Posted in Today's File

Expedition Journal #2: Fishing for a Photo Site

This is my second installment of playing with researching social networking websites and sharing the “field notes.” After my first installment (Expedition Journal #1: Prospecting on Pinterest), a couple folks posed the eminently reasonable question of why we go looking for more things to fill our time (and Inbox) when we’re already bombarded by so much social media.

Pinterest board
some of my Pinterest boards… Dragons, Celtic Designs, Pele–Volcano Goddess, Owls, Planning for our Hawai’ian B&B, Writing, At Home, Outdoor Adventures…

Part of my answer is the fact that there are some specific functions I’m looking for… Pinterest, for example, is far tidier and more efficient (not to mention more visually appealing) than my previous habit of copy-pasting stuff into a catch-all PowerPoint slide if I thought I’d want it later… Now I can “pin” an item with a single click, and pinning it saves the source website for future reference as well as the graphic itself. Works for me!

I’m actually on a mission to streamline and simplify my life, by finding the best tools for the things I want to do, selecting those few to use, and then re-evaluating and unsubscribing from any tools or networks that aren’t adding value to my day. My experience in the blogging-community has taught me to value the “social” aspect and the friends I meet online, so that’s a plus with other tools as well, though not necessarily a must-have. So that’s a little more explanation of my Expedition as a whole–but on to today’s topic…

One of the specific functions on my list-to-look-for is an online photo site. The crash-and-burn of my laptop (and its files) a few months back brought home to me the necessity of keeping precious pictures safely online. I have used Picasa (for photo editing) and the associated online Google albums for several years, but the online albums themselves have recently been “upgraded” to a new design which is decidedly user-UNfriendly, with fewer capabilities and worse navigation than the original, and I find myself needing a less frustrating option.

photographer, social network photography
Taking photos for one of my travel-magazine articles

And free. Our budget isn’t up for paid-membership sites.

So if you wondered where I’ve been the last couple days, the answer is that I’ve been “test-driving” different photography sites looking for The One that I can start using for our family photos and photographic travelogs. Oh, and I had an eBook on Vitamins to write. (And I admit it–I was playing on Pinterest as well…)

In the event that anyone else is wanting to sift through the gazillion photography websites out there, here are my impressions of the ones I tested out. Obviously I didn’t devote tons of time to all of them, though I did stay to play for a while on the few that seemed to be likely prospects. I should also add that there are literally dozens more photography social networks to choose from–so my search actually started with combing through reviews to narrow down the list of likely prospects to check out. Here’s the run-down of my impressions (or you can just skip down to the Winner)!

  • MyShutterSpace.com—This site targets “digital photography enthusiasts,” but it’s definitely a showcase-space.  The blog and forum entries by members are mostly brags (“My work was on TV!”) or sales pitches for their own work. Doesn’t feel to me like a community experience–more like a bunch of people jumping up and down saying “look at ME!” without looking at each other. Not interested.
  • PictureSocial.com—Almost identical layout and offerings as MyShutterSpace, except this one seems full of floundering photographic newbies. Not interested.
  • jAlbum.net—I didn’t get to try this one out; the “validation email” never arrived to allow me to complete my login. I requested a re-send, but it still didn’t show. Negative score on customer service. Moving on.
  • SlideShowPro.net—Looks like a great resource if you want to put together a professional looking video-slideshow with neat effects… But it’s limited to that one use. I’ll keep this in mind if I ever need a slide show, but it’s not what I’m looking for.
  • DivShare.com—Looks useful for online storage, and files can be shared, but there’s no “community” or social aspect, and it’s not specific to photos. That’s great if you’re looking for an all-purpose online storage option, but it’s lacking the specific tools for album-making and handling photos. Not interested.
  • Flickr.comThis was almost my pick! It’s a service specifically devoted to collecting and organizing your own photos, with easy drag-and-drop organizing, the ability to name and attach descriptive text or stories to each photo, and a healthy & active social  community. Flickr is also easily plugged into many other applications and websites, and it’s definitely the “big name” among photo websites. Its navigation is a little on the clunky side (moving among editing and album tools) but not so much as to put me off entirely. One thing missing from my wish-list: I could name photos, but there weren’t any “tags” that would enable me to grab a certain category of pictures (e.g. “fishing” or “Suzy-cat”) from across multiple albums.
  • Shutterfly.com—Very much like Flickr, but with a harder “sell” for purchasing prints, and is less used by other sites and apps. This one I might use, if I hadn’t already seen Flickr.

And I might use Flicker, if I didn’t go on to discover the Winner, which blew the competition out of the water.

And the Winner is…

PhotoBucket.com!  This is it! I can upload photos, organize them into albums, tag them with topics (yay!), title them, and add descriptive text or stories. The navigation is straightforward and intuitive, the tools easy to find.

