Photo Challenge Day 7 – Dirty Old Engine

My photo a day for 30 days challenge is almost a quarter of the way over already! It’s already been a lot of fun but I definitely find it a challenge some days. I’m used to taking pictures when I get inspired by a scene or have a theme in mind. But this is forcing me to actually think about subjects that aren’t immediately obvious.

Picking up the camera every day and telling yourself that you have to find something interesting to photograph makes you much more aware of your surroundings. It makes you observe the things you pass by without thinking about on a regular basis. It helps you reimagine objects based on their shape and color rather than just their utility.

Today’s photo is of an old Briggs and Stratton engine sitting on a lawn edger. I liked the color of it as well as the lines made by the cooling fins. Click here to see all of the posts in this challenge.

30 Days of Photos – Day 7

Day 7 – Dirty Old Engine

What Makes a Fulfilling Day

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.
You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Jim Valvano

How many days do you spend just going through the motions? Sticking to the routine you’ve become comfortable in? Thinking that you’ve lived a full day because you made it through the day without incident?

But maybe it’s the incidents that actually make your day full. It’s the times you discovered something new because you took a different route to work. Or you actually read that Facebook post about someone’s friend with cancer and allowed yourself to feel for them. Perhaps it’s intentionally looking for the humor that life presents all the time but we don’t look for.

Jim Valvano made a good case for living this way in his well known ESPY speech from 1993. Suffering from cancer and not knowing how long he had to live, Valvano presented a three prong approach to living each day fully. “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” These words of his are simple but so often ignored on a daily basis. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. There are many days when I do one of these things. Maybe days when I do two. And to do all three is rare. But there are more days when I don’t do any of them at all.

When you have a health problem or other major life event, conciously living in the present and embracing emotion is often easier. You begin to see life as a finite resource. Your whole life you might have heard that you don’t live forever. But it’s hard to conceptualize this while you’re young, in good health and living comfortably. But being young, healthy and comfortable doesn’t mean you’re living a full life. It just means you’re still alive.

Don’t get me wrong, being alive is good. Living, however, is better. It’s a skill that Jim Valvano seemed to have for much of his life and that he took to a new level after he got sick. Watch his speech below and take notes. Then make it a point to live intentionally. Laugh, think and let your emotions bring you tears of joy or sadness. Done daily, you really will have something special.

 

Photo Challenge Day 5 – Cactus Flower

For Day 5 of my 30 day photo challenge I ended up in the desert. I spent two hours exploring and photographing flowers, landscapes, bugs and animals. It was a great time and the most enjoyable of the photos I’ve taken for this challenge so far. 

I think I took over 160 photographs and I liked a majority of them. The picture I chose for today’s post might not be my favorite. I can’t really tell because I have so many favorites.

If you want to see more from my hike you can check them out on my Flickr page

30 Days of Photos – Day 5

Day 5 – Cactus Flower

Potting Up a Garden

We recently moved to a new house that has a very small yard. This was quite a step down in size from our previous 1.5 acre property. But it’s amazing how good it feels to have a small area to work with rather than a big one. You can see the results of your improvements so much quicker and clearer. There’s less space to spread out but that just means you have to be more creative with the space you do have.

Because of our now small space, I’ve embraced the idea of container gardening. The people we bought the house from had left most of their pots behind and in one of them I even discovered raspberry canes coming up.

Over the weekend I finally got some great herbs and flowers and got them potted up. So far I’ve put in rosemary, sage, basil, dill, thyme and peppermint as well as a couple of perennial flowers.

The herbs came from a local organic farm called Sage Creations. They had great selection and the plants looked really good. Despite the name, Sage Creations specializes in lavender. I’m looking forward to going back in mid-June to see the lavender bushes in full bloom. Hopefully I’ll get some good photos to share with you here.

I still have a few pots to fill up. I’ll likely get some nice annuals to add some color and make the back patio a little more inviting. We also have a small side yard that has a patch of dead grass and dirt that’s just asking for a small raised bed for a few vegetables. It would be a great opportunity to practice square foot gardening just to see how much food we could grow in about 12 square feet.

There’s also a community garden a few houses over from ours where each house has their own small raised bed area. I don’t know yet what the rules are for using pesticides and since I only grow organically, I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it. I might just use it to grow ornamental flowers, gourds and decorative pumpkins for my wife.

So even though we’ve reduced the size of property we’re responsible for, there are actually quite a lot of options for gardening and even food production. I’m excited to see what it will look like when everything is in.

New Game: Carcassonne

Meeples clowning around before our first game of Carcassonne

 

We love games at our house. I’ve always been more of a Rummy or Yahtzee kind of guy. I enjoy simple rules and easy game play where your turn comes around fast. Although I have been known to promote a rousing game of Schafskopf or Russian Bank in my time. 

