The snow geese have hit the Lehigh Valley. After hanging out with a friend and filling up my gas tank, I spot the whirls of white along Lower Macungie Road right across from the middle school. I only have my point-and-shoot, but I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to capture this wonder. Well, at least try to capture it–how can a lens capture the majesty of thousand of white birds with gray bills and the sound of their honking? Needless to say, I’m going back tomorrow armed with my DSLR. Hopefully, they’ll still be in the area.
While I can’t remember its writer or its title, the lyrics of this song ring through my head, “Everything must die to be born again.” Fall is that death and in winter it seems that life will never burst forth from the frigid, frozen earth. But the snow always melts, the buds always come in brilliant greens. Tufts of grass shoot up as the robins return to build their nests. Flowers shyly peek out of the ground, ready to unfurl their glory. Ah, spring! There is so much hope, so much life, so much pollen…yeah, I could do without the pollen. Here are some images of spring I’ve captured over the past week in celebration of today, the first day of spring! (Though it’s an early spring here in the Lehigh Valley due to unseasonal warmth.) And don’t steal my photographs…or the goonies will come get you! (Always ask permission.)
This is my favorite photo in the essay. The vibrant purple flower with its bright yellow center and green leaves with the deadened background. Truly, life coming out of death. This image is currently the wallpaper on my desktop. It gives me chills.
I almost deleted this picture of the daffodil bud about to open,but then I noticed all the texture, shadows, and various shades of green (with a twinge of yellow). To me, this is the essence of life becoming! Something is about to happen here!
This is why I always try to carry a point-and-shoot camera with me. I found this flowering tree by the mailboxes at my mom’s apartment building. I don’t like to crop my photographs, except for artistic purposes, but in the case of this picture, part of my freckly arm was visible.
I love obscure close-ups, and that was the only way to adequately capture the buds on this tree. They’re still tight, not ready to open…but soon. Admittedly, my other Canon (the one in the company of BFF Sarah) takes better close-ups than my current point-and-shoot and my DSRL (perhaps if I had a good close-up lens, that would help.)
Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed that I have a growing fondness for the color “yellow,” which used to be one of my least favorite colors in the wheel. But a vibrant yellow, like this daffodil, is enchanting, isn’t it? Daffodils are my favorite spring flower…dark, yellow ones like this.
Texture, I adore texture! I know that most people will never understand my fascination with bark, moss, rocks, sidewalk cracks, shadows, and rusty things, but I love texture and finding beauty in what’s broken and/or common. Come on, you have to admit that this moss is beautiful! My camera did a surprisingly good job on this close-up!
One final image of the tree that captured my attention, this time from underneath the branch with my camera pointed at the clear blue sky dotted with puffs of white. What a beautiful world You have created, Lord!
Last week, I admitted that I wasn’t OK and gave you my permission to revel in your not OK-ness (not that you needed my permission). If last week was not OK, then this week was one, uh, terrible. I mean, wretched. Gut-wrenching.
It was bad.
I think that’s what I like about Friday…the hope of the rest, relief, and recreation the weekend provides is just on the horizon. We can let ourselves go, have a Pajama Day Saturday, rock out with the worship band at church on Sunday…and then have at it again.
But were weren’t made to live from weekend-to-weekend. We weren’t even meant to live day-to-day, but rather moment-t0-moment…and in those moments, in each and every moment, we were meant to rely on God. We can’t have faith in the past moment. We can hope to have faith in the future moment, but we MUST live in the present moment. Oh, there’s nothing wrong with finding happiness in the weekend! We were also meant to hope in the future…or rather for a “future hope.”
When life is painful, moments creep by. Moments until the pain meds kick in. Seconds between each sickening sob. Minutes pass like hours as we wait on God to answer our cry. Hours are like days.
I imagine this is how the ancients felt as they studied the prophecies regarding the Messiah. When is he coming to save his people? Probably a question asked by many as they looked for a sign, doubting He would come as a helpless baby born into abject poverty. They watched and watched for Emmanuel, and so many missed God in their midst because He didn’t fit their expectations of a Messiah.
I know I miss God with me all the time, especially when I let those moments pass by failing to give each and every one to Him. Deep thoughts for a Friday. (But, who knows if I’ll roll out a Christmas post this year? I mean, this could be the last time I’ll post for three weeks. Who knows?)
