Project 365-5 #4: A Gift
The start of this post will be sort of redundant if you read the caption to today’s photo, but I woke up today feeling like it was my birthday. My actual birthday passed two and a half weeks ago largely without sentiment. In fact, I can recall two feelings from my birthday: that of road rage, and that of being impossibly full during dinner but needing to soldier on so I could consume peanut butter crème brûlée. (Always and forever: Priorities.) But as with most birthdays, I didn’t do a lot of reflecting on the past year, thinking about what it means to be a year older, or any of that. But this morning, I felt all those things. I thought, if I had only known what this year was going to bring back in September 2013, I might have curled into a ball and wished for time to stop right then. Or thanked my lucky stars. Or been incredibly excited. Or proud. Or terrified.
Here are just a few of the ups and downs of this year:
– After living out the last several years as Aunt Mo (or Aunt Fancy, or sometimes just Aunt Melissa) to so many of my friends’ kids, I’m going to be an aunt for real in a few months. My brother is finally fulfilling the end of the 1995-era contract he endorsed promising to name his firstborn son Judy. (He does not think this is funny AT ALL. In fact, he gender-revealed to me by telling me there was a piece of paper in my possession that meant he was moments away from setting my room on fire. But it is! It is funny. Think of all his little monogrammed Judy outfits!) So, you know, if we can ever stop arguing about what the child’s legal name should be, that will certainly be a blessed event.
– My best friend got engaged, which means 2015 will be a bridesmaid year as well as a “first time to visit Michigan not counting Terminal B at the Detroit airport” year, both of which are positive things. No word yet on whether she’s willing to let me fulfill another ancient agreement made only partially in jest: I believe we discussed that whoever was first to get married, the other would sing a karaoke version of “Tainted Love” at the reception. Since I will be in the “singer” position, I may need to shift from Soft Cell into Rihanna’s “S.O.S.,” which…I’m sorry. I can’t deal with Rihanna in 2014 either, but “S.O.S.” is a banger.
– On a sadder note, we’re living out our last days with our beloved Colbie, whose giant back-growth unsurprisingly turned out to be cancer. She seems to be in fine shape at the moment, so we’ll just wait until she loses her enthusiasm for eating, walking, and having a terrible attitude toward virtually anyone not named “McMasters” and then let her go. Colbie came to us as Daniel’s carriage dog ten years ago back when I had just moved to Pittsburgh, and she was such an all-fired nuisance that Daniel had to beg my parents to keep her around. (She famously availed herself of a bowl of chili that Dad had left momentarily on the counter after picking all the beans out, an act that was NOT well-received.) She matured into a much calmer presence, a truly loyal and sensitive dog who gravitated toward whoever was hurting the most. Driving myself through Florida this winter, with an incredibly heavy heart for what my family was going through, I realized I loved her more than any of our other dogs. I always figured that the companions of my childhood, my grandparents’ dog Alfie and our dog Trixie, would hold the top places in my heart. But I’ve had too many times when I’ve felt low and hopeless that Colbie has forced herself into my space and willed me to get better. She is family. I will miss her so much.
– I made a big fuss about This Being the Year of My Photography Business, and then I backed off (as covered in the previous 365 post). Now my plan is for 2015 to be the year I revolutionize how people identify nature on the Internet, starting with our humble Overton Park Old Forest. But in order for me to get to do this, I have to raise north of $50,000. I am feeling oddly zen about this rather herculean task, but well-wishes and tips for wooing corporate sponsors are always appreciated!
– Things that came in strong on the positive side this year: Birds. Chattanooga. Rolf & Daughters. Tennis (the band, not the sport, #nodisrespecttoRogerFederer). “The Travel Bug with August Lindt.” The addition of Tart to the Memphis pastry scene. J-Hay All Day. U Talkin’ U2 to Me? Summer not being deathly hot. “The Americans.”
– Things that came in strong on the negative side: I bet I covered all of those in the captions. Ha.
– In the grand scheme, though, the worst thing about this year gave way to something pretty great. My mom is currently cancer-free. Free. From pancreatic cancer. Do you know how many people get to say that for even a little while? It’s such a low number that it hurts my heart for everyone in the world who has wished so hard that they could say it. I did not expect to be sitting here today while she was outside pulling up the last of the spent tomato plants, but I am. And there’s nothing in the whole world I’m more grateful for.
– Which is why, in four days, we are leaving for Paris. I have dreamed of this day for as long as I can remember, since my mom made glazed gingerbread doughnut men with raisin faces for some elementary school French unit we were doing. (If that is a traditional French dessert, I have certainly never seen it mentioned since. But I remember it was tasty!) I took seven years of French in school, and although that often amounted to Dot and I telling each other “J’ai besoin d’uriner,” it kept my interest in visiting France at a peak for a pretty long time. I intended to study abroad in college, but it came down to three more years of SEMO for a semester in France vs. three years of CBU and a distinct lack of misery. I’ve always been glad I picked CBU, but it did defer my France dream once again. There have been several other false starts along the way, but as soon as Mom got her clean scan in June, we decided to just get crazy and actually make this happen. Which means I get to fulfill ANOTHER major goal: I can actually refer to my mom as Katrine Latrine, a nickname she picked up in her own French class, IN FRANCE. While eating an absurd amount of cheese. Truly this is a great week for us.
So that’s that. And now I am off to complete my final three lessons of Rosetta Stone, because I have of course forced myself to do the entire yearlong French program in three months. I don’t know how useful it will be, but bless us, if we need a hardware store while wandering the Rue de Buci, I will be able to shout to the heavens, “S’il vous plait! Dites-moi, OÙ SE TROUVE LA QUINCAILLERIE?”
(Don’t see any images below? Click on the title of this post!)
(The first two pics in this post are repeats from last time. I kind of over-slid the bag on June’s post.)
6/15/14: Field of Dreams - ...but not so many butterflies. After barely sleeping on Saturday night, I dragged myself out to the Sunday field trip to Soddy-Daisy. We started in the most gorgeous roadside meadow, but sadly it was too early in the day for much activity. We then spent the next hour-plus getting absurdly lost on Bakewell Mountain, because our trip leaders hadn't properly vetted the route. Our seven-car caravan was forced to stop in the middle of a road and U-turn one-by-one no fewer than four times, several times while weaving around curious dogs. The lady in front of me was apoplectic by the time we finally reached the parking lot we'd been seeking. I learned that no one else had a GPS or thought to write down a cross street so that one might be used, and that they were fully aware that getting *off* the mountain only took a single turn...which begs the question, why didn't we just come up that way? So Sunday was a straight-up bust, but the rest of the weekend had been so nice that I couldn't complain too much. I did everyone a favor and left before lunch, navigating the angry lady down the mountain with my GPS as I went.