PLUS, I can edit photos right here, as opposed to editing with a program on my Mac before uploading. Tons of editing tools and photo effects–purely awesome.

I can apply themes to the albums, and I can create slideshows, plug it directly to the iPhoto program on my Mac, and even connect it to my computer’s webcam.

I can share with Twitter, Facebook, or email, and choose whether an album should be public or private.

There’s an app I can download on my phone so I can use PhotoBucket directly from my phone, including uploading photos taken from the phone into any of my albums.

There seems to be an active and healthy social community here, and (oh dear) I can look at my statistics to see if I’m getting visitors.

PhotoBucket has all the stuff I was looking for–and some things I hadn’t even thought of.  I declare this expedition a success!  Here’s a page from my first PhotoBucket family album…

photo album page
here we go–a page from my family photo album!

Post-Script: A Bonus Find

I found one more gem this week–something I wasn’t looking for, but which I think I’ll use… Actually, I have to thank blogging-buddy Kathy McCullough, who posted a beautiful birthday post to her partner Sara, with a link to Sara’s photo-blog… And so (with lovely synchronicity, given the week’s search-topic) I discovered BlipFoto. Thank you, Ladies!

BlipPhoto is an entirely unique idea–it’s essentially a photo journal in which you’re allowed to upload one photo per day–and the photo has to be taken on that day. No cheating–when you submit a photo, the site checks your camera-data and rejects photos taken on earlier dates. (I actually had to correct my camera’s “date” setting after my initial submission didn’t go through…)  It’s straightforward–no themes, no widgets, no extras–simply the daily photo with your title and text (if you choose to add any). And the social aspect, with the ability to follow, comment, and rate photos just as we do with blog-posts here on WordPress.

And although this isn’t what I went looking for this week, I’m intrigued.  At the end of the day, what’s the one photo that represents your day? Or, if you don’t take pictures every day, what will move you to grab the camera with the daily post in mind? I’m giving it a go–here’s my first post earlier today:

blipfoto post
my first BlipFoto post…

Dragon Surgery. Our son Christian brought his injured dragon to my husband for surgery–his stuffing is coming out, and it catches fire when he sneezes! All prepared for surgery–and a dragon recovery-drink for afterward.”

Happy Snapping, All!

Posted in Family, Recovery

Synchronicity or Swim

fish hatchery lab
Christian on “job-shadow” at the fish hatchery lab

I wrote the other day that I “don’t believe in coincidence”… but perhaps it’s more accurate to say that I think coincidence is usually the wrong word. Synchronicity is the word I almost always apply to those situations when “coincidence” seems meaningful. Which is almost always.  I like how my Sponsor frames it: “Coincidence is God’s way of staying anonymous.”

Moments of synchronicity often involve people-connections, and even more often involve the repeat appearance of an idea from multiple sources in a short space of time. I often figure it’s God giving me a nudge when synchronous “signs” point me in a certain direction. I’ve learned to pay attention to moments of synchronicity.

A few years back, Keoni and I were driving to a potluck dinner in our Prius (before it got repo’d!) and encountered one of the hazards of hybrid-driving: the car so seldom needed gas that we got out of the habit of watching the fuel gauge… So we ran out of gas and ended up hiking along the side of the freeway to buy a gas-can at the next exit.

Hawaiian BBQ
Opening Day 2009–Kana Girl’s Hawai’ian BBQ

A kindly soul pulled over to pick us up, and as we chatted with him, we somehow ended on the topic of our restaurant-dream–which was at the forefront of our collective mind due to a string of synchronous circumstances relating to the prospect. As it turns out, this gentleman had several restaurant-spaces available for lease, and some great ideas about small-business funding. That conversation was the catalyst for us to convert our dream to reality. Three months later, we opened Kana Girl’s Hawai’ian BBQ. That’s one of those synchronicity-stories, when God put the right person in our path at the right time–who knows, maybe that’s even why we ran out of gas. God works in mysterious ways, right?

The topic of synchronicity was brought to mind last week by a school field trip with my son, and a handful of (smaller-scale, but intriguing) bits of synchronicity during the day.  I was driving Christian to his “job-shadow” day when he piped up (apropos of nothing) with the description of a dead owl that has been hanging by its tangled talons from a power-wire behind his dad’s house for almost a year. “You’ll never guess what my blog title was yesterday,” I responded, bemused by the synchronicity. “It was ‘How to Bury an Owl.'”

The job-shadowing expedition itself had a bit of “coincidence” already tied to it. Christian attends an elementary school near downtown Boise, and I live nearly forty minutes out of town, next to a State Park and a Fish & Game hatchery. Christian had been assigned, of all places, to the fish hatchery right next to our house.  He was tickled by the coincidence, and immediately tagged me as his driver.

young fisherman
Idaho fisherman from an early age!

