Monday, March 25, 2013

Enjoy the Moment (But if you smile for the camera – keep your eyes open!)

 I’ve been spending a lot of time lately clearing stuff off my archaic home computer. I’ve deleted, filed or moved most of the documents and spreadsheets, but there are still hundreds of photos that need to be filed off.  Some of the photos are great and some are not-so-great. Some are fuzzy images that never should’ve been saved in the first place. Some are Pre-Vince pics. And there are lots of photographs of the five years Vince and I have been together.

But almost all of the photographs evoke happy memories.  And I realized something: photos of me that I once thought were hideous now don’t look all that bad. 

Interesting how a few years offers such a different perspective. 

And I suspect it will only get worse.  I mean, it’s not like these wrinkles are going to disappear.  And those jowls that started to appear in the last year?  Not going away.  Even if I were rich and could afford a facelift, I don’t think I’d do it.  I mean, I look at some of the aging stars in Hollywood who were young and beautiful when I was young and, well, they look like caricatures of their former selves.

Take Meg Ryan who is about my age, for example. I loved all those movies she was in – When Harry Met Sally, and You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle. She was, by turns, cute or pretty or edgy – depending on the role she was playing.  But at some point in the last few years, she went from attractive to a little scary looking. I’m not sure if it was simply bad plastic surgery – or it was just what happens when you go under the knife. You’ll never really look like you again.

So, no, I don’t think I’d opt for any of that stuff. Lips that are supposed to look “bee stung” instead look like someone popped ‘em in the mouth.  Not an attractive look.  So I think I’ll stick with my thinning lips.  And lifted eyes never look youthful; they merely look lifted.  My solution is to reach for my glasses more often than my contact lenses. 

As my mother says, “Eyeglasses can cover a multitude of sins.”  When she first said it, I didn’t quite understand.  But now I know she means all those eye crinkles and under-eye circles that I see when I look in the mirror these days.

To the best of my knowledge, no one has actually located the Fountain of Youth.  So to continue taking halfway decent photos as we age, our best bet is to find a camera with a “soft focus” setting and leave it on there. Permanently.  Either that or invest in a really good Photoshop program.

When I was younger, my mom used to say, “Jane is so photogenic; she never takes a bad picture.”  Ah, mom. If you only knew. 

Back in the days of actual photo development when you dropped off your film and picked up your pictures later, I used to do a quick flip through the envelope before showing them to anyone else. Any photos of me that were really bad went in the trash. These included any pics where my eyes were closed. For some reason, I look dorky with a big cheesy smile on my face and my eyes closed. Perhaps everyone looks a little dorky with a big cheesy smile on their face and their eyes closed, but I tend to be particularly hypercritical of myself.

Nowadays in our digital world, I simply hit “delete” before the dorky photos become permanent.

But I can’t control everyone – and there are a bajillion cameras out there.  Even toddlers barely able to walk or talk know exactly which button to push on a cell phone or digital camera in order to take a photograph.  Those same toddlers also know how to pose for pictures.  The second they see an actual camera pointed at them, they strike a pose. 

This behavior will eventually change.  My 80-something mother hates having her picture taken.  I can understand that.  I mean, do we really need to watch our faces as they morph into our grandparents’ faces and wonder how that happened? 

On the other hand, we live in a visual society. We take photos of our manicures, our plate of pasta and our pets. We document every life moment from the mundane to the poignant. 

So I suppose we simply have to resign ourselves to the fact that there are going to be a lot of bad pictures of us out there.  Sure, we can untag ourselves. But it doesn’t make them disappear forever.

But the truth is that we don’t really need to be so self-critical. Nobody is really paying attention to us anyway. Instead, they’re looking at their own image in the photo and critiquing their smile, their pose and their wrinkle progression. 

So I guess a lesson to be learned in all this is to just smile and enjoy the moment. If someone points a camera or cell phone at you, strike a pose.  You may cringe right now – but give it a few years and take another look. I’ve a suspicion you will think you were lookin’ mighty fine.

