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For the past few weeks I’ve been complaining about dealing with not one—but two problem cameras. The camera that’s in my smartphone has been acting more and more inconsistently since last Christmas. I would frequently get those dreaded “Camera Error Please Restart Camera.” I would frequently complain about it in this blog. (You can read the most recent example here.)

That problem got so bad that I went back to using my 15-year-old Canon Digital Rebel EOS DSLR camera. That camera was once a top-of-the-line camera but the newer cameras have more megapixels plus that camera only does still photography. (I’m well aware that the newer DSLR cameras does videos as well as still photographs.) It’s also bulky and heavy compared to my smartphone.

For a while I brought the DSLR camera whenever I was going somewhere where I was sure that I would want to take photographs and I didn’t want to risk relying on the smartphone alone. But lately the DSLR camera’s battery isn’t charging (even though I make sure that I charge that battery ahead of whatever event I was taking it to). That came to a head when I made sure to charge it a day or two before the recent solar eclipse only to find that the battery wasn’t working at all. I was lucky that my smartphone camera decided to function just like old times so I was able to get a few photos of that eclipse. But then my smartphone camera reverted back to that “Camera Error Please Restart” message when I went to a Meetup event that took place just a few hours later.

I subsequently looked up replacement batteries for my DSLR camera and I saw that it varied widely between $8 to a whopping $60!

Then there was the issue of having to lug a heavy camera plus there are times when I want to shoot video and I would have to hope and pray that my smartphone camera is up to that challenge. I decided to shop around for a relatively cheap point-and-shoot camera that’s small enough to be portable (so I can easily carry it in a bag or in my purse), provide as many megapixels as the smartphone cameras, and is capable of shooting video.

After doing some Internet research on various camera prices and reading various online reviews, I decided on a Canon PowerShot ELPH 190IS. I purchased a used camera for only $80 on eBay and it arrived in my home just in time for the Labor Day holiday weekend. I got a camera, a battery, and a battery charger. The one thing missing was an SD card but I already had one on hand so it was no big deal to pop it into the camera. The only other thing missing was the manual but I was able to find a .pdf copy by doing a Google search then downloading it.

By the way, that’s the best way of finding a new copy of any missing manual. These days you can find a missing manual for just about anything no matter what the product is or how old a certain product is. (Don’t be like this guy and email some random stranger asking to scan a copy of a manual then email it to him for no compensation and to email it ASAP. It’s just quicker to do your own Google search and you won’t have to irritate random strangers either.)

Since the camera just a couple of days before upcoming Labor Day holiday weekend I decided to give it a real workout at the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival. On the Thursday night before the start of the festival and the holiday weekend I decided to use the video feature to record a friend of mine who was performing at the New Deal Cafe’s regular Thursday night Open Mike. He usually performs as one-half of the duo The Bachelor and the Bad Actress and I did that animated music video to the duo’s song “Butcher the Hog” not too long ago. (They were also the same couple who held a public outdoor wedding in the middle of a music festival a two years ago and I have the video and a bunch of photos to prove it.)

My friend was doing a solo set that night under the name Joey Campfire. (His wife wasn’t at the cafe that night.) He sang two songs and I shot a short video for the last one as a way of testing out my new camera. I have to say that I liked the results, which I uploaded on to YouTube. Here it is below.

I also took a couple of shots of the various carnival rides that people were setting up near the cafe in order to be ready for the festival’s opening the following evening. I took a boatload of photos and another short video that holiday weekend. I’m trying to get everything sifted, edited, and uploaded as fast as I can. I’m trying to aim for next week when I’ll show off what I took with my new camera.

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Passover

A week ago or so a friend of mine who knew me when I was still married mentioned that he saw my ex-husband and found something disturbing about him. Yesterday I ran into another friend on Easter Sunday who also expressed similar concerns about my ex-husband after seeing him and his second wife at a local cafe.

I’m not going to elaborate on what their concerns are other than to say that I’m not surprised that they are shocked at what has happened to my ex-husband. Since he left me he has gone through a complete personality change that I can’t explain. (I’ve read plenty about personality disorder, psychopathy, narcissism, and sociopathy but I lack the credentials to diagnose my ex-husband or anyone else.) After all, my husband never told me he was unhappy in our marriage until he abruptly left me just three days after Christmas in 2011. (He left me three months after I underwent hip surgery.) He abruptly went from being a loving, caring husband to someone who became cold and distant. He refused to talk to me or to meet with me in person other than to bark out orders over email and text demanding that I adhere to a schedule where we would separate our finances and if I raised any kind of resistance, he would threaten to sue me. I found out from friends that he had left me for a woman whom I thought was a friend of mine but I now know better. She had been open about her mental health issues that became so severe that she had an experimental pacemaker implanted in her brain. She qualified for SSI disability just weeks before my husband left me for her.

If all that weren’t enough, my husband sent divorce papers in a .pdf format that was attached to an email message that was dated December 24, 2012. (Yes, he did this on Christmas Eve.) I later found out that he and the other woman got engaged just eight months after he left me. He married her two months after our divorce was final.

Sure I’m sad over what my friends have told me about him but here’s one thing I learned through both attending meetings of a divorce recovery group and seeing a therapist—the only person I can control is myself. I can’t control anyone else. Sure, I can give advice to someone but it’s up to the person to decide whether he or she will follow my advice or not.