His literal mind enjoys the how-things-are field of science–and he has also been an Idaho fisherman from an early age–so even aside from it being right next to our house, the hatchery job-shadow was a perfect match for him. The ladies showing him around the genetics lab, energized by his interest and knowledge, lamented the fact that they didn’t have a whole day to show him all the cool stuff they do. When they mentioned the possibility of volunteering at the hatchery so they could show him in depth, he perked right up.  I collected contact information to set up summer volunteering for him–and Keoni has already been shopping online for a lab coat in his size.

The real coincidence-kicker was the contact information I collected for Christian’s summer volunteer prospect. Our contact turns out to be a guy I dated in college. I mentioned (in my TMI-award post of embarrassing stories) the time I dated an identical twin who didn’t TELL me there were two of him on campus, resulting in a comedy-of-errors until I saw the pair of them together…  This is the guy.  Naturally, it was a fisheries class where we met—and the Lab-Ladies thought my twins-story about their “genetics geek” was uproariously funny. I haven’t seen him for almost two decades, but now we discover that he works around the corner from my house, and he’s the guy who can set up Christian’s summer opportunity.

When I say I’ve “learned to pay attention” to synchronicity, it’s often a matter of being open to suggestion. I’m a Planner by nature, but Life has taught me that God’s plans are better than mine. (Go figure.) It was a tough lesson to learn–but when I find myself swimming really hard upstream, trying to reach some goal that I’ve set, that’s often a sign that I need to pause and reconsider that goal.  There may be some reasons why the river is running the opposite direction from my attempted swim.  “Let go and let God,” my Sponsor reminds me when I’m swimming for all I’m worth and going nowhere.

Harley Davidson
an afternoon on the Harley, 2008

The best illustration I can think of is the first time Keoni took me for a motorcycle ride… His A.A. Sponsor let us take his Harley out for an afternoon, and being unaccustomed to riding, I was unconsciously trying to steer the thing with my butt. When I finally relaxed and just let the bike (and its experienced driver) take me through the turns and the leans, Keoni could tell the difference in his ability to handle the bike.  When I stopped trying to “swim upstream”–when I stopped trying to control!–that’s when the ride smoothed out.

When my Sponsor tells me to “let go and let God,” she doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t do anything for myself, or that I should sit back and expect God’s gifts just to fall into my lap.  Maybe I need to pay attention to the floating objects dropped in the water around me and build my own raft from them–but in the end I’ll be enjoying a leisurely float with the current instead of paddling like crazy against it.  Things fall into place when I stop swimming and stay open to the suggestions brought to me by synchronicity.

rainbow trout, synchronicity stories, synchronicity definition
swimming with the current… I could learn from the trout!
Posted in Family, Travel

How to Bury an Owl

Ah, trick question!  Of course you wouldn’t bury an owl, because the Migratory Bird Act makes it illegal in the United States to be in possession of even an owl feather, let alone the entire dead bird. (Or three.)  So of course this post is entirely a work of fiction. (Cough, cough.)

Last summer I was sent by an Idaho Travel magazine to an old mining town in Idaho’s Owyhee mountains (“Silver City, Idaho: A ‘Ghost Town’ that Never Gave Up the Ghost“). The Owyhees were named for a trio of native Hawai’ian trappers, working for the Hudson Bay Company, who disappeared in these mountains around 1820.  For my husband Keoni, a native Hawai’ian himself, this bit of history put an intriguing spin on our trip.

Spam-can cairn--an offering to Pele

Islanders use two words for giving directions: makai (toward the ocean) and mauka (toward the mountain), since pretty much anything on an island can be described within that frame of reference.  When I asked him if that’s why his “uncles” might have lost their way, he replied in Pidgin, “Bruddahs wen’ mauka, wen’ mauka… Stay los’!”  Joking that our trip might double as a search-and-rescue, we armed ourselves with an offeratory can of Spam, which these days is a favorite food in Hawai’i (you can order Spam & eggs at McDonald’s there).

He had another mission as well: looking for rounded rocks of pahoehoe lava (what we “here in America” would call vesicular basalt), which he plans use to line an imu, the traditional pit for roasting a whole pig.  Our overnight bag and camera bag rode in the back seat, the car-trunk kept free for his boulder collection.

On his native turf, however, he would never remove volcanic rock without making a return offering to the volcano goddess Pele–traditionally a cairn of rocks with fresh fruit or flowers or a bottle of liquor.  It’s a custom he takes seriously, although with his own touch of humor–there have probably been some hikers in the Owyhees who are still puzzled about the Spam-can-topped cairn they ran across…

It’s not the only cultural custom he still practices, some of them adjusted with a modern twist.  He was taught not to sweep after dark (because it brings bad spirits into the house)–so he only vacuums during daylight hours. If something gets spilled or broken at night, it stays put until morning when he’s willing to get out the vacuum. Same thing with whistling in the house–not after dark.  He doesn’t shake hands when he greets someone he knows, or even meets someone new–he embraces them, with an intake of breath as the “exchange of breath” that’s part of the cultural greeting. The word aloha literally means “exchange of breath.”

