Shared Joy is Twice the Joy, Shared Pain is Half the Pain

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Big Sur Camping

Mom and I took a day to go camping over the weekend. Which basically means we threw a bunch of stuff in the car, drove off, played, and came home.

For starters, proof we went camping:

My trusty umbrella came along for the ride, and was almost, but fortunately not actually, necessary. As evening fell, the kids next door were being suuuuper loud and yelling at each other, so I distracted them with a collective assignment: what’s the coolest picture we can take with my camera and your glow sticks? I particularly liked the heart:

As the weekend progressed, Mom and I went on a couple short hikes, along paths with poison oak taller than me on both sides, but beautiful destinations. We ended up at a beach, where we watched Brown Pelicans dive bombing for fish, and dolphins frolicking.

DSC_0289We continued driving northward, and stopped at Pt. Lobos, where we discovered a brand new but fantastic tidepooling, with tons of crabs. If anyone can explain to me the clicking noise crabs make with their mouths, I’d really appreciate it. (I’m not talking about the clicking of their claws opening and closing, or of them skittering across rocks – little bubbles coming from their mouth accompanied by sounds that resemble very very very tiny pieces of glass being crushed.)

Finally, if anyone remembers this post from last week, the photo was of a dead jellyfish being eaten by a crab:

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The Umbrella

Hillary got married today, which means I’ve been thinking about her all day long. And when I think of Hillary, I can’t help but think of the umbrella. I think of a lot of other things too, but my favorite story that involves her is definitely the story of the umbrella. It goes something like this:

First semester of my sophomore year (almost two years ago, now!!), I was pursuing a job in New York City. I was – and am – a poor college student, so I wasn’t exactly excited about the idea of spending lots of money on an expensive hotel room in an expensive city, so I sent Hills, as she is affectionately known to me, an email. A couple days later, I had a “free” hotel room – I promised to buy her and Matt, her then-boyfriend, now-husband dinner. (Which, of course, she ended up buying for me, in true kind-person fashion. But that is beside the point.)

I checked the weather before I left Boston. I did, I swear! The weather predicted a scant 10% chance of rain over the entirety of the weekend. By Sunday night, however, the rain clouds were pretty ominous. Hills and Matt are both teachers, which means they needed to be up and out at some ungodly hour (I believe it was 6am). I am a college student, which means I did not. They were super kind and left me behind with a key and instructions on how to get it back to them. In my half-awake state at 5:whatever, I noticed they were leaving not 1, not 2, but a selection of umbrellas out. I protested, but Hills told me to take one with me – don’t get soaked for no reason at all!

That day in New York was the first time the little blue umbrella kept me happy and dry.

Once I got back to Boston, I offered to send Hillary her umbrella back. But she laughed and told me to take it around the world with me. I remember that she told me to keep it, to love it, and to think of her whenever I use it.

And that is exactly what I do.

I try to take pictures with the umbrella wherever I use it. Sometimes, like when I was in Copenhagen, people think I’m strange. I mean, how often does someone come up to you in the pouring rain and say “Hi! Can you take a picture of me in the rain with my umbrella?” On the other hand, I’ve gotten to explain to an awesome number of people why I take pictures in the rain.

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Every so often, if I have the time and the inclination, I print out a photo and write a letter to Hillary and send it to her. More often, I send a note via email. Mostly, I just think about her and then go stalking on facebook…

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Hillary’s umbrella has travelled the world. It spent nine months in Prague (as you can see above), with side trips to another 10 European countries, where it (fortunately for me, less fortunately for this project) lived in my backpack. It did make an appearance in Italy, though!

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And, of course, it has been well loved all over the USA, including Boston, SF, and Big Sur.

Maybe someday I’ll send Hillary her umbrella back. Maybe I’ll keep it. I’m just wishing her lots of luck and a happy day from me, and from our little blue umbrella.

Crafts!

I’ve been horrifically bad at posting recently, but I’m going to blame that on the fact that I’ve been living life to the fullest. In the past week, I’ve gone on two one-night overnights, and I’m heading out in about two hours for a third. I promise to share stories from all of them sometime next week, but for now I want to brag a bit.