My oldest son loves involved, intricate and complicated board and card games. Thankfully, his latest game is more of a compromise in my favor. Carcassonne is a cool little game of placing tiles and building cities and roadways. The rules and play are simple but there’s a surprising amount of strategy in where to place the tiles and whether to put meeples on them after they’re placed.

I love games that can bring the whole family together. In this case, my wife even agreed to play with us. And with a whole bunch of expansions to buy, the game will hopefully stay fresh for a while.

 

A meeples after party

Evil Breakfast

I felt a strange, villainous thrill this morning while making breakfast for my two kids. I was making them bowls of creamy buckwheat cereal. After it’s cooked I usually add raisins, banana, raspberries and cinnamon. It was the cutting of the banana that inspired my inner dark side on this otherwise bright Saturday morning.

To explain this, I have to tell you what I ate for breakfast. My typical breakfast (which this morning’s was) consisted of half of a jumbo avocado, a heap of ground golden flax seed, ground turkey, fresh lemon juice, rosemary, pepper salt and olive oil, all mixed together. When I cut the avocado in half, it inevitably leaves a thick smear of dark green on the blade.

This morning there was a good amount of avocado left on the knife. When I went to cut the banana, the avocado mash transferred to the white fruit, making a ghoulish design.

I knew that if either of my kids saw this or even heard about it, they would revolt and refuse its inclusion in their food. I’ll never know what made me cut the banana without first wiping the knife blade. But once the deed was done, I knew I would get away with it. With all of the colored ingredients I put together in the bowl that little bit of green would just blend right in.

So I mixed it up and gave it to them. I smiled a crooked smile as I watched them shovel in the very thing they would have rejected if they had been aware of it. I felt somehow empowered by my secret activity. And I knew, right then, that I would do it again.

It’s Always Possible to be Positive

I found myself in an oncology waiting room with my wife yesterday. Thankfully we were only there for her to see a hematologist about a much less serious situation than cancer.

We were told to arrive 30 minutes before our scheduled appointment to allow time for filling out paperwork. Then the appointment time came and went. We ended up waiting for a total of one hour before seeing the doctor.

But the entire time we were waiting I couldn’t bring myself to get frustrated or annoyed. The patients that kept coming in stopped me by their attitudes when they were checking in and being taken back for appointments.

When the check-in staff or nurses asked how they were doing, all but a few responded with phrases like “I’m doing great, how about you?” or “I’m keeping positive” or “I’m better than yesterday”.

The relatively short amount of time I spent sitting reading a magazine is nothing compared to the time most of these people spend in doctor’s offices waiting and getting treated. When you see others who keep a positive attitude in the face of serious illness, it puts your own discomforts in perspective.

Too often I find myself complaining either inwardly or outwardly about minor inconveniences. But the patients I was overhearing taught, through their attitudes, that whatever the situation it’s always possible to be positive.

The Secret Life of Dandelions

It’s unfortunate that so many people see dandelions as nothing more than weeds. Yes, they’re incredibly invasive and don’t make for an attractive lawn most of the year. But they do have redeeming qualities.

First of all, when they flower they add a nice pop of yellow color to the landscape. It’s easy to see them and ignore them because of how common they are. But if you get really close, they reveal a tiny, intricate and unique landscape of their own.

Besides visual enjoyment, dandelions are a great food source too. The leaves make for a slightly bitter but tasty salad component. They pack a lot of nutrition like vitamin A and C, fiber and a whole host of other nutrients.

My favorite part of the dandelion is the root. I regularly drink roasted dandelion root tea. It has a great flavor and there might be some evidence that it has anti-cancer properties.

 

So this spring and summer, when you see those white seed heads popping up all over the place, pick a handful and blow the seeds all over your neighborhood. That guy screaming at you with the Roundup bottle in his hand won’t like it. But what does he know anyway.

Categorically Uncategorized

Ideally, a blog like this one should have every post neatly organized into a succinct set of categories. This kind of organization makes it easier for readers to find the posts that interest them according to topic. But there are always those pieces that just don’t fit neatly into any of the blog’s established categories.

By default, most blogs contain the catch all category called uncategorized. Uncategorized is where one off blog posts go to die. It’s the anti-category that, when come upon by an unsuspecting reader, screams of an uncaring or ignorant author.

In the case of this site there really are posts that don’t belong in any of the already too many categories I have. But those posts still make up an important part of what this site is. While I do have a carousel of topics I enjoy writing on, sometimes I want to hop off the ride and see what else the carnival has to offer.

I wasn’t going to try sticking every oddball post into an ill-fitted category. Instead, I decided to change “Uncategorized” into a real category that gives some indication of the atopical nature of the posts it contains.

After thinking on it for some time, I came up with the play-on-words Composts. I like it because like a bit of this and bit of that goes into a garden compost to make a fertile soil amendment, so these posts, when taken together, create a fertile environment for this blog to grow. Time will tell if it stays the default category name. But for now, I’m going with it.