Singles Appreciation Day

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OK, so you’re single, unattached, or otherwise without a date for Valentine’s Day and you’ve made it through Desperation Day in one piece.  We’ve arrived at Singles Appreciation Day at last.  We have managed to get through some soul searching and accept our lot.

Despite your best efforts you might still have a nagging sense that you’re missing out on life because you might be spending the night alone. Why not go to your wardrobe closet right now and find a green shirt, skirt, or pair of slacks to wear. (Green is the complementary color on the spectrum to red.) This will help make you feel solidarity with other singles. It may help put you in the mood to more fully appreciate your single social status.

Some relationship “experts” recommend that you go out somewhere special alone like dinner or theatre. Or maybe buy a fancy gift for yourself.  If that’s your thing, great.  That’s not why or how I’m celebrating Singles Appreciation (or Awareness) Day.  I’ve done that, been there, and have the tee-shirts.

By all means, do show yourself respect and kindness, after all, today is not Singles Deprecation Day. If giving yourself a little treat helps you feel better, go ahead.

I’ve been single most of my life with only two instances of being partnered (but not married). Right now, even though I presently have a beau, my legal status is single. Due to distance and professional circumstances, I usually find myself alone each February 14th. This is the point of view from which today’s post is written.

singlesappreciationday-02There’s no need to feel self-conscious about your single status. Most folks are wrapped up in their own romantic or lack of romantic lives to give much thought to other people’s love lives. Even though there are some fanatical people who make it their business to disapprove of your business, pay them no heed; they’re up to no good anyway.  Sanctimonious folks just need to get over themselves. Our love lives, straight, gay, abstinent, or otherwise, are not on the table for discussion.

Despite your insistance that you love being single, the fact that coupled and married people will likely be on a date or celebrating together is going to enter your mind.  This is when you can enumerate the personal reasons that you are grateful for being single. There are many benefits to being single, don’t just think about them, write them down in ink on paper.singlesappreciationday-03

Don’t just jot down the nice things about being single, list the difficult aspects of being single. Contemplate the hardships and be thankful for the lessons they taught you. Perhaps you developed strength and resilience. One valuable lesson might be the importance of empathy and compassion towards others in your life.

One of the best things I appreciate about being single, is that I have more time for quiet contemplation and meditation.  It’s easier to spontaneously sit and enjoy the simple act of just being alive. We don’t need to be self-indulgent to celebrate and appreciate being single.

Singlehood is good and wholesome in and of itself. Being a single human can be very, very good.

Namaste’
moi1986bThe Blue Jay of Happiness says he’s not exactly single.  He’s in a long-term relationship with adventure, observation, and life.

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It’s Desperation Day

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Face it, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. You might be one of many thousands of people who don’t have a date or a mate for the special day.  Some people panic at this realization.   What happened? Did they procrastinate?  Are they socially awkward?  Do they feel worthy?

We are inundated with advertising for chocolates, flowers, restaurants, greeting cards, diamond jewelry, and motor vehicles pushing the idea of the perfect Valentine’s Day. For folks who don’t have a spouse or lover, the ads can only increase the feeling of desperation and loneliness.   Sure, we can switch off or ignore the ads, but deep inside, we know they’re still there.

A feeling of desperation can even exist today for people who are coupled.  Perhaps their significant other is scheduled to work on the 14th or is stationed overseas on military duty. They may tell themselves that they’ll celebrate romance on a different evening.  We know that feels like a second rate Valentine’s Celebration.  It’s like celebrating Christmas on Boxing Day.  It can be meaningful, yes, but much of the thrill is gone.

Most of us have been in this situation at least once in our lives. It’s a lonely, empty feeling not to have a special someone lined up for February 14th.  Even though the committed, die-hard single person claims he/she doesn’t care about Valentine’s Day one iota, we know that deep inside they really do care. The fact is, that the more they insist that they don’t care, the more they actually do care.

