Search This Blog

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Stay out of the Dark(room) and move into the Light(room).

Donna is out of the blog-house today.
Mark (the photographer friend) guest-writes from Las Vegas

This is not a hostile takeover. I was invited. Donna is on vacation and she asked me to blogsit. I had thoughts of re-decorating the place as a prank, but her sons are both quite sturdy and protective of family. Besides – Stevie Nicks presides over ‘Life in the Bleachers.’ I can’t find fault.

If you’ve seen some of Ray Ray’s catering advertising, you may have seen my images. Boy, did I luck out to get to shoot some of Ray and Donna’s famous dishes. After I created the images, I got to try the food. Awesome. Plus, I was able to hang out at the Tagliaferri’s place and listen to wacky stories interlaced with inspirational chat. The food is awesome – the friendship endures.

So, do you ever look at the dashboard controls in the car and wonder why the air conditioner controls are named for men? You know, Max. And Norm.  I wanted to talk to Max once, but he didn’t answer when I pushed his button. Ok – there are other things like that, too. Take for example the slider controls on my photography software. 

I use a computer program called ‘Lightroom’ when I’m ready to produce an image that I created in my camera. Lightroom has some interesting labels for the effects that can be applied. I’ve thought about them this week after agreeing to step into blog duty.

In the big picture of life, we all need to get control of things from time to time. Wouldn’t it be great if you could view and adjust your life in Lightroom? For example, here are a few interesting sliders that I use often . . .
  • Clarity
  • Vibrance
  • Highlights
  • Sharpening
  • Luminance
  • Noise Reduction.
Heck, yes – I want some of all of those things! Who wouldn’t? I know I don’t have to spell it all out for you. You get it already. You need all that good stuff as antidotes for the other stuff of life. Here is some of ‘that other stuff’ . . .
  • Shadows
  • Roughness
  • Saturation
  • Crop (No one likes a load of that)
  • Masking
  • Detail.

When you get too much of those negative things, then you need to use these . . .
  • Balance
  • Spot Removal
  • and maybe a little Red Eye Correction.

And finally, like in life, if things are just totally messed up, you can always . . .
  • Update and
  • Reset.

Just like that. Easy-peasy. Sure, there’s a price but the effort is always worth it in the end.

Gotta show you an image. I visited my sister (also named Donna – coincidentally) and her husband recently. They have this great backyard with plants everywhere and a waterfall tumbling down the side hill into a pond filled with Koi, which I think look like little trout that were painted by a classroom full of kindergarteners.

Since I’m always up early and a type A sort of person, I was outdoors at sunrise with camera in hand, wandering the grounds. I love the peace of solitude in nature. The scene was like this. The pond water was black and looked bottomless. The water was generally still with ripples in a few places as the fish came close to the surface between the lotus pads. Moody and dark, quiet and mysterious. Cool and muted.

The image of the blossom came about as a slow and steady revelation. I hung around the edge and watched as the light from sunrise began to warm up the colors on the tops of the reeds. It was that sort of soft light that illuminates in an indefinite way. When that begins to happen, the colors change, and a person’s outlook is altered at the same time. We can see more clearly.

I’m the kind of guy who looks for the hand of God in nature. I accept natural forces, and the concept of millennia of planet-building and earth erosion, of course, yet tempered by a Creator who set it all in motion. And I regard light as emblematic of spiritual understanding.

This morning by the Koi pond, light came through a gap between the arms of two trees at the crest of the hill and fell on the flower bud. As the sun rose, the bud warmed up and began to open. In less than a half hour, the delicate beauty of the bloom was complete. It floats there above all that is dark and unsure, supported by the open palms of the pads and steadied by the vertical reeds. It became a symbol of peace. That’s when I made the exposure. I hope you like it.

And that idea about light and spiritual understanding? Here’s how I look at it; when times are tough, I find that things always look better in the light of day.
Thanks for listening.

