Saturday, April 18, 2015

A short story

The dog ran into Mexico and I had to go after him. The Rio Grande was narrow here and Bud saw a horse come to graze at dusk and he saw his chance for a little fun. Too bad he doesn't know about geopolitical and economic boundaries. All Bud saw was a horse and some fun.

EPrata photo

I hear him barking in Boquillos now and I'm not looking forward to that guy selling mineral earrings again. He scared me with his pitiful intense desperation, 'look I made these aren't they beautiful' and then he touched my sleeve.

So I slip off my sneakers trying hard not to notice the myriad paw prints looking like hieroglyphics from big things came to graze. I tie the sneaks in a good knot and slip them over my shoulders. Feet slipping in the oozy mud, my prints now mingling with last night's predator and prey I run splashing loud across the river drowning out the cattails' whisper announcing my arrival in a foreign country without a passport.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Back to School tomorrow

Spring break is over and it sure was a good one. Great weather, very quiet, nice cats, haircut, Bountiful Basket, books and shows.

I got into The Indian Doctor from BBC on Hulu, a very good show. Well written and acted, pretty to look at, safe to enjoy without profanity or sex.

The old neighbors had left their lawn swing last summer, promising to come get it at some point. After nearly 10 months I had gotten used to the thing maybe always being here... I sat in it, looked at the clouds, took photos, read, listened to the birds.

This week with magazine in hand I went out to sit...and it was gone. I'm glad they have it back, becuase I know they enjoyed sitting on it a lot. I did too, so I'm glad I got to use it as much as I did.

Murray the cat is turning out to be a very nice cat. He's a legacy from the neighbors too. A nice cat who likes my other nice cats. We are happy here.

The Thursday and Friday before Spring Break I got overstimulated. I'm talking autistic overstimulation. Next stop...meltdown. I usually can avoid overstimulation becauase I know my triggers and limits. Whenever I vary from them I will get into trouble. My worst sensitivities are clothes/skin, noise of all kinds that is either sudden or sustained, and exposure to prolonged emotional displays.

I wore the wrong clothes on Thursday, dressing up because a Congressman was touring the school then spending time with the first graders. I wore flat, non-supportive shoes (AKA not my usual orthopedic clodhoppers), a polyester skirt, and nylons. Wearing hosiery for two hours at church is very different from being entangled in them all day. They had wrapped funny around my upper thigh and they chafed my thigh raw. My feet were killing me by the end of the day and I was totally angry at the polyester.

When I wear the wrong clothes my skin screams all day. It is hard to describe but it's like my brain is constantly going "DANGER DANGER, WRONG WRONG, NO NO" like a factory claxon alarm is going off, and my brain won't settle down and let me focus on anything else. It takes mental and emotional energy to shut my brain up enough to be able to function. By the end of the day I am exhausted from this effort.

Friday was loud. Easter Egg hunt, party, cafeteria double duty (meaning I spend an hour and ten minutes in an environment where the number of children is about 150, and decibel level nears or exceeds 80 to 85 db). It had been a long time between breaks and the children and staff were excited. Noise was heightened for the day everywhere but especially in kindergarten area where I work. This is normal but it exceeded my ability to handle it.

I knew I was pushing it to zip to the grocery store after work. But I also knew I didn't want to leave my home again for the week, so I drove there fast and didn't linger. But I was tired, overstimulated, and was running on fumes. I ran into a dear friend and we chatted briefly in each of the aisles where we crossed paths. It is a very small store. But by the last aisle we both went for the cool whip, and she asked me if I wanted regular or lowfat, and my brain was so jumbled I couldn't answer. She handed me regular and I literally only could say "Sugar." I wanted to say thanks but all I could do was stare numbly at the item and say sugar. My brain was shutting down. Picture an overheated computer in a cartoon spewing smoke and lighting zzz sounds.

I hurriedly left the store and got home, putting away only the cold groceries and then I fell face down on the bed.