We are social animals and even self-proclaimed hermits don’t like to be totally isolated for very long.  Beneath the surface of a self-affirmed connoisseur of solitude, is the tiny voice of someone wanting to be loved by another.desperationday-02

Doesn’t this make you feel just a bit desperate? The clock is ticking and there’s not much time left before the time to line up a date is over. Who knows, will today be  when lonely people find dates with other lonely people? The need to pair up with a mate is a deeply imbedded primal instinct that cannot be fully submerged. I think this instinct manifests itself in many ways.  If it is ignored, feelings of desperation return to the surface.

One major drawback about desperation is that people instinctively avoid desperate people. It’s also often true that desperate people avoid other desperate people. Do we think we might catch cooties from desperate people? Does desperation trigger some sort of self-protective emotional mechanism?desperationday-03

The thing is that the more we try to ignore desperation, the more it comes back. There’s a balancing act some people do. They find themselves becoming good at thinking themselves into endless loops of desperation. Then they focus on other people to get themselves out of the spiral.

Of course there are varying degrees of desperation.  People who intuit the need for professional counseling should follow up on that message. The rest of us will be OK if we simply accept the fact of desperation. Knowing that everybody on Earth can feel and has felt desperate, does help us get on with life.

If Desperation Day is something you relate to, you can either soldier through it or go out and find somebody. After all acknowledging and accepting our desperation, eases the burden and allows us to realize the day was invented in order for us to enjoy the humor within our predicament.

Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Argentine writer and journalist Adolfo Bioy Casares. “The sea is endless when you are in a rowboat.”

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My Son Wears Heels (Review)

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From the moment I saw the cover of My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to Kickass by Julie Tarney, I knew I had to read it.  It is the memoir of the mother of a gender non-conforming, gender creative boy.

The book appealed to me because several years ago, one of my very close friends, Sean, fit the description of Harry, the boy in Tarney’s book.  I was eager to find out if there were many parallels between Sean and Harry. I was also just as curious how similar Sean’s mom was to Tarney.

Interestingly enough, there were similarities of the story of Sean’s mom to Harry’s mom.  Both lacked positive role models on how they should raise their sons. In effect, both moms were trailblazers in the wilderness of how to love and support their very unique children.

Unfortunately, when Sean left Nebraska, he cut off ties with most of his old social circle, including me. I remained a casual friend of his mother until we naturally drifted apart as we moved on with our busy lives. While reading Tarney’s book, I couldn’t help but wonder if Sean and his mom knew about My Son Wears Heels.

Although there are some brief mentions of bullying and persecution, the main thrust of the book is not about these topics.  It is the beautiful story of a mother stumbling along the path of understanding and raising a youngster who has strong ideas about his real gender. Right away, I understood that both Sean and Harry had amazing, wonderful mothers.

The journey begins when the toddler-aged Harry asks his mom, “How do you know I’m a boy?” After the mother’s age appropriate explanation, Harry then says, “Well, inside my head I’m a girl.”

As little Harry began growing up, Tarney kept an open mind and listened carefully. Her guidepost was Harry’s happiness. Harry was very fortunate to have a mother who loved, supported, and allowed him to be his authentic self from toddlerhood on up.

mysonwearsheels-02As we would expect, Tarney worried that her neighbors might think she was one of those “domineering mothers” who ended up raising a “sissy” boy. When Tarney thought of domineering mothers, she remembered her own mother, who was very “controlling”. Tarney didn’t want to be that kind of mom. Soon, Tarney didn’t want to care what her neighbors might think.

Just as most mothers would do, Tarney guided Harry to find safe expressions of himself by discussing possible consequenses of his actions and activities. This allowed Harry to take responsibility and control of his social choices. At the same time, Tarney discovered how to become a fulfilled, kind, happy mom.

I did discover many parallels between my friend and Tarney’s son. Even though Sean grew up in Norfolk, Nebraska and Harry grew up in Milwaukee, they both have headstrong ideas about who they are. Interestingly, both have been very interested in creative personal wardrobes. Both possess a wry sense of humor and are courageous. Best of all, they have wonderful moms.