Another interesting linguistic side-note…  The Hawai’ian word haole is used now to refer to white people, but it literally means “without breath.” (And no, it’s not a compliment.) When the Islanders attempted to welcome newly arrived missionaries with their traditional greeting–the embrace and exchange of breath–the prudish new arrivals recoiled from the nearly-naked natives and refused to hug…  So the Hawai’ians assumed they had no breath to exchange.

card shark tattoo
Keoni's "card shark" tattoo--Mano protecting against the "Suicide King"

Another cultural element about which he feels strongly is the ‘aumakua, or guardian spirit in animal form. His family’s ‘aumakua is Mano, the shark, and several of his tattoos include Mano as a symbol of protection.  The King of Hearts card (often called the “suicide king” because of the dagger he’s holding to his head) is eclipsed by a fiercely protective white shark–his guardian against any return to that dark place where suicide seemed the only out. A traditional Maori tribal representation of a hammerhead is swimming up the side of his neck, a design gifted to him from a Tongan family who used to eat regularly at our Hawai’ian restaurant. He added this one after talking with his grandfather in a dream–Tutu Pa suggested he put Mano on his neck rather than put a rope around it ever again.

I wrote in an earlier post about Owls crossing my path until I recognized them as my own ‘aumakua (or totem, or whatever Irish word would better fit my own heritage–owls are totems in Celtic culture too). Interestingly enough, my sister responded to that post by emailing that she’s been developing an affinity for owls over the last year as well. I don’t believe in coincidence.

owl goddessOn this particular road-trip, as we were returning from the Owyhees with a trunk full of volcanic rocks, we passed a large white owl, dead in the middle of the road.  It didn’t look as though it had been hit or run over–just dead on the center line.

As we drove for another moment in silence, I was just feeling all kinds of wrong about leaving that owl dead in the road. Like dragging an American flag on the ground or stepping on a consecrated communion wafer, rolled into one. Keoni was watching me, and without a word, he swung the car around in a U-turn and headed back. Without a word, I grinned at him in relief.

I thought he would pull over so I could run out for it, but instead he slowed in the empty highway, opened the driver-side door, and lofted the owl onto my sandaled feet. Its feathers were warm from the sun. When we got to a pull-out, we carefully tucked it among the pahoehoe rocks in the trunk and nosed the car back in the direction of home. Not five minutes later, we passed another untouched dead owl, this time on the side of the road. And within another five minutes, another owl.

three owlsSo we arrived home with not one, but three white owls in our trunk. Arranging an appropriate owl-burial took priority over the other unpacking, so Keoni dug a hole in our garden and we solemnly interred our owls. With an offeratory Spam sandwich (extra mayo) and a cup of soda (liquor would be more traditional–but we’re both recovering alcoholics) and some quiet words of respect.

I see public buildings with plastic owls on top to “guard” against pigeons. Well, the guardians of our home are the three white owls in our garden. Or perhaps now it’s a guarden.

Posted in Family, Writing

Some barely-related stories, and memories of a Storyteller

I have to say, I quite enjoyed the ethical discussion spurred by the post about my writing-dilemma last week (“Cheatin’ on a Cheater“).  Not everyone was in favor of my “solution” (if, indeed, my decision deserves such a designation)–but we all got to thinking, didn’t we?

On a related topic, this morning I also enjoyed reading The Creative Ghostwriter‘s post on why she wouldn’t choose to ghost-write a fictional novel…  (In her discussion of ethical implications, she referenced my post of last week–and now I’m pinging back her ping-back… isn’t our blogging community cozy?)  I was particularly caught by the post because my freelancing assignment this morning is a first for me: ghost-writing what is clearly intended to be published as an e-book…

cartoon from bluefur.com

Not fiction, as it happens–but I’ve been given today and tomorrow to write “How to Get Over Your Break-Up.”  (Hey, stop laughing at me!)  I’m actually enjoying myself with it, largely due to the complete lack of constraints on the actual content of the thing–which means I just get to sit down and write twenty single-spaced pages of Common Sense. (Ha! Dozens of people around the globe are doubled over with laughter at the idea that I have 20 single-spaced pages of common sense IN me.  Very well, then–some good sense bolstered by some good rhetoric, and one great quotation from Captain Jack Sparrow!)