The result was that Saturday I slept most of the day. I was physically ill. When my body gets overstimulated, my stomach gets upset & nauseous. The overworked brain kind of hurls out a kind of  poison and it swirls all around my body in a residue for a long time. Only time can deplete it. It would be while until I felt normal again. I woke up at 7:00 but went back to bed at 10 and slept until 2. Then I woke up and shambled around but went back to bed at 4 and slept till 6. Saturday was a totally lost day. I was a non-productive human being.

If Sunday hadn't have been Easter I'd have stayed home. As it was I was catatonic at 6:30 am, simply staring blankly at the ceiling and not being able to make my arms move enough to strip the covers off, so there was no chance of getting up at that point to attend Sunrise service. I attended the regular service but I didn't dress up as much as I would have liked. No nylons, that was for sure. So I didn't wear a dress. The music was good but loud and at one point I had to stop myself from covering my ears. Every note was like nails from a nail gun going into my brain. I know at one point I was wincing in actual pain. Afterwards, I went home and naturally, I slept.

By Monday I was feeling somewhat normal and by Tuesday I'd recovered. Phew, that was a bad one. Do I like being like this? No. Can I help it? No. Well I can a bit- make better choices about my environment. There is nothing I can do about the cafeteria but I can dampen or reduce all other effects by being careful about clothes, take small breaks of quiet like at lunch. I look frumpy and misshapen most of the time because I wear ill-fitting clothes that are not stylish, and not flattering. I don't care. They are comfortable, clean, presentable. And I can handle life when I wear them.

Sometimes when I get home the noise dose, an official term for accumulated noise a person encounters during a workday, is so high that once I had to stop chewing chips because they were too loud in my head. 

Well it has been a good week. I recovered, spent time restoring the well of strength I will need to face a noisy, bustling, happy school once again in the morning. I am looking forward to seeing the kids. I'm sure they will all look like they grew like weeds. Only 34 1/2 more days until summer break. Woo-hoo, I can make it!

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Lawn cutting and sheep shearing

A productive day, catching up on all emails and blog comments. Some of the questions asked of me were complex, or at least the answer needed to be complex to answer correctly and fully.

I practiced with Pixlr collage again, not too successfully if looking at the actually good collages at the Pixlr blog site for this week's challenge. Sigh. Why do I do this to myself? I am no good at art. I can appreciate it, I can see what makes it good, but I simply can't produce it from my own brain and hands. I never could and I likely never will. But I keep trying.

This morning the landlord mowed the lawn and the shepherdess sheared the sheep. Tufts of grass and wool drifted across the lawn in the gentle breeze. Rural living, man.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Birds on branches and death in paradise

This is an actual photo of a bird silhouetted against the sky, with Pixlr overlay pak Mermaid and Dreamscape added to the background, which was a very dull late afternoon misty gray.

This is the original

What I love about school break is:

-sleeping until after 5:30,
-not getting dressed until I want to,
-being able to wear leggings and a soft turtleneck all day,
-washing my dishes on the same day that I dirty them,
-spending time playing with pictures and reading my twitter stream and not worrying that I am wasting time,
-being quiet,
-discovering more about my Logos bible software, like you can select a passage to be read aloud to you,
-listening to sermons and Gospel music in the afternoon
-cooking (today will be granola, and roasted broccoli)
-having time to go through my Youtube subscriptions and culling the dead ones and uninteresting ones,
-organizing my photos on the laptop...

and so much more.

I found another tv show I like. It's British, which means there aren't a lot of them. Their seasons, or series as they call them, are only 6 or 8 shows long. I watched all 8 of the first season and it is a top-quality show: Death in Paradise. Despite the goth title, it is a 'blue skies' program, and a 'fish out of water show' and a 'police procedural' if you like categorizing shows by title. It is about a London police detective temporarily assigned to discover why the Chief of Police on a small Caribbean island (a UK protectorate) was killed. Of course, his temporary stay becomes lengthier through no will of his own, he hates the heat, the sand, the slower ways, and mostly everything about the place. He is a stiff, a British man through and through with a single minded head for solving crime and absolutely no social skills, quite an abrupt thing for his colleagues living a friendly island reggae life. Of course he is brilliant and successful at solving murders so his colleagues forgive his quirks, even as he has a harder time overlooking theirs. The characters are realistic, nice, well-played and distinct.

