Monday, January 29, 2007

Happy Birthday to My First Born

I had best do this post quickly, because as of midnight, this will no longer be the birth date of my elder child. Thirty five years ago, our son was born.

I called him today and said that he took his own good time getting here. I was in labor from 2:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Well, for all those family members who have had to wait for him since then, just remember I was the first one who had to wait for him. Of course, his dad waited too. In fact, I slept through much of that day, but my dear husband didn’t. He was my coach, cheerleader, team spirit raiser par excellence. And also the first one who got to hold our son.

All the wonderful photos of my son as a baby are in 35 mm slide form, so I have none to offer here of the tiny baby. He was a cute child—with wonderful red curls that stood out around his head like a halo. Nothing else angelic about him, but the hair!

And now he is half way through his 30s. Whew—how can that be? That makes me. . .oh, never mind!

Of the two photos just above--the mouth open yelling son and the serious reading in the corner son, the second was far more typical.

When our daughter was born, our son was a great big brother. And a role model!

And for the last photo, our son and his wife!

Love you, son, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY.

My, oh my, where does the time go?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

What Book Am I?

Well, this post answers the burning question: what book am I. I followed a link on a blog I found, and, of course, being curious, I took the quiz. . .and have learned that I am ROOTS!

To my family, let me assure you (should any of you take the book quiz) I answered the question about story telling very honestly.

You're Roots!

by Alex Haley

While almost everyone agrees that you're brilliant, no one knows quite how to categorize you. Some say that you're a person with an amazing family tree. Some say that you're just a darn good storyteller. Others say that you're both and don't much care where to draw the line. What is known is that your people have been through a great number of trials and that you are where you are because of hard work. You have nothing to lose but your chains.

Take the Book Quiz
at the
Blue Pyramid.

Friday, January 26, 2007

The Things They Carried

One of the best books about the Vietnam Conflict is Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried. While understandably soldiers in combat situations carry things that they need to help them through the vagaries of daily warfare, they also carried mementos from home. All manner of items--photographs, good luck pebbles, letters, comic books. On and on the list goes.

Recently, one of the national television news programs revisited this image--soldiers in far away countries carrying things from home--only this time the country is Iraq. The reporter asked each soldier whether or not he (and I think they were all men who were interviewed) carried anything special. Remarkably, but not surprisingly, almost everyone had some little object hidden away that was carried as . . .a reminder of home? a talisman against harm while battling in harm's way? an object of affection from a loved one? Who knows--just that they all carried something.

Of course, items are not only carried into to war, but away from war. Soon after World War II had ended, my maternal grandfather, who was a life-long farmer in rural Pennsylvania, went on what must have been the adventure of his life. He went with a ship load of cattle to Poland. Since so many farm animals had been killed in the destruction that swept Europe as a prime battleground for World War II, many countries were bereft of farm animals. When he came home, he had carried along some souvenirs--war souvenirs. He brought back Polish currency, and various pins with swastikas. I don't know if these items were jewelry or if they were decorations that would have been worn on uniforms. Somehow, I inherited them.

One of the most striking (and photographic) scenes that I encountered on my recent trip to Accra, Ghana, is all the people, especially women, carrying items on their heads. Now, I know from having grown up in Africa that girls start carrying items on their heads when they are just wee tiny.

So, the skill acquired over many years of practice is probably second nature to them when they are adults. BUT, the sheer size of the loads still takes my breath away. I do confess there are times when my arms are tired of holding some big box that I heave it up on my head and walk for a bit, holding on of course. Try that and see how many odd looks you get.

Finally, one more tale of carrying things. When our daughter studied in a semester abroad, in Glasgow Scotland, the University had a month long spring break. She and two college mates of hers decided to do some touring in eastern Europe. They flew to Vienna, and from there a bit at a time, they traveled by train, with Istanbul as their terminal destination. Their travel luggage, for the most part, were the large backpacks that they could carry on their backs or by hand.

When they got to Istanbul, our daughter saw the perfect gift to bring home for us--a lovely blue plate to hang on a wall. It has an Arabic inscription; there is a helpful translation taped to the back for those who do not read Arabic (which includes me). Translation: "The God knows everything; The God is everywhere."

