Thank you, Ma’am…

Recently, I have found myself more and more frequently addressed as “Ma’am” by salespersons, waitstaff, etc.  While I am glad to know that there are still polite individuals in this world, I am not exactly flattered that these people think I fall into the “old enough to be called “Ma’am” category.  I think the question of whether or not you should refer to someone as Ma’am is the like asking a woman if she’s pregnant.  You don’t do it unless you know the answer is yes.

I don’t feel older than late 20’s.  According to the calendar, I’m mid-thirties.  By the mirror, I am probably some where in between.  So, when did I become old enough to be called “ma’am?”

I don’t mind being in my thirties.  After all, I earned them.  But, of course, I do miss some of the care-free days of my “misspent youth.”  (“Misspent” being a matter of perspective, since I was a pretty responsible and level-headed young adult.)  There’s just something about the 18-25 years: your first real job, taking spur of the moment vacations, all-nighters with friends, all-nighters at work,  parties for no reason, shopping sprees, your first new car – no one even considering calling you “ma’am.”

I know that the relationships and career I have and enjoy now are from the seeds I planted in my young adult years.  And, no, I wouldn’t trade them for the world.  Now I find myself in that unique stage of life where I am paying off my education while saving for my daughter’s – which apparently coincides with the time when people start calling you “ma’am.”  For now, when I hear that word, it is it bit jarring and it takes me off guard.  I almost reflexively say, “who me?” as I look to see if there’s an old lady behind me.

Since this isn’t really a topic that has much depth to it, I guess I will call it quits here.  Besides, my back and knees are stiffening up; I need to go get some ice and Bengay cream.

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Update – Mind-Keybaord disconnect: a solution!

I had previously lamented about the loss of ideas that percolate while I am driving before I get to a computer or even paper to get them down. So, I’ve been considering getting a voice recorder to keep handy in the car. The hubs suggested finding a free app for the phone and viola, I found a decent freebie! So, the experiment will begin this week! Gotta love technology

Blog Writer’s Block

Only three posts in and I’ve already hit writer’s block.  I thought I’d get farther, though I can’t say I am surprised.  As I mentioned previously, I was never a “Dear Diary…” kind of girl.  Sure, I had a number of diaries throughout my childhood – plain, decorative, locking, and the kind with the elastic band around it – I am fairly certain such is a rite of passage for pre-pubescent girls.  While I am pretty sure I remember starting each of them, none ever got filled.  It was a habit that I never was able to cultivate.

I enjoy writing, and love talking about myself, so it seems like keeping a diary is a natural fit.  But, I have found through the years, that adding a habit to my daily routine is something I find difficult – particular when it’s a habit that has no perceptible, immediate benefit.   (Sorry Mr. Dentist, daily flossing just keeps eluding me.)  So, the fact that my blogging has already waned comes as no great shock.  It doesn’t help that no one is reading (thanks, stat tracking), so I’ve got no one to account to but myself – and frankly, I let myself slide on a great many things when no one else has expectations.

So why the lapse in blogging (or writing in my diary as a kid)?  Well the aforementioned lack of immediate response or tangible benefit are true.  But still, so much of the process and the end result (a written piece that I wrote and can read and re-read) should be appealing enough.  Laziness?  Apathy?  Is it really writer’s block?  Do I actually have nothing to say?  Banish the thought, since that will put quite a damper on my secret dream of becoming a published author.

I can confess, that while I’ve been anemic in my blogging, I have put some effort into my story writing.  Since my story is one taking place in a completely fictitious land, I took the time to draw a map, two actually, of the land where the story unfolds – in color, no less.  It helped refine the story a bit, visually working out where things needed to be, what things just didn’t fit, what things were missing.  The maps also pointed out the black gaping holes in the story – stretches of nothing on paper that begged for some topographical reflection of the fictional happenings.  I imagine that the maps will be living documents until the meat of the story is down, but for the most part they seem to reflect what my mind’s eye sees.  I am no artist, nor a cartographer, but I think they came out decent enough for my purposes.

So, while I am not actually, physically writing, I am mentally working out bits and parts of the story.  Is that a cop out?  Does that qualify as writing, or is it a form of denial of writer’s block?  Really, I think its laziness – an inability to cultivate the good habit of sitting down at regular intervals for set periods of time to write.  And that is something I’ve never been able to do since the days of my blank little locked diaries.  But it is something I am just going to have to do.  A habit I had hoped to establish by blogging.