Your guest writer, Mark Andrews, is an Emmy-award winning landscape photographer based in Las Vegas, Nevada in the middle of the Mojave desert. His recent works can be found here. Rebuttals, corrections and hastily formed opinions may be directed here: Mailroom at the OK4U Corral

Scoundrel of the western desert.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Books for Katherine

One of my life's greatest joys have been my friends.  I have the best friends in the world.  They come from almost every size, ethnicity and belief.  I am either the United Nations or Benetton.  No matter what occurs in my life one thing I know for sure, I have friends.

Some friends are from High School.  That long ago place filled with football games, broken hearts and just trying life on for size.  I still have Patti, Roxane, Heidi, Craig and Judi in my life and it makes me feel young to see them and talk about Three Dog Night, Cheech and Chong and Rare Earth and that silly boy who dumped me.

Some friends are from college....I am still in contact with them.   Bonnie, and Becky, Debbie, Charron and Sue.  They are no further than my Facebook page.  A reminder of a time in my life that had huge changes, big risks and more broken hearts.

Some friends from my single days of staying up too late and dating all the wrong men - Wendy kept me from drowning in my own bad ideas.  Some friends are from my casino days....Cindy and Janice....and my precious Amy.  All of them still there.

Then my friends who we raised small children with....Jane and Stef who never made me feel silly when I cried at my Ashleigh's last day of kindergarten, or yet another miscarriage.   Or just the sometimes overwhelming job of raising children.

There there were my football mom days with Denise, my cheer mom days with Nikki.....

Ten years ago I had a great birthday party, all my besties were there...and if I was having another birthday party right now, every single one of them would be there again.  Except for Claudine...she passed away a few years ago.

I am friends with all of these women for a million different reasons, but we all have one thing in common.  We needed each other, and we were there for each other.

I have done a lot of volunteer work over the last 40 years, some it in PTA, some in the community, and most of it at church.  The work at church has been the most meaningful because it has been hard work, but it is also the most rewarding.   To simply get lost in helping other people.  I will never forget putting in a backyard with 15 other people for a family with little children who had no place to play.  The endless meals taken to families that were sick.  Visiting women who just needed a hug and someone to tell them they could do it.  Driving people to the doctor, the dentist and one time a therapist.   Driving to the hospital at 2am to comfort a woman afraid she was going to die.  Then there was going with a car full of women to clean someone's home that had been so ill and just couldn't.  Organizing all the food for the family dinner after a funeral.  Holding a friend who had just lost her baby,  hugging a friend who had just had a baby......sitting up all night with a woman abandoned by a husband.  Giving encouragement to a friend as she sat outside a jail right before she went in to see her son.  Comforting a friend as yet another adoption promise is broken, and then months later, joyfully holding her newborn when finally an adoption promise is kept.  Sitting on the curb waiting for a friend to come home after hearing her grown son had drowned saving someone else's son.

It is during those kind of times that friendships are forged forever.

But then sometimes the unthinkable happens and they move away.  It truly hurts your heart doesn't it?  Facebook is wonderful but it is just Facebook.

One of those friends is moving away right now, in fact just in a few weeks.  I knew it was always a possibility, her husband's job was eventually going to take them to a faraway place...I knew that, but I chose to never think about it.  I am, after all, Scarlett O'hara at heart.

So when I found out she was moving I wanted to give her something, but what?  What would mean the most?

This is what I came up with......I am giving her books.  And not just any books, but the books that meant the most to me.  The books that change our lives.....they aren't the greatest books ever written, but the ones with the greatest memories for me.  These books answered some of my life questions....and if you know me, you know I have lots of life questions.  And some of these books just opened doors for the first time.

The first book is called "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn"  by Betty Smith.  I read it when I was 13...I loved it then and I love it now.  For a girl who grew up in Texas reading about a family in Brooklyn was exotic and exciting.  I still remember the feeling I had when I finished....sadness.  Sadness that such an incredible reading experience was over and I would never read that book for the first time again.

The second book is a Book of Mormon, not the play, the actual book.  It changed my life....