The purchase of this plate is not the point of the story. Carrying it home is. When she got home, our daughter gave us some of the other gifts she had gotten, then came the coup de grace--the plate. In addition to the wrapping the merchant had done, our daughter had carefully wrapped it in her clothing, then packed it in her back pack, and carried it all the way home. First from Istanbul to London, then on to Glasgow, and then eventually from Glasgow back to the United States and central Pennsylvania. Her one college mate traveling along had also bought a similar plate for her parents. The plate broke while they were still in Istanbul, so she bought another. That plate made it part way in the journey home, but it too broke. Our daughter successfully carried hers thousands of miles, and gave it to us. It now graces our living room wall.

Thus it is written: "The God knows everything; The God is everywhere."

Monday, January 22, 2007

Rule, Britannica!

In the corner of our family room, we have two bookshelves packed full of two sets of books. And next to them is a comfy peach colored recliner. Last evening, my husband decided to sit on the recliner, and wanted to move the nearby lamp closer so he could read. Of course, the electric cord was caught under the bookshelves and would not budge. So, this morning being ambitious and a bit crazy, I decided to move the bookshelves, free the cord, and then move the bookshelves back.

Now, this is not a simple process. In fact, I have moved the bookshelves out and back several times in the two decades they have been sitting in that corner. A while back, we had a cat who decided that corner was prime litter box territory, ONLY he consistently did not go IN the litter box. So, I was always scrubbing the carpet back there. (Turned out, the poor guy was suffering from chronic renal failure, and eventually died). I have also moved these bookshelves when the carpet cleaning guy comes once a year to steam our carpets.

Well, I went at the task.

Removing all the books from the shelves, stacking them into leaning towers of learning, dusting everything off, and replacing them on bookshelves. In the process, I discovered the critical mass of stacking--books can only go so high until they fall, Jenga like, off the pile on to the floor.

But, when they are safely back on bookshelves they look grand.

But, as I completed this task, I began to contemplate. Why, precisely, do we have an entire set of Encyclopedia Britannicas? And why do we have, right next to that bookshelf, the second shelf with a full set of Great Books. I confess that, while I have read many of the authors whose works appear in the Great Books series, I have NEVER read through one of the volumes. I don't know if it makes me feel more learned to have the set in the family room or not. Can knowledge be transmitted by osmosis? Do the words float around the room waiting to be inhaled, and then to migrate, stem cell fashion, to the appropriate regions of my brain?

Several years ago, when I was on another cleaning tear, I decided to get rid of another complete set of books we had that, since our children were grown, we no longer used. I began looking for a place to donate these books. Frankly, I am constitutionally unable to throw out books. There is something far too sacred to printed words for me to think that books are disposable. So, I lit upon the idea of sending them to Africa. I did Internet research, and finally found that the University of Ghana, in Legon, Accra would accept them. I boxed them up, several boxes worth as they had to be below a set weight, hauled them off to the Post Office and sent them book rate across the ocean. I never heard if they arrived, but assume they did.

Now, as I look at the set of Encyclopedia Britannicas, I wonder what will become of them. Knowledge changes or is added to exponentially so fast. I recall a sniblet of information that said that, in general, knowledge is being replaced every five years. Whew! So, college students choosing majors really need to learn how to keep learning. There is no way they can train for something with a body of knowledge that will never need to be refreshed. Our set of Britannicas is way outdated. In fact, the next time I want to know something quickly, I will run to Google or Wikipedia. (I admit I don't let my students use Wikipedia as a cited research source, but I do tell them they can start there.) So the lovely blue set of Encyclopedia Britannicas languish.

But just now, they are well dusted, nicely rearranged, properly situated in the corner of the family room. And next to them, is a comfy peach colored recliner. With a reading lamp. With a freed electric cord.

Monday Morning Updates

In some of my recent blogs, I wrote on topics that readers have commented on. Herewith a few updates.