6/16/14: #thisisjanice - I'd like to cede today's caption to some of my favorite tweets from the all-time greatest Twitter parody account, @midtownkrogers. I honestly could not whittle it down more than this. 1. TERROR ATTACK! Lol just kidding we are its just a big tonka scraper tearing up the old peoples bulding down for the big new store. 2. If you see fruit bees in the broccallis dont pook at them they attack you pretty bad just ask produce Pat this morning he got stang 4 times. 3. Sorry no checks cash today yall Janice is having her fancy wedding petty cure nails done today at Ghouls Dayspa today. #thisisjanice 4. Yall dont grab up all our vanila cokes today Janice is having her mindgrain head aches again she says they help. 5. I know were always have some problems but today our midtowns kroger location really has it's shit together! 6. Happy Easters to today! He is risen and he is so hungry why not feed him our steakums and Minite Maids juice you choice 1.99$ with card. 7. Did somebody say ST Paddys day specials on #green lettice and peppers and of you find other green foods ask Karen or Danny he might say yes. 8. Did you know before this midtown Krogers was there was a #seesells here then before that here was a #shuncks. #history #krogerremembers 9. We still have these nasty old Marti gra's cakes if you come buy them but no babies are inside sinced on old man choked last year. #nobabies 10. One of our workers is really bad sick with the flu guess who it is for a gifts card worth 25$ 11. Weare soldout of a lot for Christmas now but not mini freezer corns or nofat creams or fancy circus peanut puff candy or bleach or shallits. 12. I wan't to bring up that Rusty is #not a good person and tonight because he is not helping out tonight and looked in my purse at break. 13. Yay we put the Christmas holiday tape in today but as usally no frosty the snowman because Danny cried in soups that one year. #frostysads 14. Coinstars update the coinstars is broken down. 15. Unfortunally we are out of cheese tonight due to cheese problems so please dont be mad if you want cheese since we told you now. #nocheese 16. If you are stealing our kroger butter singles stop it we dont know what to do with the other 3 butters that get left. 17. OK Hi tweeps but can som body please call the store ask for karen than just say janice is shutup in the meat cooler behind dairys lol thanks 18. If you found a L'eggs contaner in the dairy to day we are SO sorry it is a joke and we dont believe in jokes with contaners in that section 19. Our produces department employees arent traned to identify vegetebles but will do there best to help you figure it out for tips. 20. Your kids are so loud why not spank them in our #fresh bleached bathrooms behind the yogerts stand in the cold section?
6/17/14: Climbing the Walls - Shelby has been keen to have a gallery wall in her house for quite some time now, and after their latest photo shoot, we decided it was time to make it happen. We gave it room to grow and a nice asymmetrical look. I think it looks smashing! We asked Evie which was her favorite and she decided it was the one of her playing with a pine cone.
6/18/14: A Real Looker - I've been neglecting the Wolf River Greenway this year, but I've stopped by a couple of times this week. The dancers are as abundant as ever, making it easy to get a nice photo of one.
6/19/14: The Edge of Glory - I had one last bit of comp time to burn from Shuttlemania, so I ventured out to the Ghost again. I wanted to check out the TWRA pond, since I hadn't ever stopped there before. I would be really surprised if I ever stopped there again, given how many insects tried to fly into my ears. (Seriously, I don't know how many times I have to say this: NOT THE EARS!) I can't believe this photo of a calico pennant is sharp, because I had to will myself to remain still enough to focus it between bites. Sometimes this pursuit is unpleasant.
6/20/14: Melt With You - Jamie recently got engaged, so to celebrate we went to the Melting Pot with Stephen and Kate. This experience was highlighted by Jamie biting off more chocolate-dipped Rice Krispie Treat than she could chew, and everyone trying to make her laugh so hard that she would expel it. We didn't quite achieve the goal, but we were all heartily amused. Then we mused for a while on why the World Cup players think it's kosher to expose their buttcheeks during games in an effort to cool themselves off. Soccer: I Don't Get Any Aspect Of It.
6/21/14: A Reflection in His Eye - It's the season of the random shower schedule, so on Saturday I went to the farmer's market and the grocery before bothering to take a bath, knowing I'd be disgusting by the time I got home. At that point, you don't want to waste a shower when you still might want to venture outside for five minutes, so I went back to the Greenway for a while. What a pleasant walk that new section will be when it's not 96 degrees outside. I found this jade clubtail at one point, perched so prettily that it was just begging to be photographed.
6/22/14: Keep On Truckin' - Sarah, Robbie, Eli, and Leila Rue are visiting this week from Egypt, and Cindy is putting on all the major holidays and occasions during their stay. Today was "Christmas," replete with a tree and a turkey feast. So I guess you could technically say this is the Christmas card photo! I kind of love a good pickup truck photo, I must say.
6/23/14: And I'm the Guy Who's...Sitting in the Chair! - A photo of Colbie parked miserably in an Adirondack chair probably doesn't do justice to the wonderfulness of Monday, during which we found out that Mom's CT scan looks "squeaky clean" and she's therefore cancer-free. She celebrated by having a fever for 10 days. Can't win 'em all, I guess.
6/24/14: We Keep It Steamy - Virtually every day this week has included one or more giant thunderstorms. One of Tuesday's occurred right after I got home from work, so Colbie and I watched from the porch. Afterwards all the houses had steam coming off the roofs.
6/25/14: Vanishing Point - On Wednesday I went with Tina to a tourism luncheon at the Peabody that was oddly "selfie" themed. To wit, I tried to take a selfie with the plate of duck-shaped butter that the Peabody puts on all the tables, but alas, the exposure was too tricky to nail without taking a really long time and being super-conspicuous. So instead I took a photo out the window of the breezeway between the hotel and the garage. It's no duck butter.
6/26/14: My Duck Buddy - See, now the fact that this picture is of actual ducks just makes me mad, because what a juxtaposition that would have been! This week at work we've had a woman call and berate us about what she perceives as the violently disgusting condition of Rainbow Lake. (She answered Eric's return phone call with, "Are you the idiot who doesn't care about the lake?" and added some gems about how he must hate nature and that if he's worked there six months, it's six months too long. She later chastised Tina for her "fancy" vocabulary.) Anyway, I decided to walk by the lake just to see how vile it was...and scene. There are some people who see what they want to see, I guess.