I made the decision to have no contact with my ex-husband because of his cyberbullying threats of taking me to court if I didn’t do what he told me to do. My ex has never said that he was sorry for the pain he had put me through or even acknowledge his role in what happened between us. He once told me that it was my fault that he had to leave me so he could date that mentally ill friend of ours. (For the record, I never once told him that he should hook up with that woman. I would never recommend dating a seriously mentally ill person to anyone.) And the reason why he felt he had to leave: The day before my hip surgery I had gone to the American Girl Place in Tysons Corner, Virginia and I purchased this doll named Julie, who is part of the American Girl dolls’ historical line and she’s supposed to represent the 1970’s, mainly because her default outfit is similar to an outfit I once wore when I was growing up in the 1970’s. My ex wrote in a letter that he left behind that my purchase of this doll added to the clutter of our home and he had to leave because of it.

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That’s right, my purchase of this doll is the main reason my husband cited for leaving home, hooking up with a woman whom he knew has serious mental health issues, getting engaged to her while still being legally married to me, divorcing me, and marrying her just two months after the divorce was final.

Unless my ex makes a sincere effort to make amends to me for the hurt he has caused me, there is no way I’m going to contact him to see if he’s okay or if there is anything I can do to help him.

I’ll admit that I haven’t forgiven him at all. I learned through my divorce recovery group that forgiveness is a process that can’t be rushed and that there are some situations where it’s impossible to forgive a person. I can’t say I’ll never forgive him but I am just honestly not emotionally ready to do that right now.

Even if I was still in contact with him as a friend, there are limits as to what I can do. Any advice I give would work only if he wants to take it. If he decides against taking my advice, there’s nothing I can do about it because it’s his life and he’s the only one who has a direct say in over how he’ll live it.

If my friends raise their concerns about my ex with me again, I’m going to have to tell them “Sorry but I can’t do anything about it.” Because it is the truth.

I’m only writing a post about this because I know that there are people dealing with loved ones who have their own level of dysfunction—whether it’s due to drugs or alcohol or they are in a dysfunctional romantic relationship or they have mental health problems that they refuse to do anything about or they tend to gamble excessively or they have some other problem that have seriously impacted their lives. Many of us were raised in religious traditions where you’re taught that you’re supposed to be your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper and you have to be the hero to save that person from self-destruction. What I’m telling you—which flies in the face of most religious traditions—is this: you have no control over that person or anyone else other than yourself. If that person wants your help, then fine. You should help that person. But if that person refuses your offer of help, you have no other choice but to just let that person continue on his/her self-destructive path.

This was a lesson I learned through my divorce recovery group and it’s a similar message that other self-help groups, such as Al-Anon, also convey. The bottom line is that you can’t help anyone else unless that person wants your help.

However you can educate yourself so you can learn how to respond to someone else’s drama without getting consumed by it. I’m going to end this post with a short list of books I read that helped me learn how to deal with and respond to my ex-husband’s actions without losing my own mind.

Runaway Husbands by Vikki Stark. This was the first book I ordered from Amazon.com in the days after my husband left and I did a Google search on “my husband ran away from home.” That book helped me prepare for what would happen next since my husband had followed the same path to our divorce that the other husbands Stark profiled in her book went.

Psychopath Free by Jackson MacKenzie. This is a book that was invaluable in helping me to decide not to have any further contact with my ex-husband until he makes a sincere effort to make amends with me for what he has done to me.

The Language of Letting Go and More Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie. Both books are daily meditations that are designed to help the person with breaking away from a codependent relationship into living a well-integrated and independent life that’s free from codependency.

Santa Claus

 

 

 

 

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I have a decoration on my tabletop that reminds me of someone whom I used to be friends with but he’s now deceased.

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This is a print that I have in a box frame that is currently sitting on my tabletop next to the Christmas tree. It was originally a wood printed Christmas card that was created by my friend based on his own original art.

The friend’s name was drex Andrex (he used a lowercase “d” in the first letter of his first name) and he was a very talented artist. My then-husband and I first met him through our Unitarian Universalist congregation and we served on a variety of committees together and frequently met with him and his wife, Ann, at a variety of social events. drex would’ve loved to have been able to make a living as an artist but, unfortunately, he never made enough money at his art to pay the bills. He had a day job as a federal employee plus there were the years when he and his wife raised three children so he had to limit doing his art to whenever he had some free time.

I remember when he and Ann would hold a series of weekly get-togethers at their home in the summer known as the Carport Studio where we would get together in the carport, socialize, drink beer and wine, eat whatever snacks they put out, and create some art. I had some pretty fond memories of those times.

drex was mainly into painting landscapes and cityscapes based on places where he and his family lived. (They lived in Europe for a few years—mainly Belgium and the United Kingdom—in the 1970’s and 1980’s.) He painted in an impressionist style and I’ve always loved his work. He tried selling his paintings to galleries and art dealers but he frequently got turned away. Having seen his work, I never understood why the galleries and art dealers rejected him. He was able to have a few art shows here and there but he really deserved better from the art world.

Fortunately he had his day job so he didn’t have to be the stereotypical starving artist.

At one point drex and Ann became involved with a group of people who were keen on starting a co-housing group. It took several years for this group to get off the ground because they had to find and buy the land then there were arguments and discussions over all kinds of issues ranging from what kind of houses would be built there to procedures to accepting new members into that group. By the time the co-housing development was finally built near Frederick, drex and Ann’s youngest daughter was midway through her senior year of high school. They waited until the daughter finished school, put their current house on the market, then moved to the co-housing development.

The Carport Studio get-togethers had ceased when they moved but my husband and I visited them in their new home a few months after they moved and they seemed happy. drex was selling his paintings that weekend and my husband and I purchased one of his oil paintings of a boat in a harbor and we hung it in our living room.

