Sunday, November 08, 2009

Off Topic - That Was the Week It Was 11/08/09

Yes, it's Sunday morning and, before I watch Sunday Morning on CBS, I'll share my week with you in words and photos I've taken. Often in my life I just plod along taking many things for granted -- halfway decent health, a roof over my head, bills paid, food eaten, etc. I'm definitely not a wealthy person as my life seems more along the lines of the old Rolling Stones song: "You can't always get what you want, you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need." I get what I need with a few extras thrown in.

In these days of a tanking economy, I really have to be mindful of what good things I do have in my life. I have a fairly secure (nothing is absolutely secure) job which pays me a livable wage. I have a healthy 401K, a decent health insurance plan at a very reasonable rate through said job, early retirement benefits looming up in a year (although I probably will stick it out longer). I have thoughtful friends, many of whom read this blog (yay, you guys!).

Happenings this week made me think back on my life. I've always been one to try to do the right thing. Perhaps it's ingrained in me due to my upraising, perhaps it's just that old karma feeling. I also, once interested in something, tend to throw myself into it full force and usually can excel at anything I really want to do. No, I can't do everything well. I can't eat strange foods, nor have I ever walked well in high heels. I couldn't do dainty and delicate for the life of me.

But when I wanted to get into skiing, the next thing I knew I was racing and winning plaques and trophies. And, although my original intent with writing was to become a bestselling novelist, I've been earning money as a freelance writer and have a nationwide following on this blog which gives me all kinds of warm fuzzies. With the advent of digital photography, a medium which doesn't cost a lot of money to take a gazillion shots, I'm proud of some of my photos and people really seem to like them. (Cue Sally Fields - "They like me! They really like me!")

I've always tended think of myself as a bit of an outsider in life, maybe more of an observer than a participant. Yet, as I get older, I find I've been participating in my own way. True, at home I'm a loner -- if I were a guy, I'd be that serial killer type whose neighbors say how quiet and alone he is. I often love to lose myself in my books, my music, my computer than to be out socializing. I do love being alone, living alone, and I'm not lonely at all.

When I take stock of my life, I'm content with who I am and what I do with life on the whole. Sure, there's some nagging wasted potential. Sure, I've had some demons in the past, some skeletons in my closet over the decades. But I've always tried to be a decent person. Sometimes, things come around full force and make me pretty good about myself. This week was one of those upbeat weeks which gave me faith that I'm on the right track.

The other day I found a pocketbook in a shopping cart in a parking lot during lunch. I picked it up and brought it into work where I opened it looking for identification. Finding the license, I tried calling information ... no go, an unlisted number. In searching through the wallet and pocketbook for a phone number, I couldn't help but notice the wallet contained at least $2,400 cash, credit cards, social security card, etc. of the older Chinese woman owner. Finally, in going through the contacts on her cellphone, I found her number and called her. She came to pick it up, crying with relief as she kept hugging me. Warm fuzzies.

The next day, I was called on the intercom at work and told me she stopped by and dropped off a card for me. I was thinking, "Oh, I don't need a reward. I'm just happy she got everything back intact." I was also thinking that she would have put a $10 or $20 in the card. Lo and behold, I opened the card which had the sweetest most touching handwritten message about faith in humanity ... and a $100 bill. She was already gone and I didn't write her phone number down, so I couldn't return it. I bought new winter boots, socks, and a few other goodies. Every time I wear the boots, I'll think of the good deed I did.

Then, this week when I opened my paycheck, I found that I got a raise although I didn't get my annual salary review. I suspect the review was submitted, but things have been hectic at work and no one got the chance to sit down with me to go over it. That's fine. As long as I'm doing a good job, I don't necessarily need the sit down.

And then there was the Plainfield Library Photo Competition exhibition opening and awards ceremony yesterday. I work on Saturdays, but decided to take my last personal day before January 1 to attend. I'm so glad I did. The photos submitted by local photographers, both amateur and professional, of the town showed an array of amazing talent.

Plus, I met several great people whom I would probably never cross paths with in town, as well as a few I have crossed paths with and just didn't know who they were. I talked with fellow Plainfield bloggers Bernice (our fellow Roofus watcher) and Dan Damon of the Plainfield Today and CLIPS blogs (meeting Dan for the first time), and had a good time. By the way, although I haven't seen Roofus on the roof, Bernice has seen him recently in that old Budget Rental Car building where someone is leaving fresh food and water on a regular basis.

So, here's my week -- clicking on an image will open it larger in a new window.

It's the Plainfield (NJ) Public Library

I've never been inside until I entered the photo competition. I had a library card where I lived before I moved here, but found I didn't use it that much. As a matter of fact, I've had a library card everywhere I've lived since childhood. Although the library is a bit inconvenient for me as a pedestrian, I think I'll get one. I was impressed with what I saw there, plus the folks in the art history department make things look very intriguing.

Say what? I won?

