Photo Friday: Cypress Trees

For the past 20 years or so, every time I visit my uncle in Florida, he takes me out on his boat. We go to Lake Santa Fe which is comprised of a big lake adjoining a little lake (aptly named Little Lake Santa Fe), a bay, and an old, overgrown canal.

Being out on that lake, I feel like I am far away from everything. It is one of the few places that always feels carefree.

Lake Santa Fe is ringed by what I used to call “creepy trees” when I was younger. They look drippy, dark, and ominous, yet I always felt safe within their confines. They are Cypress trees and every last one of them is adorned in Spanish moss. I think they’re wonderful.

I took this photo just as we were about to enter the big lake from the entrance passageway. It shows off the creepy trees beautifully. As luck would have it, I managed to capture one of the many fisherman who frequent Lake Santa Fe on his way in from what I hope was a fruitful outing. You can see him in the small break in the trees, which will give you an idea as to how tall the Cypresses really are.

Happy Friday!

Cypress trees with Spanish moss

Cypress trees with Spanish moss

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Erma Bombeck’s Advice on Loss of Identity

I’m reading Forever, Erma, a collection of Erma Bombeck’s columns from throughout her career. One in particular caught my eye.

“Lost Identity” originally published September 18, 1965 in response to women asking Erma her opinion on how to find their lost identity. In the column she light-heartedly explains her own view of personal identity and how easy it is to feel question it when you are commonly referred to as so-and-so’s wife or mother.

Erma discusses the difficulty housewives (remember, this was 1965) have in taking time for themselves to be their own person.

Her approach to resolving this for herself one day was this:

What I represent to other people isn’t half as important as what I represent to myself. One day as I stood studying my reflection in the skillet lid, I plopped it down, went back to the bedroom, put my hair up in curlers and changed my dress. I put a dab of perfume behind each ear and returned to the kitchen. When asked where I was going, I snapped, “I’m going out to the garbage can all by myself!” No one understood. But I felt better.

I’ve definitely had days where I dressed up a bit to alter my own mood. It does wonders for the ego, I think. When you feel good about how you look, you walk taller, feel more confident, and generally can relax and be yourself.

Erma later says that she likes to think identity “isn’t lost at all–just buried temporarily under a stack of ironing, a book that needs covering or a basket of mending.”

All I could think after reading her column was “oh my goodness, I never covered stepson’s math book!” Maybe I should read it again.

August Usability Newsletter is Live

Since this happened while I was traveling, I forgot to post a link here for anyone interested. The August edition of Usability Interface is live at http://www.stcsig.org/usability/newsletter/index.html.

Read my editorial to see how the Wreck This Journal book blogging experience helped me realize the importance of visual cues in web design. Who knew I’d get that out of fabulous, frivolous destruction!

There are also book reviews of Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior, Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (5th Edition) and Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories.

You can read about how to alleviate friction between software developers and users through user-friendly documentation and how to create strong navigation on a web site.

If usability or web design are your thing, check it out.

A Summer of Firsts

I didn’t really get a chance to talk about it, so I’m taking the opportunity now. The summer of 2009 was a summer of firsts for me. Before it becomes too distant a memory, I thought I’d share some of my firsts:

Wrecked a journal– I’m sure you know that story by now. It was all part of Jamie Ridler’s book blogging adventure. There were also many firsts within this single exercise like making online videos, rubbing a book in the dirt, or setting things on fire… on purpose.

Climbed and repelled– A brick wall, no less. Not even a goofy looking rock with handles that look like they were made from Play-doh. Granted the brick wall had bricks that stuck out especially for this purpose, but whatever- I climbed a brick wall.

Wrote a children’s story– After my best friend mentioned that her daughter loves checking the mail to see if she got anything (usually the answer is no), I got the idea to write her a story and mail it out in parts.

Drew with pastels– It’s pretty good, too! I haven’t taken any art classes (aside from the required classes in elementary and middle school). Over the past few months, I’ve watched some of Connie’s videos over at Dirty Footprints and absorbed some tips- thanks, Chica!