The author, Julie Tarney, is a blogger for Huffington Post’s “Queer Voices”. She contributes articles for “TheParentsProject.com”, volunteers for PFLAG’s Safe Schools Program. Tarney is also a board member for the “It Gets Better Project”.

{ My Son Wears Heels: One Mom’s Journey from Clueless to KickAss by Julie Tarney; 240 pages, published 2016 by University of Wisconsin Press; ISBN: 978-0-299-31060-8 }

Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes entertainer Dolly Parton.  “It’s a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I’d be a drag queen.”

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Photographic Slide Experiment

Two years ago, I decided to go through some of the numerous slides that have been filed away in carousels stacked in the storage closet.  Nearly all of them were shot about three decades ago, when I went through a photography phase. I had invested a considerable amount of time and cash in the hobby. elkhorniowa198403

It seems like a shame that all that effort had been nearly forgotten. Some of my friends urged me to share my work from those bygone years.  How was I to share the images? I don’t have a darkroom nor sophisticated duplicating equipment.  My budget prohibits me from hiring a professional duplicating service to convert the conventional slides into digitally formatted pictures.  Each year I wait, the slides will physically degrade and I will probably lose interest. What was I to do?

My flatbed document scanner came with a slide copying feature that plugs into a port.  Unfortunately, all it did was duplicate a slide’s actual tiny size.  When the scanned image was magnified to normal size, the image was nothing more than pixilated trash. Not only were the resulting images terrible, the process of conversion was very time consuming.

The only logical choice was to project the slides and take individual pictures of each one with a digital camera.  So, out came my barebones Kodak 4200 Carousel projector from storage. Then I set up the old projection screen. I placed my best digital camera on a tripod and positioned it behind the projector–aiming it at the screen. I took pictures of a dozen or so projected images then downloaded them to the computer.

The resulting images were far better than those from the HP scanner.  However, there was a peculiar grainy appearance and a glittery quality to some of the darker slides.

slide-w3I attributed the graininess to the screen. So I projected the same slides directly to the white wall in the living room, then downloaded the images to the computer. These images were much better.  I began sharing pictures with friends via email, Facebook, and on this blog.

Each time I used the carousel projector to copy slides, I worried about the halogen bulb. It had been in the projector since before 1990.  Replacements are expensive, so I used the projector carefully and sparingly. Meantime I kept an eagle eye out for a cheap spare.slide-s0

Last spring, my favorite thrift store had placed an “Innovative Technology” (“IT”) film scanner on a shelf. Whoever donated it, had put it in an old shoebox along with its film holders and some USB cords. For $6.00, I couldn’t go wrong.  I brought it home and tried it out.

The resulting images were very similar to those that were projected on the wall.  On the other hand, the darker slides did not process very well, at all. However, the “IT” scanner was fast and direct. The thing became the default slide processor. Any dark slides would just have to go through the Kodak projector.

On the last week of 2016, during a visit to the thrift store, I saw a stack of about a slide-pdozen old Kodak Carousel projectors with leatherette carrying cases, a spare tray, and accessories. They had been given to the thrift store by the modular homes manufacturing factory.  Apparently their sales staff used them to promote the various houses they build.

Each leatherette encased projector was marked $5. I went through the stack and selected the cleanest, nicest projector to bring home. While unpacking the unit, I discovered a brand-new spare projector bulb.  Even if the projector didn’t work, my money was very well spent.

slide-v4The projector turned out to be a top of the line, 5600 unit and included a pricey zoom lens, autofocus, and timed, auto advance. While setting the projector up to try it out, I noticed it also featured a hidden, slide-out mini viewer screen. Everything worked beautifully. I then packed it away again because it was the holiday season so there was no time to play with the projector yet.

