Monday, February 18, 2019

The crochet challenge, update number one

Early in January, I posted that I intended to crochet one square a day for a year! (link to "The 365-day crochet project). And that worked, until I actually had thirty completed squares and it was time to start piecing together the afghan and crocheting the border. So I've had to adjust and include time creating the afghans as part of the challenge. It is still a 365-day crochet project, even though I don't see myself as making a new square every day.

But that's OK. Things change over the course of time. And the good news is that I now have my first completed afghan for the year.
Nearly all of the yarn used in this afghan is scrap yarn from other projects, either mine or other people's.  I used the same pattern for all of the squares.
Nevertheless, each square is different, mainly because of the color combinations. In piecing the afghan together, I didn't make much of an effort to match squares to each other. I decided to use a random approach in choosing squares to go together. 

My goal was to make this afghan look like the crochet version of a patchwork quilt.
The original purpose of a patchwork quilt was to use up scrap pieces of fabric. So this is the yarn version of the patchwork quilt. I guess that I can call this afghan a "patchwork afghan."

I am very happy with this afghan and I thank everyone who gave me their leftover yarn. My plan is to take this afghan to Roswell Park Cancer Institute within a few weeks, where it will be donated as my gift to someone who is fighting cancer.

Future afghans will be donated to other places, such as nursing homes and refugee shelters. Stay tuned for updates right here!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Migratory birds

Today, I went for a walk along the river. It wasn't a warm day but it wasn't frightening and windy, like it was on Wednesday. So it was time to get out of the house and experience the Niagara River.

All right. I actually know that the Niagara River isn't a river.
It's a strait that connects Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. Nevertheless, its name is "Niagara River," not "Niagara Strait." So I talk about walking along the river.

Today, it was a sunny, though cold, day. Everything looked bare and stark. Due to all of the rain in the past few days, there was more water than there was snow. My original plan was to take an easy four mile walk (round trip). But, when I reached the two mile mark, I was ready to continue. And so, I did. My walk was fairly solitary, as not very many people were out. I saw a few joggers but no other walkers.

I left the house with few expectations.  I just wanted to see the river. I was hoping to see some life. I never imagined that I would see as much life as I saw, and that all of it was in or near the river.

And it was all birds. Migratory birds. The river was full of canvasback ducks and Canada geese. Most of the ducks were too far away for my camera but I did get a picture of this one.
I even saw some mallard ducks. Here are four married couples!
Every now and then, the geese took flight, and that was a magnificent sight.

I ended up by walking 6.6 miles on this beautiful winter day. It was a good experience. I'm looking forward to my next walk and am already wondering where that will lead me.

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Documenting my day

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Thursday was a fun and adventurous day, definitely worthy of documenting. I started the day by doing the finishing touches on a photo display for my art exhibit at the Grand Island Memorial Library this month.
The trees were still covered
with ice after Wednesday's
ice storm.
Early in the afternoon, Kathy, an artist who has had two displays at the library, drove me and some of my art (the photography display and a collection of drawings) to the library. My paintings had already been delivered to the library and were being stored in the library director's office. Well, today was the day to set up the exhibit. It was fun to make my own little museum, which included the artwork and my artist statement. The title of the exhibit is "Alice's Art Journey." The artwork will be on display at the library for the entire month of February.  If you're in Grand Island, come over to the library and visit it!

my switch plate
cover prior to
My next stop was to the Clay Cafe, where I painted a light switch cover. I drew a geometric shape on it and painted it in bright colors. It was a lot of fun. I think that the colorful light switch cover will add a lot of brightness and happiness to a room.

waiting for the
bus to Buffalo

After that, I went to catch a bus into Buffalo.
grass coated with ice.
I had an easy, uneventful bus ride and arrived in downtown Buffalo, where I started walking up Franklin Street. We met at a restaurant named Giacobbi's Cucina Citta, a lovely Italian restaurant in Allentown. We shared a dinner, as there was a choice of having an individual plate or having a "family meal."
pasta with broccoli and shrimp.
There was plenty of food in the family meal, and Diane took the leftovers home with her. The food was delicious, and the service was excellent. When we left the restaurant, it was actually warmer than it was when we arrived. We walked to the subway station and took the train to the last exit, which is called a "special events station." It is directly across the street from the hockey arena. The train was full of people who were dressed in Sabres regalia. They were definitely ready for the game and had the fashion statement to show it.

So far, it had been a pretty awesome day. Art exhibit, switch plate painting, scrumptious meal... Sabres game. What could go wrong?

