Christmas and more muttering

No, I haven’t mastered my new camera yet, but I have used it twice. I’ve been busy or very fatigued since I’ve been home. The fatigue is caused by the stress of my L. A. visit and the busy is due to catching up with things and Christmas.

Christmas was delightful. I had calendars made up using some of my images from 2013 and gave them to the four families represented at our Christmas dinner. We were surrounded by food, good people and love and laughter.

Speaking of that holiday, I learned the true Christmas spirit from my sister-in-law Brenda while I was staying with them. I’ve always exchanged gifts with my Christian friends, but never with the spirit and fervor of Brenda. She would run up to people she knew, hug them and wish them a Merry Christmas. And, I’ve never seen so many gifts exchanged. While not celebrating the religious part of Christmas, Brenda celebrated human kindness. This kindness was returned in the form of support for her and my brother. Brenda’s love for people is so genuine that it rubs off. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all be that way? How about we try to celebrate that holiday spirit all year round!

I’m posting some photos of our family dinner. I wasn’t able to photograph Richard Sandler and Richard Glass. They were engrossed in conversation, Dave Bickle was working. And, I confess, I haven’t taken the D7100 off of automatic. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get past page 36 of the manual!

Home again

“Remember me,” I said to my brother as I hugged him goodbye, but in my heart I knew he probably wouldn’t. With his son-in-law and my niece in charge, I left Simi Valley and used the 6 1/2 hour drive to calm down and think. I know what he’s up against, caregiving to my mother for 9 years. She had dementia due to Trans-ischemic Attacks (TIA). But Chuck’s is different since there was no evidence of stroke on the brain scan. There will be more tests to determine the cause, but the results will be the same.

That was two days ago, and once home I got busy with mail and mundane things. One not mundane thing was my new camera, still in the box, just waiting for me. I opened it the evening I returned, took out the camera and looked it over. Nikon told me the body would be different from my D3100, and it is. I picked up the manual and scanned it. Wow! I’m so glad I started with the D3100 because the D7100 would have scared me away from photography! It will take some time, but I will master it. This camera seems to do everything but wash dishes! The excitement of something new was great therapy for the emotional two weeks I had down in Southern California.

More wicked good therapy came my way this morning when we visited my younger grandkids. Did I bring the D7100? Of course, and I took a few snapshots (posted in the gallery).

It will be fun to celebrate Christmas with family tomorrow. We’re a blended group which means we do a lot of celebrating! This is a time to celebrate life. Merry Christmas everyone!

When life hands you lemons

The diagnosis is in. We’re not happy about it even though we expected it. My brother has dementia. He finally admitted that he’s been dealing with it for a while. How lonely and scared he must have felt. You see, my mother had dementia and came to live with me when she was 79 years.

But now that the elephant was pushed out of the room, he seems to be more at ease. During my visit, he would forget who I was for a few minutes, and then he’d call me his baby sister. My biggest fear is that he will forget me altogether because I’m in Sacramento, a 6-hour car drive, from him.

Through all the doctor appointments, family discussions and emotional outbursts, my shutter finger was yearning to shoot some images. During the week, we went to Moorpark because I remember it as a quaint small town. It’s not so quaint or small now, but I did take some shots. My nephew-in-law was Santa at one of the local Albertson’s grocery stores, and, of course, they couldn’t keep me away. Finally, I needed to take a picture of my brother Chuck and Brenda, who have a difficult road to travel and are determined to travel it together with the help of their family and support of their friends.

This is my last blog from Simi Valley in Southern California since I’ll be on the road tomorrow, going home to my husband, children and grandchildren, and loving them so much.

Friendship #2

I won last night. Yes, Richard and I will be attending a movie courtesy of the Curves Gals. I went with Brenda, my sister-in-law, to the monthly Curves dinner and birthday bash. This is a follow up to the previous post on Brenda and the friendships she’s made at Curves. I talked to the manager and she said that this early morning group (6:30 a.m.) was the only one to form this close alliance.

Now, these women really know how to throw a party. If you’re looking for something to drink, you’d better like wine! If you’re into playing games, there were a few including: guess whose panties belong to whom, themed bingo and lucky number. I won on lucky number. Added to the talking, eating, and drinking was Wendy’s 50th birthday celebration. Wendy is the youngest of this multi-generational gathering–Beverly is the oldest at 88.

