Saturday, July 16, 2011

Horror Happiness

Everyone knows my favorite season in Florida isn't really a season; it's an event that runs 26 nights from the end of September through Halloween. An event that I have attended every year since 2004. But this year, I'm going to experience it in a whole new way.

Last Tuesday, I auditioned for a "scareactor" position at Halloween Horror Nights. And I was fortunate enough to be cast!

In memory of the past seven years of attending as a guest, here's some pics (in terrible resolution, I might add) from HHN 14 through HHN 20.

HHN 14 (2004): 2X The Fear
Billie (right) and me (left) with a pumpkin friend in the corn maze that connected both parks that year
HHN 15 (2005): Tales of Terror
Scary decor
HHN 16 (2006): Sweet 16
Angela (left) & me (right) enjoy a drink 
HHN 16 (2006): Sweet 16
Cindy (left), body collector (middle), me (right)
HHN 16 (2006): Sweet 16
Cindy (left), Jack (middle), me (right)
HHN 17 (2007): Carnival of Carnage
The year of my first "RIP Tour"
HHN 17 (2007): Carnival of Carnage
Lito (left) and me (right) at Jack's Fun House of Fear - in 3D!
HHN 18 (2008): Reflections of Fear
Cindy (right) and me (left) with the Evil Queen in the Scary Tales scarezone,  my fave that year!
HHN 18 (2008): Reflections of Fear
Cindy (right) and me (left) in the American Gothic scarezone
HHN 19 (2009): Ripped from the Silver Screen
At my bachelorette party

HHN 19 (2009): Ripped from the Silver Screen
Maggie's (left) first time at HHN - for my bachelorette!
HHN 20 (2010): Twenty Years of Fear
Fear himself!
A staple for any HHN event

Looking forward to the excitement that HHN 21 is sure to bring!!

Monday, July 4, 2011

My Grandfather's Fourth of July Reflections

In honor of Fourth of July, I wanted to share this wonderfully written email from my grampy - the original family writer.

Dear Ones:

The stuff that saturates newspapers and e-mail this time of year set off some reflections.  As a kid,  the Fourth of July was to me second in importance only to Christmas.  Beginning with our January birthdays, my brother and I saved our pennies for the day in late June when we would spend hours in Klingansmith's store laboriously selecting fireworks.  We sought the biggest bang for our buck well before the phrase was invented.  And year after year, Bob and I staged one great Fourth of July celebration after another.

But my most memorable Fourth of July, ever, was in 1945. 

As you know, I was a Navy pilot.  In late 1944, I was assigned to a squadron that flew large, four-engined airplanes equipped for aerial mapping.  On the morning of July 4, 1945, ours was one of four squadron planes that took off from Iwo Jima and set a northerly course for the island of Honshu, Japan.  We had been told that battered elements of the Imperial Japanese Fleet might be hiding along the shore of Tokyo Bay.  We were to fly up to Tokyo's front door and try to find and photograph them.

As we neared Honshu, wispy cirrus began appearing above us and below, a blanket of clouds could be seen at 10,000 feet covering the land ahead.    Shortly, a dozen P-51 Army fighters assigned to fly cover for us materialized, dropped their auxiliary tanks and took up their positions.  Ahead, someone spotted the snow-clad cone of Mt. Fuji poking up through the gray blanket which by then obscured everything below. 

The blanket extended as far as we could see, so as we neared the most promising target area, we decided to go down and find out what lay beneath.  We popped out of the cloud layer at about 7,500 feet only to find another thick layer below at two or three thousand feet.  Mt. Fuji now presented us with a view of only its middle - a truncated cone suspended between cloud layers which obscured both base and summit..

Our chances of locating and photographing anything on the ground appeared to be nil.  We were flying in the white middle layer of an Oreo - socked in above and socked in below.  Nevertheless, our quartet split into pairs, in an attempt to cover opposite shores of Tokyo Bay simultaneously.  A half hour of nothing followed - no flak, no enemy fighters.  We just droned along, unsure of where we were, with clouds above and below.  Radio traffic began picking up.  The P-51 guys began muttering about fuel.  This was mission was futile, crazy, not worth the risk, a waste of time.  Everybody wanted to bag it and go home. 

Then, "Jesus, look at that!" 

Dead ahead was a rapidly widening hole in the blanket below.  And there, bathed in rain and gray cloud wisps, was a large jumble of ships lying at anchor or berthed at makeshift piers.  A miracle, a million to one shot!  There followed much yelling on the intercom - making sure that our photographers were catching every element of the scene below.  We passed over the hole in less than a minute, then banked sharply for another pass.  But the hole in the blanket had closed. 

Our fighter escort lit out for home shortly after.  We nosed about for another half hour in the cloud sandwich hoping for another hole, then turned South, also.  Once back on Iwo, there was no celebration.  It had been a long, tense day.  

Next day, I'm told, there was an article in the New York Times headed, "Navy Discovers Remnants of Japanese Fleet."  