Diane and I were directed to the 300 section, where our seats were with a group from Saint Martin-in-the-Fields church. We arrived and I saw that the whole section was a gigantic and very high edge!!!

Years ago, someone told me that I was not afraid of heights; I was afraid of edges. And this was an edge. The arena started spinning in circles. Our seats were not visible to me. Diane walked around and grabbed the bannister. She reached a hand to me. But my vertigo and my phobia told me that I would fall off of that edge before I could reach Diane's hand.

It was not rational. Phobias are never rational. Knowing that my phobias are not rational doesn't seem to work in making them go away. I couldn't move. I was stuck in one spot.

I believed that my fun and happy day had ended with terror. I stood there, staring at the abyss with a mixture of fright and fascination. My phobias told me that I was staring at the face of death.

Standing in that spot was scarier than being thrown from a raft in the Genesee River. It was scarier than...

Just then, one of the ushers interrupted my morbid fantasies and suggested that I talk to someone at a booth across the hall. And so, I did. I explained my fear to him, and... he offered to exchange tickets for me. My sister came back, and we both got new seats... downstairs on the first level. We went to our seats, and I could see where I was going. My terror wafted away slowly. We went to our seats, and Diane thanked me for having a panic attack.

"It wasn't fun."

I took a look at the game. It looked really close. Our view was spectacular.

Let's go, Buffalo!!!
"Um. Er. Wow," I said as I dug my camera out of my purse, changed lenses, and started taking pictures. I was hoping to get a photograph of a Sabres player scoring a goal but never did. In the first period, the Sabres were behind by the score of 2-0. 

"I think that the Sabres need a confidence builder," I said to Diane.

Find the hockey puck!
In the second period, the Sabres got their confidence builder when they scored their first goal.  That's when all of the fun burst out. Diane and I appeared on the Jumbotron.
Some of the fun entertainment
between periods involved
bubble people and
Between periods, there was a lot of fun entertainment. It was truly a multi-media experience. 

At a hockey game, everyone who sits near you is your friend, whether you know them or not. When the Sabres scored, we all high fived. We all chanted "Let's go, Buffalo," and we all danced gleefully at each of the Sabres' five goals, two by that great player, Jeff Skinner. The game was exciting to the last second. Regulation time ended in a 5-5 tie. A few minutes later, sudden death overtime began. We were all on our feet, yelling and cheering for the Sabres to score. Maybe Jeff Skinner would score and achieve his hat trick? But it was not meant to be. The Carolina Hurricane scored the game-ending goal with about two and a half minutes to go in the five-minute overtime.

Despite the loss, I felt happy that I had the opportunity to watch the game and grateful to the Sabres organization for making my experience so joyful. 
Diane and the
famous Conehead!
I feel so grateful to them for accommodating my needs. They are a great organization. I hope for nothing but success and happiness for the Sabres.

Diane and I were driven back to Grand Island by Eric Boron, who had actually spent the day in New York City! We walked a number of blocks back to his car. It had gotten warmer during the course of the evening, and it was a happy walk. That weather did not last long. By the time I went to sleep, the wind was howling like a lonely wolf. 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Magical snowy Buckhorn

Yesterday morning, I looked outside and saw that my world had been transformed into a winter magicland.  The glittery white snow was clinging to tree branches and to roofs. The sky was as white as the snow, and the upper tree branches, naked and stark, pointed like outstretched fingers toward it. My world slept, covered by a soft white blanket that glimmered with delight and with dreaminess.

The vivid whiteness of the snow that covered nearly everything filled me with joy. I know that snow is an insulation for the ground.
It is composed mostly of trapped air, and, if you were to go inside a structure that was made of snow, the inside temperature would be warmer than it would be outside the snow structure. Animals often burrow into snow to hibernate.

But humans don't hibernate. There are times when I wish that I could hibernate. But yesterday was not one of those days. I put on my warm coat, my hat, my mittens, and my boots, and I set off to Buckhorn Island State Park to take pictures of the winter wonderland. When I arrived, I saw that the woods looked sparkly, and the ice was growing into the river. 