6/27/14: You Can Peek Behind the Curtain If You Want - Overton Square is almost totally finished rebuilding, and the latest addition is Babalu, where Ben and Emily and I went on Friday before attending "Hairspray" at Playhouse. I enjoyed the atmosphere, but for my money Chiwawa has tastier tacos. Sometimes less is more. We amused ourselves during the wait for a table by purchasing a whole thing of candy beans at Sweet Noshings and voting on the flavors. (Draft beer = bad, Tabasco = you ain't kiddin', and 7Up = refreshing as advertised.) The show was really fun too. A most pleasant evening.
6/28/14: All Washed Up - When I went out to get the paper this morning between rainstorms (I think we had something like 6 distinct ones today), there was a giant katydid perched on my windshield. I eventually used my Hairspray program to give it a ride to a sheltering begonia leaf, figuring it would be a sitting duck for birds in its current position. (Three duck references in a week! That's...really something!) The rest of the day was spent erranding and eating at Elwood's Shack during yet another downpour. The club sandwich isn't quite at Marriott room service levels, but then again WHAT IS.
6/29/14: Heading for My Monsoon - Saturday's half-dozen storms gave way to an all-night thundershower that dumped something like 7 inches on the metro area. In addition to being annoying, it waterlogged some of our beautiful giant begonias. I realize this is small potatoes compared to basement flooding, but it was stupid and I whined about it. This is a zinnia that's beginning to unfold. I kinda like when they look like this.
6/30/14: Zen and the Art of Weedlot Maintenance - On Monday I ate what was left of the previous night's Coletta's salad, which was basically like eating some wilted air. On Friday Tina had brought a box of pastries from the new French bakery Tart for Susan's birthday, and the one bite of brioche I had was so stunningly good that I decided Weight Watchers be damned, I was gonna go get me one. However, as has been subsequently confirmed, Tart ain't reliable on the brioche (probably because of the aforementioned stunning deliciousness). So I had a pain au chocolat instead, which is nothing to sneeze at. Appropriately for French bakery talk, the actual most notable thing that happened today: MOM AND I BOOKED PLANE TICKETS TO PARIS. We're going in September. This is so much the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, and something that seemed completely impossible six months ago, that I'm keenly aware how lucky I am to be planning this trip. Dude. FRANCE.
7/1/14: Rooftop Party - Tuesday was screamingly hot. I booked our apartment for France on Airbnb. Tina told one of our architects that his third eye was glowing. Just another June day in M-Town.
7/2/14: But Dad, I'm STARVING! - This photo is apt, because I took it moments before having to sit down and eat pizza without waiting for Dad to arrive home from work. Sometimes I get hungry. I'm not proud. But this baby bird exhorting its dad to go collect it some dinner was charming, especially because there were several other bird babies doing the same to their own dads in the backyard.
7/3/14: You're A Grand Old Flag - The latest rain brought a cool front, resulting in a Friday that could only be called glorious. I went back into the Old Forest for my first proper walk in a month or so, although I stuck to the paved roads because I'm not doing that chigger thing again if I can help it. So far so good. Then Tina let us go a couple of hours early, so I went out to Millington to try to replenish my begonia stock. They said it was too late to find what I wanted, but I did get some enormous fancy caladiums for $3 a pop. Afterwards I went to Meeman-Shelby and wandered around for a while. I kept seeing what I thought was a jade clubtail on the asphalt, but eventually realized its bum was far too big to be anything I'd seen before. Eventually I tracked it down, because gomphids really do try to cooperate, and it turned out to be my first flag-tailed spinyleg. I'm sorry, but that is one beautiful bug. I'm very glad to have happened upon it.
7/4/14: Frostin' Austin - I spent my Fourth of July doing photo shoots for old friends, so I had lots of pictures to choose from. First, I met Jennifer and Lee in the park to do our first photos of Ryan since he was about three weeks old. That is a delightful young fellow, I must say. Then I headed to Holly's for Austin and Taylor's first birthday party. They did any number of terribly cute things, but previous 365 photos will attest: I have a massive weak spot for photos of children looking sincere after having demolished a smash cake. A very specific genre, I'll admit, but they SLAY me. Taylor was a little more delicate with her pink half of the cake (although she did throw her feet in it), but Austin smeared himself in frosting from head to toe.
7/5/14: Young at Heart - What DIDN'T Mom and I do today? We went to the farmer's market and then had lunch at Local, after which she high-fived the mural on the back of the Griffin House. Then we scoped out Midtown Nursery and found their begonia situation lacking, tried Tart again (no brioche joy this time either, but we did look inside the bathrooms and OMG they are the greatest bathrooms I've ever seen in my life), went to Dan West and found some semi-acceptable begonias, planted said begonias, vacuumed and washed my car, researched coat needs for France, and took Dad on a wild-goose chase for dinner. We drove to Las Tortugas but found it closed, so we wound up at Soul Fish, where Dad had a blackened catfish so spicy that he had to sit and ponder the meaning of life (and steal an unoccupied tea jug to refill his glass). We wrapped it all up by getting bike-stalked by our old friend Frank while walking Colbie. Nary a dull moment.
7/6/14: Sunday With the Boys - I rode with the Vafs (two of whom were REALLY excited about power lines) on Sunday to attend Carissa's baptism. It was a very nice morning, and always a treat to see those giggly boys.
7/7/14: Here Be Dragons - I had to replace the lovely giant-flowered begonias that drowned in the storms with these dragon-leaved begonias. In the process it's become obvious that all begonias look pretty good together, so that's good to know.
7/9/14: Dig Me Out - A volunteer group from Texas came up on Wednesday and ripped out all the nasty cedars that have been obscuring our balustrades. So far no one has written us a nasty note about our destructive tendencies, but I'm sure it's coming. Anyway, they were all very game and it looks SO much better out there.
7/10/14: The Robin to Nashville's Batman - On Thursday, Joanie and Lillian arrived for their long-awaited visit. Since they flew into Nashville, we got to enjoy some Jeni's and discover a sweet new pedestrian bridge over the river. We ate at Sonic in Jackson on the way home, which makes us 2-for-2 on taking Joanie to Sonic when she visits. I'm so ashamed. The best moment of the day was obviously Lillian looking tough in front of Batman. You don't get much better than that.