And, with that, here are some of the things amusing me this fine week…
* “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was on ABC last night. There was some weird elf special on after the amazingness that is vintage Charlie Brown, so I decided to abandon the television until a repeat of “Bones” came on at 9 PM. I love watching Linus quote the Bible, even putting aside his little blue blankie to take the Christmas musical crew about the real meaning of Christmas. Incidentally, my pastor is a lot like Linus. I think he has the WHOLE BIBLE memorized. When he preaches, he uses NO NOTES and recites all the Scripture he uses from memory (OK, he does occasionally glance up at the big screen…but not often. He *IS* a senior citizen). It should be noted that my pastor does not use a security blanket, but I do think his Bible is super glued to his hand. I love my pastor! I also love Linus’ blanket, so this edition is for you, Linus. Or, rather, your blanket…because we all need a little tangible security.
*Author Mary DeMuth isn’t just a superhero(ine) for aspiring writers who want to publish books; she’s just super in general! I admire Mary’s honesty, wit, and transparency, which are qualities that not only shine in her memoir, Thin Places, but also on her blog. This week, Mary wrote a great post called, “Criticism Does Not Define You.“ Oh, how we need to be reminded! I am HORRIBLE at taking criticism, but EXCELLENT at dishing it out. As a writer, I need to be open to criticism. Mary’s post helps with the sting. AND…if you sign up for her e-zine, you can get a free PDF of Mary’s e-book, Live Uncaged, which has a very beautiful cover featuring a bird! (Sadly, my Kindle only shows the cover in gray-scale. If only I had a Kindle Fire…) I am enjoying the challenge of reading Live Uncaged because Mary writes in a way that makes my soul flutter.
*My friend, Eric Altson, isn’t just married to one of the coolest women on the planet (Renee), he also has some mad drawing skills. With pencil, he sketched “The Last Supper of Childhood” (pictured above) AND gave me permission to share it with y’all. Isn’t Eric *the* best? He warned that I may get a cease-and-desist letter from those who hold the copyrights to the characters depicted, but I’m gonna risk it. And it’s NOT like he’s making money off of it. Also, please remember the Altsons in your prayers right now.
*Apparently, I’m just a magnet for talented people…or I just flock to them. Whatever the case, you NEED to check out the photography of the one-and-only Justin Gifford. I’d like to say I taught him all he knows, but I’d only be telling you the truth. (Or not.) Since my RSS feed is jammed with 1000+ blog posts that I’m going to read “some day,” I asked Justin if I could subscribe to his blog via email. And you know what he did? He added an email subscription option–just for me!!! Secretly, I think it’s only because I gave him a six-pack of Rockstar energy drinks when he watched my dogs a few years ago. I think Justin capture the range of human emotion so expressively.
*If you’re like me (and you’re probably not), then it’s your dream to witness a singing/dancing flash mob OR be a part of a singing/dancing flash mob. I live vicariously through the plethora of flash mob videos that are uploaded onto YouTube. A word of warning–there are some pretty mediocre flash mob attempts. But all-in-all, watching flash mob videos on YouTube is a great waste of a morning. I just want to flash mob the holidays away! The above video features one of the most advanced singing/dance routines I’ve seen. I mean, Irish Folk Dancing? Wow!
Well, I have some cookies to bake. Actually, I don’t. I just thought that was a clever way to say, “I’m ending Friday Faves now because I’m tired and I’m going to bed. Though I probably won’t go to bed right away. I might catch up on Facebook, read a little, and so forth.” But I am going to bake cookies with BFF Sarah this weekend, so by the time you read this, I may very well be baking cookies. How’s that for blatant honesty?
What’s your favorite Christmas cartoon? Do you have a “security blanket” like Linus? (Mine’s called a “journal.”) Does your pastor memorize his whole sermon (if you have a pastor)? Is it also your dream to be in or witness a flash mob? If not, what is something outrageous you’d like to do? Do you think I really taught Justin all he knows? (If you answer “yes,” you can have a cookie from the batch I may or may not be baking at this very moment.) Do you let criticism define you? Do you think you could be Eric at Pictionary? How do you “miss” God in your life?
Whenever people encounter my mom’s one dog, Katie, it seems they cannot help but comment on her weight.
“Wow, she’s a little butterball, isn’t she?”
“What a beautiful dog! She’d be gorgeous if she lost a few pounds.”
“Your dog is fat! Why is she so fat?” (That’s my favorite tactless statement.)
Sure, Katie is a bit tubby, but why do close friends and even perfect strangers mention it when they encounter her (and of course, my mom, since Katie doesn’t wander the streets alone)? It just doesn’t seem to be good etiquette to comment on a new acquaintance’s fat dog.