There is no profanity, no sex, no gore (well only a drip here and there, but it's minimal). The setting is glorious, actually being shot on Guadaloupe. It is well-written and acted (usually the case with BBC TV shows). I like it. I will be sorry when I finish season 2, because I learned that the main character is killed off in the first episode of the third series. He found that being away for six months at a time to shoot on Guadaloupe was too stressful on his family whether they stayed there or flew to the island. So he gave it up. Sigh. Anyway, it's lighthearted, sometimes funny, and good. On Netflix.

Well it's nearing noon so I will get dressed and then continue on the peaceful day set before me.

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Pixlr photo editing - it's fun to experiment with pictures

Pixlr is my favorite photo editing software. It's free, or if you want more versatility there is a minimal charge for the year.

It is versatile, interesting, and they provide tutorials on how to use the elements and recipes to try yourself. There are also weekly challenges to motivate us to try new ways to enhance the photos. This week the challenge is to use the autocontrast feature. If you run a photo through autocontrast several times, it reduces the realism of the photo but it brings out the other aspects, such as making it look faux HDR, or graffiti/cartoonish, or bringing out the rough edges of granite or the veins in flowers. Here are my attempts. The first two I was satisfied with and sent them to the challenge.

In this one, I used fast splash. This feature allows the editor to select one color to 'splash' or remain in the photo, while making the others go to black and white. Then I used auto contrast three times to heighten the pine tree needles.

On this one I used autocontrast three times, and the silk effect to give the crinkle look.

I used splash again, this time to highlight the aqua of the graffiti and to make the distance between the train and the overhanging pine tree more stark.

There are lots of fun effects in Pixlr. I plan to re-arrange my photos on my laptop into folders and be more organized, so that when I play with them in photo editor Pixlr I won't have to spend so much time searching for particular photos I know I have and want to use to experiment in different features.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Spring break is finally here

I am officially on Spring Break.

The stretch between breaks at school was a long one this time. I don't know why I was asleep at the switch last year when the school calendar proposal became available for voting on, but this one escaped me. I didn't see the long time between breaks. This week's vacation is a week later than usual. We usually have break from the last few days in March at the end of the first weekend in April. The February long weekend break was deleted, so even that little stress-relieving hop from January to February to the end of March was absent. Losing Feb break and the later week for Spring Break made a difference. We went from January 6 to April 6 without a break except for Martin Luther King day.

A school is a living organism. The emotions, intensity, climate all build as the year progresses, the children mature, and the curriculum gets progressively more difficult. Stress is palpable. The teachers and staff get tired but the children get tired too. In many cases, they live busier lives than some staff! Some kids arrive at school as early as 7:15 and some children whose parents work are not picked up from the After School Program until 5:00, 5:30, or even 6:00. They go to music lessons, church, ball practice, or on errands with mom or dad. It is a looong day for them. Add 12 weeks of long days and you have an environment where the week off is very needed and very welcome.

I plan to do the things I always do. Listen to the birds outside. Sit in the swing on a sunny day and read. Nap on my 110 year old four-post bed in the sun with my cats curled on my feet. Write and study. I am going to start a biography by Temple Grandin, a theological book by John MacArthur, and short stories by Herman Melville (Moby-Dick author). I put the car in the garage and do not plan on taking it out at all except Sunday and Sunday for church.