7/11/14: Get on the Horse - Friday night was our member appreciation night at the Shell, which somehow managed to be very pleasant despite the fact that I had sweated through my shirt within 15 minutes of arriving. (It was directly post-rainstorm, and the humidity was doing a little dance.) Lillian enjoyed dancing to the music, and we all enjoyed the catering. Will do again!
7/12/14: Long Live the King - On Saturday we told Lillian we were going to take her to the King's house, and she was game to go to "the palace." She enjoyed it on the whole despite responding "not very much" when we asked her whether she liked Elvis' many costumes. Our favorite was the one with the giant tiger on it. I would love to visit Graceland sometime when there aren't 500 people accompanying me, just so I can give the upholstery in the pool room my undivided attention for more than 20 seconds. We also visited the Rainbow Lake Playground, where the highlight was the Volcano, and had some pizza at Aldo's. Lillian enjoyed watching the horse-drawn carriages and shouting her word for what a horse says: "Neigh-busan!" We think it's a tribute to Katie's home in Korea.
7/13/14: Babes on Beale - On Sunday we trekked down to the Peabody to watch the ducks walk, and Lillian enjoyed quacking at them. We then walked down Beale Street and had to duck into Schwab when I thought I might pass out from the heat. There we discovered one of those magnetic-erase sheets that captured Lil's fancy, and I picked up two finger-puppet monsters who kibitzed as she drew. We wound up buying them and taking them to Tamp and Tap, where they were christened Gaga and Spiderman and asked to comment on all her drawings. We wound up the afternoon with Rio 2 at the Bartlett 10, and let me tell you, those seats are so loose that someone is going to get hurt trying to stand up and let the endless stream of people come in and out to get popcorn. It's a real problem!
7/14/14: You Gotta Be Kitten Me - That's how Joanie refers to Lillian's shirt. Ha! Before heading back to the Nashville airport, we took a mailbox selfie. Then we had some fine Neapolitan pizza at Desano's in Nashville before J&L departed for the 'burgh. I finally paid a visit to Radnor Lake, where I was forced to give up my pursuit of a spastic emerald dragonfly when the thunder began. I drove through three separate monsoons on the way home, which was just delightful. Also TRUCKS, WHY YOU GOTTA RIDE THE LEFT EVEN IN THE RAIN?! GAAAAAAH.
7/15/14: Blue Flame - The rain left us a very temperate morning, so I decided to hang out in the backyard for a few minutes before work. I was rewarded with a tiny double-striped bluet, a previously-only-seen-in-North-Carolina bug. While I was inspecting it, some explosions started happening in Nesbit Park, which turned out to be flaming refuse from a garbage truck that had caught on fire. The yard eventually filled with smoke and chased us Nebby Debbies inside, but a morning dumpster fire is always quite a way to start a day!
7/16/14: Hold Still Please - The unrealistically comfy weather hung around for most of the week, so I pretty much moved back into the forest. (I acquired some chiggers during this visit due to a two-minute visit to the limestone trail, but thankfully lye soap seems to limit their power.) I saw a dragonfly laying her eggs in a road puddle, but this hummingbird taking a moment to rest was my favorite of the afternoon.
7/17/14: T & Art - Since Thursday was cool AND cloudy, I took up the project of photographing all the sculpture in the park and cataloging it on our Flickr account. I mostly did it to help out a team at Rhodes that's making a Memphis public art website, but they sort of didn't seem like they wanted to use them after all. Oh well--it doesn't hurt to have that all in my possession.
7/18/14: Quite the Little Shopper - Friday was gloomy and I was busy looking up sculpture facts, so I didn't get out of the office except to have lunch with Tina. Mom and I crapped out of making a coherent dinner decision and went to the mall for Chipotle.
7/19/14: Just Missed the Train - Saturday was one of the busier days of recent vintage. We started off this 0% chance of precipitation day with a persistent mist that threatened to rain out our shoot with Benjamin and Colleen at Oaklawn. Thankfully, we persevered (I hate to waste 70-degree temps in mid-July!). Then we headed to Kaylea's first birthday party, and then I went to Emily and Ben's for a cookout where all the Pate women sucked helium down to impress Cece. I think the subtlety was lost on her, but the adults all enjoyed some serious belly laughs.
7/20/14: Hey, Brother - On Sunday we went back to Oaklawn and spent a little time with Eli and Ethan, who were both in very jovial form despite having had colds all week. Still not believing we got a 19-month-old and a 6-month-old to sit still for more than a few seconds, much less exhibit actual smiles in the process. Miracle!
7/21/14: Skinks for the Memories - This week I'm just braving the heat in the forest because it's still more pleasant than being a desk monkey. I encountered this delightful skink on one of our recently-storm-felled trees.
7/22/14: Cloak and Cipher - There's a type of bird I've been following around a lot recently, and it says what sounds to me like "vite!" I've gotten several shots of them on my walks lately, mostly after lengthy pursuits. Today I just kinda looked up and this one was perched low and close, so now I'm finally attempting to ID it. Empidonax flycatchers are next to impossible, but based on the voice and on my "challenging birds" book saying they often perch slumped over, I'm going with Acadian flycatcher. The poor posture was the first thing I noticed, probably because I'm an offender myself!
7/23/14: It's Pony Time! - (Aside: I have a vivid memory of my ninth-grade P.E. "teacher," Coach Stark, yelling the title phrase while strutting around the gym. He later went on to be a strength coach for the U of M football team. He had no business coaching spindly ninth-grade girls, and I actually skipped class one day because I couldn't bear to do one more round of wall sits. That's how I wound up having to take my health exam that year: you could be absent three times and still get to skip exams, but a fourth and you were doomed to a round of testing. I got the flu shortly after the wall-sit incident, and there went my three days. In retrospect this seems like a weird way to gauge academic performance.) Ahem. Anyway, the Vafs dropped by on Wednesday and we got out the bucket of My Little Ponies that Mom had unearthed for Lillian's visit. We discovered that the furry "boa" Tamsie has perched on her head in this picture terrifies Evie, and that she's not a big fan of the ponies' hair either. She did, however, enjoy holding their brushes. Maybe the tide will turn.
7/24/14: Kites Are Fun - I looked out the back door before leaving for work on Thursday, and a Mississippi kite had perched on the half-dead pine tree next door. On further inspection, this kite and several others were putting on an incredible airshow, chasing dozens of grackles and blue jays from tree to tree, swooping, diving, and generally breeding chaos. I must have stood out there watching it for half an hour. I wonder if they were protecting a nest or just having a laugh at the smaller birds' expense.
