"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Sunday, June 29, 2008

view from above

I have always lived on the ground level.

Now we are on the 7th floor. I am looking down on people, trees, cars, awnings, umbrellas and dogs; I am looking across into my neighbor’s apartments or the reflections on their windows; I am looking up at the building that towers over me.

From my patio, I see: mountains, trains, bridges, a park, a tiny slice of the river, cranes, the streetcar and lots of people going about their daily routines. There is a great breeze up here.

Tonight it rained, and we didn’t mind a bit. We even sat on the patio to watch the storm develop and stayed for a while once the raindrops started to fall.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

things we have noticed on our first two days “living” in Portland

Very friendly people
When the sun is out, as it has been since we arrived, very happy people
When the sun is out, gorgeous views of the mountains
Costco has the same stuff as in Kansas City
More brewpubs than you can imagine
Not many blondes (Max, who lives in LA, noticed this)
Use of public transportation is the rule more than the exception
People are very fit
Lots of farmer’s markets and locally grown organic food
Zip cars all over town
Bicyclists rule
Dogs rule even more
Pottery Barn has the same stuff as in Kansas City
Green, very green… the landscape AND the attitudes
Lots of hybrid cars; most of them sporting Obama bumper stickers
Piercings and tattoos on very many of the very friendly people
Old hippies don’t die; they move to Portland
Powells Bookstore and Whole Foods each take up an entire city block
Colorful street people
Old record stores do live on
Wine, wine, and more wine - and that would be from nearby vineyards
The river rhymes with dammit
If you know the alphabet, you won’t get lost in our neighborhood

Friday, June 27, 2008

i’d rather have a root canal

You may have trouble believing this, but I have a fear of flying. It started shortly after I became a mom for the first time, and I’ve since learned that the same was true for many of my friends. I think I came by it naturally, though. I flew one time with my grandmother when I was a teenager, and when I got off the plane there were fingernail indentations in my arm that remained in place for several hours.

To keep from being paralyzed by this malady, I have tried various combinations of the following: hypnosis, behavior modification classes, deep breathing, drugs, alcohol, prayer and meditation. Those who have had the questionable good fortune to fly with me over the years know that when the weather gets bad and the pilot comes on the loudspeaker to warn passengers about the big “t” I hunker down in my seat and quietly begin repeating certain key phrases that I hope will help guide us safely through the storm. Of course, there have been those occasions when a sudden, loud exclamation, one that startles travelers several rows in front of and behind me and which probably should not be repeated in the company of young children, does seem to help get me through the terror.

I have often traveled by car or train instead of putting myself (and others) through the anguish.

Fully one third of air travelers’ knuckles turn white once they lift off. Fear of flying ranks right up there with fear of public speaking, fear of spiders and fear of crossing bridges.

My brother-in-law was a pilot, and, of course, he loved to fly. Unfortunately, he ran into bad weather on his descent into Kelso, Washington one morning fourteen years ago and was not able to keep the plane from going down in an old growth forest, where both he and his passenger died. A few months before that, though, convinced that he could shake me of my fear, he took me up in small plane and handed the wheel over to me, carefully explaining as we soared above Seattle each strange noise and each unexpected lunge and shudder. It was kind of exhilarating, and it kind of scared the bejeezus out of me. I admired his skills and his enthusiasm for flight, though, and to this day I think of him when I am flying and how he would want me to be brave when the air gets choppy.

Our flight today was one that involved steering around lots of thunderstorms. This meant frequent announcements to the flight attendants to take their seats, which is always the cue for me to go immediately into firm-grip-on-the-armrest mode. Needless to say, I gratefully acknowledged the goddess of aeronautics as I finally staggered off the 737. With several new gray hairs, a still slightly queasy stomach, and a good-natured husband who now has a few marks of his own on his arm, Portland, here we are.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

here and there

I know, I know, you are totally confused. Yes, you are still at the right place. I think I have settled on a blog design I like. I have even added a new element: some cool blogs to visit. (Lower left corner of the menu bar.)