Very few people were in the park. I met a man there named Larry.
He carried a dog leash and said that his dog, Daisy, was in the woods and would come out and greet me. I shouldn't be surprised by a friendly, happy dog.
He said that she liked sitting and waiting in the woods because she is part pointer. Also, she was wearing a cow bell so I would hear her coming. I kept walking but the cow bell noise was very faint. Larry started calling for Daisy to come to him. Then I heard the cowbell getting louder and, before long, I saw a happy dog greeting her daddy. She saw me and introduced herself.
Larry said that Daisy was a rescue dog from Texas. About two and a half years ago, she was outside and chained up. She had had a litter of puppies but no one seemed to care about her, until a dog rescue organization found her and sent her north to find a loving family, which was Larry and his wife.
They also foster dogs, and, last summer, they fostered a 17-year-old dog that was not well.
They had already nursed Daisy, who came with heartworms, back to health, and they helped this elderly dog heal, and that dog was adopted. They fostered another dog, who also was able to go to a FUR-ever home.

I petted Daisy and she had a happy expression on her face, and, at that moment, in the winter wonderland, I had made a canine friend for life.

Friday, January 18, 2019

An attitude of gratitude

On November 1st, I started writing a gratitude post a day. The idea was to get myself ready for Thanksgiving. At the end of November, I didn't really want to stop so I continued. There have been a few days that I've forgotten to write a gratitude post, but that's OK. I can be thankful the next day that I remembered! Anyway, I'm going to continue, at least until Halloween. In the course of the past few months, I have discovered that I can be thankful for all sorts of things, both large and small. I've also realized that, when I have to find something to be thankful for each day, I am more aware of other people and the sky and all of those little things that tend to go unnoticed in the busyness of everday life.

Here is a collection of some of my gratitude posts:

Today's gratitude post is for friends. True friends. Friends who care. Friends who are focused on the needs of other people, not just themselves. As Wilbur the pig said about Charlotte, a true friend who is also a good writer is someone very rare indeed. Thank you for being there for me.

Today, I am feeling thankful for my sister Diane, who taught me to crochet.
You put so much color into my life!

Today, I am grateful for trees. They provide shade and oxygen. The flowering trees in the spring and the fall colors are spectacular.

I'm so tired after tap dance. But sleep feels good when your body is tired. I am so thankful for restorative sleep.

It snowed and it's so pretty. When snow first arrives, it looks magical. I am thankful for magical snow today.

Today, I am thankful for having a good visit to the dentist's office. My teeth are healthy & I got a cute yellow toothbrush!

Today, I am thankful for the beauty of the time before the sun sets. It is so golden and radiant.

Today, Diane E. and I went to Niagara Falls for a birdwatching walk, organized by the Audubon Society.
We visited Goat Island and Three Sisters Island. I discovered that my visit to Three Sisters Island was my first. I had never been there before because access to that island is so frequently blocked. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to see the rapids and to see the snow that was starting to build up. It was a good experience.

Today, I am thankful for tea. It comes in many varieties & flavors. It is happiness in a cup.

Today, I went with my family to Shea's Buffalo, in downtown Buffalo, to see the Nutcracker. What a great production.
There were dancing cupcakes, a large nutcracker, waves of attacking rats that were barely deterred by cannon, dancing bakers, and so much more. I love dance. It's so great to watch people use their bodies to tell a story. What a wonderful experience. I am so thankful that I got to share this wonderful experience with my beautiful family (they are so beautiful that a Buffalo News photographer took our picture!). I am especially thankful that my sister made this experience possible. Thank you, Viv! I love you!

I bought the most delicious eggnog today. It comes from Hoover Dairy! I am thankful for sweet holiday treats!

Today, we went to Trinity United Methodist Church for caroling and story telling with Goody Claus. It was her last night here in Western New York. She has to head back to the North Pole to make sure that Santa, the elves, and the reindeer are on track and haven't spent all of their time guzzling eggnog, instead of packing the sleigh with toys for the world's girls and boys. We enjoyed Mrs. Claus's last night here so much. It was fun to sing and inspiring to hear stories of hope and love.

Then we had hot chocolate and cookies, and Mrs. Claus promised to bring our messages to Santa Claus. I am very thankful for Goody Claus, and, next year, I will try to help her advertise so that more people can find that delight and joy in song and story.

Today, I went to the Explore and More children's museum with my sister Vivian and her three grandchildren. What an amazing place this museum is... so full of color and shininess! It is truly a magical kid land! There was so much for the kids to see and do there! They could pour rice through a funnel into a big box... sort of like a sandbox, but with rice! The kids could present puppet shows at a puppet theater.
There was a lightbox with knobs that changed the colors as you turned the knobs. OK. That was my favorite activity. Shiny colors. Um. Urp. Never mind. Anyway, I am grateful that a fun place like this exists and I am thankful that my sister took us all there to explore the magic and... um... shininess of it all.