One of my favorite parts of Stanford Sierra Camp is the arts and crafts sessions. This year was full of particularly good crafts, including amazing painted glasses that I’ll post about in a couple weeks, and amazing transferred photos:

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You might remember this photo from here…?

The best part of these is that they were incredibly easy! Admittedly, I added a few steps after I got home to finish them off the way I wanted them, but still… really simple.

Step 1: Print out your photo on an ink jet printer. Mine are both printed out a simple 4×6 size, but if you want it larger, you certainly could do that. The photo will be transferred as a mirror image, so if your photo has words or you really care about accuracy, make sure to use photoshop or any photo editing software to flip the image across the vertical center line. (You’ll want it to look backwards on paper.)

Step 2: Get the wood. You’ll need a piece of wood the same size or larger than your photo. Mine were about 1″ larger in each dimension than the photo, but it could be bigger or smaller. It just depends on your preference. A wood with visible grain will look better, a light wood will look better. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a dark wood without grain.

Step 3: Coat the photo with a gel medium. You’ll want a thick-ish layer – enough that it covers the entire picture, not so much that it rips the paper from being heavy. Carefully flip the photo paper over, place on the wood, and press it down. This is the important step – make sure the entire photo is thoroughly pressed onto the wood, so that you don’t get any holes in the middle of your photo. Let dry (takes 2-6 hours, let it dry overnight for best results.)

Step 4: Rub off the paper. Get a rag and a bowl of water; get the corner of the rag wet and rub the paper in circles until the paper comes off. It will require some serious pressure, but don’t worry about it – the photo isn’t going anywhere.

Step 5: Coat with a layer of Modge Podge, or any other varnish, to give it a shiny layer and to protect the photo. Enjoy! (This is where camp stopped – I continued at home…)

Step 6 (Optional): Using a chop saw, carefully cut the wood at the edges of the photo (about 1/8″ border). The photo above, I cut right to the edge of the image, which meant the final product was smaller than the photo itself. On the one below, I kept about 1/4″ in the border, and the border is still there a bit at the end. Hence the 1/8″ border suggestion. But, the cut doesn’t need to be perfect, because…

Step 7 (Optional): Round the edges of the photo with a router to finish the photo, and make it look like it is in its own frame. It’ll look good regardless of how large the border is! Finish the project by sanding the newly cut and rounded edges to make it smooth. Enjoy!

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Keep in mind:

- If your photo has any part that is white (such as the sky in my second photo above), the grain will show through really nicely. It certainly isn’t necessary, but it does add to the image.

- If you want to make the photo look vintage-y, scuff up the corners of the photo a little bit when the gel medium is still wet. I didn’t do it on purpose, but the bottom corners of my Golden Gate photo transfer got messed up (it got dropped… oops.). I think it only adds to the photo’s artsy quality.

What is it? Big Sur Edition

The challenge today is to identify the object or objects in this picture. I will post the full photograph and others from the same location tomorrow, but for now I ask just one question:

What is it?

Share your best guess in the comments below!

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100 Followers!

As the title of this post implies, I have 100 followers. (Actually, between when that happened and when I actually got around to starting this post, I got two more. So now I have 102 followers!)

Anyways, I’d like to thank you all for following my blog. I hope you are still enjoying reading my posts as much as you did when you first started reading, however long ago as that may have been. I’m still loving sharing, so don’t expect me to disappear anytime soon!

With this new milestone, I have a few request for you, my lovely readers:

1. What do you like to read? By this, I mean, what is your favorite type of post I write? Let me know, because I’d love to write more about the things you like to read about. Or – if there is a style of post you like to read that I don’t write, tell me! I like expanding my horizons and trying new things. Please comment below!

2. What do you dislike about my blog? Visually, the way I have it organized, whatever. I’m thinking about forking over the money to have the cool upgrades WordPress lets you have, and I want to know which upgrades I’d want to take advantage of. Once again, let me know by commenting below!