In any case, this thing (the assignment, that is–not the topic) has me seriously pondering the question: If I can write an e-book in two days…  Why don’t I take a few MORE than two days and write a GOOD book–which I could actually publish with my own name on it?  Ah, yes–reality rings home.  The most immediate answer is that I get PAID on Monday for the book I write today.  And the additional complication of figuring out what to DO with whatever I wrote–although I know I have a fantastic resource in this blogging-community, which renders that a pretty limp excuse.  So the thought is definitely rattling around in my head…

But I actually sat down here to write about past book-creations rather than prospective ones…

I’m on the last quarter of the booklet, which naturally brings us to “How to Get Back Into Dating”–and I was reminded suddenly of something I hadn’t thought of for years.  I think it was about five years after our paternal grandmother died that my sister and I (in high school and college, respectively) co-authored for our Grandpa a “Dating Guide for the ’90’s.”  We wrote it largely tongue-in-cheek, given the decades since he had been dating (or courting, as the case may be)–but truly, we wrote only half in jest…  And half in earnest, knowing how much life and humor he still had in him, and hoping he would find someone with whom to share those.

salmon fishing Oregon
salmon-fishing off the Oregon coast with my Grandpa & my Dad, about 1990

I’m happy to report that Grandpa did connect soon after with a lovely lady-friend (Bernie, who was his companion and hiking-buddy and square-dance partner for more than a decade) although I don’t imagine our “dating guide” can claim any of the credit.

Grandpa–as we knew–had humor enough left to last more than a lifetime.  He even found humor in the loss of his short-term memory toward the end, suggesting that we could find a joke he liked and tell it to him over and over.  His long-term memory (and his story-telling!) also stayed with him till the end–which leads me to reflect that maybe I’ve got storytelling in the blood.  (My three storyteller IDOLS are my two grandfathers and my mother!)

As it turned out, Grandpa saved one last “story” for me, though accidentally.  The family gathered in Arizona for his funeral, and although I had agreed to give a eulogy, I found myself still without words in the late-night before the solemnities. A tap at the hotel-room door turned out to be my mother, bearing a gift of bananas (I had gotten braces on my teeth that week, and hadn’t yet figured out how to eat with them–or to speak well, come to that) and a bundle of letters from Grandpa’s desk, written over the years by me.

I half-laughed and half-cried my way through the packet that ranged from preschool-printing to wedding plans, and found at the end a single, unfinished letter–from Grandpa to me.  Its content wasn’t earth-shaking, but its timing was–and it loosed the story-telling flood that became the eulogy.

We’re a few weeks short of the anniversary of Grandpa’s death more than a decade ago, but the “dating guide” memory has him on my mind.  He has no doubt set up a “command station” (his classification of the backyard hammock) in the clouds, from which he’s regaling the angels (the ones with naughtier senses of humor!) with his stories–sometimes chortling so hard himself that he has to pause and wipe his eyes before he can continue.

***

my parents, 1970

One more shout-out, on the topic of being a long time off the dating market…

I’d like to wish a very happy anniversary to my parents!  Forty-two years ago today, in a snowstorm in Minnesota (during which the movie “Airport” was filmed at nearby Minneapolis-St Paul International), these two young’uns tied the knot–and then fled to the Virgin Islands for some sunshine!

Here’s wishing many more years of sunshine for both of you–I love you!

Posted in Writing

Cheatin’ on a Cheater

 Mel Gibson Maverick

Interesting dilemma this afternoon…  One of the “article” assignments that came my way among my batch of usual freelancing odds’n’ends was an assignment that was clearly a college student’s term paper–complete with the professor’s grading rubric.  As a one-time college instructor myself, I have Zero compassion for the literary cheat, and I paused to consider whether to accept the assignment at all.

Of course, I know that if I don’t write it, it will get handed off to one of the other writers on the team anyway, and our Cheater will still get a paper delivered (for a steep price, I’m hoping)–and if that smacks of “justification,” well, I’ll just go ahead and say it: I need the money.  Besides…  If someone else were to write this paper, they might not do it with the express intention of sabotaging the cheater.  Which is precisely what I proceeded to do.

Let me be clear: I didn’t cheat them on what they paid for–far from it.  I went above and beyond!  Lyrical language, flowing narrative, extensive research, and a “Works Cited” page with more than triple the required number of references, all of them top-notch government sources.  The type of effort that a slacking student (an assumption I’m making about anyone who would buy a term paper) would be unlikely to put forth.  And presumably the professor will note the red flag I was waving while I wrote.  Hey, I watch Burn Notice.

“When you’re communicating in code, sometimes you just have to hope that whoever you’re talking to is smart enough to figure out what you’re saying. Use a code that’s too simple, and it will get broken. Use a code that’s too complex, and you’re just talking to yourself.” ~Jeffrey Donovan, as covert-ops specialist Michael Westen in “Burn Notice.”

copyright Marty Bucella, image from Cartoonstock.com

I guess I’ll never know if I were talking to myself with this one or not–but here’s hoping I managed to cheat the cheater!