Sadly their happiness was short-lived. A year or two after the move drex was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. drex went through the treatments and did everything he could do to get well but the cancer got the best of him. I remember my husband and I going to Frederick to visit drex one last time. At the time his wife told us that he was so weak that he could only manage visits of no longer than an hour. However, when we arrived something inside of drex gave him enough energy that our originally scheduled one-hour visit was extended to three hours until he became so tired that we left. Even his Ann was amazed by how our visit had given him a new vitality.

Sadly that vitality was short-lived. One of his last pictures showed him with the family after his oldest daughter gave birth to his second grandchild. Six weeks after the birth, drex died. He was only in his mid-50’s.

When my marriage broke up and we were haggling over the separation, my husband wanted that painting that drex did. I reluctantly agreed to it because I was getting the house that we had shared together even though I would’ve loved to have kept that painting. I had foolishly told my husband that I was attending weekly Thursday night meetings of a support group for people who are separated or divorced because, at the time, I still hoped for a reconciliation and I hoped that he would be impressed by my efforts to improve myself. Unfortunately he took advantage of that knowledge to let himself into the home whenever I was out so he could take his things—including drex’s oil painting that hung in our living room. My husband was basically a coward throughout the whole separation and divorce in that he didn’t tell me he was unhappy until the night he left, he refused to see me in person or talk to me via the telephone, and he only communicated via email and text and that was when he demanded that I adhered to this separation schedule that existed in his head or else he would sue me. Naturally he only went to the house to get my stuff on the one night he knew I would not be home so he wouldn’t have to face me.

I was sad that I had nothing that drex had made until I was going through some clutter and I found the woodblock print he made for my husband and I as a greeting card. I found a block frame to put it in. This block frame is thick enough on the sides that it can stand up on its own. This print is now stored with the other Christmas ornaments and decorations in the attic and I take it down to display during the winter holiday season.

There are the occasional times when I still miss drex but I’m glad I have at least one thing to remember him by.

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For the past few years I’ve been attending a party at a friend’s place on Halloween. This year was the first year that I actually shot photos.

My friend had installed red light bulbs in the lamps, which gave off this really spooky vibe. I shot a bunch of photos with the flash turned off, which led to some really creepy effects.

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I took this next photo using a flash. That was the only time I used a flash that night.

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There was also a bonfire in the backyard where I took these last three photos.

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I’m hoping that the craziness of the last two weeks will end as of today but in life there are no guarantees. This latest round of stress started when I signed up for an interview for this potential job that was located in Jessup yet the employment agency responsible for the hiring was holding interviews in its Glen Burnie offices. The night before my scheduled job interview I got word that my mother was in the hospital in Glen Burnie. I already wrote at length about that episode here and here so I’m not going to repeat it in this post.

Instead I’m going to pick up on the Thursday before the start of the Labor Day holiday weekend. It was the last day I visited my mother before she was released the following day. I brought along one of my paintings, which was my fan art tribute to My Little Pony, and left it in the car while I visited my mother. After that visit I drove straight to the Greenbelt Community Center where I entered it in the upcoming Labor Day Art Show. I wanted to enter it on the first day that entries were being accepted because I was scheduled to head up to Baltimore the following day.

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So on Friday my mother was released from the hospital. I was invited to this closing party at the Escape Artists Gallery in Baltimore where I was participating in a show that was benefitting those who were affected by the recent flood in Ellicott City. The closing party wasn’t announced until just two days before the event but I decided to go any way and endure yet another commute from the DC area to the Baltimore area for the fifth day in a row.

I decided to go up to Baltimore a bit early on Friday to check out the Walters Art Museum that was located just a few blocks from the Escape Artists Gallery. I hadn’t been there since I was a teenager and it had free admission so I went for it. I spent at least two hours there until it was close to closing time but I found that one really needs to spend a full day there in order to see everything that the museum has to offer. I may make a return trip there when it gets closer to the Christmas holiday season since the mall parking lots will be filled with cars by then but it really depends on my schedule.

After the museum closed I was outside where I was enjoying the wonderful weather. There was this horrible heat wave where the temperature was in the 90’s with high humidity as well. I endured that heat wave as I commuted to and from Glen Burnie to visit my mom in the hospital. But then Hurricane Hermine made its way to the U.S. While it affected the waves at all of the beaches along the East Coast so swimming was strongly discouraged, the hurricane never went inland. As a result the outer edges of the hurricane blew away the heat wave and it was replaced by nice sunny weather in the 80’s with low humidity. It arrived just in time for Labor Day weekend.

I decided to take advantage of the longer days and nice weather by sitting in a chair near the Washington Monument so I could rest from trekking around the Walters Art Museum. I was starting to feel hungry so I looked around for places where I could eat dinner. There was a Subway that was located under the Escape Artists Gallery and there was a nearby local pizzeria that was slightly more expensive than Subway but it was still within my price range. I had enough money for Subway but I found that I needed to hit the ATM if I wanted to eat at the pizzeria. So I attempted to use the pizzeria’s ATM only to find out that I got an “Access Denied” message on the receipt. Never mind the fact that I had recently deposited my ex-husband’s latest alimony check just a few days earlier.

I ended up eating at the Subway then waited until the party began at the gallery that was located upstairs. When I came in I found that I was the first person who arrived. So I ended up talking with one of the people who ran the gallery where I learned that it had sold only half of the art currently in the show and the bulk of the sales happened on opening night. Since then the gallery had sold only one or two additional art pieces but, as a fundraiser, it was a bust. I also learned that my own art piece had remained unsold despite the fact that I chose it because it was 9 inches x 12 inches (23 cm x 30 cm) and it depicted a very accessible family-friendly subject matter (a begging dog flashing very sad eyes because he wanted to have a bite of that chocolate chip cookie that was also in the painting).