The most recent blood work results show that her platelet levels are holding steady. So the vet said to cut back her prednisone dose. It was 20 mg. tablets, which I now cut in half so she gets 10 mg. daily. BUT, and here's what is strange, she is more hungry and thirsty than before. My husband, half jokingly (I think), wondered if cutting the pill in half releases more active ingredients. For now, Tipper is doing fine. Next blood test--in one month.

I am doing fine too. Now that I am back to regular blood sugar testing (only once a week), I continue to get feedback that diet alone is controlling blood sugar levels. So far I am hovering around 100--which is the target. Next doctor appointment in less than a month--TRUTH time!

Out of the blue (well, not quite--given the emailing high school classmate), I got an email from one of the threesome of the anti-clique clique. What a delight! In our emails back and forth, we have exchanged brief brushstroke details of our lives over the past. . .OMG. . .45 years. No, can't be. But it is. 45 year high school graduation anniversary on the horizon. And, except for meandering aches and pains, I don't feel a day over--let's make it 50.

Now that my daughter is home, you would think I wouldn't be paying much attention to things in Ghana. However, an old friend is currently there doing 3 weeks of nursing work on a hospital ship. She is sending daily emails of the travails of non-stop surgery. And in the brief moments when she gets out into parts of Ghana, she is experiencing the chaos and wonder of that country.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Dancing with the Internet

The other day, a colleague told me his grandson, who is eight and attends school in Portland, Oregon, is not being taught cursive writing. Apparently, the schools there have decided not to teach students how to write cursive because computers and keyboard entry of things written takes primacy.

Out of curiosity, to see if abandonment of cursive writing is widespread, I “googled” the term. Here’s what Wikipedia summarizes as the
criticism of teaching cursive. There are, it seems, many good reasons for ceasing the teaching of cursive.

When I relayed this information to my husband, who taught science to 7th graders over 25 years ago, he wondered if students are still being taught to read it. What an interesting question. And what incredible changes in communication this news stresses.

As a college English instructor, I have an abiding interest in developments in communication. I know that language is living, dynamic, constantly changing. Words are added to the dictionary every year. In fact, this year’s word, according to the
American Dialect Society, is “plutoed” as in “to demote or devalue someone or something”. You know, like Pluto was a planet until it got voted out of the solar system.

Rough comparison of the sizes of Earth and Pluto, image created by NASA

But it is clearly computers that have had the greatest impact on communication. We have been a computer family since. . .the beginning of personal computers. We got our first home computer in 1984! It was a Texas Instruments 99 A.

Image from

The display monitor was a regular color television. It had no real memory, and we stored any data on a regular tape recorder. Our next computer was a huge upgrade—an Apple II C.

Our son, who had majored in math during college, was drawn to computer programming and decided to get a master’s degree in computer program. He attended
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). On one of our first visits to see him, we took a couple extra days and hence needed to get an educational excuse to justify our daughter, who was still in middle school, missing classes. So, our son said he would show us something that was just beginning to be popularized: the Worldwide Web! That was 1994.

Back to the impending loss of cursive handwriting. As someone who has written an occasional article, I have used primary sources. In writing a biography of my paternal grandparents, I had access to letters they had written to each other during their days of courting. Back and forth these letters flew, between Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. All in handwriting that was distinctive and wonderful to read.

I do wonder about future biographers who will be bereft of such material. Will emails take the place of letters? How could they. First, they are unlikely to be saved. Second, they will lack all character of individuality. Much as I prefer to do my writing composition on a keyboard, there is something so particular and special about handwriting.

Some years ago, when the marvelous historic downtown church I attend celebrated its 200th anniversary (that counts as old in this country!), I helped assemble material for a church history. I went back through the Session minutes. (For all you non-Presbyterians, the Session is the equivalent of the church board.) These minutes, extending as far back as 1794, were hand-written in wonderful pale brown ink (faded, no doubt, over time) in a spidery crawl of writing that spread across the page. At times, it was difficult to read. The recording secretary (a man, of course, for this was in the days long before women were eligible for church office) had perfectly legible hand-writing. But how the letters were formed has changed. A lower case f looks like an s. So, a word like success looks remarkably like succeff. I had to keep translating to myself. It is no surprise that today all these minutes are neatly word processed. All individuality is lost.