Today’s Synchronicity Side-Note…  When I was halfway through writing this post, another writing-assignment came in for me: “Using Cell Phone Spyware to Check a Cheating Spouse”…

Evidently it’s a “themed” evening…

Posted in Writing

The Reluctant Fashionista Springs Forward

This may not be a problem a lot of you have run into, so I have to share that it’s kind of challenging to find clerical shirts for women that a woman would want to wear. Particularly if one’s clerical activities fall outside the realm of traditional church-choir stuff (more on this in “Confessions of a Street Minister”), and if one is not generally a button-down, demure-demeanor kinda gal…

There are plenty of online clergy-shops out there, though some of them you can discount right off the bat as a woman (um, the Catholics, for example) and a lot of them have pages of men’s clergy-wear with a token women’s blouse (usually black) thrown in.  A few lovely sites actually cater exclusively to clergywomen, including maternity clergy-wear (the Catholics would faint!)–but if you’re looking for something specific and it’s not there, you’re pretty well S.O.L.

I am in search of something specific at the moment, but I’ll be damned if I can find it.  (And since we’re speaking specifically about the business of not being damned, please believe my emphasis that this item does not exist to be found.)

Our daughter Anelahikialani and her wife Sarah are legally joined by means of a Civil Union in California, but now that full-on MARRIAGE is available to them in that state, they are gleefully planning a wedding.  They’ve honored us by asking me to preside (and Daddy to cook!), and I am now looking for a clergy blouse in hot pink (the wedding color), with a tab collar, and sleeveless (the girls aren’t interested in covering the family-stories of my Ink)…

Having given up on finding such an item ready-made (or in my price-range if I were ever to find one), I Tweeted the other day to ask if anyone has a pattern for converting a collared shirt into a clerically-collared shirt.  (My mother met a minister’s wife in Hawai’i who refashioned Aloha shirts to clergy shirts for her husband–she called the pattern her “spiritual conversion kit”…  I could use something like that.)

In any case, no one in my immediate circles had such a thing, but someone suggested “Pinterest” as a place where I might find it.  So I stopped by Pinterest.com last night, put in the request for an invitation (evidently a person has to wait for a spot there) and while waiting for my invite to show (it still hasn’t–evidently they weren’t joking about the waiting list!) I went browsing to see what it was all about.

Tomy “Fashion Plates,” vintage 1978–same set as mine…

And immediately got sucked into this little outfit-building fashion gizmo that somebody else had used to assemble an ensemble and post it on the board.

Minutes later–and to absolutely no purpose whatsoever–I found myself hunting down the pieces of an outfit from the thousands of separates on Polyvore.com–and did, in fact, put together an outfit I would don in a heartbeat if it weren’t stuck to my screen.  Laughing sheepishly at myself the whole time, and experiencing nostalgic flashbacks to the mix-and-match “Fashion Plates” toy with which I spent hours of childhood time.

Of course, I still haven’t made headway on the clothing question which brought me here in the first place, and I had one way or another, in my search for blouses and patterns, and my subsequent imaginary fashion-plate play, managed to stall for several hours in which I was meant to be writing several articles.  Which left me yawning and trying to write at three in the morning to meet my deadline.  (Though of course it wouldn’t have been THREE in the morning if I had not also had to change the clock forward.)

The irony in all this?  The five articles from which I had been procrastinating all that time, I had accepted only with a fair bit of whining and protest because of their topic–which I adamantly and insistently characterized as an issue of which I have no knowledge and in which I have no interest in and which I didn’t even want to research.  The big, bad topic which I’d stalled for hours to avoid touching?  FASHION DESIGN.

Ha! Okay, okay, I give! I spent my spring-forward hour proving myself wrong about my own interests. Time to spring toward forward-thinking with a more open mind, yes?

While I’m still stalling, I’d like to add an introduction to a challenge across which I stumbled yesterday: the 2012 Water Dragon Sunday Post hosted by Jakesprinter.  His is a graphic-design blog, and the Sunday challenge involves a weekly assigned theme, for which topic each challenge-participant is meant to post a photo representing their own interpretation.  Today’s Sunday topic (which, in a fascinating sample of synchronicity, I didn’t look up until after my little fashion foray) is DESIGN.

So here it is, my Sunday photographic composition,compiled when I was fiddling with the online fashion gizmo:

assembled at Polyvore.com–the high-tech version of those “Fashion Plates” I played with as a kid…


 And if anyone knows anyone who might have a pattern for collar-conversion, I’d love to be put in touch!

Posted in Family, Writing

Mother-in-Law or Fairy Godmother?