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A few more people showed up to the party but it drew no more than around six people including myself. The gallery owner admitted that she had waited too long to announce that party and it was also scheduled for the Friday before Labor Day weekend. I spent some time checking out the other pieces on display in that show since I hadn’t been there before. (I wasn’t able to make it to the opening night reception a few weeks earlier.) But the party was a bit of a letdown so I decided to leave a half-an-hour before it was scheduled to end. As I was saying good-bye to one of the gallery owners whom I talked with earlier, she suggested that I take my painting with me since the show would close in just two days and it would save me another trip to the gallery. I took her up on that suggestion because, to be honest, I hadn’t been looking forward to taking yet another trip from the DC area to the Baltimore area for a sixth day out of the last seven days. Taking that painting kind of messed up that post that went live just a few hours earlier announcing that my painting would be in the show until Sunday, September 4 but I didn’t bother with updating it because I figured that there were plenty of other unsold art that would still be there and it was all going to a good cause. It’s too bad that my painting wasn’t sold.

The next day was Saturday. I went to the ATM machine at my bank I was able to withdraw some cash, which was great because I was scheduled to go to the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival. I arrived in the afternoon where I walked around enjoying the sights and sounds. Then I reported for volunteer guard duty at the art show (which is the one condition of submitting a work of art for the show) for an hour. After I finished that obligation I checked out the rest of the art show along with the photo show. I also checked out various tables from local groups because the first day was “Community Day” while talking with a few friends whom I ran into. I grabbed a cheese crab pretzel for my dinner then played a few rounds of Bingo as the sun set on yet another wonderful weather day with full sun and low humidity. I hung around after sunset for a bit while I took pictures of the carnival rides after dark until I grew tired then I sat at the bus stop waiting for a shuttle to take me back to my car so I could go home. While I was waiting at the bus stop I saw a couple pass me from behind and I immediately recognized them as my ex-husband and my onetime mentally ill friend whom he married just two months after out divorce was final. By then it was around 8 p.m. and I was leaving the festival while the Backstabbing Couple From Hell were just entering it. At least I didn’t have to worry about running into them. (LOL!)

The following day I decided to go to Sunday service at my Unitarian Universalist congregation for the first time in several weeks. I was surprised to see two onetime members who had since moved to Florida and they were up in the DC area for a visit. They are a longtime gay couple whom my then-husband and I visited in Florida shortly after I started this blog back in 2010. We chatted for a bit and I learned that they managed to evade Hurricane Hermine, which struck the Tampa-St. Petersburg area where they now live. One of them has a son from a previous marriage to a woman and it turns out that I recognized the son’s girlfriend from the fact that we both participated in the yard sale that’s put on by my support group for people who are separated or divorced. I also found out that the son had been attending that same support group’s meetings at its Columbia chapter while I attend the ones in Crofton. The son met his girlfriend through the Columbia chapter. So it was a cool coincidence.

After church I found that I hadn’t taken out enough money the day before so I decided to go to the ATM machine that was affiliated with one of the branches of my bank to take out just a few more bucks only to get a slip that said “Access denied.” This was reminiscent of what happened Friday in Baltimore! Worse, I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it until Tuesday because of the holiday weekend. So I wasn’t able to do grocery shopping nor was I able to spend any more money at the festival on things like food. I had just enough money to go to this local art supply shop to buy a tiny 3-inch canvas and one tube of black acrylic paint because I decided to take part in a local tiny art contest that I’ll write more about in a future post and I needed to get this piece done by the September 13 deadline.

I went to the Greenbelt Museum because it was having its free admission day. I briefly perused the craft tables because it was the first day of the craft show but I didn’t buy anything because of a lack of money.

Ultimately I went home where I started work on my latest project for the upcoming tiny art contest: an acrylic painting on a tiny 3-inch canvas based on one of my photographs I had taken at the Greenbelt Labor Day Festival the night before.

The following day was Labor Day itself. I went to the Greenbelt Labor Day Parade then I went back home to eat lunch. Afterwards I went over to the Labor Day Festival because the Greenbelt Theater was having a free showing of the movie Briggadoon. The story was kind of hokey but I loved the music and dancing in that film. I ran into a friend after the movie and I socialized for a bit with her. I perused the craft tables and hung around the used book sale (which was giving away its inventory on the last day of the festival) while enjoying the continuing wonderful sunny with low humidity weather until 4 p.m., when I could retrieve my artwork from the art show. Afterwards I headed home where I ate dinner and worked some more on that tiny art canvas.

The following day I decided to confront my bank over the ATM situation. I went to the drive-through ATM first to see if the problem had somehow corrected itself. I still saw that “Access Denied” printed on the slip. I grew angry and I was all ready to park my car and go inside that bank branch to do some major confrontation.

But then something happened that I can’t explain. The ATM card was no longer in my hand. I assumed I had dropped it on the floor of my car. I looked there and I didn’t see it. I looked through my wallet and it wasn’t there either. I walked back over to the lane where the ATM was located and I didn’t see my ATM card anywhere. I went inside the branch and asked if anyone had turned in an ATM card but no one did.

I tried continuing my search outside. By that point the wonderful holiday weekend weather was gone and it was replaced by yet another heatwave where the temperature shot up to the upper 90’s along with high humidity so doing an extensive search around my car became intolerable. So I couldn’t confront the bank about my ATM card because I had somehow dropped it and I couldn’t find it plus the increasing temperature had made it impossible for me to continue my search either in the car or outdoors. So I had no choice but to return home.

I continued to work some more on my tiny art canvas while I did a thorough search of both my wallet and my purse in an air conditioned living room. I couldn’t find my ATM card. I searched through my wallet and purse several times and it was the same result. I waited until after dinner when the heat was slightly less oppressive and I did a thorough search of my car while I did some major decluttering. My car was cleaner but I still didn’t find my ATM card.