And, besides, even though I had smoother skin when I was younger, I still cringe a little when I look back at pictures of myself.  That heavy eye makeup and big hair in the 80s? Yeah. ‘Nuff said.

But there is an even bigger lesson here. Sometimes it’s not about the actual image we see, but about the memories the photo evokes that is the most important thing.  One of my favorite photos is of my mother from my wedding. It was not a professional photograph. It’s a little blurry.  And my mom hates it because she thinks it’s undignified. 

But I love it. In it, she’s sitting next to my dad with her head thrown back and she’s laughing with abandon. I have no idea what she found so funny.  But I love that she was enjoying herself so much. 

Looking at it makes me happy.  And makes me smile.

And in my mother’s 80-something face, I do not see a single imperfection.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Run For Your Lives! The Evil Spam is Taking Over!

Whoever named unsolicited, unwanted, junk email “SPAM” was one smart cookie.  I can’t stand Spam – both the “food” (and I use that term loosely) and the junk online.

Lately, I’ve gotten a lot more of it.  No, not the food.  I was only forced to try that stuff one time when I was a kid and my mom decided to experiment.  Evidently no one in the family could stomach it and it was never featured as a main dish at our dinner table again.

What I mean is I’ve been getting a lot more of the online computer-type Spam.  Why?  Probably because I did a lot of online shopping over Christmas and ordered from some new sites that evidently have no compunction about selling my information to all sorts of Spammy-type companies.  Grrr.  If I knew which one it was, I would never EVER order from them again.  But, alas, I have no clue as to the identity of the culprit, so I just have to delete, delete, delete.

I’ve also been getting a lot more Spam messages attached to my blog. Yeah, “Anonymous” is apparently one of my biggest fans.  “A,” as I’ve started calling him/her/it, leaves messages that sound all complimentary about the topic and tell me what a brilliant writer I am – but then they want me to check out their website.  And it’s usually something not rated “PG.”  Or even “R.” 

Lately, the websites have been things named “Payday loans” or “Buy Ambien.” 

Whether or not you could actually apply for a payday loan or buy Ambien from their website, I do not know because I wouldn’t click on their link on a bet.

Fortunately, I changed my Blog so that I have to approve any comments that are published to my website.  I suppose that would be a major hassle for someone who has a large following and receives tons of messages from actual readers, but it’s not a problem for me as I don’t get that many comments. 

Nevertheless, I mark each of these messages as Spam and they do not get published.  But I have to tell you, I was halfway tempted to click on the website called, “Abscess tooth home remedy.”  I mean, the word “abscess” was spelled correctly and everything.  So maybe it’s legit – whaddya think? 

Nah, I’m just kiddin’.  Mostly because their actual comment about my blog was this: Your currеnt repoгt hаs veгіfіеd useful to us. It’s really informatiѵe and yοu're simply naturally quite experienced of this type. You get popped our eye to numerous thoughts about this specific topic with intriguing, notable and solid written content.”

Huh? What exactly does “you get popped our eye…” mean?

Oh yeah, and the title of the particular blog to which they were referring is, “Jingle Bell Rockin’ it in Tap Shoes.” 

“Naturally experienced”?  I took tap dance lessons for about a minute and a half in the third grade, pal, so how naturally experienced could I possibly be?!

Ah well, I suppose it could be worse.  I mean, since I can control whether or not these comments see the light of day, I’m not as concerned about them as if they were visible or accessible to anyone who reads my blogs.  I don’t know why it is, but I feel completely guilty if I get hacked and Spam gets forwarded in my name. Or, heaven forbid, I unknowingly start spreading viruses around.

I actually think that happened once on Facebook – I didn’t know anything about it until someone sent me a note and said she was unfriending me.  Like I did it on purpose!  

Hey, I think I’m a good online friend – whenever I receive a strangely-worded email along with a suspicious link – I write to the sender alerting them that they may have been hacked.  And, of course, I appreciate it when someone gives me the same courtesy.