Actually, I’m writing today about my mom-in-law and my dad-in-law, but “Fairy Godfather” just has a wrong ring on several levels…  I’m getting ahead of myself, though. This is a story about the tool of my trade–the laptop–and a miraculous magical rescue.

leopard-print duct tape on the power cord

Since I took to writing full-time, I’ve spent anywhere from ten to twenty hours a day with my fingers on the keyboard of an ancient PC laptop.  It’s a cheap one I bought years ago, just basic functions even when it was new, and if computer-years run like dog-years, this thing is older than I am for all practical purposes.  And it was beginning to show its age.  Some of the keys would take a few taps before I’d get the corresponding letter to show up on the screen, the “click” button on the tracking pad only worked about three quarters of the time, a virus had wiped out all the .exe functions and made it almost impossible to open new documents or the internet browser, it regularly overheated and ate the files I was working on, the battery was shot (so it had to be plugged in to function) and the electric cord was getting too loose to hold.  I’d have to wiggle it around to find the “sweet spot” and then jam it against my leg while I worked to keep it in place.  We tried duct tape, but the machine was clearly limping along on its last legs.

my Mac-compatible (comPAWtible?) iPad

So I’d been nursing it along and praying it would hold out until we could afford a replacement.  My hubby Keoni is back to work after his December knee replacement, but he has the second knee scheduled for April, so we’ll have another couple months of living on just what I make at the laptop–no room in the budget for a computer until after that.  And Keoni was very insistent that we’d be choosing a good computer when the time came.  “This IS your office,” he reminded me.  I’d been thinking of making the switch to Mac–knowing there would be a steep learning curve, but also knowing the Mac would be great for website creation and editing my photography, and not susceptible to wipe-out by virus…  And compatible with my iPad, which I “live in” when I’m not on the computer.  So we’d been doing a little “window shopping” on Amazon, picking out the computer we’d get… later.

Out of the blue a few weeks ago, Keoni’s parents called us from Hawai’i to say they wanted to buy me a new computer, and which one would I like? I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so stunned. My in-laws aren’t Christmas-and-birthday people, but they occasionally step in–generously!–when they perceive a need.

two days early, and just in time!

Did I mention I was stunned? I stammered out the specs of the Macbook Pro I’d been looking at, and they called back that afternoon with the tracking number for shipping.  I instantly became the impatient kid who can’t wait for Christmas! I knew I’d have my face pressed to the front window on delivery-day, waiting eagerly for the UPS truck to show up.

God has a sense of humor and timing–have you noticed that? Two days before the new computer was due to arrive, the old one breathed its last breath.  No amount of computer-CPR could revive it again. I’ve used the iPad for back-up before (like the day that virus hit, when I had 8,000 words due before I could take the time to resuscitate the thing)–and I’ve been grateful to HAVE it as a back-up–but the iPad really isn’t designed for flipping between research websites and word-processing, and I can’t work nearly as efficiently… and I had another ten thousand words due that day.  I don’t mind admitting I was pretty stressed.

Less than two hours later, the UPS truck pulled up. Thank you, God–and thank you, Mom & Dad in Hawai’i! As my mom-in-law said to me on the phone when I was stuttering my stunned and sincere thanks: “God works in mysterious ways, Kana. Today, this is how God is working.”

Making the tech-leap! Compared to the Mac, the old laptop might as well have been cardboard…

Wow.  So I’ve been happily “moving in” to my new Mac–and relishing the fact that for the first time, all of my music library and photo library and software and apps and documents and calendar and to-do list and everything else are actually compatible across all my devices, synced up and available whether I’m on the laptop or the iPad or even my phone.  Too slick for words–I’m loving it!  My OCD-organizing-impulses are intensely satisfied by this tidiness.

I have to say (despite my familiarity with the iPad, which turns out not to afford much advantage in “learning” the laptop) that Mac was a Mystery to me!  It was time to bust out the climbing-gear, because this was a STEEP learning curve.  Even the most basic of functions–like scrolling or right-clicking–take a different action on the Mac.  As I figured out how to do each individual thing, I was thinking–without exception–that the Mac approach makes better sense. Mac was definitely designed with usability in mind. At this point, it’s still just a matter of learning how to do everything. Everything. I consider myself pretty “techie” (I used to teach online and design online curriculum, I design websites on the side, and when we owned a restaurant, I handled all of our internet marketing myself) but I have zero formal education in technology.  I’m simply stubborn enough to keep “playing” until I figure out how to make a computer do what I want it to do. So that’s what I’ve been up to–gleefully getting familiar with an all-new environment.

That’s a partial explanation for my absence from this space over the last few weeks (and I’d like to thank all of you who pinged me to say you missed the posts, and hoped everything was okay).  There has actually been a lot going on–including a lot of writing work. (Last weekend: thirty thousand words in two days–and this from the girl who didn’t even manage to finish NaNWriMo…) I’ve been thinking the last few days of the “complaint” I often have when traveling: When you have the most stuff to write about, THAT’s exactly when you don’t have enough time to write any of it! True in regular life as well, as the last few weeks go to show..