The following day I returned to the bank branch where I searched among the bushes outside and I even did a closer look around the drive-through ATM lane. I didn’t find my card. I went inside to inquire and found that no one had found my ATM card and turned it in.

The only silver lining is that it was the same card that kept on giving me the “Access Denied” message so anyone who found it and tried to use it as a debit card would have problems with accessing my account. But it was still annoying that I had somehow lost it while I went through a flash of anger over the whole “Access Denied” SNAFU in the first place.

Yesterday I went back to the same bank branch and did some more searching around the general area but I knew it was hopeless. Thanks to my flash of anger, I was very careless about my ATM and I dropped it in a place where I couldn’t find it and the further the situation went on, the less likely my ATM card will ever be found. So I broke down and ordered a new ATM card, which won’t arrive for the next five to seven days. I also wrote a check for “Cash” so I could have some dollar bills on hand. (I’m old enough to remember that in the days before ATMs became so widespread, writing a check payable to “Cash” was the only way one could access money in the checking account. Of course, one had to do this during banking hours.)

I was totally stressed out over the whole ATM situation so I went to the weekly Thursday night meeting of my support group for people who are separated or divorced just so I could vent. Luckily the topic that evening was the challenges of being divorced so I could explain my sob story about the ATM situation and the times when I miss having another person in the home whom I could confide in about various issues. I felt better after that meeting and I managed to get a good night’s sleep for the first time in a few days.

So I’m now hoping that the worst times are over but in this life nothing is guaranteed. I’m just looking forward to the upcoming tiny art contest that I’ll write about in a future post while hoping that no more major calamities strike me because I really need some time to get over the last two weeks.

This month I’ve been dealing with tighter than usual finances because of the fallout from having to pay over $400 in car repairs. I needed an oil change, which isn’t bad. But then one of my tires shredded and it turned out that the shredded tire couldn’t be fixed because it had grown bald. Worse, the mechanic noticed one of the other tires had gone bald and was on the verge of completely blowing out as well. So I ended up with two new tires. Yesterday I had to call the electric company in order to avoid being disconnected.

Then I learned this week that my mother had gone back to the hospital with a urinary tract infection and sepsis. Really bad stuff. She’s currently at the hospital in Glen Burnie that used to be known as North Arundel Hospital (and it’s still called “North Arundel” by many locals) but it’s now known as the University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center. I visited her yesterday and the day before. The first day she was out of it but by yesterday she seemed better. I met the case worker who was assigned to her and she told the two of us that the hospital would make arrangements to release her either this weekend or sometime early next week. She also told us that if my mother disagreed with the hospital’s decision to release her, there are certain avenues she can use to appeal the decision and stay in the hospital longer. I doubt that she’ll want to stay in the hospital any longer than necessary.

As for visiting my mother in Glen Burnie, I tried to make the best of a bad situation. In fact, I purchased another Ty Peek-A-Boos for my mom’s smartphone. This one is a dog named Zelda.

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My mother liked Zelda but she asked me to take it home with me because she feared that Zelda would get stolen by a hospital employee. I’ll give it to her once she returns to her home.

My mother is currently on the sixth floor of the hospital. Here is a photo of a window view that I took from one of the waiting areas on that floor.

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After visiting my mom on the first day I decided to get a milkshake from Ann’s Dari-Creme. Here are a few photos of the place that I took on a previous visit last year.

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On the second day of visiting my mom in the hospital, I decided to eat lunch at Crabtowne USA before the visit. That place has a value meal menu that’s only available on Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. where you pick one main meal, one side, and one can of soda for $8. I got the crab cake sandwich with onion rings and a Diet Coke. After lunch I played some of the vintage video games and pinball machines for a while then headed over to the hospital. Here are some photos of Crabtowne USA and its vintage arcade room that I took on previous visits to that place.

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After that second visit yesterday I felt like I was in the mood for some ice cream. Last summer I took a driving tour through Southern Maryland where I discovered Bruster’s Ice Cream. There’s a location in Glen Burnie so I decided to go there.

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After I took the above photo with my smartphone I got a notice from Google Maps indicating that it was interested in using that photo as a location photo. So I clicked the “OK” button and it’s now on that site. I took one other photo of the place as well.

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I ordered the small double chocolate cone, which I found very delicious.

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Across the street from Bruster’s Ice Cream is a building that used to be known as the Harundale Cinema. My parents used to take me there to see movies on a regular basis as a child. I remember that theater had one screen and it used to be colored blue because of the blue lights that were projected on it when no movie or preview trailers were being projected on it. At first it was the only movie theater in town but then the multiplexes started to open and the Harundale Cinema started to lose business because it could show only one movie at a time. The owners eventually decided to split that theater in half so they could show two movies at a time. It bought the Harundale Cinema some time but its two screens just couldn’t compete with other theaters that had four or more screens and it ultimately went out of business. The building was eventually remodeled and today it is occupied by the Arundel Christian Church.

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The one thing I miss most about the old Harundale Cinema is that before the showing of each preview trailer or feature film it would show this short intro reel that had a very techno jazzy soundtrack and the logo for the General Cinema Corporation (which Harundale Cinema was a part of).

Today I won’t be able to visit my mother because I’m going to a funeral for a woman who had long been a fixture in the neighborhood and she was especially active in the local arts scene (which was how I knew her). She was a very active senior citizen and I even saw her just a few weeks before her death at the Greek Festival back in May. She seemed fine and healthy then. I heard it was one of those things where she was pretty lively and healthy until she suddenly suffered a heart attack or stroke and it killed her. I still remember when my mother-in-law died in a sudden similar fashion six years ago. At least the funeral is closer to my home so I won’t have as long of a commute.