3. You’re following me, which means there must be something about my blog that you enjoy. If you can take the time, please please please tell your friends about me! Post a link to my homepage on facebook. Remember that one post that made you think of someone specific? Send it to them! Share me with your friends. After all, Shared Joy is Twice the Joy!

Thanks again, and stick around!

TBTW: When It’s a Jar by Tom Holt

When it’s a jar, it can’t be a door. Or can it? Perhaps, actually it’s a donut.

Believe it or not, all of this could make sense to you, if you only read Tom Holt’s When It’s a Jar. This is one of those books in which nothing makes sense, and that is exactly how it’s supposed to be. Holt’s writing style, however, holds everything together, and makes it really hard to put the book down. In fact, I finished the book and didn’t even put it down as I put my shoes on to go recommend it to a friend. Literally.

Maurice lives a normal life. With the exception of the dragon he kills with a butter knife (it was handy!) and the fact that looking through a donut causes him to travel to another universe in the multiverse. As we follow Maurice from one universe to another, it gets a bit difficult. He visits a dozen or so. I think. I’m not sure. I tried to count but quickly lost track.

Regardless, each universe includes Maurice (in some way, shape, or form), his crush Stephanie, either a room filled with cardboard boxes or a jar (or both), a childhood frenemy George, and Theo Bernstein. I’ll be really honest, I’m still not totally sure what happens in this book. I’m pretty sure I could read it again and again and again (which I’d love to do, but it is due back at the library soon) and I still wouldn’t understand everything that was going on. But the prose… oh my goodness the prose. And the intelligent, tongue-in-cheek comments. And. Oh my.

Page 19: “Time passed some more, like a hamster on a wheel, and he figured out a bit more of the basic elementary stuff, like existentialism and relativity.”

17899387It’s only the first section, and I’m already laughing out loud while I sit outside a restaurant waiting for my friends. They proceed to laugh when I read it to them, because I can’t help but brag about how great this book already is. Little did I know it would only get better:

“Without thinking, he started tidying the place up …. And then he stopped and thought: Yes, and there’s a dead dragon in the bedroom. True, but that was no reason to leave the rest of the place looking like a pigsty, not when you’ve got a girl coming around.”  (41)

We start with some casual attention grabbing, I know physics kind of nonsense. I’ll be honest, I thought the author was a physicist and an author on the side when I read that. Primarily because a lot of physicists I know are also obsessed with philosophy, so the idea of existentialism and relativity being paired up isn’t really so absurd to me. But then, 20 pages later, he throws in some commentary about the lack of logic we use when a crush is involved. So perhaps Holt is actually a psychologist? In fact, he’s just British (and a lawyer by training, if not by practice.)

Very often, unfortunately, books are phenomenal for the first 30-50 pages and then everything goes downhill. Luckily for us, this isn’t the case with When It’s a Jar. Because Holt keeps up the incredible number of references to anything and everything throughout the novel, and it feels a bit like a Gilmore Girls episode. (The only thing that could have been better would have been an explicit mention of Gilmore Girls in the book…) Towards the middle, we discover the linguistic necessity for a word of “deliberate offence:”

“It’d have to start with a suitably projectile labial, followed by a vowel you could really put your hear and soul into, and terminating in a throaty guttural you could practically spit. Also, one syllable would be best. ANything longer would dissipate the effect.

Oh fulk, he thought.”

Throw in a bit of linguistic literacy, and I realize that Tom Holt has basically written the novel that I always dreamed I’d be able to write. I could be angry about this fact. I can’t even be angry. Instead I’m off to the library to see what else of his I can grab. The problem with libraries is that they’re so big, and I tend to get distracted… but I think I’m likely to come out with another Tom Holt book – perhaps his other 2013 novel: Donought. (Did I mention he’s British?)