Steve Jobs would be proud… calling tech support on an iPhone and tech-chat on the iPad, getting the Macbook up and running

But.  I’m re-evaluating my writing-priorities, and what comes to light today is my previous insistence that writing in THIS space on a regular basis is what keeps writing FUN.  I don’t want to get so “ground down” with writing-on-demand that I lose the joy-in-writing that made me want to do it full-time in the first place.  So my pledge to myself is not to treat my own writing (here) as “lower priority” than the writing that comes with deadlines.  To borrow from Hamlet‘s Polonius: “This above all: to thine own self be true.”  I don’t think Polonius was referring to blogging, but that’s how his advice applies in my life today.

And I recognize on a daily basis how blessed I’ve been in the support of the people around me. I chat on IM daily with writers from our team, and a regular theme of those chats (including with our editor, and my boss) is spousal resistance to time-spent-writing.  I’m thinking, in contrast, of Keoni nudging me to take the leap into writing full-time, even before we knew if I’d be able to make any money with it. “You’ve wanted to do this for years–you need to do it.”  Period, end of discussion.  It probably helps that I’m not away from him when I’m writing–my “office” is our bed, which we treat like a couch in the daytime, and he’ll stretch out beside me and read, or we stream Netflix movies while I write. I’m grateful every day for the supportiveness–and that extends also to his parents and the vote of confidence represented by the generous gift of this computer.

Pue’o on his perch

My writing-mascot is the owl–I have a little guy (named Pue’o, the Hawai’ian word for owl) who perched on the old laptop’s screen while I wrote… In Hawai’ian culture, the ‘aumakua, or guardian spirit, is represented by an animal of the islands.  My husband’s family is guarded by Mano, the shark, and he remembers learning about the ‘aumakua from his Tutu Pa (grandfather), Hawai’ian musician Kamuela Ka’anapu, who also taught him traditional cooking, and to combine his love of music with his love of cooking. (When Keoni is singing in our kitchen, I know that all’s well in my world!)  Tutu Pa told him that whenever he saw a shark, “either something good or something bad will happen.” Kid-Keoni’s irreverent response (which earned him a cuff across the back of the head) was, “Well, Tutu Pa, that depends wheddah you IN da watah or OUT!

Anelahikialani & Kapena with their brother-sister matching ‘aumakua tattoos

Our son Kapena, who turned sixteen on Valentine’s Day, has been wanting a tattoo for a couple years, and we told him we’d sign for one when he reached legal age (sixteen with parental consent in Idaho), provided he went to our artist (whose art we love and whose judgment we trust), and that the tattoo itself be something meaningful to him.  So this week he got his tattoo: the family ‘aumakua with our last name printed in the curve of its body. Our second daughter Anelahikialani and her wife Sarah were visiting from California this last week, and she and Kapena went in together to get matching ‘aumakua tattoos.

Hawai’ian families have ‘aumakua, and an individual can also have a personal ‘aumakua. You don’t choose one–it chooses you, and a person who pays attention might recognize the relationship.  Last summer when I began writing for an Idaho travel magazine, I was seeing owls every time I was out on the road on assignment. Daytime, night time, it didn’t matter–owls were crossing my path every time I hit the road to write. I can take a hint–the owl is my ‘aumakua. And if I reach back to my own Irish roots, the owl is a common personal totem in Celtic culture as well, so that seems suitable. This is why my Twitter handle is @KanaOwl, and why the literary magazine I’m launching (more about that in an upcoming post) will be at ThirteenOwls.com, and why the protective cover Keoni ordered for the new laptop is adorned with an owl (in “my” colors, no less)..

On the Owl-Mac with my “office staff”–Christian (holding Pue’o) & Elena Grace…

Our ten-year-old Christian just registered for junior high, and as we watched Harry Potter the other night, he was lamenting the fact that “speaking Owl” isn’t among the available electives.  He’s quite enamored of Harry’s owl, Hedwig, and whenever he’s in the house, you can guarantee that Pue’o will be somewhere on his person.  (He doesn’t know it yet, but his birthday present in 10 days will be a full-size Hedwig look-alike made by the same company that created Pue’o…)  He also points out that the owl on my Mac is an appropriate symbol for what I do, since owls in Harry Potter’s world carry written correspondence.

Christian and I agree that the UPS man was really a brown owl in disguise.  And as for his delivery… well, even Harry Potter getting his Firebolt broom by owl-post was not more excited than I was when this Owl-Mac arrived.

To Mom & Dad in Hawai’i: THANK YOU for enabling this writer to keep writing so happily! And I hope you know that this isn’t the first time God has worked through you to provide a blessing in my life…  I thank him every day for my biggest blessing: the man who married me. Thank you for “authoring” that gift as well…  And my thanks again for providing me with such an awesome new “office!” If I haven’t needed a fairy godmother, it’s because God’s always got my back.  And yes–as Mom says–he works through other people.