There was finally plenty of time to tinker with slide duplicating, this week.  Out came the Kodak 5600.  The first experiment was to photograph an Ektachrome 200  image projected onto the built-in mini viewer. I used a mid-tone picture of a little house as the control slide.

Next, I retracted the mini viewer and installed the zoom lens. I projected the slide of the little house onto a white wall in the living room from four-feet away. The 5600 projector has two light intensities, so I took pictures at both levels.

After that, I placed the slide into a tray and captured it with the “IT” scanner.

slide-sOnce the images were in the computer I was able to see which techniques will work for reasonable duplication. No matter how I tweaked it, the image from the mini viewer was simply unsatisfactory.  The projected image at the highest intensity looked overexposed and washed out. The low intensity picture was identical to that from the “4200” projector. It was also comparable to that from the “IT” scanner.  The wall projected image has less blue-cast and is more true to the original than the “IT” scanned slide.

Until another piece of equipment crosses my path, it looks like the Kodak 5600 projector and a white wall will be the default slide duplicating technique for my slides.

Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness prefers an old fashioned slide show over a Power Point presentation any day.

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Repurposed …Floral Friday

Have you ever looked at a food container and thought to yourself, “That would make a nice plant holder”?  The concept of reusing and recycling old wares is an old one. People have used old water pitchers and decrepit tea pots as clever planters quite artfully.

I took three random kitchen wares to recycle as succulent planters this week.  Three random books were then used as display props for the photos. The combinations make interesting still-life compositions.

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One of Tolstoy’s classics supports a small old porcelain glazed steel refrigerator pan. The two pink plants seem right at home in this atmosphere.

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The vintage Hull cereal bowl holds a ball cactus. The plant reminded me of a world globe, so why not perch it on top of a world atlas?

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A cheery turquoise Tupperware cream pitcher is just the thing for a small cactus and floral elements. An anthology of stories from The Sun magazine is appropriate for this composition.

Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness says it’s fun to repurpose things that can be reused.

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The Weather Service

When you think about your daily routine, finding out about the day’s weather forecast probably figures into your list.  This is especially true if the sky looks threatening or if a storm is already in progress as you go about your business.  Maybe you read the local forecast and conditions off your smartphone or computer.  The television and radio also come to mind when thinking about weather forecasting.  The main source for this information is the National Weather Service.wxservice-icon

The weather service has a somewhat personal meaning to me.  I think of one of my good friends who used to be an employee at the Norfolk, Nebraska office of the Weather Service.  He still maintains a sharp interest in weather data and forecasting. Sometimes he sends me emails about weather here in Norfolk even though he has lived in Arizona for over three decades.

So, when we get unusual weather, I know my weather hobbyist friend is probably viewing a webcam originating from Norfolk. He’s also undoubtedly gleaning weather information from the Internet.

I’ve also enjoyed a professional relationship with the Weather Service because of my past work as a broadcaster. Our radio station was probably one of the very few that broadcasted recordings of weather service meteorologists, themselves, reporting about weather conditions, and forecasts.  Four-minute weather reports aired at 7:25 AM, noon, and 5:25 PM each day.  These little broadcasts were extremely popular with our listeners.

I remember recording and then airing many of them during the first few years of my employment at the radio station.  The meteorologist switched on the remote transmitter at the weather office when he was ready to pre-record his report.  At the radio station, I had a reel of tape pre-loaded onto a recorder that was patched into the output of the remote reciever in the studio. A red light bulb in the studio turned on Weather Bureauwhenever our reciever detected the signal from the weather service. That was the cue to start the tape recorder. I usually monitored the recording “in cue” off the air to determine when the program was finished. Then I rewound the tape and played it on the air at its scheduled time slot.

There were also emergency broadcasts for especially severe events like tornado watches when the meteorologists gave live, un-recorded reports. Our listeners appreciated getting weather updates directly from the experts.