The next book is called "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz.  My friend Amy gave it to me and I read it often.  Four little sentences to live by, written by a man who came from a family of healers.  They are simple yet profound....
     1.  Be Impeccable with your word
     2.  Don't take anything personally
     3.  Don't make assumptions
     4.  Always do your best

The fourth book is called "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood".  It started a journey of forgiveness for me and my mother after reading that book.  It is just a fun book about all the ups and downs of a real southern family.  But it deeply impacted me.

Then the last 2 books are more is about Grace.  I wanted to give her this book because we are so awful with Grace.  We keep trying to do it all, to figure it all out, to carry the whole burden alone.  When we never, ever have to.  Whatever source of power you believe in will help you with all the problems of life, all the never have to go it alone, or be alone.  And then the last book is called a Heart like His by Virginia Pearce.  It is a book about feeling God's love.  It is a religious book, but it is only about love.  No matter what kind of larger power you believe in this book is designed to just make you feel love.  And love always wins.

It might seem silly to do this....but I wanted to give her something that would transcend a simple gift of a picture frame or a candle.  This comes from my heart to a friend who served with me in some of my hardest times.  The only question she ever asked was, "what can I do?  I don't feel like I am doing enough."  She was so much more than a wise counselor.  She never stopped giving, never stopped trying and always, always had a smile.

I know you are going to think this picture was stolen out of Vogue, or Town and Country, but it is a real picture of Katherine and her 3 adorable children.....That's Ellie and Reese and Ashlyn with Katherine.  Just a picture of the girls as a gift for her sweet husband, Jason, taken by our talented and amazing friend Autumn Mohlman.

If you are looking, life has the most amazing blessings to give you....but you have to look.  Take pictures with your heart.

And I will not say goodbye.......

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My Morning with the Feds

I missed a call yesterday because I was face-timing my daughter (talk about looking old, I cannot find a place in my house where the lighting is good enough to keep from looking like Strega Nona) so I just sent one of those throw away lines that our new phones let us do.  You know, sorry I missed your call, call back, something like that.  The missed call sent a text right back...OK.
So this morning I was returning calls and I sent a text to the missed cell number asking if 10am was Ok to talk.  I didn't know if it was a Planning Commission thing, a catering thing or directions to the end of the rainbow.

This is the text I received....

"I would like to speak in person at a location of your choosing and talk for ten to fifteen minutes.  Thank you, John Henderson, Special Investigator."

Holy Cats....

To which I replied, "You have the wrong person"

"Is this Donna Tagliaferri?"

Oh crap.

What have we done to warrant a visit from a special investigator?  I am about as subversive as Donald Duck but that doesn't mean I wasn't sleep walking, or someone has my identity, or an evil twin....Suddenly I am in a Robert Ludlum novel.  To make it worse the voice mail he left cut off just as he was saying what he needed from me, so I was stumped...but intrigued, I have to admit, I was intrigued.

So I called right back, screw waiting for 10am.

"Mr. Henderson?  This is Donna Tagliaferri, you called me about a matter that requires a special investigator?"

Then he went on to tell me a friend had put me down as a reference.  Mr. Henderson works for the government, the federal government and the security branch of the federal government at that.  The security branch of the government that decides who gets to know all the cool secrets.  He was trying to find out if I thought she was fit for that kind of responsibility.

I am drunk with power.

My friend was being investigated because she had recently been given a promotion and a new security clearance.  I knew she had just been given a promotion, but I didn't know she was replacing Eric Snowden. Well, she isn't replacing Eric Snowden actually, but it kind of felt like it  We agreed to meet at my house (seemed less scary) at 10am.

At exactly 10am Mr. Henderson appeared at my house, badge in hand.  I scrutinized it carefully (when would I get this chance again?) and let him in.

My very first question for him was, "Tell the truth, how much fun do you have scaring the crap out of people with that special investigator stuff"

He laughed and it turns out Mr Henderson is a really nice, very interesting man.  He told me all about his days as an interrogator in the military.  Seems he was very big in body language.  I told him I had recently listened very closely to an expert in body language (  for an entire hour.   I now consider myself an expert and I pointed out to him that he was steepling his fingers...

....which all the best body language experts will tell you means he is confident and honest (what great qualities for an ex-interrogator and a present day special investigator!)