Ramadan

American Flag

I had a pretty action-packed Fourth of July holiday weekend this year. Here’s a rundown of what I did.

Friday, July 1, 2016: I went to Community Forklift, which was having its First Friday event where, during the warm months, the store not only stays open later on the first Friday of the month but it also has live entertainment with food and beverages available for sale. The store also has a sale on many of its products. That’s the time when the store takes on a really festive atmosphere, which is why I’ve attended many of Community Forklift’s events like First Friday.

Saturday, July 2, 2016: A few weeks ago I had prescheduled a few posts that would go live in this blog over the Fourth of July weekend so I could enjoy the holiday myself without working on this blog. But then I saw this article on Medium.com urging people not to take fireworks photos with smartphones because the results are always bad. I couldn’t resist writing a rebuttal post including my own fireworks photos I shot with my Droid Ultra over the past couple of years just so I could prove to people that, yes, it is possible to get a good fireworks shot with a smartphone.

I attended an afternoon outdoor barbecue at my church, which was totally fun. It especially helped that the weather was pleasantly warm with very low humidity. I socialized while gorging myself on so much food that I ended up skipping dinner because I was still full by early evening.

For the past few weeks I would see a tiny shadowy figure that would zoom quickly then disappeared. At first I thought it was a mouse but I dismissed it because a few years back (when I was still married and my husband still lived at that townhouse) I had installed these high tech devices I found at the hardware store that emitted a high frequency sound that was offensive to rodents yet humans and other types of pets (like dogs and cats) can’t hear. But after encountering too many nights where I got startled by briefly seeing that fast shadowy figure I decided that my home was once again invaded by at least one mouse who doesn’t mind hearing those high frequency sounds.

After the church barbecue I went to Five Below where I bought a King-Sized Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar and a box of Milk Duds. I dug up a couple of old humane mousetraps that I had put in storage and I set them using a couple of squares of the Hershey’s bar as bait. (I also ate a few squares of that chocolate myself.) Just as I was about to go to bed I heard a noise coming from one of the traps and I discovered that I captured one mouse. I took the trap, got in the car, and drove to a nearby park located a mile from my home where I released the mouse. When I returned home I saw that there was a few nibbles at the Hershey’s bait but there was enough of the candy bar left that I decided to just keep it in the trap. While I was in the upstairs bathroom brushing my teeth while preparing for bed, I thought I heard something coming from downstairs. It was getting late at night and I was too tired to investigate by then so I simply went to bed.

Sunday, July 3, 2016: I ended up skipping church that morning because I overslept. I took a shower then went downstairs to eat breakfast. I heard scratching noises from that same mousetrap in the kitchen where I had captured that mouse just a few hours earlier. I ate breakfast then I inspected that trap. I found that I had captured another mouse. I went to the same park where I released the other mouse on the previous night. I saw plenty of people parking their cars and carrying their picnic baskets to that park for some pre-Fourth of July celebrations. I took the trap over to an area of the park that was wooded but there weren’t any picnickers around and I released that mouse. When I got home and took a close look at that trap, I saw that the square of Hershey’s chocolate bar was completely devoured. (It was inevitable given that two separate mice had been caught in the same trap with the same exact bait.) I had eaten much of the Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar by then so I opened the Milk Duds and placed a couple pieces of that candy in the trap and set it up again.

I decided to do a driving trip for the heck of it since I can’t afford to take a real vacation. I drove all the way north to Brooklyn Park then headed south on Ritchie Highway to the town I grew up in, Glen Burnie. I took some pictures (which I’ll get around to uploading sometime in the future) but I ultimately ended up at Crabtowne USA, where I played their vintage pinball machines and arcade games like Donkey Kong and Phoenix. (I’ve written previous blog posts about that place while posting photos of some of their vintage arcade goodies here and here.) I didn’t eat anything at Crabtowne USA (even though I love their seafood dishes) because I was invited to a party that would begin later. (The restaurant part was nearly filled anyway.) I did go to Ann’s Dari-Creme where I purchased a small soft vanilla ice cream cone with a chocolate dip top and a small Diet Coke. It was delicious. The weather was very cloudy and it drizzled off and on all afternoon. I was worried about this party that I was scheduled to attend that evening because it was to be mostly held outdoors with a bonfire.

I drove on to Crownsville where I went to a party that was held by someone I met through my support group for people who are separated or divorced. I brought along an old wedding present that was personalized with my name and my ex-husband’s name along with our wedding date and threw it in the bonfire that was set up in the backyard. I shot video footage of that burning but I need to do some editing before I can upload it. I also roasted several marshmallows over that same fire and ate them. Fortunately the frequent drizzles had stopped after sunset and it didn’t rain at all.

Monday, July 4, 2016: I woke up a bit later than usual since I didn’t arrive home from that bonfire party until well after midnight. I checked the mousetraps and I found no new mice in them. Fantastic! I’m still going to keep the traps up for another week to make sure that I had gotten rid of all of my unwanted rodent houseguests.

I basically hung around at home playing video games on the Nintendo Wii (ABBA You Can Dance and Rayman Raving Rabbids) until after 4, when another party was scheduled to begin. It was held at a friend’s place in my town. She and her partner had just purchased this home that overlooked a lake and the town officials were having an official fireworks show on the other side of that lake. The idea of going to a party, socializing with friends, and ending that party with viewing the fireworks sounded appealing. Except it started to rain this afternoon.