Not only that, but for people like my mom and me, it drives our suspicions about our own struggles with weight deeper—that when people look at us all they see is a big ball of fat. They don’t see a person with a name and a history and a personality and a love of books and the outdoors, just fat. Each of the statements people make about Katie can easily be said to me. In fact, they have been said to me.
“You have such a pretty face. If you lose some weight, you would be beautiful.” (Because apparently I can only date the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man right now. I mean, he doesn’t seem to be much for conversation, but I guess he’ll do.)
“Do you really need two cookies?” (No, I don’t. But I had a bad day and I’m cramming the extra cookie down my throat to make myself feel better.)
“Lose weight and you’ll find a husband.” (Uhhh…who says I want a husband? Maybe that’s just not part of God’s plan for me. I am painfully aware of how many guys view fat chicks, especially those who sport “No Fat Chicks” t-shirts. I am told that confidence is sexy to guys, but haven’t actually found that to be the case.)
And I know people are just dying to say, “You’re fat! Why are you so fat?” I don’t know! Because I ate two cookies? Because I don’t exercise enough? Because I’ve only been able to effectively lose weight by eating grass (it was salad, but it tasted like grass) and chicken noodle soup?
I know I need to lose weight, not so I can nab a husband, but so I can feel better and be healthier person. But I do not need to be reminded of the fact I need to lose weight by well-meaning friends and family members. It’s not like I woke up one morning and “forgot” I’m fat. I am aware of it all the time—when I don’t sit on flimsy lawn furniture for fear my girth will break it, when a store doesn’t have clothes in my size, when I look in the mirror (or avoid looking in the mirror), when I don’t pretend it bothers me. Believe me, I know better than anyone that I’m fat.
Then why don’t you do something about it? (Another fun question.)
It takes time, lots of time. It took a lifetime to get like this, but it won’t take a lifetime to undo it. There are physiological, psychological, physical, mental, and personal issues at play. Sadly, eating salad and exercising isn’t as easy as it sounds due to financial limitations (healthy foods cost more), emotional issues (food is comforting), mental health issues (depression and anxiety suck the energy right out of you. Plus, my fear of open spaces and crowds doesn’t help at all), and medical issues (my medications make it hard to lose weight.)
But I know this woman/man/horse/what who (fill in the blank with weight loss tip) and lost 80-100 pounds!
Everyone knows someone who lost a massive amount of weight and that’s great for that person. I am not getting weight loss surgery (as it could *kill* me), trying a fad diet, joining Weight Watchers (can’t afford it), signing up for Jenny Craig (can’t afford it and their commercials are incredibly annoying. Their commercials alone make me want to stay fat. Sometimes people who have successfully lose weight are most annoying) or Curves (can’t afford that either).
I am going to do this thing my own way—slowly as I learn to enjoy food, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle. I am not going to trade one problem for another. I am going to trust my therapist and my doctor to treat my eating disorder, those close to me (who someone don’t even see my fat), and my God to make it through.
So, instead of focusing on whether or not I take one or two cookies, how my fat has ruined my chances at love, and why I’m fat, maybe you should take a look at that plank of condemnation in your own eye. Hear that rattle? The skeletons in your closet are calling. You just don’t wear them on your physique for all to see and judge.
And while you’re at it, stop calling my mom’s dog “fat”! Animals don’t like it either.
(Note: All thoughtless remarks, insulting comments, and diet tips will be deleted. Remember, I am Backseat Writer’s benevolent dictator.)
What is something you wish you could hide? (It doesn’t have to be physical.) What thoughtless remarks are repeated to you by people “just trying to help”? (And how are you dying to respond?) Do you think my mom’s dog is *that* fat? (I think she’s cute. By the way, I groomed her myself.) Do you have a fat pet? Do people comment on your fat pet?
Last Friday while driving home from Lancaster, we were caught in a torrential downpour. Naturally, I pulled out my camera and had a photo shoot–to the amusement of the rest of the car. (I also videotaped myself singing “Leave the Pieces” by The Wreckers, but I have destroyed the evidence.)
Do you like to drive in downpours like fearless BFF Sarah? (Actually, she did pull over twice.) Would you rather see pics of Amish buggies from Lancaster County? (I don’t photograph the Amish and Mennonites since they don’t like it.) What was the worst storm you ever drove through? Was there a rainbow?