7/25/14: Good JuJu - Becky and I went to South of Beale on Friday night, which was my idea but which I will not be suggesting again. It was just...not good. Oh well--now I know! It turned out to be Trolley Tour night, which lacks something of its original charm now that the trolleys are sidelined due to the fact that they may burst into flames at any moment. But it was still a nice walk, and I enjoyed seeing this pop-up shrine to The King. I swear every gallery had Elvis in the window. I wonder if Justin Timberlake will inspire similar installations 50 years from now.
7/26/14: Porchlights - Saturday began bright and early with a photo shoot for Jessica, Mike, and Kaylea. It was good to start at 7:30, because the day got brutally hot and I'll wager we were all in a much better mood thanks to the coolness. These three interact with each other in such a charming way that I always love looking back at their pictures. Then I drove up to Henning for the Hatchie Butterfly Count, which was a good time despite the blistering heat. We didn't see a whole lot of notable species, but we came across several large groups of puddling butterflies, which is delightful. Basically, I spent most of the day with one hackberry emperor or another perched on my watch, sipping sweat from my arm. Better them than the horseflies, that's for sure.
7/27/14: They Don't Savor Quality - This week my mom's cousin Elaine sent her a couple of letters my grandparents had written to Fella's mom following a 1965 visit to her house. Fella's letter was almost completely illegible after the first line, but Granny's was pretty classic. It is almost completely about food except for the lamentation that if she doesn't do something drastic, the children will be naked as far as playclothes go (which means she bets the house won't get dusted this week). It's been so many years since we've been able to have a conversation with her that stuff like this is like finding a "new episode" buried somewhere. It's nice to get a virtual visit from almost 50 years ago dropped in the middle of your week.
7/28/14: Catching the Bus - While Shelby and I enjoyed the latest Bachelorette finale and its attendant array of exaggerated audience expressions, T&E zoomed a bus back and forth. We also read a book about the love of shoes, subtitled "Aunt Mo Can't Relate But Whatever Floats the Author's Boat."
7/29/14: Fris-Ease - A volunteer picnic-table-painting event that had been rained out multiple times finally came to fruition on Tuesday, as did A Million People Coming to the Zoo. Hence, I walked over to the Greensward to take volunteer photos rather than drove, which is why this is a people photo and not a forest wildlife photo. I ain't dragging that 300mm all over creation.
7/30/14: You Light Up My Life - I powered through a full day at the office on Wednesday since it was a Gettin' Stuff Done sort of day, so I wound up with a backyard bug photo. This candy-striped leafhopper wandered into my path, though, and that's fun enough that this doesn't feel like I could have done too much better.
7/31/14: You Are My Friend - Thursday's workday brought a bunch of wins. In the morning I determined once and for all that I would either figure out my Salesforce reporting problems by reading the message boards until a lightbulb went off, or I'd submit a Hail Mary to someone at FedEx. The lightbulb went off, and Gotham was saved (or something like that). But like Rachel completing a crossword puzzle on Friends, I was alone and there was nobody there to high-five. Then I had the first of a few meetings with potential contractors for our Old Forest website idea, and we met in the woods and had a really great conversation while walking very briskly. The entire time, I had this little tawny emperor on my hand. I had noticed it scooting on the ground pre-meeting, and once it crawled onto my finger I couldn't get rid of it for a couple of hours. I felt so bad for its broken wings. Perhaps it'll regain flight. Then I myself flew off to Pittsburgh, where I arrived at 11:45 p.m. to a fleabag motel by the airport service entrance that smelled like a baby powder bomb had just gone off inside. It was...ambient.
8/1/14: Blessed Beth - On Friday, I went over to Laura's and hung out with her, Owen, Parker, and a very affectionate Lucy for a while before going to Joanie's. Lillian was staying at her grandma's house after an afternoon of being in love with Justin some more, so we all went to Burgatory and played bingo on the back porch. Justin and Paul ran through every excellent Pittsburgh reference from Sophie Masloff to the Pens' offseason moves in yinzer accents, which makes me think Yinzer Bingo really needs to become a regular feature. Lines of the Day: After Owen leaped into my arms, ran away, and then did it again, Lucy followed suit. I said, "Ah, now Lucy wants a piece," and Owen responded, "Lucy can't have a piece. It'll make her sick." HA. We were discussing movie titles and Joanie asked Paul, "What's that one movie? You know the one. Hard Times for Wong Foo?" We all tried to guess what she meant while he doubled over laughing, only for him to correctly state that she was referring to "Big Trouble in Little China."
8/2/14: A Photo Taken Before Dark! - On Saturday, Joanie, Katie, and I walked downtown for several hours and tried out Meat and Potatoes (whose hostess had literally laughed at us the last time we tried to walk in without a reservation). It was just all right, although points for basically using an entire loaf of bread for a grilled cheese sandwich. The walk was great, and it was nice to see Mellon Square all finished and spiffy. Then we went out to Hope's, where this year I decided we should take our mandatory group photo before the end of the night when we were all very aware of our elderliness. It worked out well, especially because we were driven inside by rain moments later. We all decided to throw our weight behind a new alternative to Uber/Lyft targeted specifically to old folks, run by Justin and named "Shaperone." I think he would make a killing, or at least be written into a whole lot of wills.
8/3/14: Sunday Biker - Before I left on Sunday, I caught up with Stephan and Michael for the first time in forever, which was so nice. I was going to spend my free hour looking for dragonflies in Nine Mile Run, but the sky opened up and I got soaked and was forced to flee to Phipps. It was less thrilling, but it turned out that a dragonfly Joanie had spotted on the Clemente Bridge the day before was a really rare one, so that was enough of a get for one trip. Phipps in summer isn't the most exciting, so I drove through Squirrel Hill and picked up a Post-Gazette at Giant Eagle before having some white pizza at Aiello's on the way to the airport. It's these rare little moments I spend alone in Pittsburgh when I miss the city the most. I miss walking up Murray Avenue, reading the P-G Sunday Forum, and spending hours in my parks. While I walked through Phipps I remembered that I had considered doing master gardener classes when I first moved there, before realizing those aren't really geared toward people with full-time jobs. It made me sort of sad to think of that sense of discovery and "I could do this!" and realize I'll never get to grow up again. I know there are hard lessons for every fun one, so I'm glad to have gotten through that time, but there were so many sweet things too. I think how I feel about Pittsburgh now is probably expressed in the currently popular aphorism "don't be sad it's over, be glad it happened." I'm so glad it happened.