Guess what?  Mr. Henderson knew that....seems he studied body language for a long, long time.  I asked him if he played poker, he could tell in a second what kind of hand everyone had.  He assured me he never gambles.  He told me how he would get people to confess...first they have to have something to drink.  Evidently guilty people have dry mouths and it makes it hard for them to talk.  Water or a soda is necessary to cut the dryness in their mouths caused by, well, guilt.  But isn't that true?  On every police show the first thing they offer the about-to-be-grilled-person is something to drink, right?  Now we are all on to them.  The next time you are arrested and the police offers you a beverage, fahgettaboudit!!!  

Your welcome...

After a bit more chit chat we got to the questions...I was holding my friends career in my hands...

Drunk with power...

He asked me some typical questions...honesty, trustworthiness...then he asked me if I knew of any subversive groups she belonged to.  "You mean outside the bowling alley?"

Any foreign countries she may be particularly loyal to?  "That country from the Princess Diaries."

And then the big one, does she exhibit any behavior that might be suspicious?  I stopped him, leaned in real close and said...


"She scrapbooks"

At this point Mr. Henderson was pretty much finished.  So I told him all the things the body language expert had revealed in our class.

On 60 minutes Eric Snowden was telling the truth in his interview.  I don't know what he said, but it was true.

The police in the Oscar Pistorious case are lying.

Hillary is definitely going to run.  He showed different body language movements she made that gave it away to him.

Jack, the body language guy, showed a clip of Bill Clinton being asked if Hillary would rather be a grandmother or the President.  From the movements he made Jack said, "I knew at that moment that Chelsea was pregnant because of how Bill reacted to the question.  Every part of his body language was, "I have a secret, I can't tell...oh no..." they were classic non-verbal communications.

But the best part was analyzing the hug.  A sincere hug is "heart to heart".  Think about it, when you hug someone your heart is situated over the heart of the hugee.   That is a sincere, caring and authentic hug.  So if you get one of those counterfeit kind of awkward hugs, it means nothing.

According to our body expert, who had a gazillion-bazillion degrees, we are all a little transparent.

A little?

As for me, I  have been practicing steepling my hands.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Circle of Life...find it in your life too..

Saturday our little catering company had three jobs, a baptism, a funeral and a wedding.  I realized about half way through the day we were involved with a true circle of life.  We have done all of those things before but never in one day, and never for nicer people.

We meet people having the best and sometimes the hardest times of their lives, because no matter what we need food, right?    And although we always strive to have great food, on time, presented beautifully, the contrasts I experienced on Saturday were simply profound.

The baptism was for the child of a dear friend....a very sweet and happy friend.  I was so glad we could be a part of such a great occasion for them.  I love that family and bringing Ray Ray's incredible chicken fingers and Raybolis just made me happy!!

The funeral was for an employee of another good friend, an extremely sad occasion as the death was unexpected.  She wanted her company to provide all the food after the funeral.  She knew the family was in shock and taking this off their shoulders was a great gift to them.  In our culture we don't like to refer to food as comfort, it's just fuel, right?  But sometimes food is called upon to be comfort, and that is what we were doing, we were bringing comfort.  

The wedding was the last event on Saturday, all completely organized by the brother of the bride.  In our conversations through the week he said he wanted this wedding to be perfect as his gift to her.  How can you not be touched by that?  It was a reaffirmation that people are wonderful and kind.  Later that night as I was leaving the venue my client came over and told me how great everything had been and how much he appreciated what we had done.  He was completely sincere....then his sister, the bride, came over and said. "thank you, I couldn't have asked for anything better."  Brides don't usually take the time to thank us, they have a lot going on....but I remember each one that has taken the time.  This bride and this client were indeed special...I am grateful they were pleased with what we did.

The life lesson from this experience?  

First,  be aware, sometimes we get caught up in our own lives so much we don't see the great stories happening all around us.  

Second, do your best....always, no matter what it is, do your best....iron your shirt, tell the truth, be on your best.  

And lastly, be matter how important your life events are to you, think of the people around you and be grateful.  Don't turn away from any opportunity to sincerely thank someone.  It helps you remember all the blessings, tender mercies, and miracles that are happening in your life every day.