Ultimately the official fireworks were postponed until July 5 but the party went on as originally scheduled. Instead of stepping outside to see fireworks, we ended up turning on the TV and setting the channel to Maryland Public Television which had a live broadcast of the fireworks that went on in downtown Washington, DC. (Unlike that one town in the suburbs, the DC fireworks went ahead as scheduled—rain be damned.) We all socialized and had a great time. Some people brought drums and one person brought an acoustic guitar so a music jam session broke out. It was all good.

I had a great holiday weekend even if I ate too much food all three days. I’m definitely going to watch what I eat for the next few days in order to make up for all that eating excess I had put my body through. Tomorrow I have to face real life once again. Sigh!

UPDATE (July 5, 2016): I was getting tired when I saw the DC fireworks show on Maryland Public Television at my friend’s party last night. Had I been more awake, I would’ve noticed the disconnect between the fact that the live musical performances show the wet stage, audience members with umbrellas and rain ponchos while the fireworks themselves were shot off in a cloud-free crystal-clear sky.

American Flag

Another Thanksgiving Day is here. I may not be fully recovered from that unexpected separation and divorce I went through and money is tight with me these days but I still have a lot of things I’m thankful for. I’m thankful for my health. I’m thankful for having a circle of supportive family and friends whom I can lean on whenever I go through an anxiety attack (which I’ve been suffering from ever since my husband abruptly walked our on me with zero notice that he was unhappy just three days after Christmas in 2011). I’m trying to dig myself out of this hole that I got thrown into courtesy of my so-called “dear husband” but I’m feeling far better than back in 2012. I’m hoping that I’ll feel even better by this time next year but who knows what the future will bring?

Since Thanksgiving is devoted to eating turkey, I’ll end this post with some pictures of turkeys that I took at the weekly Greenbelt Farmers Market in Greenbelt, Maryland earlier this month.

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Dancing Skeleton

Yesterday I celebrated Halloween and it was mostly good. It fell on a Saturday this year and it was also the day when Daylight Savings Time formally ended so we had to set our clocks back one hour. Which means that everyone got an extra hour of sleep, which was perfect timing because people could attend Halloween parties on a Saturday night knowing that they can sleep one hour more than usual.

When I was growing up, Halloween decorations were limited mainly to window decals and paper decorations that one can post on the front door. It’s just so amazing to me the amount of stuff that one can buy nowadays in order to decorate. Right now I’m starting to think that Halloween will eventually rival Christmas for the most over-the-top decorations that one can purchase for the home. Here are some incredibly decorated Halloween homes that I saw.

The next few photos showed this house in Bethesda, Maryland that was really decorated with these really cool looking lawn decorations. I wasn’t able to get any night shots of this house but one can only imagine that it must look just as fabulous (if not more fabulous) as in the daytime when I took these photos.

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One night, shortly before Halloween, I was in the process of walking to a meeting at a local church in Greenbelt, Maryland when I came across this lit scene in someone’s yard that looks like there’s a graveyard.

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The headstones all contain amusing puns that reminded me of the ones at the Haunted Mansion ride in Walt Disney World.

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There was even a spotlight featuring Halloween images that were shown on a nearby building in the background.

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A few days later I revisited that house in the daytime and I found that there were even more details that were better viewed when the sun was up.

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There was another house in Greenbelt, Maryland that also had some interesting Halloween decorations on the front lawn.

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Then there was this house, also in Greenbelt, Maryland, that had a bunch of Halloween decorations on the front lawn.

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The next few photos show this home that belong to some friends of mine who throw a really awesome Halloween party every year and I make an effort to show up. They really go all out for the decorations, as you can see in the next few photos.

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I didn’t take too many interior shots inside their home mainly because I was busy drinking and socializing. My sole photo was one where I messed around with the Hatsune Miku app on my phone for the first time in many months. I took a photo of the virtual pop superstar in my friends’ living room at the party.

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As I left the party I noticed that one of my friends’ neighbors had these really cool looking carved pumpkins.

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Compared to other people, my home is relatively sparse in terms of Halloween decorations. I live alone these days so, for me, it doesn’t make sense to do a huge amount of decorating on my front lawn because it can get pretty expensive and some of them can also be big electricity suckers. I did some effects that were low-cost. For example I delayed cutting the dead bunch of black-eyed susans so I had the effect of dead weeds growing in my front yard on Halloween. I’ve seen decorations that resemble dead weeds on sale but I thought it was cheaper to just delay gardening for a while so I would have some real dead and dried plants.

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Last year I didn’t bother with carving jack o’lanterns because my oven broke and I didn’t have enough money to hire a repair person. On Black Friday of last year I purchased an Oster convection oven at Target for $40, which was a perfect stop-gap for me since I’m only cooking for myself these days. The sole snag is that the convection oven broke a week before Halloween. By that point I had purchased one pumpkin from Clark’s Elioak Farm and I really wanted some roasted pumpkin seeds this year. I ended up going to Best Buy where I purchased a Black and Decker convection oven for $75. (Note for self: Never purchase any major appliances with a super cheap sales price on Black Friday from a big box retailer ever again.)

In any case I managed to get my new oven put up and I even purchased a second pumpkin just in time for Halloween. Here are my two carved jack o’lanterns.

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Here is what they look like at night. In one of them I put in an electronic light that turns the pumpkins a variety of different colors, which creates a very cool effect.

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In the other pumpkin I put in a lit candle.

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Otherwise, there was very little difference between how I decorated my home this year and last year. Unlike last year I went back to my usual practice of waiting until the day before Halloween before I put the decorations outside. I still have memories of last year when I decided to put my decorations outside a few weeks before Halloween and someone stole this rubber bat that I’ve had for many years. (I’ll admit that it’s not like the bat was very valuable. It was something that I won at an office party when I was employed by one of my former jobs a number of years ago and I’ve used it as a Halloween decoration for years afterwards. It’s annoying that someone decided to steal it.)