When Beverly reaches 90 years, there will be another big bash. Caring is how I would describe this bunch of women. Even if they don’t always get along, they are there for each other. It was wicked wonderful for me to be a part of the Curves Gals for the evening. And winning a prize helped also.

What’s in a name?

My niece invited us to lunch at the Chop Shop. Curious name, but I didn’t think anything of it until we got there. The door handles were gas nozzles. That intrigued me. What was waiting for us inside?

We walked into a restaurant decorated in 1950s style,  and for the Christmas holiday,  but somewhat eclectic. License plates were decorating the top of the ceiling overhang, chrome red cushioned bar stools lined the bar and the walls were decorated with whatever memorabilia they could find. The menu was equally interesting, and the food was good.

I tried to capture the look and feel of the eatery. We had fun and gobbled up wicked good food.

Friendship

Friendships are sometimes found in unlikely places. This post is about my Sister-in-law, Brenda, and how she gained friendships through exercise at her local Curves gym.

To understand why these friends are so special, you need to know a little about Brenda. Developmentally disabled, Brenda couldn’t read or write when she married my brother. Through the years, she learned how to read, write, drive and count back change when buying something. She was the star pupil, earning her an article in the local Simi Valley newspaper. She is my hero, proving that when you try and continue trying, you can accomplish.

And, the learning hasn’t stopped. Now that his physical health is diminishing, my brother is still teaching Brenda, 71, to take on more responsibilities. She is now figuring out the final tab at a restaurant, driving more and taking more responsibilities at home.

Brenda also volunteers at a local elementary school as a teachers assistant. She’s a favorite with the school staff as well as the children. Everyone calls her Grandma Brenda. They have given her awards, and her proudest moment came when she was allowed to read to the children.

Now back to her friends. The gals gather at 6 a.m. in the morning for their physical and chatter workout. Today, I went to take photographs. What I saw were lots of smiles, talking, and some exercising. These women have formed a friendship group that gets together for coffee after exercise and monthly for a potluck dinner. What is more important, they encourage, support and help Brenda.

This morning was the power workout. What I saw was more of an exercise of friendship. After their calisthenics, jackets were donned and off they went to have coffee and celebrate a birthday. I’m posting some images of the experience. More to come after their monthly party and another birthday celebration.

 

Brrr: Baby it’s cold outside. Too cold for Victorian Christmas!

I remember that only two weeks ago we were enjoying temperatures in the high 70s (degrees Fahrenheit). This week, the high is maybe 50 degrees Fahrenheit! I’ve had a difficult time communicating with the dog about why it wasn’t a good idea to walk when our outside thermometer read 27 degrees and that he had to wait until the afternoon! It was in these extreme conditions that I went up to Nevada City to shoot the Victorian Christmas with my photography pals.

I thought being the first night of the event and the low temperatures, there wouldn’t be many people. I was wrong. Actually, I was disappointed. It was more of a craft fair with vendors packed into the street. The sidewalks were decorated, some men (probably a choral group) sang Christmas carols, but I didn’t see a tree. One of our group said the tree was at the far end of the blocked off area and outside the barricades.  That must have been the blue triangle I saw in the distance. But, this Jewish gal expected a beautifully decorated tree that was the centerpiece of the Victorian Christmas. There was entertainment and the people in Victorian dress were walking around, but they were cold also, wearing coats that partially covered up their costumes.

My disappointment didn’t stop me from taking photos. I took my tripod with me, but never took it out of the bag. There was enough light and my camera did fine without it. I’m glad I went and enjoyed out 2 hours up there. At one point, we ducked into a coffee shop and I warmed my fingertips by holding the hot coffee cup. As we were walking up to the car, my toes were complaining that they were too cold! Thank you Laura Munro for driving us up there. Wicked good fun!

Chanukah

Twas the fifth night of Chanukah and all through the house we were cooking latkes, stacking presents, talking, eating and everything else we normally do at our family plus Chanukah party. Friends make up the “plus.”

I’ll be honest, having Thanksgiving and Chanukah collide left me tired! It was tight with just two days before the dinners. But we had fun, and lit up all our menorahs, each having five candles. Our friend Nancy, her first time at our Chanukah celebration, couldn’t believe that we’d light them all. I explained that in past years we’ve done more. Last year it was especially nice since our party was on the eighth night, all the candles were lit.

Here are some shots of our party. One note. Christopher, our older grandson, was extremely camera shy. However, I did get his mom to let me take a good picture of her!