My first pastels piece

My first pastels piece

Painted with watercolors– Ok, this one did not produce a masterpiece and I don’t think I enjoyed this as much as the pastels. The point is I tried it. I may even try it again sometime.

Drove a SeaDoo– I’ve never even been on a jet ski, let alone drive one. I’ll admit I was scared and lagged behind the rest of the group most of the time. By the end of the tour, I got the hang of it. The whole experience was great fun.

Took a photography class– I finally learned how to set the exposure settings on my DSLR to capture the pictures I want how I want them.

Took a class over the phone– Every week I met with a great group of people via phone to work through Deb Owen’s Creative Pathways course. I learned, I explored, I grew. I’m still growing.

Grew squash– I didn’t even know I liked squash until about a year ago. This summer I decided I liked it enough to try growing it in my garden. It started as a piddly little four leaf plant plastered flat against the ground. I thought for sure it wouldn’t make it. Within a few weeks, it grew two feet tall and four feet wide and produced a bounty of perfect yellow squash.

I joined Flickr. I was elected to be a member of my township’s youth baseball board. I rode water slides at Atlantis. I touched a starfish.

Through all of these accomplishments, I learned it is exhilarating to try something new. I learned that I am more capable than I give myself credit for. I learned that play equals life experience. In addition, I’ve met some wonderful people in real life and online. I’ve listened to stories, told stories, and created stories.

Isn’t that what life is all about?

Did you try anything new this summer?

Photo Friday: Sky Over Ocean

Last week hubby, stepson, and I whisked ourselves off on a last minute vacation. Booked only two weeks earlier, we spent part of our time away aboard a cruise to the Bahamas.

As luck would have it, we snagged the very last room with a balcony at a discounted last-minute rate. The view was spectacular. Between the three of us, we spent many hours out on the balcony.

Being out on the open water like that, you get the new perspective of an unspoiled view as far as you can see in any direction. There is absolutely nothing to disrupt the horizon. Imagine… a 180 degree view of nothing but ocean and sky.

One evening we were able to watch (and stay dry thanks to an overhang) as we approached, navigated through, then left a rain storm in our wake. It was fun to see the front half of the ship begin to bob atop a speckled, dancing ocean surface while we in the back of the ship continued smooth sailing on a glassy surface.

At other times, the sky gave quite a show of its own, marking clearly light vs. dark, like in this photo. Glorious!

Happy Friday!

Unobstructed view of light and dark

Unobstructed view of light and dark

A Lot Can Happen in a Week

I left for a week and the world changed. You may be thinking “preposterous,” but it’s true. A lot of it has to do with the end of summer timing, I’m sure.

You see, summer was drawing to a close. My husband and I had planned on taking our kid on a family vacation this year and, as I’m sure is true for many people, life, finances, everything really made a vacation feel intangible.

A few weeks ago, we said, “Screw it! We’re going on vacation.” You only live once and my stepson won’t be a kid forever. We booked a last minute vacation involving Universal Orlando, a cruise to the Bahamas, and a visit to my grandparents. We left about two weeks ago and came back on Labor Day weekend.

The sun was brutal when we left and certainly strong in Florida and the Caribbean. Upon our return, as we stepped out of the airport, however, it was brisk. Chilly even. I fished in my bag for a sweatshirt to protect myself against the gray skies and ominous wind.

Today I wore a jacket to work and still shivered on my way home. It never got out of the 60s. It’s only early September. I fear what this temperature drop means for the coming Winter. Yikes.

On the home front, school started this week for my stepson. We came back just in time to plunge into homework, sports, covering books, and signing teachers’ letters to prove that yes, I did read what they sent home. (And I found all those typos, too. Was that a quiz or should I be concerned?)

Since we are now post-Labor Day, my work has been quite demanding this week as we prepare to wrap up the year and plan for 2010. There have been meetings, fires to put out, more meetings, and new projects surfacing.

In other random events: the tomatoes in my garden ripened, I report to new boss, Ellen Degeneres was named the new judge on American Idol, Deb Owen is planning all sorts of new stuff, and the intersection near my house has been overhauled with new pie-shaped medians and freshly painted lines.

It makes me wonder, how long was I really gone?