So I guess we have to take the good with the bad. It’s cool that we can access the world from our computers or tablets or smart phones these days.  But we also have to realize that there are some nasty folk in that vast place we call the worldwide web who are trying to take advantage of us. 

So fair warning – unless the title of my blog is about a recent trip to the dentist, never EVER click on a link attached to my blog called "abscess tooth home remedy."

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The New Addition To Our Family

We went through the adoption process recently and, really, it wasn’t as difficult as some people have claimed. I mean, we didn’t have to complete a lengthy application or endure a background check worthy of the FBI. We were not subjected to fingerprint testing and we didn’t have to write dissertations about why we wanted to adopt.  No money exchanged hands and no lawyers were involved in the process. All we had to do was say “yes” and promise to feed and water the thing.  How tough is that?

And, yes, smarty-pants, it IS a living thing. 

But it has neither two nor four legs.  It’s…well, it’s a Ficus tree. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. We had to take this adoption seriously. I mean, it’s a 9 foot, 20-year-old tree that has been lovingly cared for by his owner all these years.  And the only reason it was put up for adoption is that his dad is moving and his new home doesn’t have the proper ceiling height to maintain the lifestyle to which Freddy has been accustomed.  (Yes, I named our Ficus Freddy.  Doesn’t everyone name their Ficus?)  But it simply wouldn’t do if Freddy were suddenly forced to grow sideways because his new ceilings were only 7 feet high.

So, basically, our qualifications were that (a) we are willing to follow Freddy’s precise watering schedule, (b) we are financially sound enough to purchase Miracle-Gro and use it according to the manufacturer’s specifications, and, most importantly, (c) we have cathedral ceilings.

Naturally, any new adoption comes with it moments of concern.  Will Freddy like his new living arrangements?  Will he and Twinks and Jinx get along or, more accurately, will Twinks and Jinx leave Freddy the heck alone?  And the scariest concern of all: Will Freddy freak out and start losing his leaves? 

Yes, I worry.

Fortunately, we used the trusty iPhone compass app to determine that the window in front of which Freddy was lovingly placed faces east – the same direction Freddy faced in his old home.  So hopefully, the same amount of sun will shine in his new environment and he will thrive without getting sunburnt. 

Um, here’s a question: do they make sunscreen for Ficus trees? 

Nevertheless, I think Freddy will be happy in his new home. I hope he doesn’t freak out and lose leaves, but I suspect he may shed a few to test me, just like a kid will test a new caretaker to see how far he can push the boundaries. He’ll see if I run for the water or Miracle-Gro before his regularly scheduled feeding and/or supplementation schedule.  

Nevertheless, we will have to keep a close eye on Freddy over the next several weeks. We don’t want either of our felines demonstrating any new found tree-climbing abilities. We’ll have to discover if Freddy likes being talked to – and whose voice he prefers.  I mean, far be it for me to talk to him if he’d rather Vince do the sweet-talking.  

And, most importantly, we'll have to adhere to his feeding and watering schedule without variation.  Because – Lord knows – I could not take the guilt if I either drowned or starved Freddy after his dad was able to keep him alive for 20 years. 

I didn’t check the particulars, but I suspect this might have been an open adoption – and Freddy’s dad could pop by to visit him from time to time. And it’s not like Freddy is a generic goldfish that I could easily replace in the hopes that his former owner doesn’t realize that the original Freddy is no longer with us.

So we welcome our new addition.  We will do our best to care for you, Freddy-the-Ficus. May you stay strong and healthy and live another 20 years. At least.

But there’s just one thing.  You might want to consider sticking with your current height even if it means sucking in a little less of that Miracle-Gro.  I mean, our ceilings are high…but they’re not that high.  And, while I’m sure we’ll love you as if we’d raised you from a twig, we are not cutting any holes in the ceiling to accommodate you.