These things which I enjoy so much are absent of noise and absent of people. When my noise-overloaded brain is ready, I plan to watch some movies. Mr Pip with Hugh Laurie looks good:
As a war rages on in the province of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, a young girl becomes transfixed by the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations, which is being read at school by the only white man in the village.
The Well-Digger's Daughter also looks good.
In 1930s southern France, a father is torn between his sense of honor and his deep love for his daughter when she gets in trouble with the wealthy son of a shopkeeper.
As does the television mini-series The Indian Doctor.
When a sleepy 1960s Welsh mining town's only doctor dies, the only replacement the union representative could find arrives, straight from India. To everyone's surprise, he's better educated and more cultured then anyone they know, yet friendly and eager to help. His wife however looks down on the 'peasants', compared to viceregal Delhi, and wants him to move to London.

These are films that seem culturally interesting to me, will feature great scenery, and be pretty to look at. Meanwhile, though I have been awake and up for only three hours, I am going to take my first nap.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Playing with Pixlr tonight

Still practicing with photo editing. I love granite, and I love statues. I practiced on the Panecillo, the statue in Quito of the Queen of Heaven.


Saturday, March 07, 2015

Dr Seuss week amid weird weather and great produce

I got a Bountiful Basket last Saturday!!! It was the first time since last August, when our local site closed down. The next nearest site is Athens. I don't get into Athens much, nor do I want to. And besides, the pick up time is early. So I put it out of my mind, and decided to simply fondly remember a blessed period filled with inexpensive yet high quality produce, ephemerally here today and gone tomorrow.

A friend at work said she was getting a Basket and would pick mine up for me, so I happily accepted her offer and got a basket. Plus, three add-ons.

The add-ons:

Banh Mi bread, a dozen baguettes. The flour is organic and the bread is FRESH.
Heirloom tomatoes
California Strawberries, about $1.50 per flat, 8 flats total.

Included in the basket were two heads celery, two heads lettuce, sweet red peppers, huge carrots, pineapple, bananas, avocados, asparagus, broccoli, and more that I am sure I am forgetting!

I roasted the red peppers, broccoli, and carrots. For breakfast I made fritatta with red peppers and feta cheese on the toasted banh mi, and a fruit salad containing strawberries and pineapple with homemade granola. Life is good.


When I'd received a gift certificate to for Christmas, one item I purchased is a laptop stand. Here it is. This was a very good purchase. It lifts the laptop just enough so that it does not heat up so much. For my personal settings, it lifts the laptop enough so that I don't have to hunch. (My chair is high which makes the laptop low). See it here-

The proper name is Ergonomic Aluminum Portable Foldable Cooling X-Stand for 12"-17" Laptops, Notebook PC, MacBook. It was $20. I recommend it!

We have had an incredibly confusing two weeks of weather. We had snow, ice, sleet, black ice, wind, and storm. We have had interspersed with that, dense fog, near 80 degree temps, sun, breeze, and blooming daffodils. So weird! One day I'm in a coat and scarf, the next I'm in bare fet and short sleeves. Oy.

One thing that spring brings is tornadoes and windstorms. So be assured that the weather radio now has a fresh bank of batteries in it.

By the way, lunch was ziti in fresh pomodoro sauce mixed with steamed asparagus and Parmesan cheese. I love Bountiful Basket.

Dr Seuss week is over. Each year we have fun with the kids at school by celebrating the notable author and illustrator's birthday. One day the cafeteria even served green eggs and ham! The kids were split on it, half tried it and liked it, half either avoided altogether or tried and didn't like. I think the character should have kicked that pesky critter Sam-I-Am's butt out of there and gone to get a pizza.

We have daffodils blooming out front. Sheep are bleating in the back.

Flowers there

Flowers' flair

Shep rest

Sheep sleep
And Dr Seuss fun is done.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

British police dramas

When I drive to work in the morning, even in the dead of winter, there is so much to look at that's pretty. I pass pastures still a-blush with a vestige of green. Frost adorns the hay bales. Colts run in the frosty air, curls of smoke circling out from their nostrils. Cows braze placidly, with no flies buzzing, tails are still and quiet. There are sheep and donkeys and bright setting moons and stunning sunrises. In case I haven't mentioned it lately, it is very pretty here.