This is a catch-all post. Various and sundry. Potpourri. Hit or miss. Take it or leave it.

Today began with the very exciting news that my nephew’s wife is pregnant. This means come December, I will be a great aunt. (I am still trying to process that little tidbit.)

News from Kajjansi is that the children are busy making more of the banana fiber dolls to send to me in a few weeks. If you were at the Friendraiser/Fundraiser, you know that the eight we had sold out in an instant. I’ll let you know when the new ones arrive.

My book, Convergence, still has a shelf life after all this time! I realized this recently when I was prowling around Powell’s bookstore in Portland and spotted a copy of it in the photo section. Then, yesterday, Photo Eye in Santa Fe ordered a few more copies, as they had sold out. Now, if I can just find that inventory of books in my basement! (Oh, right, I forgot, that would be the pile of boxes just about my height that has taken up permanent residency in one large corner lot of the garage.)

Good news from PBS. Apparently someone there who is working on a documentary wants to use some of my photographs in the piece. I am now in the process of learning about photo usage and rights and payment and all that sort of thing.

And last, but not least, the Nelson-Atkins Museum has purchased “Boy with Ball, Kajjansi, 2007” for its photography collection. As you may recall from a previous post, the curators paid me a studio visit a few weeks ago. Guess when they got together to discuss, this was the end result; I am extremely grateful and happy about the news!

My next post will be from the Rose City, also known at Stumptown, also known as the place of our recently purchased "second home."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

2008 mission trip

I am all about cycles. For example, I love the way seasons trigger certain memories and serve as reminders to start something all over again.

Fall has always been my favorite season. As soon as Labor Day is over, my whole body starts gearing up for cooler weather. As a kid, early September always meant getting to experience “new book smell,” my birthday party, freshly laundered skirts and sweaters for school, sharpened pencils, the Jewish New Year and becoming a year older. Fall was always a chance to start fresh with new teachers, maybe even new friends, new classes, new clothes, new notebooks, new haircut and new commitments to what I would try to do right in the coming year. I could have been blindfolded and known it was autumn. I would have known, of course, because of the smells in the air, the crunch under my feet from acorns and pine cones and leaves, the cool edges of the evenings and the vague feeling somewhere inside me that had to do with getting older.

Summer had its own set of repetitions and rhythms. They dealt more with relaxing, reviewing. Lately for me, though, summer has come to signal the time to start getting ready for my trip to Uganda.

It is hard to believe that just as we tie up all the loose ends from our first big friendraiser/fundraiser, I need to start thinking about plane and hotel reservations for December. I have been busy discussing the thrust of the Team Two Mission Trip with the good folks at the orphanage, and several readers of this blog have expressed an interest in coming along. Now is the time to start planning the logistics of the journey.

*** If you or anyone you know is truly interested in getting more details about the upcoming trip, please email me with contact info. I plan on calling a meeting sometime in July so that we can all get together and discuss possible plans. I know I have mentioned the possibility of a medical mission. That is still on the table. We will definitely repeat our play/art therapy week, as that was so successful last year. Chances are the trip will take place over the course of three weeks, the first being the week before Christmas. Those who are interested in accompanying me could stay for a week or ten days during that time frame and then move on to other travels or return to the US. I plan on staying all three weeks.

When I was a young girl, summer always meant a new reading list. I loved filling in the lines with each new book I read, using my neatest handwriting. Lost in those books, I could go anywhere I wanted.

Who knew summer would ever trigger in me the longing to return to an off-the-beaten-path, dirt-poor orphanage in Kajjansi, Uganda? (Along with the knowledge that I really and truly get to go back!)

Monday, June 23, 2008

best friends forever

Those of you who have children know that one of the perks of being a parent is “bringing into your family” the friends of your kids.

I am always moved and inspired by loyal, long-term friendships. Our daughter, Abbie, and her best friend Sarah have been as loyal as they come. For just over twenty years now, they have been pretty much like sisters. Well, maybe not quite – I can’t recall any bickering, sniveling, teasing or fighting between these two.