 

Sibs

Off and on, I look at the weekly photo and writing challenges at The Daily Post. Sometimes they serve as inspiration for the future, but I rarely act on them, and I’ve definitely never completed the challenge within the week like I’m supposed to. But this week’s challenge was “Leftovers,” and I was encouraged to go back in history, drudge up an old post I wrote but never published, and reinvent it for publication. So here it is:


Dear K. McC.,

Do you remember when we would walk up the hill to that funky tree, with the moss growing across the top and just enough horizontal space for the two of us and our lunch boxes in between? We would go up there every week for sib lunch, but we went up there just the two of us with incredible regularity. We sat face to face, sharing our sandwiches and fruit, telling stories and making memories. We complained about teachers and friends, gave advice (as much advice as twelve to thirteen year olds really can give, that is), and talked about anything and everything. And I loved you for it.

I remember the next year, when we had new sibs, and we loved spending time with them. But I also remember remembering the tree, wishing we could go up there again. I remember remembering our first sib lunch ever, up in Ashland. We almost got back late, which was a tragic idea, even though it never came to fruition. I remember getting postcards from you, and sending them too. I remember the little Japanese bag filled with important things passed down from sib to sib.

I remember so many strange but super specific details about our time in middle school. Do you remember the day I slept over at your house? We slept on the floor of your living room, and we spent a solid ten minutes talking about the pros and cons of wearing a bra to bed. I still think its crazy, by the way. I remember your slicked back, perfect hair every single day, and the absolutely gorgeous hair you had for your recital performance. And that you wore your hair in curlers to school for the whole day! I was so impressed by your commitment, by your intelligence, by your kindness to me. I looked up to you like I had never looked up to anybody else. I thought you were my hero, but we were simply friends. I don’t think I realized that was what a good friend looks like.

I wonder what you remember about me from middle school. We met each other more than 10 years ago, and sometimes it seems much shorter, but sometimes it seems much longer. I wonder if your memories of me from middle school are as romanticized as I’m sure mine are. I wonder how my life would have been different if I hadn’t gone to middle school with you. Just as often, I wonder what would have happened if I had followed you to Castilleja for high school. Did you know I wanted to do that? I begged my parents, but they flatly refused. (Well, not really. They just said they wouldn’t pay for college if they had to pay for private high school. Even at the end of eighth grade, I knew the best answer to that conundrum.)

Would we have stayed closer? If we would have seen each other more than once every couple of years, if we would know more about each other’s lives and goals and struggles? But then we have coffee. And its as if we never left. Yes, there are lots of things to talk about, and an hour never seems like long enough, but it also never feels awkward. Sometimes, even with my best friends from high school – friends that just 2 years ago I would have sworn we would be friends forever – we have awkward lulls and just have nothing to talk about. But with you, I never feel like thats a problem, and I never feel like its ever even getting close.

I texted you a couple days ago, and your life is as busy as ever. I get snippets of your life from facebook, but I really don’t know that much. I know enough to be envious of the fact that you know what you want to do and that you’re well on your way. I don’t know if you’ve ever had a boyfriend or been devastated by a test. We’re making plans to get coffee again, and I can’t wait. I know that we’ll pick right up where we left off last time, start with some insignificant discussion of our common friends and then – within five minutes – be talking about things I wouldn’t discuss with the vast majority of my friends, or my mom.

Sometimes I’ll write you a letter, and every so often I decide to send you something out of the blue. But in a way, I cherish our distance, because it means that getting to see each other face to face, to hug and smile, to laugh and maybe cry, means that much more. It means I get to imagine your life when we’re not near each other, and I get to remember all the good times we had and look forward to our chance meetings in the future. It gives me a perspective on our relationship that I think I need because – face it – we’re too similar. If we’d actually gone to the same high school, we would have had some massive fight and decided to never ever see each other again. Because we think the same way and we have the same strengths and weaknesses; these things that make it easy to jump back in to conversations after a year or two apart would make it almost impossible to have conversations every day.

It is my hope that you enjoy our relationship as much as I do. I know that it’s a strange sort of relationship. I have close friends now in college I think of much the way I thought of you in middle school, but I honestly think that our friendship was the first real friendship – in an adult, real person sort of way – I ever had. So thanks for that.

-K

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