Happy Fourth of July.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Still Soul Searching

I'm still planning to complete the previously mentioned Soul Journaling project. However, life's gotten busy. I'm juggling a few photography projects, which I couldn't be more thrilled about.

I'm propelling myself into a world that I have little experience in. And it's awesome. I'm glad I made the final decision to put grad school on hold (after one mere semester - I know, I know). I now have time to learn photography rules and techniques... so that I can eventually break them.

It's been a long time since I've been this passionate about something. Genuinely passionate. A keep-you-up-at-night sensation that seems more appropriate for a teenage crush, but you're convinced it's a full out love affair.

My eyes see the world differently these days. Everything is a potential photo. Everything is alive, has a colorful pulse, a beautiful breath. I see quirky characters in unique scenes and common objects that bleed new rhythms. I have so many new stories to tell.

Who knew that life behind the lens could feel so fulfilling?
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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Soul Journaling, Day 3 and 4

Day 3 and day 4 of Sarah Whitmire's soul journaling involved creating my "soul armor": what nourishes and protects my creative spirit. It took me a few days to think about what this entailed for me. I even made a list before I got started.
  • Sunshine
  • Laughter
  • Playfulness
  • The beach
  • Windchimes
  • Clouds
  • Friendships
  • Scented candles
  • Purple
  • Yoga and meditation
  • Walking, runnning, biking (being in motion)
And this is what manifested on the page.

My favorite part of this page is the little boy in the middle. He reminds me of my childhood, when I wasn't afraid to dress up in a wacky costume and enter a world of make believe. He's serious in the most playful way possible, courageous in a right-up-until-dinner time type of way.

He's my inner creative child, the one I've been shielding from the world for a good five years.

I'll continue to protect him; however, it's time he made a more regular appearance and became a bit more reliable, like his daily afternoon cartoons.

Juxtapose that childlike state with the more adult-like images on my page, and I've got the ultimate soul armor. I'm ready to run the creative gauntlet! Adieu, my good friends!


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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Soul Journaling, Day 2

I wasn't anticipating being able to work on Sarah Whitmire's next prompt until the weekend, but I couldn't resist another late night.

Tonight was all about "claiming your journal". Pretty sure there's no questions as to whose journal this is!

I didn't notice it at the time, but I love how the white gesso didn't quite hide the phrase "Today I feel creative" and I can still see the words "creative muse" peeking through some of the color. Misspelling my name with scrabble tiles (bottom) and the word "dictionary" (middle) still being visible was an interesting coincidence as well.

Totally digging this soul journaling  process.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Journaling from the Soul

"To be nobody but yourself
in a world which is doing its best,
night and day to make you everybody else -
means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being could fight;
and keep fighting."
~ E. E. Cummings

I'm venturing into the world of art journaling.

My friends Cindy and Jane are no strangers to the concept and participated in Sarah Whitmire's 22 Days of Soul Journaling back in 2008. I've been browsing her site for a few days now, and after gathering the necessary supplies from Michael's (with a 40% off coupon of course), I'm ready to begin.

My first art journal.  
I, too, am starting with the 22 days of art journaling prompts. When it comes to writing, I have little trouble getting off the blank page... but art? No idea. I couldn't even color between the lines in elementary school -- but hey, maybe that makes me perfectly suited for mixed media art! So, I'm really excited that this lovely woman has provided perfect starter ideas for beginning art journalists.

Who says purple "disappearing" gluesticks are just for kids?
Meditation music floating through the room and a "beach breeze" candle illuminating my desk, I completed the day 1 prompt tonight. The instructions involved gluing random dictionary pages to the first three pages of my journal, and then writing over them with the prompt "today I feel", circling words for added emphasis. I decided to rip up an extra copy of a short story I had published in 2005 and use that instead of dictionary pages. I also added a little color around the edges of the glued pages; I'm not a big fan of white.

Completed pages of "Today I Feel"
What's great about these exercises is that they're totally at my own pace. And given my four to five days a week of volleyball, bi-weekly meditation classes, weekly Zumba class, the occasional at-home yoga session, a newly acquired freelance gig (emphasis on the "free"), and my full time job ... art journaling without a deadline is a welcomed experience.

After last week's Sacred Sounds meditation class, I've been overwhelmed with creative energy; I can't wait to see where this new journey takes me!

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Saturday, March 12, 2011

Just Begin It

As I close my evening eyes,
I sometimes sense my angels sleeping
in the peaceful corner of my room.
The last of light slips down my window
as it surrenders to the night.
And my angels wander in playful preparation,
whispering words of wisdom like the best of Paul himself.

Now I can just be.
I will begin again.
I am free.
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

New Eats and a New Word

Do you know what sriracha is? I didn't until this weekend.

On Saturday, Jolyon and I ventured to a cafe called Yellow Dog Eats, a unique eatery with a country store appeal, featuring an assortment of sandwiches, salads, and some bbq. I LOVE places like this: imaginative establishments tucked away in the Orlando netherlands, away from the tourist scene - the place you'd find only because so-and-so heard about it and suggested you check it out.