Much as I love computers and the Internet, as my fingers dance along over the keys, I mourn the loss of the individual touch of hand-writing. With its demise, the experience of picking up a piece of paper written in someone’s very recognizable hand will be lost.

Peanut Butter, Pills, Pup & Persistent Cat

Today is a non-pill day for our dog, Tipper, who is on prednisone to suppress her body's over-zealous elimination of her own platelets. Most every day, she gets a 20 mg. pill of prednisone, but, since today is a teaching day for me, I skip giving her the pill. (The side effects of prednisone are increased hunger and thirst for the dog, so, with her in her crate while I am gone, it seems cruel to afflict her with urges that she can't satisfy in her confinement.) ANYWAY, as I got out my usual morning vitamin, the dog hears the rattle of the bottle and ASSUMES this is for her.

You see, I have learned that a dog will take any pill, almost any size, as long as you coat the pill in peanut butter. So she came running for the morning dose of peanut butter. Awww--puppy, sorry to disappoint you. But then, she (being a very smart half-Border collie) made an excellent point--she could force herself to have a taste of peanut butter WITHOUT the pill! So, herewith!

Problem solved!

So, my next step in morning processing is to read the newspaper. And here begins another predictable ritual. Ever since our one cat Cassidy was a kitten, he has loved to crawl up on the table and position himself just so on top of . . .you guessed it. . .the newspaper. I can spread the paper out and be all ready to read, Cassidy is nowhere around, and SUDDENLY he materializes (like all cats I have ever had, he time travels--I first read about the ability cats have to time travel in that wonderful children's classic Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander).

I will be sitting there pleading, no, no, not my newspaper, and Cassidy, utterly oblivious to my pleas, plops himself right -- on -- the -- page -- I -- am -- READING. I groan, pick him up, deposit him on my chair (since I am now standing) and hope he will stay there. If he does, I continue reading, while standing until the newspaper is done. And, of course, Cassidy consents to letting me pet his ears, while he sits on my chair, and I try to read the newspaper.

Note, Cassidy is NOT sitting on the ad side of the newspaper, which I can easily skip reading; oh no, he is plopped (and really that is what he does) right on top of the text.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Old Friends

Remember that Simon & Garfunkel song of too many years back? Old Friends. Plaintive guitar notes, sotto voce Garfunkel voice singing descant over Simon’s steady tenor.

With that song playing background music, I find myself thinking of old friends. Maybe these reveries are brought on by a stream of emails recently received from a long ago classmate updating us on the status of fellow graduates: this one is sick; this one getting married for the first time (!); this one has just died. The names at times are so obscure that even deep dredging of memory fails to bring a face to the surface. Thank goodness for saved yearbooks. I trundle down to the basement, and blow off the dust, then look up the pictures.

Sometimes the news ends my wondering. I have not kept contact with any high school classmates so some of the names that float to the surface really set me to wondering. Whatever ever happened to. . .? A couple years ago, out of the blue I read the obituary in the local newspaper for my first boyfriend. I saw him only once after we graduated from high school then lost all contact with him. So even the bad news of an obituary was news filled with information: he had served in Vietnam, had married, had sons, had lived and worked about two hours from where I live. The cause of his death was Acute myelogenous leukemia or
AML. Agent Orange, that horrific herbicide the U.S. used abundantly in Vietnam, has been implicated in causing AML. So, I couldn’t help but wonder: was this old friend exposed to Agent Orange, maybe he had even helped spray it in those faraway jungles. And did that exposure eventually lead to his death?

The purpose of my wondering is a sort of never ending curiosity about the paths these high school friends took. The emailing high school classmate was a very popular athlete. She was the star of the field hockey team that I tried out for TWICE, but of course never made. So when she began emailing, I could fill in a few of the blanks about her life. She ended up as a teacher and coach in a local high school. I remember her as part of the inner circle of the most in crowd. You might have guessed—I was NEVER in the in crowd. In fact, I and two of my friends in high school started the anti-clique clique!

When our high school put together one of those alumni directories, I went searching for my anti-clique friends. One became a teacher at a Quaker school, and married the head master. The other, also married but more importantly, went to law school and became a public defender in Pittsburgh. I had no idea. These two women who were my closest friends in high school had set out on their life courses, as had I, and we simply lost touch.

