fixing leaks.

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My favorite view from inside the barn

Barns stand for a way of life that is becoming less common. People used to build their barn before they built their house because it was a priority. Now they are more likely to be adornments on the “gentleman farms” of the wealthy. I am afraid they will become extinct. And that is why I take pictures of these beautiful reminders of the past.

What part of the past do you like to photograph, to keep alive?

*All photos are property of Shirley Dietz. May be used with permission.

 

A to Z Challenge: Theme Reveal

Eat This!

I am a big supporter of FOOD.  I think it is absolutely remarkable that everything we humans need to live and be in health is found on this planet. It’s almost like it was made for us. In fact, it is exactly like it was made for us. There is much to investigate on this topic and although I have never been a food blogger, I have done a stint teaching nutrition for the University of Florida Extension Service. I learned a lot and it was fun. I think I can share that fun with readers.

I love to photograph food (I’m talking mainly about fruits, vegetables and ovo-lacto food items). The colors are often bright and exciting, and there are also unusual shapes and ways that food presents itself. And because we get to eat it after the photographs, there will be an occassional recipe or fun way to eat the food of the day. A lot of my subjects will be nutrient dense and so good for you, but since I also believe food should make us happy there will be a few that fall in the “comfort food” category.

Don’t think that this is an easy theme to alphabetize. Since I want to stick with healthful foods that are as close to unprocessed as possible, the choices are limited. There are tons of letter C foods, but try finding some of the others. I love finding unusual items that might surprise you and inspire you to EAT THIS! Hoping you will check in regularly.