I have a habit of not reading the full list of ingredients when I order something new. The Downward Dog (legit name of a sandwich; see menu here) sounded delicious. Portabello mushrooms? Water chestnuts? Peanuts? Yes please! I glossed over the rest of the ingredients, my eyes lingering on sriracha just long enough for my brain to conclude it didn't know what it was, but didn't care enough to ask.

The stylishly tatooed woman at the counter stalled in taking our order, insisting that she "get to know as much as possible about us in the next fine minutes". She asked if we were Buddists. (No.) Mormon? (No.) Nerds? (It's that obvious?) She asked where we were from and what we do for a living. Then she asked us to give her a list of labels we felt defined us. The first thing that I thought of was my Myers-Briggs label ENFJ, so I told her that. She thought that was hysterical - apparently that wasn't the type of label people often give. Finally, she took our order.

While waiting for our lunch to be prepared, we wandered around the store, eyeing homemade wine, dog treats, and jewelry. My eyes darted from one interesting artifact to the next, and I immediately made mental lists of the people I knew would love this establishment.

The weather was a perfect 68 degrees, so we opted to sit out back on their patio. I think Jolyon was expecting something a little more "restauranty", but the outdoor ambiance didn't surprise me at all.
When our food was ready (albeit a tad longer than I normally like to wait for a sandwich), I was so hungry that I took a few bites far too quickly. And then... FIRE. OHMYGOD my tastebuds were burning off. Can't breathe! What the hell had I just ordered? I gulped down some water and ate half the bag of pita chips. And coughed a lot. After attempting to compose myself, I snatched a lone menu off the table and scanned the list of ingredients again.

This time I thought long and hard about this so-called sriracha. Definitely not an inncocent bean sprout or something similar. So, I did the next logical thing that anyone with a smartphone would do.

I googled it.

Of course. Thai hot sauce. Naturally.

I don't deal well with spices. Mild salsa is usually too much for me, and the tamest sauce at Tijuana Flats (the one with the smiley face) is almost too spicey for my tastes. Needless to say, I couldn't finish my sandwich.

But at least I can now add a new word to my cooking vocabulary, and a cool (assuming the other items are, temperature-wise) restaurant to my conquests.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stuffed with French Toast

It's been a weekend of indulgence. I had my favorite breakfast two days in a row.

On Saturday, my friend Cindy introduced me to a wonderful little breakfast cafe called Kekes. It's near the SPCA of Central Florida, where we spend many mornings playing with cats and helping them get adopted. Covered in cat fur and feline love, we wandered into this chic little bistro to discover the deliciousness of French toast. Well, I had French toast - stuffed banana pecan caramel, to be exact. 

And it was amazing. 

Today, Jolyon and James experimented in the kitchen and concocted an equally tasty French toast recipe - with bananas and powdered sugar to boot!

If only every weekend's breakfasts could be this delicious.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Poetic Photographer

I take a lot of pictures. I’m that person at social gatherings, the person you need to warn, “please don’t put this on Facebook” or, “this isn’t going online, right?” In fact, my husband has grumbled numerous times that our life is “too public” due to my obsession with photo-sharing and posting to online albums.

I see nothing wrong with this. Maybe it’s my inner poet, but I love capturing those precious, raw moments of people just… being. And I love sharing this with others. The way we live is becoming more and more collaborative and I’m fueled with passion for the future.

Lately, though, I’ve focused my attention on inanimate objects and scenery. I’d love to take a day trip somewhere beautiful to just wander and take photos. I used to do this when I was writing nature essays in college, and it was exhilarating to connect with my creative side – the side that feels most like me. For now, though, I seek the beauty in my own neighborhood.

I know I’ve touted my Droid X’s vast capabilities, but I do have iPhone app envy. There are so many fantastic photo apps for the iPhone. Take my friend Jane, for example. She’s been posting extraordinary photos to her art blog, leaving me in a pile of drool as I scroll through them. Of course, she’s also an incredibly talented artist and has a great eye for what makes a phenomenal photo.

This makes me want to take a digital photography class. I should add that to my must-do list.
Anyway, one of my crafting goals for myself this year is to create a photojournal that collectively tells a story. I have a few ideas floating around, but I haven’t decided if I’ll go the traditional scrapbook-style route, or if I’ll use my favorite online photobook site – I’m running out of wall space in my house for hanging photos, so it’s time to start channeling my ideas into books.

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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sweet Serendipity

I've never been all that into music. It's not that I don't like music, I just don't seek it out, download it, or share tunes and lyrics with people.

Until today.

I've received a lot of bad news this week. The kind of news that makes your heart ache for others, leaving you feeling especially helpless. I've offered up a prayer or two for each situation, hoping comfort and peace will find its way into their hearts. While driving home from work today, and still dwelling on one situation in particular, a song came on the radio that I hadn't heard before. And I listen to the same station on my morning and evening commute, so the amount of replays tends to rank high on the annoying scale.

But this beat was pure (Can beat be pure? I've never reviewed music before.) and the lyrics were full of hope and inspiration. At least for me.

Maybe you'll think so, too.

Lee DeWyze's Sweet Serendipity