It’s July 1! Who’s ready for a three-day weekend? That is, if you didn’t take off already. Did you know that today marks the 148th anniversary of the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg? (Do you even care?) Right now, there are thousands of people descending upon the small town of Gettysburg, PA to re-enact the epic three-day battle (July 1-2, 1863), which marked the turning point of the Civil War. I’ve found the Battle of Gettysburg fascinating since my eighth grade history teacher had my class read the book, The Killer Angels by Michael Sharaa (it’s historical fiction about the Battle of Gettysburg). Now that I’ve been to Gettysburg several times, I’m something of a sightseeing expert. For example, I know where all the best (“funniest”) statues are, how to find Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s battle line (I read the signs), and can sometimes distinguish Little Round Top and Big Round Top. But at least my tours are free, so if you want to do Gettysburg the fun way, come with me. We can even stop at the Boyd’s Bear Country and get a giant baked potato slathered with cheese and butter, too. (This old blog post details one of my Gettysburg trips: “My Trip to Gettysburg” with some awesome photography.)
Know what else I like? A band named “The Civil Wars.” I’ve mentioned them before, but since they fit in with this week’s edition, I thought I’d mention them again. If you haven’t purchased Barton Hollow, then you are really missing out on the joy this music could provide for your life. Even my mom likes The Civil Wars, which makes them Mom-approved.
And if you like The Civil Wars, then you’ll just love SHIROCK (OK, maybe you won’t, but I love SHIROCK and it seemed like a good segue.) Check out their latest video for the song, “Still Young,” which just so happens to be my favorite SHIROCK song. I’ve had the joy of meeting and hanging out with SHIROCK and I’m sure that if my mom did the same, she’d love them, too. Check out SHIROCK.net whatever for more information on the band, including information on how to purchase their music.
Here what else is going on around the webosphere…
*Giveaways galore! Today is the VERY LAST DAY to enter to win a $35 gift code to DaySpring’s online store. I really want you to enter because I really want you win. GO ENTER, please! And today is the VERY FIRST [official] DAY to enter my giveaway to win a $10 Amazon gift card or a book of your choice up to $10 from The Book Depository. It’s all part of the Freedom Giveaway Hop, which features over 200 blogs giving away bookish delights. Enter here (after you’re done reading this fabulous blog post, of course) and then check out the other giveaways going on. You can win some really cool prizes.
*Sarah Cunningham, author of Picking Dandelions (read review), is a funny lady, especially when blogging about son, Justus. The toddler is affectionately referred to as “The Emperor” and this week Sarah talks about how the Emperor locked himself in the bathroom and played in the toilet. Check out this highly amusing post, “The Emperor’s Summer Rule.”
*My former young adult Sunday School teachers, Al and Linda Iezzi, were featured in The Morning Call (local paper). As you may remember, Al was featured on the show “Undercover Boss” and talked about his two grandkids who suffer Sanfilippo syndrome, which will cause them to die in their teen’s. I’m praying for a cure for Waverly and Oliver, their parents, and the Iezzi’s. Read more about Al and his family here. It’s a wonderful article on a great family.
*Over at AOL Video, you can watch a clip of Joanne Rogers, wife of the infamous “Mr. (Fred) Rogers.” If you’re like me, you watched “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” like a fiend. The clip is a cute remembrance of a childhood legend…and you can finally learn who made those cardigan sweaters. Watch the video.
*Some of you know about my ongoing battle with Sallie Mae over my graduate loans. Therefore, I was sad to read about others who were having trouble paying their student loans as well. Check out CNN Money’s, “My Degree Isn’t Worth the Debt.” Click through the article to read various stories about student debut issues. (Related article: “Cancel student debt to stimulate the economy“).
Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!
This weekend’s discussion questions–What do you think Chuck Shirock is lugging around in that suitcase in the “Still Young” video? Do you have student loan debt? What is your favorite memory of Mr. Rogers and his neighborhood? Didn’t I have the best Sunday School teacher (Al Iezzi)? Have you ever been to Gettysburg? Do you like giant potatoes? Did you ever my giveaways? Anything else you’d like to add?
On Wednesday, I accompanied my friend, Shari, on a trip to her hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Scranton is not only the hometown of Vice President Joe Biden (until he moved to Delaware at the age of 10) but also the location of the fictional paper company Dunder Mifflin from “The Office.” A historic town, Scranton is full of fabulous old architecture, including its public library, which beckoned to be photographed, despite the rainy conditions outside.
The Scranton Public Library is full of these wonderful stained glass windows. I think they would be prettier if the sun had been shining.
The window ledges also make excellent additional bookshelves.
Old school window crank.
I want to LIVE in this library. At least I’d finally have room for all my books.
Microfilm will burn your retinas out.