I've been collecting state quarters for some time. I have half of the parks series, and I thought that I had a complete collection of the first series. Well, today, I got a Puerto Rico quarter, dated 2009. I was completely gleeful about it. So, today, I am thankful for that Puerto Rico quarter. I didn't even know that it existed. I'm still doing a happy dance about it.

So tired. Today's gratitude post is for my new pencil sharpener. I bought it at Dollar General. It didn't cost very much. But I am thrilled with it. I need my colored pencils to be very sharp. My old pencil sharpener wasn't doing that any more. I am very happy with my really sharp pencils and grateful to have a nice new pencil sharpener with one hole for thin pencils and another for fat pencils. It's wonderful.

And last... but not least... today's gratitude post: Today, I am thankful for the moon, shining so brightly. It is growing, each day and, on Monday, the 21st, it will be full. The moon waxes and wanes, but it is always there, shining reflected light from the sun. Sometimes, I can see the moon shining during the day, and that seems so magical.

What are you thankful for today?
Today, I am grateful for trees. They provide shade & oxygen. The flowering trees in the spring & the fall colors are spectacular.

Today, I am feeling thankful for my sister Diane, who taught me to crochet. You put so much color into my life!

Today, I am feeling thankful for my sister Diane, who taught me to crochet. You put so much color into my life!

Today, I am feeling thankful for my sister Diane, who taught me to crochet. You put so much color into my life!

Monday, January 14, 2019

Photography for Life

I just finished an online class that was taught by photographer Annie Liebovitz. She really opened up my eyes to seeing photography and the world in different ways. 

Goody Claus wants to make
all dreams come true, but
my dream of footlights
and and life on the stage
did not happen.
Photography was never my passion. Once, long ago, I wanted to be an actress. It was my hope and my dream. The stage was my magic place, where stories came to life, with color and shiny things. It was a storybook that was transformed into something life size and better than real. It was also the place where a shy person could become someone else, even if for a short time. I loved my time on the stage. It was fun and it was special, and it took me outside of myself. It took me away from the shy kid that I once was. I truly didn't feel comfortable just being me. I wanted to become someone else, and, on stage, I could do exactly that. When I was in college, I was determined to make acting into my career. It only took about two semesters for me to realize that acting would never be my career.

I learned that I could be as funny as heck and that I could be the best character actress but, unless I was tall and gorgeous, the chances that I would be a professional were close to zero.

I didn't believe that I would ever be gorgeous and I knew for sure that I would never be tall (well, maybe with stilts, I could be tall).

So I decided to go for journalism. I had my choice between print journalism and broadcast journalism. With broadcast journalism, I faced the same dilemma that I did with acting. There was, once again, that tall and gorgeous thing that wasn't happening for me. 
I decided to be a newspaper reporter and, so, I did that. It has been a fun and interesting career, though far from lucrative. And, along the way, I discovered photography.  I had to take photographs to go with my stories. Before long, I discovered a great joy in photography. I started carrying my camera everywhere because I was sure that I would see something interesting to photograph. But was I doing photojournalism or was it something else?

Annie Liebovitz talked about doing personal reportage, rather than journalism. That turned into a "lightbulb moment" for me. 
I will admit that, as much as I like doing journalism, it is kind of impersonal. A journalist has to be objective. But, when I am out and about, taking pictures and documenting my world, it's not objective. It's very personal. It is my story that I am conveying. Annie Liebovitz advises to "learn to trust what you see and tell the story in a way that means something to you." Because story is what it's all about.
It's the story of the subject and it's the story of the photographer and it doesn't have to be limited by the concept of objectivity. It is a way of seeing, a way of exploring the world, and a way of being part of the world. And it was new and different and exciting for me to do that and to experience it.

Annie Liebovitz also said that, when you decide to BE a photographer, as opposed to just DOING photography, it is an entirely different experience.

Somewhere along the line, I made the decision to put more effort into my photography and to take the next step and to say, "Yes, I am a photographer." Thousands of images later, I think that I am ready for that step. I'm ready for that entirely different experience. I can be that photographer, and I can be that artist. It is amazing, the experience of learning to see the world, of learning to find interest out of things that, formerly, I would have seen as ordinary. It means that my passion can be anywhere, as long as I have a camera and a sketchbook and a pencil.

I feel that I have grown from that kid who had starry eyes every time she saw a stage. The theater will always be my magic place, but my passion now is everywhere.
It's in the forest and it's in the city and it's along the river, and it's just about anywhere that I can be, with my camera, just waiting for that image that I seek. I am so grateful to Annie Liebovitz for showing me that I can reach outside of myself and see the world in entirely new ways through the lens of a camera.