After the weather bureau phased out their recorded announcements, we relied on a “Weather-Wire” and the Associated Press to print weather summaries and forecasts. we used them in order to assemble our own weather reports.  These still aired at 7:25 AM, noon, and 5:25 PM at the insistence of our listeners.

These recollections came to mind because today is the official birthday of the U.S. National Weather Service. It was on February 9, 1870 that a Congressional Resolution requesting a new weather agency passed and President Ulysses Grant signed it into law.wxservice-02

Because the United States was large and growing, a tight  organizational structure and a reliable communication system were necessary. The budding agency was placed under the supervision of the Secretary of War. The Secretary, in turn, assigned the agency to the Army Signal Service Corps.  The head of the Signal Corps was Brigadier General Albert Myer. He named the agency, “The Division of Telegrams and Reports for the Benefit of Commerce”.

Then on November 1, 1870 at 7:35 AM the very first synchronous, systemized meteorological reports were made by observer-sergeants at the first 24 stations of the agency.  Their reports were telegraphed to the central office in Washington D.C.

To aid in the expansion of the weather agency to more locations in the country, a school of meteorology was added to the existing program of telegraphy and military signaling at the then Fort Whipple, Virginia (now Fort Myer).

By 1878, the three-times-daily reports from the field to Washington D.C. had to include these observations:  Barometric pressure and its changes since the last report, temperature and its 24-hour change, Relative humidity, wind speed, wind pressure in pounds per square foot, amount of cloudiness, and a general description of weather conditions such as precipitation.wxservice-01

After the information was collated into forecasts, those forecasts were telegraphed back to the observers, newspapers, and railroad stations. The early forecasts were not minutely accurate, but they were very successful in predicting large scale storms, heat waves, and cold waves that affected large areas.

Now, in 2017, the National Weather Service uses the latest radar technology, satellite images, computers, communications, and so forth to provide us with very accurate weather updates and forecasts.

Ciao
mini-moiThe Blue Jay of Happiness likes this saying from the philosophical writer George Santayana: “To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”

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Risky

An especially severe ice storm covered every exposed outdoor surface with a thick coating of slipperyness one day last month.  It happened on the day of the week that I normally drive out of town.

It only took one look at my driveway that early morning, to decide the trip must be postponed. In fact, there were also travelers’ advisories in effect. The decision risk-00not to take the risk of driving on icy roads was easy.

Later that day, I felt stir-crazy and had to get out of the house, even if it was only to do something in the yard. I decided that to capture the beauty of the Sun illuminating the branches was worth the risk of falling and possibly breaking my camera. The risk paid off in several pretty pictures.

Each day, in some way, all of us evaluate risks of some sort.  Each person has a risk threshold that is used to determine whether or not he or she should do something.  Even if you decide not to do something, there is the risk of missing out on a great experience.risk-03

One of my college instructors said that if we are not willing to risk the unconventional, we will have to settle for a conventional life. She had taken the risk to leave Cuba with her family back in the days when doing so was very dangerous.  She found a rewarding new life in the United States teaching Spanish to American college students. If she had decided not to take that enormous calculated risk, she would have lived an unhappy life in Cuba, and we students would never have met this beautiful, headstrong woman.

Perhaps we possess an inborn need to take the chance of failure.  Think of how many risks have been taken throughout history.  Would we even have history if no risks were taken? Great empires rise and fall due to people taking great risks. Time and again, history proves that those who do not risk cannot win.

We risk something when we care about others. Deciding to take a chance on another person during the search for a romantic partner will affect the direction of your life. If you decide not to take the risk of dating other people, you’ve taken a different risk anyway. Do we want to run the risk of deep feelings for another and leave our own impact on him or her?

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Haven’t we read or heard somewhere this famous saying:  “Risk! Risk anything! Don’t care about the opinions of others. Go ahead, do the hardest thing on Earth for you.”

You might make a fool of yourself in the process, but really, do you think people really care about that anyway?  Even if they do, so what?

Ciao
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. “In a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail, is not taking risks.”

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