I’ll leave the decorations up until Tuesday since today and tomorrow is the Day of the Dead holiday in Mexico and, like Halloween, this holiday deals with skeletons, ghosts, and the afterlife.

A temporary Halloween store had opened in the nearest mall in my area. There were a variety of costumes available for sale including sexualized female versions of Spider-Man, Captain America, the Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, the Care Bears, and even Alice in Wonderland. There were also all kinds of Halloween decorations that one could buy.

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I ended up purchasing this hat that resembled Grumpy Cat for only $10.

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I also went to Behnke’s Nurseries, which had a bunch of pumpkins, gourds, and other types of Halloween decorations on sale. It was the same store where I purchased my second pumpkin to join the other one I purchased from Clark’s Elioak Farm just a few weeks earlier.

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Talk about mixing the holidays up! The foreground had Halloween decorations while, if one looked in the background to the left of the Halloween display, you’ll see a Christmas angel that has just been erected on one of the store’s doors.

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This year I decided to go as Grumpy Cat as I wore my new Grumpy Cat hat. As for the rest of the costume, I paired it with this My Little Pony Rainbow Dash hoodie that I purchased a few years ago. I was inspired to do this after seeing my Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds being flooded with images of Grumpy Cat being dressed in a variety of different costumes such as ship captain, jester, pirate, and two Star Wars characters—Yoda and Princess Leia. I printed up three signs based on slogans I’ve seen on various Grumpy Cat memes. I wore this outfit to a Halloween dance that was held in my church on October 30 and the Halloween party that my two friends threw on Halloween the following night. I had a lot of positive responses to this although there were a few less-Internet savvy friends who didn’t understand the joke.

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Other years I’ve seen Halloween Peeps shaped like ghosts, jack o’lanterns, and black cats. This year I saw something that I hadn’t seen before—Peeps shaped like cemetery headstones

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Since I had planned on attending two parties on two consecutive nights, I decided to bake some cookies using my recently purchased convection oven. I purchased the sugar cookies from Aldi (it was the store’s version of the Pillsbury cookies where you horizontally slice a long vertical piece of dough and you get special cookies with pictures on them). I purchased enough to make two batches, one for each party. The cookies were well received in both places. Here is what the cookies looked like.

photo74This year I gave out special mini packages of Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels which had a colorful cute monster design on the front package. The only downside that only a total of 10 trick or treaters showed up at my doorstep this year. I was glad that I only purchased one package of the special pretzels so I don’t have to deal with too many leftovers. I’m also glad that I didn’t buy candy because I would’ve had to deal with getting rid of it without eating so much of it.

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I received so few trick or treaters that I decided to quit giving out treats early and walk over to my friends’ home for the Halloween party. I really enjoyed myself even as I drank hard root beer for the first time in my life. (I never knew that there was such a thing as alcoholic root beer.) I then drank hard cider. At one point my head was feeling woozy so I walked past this couple and I started to wonder if they were that Backstabbing Couple From Hell (a.k.a. my ex-husband and the so-called “friend” he left me for and subsequently married soon after the divorce was final). I wasn’t 100% sure because everything was dark and there were a lot of people there. I decided to ignore my paranoia and stick around. I was glad I did because I was busy socializing with people.

At one point I was feeling tired and woozy from the alcohol so I decided to go to the bathroom then walk back home. (I was so glad that I decided not to drive this year.) I ran into a guy who recognized me from the support group meetings for people who were separated or divorced. (He’s also friends with the people who threw that party.) We met while I was leaving the bathroom and he was waiting in line to use the bathroom. He told me “I can imagine you feeling awkward with your ex-husband there.” I turned around and I found that there was my ex in the next room and I realized that I wasn’t in some kind of an alcohol-fused hallucination. Those people were actually there. On that note I decided to walk home.

The next day I overslept and missed church. I was feeling a bit hungover so I just went to a nearby coffeehouse and worked on this post. So that’s it for Halloween 2015.

Last summer Coca-Cola came out with these bottles that had specially printed labels that said “Share a Coke With [First Name of Person]”. These bottles appeared randomly in various stores. I took some photos of this special display at Target on the Fourth of July last year along with some of the bottles. At the time I complained that I didn’t find any bottles with my name on it.

This year the named bottles came back and I started seeing them as early as May. I even got lucky and found a bottle with my name on it.

A Named Coke Bottle

Throughout the spring and summer, I would take a look at some of these named bottles whenever I came across them in the stores. Whenever I saw a bottle that had a name of one of my friends on it, I would take a photo of it with my smartphone then tag that friend’s name in Facebook. Most of my friends got a kick out those photos, which was cool.

A Named Coke Bottle

A Named Coke Bottle

A Named Coke Bottle

A Named Coke Bottle

A Named Coke Bottle

A Named Coke Bottle

One of my friends, Nathan, mentioned that the Coke bottle with his name happened to be near another bottle with the name Mariah, which is his sister’s middle name.

A Named Coke Bottle

Coke Bottle With a Name on It

Coke Bottle With a Name on It

Coke Bottle With a Name on It

Coke Bottle With a Name on It

Coke Bottle With a Name on It

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Coke Bottle

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Named Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

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A Coke Zero Named George

Vanessa Diet Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

Named Coke Bottle

For added measure, I even found a bottle that had my therapist’s first name. I would later give this bottle to her during our scheduled therapy sessions after I drank the contents first.

Named Diet Coke

But now this weekend is Labor Day Weekend, which marks the official end of summer and it’s also when this campaign is officially coming to a close. Like an old saying goes, “All good things must come to an end.”

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