Occasionally the email news concludes a long time wonder of mine. Whatever happened to Ted? Like other classmates, he had disappeared. In fact, in messages about class reunions, his name was one of those perpetually on the “Do You Know Where This Person Is?” list. Well, he died. And even though he had been off all of our radar screens for decades, the emailing classmate opined how sad it was that he died and no one in the class knew or had been in contact with him.

No doubt we have all had this experience. When we graduate and set off on our various life journeys, we make assumptions about who will end up where: the classmates we think well of, and assume will be smashing successes, don’t necessarily make it. And the ones we all assume will never make any mark in the world—those are the ones who succeed beyond all imagining.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Testing, testing. . .

Today, I finally got back on schedule of testing my blood sugar. A couple years ago, on my annual visit to my family doctor, she said--hmmmm, your blood test results show that your sugar levels are a little high. I thought, of course, I am always sweet. Oh, not that?

Anyway, what followed was testing six months apart to see how high the sugar level in my blood really was. Testing not only after eating but also after fasting.

When the levels came back three times in a row at over 100, she said--time to do some preventive medicine. It seems that
type II diabetes (formerly old-age onset--thank God they changed the term!) was once determined when a person had repeated blood sugar values of over 120. But, medicine marching along as it does, the determination now is made to begin to W-A-T-C-H things and take interventive action when the level is repeatedly over 100. That way, maybe, just maybe you can head off the eventuality of type II diabetes.

With this determination, my life as a free-range eating whatever I wanted human came to an end. The consequences of my not changing habits is that. . .well, isn't it obvious? I could come to an end, prematurely.

On my doctor's orders, off I trundled to a local hospital with a diabetes education clinic. I learned from a diabetes nurse how to test my blood (just a little finger prick with a fancy do-dad machine and a strip to suck up my blood and then display the magic number).

I learned from a dietician what foods are and are not high in carbohydrates. Oh, there's the problem: carbs. So, now I am on a low-carb diet and have become an exceedingly boring person. I can spout off the carb value of almost any food you can name. And I can tell you how much of that food to eat, before you bankrupt the carb level. The goal is for me to eat no more than 30 grams of carbs at a meal, and 15 grams at a mid-morning and mid-afternoon snack. Hey, I am liking this idea--snacks? I never used to get those. But, wait. 30 grams--do you know how little that is?

First thing to go, almost any kind of starch. One half cup of mashed potatoes? There's your 30 grams. Now, I challenge you--can you eat ONE HALF cup and then quit? I mean, your clenched fist is a decent way to judge ONE CUP. So, half a fist of mashed potatoes. OK. How about rice? Nope--40 grams of carbs in a cup. And on it goes--almost any form of starch--potatoes, rice, pasta (whimper), bread--all too high in carbs. So portions must be small.
And forget muffins and bagels. Bagels? Really high.

So what can I eat? Well, proteins in all forms. Meats, cheeses, even beans because they are high in fiber. Fiber is good; carbs are bad. I have become a food mathematician--take the carb value of a portion of food, subtract the fiber grams and you have roughly (no pun intended) the overall carb value.

Beer? Nope.

Milk? Skimmed milk? Well, no. Counter-intuitively. I discovered that skimmed milk is HIGHER in carbs than 1% or 2% milk. Oh, hurrah. I can justify my penchant for higher fat content milk.

Fruits? Well, many of them reek of sugar. Juices, especially.

Vegetables? There you go. You can eat all you want. Oh, right, who wants all the vegetables they can eat?

But diabetes is a nasty disease, and its effects got my attention. Sugar molecules that are not broken down by insulin (that's the missing ingredient in a diabetic's system) go floating around in your blood. And since they are bigger than most other molecules floating in your blood, they tend to get down into the smallest parts of your circulatory system--those itty bitty
capillaries--and get stuck. That's what does the harm--cell necrosis, which results in limb loss, blindness, heart attack--OK, OK. You got my attention. I will watch my carbs. And test my blood. Good results today--102 before eating. I will test in two hours after eating, and hope that the level is below 100, after my body kicks in a little insulin and brings the sugar level down.