Apparently starting good habits is just as hard as stopping bad ones!

Shooting Perfection

Apologies now, since I already feel that this post is going to unravel in a few directions.    The main subject is photography.  Subtopics: Photography as a Creative Outlet; Photography and my Perfectionist side; and, Observation versus Participation.  Stick with me, I may have a point in here somewhere…

I’ve moved on from my little Kodak point and shoot.  It served me well, and I’m keeping it around “just in case.”  However, I envy other people who have this brilliant photos of their children and vacations, and I wanted the same.  So, saving all the money I received for Christmas and my birthday, I splurged on an Olympus 620.  It’s a great camera; I am happy with the purchase.  But I now find I not only  need to learn the language and rules of photography, but also the tools, tricks and gizmos of the camera.  Nonetheless, I’ve played a bit with it and have managed to wrangle a few nice pictures of my daughter out of it.  I imagine it can only get easier.

Olympus E 620

I can definitely see myself enjoying photography as a regular hobby.  First, it’s “easy.”  Point-click-shoot.  Obviously, there’s much more to adjusting for lighting and correctly composing a shot, but even an absolutely terrible photographer can luck out with a great shot now and then.  Second, as far as a photography as a creative outlet – it’s near instant gratification.  God bless digital imaging!  No waiting for film (double bonus – no buying film, and you can just print only those images you want).  If someone closed their eyes, or a stranger walks into the shot, you know right away – shoot it again!  This aspect so compliments my impatience, it practically rewards it.  Third, it’s a limitless activity.  Take pictures when you want, where you want.

As far as creativity, I tend not to think too far out of the box.  I like symmetry and clean lines.  I think and process information in outline format – both on paper and in my head.  I’m a left-brained righty and it shows.  Photography is a good fit for me – it lets me manipulate the image enough that I feel like I am being creative without feeling pressured to come up with unique and usual ideas to do so.  As I learn more about the process, I may find myself becoming less in-the-box and willing to experiment.  Who knows, maybe taking up this hobby will spark my creative light and help improve my other creative outlet – writing.

About my writing.  I am certainly not doing it enough or well.  I am stymied with ideas that don’t go anyway.  Something which may be limiting my ability to access any vast internal creativity is my perfectionism.  Creation is messy.  I prefer order, organization, straight lines and complimentary colors.  When taking pictures, I am always looking for that perfect shot.  The picture that so perfectly captures the person or moment that it seems unreal – as though it were staged for a print ad or TV show.  But life never happens that way – there are strangers in the background, stains on shirts, unruly strands of hair, cars parked on picturesque streets.

So I often find myself “staging” and manipulating images before I even look through the lens.  But at some point, doesn’t the manipulation starts to make the image a lie.  It isn’t a perfect capture of the moment; its me remaking the moment, turning it into something I want to be.  As they say, perception is reality.  So by molding the image into what I see as perfection, doesn’t it make it so?  Is this what photography is about?  The photographer decides what is in the frame, and what isn’t.

Sometimes what is missing can say so much more about the image than that which appears in within its borders.  Which leads me to my last thought on the subject.  One thing that I never capture in my images, is me.  I can’t both view and be in the scene.  Yes, yes, remotes, I know.  But, I can’t see me in the image as I view it (at least not until the picture is taken) and philosophically, once I am in it, it is no longer the same scene – you can’t step in the same river twice, right?  So, it has occurred to me, that in my quest of the perfect  picture – of my daughter playing in that dappled light, that breath taking vista, of the celebrating revelers – I am taking myself out of these moments.  I can’t both help my daughter blow out candles and capture her doing it.  (Unless, of course I stage the photo later.  Note to self for the 2nd birthday…)  But, if I am not taking the pictures, I can’t be sure that I will as reliably preserve these memories in my mind’s eye as I would on my external drive.

The choice I am left with is Observer or Participant.  As I take pictures, I watch the scene I am missing unfold.  Even as I take part in the festivities, I am often torn out of them with the thought “Wait, stop!  I have to get a picture of this!”