8/4/14: Peekaboo - I was photographing one of these skippers in the backyard on Monday when the second one flitted into frame and just as quickly flitted away. I had assumed until just now that they were fiery skippers, but I've been doing skipper reading today and I see that they are actually tawny-edged, which I had not seen before (or recognized, if I had). So that worked out doubly well!
8/5/14: Cornered - On Tuesday we went to Susan's father's funeral, which was a very sweet service officiated by her brother-in-law. But of course, terribly sad because it was obvious how missed he will be. Later that afternoon, I went downtown for another website RFP meeting. South Main wasn't exactly hopping at 4:30 p.m., or I probably wouldn't have used a photo of Walgreens as the pic of the day.
8/6/14: Younger and Elder - It's been a swamp outside this week, but I persevered with forest visiting nonetheless. On Wednesday I was entertained by watching the juvenile robins dive into the elderberries. You can tell they went for the more efficient top berries first, and now they were having to work for it.
8/7/14: Stoop - On Thursday night after a pop-up thunderstorm, pretty much all the backyard birds made an appearance within five minutes of each other. I mostly watched them because they were all on the move, so this mockingbird slouching under a tree is about all I got photo-wise.
8/8/14: Gully Car-Washer - I had another website meeting in the same building downtown on Friday morning (these tech folks keep their friends close and their enemies closer). Just as I pulled into Parking Can Be Fun, the sky completely opened up. The only available spots were, of course, on the roof, so I got soaked immediately. Given that, I decided to stop and take a photo before I got on the elevator. This is actually my favorite shot of the week! After my meeting, all had of course cleared up and I had a nice lunch with Lori and Lisa before heading home to take care of design work on my PC, which is way more cooperative than my laptop when it comes to giant files.
8/9/14: Est-ce que Vouz Buvez Du Thé? - That about takes care of Saturday: an absurd amount of Rosetta Stone French, and tea at the Peabody with Jessica and Debbie. I bet you can guess which was more pleasant! Hint: it was not the fiftieth picture of un homme riding his bike in the rain!
8/10/14: I'm Gonna Be in Such Trouble - But HOW COULD I NOT POST THIS?! Sunday was just a crap day, in large part because I chose that afternoon to do the annual Magical Night ad conversion. This means Frankenstein-ing someone else's artwork into eight different aspect ratios, none of which it was ever intended to occupy. Three years of this now, and it never gets even remotely more pleasant. Dad returned from his visit to DC armed with one of Daniel's old phones that he'd loaded with French-to-English translator apps. Mom wandered in and started using phrases like "My daughter will pay for everything," which resulted in my saying "tough titty." And here you have the French translation of same. Again...how could this NOT be the photo of the day?
8/11/14: Gonna Be a Hot One - This week was nonstop sweltering, but forest time still happened. I didn't stay out too long on Monday because I didn't want to look like a total freakshow for the evening's board meeting, which wound up lasting about 20 minutes but revealing that we maaaaay not actually have a Magical Night sponsor. So that's...er, magical.
8/12/14: A Purple Passion - There were plenty of nice finds on Tuesday afternoon, but this red-spotted purple (one of about a million) resting on the trail set the best mood.
8/13/14: Is It Enough to Grow Old? - (Today in Titles Only Melissa Understands.) On Wednesday Eric got me onto the dirt trails for the first time in roughly two months. He armed me with some no doubt horribly carcinogenic bug repellant spray that is so toxic you have to spray your boots the night before so you don't risk actually touching it. But I am happy to say that I did not acquire any chiggers during this exercise (which was meant to capture some "before" pictures of a nasty kudzu patch). Oh, and we found a tiny snail.
8/14/14: Your New Cuckoo - Earlier this summer I found a yellow-billed cuckoo in the woods, but hadn't seen one since. On Thursday's walk I was watching some hummingbirds drink from the jewelweed, listening to a summer tanager chirp, and watching a brown thrasher loudly eat elderberries when one flew pretty close to me. This is a much better photo than anything I'd gotten previously, so I elected to use it for today despite having several HILARIOUS photos of the brown thrasher popping berries into the air with its tongue.
8/15/14: Lost Without You - I wanted a non-woodsy entry somewhere in the week, so I forced Mom and Dad to pose at Lost Pizza while a little girl kept popping up from the lounge chair below to say hello. It was a little awkward.
8/16/14: All Squared Away - I slept embarrassingly late on Saturday after awakening myself the night before with a horrible dream where Dad was coming at me, a tree, and some animals with an enormous arcade claw. I came to after having knocked a glass of water and two remote controls off my bedside table. Apparently that was traumatizing enough to keep me in bed for the next nine and a half hours. When I did get up, Mom and I tried some Yoga Booty Ballet and then went to the farmer's market in a failed search for the sun-dried tomato guy. We had lunch at Bosco's, where the NBA's own Kosta Koufos held the door for us on our way out. Then I worked the rest of the afternoon on the latest Salesforce data cleanup before going out with Becky to Molly's and to see "The Break-Up Show." The show was very funny and well-done while also scaring me to death about humanity. If anyone ever wonders why the word "dating" sounds as appealing to me as the world "guillotine," this show would be a fine piece of evidence in my favor. Oh, and I know this photo is terrible due to my streaky windshield, but it does illustrate how happenin' Overton Square is these days.
8/17/14: The Hero and the Goat - One and the same! After undertaking my annual Pesto Rage this morning (WHY WON'T ANYTHING GRIND UP THE BASIL), I went to the pond at Shelby Farms since I hadn't been in a while. I was rewarded with a juvenile little blue heron and a first-time butterfly, the goatweed leafwing. It was about as soothing a visit as it could have been at 90-something degrees.
8/18/14: Settle Down Now - On Monday we found out what we'd all sort of suspected for a while now--poor lumpy Colbie is riddled with doggie cancer. Her big side-lump is a metastatic skin tumor originating from her spleen. So while this is not at all shocking, it's still upsetting. All I could think of was how important Colbie had been in getting me (us) through Mom's cancer, and so for it to finally be what takes her seems like a mean irony. But she's not in any noticeable pain so far, so we'll keep her going until she stops being eager to consume large quantities of food, go for walks, and menace felines. I didn't take a photo of her on this day because that didn't seem quite right, so today's pic is the first time I've seen a summer azure perch all season.
8/19/14: Big Spain - Why is it that on all my excursions to the downtown post office, I only ever get a red light at this intersection? I would love to window-shoot another streetscape once in a while. Today's perspective basically just focuses on Marc Gasol in the side mirror. We miss you, basketball season.