Of course, now the problem is my cholesterol level!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Midnight Snow

Yesterday afternoon, I watched the sky as dusk approached. I was hoping for a lovely sunset, given the prolific clouds. So, I took this "before" shot hoping the "after" would be spectacular. Well, the clouds kept gathering and the sunset went pfffftttt! But the late afternoon light was great to see.

It finally feels as though winter has arrived. About time--it is January, after all.

But it wasn't until the middle of the night that I could really revel in winter. Our dog is on prednisone--our vet has determined that she has a low platelet count due to Immune-mediated thrombocytopenia. The cause of this disease is unknown, the effect is that she can begin to bleed and not stop, and the treatment is sufficiently high enough doses of prednisone to get her body to stop destroying its own platelets. ANYWAY--the medication causes her to be ravenously thirsty (and hungry). So she drinks alot, and wants to eat as much as we will feed her. You guessed it--what goes in must come out. That means getting up in the middle of the night to let her out.

Last night, I climbed out of bed, put on my long down-filled coat, and took her out. Wonder of wonders, it was snowing lightly. In the dead of night, swirling snow is a wondrous sight. And, given the dark, it is not really photographable (is that a word?) but utterly beautiful. Despite the cold, I stood watching the snow for a while.

Then, of course, I went back inside with the dog. As I snuggled under the covers, warmed up a bit, I kept seeing lovely fluffy snowflakes in my mind's eye. Midnight snow!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

When death comes

I visited with my father today. While I don’t visit as frequently as I should, perhaps, I do try to get out (meaning to the retirement village where he lives) on a fairly frequent basis. At 87, he is in wonderfully good health and, as they say, in complete possession of all his faculties. I know it frustrates him when he can’t pull a word up as quickly as he would like out of his mental memory banks, but neither can I.

He has always been handy with things mechanical. When my mother died almost sixteen years ago, one of the things my husband and I did was buy my father a word processor. He had talked about writing up his memories in an autobiographical form, so a word processor seemed like a good way to facilitate that. He did set to work on his autobiography, vowing to “keep lying to a minimum.” As a former missionary, he has lived a full life with many experiences. One of the things that amazes me is his recall of place names and people names from decades ago.

It didn’t take long for him to outgrow the word processor and he got his first computer. He joined the Golden Mouse club at his retirement village and soon was learning the ways of the computer world. And like many seniors, he also moved into the cyber world of email.

When I visit, he frequently has a computer question. I certainly understand his reluctance to do some of the computer updating that needs to be done. Luckily for me, most of what he asks I can do. Several Christmases ago, he asked for help getting a new computer, and together we went shopping for his current desktop.

All this leads me to our conversation today. Understandably, my father is mindful of his mortality. His elder brother died almost two years ago, and my father knows that his life is not limitless. While we were talking today, he said that he would like me to do something upon his death. After my mother’s death, my father did remarry. I am very thankful for the wonderful wife he has, but she is not computer savvy. So, my father asked that, when he dies, would I please use his email list to inform all his email contacts of his death. It is a simple enough request for me to acquiesce to, and, of course, I did.

But I did think of that wonderful poem by Mary Oliver,
When Death Comes, and hence the title of this blog. Oh, I don’t know when my father will die, and frankly, it is not a morbid subject for me. I know we are all dust—as the words in Scripture remind us. And, my father is a Christian, so his death, when it occurs, is not cause for sorrow. I wish him as many more years of health and happiness as he has. And I will inform his email friends when he is gone.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Photomania continued

A few more photos. I wanted to put up a few photos of Prague, but Blogger decided I had put up enough photos for the day.

Charles Bridge, Prague

Elaborate clock, in central Prague

Sans Souci, outside Berlin

In Sans Souci garden

Potsdam where
conference was held to decide how to deal with Germany after World War II

Gardens at Potsdam

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Atop Brandenburg Gate

Stained glass reflections, Austrian monastery

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Why Blog?