This is why I think I love taking my daughter to the portrait studio – despite the ridiculous cost.  Having her pictures done is the event.  The staged setting and situations are the real moment.  Obviously, we don’t spend time in our day-to-day life lounging on an infinite background of cotton candy pink snuggling with fluffy white rabbits.  But for those 30 minutes, that was exactly what we were doing.  For those 30 minutes that was our life – staging photos.   So, the lie is the reality and since I am not the photographer, I get to participate.  While it doesn’t curb my desire for a creative outlet (I don’t get to dictate what poses or props to use) – it does temporarily satisfy my craving for that perfect picture (greatly enhanced by the portrait studio’s Photoshopping).  Yet it all feels like cheating.

Well, the mental diarrhea is out and it appears there was no point.  Dear Diary…

The Mind-Keyboard Disconnect

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I “write” all the time in my mind.  Any time I find myself in a mentally passive state, I start composing in my head – phrases, sentences, paragraphs, essays.  These “written” pieces are anything from re-imagining how a previous conversation could, or should, have gone – very George Costanza-esque thinking of a great comeback hours too late – to character sketches, to pieces of the stories I wish to write, to rambling musings on any given topic.  Most frequently these mental writing sessions occur in a place and time not conducive to stopping whatever I am doing and jotting it all down, like when I am driving or before I fall asleep in bed.  By the time I find myself in a position to actually record my thoughts (such as now), the meat of the though is there, but much of the detail is gone.  In fact, this very (admittedly mundane) topic wrote itself in my head last night.  Please believe when I say that this is not translating exactly as I heard it in my mind.  Often, I wish I could just jack into my brain (a la The Matrix) and directly download my mental data to the computer.

So, it has occurred to me that I need to adopt some technique or habit to help me capture these thoughts and ideas before they are lost to me.

The most obvious answer is to get to a computer to get it all out as soon as I can.  However, this is probably the least practical, given the time when I have the most brainstorms.  Assuming  I could get before a computer every time I needed, I find that I think so much faster than I can possibly type.  Even if I were to type fast and furiously, ignoring typos as I go (which I find nearly impossible to do), thoughts fly by at such a pace that I’m on to the next one before I can get three words onto the page.  In fact, I often feel like the typing is so intrusive that it actually changes the way I am thinking as I write.

The next option would be to carry around a pen and notebook, or to leave numerous ones scattered about the house, and in the car, and so on.  Neither scenario is particularly practical since 1) I have a very curious toddler, who is quite fond of paper and pencils and 2) I rarely carry any kind of purse or bag (with the exception of a diaper bag when needed) so I’d have to carry said notebook in my hands or pocket all the time or start carrying a purse – which seems silly if the only thing in it is a notebook.  I doubt my husband would appreciate me flipping on the lights and frantically scribbling down my thoughts while he tried to sleep.

Thus, I am toying with the idea of keeping a voice recorder on hand (I know, the no-purse issue is not really resolved by this, nor is the inquisitive two-year old; however, it seems like it would be easier to keep one recorder accessible and still out of harm’s way than a slew of notebooks) and then transcribing my audio-notes later.  So here are the draw-backs to this option, as I see them.

First, I am not even sure that I can speak as fast as I can think – and, a natural-born talker, I can speak pretty quickly.  Certainly it will be faster than typing, but I wonder if it will be fast enough to keep me from losing the thoughts.  Probably not.  I also wonder if it will be equally, or even more, intrusive to the thought process than typing.

Second, dictating my thoughts while driving seems easy enough; however, I am going to have to find a place to do so quietly when the pre-sleep and middle-of-the-night thoughts start seeping in.  So this is going to require some behavioral modification on my part.  I’m going to have to get out of bed – in which case, I could just plop in front of the computer and skip the two-part process.   (That brings me back to the first problem, of not typing as fast as I need.)

Third, and candidly, I think this might be the biggest issue in my mind, I hate the sound of my recorded voice.  (Though, I won’t deny that I do, on occasion, enjoy listening to myself talk.)  Whenever I hear a recording of myself I shudder and think, “Do I really sound like that?”  I know I am not alone in this situation, but I really do hate it.  Will I be able to sit and listen to my recorded voice daily or weekly?  I’m sure I will get over it, and I know this is a silly thought with which to concern myself, but there it is nonetheless.

Ultimately, I think I have no choice but to deal with it, since as I write and re-read this, I know that there were some gems last night that have gone off into the ether, never to grace my page.