I love Hulu and Netflix, new-ish inventions. I remember television before cable, before color, even. Before remote controls. Having on-demand entertainment I can shape specifically for my tastes is a stupendous achievement. Really. Think about it.

I enjoy British television. I don't want to come across as a snob, but the BBC puts out better acted, better-written, and better quality programming than the US does, in my opinion. Also, it's quieter. I'm so bothered by noise that when the week before last Friday's busy week ended, and I came home and had a snack of potato chips, the chips were too loud in my head and I had to stop eating them.

I have enjoyed the following British police series:


New Tricks

Line of Duty
Foyle's War

David Tennant, Olivia Colman in Broadchurch
Collision (5 episodes) and Broadchurch (8 episodes) were similar in that they had one season each, focused on a single event, in an emotional and complicated and demanding story arc. Collision focused on the police working a crash, discovering the originator of a multi-car pileup on the highway, and along the way discovering some murders and other crimes that the crash hid. Broadchurch focused on one murder and the cadre of characters directly involved. Both shows are excellent. Broadchurch has the advantage of being cinematically filmed in a gorgeous setting.

New Tricks features three veteran British cops of a certain age who have retired from the Metropolitan Police, and their middle aged leader. A new squad had been formed, an Unsolved and Open Case division, and these retirees were brought back to help solve them. They are old dogs. Hence the title New Tricks. There are 11 seasons of this show. The same characters remained with it until season 8. At the first episode of season 9 a main character left, and the next season two more of the original four departed. In my opinion the show has bright joy and whimsy for the first three seasons, and was good for the next three.

It is never announced explicitly but Alun Armstrong's character is autistic. (Or as the series describes him, "eccentric, socially inept, with OCD"). He is my favorite character. "I must have continuity!!!" LOL.

Line of Duty and Foyle's War are on an even higher plane than the first three. Look at the Wikipedia write-up for Line of Duty:
Line of Duty is a British police drama, created by Jed Mercurio, which aired on BBC Two 26 June 2012. The first series was BBC Two's best-performing drama series in 10 years, with a consolidated audience of 4.1 million viewers. The drama was recommissioned for a second series, and the first episode was broadcast on 12 February 2014. The second series achieved widespread public and critical acclaim, and, on 8 April 2014, the BBC commissioned two further series. In April 2014, Line of Duty was included in a list of the Top 50 BBC Two shows of all-time.
It is really good, haunting, complicated,and will keep you guessing. This time, the crimes are perpetrated by a cop, and the squad investigating is the Anti-Corruption Unit, the US equivalent to Internal Affairs.

Netflix kept putting Foyle's War in my 'you'll probably like' page so I caved in and watched it. I did like it. Thanks, creepy side of Netflix. Christopher Foyle investigates crimes in the seaside town of Hastings in England while WWII begins, reaches its climax, and ends. The series continues after the war but I don't recommend those episodes. The "war" Foyle was fighting was for justice for victimized British citizens at home while everyone's attention was obviously placed elsewhere. Michael Kitchen plays Foyle. You might remember him as the befuddled and nearly blind musician in "Enchanted April" lo those many years ago.

The war episodes of the series are filled with Foyle-wisdom, ethics, justice, compassion, and the whimsically named Honeysuckle Weeks as Foyle's driver. Despite being about the seriousness of war and murder the series has a light tone and the interplay between the original three main characters (Foyle, Weeks, and Anthony Howell as Assistant Detective Paul Milner) is tremendous. It's exceptionally well written. Each episode also subtly teaches about the war, as we learn true things about rationing books and hunger, radar testing, the Blitz, displaced children, war injuries, approaches to treating burn victims, and more. A lot of research and detail goes into each hour-and-a-half episode and it looks it. Highly recommended.

Sadly, I'm done with Foyle and New Tricks, and Line of Duty hasn't come on for a third series yet.  Broadchurch and Collision were one-offs, they told one story and done. So I'm looking for another British show to adopt. I know I'll find one.

Some more ice pics

I cropped my ice photos and did a few creative things to them. Here are some more from the storm last Tuesday.