I have been mulling the fascination with blogging, and have come to the conclusion that I blog (maybe many of us blog) because it is instant publication gratification. (Parenthetically, I would say that posting photos is also instant gratification--sharing photos that I am proud of having taken.) Blogging is certainly a discipline for me--when I first began blogging, my daughter read the early posts and then warned me that I had better keep posting or she wouldn't bother to read my efforts.

Talk about pressure. No mother wants purposefully to disappoint her daughter.

What I found is that the more I blog, the more I think about things to blog. I find my thoughts organizing themselves into sentences that would sound appropriate in a blog. And the discipline of writing blogs, not necessarily daily, but with enough frequency, helps to sharpen my writing skills.

My writing style is no different in blogging than it would be in most anything I might write. Oh, I might be more formal were I writing a piece for publication in a professional magazine. Certainly I would be less personal. But as far as the reach of vocabulary goes, I would try no less hard to phrase my thoughts just so in a blog than in any other piece that carries my ideas out into the world.

In addition to the instant gratification that blogging brings, reading blogs appeals to the voyeuristic tendencies that many of us have. Over twenty years ago, I read a fascinating work called Parallel Lives: Five Victorian Marriages by Phyllis Rose. Rose's thesis in part is that we are all fascinated by the intimate details of famous people. She held up for public scrutiny the marriages of Jane Welsh and Thomas Carlyle (not a good one), Effie Gray and John Ruskin (even stranger), Harriet Taylor and John Stuart Mill, Catherine Hogarth and Charles Dickens (controversial even today), and George Eliot and George Henry Lewes (the only normal marriage in the lot). Rose argued that we all want to know what goes on in people's private lives.

I am not sure that I go quite that far on why we read blogs, but since I am reading blogs of people unknown to me, I have pondered what the fascination is. Of course, I am struck by convergences between my interests and the interests of the blog writers I am reading. Perhaps I am drawn to the blogs I choose to read because they are writing about things I would inherently find fascinating. In a way, I consider these bloggers to be my friends--living at a distance from me, and people I will never meet, but nevertheless people about whom I care, enough to check out their writings on a daily basis making sure, yes, they are still there, still thinking, still caring, still blogging.

More Amateur Efforts

I trust the captions explain enough of the locale to help place the photo.

Monastery walkway in Austria

Colorful tiled roof of St. Matias' Church, Budapest

Looking out over Budapest along the Danube River

Dresden, which was almost completely destroyed by Allied bombing in February 13, 1945, completely rebuilt

Presidential Palace in Madrid

Barcelona harbor at dusk

Overlooking Granada toward the Sierra Nevada mountains
Well, Blogger has decided that I reached a limit.

The Best an Amateur Photographer Can Do

My husband and I love to travel. We began traveling overseas at the prompting of our daughter. Our first trip was to England in 1996. Since then, we have visited England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales; France; Germany, Czech Republic, Hungary & Austria; Switzerland; Denmark, Sweden, & Norway; Spain; Bermuda; Belgium, Netherlands & Luxembourg; Spain, Portugal & Morocco. And I have visited Ghana.

I love to take photographs on these trips (who doesn't) but my preference in photos is to have most of the people out of the picture so I can get mainly the architecture. The trips that have been off-season have, consequently, been the most cooperative in that regard.

Herewith a smattering of the best photographs this amateur could produce. (And that Blogger would agree to load.)
U.S. Cemetery in Luxembourg for soldiers killed in Battle of the Bulge
(where Gen. Patton is buried)

German Cemetery in Luxembourg (soldiers were buried two or three to a grave)

Overlooking Luxembourg City

Reflecting Pool, Alhambra, Granada

Amazing architecture in Alahambra

Lion Fountain in Alhambra, Granada

Inside the Generalife (Summer Palace) at Alhambra

Flower pots in Albacin section of Granada

Two old women walking past Valencia Cathedral

Cathedral in Granada

Old Customs House, St. Georges, Bermuda

Bay on Bermuda Island

Berkeley Square, Mayfair, London

Glasgow Cathedral, Glasgow, Scotland

Nun hurries by buildings in Brugge, Belgium

White swan on black water at Brugge

Flower gardens in Trier, Germany

Maybe I will try to add some photos, as time and patience allow. So, check back.