Well, it's second place, not first. But I'm in shock. So many of the photos at the exhibit showed a keen eye and amazing talent. While I'm often proud of some of my photos, I usually feel they pale in comparison to those folks who actually know what they're doing and have better equipment. Since there were cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place showings, I also won $150 in addition to the ribbon and certificate. I haven't decided what I'll do with it yet -- either pay bills, perhaps not get what I want, but certainly get what I need. New winter coat? Cat treats? I don't know. I'm still dazed that I won something.

My (2nd place) winning entry

I called it "Autumn Fog at the Train Station." I took this shot just about a year ago -- November 14, 2008. This year's theme was The Four Seasons of Plainfield, so it fit in fine. The entire exhibit with all of the submissions will eventually be online for your perusal.

I couldn't resist submitting this one

Although I labeled it as "spring," it wasn't really time-themed enough for a win. However, one of the folks who work in the art history department of the library wanted to meet me and told me it was the ONLY photograph submitted that she'd like to hang on her wall. I took this one a few years back and don't think I ever posted it on the blog.

My winter submission

This is the shot I submitted to represent winter. It won nothing but I like it anyway. I also submitted the sleeping boy on the train I posted here in September and one of the butterfly dancers from the July 4th parade.

Old and New

Back to real life and not photo competition submissions -- I thought the ornate Victorian extras, the TV antenna, and the satellite dish were an interesting combination, a trail of history, per se.

Home Sweet Home?

These two couches, complete with a pillow, a few comforters, a magazine, and a bottle of water are outside of the Verizon building on Park Avenue in Plainfield. Now, that's a main drag. Exposed to street traffic, pedestrians, and the elements, it can't be too comfortable. It reminds me of the couch in the projects in The Wire where the drug dealers used to hang out. Doesn't it get soggy with rain? Give me something hard which dries to sit on outdoors, thank you.

Sneakers on a Wire

I know that folk lore has it that sneakers thrown over a wire indicate drug dealers. But I think people often just like to throw their sneakers up over a wire to see if they can make the shot. Park Avenue in Plainfield.

What? I have a new bike? Really?

No, not really. This bike was parked directly next to (about two feet away) my apartment door yesterday. It was there when I left for the photo exhibition. It was there when I came back. I just peeked out into the hallway. It's still there. And, no ... it's not being deconstructed like the abandoned bike at the Bridgewater Train Station photos I posted a while back. I guess it says something about faith in humanity. I'd love to take it in and give it a home -- it's not a cheap bike. But it doesn't belong to me. I don't know why it's parked next to my apartment door. I figured it was someone visiting across the hall. But it's still there. Very weird. Maybe later I'll ask Joe across the hall if it's related to him and I'll call the police if it's not. That is, unless it disappears in the meanwhile.

MY cardboard! MY toy! MY sash!

I've found that Vincent loves to rip apart cardboard. I gave him the box and lid from my new boots. Instead of curling up and sleeping in the box, he attacked it, ripping off chunks. He then brought his toys in it and went wild. Here he is standing guard over his kingdom, showing his little grey haircut.

I Say It's MINE

The sash a cloth belt I never used which came with a pair of pants. I don't need a bow on my tummy. But it makes a perfect cat toy. I used to have to hide it from Scherzo or I'd wake up with it in my bed and her poking me to get up and play. Vincent likes to drag it around in his mouth and chase it when I run with it. But so far, it hasn't ended up in my bed.

Well, that wasn't too SWIFT, was it?

On Friday morning, I caught this sight at the Plainfield Train Station. At least he seemed to approach it slowly and didn't peel off the top of the trailer like so many do. But he was indeed stuck. He couldn't back up without damaging his cab more.

But I didn't see any signs


The Quoi Store

I need me some quoi. The liquor store on Watchung Avenue in Plainfield should probably fix their neon sign.

A tree in the sunset

With the sun setting so soon, this is what I saw at the Bridgewater Train Station this week heading home. By the time I got home, it was dusk here. This week it will be dark.

The Plainfield Train Station

The main train station (there's two stations in town) at night. In sepia with no flash. Fuzzy.

Moon Over Berckman Street

This is around the corner from where I live. Also no flash, also fuzzy. Also not quite like "The Moon Over Alabama."

Jesus Embroidery

North Street in Plainfield across from the train station. I did the B&W/color layering bit with this one and made the B&W part blurred. If you have a photo editing program which can do work with layers, it's easy. GIMP (online free) is an excellent program and even the ArcSoft PhotoStudio program which came with my scanner years ago has the capability.

1. Bring the image up in the editing program.
2. Copy, paste a new layer of the same image.
3. Using the saturation/hue setting, take all of the color out, leaving the photo you see black and white. (Remember, the color photo is directly underneath your B&W one.)
4. Using the freehand select tool, select the area you want in color by outlining it, cut. The color from the photo underneath will show.
5. Save the stacked layers image as a new image. Voila!
6. You can also do things like blur the top layer like I did above before saving as a new image.

Gotta make the donuts

Two fellow train commuters head to the platform in Plainfield. The trees are having a last burst of color, but more leaves are on the ground and streets than on the trees. I'm tired of hearing leafblowers. If someone more talented than me wanted to make a great invention -- quiet leafblowers and quiet lawnmowers would markedly improve quality of life issues.