8/20/14: Breakfast of Champions - This has been the week of near-100 temperatures--we knew it had to show up eventually, so I'm just grateful it's waited this long. Even I couldn't muster the will for forest walks over the last few days, so I was glad this goldfinch gave me a morning show I could watch from the air-conditioned comfort of my living room.
8/21/14: Everyone's Laughing and Riding and Cornholing Except Buster - Actually, no one is cornholing, because it's 100 degrees outside. But the people behind Overton Square are ready if you change your mind! I got my hair cut at this Gould's location for the first time, and I think I'll be back--this lady was precise, non-awkward, and did not pull my hair. That's really all you can ask.
8/22/14: Alone Again, Naturally - The solitary sandpiper might be my spirit bird. After all, whenever we see each other, we're both free of other members of our species. Today's encounter occurred after I tried to go to Anthropologie to spend my birthday coupon, but was met with a lot of underwhelming merchandise. So I decided to visit Lucius Burch instead. It was PUNISHING out there, but always nice to run across one of these birds.
8/23/14: Another Day in Paradise - I recently realized that I have virtually no photo documentation from 1996 through about May 1998, save for a family vacation here and there. Thus, I have maybe three photos from the time I went to Perdido Key with the Graysons in the summer of 1997, when "Say You'll Be There" and "How Bizarre" ruled the airwaves. So when we realized that I had scheduled a repeat of last year's Gulf Shores pre-birthday weekend at the same time the Grayson/Vafinis clan would be headed to Perdido Key, I resolved to do a little better this time. On our first night, we met up at certified happy-place The Gulf, which seemed to be a good cure for Tamsie and Evie's weariness after a long day in the car. It worked the same magic on me (although during one of my visits this time, I had to sit through a Jack Johnson record. You can do better, Gulf.)
8/24/14: I Have Returned, My Flower - The temps were around 100 on this particular weekend, so I had stocked up on breathable hiking clothing (a thing I should have done YEARS ago for the world of difference it makes). Somewhere along the way my brain prioritized temperature regulation over bug resistance, and thus it came to pass that I wore ankle socks for my hike at Blackwater River this time around. It was a fantastic hike despite the crazy heat (and the golden-winged skimmers were much friendlier this year), but the price I paid was a week of weeping dermatitis thanks to one or more enterprising spiders who colonized my ankle. I am really killin' it on gross skin conditions of the ankle this year. Thanks, bugs!
8/25/14: Like Sands Through the Hourglass - On Monday morning I hiked the Pine Beach Trail at the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge, which is not something I'd necessarily recommend on a viciously windy day because there is no tree buffer from the Gulf. It was exhausting, but I can see where it'd be a nice trail in less punishing conditions. Then I headed over to Perdido and hung out with the folks on the beach for a while. Evie greatly enjoyed pushing the shells down into the sand every time the waves brought them in, and Tamsie was very industrious with her sand building. It was nice to watch the girls experience the beach. We even scrawled "1997 4eva" in the sand, which was washed away in 1997 4seconds. How bizarre indeed.
8/26/14: Up and Away - I was ready to head home first thing on Tuesday morning, but I took a brief walk out behind the Hampton so my photo of the day wouldn't be exactly the same as last year's (which it would have been, because I was in the exact same room--only now with a refrigerator!). This lady kept stopping and looking around every time I'd try to furtively photograph her, but eventually I prevailed. What can I say--I liked her hat.
8/27/14: Slow Dog - Colbie started reacting poorly to her chemo pills, so we elected to stop giving them to her (after which she bounced right back). I fear we have some philosophical disagreements as to how long she can or should hang around, and our trip to France is complicating things. I wish she would never go.
8/28/14: Triangle - I have nothing whatsoever to say about today. I'm sure something must have happened?
8/29/14: Kiss Me, I'm Iris - So, my birthday. Due to the extreme heat, the necessity of driving long distances on roads populated by raving morons, and the continued ripping up of our office floors, the workday portion of it was nothing short of hideous. I so needed to punch someone by the end of it that I came home and did Turbo Jam for half an hour just so I could release some aggression. Then Mom and Dad and I visited Restaurant Iris for the first time, which was of course lovely. We all felt like dying when we left due to fullness, but peanut butter creme brulee is clearly worth the pain. And it said happy birthday in chocolate. So that part of the day was good. And somehow the best photo I wound up with was a ridiculous mirror selfie in the bathroom. Clearly I'm growing up nicely.
8/30/14: Taking Flight - Jamie took us all out to Flight on Saturday night to officially ask us to be her bridesmaids. So that's two nights in a row of absurdly delicious meals and wanting to explode while not being able to stop consuming sweets. Note how cleverly I'm hiding my ankle mange. You can't even tell I'm disgusting!
8/31/14: Miles to Go - I got to spend Sunday taking photos of adorable little Miles, Amanda and Timothy's second son. Despite being the calmest, most zen baby ever, we couldn't get him to even consider falling asleep. So instead we have many shots of him paying good attention, which is perfect in and of itself. Dax also provided us with musical riffs ranging from "Shake Your Booty" to "The Wheels on the Bus." I doubt there will ever be a dull moment in that house from here to eternity.
9/1/14: Not What I Had in Mind - I took a quick Labor Day visit to Ghost River to see if I could find any rubyspots or clubtails, and it was a huge bust. So this is a photo of a field. At least the GPS showed me a new way to go that shaves a good 20 minutes off the trip, so I'll put that in my pocket. In other news, Colbie has now become so sensitive to my moods that when the Cardinals hit a tying home run against the Pirates, I didn't even need to move or make a sound for her to rush immediately to my side. She just KNOWS.
9/2/14: I Never Eat September Snowflakes - We're right in the middle of hummingbird migration season, which means they're pretty well camped out in the backyard right now. Since our office floors are half stripped up in anticipation of some far-off day of replacement, the respiratory conditions in the office continue to be abysmal. Coupled with Colbie's troubles and my parents being out of town, I decided to use take this week and work mostly from home. It was refreshing in its solitude, and also afforded me the opportunity to finally get a photo of a hummingbird sticking out its tongue. It's something I often see them do but had yet to capture. All the better that it happened during a rain shower!
9/3/14: Angel Eyes - I title this "Angel Eyes" because in the thumbnail version, they are seriously terrifying and in fact look like devil eyes. I was impressed with how well Colbie did this week, given how upset she was last year during my parents' vacation. We only had a couple of minor barf incidents (both in the Designated Vomit Area), and one was because she was too stubborn to wait for her automated lunch tray to pop open the one day I had to work through lunch. She shoved it all around the house and got it stuck, so she wound up with an empty stomach and probably a lot of fatigue from the effort. She can't be trusted, is what I'm saying.