Thank you for stopping by, I appreciate every single one of you!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Something I wish I hadn't done...

Against all possible odds I lost my mind at exactly the same time a show on FX started.  So I watched it, and now I really wish I hadn't done that.

The show is called the Tyrant, and it is easily the most violent show I have ever seen.  The images are just burned in my brain, and they are awful.  While I was watching it, I kept thinking, this is terrible, I need to turn this off...but I kept watching.  Now I need a week in the woods to clear my head out.

Our society has told the inventors of entertainment that we want to watch awful, violent things.  Our society is reflected in the shows we watch and movies we attend.  The most popular shows on TV are murder shows......police fighting crime, solving crime.  Even Castle, which is one of my favorite shows, revolves around a corpse every week.


However, I think I am Gandhi...I scoop bees out of the pool so they won't die, but yet I am watching murder and mayhem regularly.  I am an enigma wrapped up in a riddle.  Actually, we all are.

We watch housewives yell at each other and people who are famous just for being famous.  All of our news comes wrapped up in folks angry just to be angry.  If you weren't mad before you started watching the news, you sure as heck will be after you watch it.  They talk over each other, stretch the truth to make their points, build straw men and call it reporting.

And we watch....and we watch.....and we watch.....

We blow up twitter and Facebook when we are ticked.  We leave anomymous comments and then run like little kids.

We do things that really take our peace away.

As a friend said today, we can do one thing to create a more peaceful earth.  What one thing can I do?
Do I give up Mark Harmon, Richard Castle and Tom Selleck?  No more George Stephanopolis or Chris Wallace?

Well, I gave up the Tyrant for sure.....

I need to get my peace back....
Simple but true...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mother Theresa, Minnie Beckman, Carol and Me

A dear friend inspired this post today.  One, I am so happy to have friends who inspire and two I am glad to have all the answers.

There are four kinds of problems in life.  Marriage problems, health problems, children problems and money problems.  And if you give them enough energy, problems can become a full time job with the added benefit of being completely who you are.  When the focus is entirely on yourself it's very easy to believe the world has life wired,  and   you      just      don't.   We can't see other folk's challenges and trials when all you are doing is looking at your own challenges and trials.  For instance my friend is a fascinating woman with an amazing life story, but some of her friends are only concerned about how much money she has.  They make remarks about how she can afford this or travel there and wouldn't it be nice, and hey baby you pay for lunch.  If you are in a weakened place it is easy to see other peoples blessings and wonder where is yours?  Why don't I have a better marriage, better health, better children or maybe just the ability to pay my bills?  It doesn't take a MBA from Harvard to know that if the focus is only on problems there is no time to find a solution.   If your boat is leaking do you stop and analyze why the boat is leaking or do you just find a way to fix the dang boat?  It just makes sense to give energy to the solution, not the problem.  After you get your boat to the shore all anyone is going to remember is how you acted when your boat was leaking.  The problem will eventually be over and all you will have left is how you handled the leaking boat.  Hysteria and panic or calm and measured thinking?  I don't know why but this well thought out logic leads me to a funny thing from the Southern wisdom of my Grandmother who said, "I don't mind suffering in silence, as long as everyone knows." Minnie was always good for a real life she was Scarlett O'Hara, making  the best of everything and never without a Cadillac.

You don't have to be Mother Theresa through all trials and tribulations, because some things are definitely worth a pout, but don't let it become who you are.  Our trials shouldn't define us, our victories should.

And this is from begets energy and the opposite of energy is atrophy. Definition of atrophy? Gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect.  

I learned this the hard way.  The very hard way.

I am the most unhappy when I only focus on my problems, but I am blissfully happy when I am serving others.  If I focus on my problems I am lethargic and hopeless, while if I serve others I have energy and joy.

I am not suggesting you find a widow and paint her house, just be nice to people, say thank you.  If someone offers you some anger return it with kindness.  Send a thank you note or a thank you email, heck...text someone and tell them how big and strong and fabulous they are.

Solutions not problems....