For a long while during primary school they called themselves “Sarabs.” They did everything together. For some time they even dressed alike. Carpooling was a blast because they both love to sing, and anytime I drove them somewhere, they was no need to turn on the radio. These girls were always there for each other as they made their way through thirteen years at the same school. They did their homework together, they took dance classes together, they wrote and directed “plays” together. There were countless lemonade stands, swim meets and sleepovers. As they got older, there were softball games, art classes, concerts, vacations and dates to share. Even though they attended different colleges and now live in different cities, they are still BFF. Having Abbie home for a visit last week meant having Sarah back, too. Eddie and I have always considered her our other daughter.

It’s been such fun and such a privilege watching these two grow up and stay so close over all these years. Everyone should have at least one long lasting relationship like this one in his or her life.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

new look

Yes, you are in the right place. Sometimes change is good.

Speaking of change, I have emerged from my surgery haze and am very happy to report that all went well. I am also happy to report that my encounter with DCIS is about to become history. "You'll be able to look back on all this one of these days, Gloria" my friends and family have said at one time or another during the past six months. Now I am starting to look back on it. Believe me when I say this is a better vantage point.

I am so ready to enter the next phase of my life: post breast cancer.

This email from a breast cancer survivor, one who went through pretty much the same drill I did, is a keeper:

"Dear Gloria,

Good luck with your surgery. I know you will do well. One more step toward putting this all behind you. I know that during all those surgeries and injections that I had, I felt like everybody had access to my boobs. There was me, and there was the boob. The last surgery (the second reconstruction) was in September of last year, and now I am back at the point where I feel like my body and the boob are one organism again and I have some privacy. People are talking to me without looking at my chest. A small thing, but somehow I think about this part of the process. And it sure is cooler without that prosthesis stuck to my chest."

Well said, I say.

Of course, I have been responsible for a lot of this "access" to my breasts because I have written about them on this blog. Plus, I was not opposed to wearing clothing that didn't hide the fact that I had a mastectomy followed by reconstruction. I even insisted that close friends "touch" the hard thing that was lodged in my chest. I use the word "touch" with a heavy dose of nostalgia. I can't feel a thing. One of those little secrets you kind of have to find out about on your own. There was no discussion in the doctor's office about how I would eventually be able to bump hard into a doorway and not even realize my right breast had veered into anything!

At any rate, time to move on. Eddie and I are heading out to Portland at week's end to close on a very lovely, very tiny condo. We made this purchase during the breast cancer phase of my life. Eddie had been ready for a couple of years to buy a second home. I dragged my feet. One morning shortly after my mastectomy, I announced to him that I was on board.

Health scares tend to make me want to live life at its fullest, right now, while I can.

So... changes and new looks and new perspectives and new chapters. All good.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

party pics

As I head into the final surgery for my reconstruction, I have had a great time looking at all the wonderful pictures Michael took at the CTT event. I would like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to the incredible and talented volunteers who helped make the night a huge success. Besides an attendance that exceeded our expectations, we raised more money than we ever thought we would. Thanks to the pre-event patrons, everyone who came, who "got it" and who reached into their pockets to purchase artwork, jewelry, t-shirts or drop donations into the fishbowl, Change the Truth netted $40,000 on Thursday night!

Monday, June 16, 2008

leopold show

The exhibition of my most recent Uganda work will be on display until early July at the Leopold. If you weren't able to attend the opening, I'd love it if you dropped by sometime during the next couple of weeks.

Friday, June 13, 2008

the big event

Our first annual CTT friendraiser/fundraiser was a huge success! Thanks to all of you who attended and showed your support. It was an amazing evening - close to 450 people in attendance.

My good friend and fellow photographer Michael Spillers, donated his time, energy and talent to our cause and took some great photos. Here is the first installment of those.

Operation Breakthrough African dancers

CTT Board and event planning committee member, Susie Corbin

Director of Operation Breakthrough African Drummers, Bird Flemming

CTT Team One reunites for the evening