9/4/14: Skippyjon Jones - I know the skipper photos grow repetitive, but I also know that this week was absurdly humid and I was awash in sweat after being outside for two minutes. Since I barely went anywhere this week, I don't have a lot of variety on offer.
9/5/14: Lunchbrag - This marks the first week in probably months that I did not consume Chick-Fil-A. It serves the same function that Chipotle did in Pittsburgh: being the most convenient and delicious escape from a day of office drudgery. Since I was working at home, though, the drudgery was less severe and I could make my lunch AT lunch rather than having to throw it together before work. I wish I could explain why this is so much better, but it's the same principle as why shaved deli turkey is so much better than sliced deli turkey. It just IS. Anyway, I pre-gamed for France next week (aaaaaaah) by eating a lot of croissant sandwiches. This one happened to be from Tart, but a Kroger croissant will do too.
9/6/14: Shall I Tell You a Story? - Some incredibly gracious volunteers at Snowden have offered to maintain the Overton Park Storywalk project that was installed last year by an Eagle Scout and then promptly abandoned. They had a celebratory kickoff this morning and had a really nice turnout. It was heartening to see. Also so humid that I immediately had to take a second shower when I got home. Eventually we finally got the rain that had been promised all week and the humidity broke just in time for Mom and Dad to get home from Florida.
9/7/14: Classy/Sassy - I spent Sunday with Carissa, visiting her church and then having brunch at Bosco's. It was a very nice catch-up time, and of course it's always a delight when I come to the door and Cliff greets me with his raccoon boppy in memory of the time I bounced it off my head to get him to laugh during a photo shoot. Good to know that move is still working six months after the fact.
9/8/14: Rolling On the Dirty Floor - I can't even tell you how much hysteria this stupid floor has caused me over the past few weeks. The watery eyes, the burning throat, the sickening crunch of adhesive and grit under my shoes...just totally not conducive to getting anything done. Luckily, they finally kicked us out of the office toward the end of the week and started to lay down new floors. Oh, what a nightmare in the preceding month, though.
9/9/14: Totes Jelly - I spent the morning sweating it up at Rainbow Lake Playground, where finally the donor recognition plaques first mentioned in this project on MAY 15, 2013 were being installed. That is a cool fifteen months and three weeks ago. Since that project kind of started in Shelby's kitchen, it was only appropriate that I ended the day with a visit to the Vafs. The girls were getting ready for dance class, and after I took a few photos of them suiting up, Evie discovered the wheel on my camera that allows you to view the photos. She stumbled across one where her eyes were closed, and she found this to be the single funniest thing in the universe for about the next 20 minutes. "Go back to the one where my eyes are closed!!!!" Tamsie concurred and soon got in on the action. Those two are such a delightful presence in my life.
9/10/14: "Now You Have Your Crappy, Blurry Photo That You'll Never Look at Again" - On Wednesday Becky and I went to see Aziz Ansari at the Orpheum, which was really pretty spectacular. Not only is he a great performer and incredibly funny, but a pretty heavy percentage of his act could easily have been brought to you by #YesAllWomen. It's feminism with the sense of humor it sorely needs. I haven't been to a lot of comedy shows in my lifetime, but the ones I have were pretty heavy on the "bitches be crazy" schtick. This was pretty much the opposite of that. I left feeling like the world needs a whole lot more people like him. I also appreciated how he insisted everyone put their phones away (except when he was soliciting awkward text conversations), so he had everyone take a terrible photo at the beginning as he leapt around the stage. It only seemed right that he is indeed blurry and this would wind up as the photo of the day.
9/11/14: It's In Your Art, Your Beauty - Thursday brought an epic rainstorm that flooded most of Bartlett in the early morning hours. I wasn't going to the office that day due to the flooring fiasco, but the waters receded in time for me to meet Ben and Emily for lunch. I'm no fan of poetry (as these two well know, given that we all met in a contemporary literature class at CBU that I have never stopped ranting about), but I could write a love poem to the Beauty Shop's grilled cheese and homemade chips.
9/12/14: Sticking Your Nose Where It Belongs - I had a couple of meetings on Friday, between which Eric showed me a huge stand of jewelweed in which the hummingbirds were going crazy. This one had something shiny and yellow on its beak, but we eventually concluded we were seeing things. When I got home and looked closer, I saw it was pollen. DUH.
9/13/14: C-Y Bust - When my organization had a booth at Cooper-Young Fest in 2012, they did $1,200 worth of t-shirt sales. We weren't allowed in last year due to the organizers' refusal to let both us and CPOP have a booth in the same year, so this was my first rodeo. It went about as badly as it could have gone relative to projections. We were put in the absolute nether regions of the festival (or as I call it, The Nonprofit Dungeon), which was so sparsely populated it became the de facto place for roughly EVERYONE to smoke their cigarettes into our faces. I will say that I had a fine time with our volunteers and with Gina in the booth, and the 60-degree weather was SUCH a welcome change from the usual sweltering heat. The dude wearing 15-year-old sweatpants, cowboy boots, and a Hooters satchel while playing "Sharp-Dressed Man" on his guitar was also an ironic highlight. But I left with such a terrible taste in my mouth, mostly due to things I unfortunately can't talk about here. I came home and self-medicated with a large quantity of Ariana Grande music. This is maybe just the fiftieth example today of how Not Midtown I am. I think that may be why I've never been a big fan of what is clearly this very nice event--it takes my Midtown outsider status, which I normally am perfectly fine with, and rubs it in my face.
9/14/14: Here's Looking at You, Babe - (I'm going with the Waiting for Guffman version of that quote. Because why not.) It's so funny--I woke up this morning feeling like THIS was my birthday. This was the end of my year and the start of another one. I haven't experienced that before with the end of a Project 365 year, but all day I've been thinking things like "So nice of the Pirates to turn a triple play on my birthday!" It is not my birthday. But maybe this day, after five years, feels more meaningful because it's earned. I've never been a big birthday person, because eh, what did I do that's worthy of celebrating other than get myself born and continue existing? I earn my Project 365 anniversary every single day. So it was nice, after going to bed feeling pretty crummy yesterday, to wake up this morning excited to start another year. I like to think this mantis is giving me a little cheer in its own weirdo sideways fashion.