So, this was indeed a nice week in my life. I hope yours was, too!


Ron said...

Congratulations on placing 2nd! I hope to make it over to the library this week to see the exhibit. And I know what you're saying about the leafblowers. They've been going nonstop in my area since 9:00 this morning.

~~Silk said...

Congrats on ... everything! You had a really good week.

I think we've seen the bunny before. The feeling of sadness when I looked at him was very familiar.

I downloaded GIMP last week, after you had mentioned in a response to my comment that you used it. I don't read manuals online very well, difficult to flip back and forth, so I printed off a half a ream of Gimp doc. Haven't found the time to play with it yet, but thank you for the explanation of layering. Your explanation is a heck of a lot clearer than theirs!

Margo said...

Congrats on all the accolades this week. They are well deserved. My Sunday would not be complete without reading about your week. I hope next week finds a few surprises for you.


monty924 said...

Congratulations, Jackie on the photo contest. I've always wanted you to publish a book of your photos. I would buy it in a heartbeat.

Beautiful phots again this week.

Sizzie said...

I am so glad I stopped by before you had time to put up TAR post. I love the photos and the glimpe into Jackie's week. : )

Good for you that you entered the library competition. I know we always tell you that you should let them be seen, but I wasn't sure you would listen to us.

Good for you in being able to contact the pocketbook lady. It is just like you to do the right thing, but took some doing to track her down.

Your post (and you, too, kiddo) is very uplifting.

Laurie said...

What a great week, Jackie. I love that your honesty paid off in such a nice way. It's nice to have our character reaffirmed sometimes.

Nice to know we are such awesome judges of your photo skills. Your winning photo is quite haunting, IMHO. Love it!

I always look forward to my Sunday visit with you and your week. So happy to say you never disappoint!

Dottie in NC said...

Congrations, Jackie!

PDX Granny said...

Obviously, I'm not the only one who's been inspired by your photographs! Congratulations on your prize. If it had been you fans here voting, you would have come in first!! : )

Because of your wonderful shots every week, I've begun taking my camera with me everywhere I go. I've even managed to get a few good shots. I don't think I would have thought to do that if it wasn't for seeing what you do. I owe you a huge thanks for opening my eyes!

Sydney said...

Jackie -- what a wonderful post. And you didn't even include in the first part about the photo award and the extra money too! Congratulations!!!

I'm SO glad you took your day off to go... and not at all surprised that you won something... but I totally understand that you were not expecting it. I love the picture that won too. Beautiful. When it rains it pours!!!

joy n said...

What a wonderful week you've had. You're prize photo is beautiful as are the others. I love that tree at sunset especially.

Honesty does pay and I'm not talking about the reward. It's a grand feeling to know that your honesty made someone feel so good. Makes you feel all good inside about yourself.

Congratulations on your work raise, too. A few extra dollars every week can't hurt. With all the hours of hard work you put in, nice to know that someone noticed.

Vincent and you seem perfectly matched. You both seem so happy with each other.

I never walked well in high heels either.

Sally said...

What a terrific post, Jackie. It brightens my day to learn about good things happening to good people.

I always enjoy reading about Vincent and it's good to know that Roofus has been spotted. Your photography, as always, is impressive.

Did your mayoral candidate win the election? And do you still have water in your apartment building? Hope so, on both counts.

Anonymous said...

Jackie - congratulations! The photo that came in second is one of my favorite photos of yours.

Karen in MD/DC

TerryinCA said...

Jackie, congratulations! I love the winter photo too...I would have given you the blue on it.

Vincent looks so happy and content with you..I love what he does to cardboard...better than aluminum cans I say....and still recyclable.
Im glad you got the raise, that you contacted the grateful woman and sent us all warm fuzzies to boot.
Your blog blesses in many ways....Im a thankful recipient.

meb said...

A reward, an award and an upward move in your salary... great week I'd have to agree.

So glad you shared all that with us Jackie. As usual, I'm late getting over here to read this. Always have good intentions, but you know I'll make it...just maybe not sooner.

Loved the picture that won, and I definitely would have given you a
first place for the winter scene. That was beautiful.

Vincent looks so content. Glad you have each other.

RyzandShyn said...

It's nice to have that warm fuzzies feeling for a great week and I'm glad you did. I often find I beat myself up for the things I didn't do rather than just enjoy all the good that got done. I have to work on that more but I've been warm fuzzing more often too.
Very fun how the photo contset turned out! My friend is a librarian and during the years of our friendship I have been well informed about the importance of public libraries and how the way a town handles their library and it's budget tells a lot about the town. Sounds like Plainfield does well.
Am off today for Veteran's Day. It was always my favorite day off because it was the one day a year that I was off from work but my kids had school...the day was mine, all mine. Now those days are behind me, flew so swiftly. I'm not knocking the day off though, I'm happy to have a mid-week break this week.
Vincent looks wonderful, his new life is agreeing with him...playing, purring, enjoying.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't suprise me that you won a prize. You take some really nice shots.