Two of these stone lions guard the entrance to the Scranton Public Library. The lions come alive at night and hunt down patrons who don’t return their library books on time.
Why does the Scranton Public Library have an “A” in the middle of its iron gate? I don’t know. (A = Amy)
Scranton is also known for its fine “monuments.” Sadly, this is not one of those monuments. In fact, I’m not quite sure what statement this is supposed to make. (I know, I know, it’s just waiting to be unveiled.)
So, there you have it, a little bit of Scranton! See, Justin, you told me to take pictures of Scranton, and I told you I probably wouldn’t. Well, I did, so, ha! I showed you. I know these aren’t the greatest pictures I’ve ever taken, but it’s been a while since I photographed anything. Amy’s gotta get her groove back.
So, what do you think? Have you been to Scranton? Do you want to go? Do you think the stone lions really attack people at night?
Hear ye, hear ye! I have updated parts of Backseat Writer’s Review Policy and added a bit of plain speak to my FTC Disclosure. Read on, you know you want to…
Request for reviews/interview/marriage proposals can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why, yes, I would love to review your album, book, movie, or product! Due to time restraints, that book I’m eventually going to write, and my personal preferences, I may not be able to honor all requests for reviews, interviews, or Nigerians who want to wire me money.
Before you hit me up with your latest and greatest, please note that I will only accept music for review (and artist interviews) that is downloadable or send to me via snail mail. Additionally, I will only accept books that are readable on Kindle or sent to me in hard copy format (again, in the mail). My reasoning? I need my music and reading material to be portable—to go with me where I need to go. That’s how I live life and that’s how I review materials. I cannot be chained to my computer listening to music or reading books.
Additionally, I retain the right to accept or reject all materials based on quality of content and whether or not I believe the materials fit in with the vision of Backseat Writer. Usually I can tell whether or not something is a good fit by the press release and I will tell you so before you send materials, so feel free to send your queries to email@example.com.
I also added this to that terribly interesting FTC Disclosure or what I like to call “My Love Note to the FTC”…
I do not get paid to do reviews or interviews (though if anyone wants to hire me for freelance work, I’m listening.) I do not accept money in exchange for posting press releases or endorsements. All content is generated for the pure love and joy of writing!
Links included in posts are for informational purposes only and are never composed for the purpose of including advertising.
No record company, publisher, publicist, band, artist, hobbit, or gnome will ever influence the content, topics, or posts made in this Backseat Writer, though they may inspire a few!
Any time you want to review parts of my publications policies, you can click on the “About Backseat Writer” tab and read your little heart out. It is slightly more interesting than watching paint peel.
How do you take pictures like this? Easy. You practice. Seriously, there are photography tips galore to be found in book and on the internet (I highly recommend Digital Photography School).
But you know what makes taking great pictures a lot easier (and much more fun)? A quality camera strap that is comfortable and fashionable, which is exactly what the fine folks at Capturing Couture have to offer in their full line of high quality camera straps for both women and men!
I have long disdained my Canon camera strap which broadcasts my brand and type of camera for all the world to see. So when Capturing Couture offered to let me review one of their straps, I jumped for joy. Literally.
Then began the long process of choosing which strap best suited my personality. Was it the Alicia Strap from the Boho Collection, The Gramps from The Vintage Collection, or another fine piece from the other lovely collections. In the end, I chose the Harmony 2” SLR Strap…and I salivated when it came in the mail. Functional and fashionable, I immediately attached the strap to my camera. My creative juices flowed forth and I was off to capture the world.
For anyone who says a decorative camera strap doesn’t make a difference clearly never had one, at least not one from Capturing Couture, which is well-made and has extra padding around the neck area, so it also makes carrying my camera so much more comfortable, which allows me to shoot better photographs for a longer period of time—with no uncomfortable neck pain or icky rash.
Ranging in price from $29-$35 for most straps, Capturing Couture creates affordable, quality straps for photographers. Full of personality, these straps also make wonderful presents for the shutter bugs in your life. I cannot more highly recommend this product.
Amy’s Grade: A+
*Hey, FTC! While Capturing Couture did furnish me with a lovely strap for review, they didn’t pay me for my opinion. Just though you’d like to know!*
Thank you for your sacrifice. Not only on the front lines, in the army hospitals, on missions in faraway lands, but in missed birthdays, graduations, moments of heart ache and moments of jubilation. And for the sacrifice of your families, who have empty chairs, heavy hearts, and sleepless nights because they love you so. You who have served and currently serve, whether in the military or in a military family–thank you so much. You are in my prayers.
Happy Memorial Day to all!