Marsee’s Blog

Day 6 – Awake

This is my alarm clock.  I do have a regular alarm that I set, but I haven’t needed it the last few months because while I feel that I should be able to sleep until 5:30 in the morning, Persephone strongly disagrees.  She believes that I should wake up between 4:30 and 4:45 a.m. in order to have some quality time with her.  (There is that time thing again!  Definitely a recurring theme.)  And so every morning my kitty crawls up on me and stares as if to say, “Are you awake yet?”   She doesn’t have a snooze button and ignoring her is not an option as her preferred alarm setting is “sit on mommy’s chest and purr loudly until petted for at least 5 minutes.”  As you can see from this picture, she has no trouble going from a deep sleep to wide-awake in about 5 seconds.  And as this has been going on for a few months, I find that I am developing the same skill.

I wish that being “awake” in the context of Advent were as simple as opening your eyes each morning.  Unfortunately being spiritually awake is more difficult to attain then a physical awakening.  Spiritual awakening goes deeper than participation in simple religious rituals such as attending church or reading the Bible.  It involves having a deep awareness of one’s spiritual beliefs and using this awareness to life a life that is in alignment with these values.  I would love to say that I am fully awake every day, but at best I walk around half-asleep on most days – and on some days I feel as if I am sleepwalking.  It’s not that I don’t believe that my spiritual development is important, but rather that I don’t make time to make it a systematic part of my day.   I’m working on it, but it is a daily struggle.  Thankfully I know that spiritual awakening is a journey, so I hold out hope that sometime in the future I can truthfully answer yes when asked, “Are you awake yet?”

Wake Up Kitty 3

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Day 5 – Flood

As soon as I saw today’s word on the list, I immediately thought of the phrase “a flood of memories” which provided me with the image that I wanted to capture and the theme of my writing for the day.   The timing of this theme is a bit ironic as news coverage of Nelson Mandela’s death and interviews, photographs, and videos about him are scrolling on the news in the background as I write.  For the next ten days, the world will be flooded with images highlighting the significance of his life and his legacy of forgiveness, reconciliation, and having the courage to make a difference.  Somehow this seems appropriate for Advent.

Holidays, especially Christmas, tend to be a time for reminiscing.  Placing a raccoon ornament on the tree recalls the celebration of a first Christmas together.  Hearing a Christmas carol calls to mind music by Ferrante and Teicher playing as a family decorated the house.  And the smell of a bayberry candle reminds of quiet moments on Christmas Eve making final preparations before the chaos of Christmas morning.  At times this flood of memories is comforting, like a warm blanket on a cold day.  Other times it is bittersweet as we become overwhelmed by the sense of loss of that time in our lives, or more importantly, the people involved.  I have to confess that while revisiting my Christmas memories mostly brings me joy, I do experience occasional moments of sorrow over the loss of significant people in my life.  I’m sure that many of you can relate to this feeling.  However, despite these brief pangs, I wouldn’t get rid of my memories for anything in the world because they represent a life of love, family, and friends.

Today’s photograph is a collage of various pictures taken during the Christmas season throughout my life.  The centerpiece is a picture of my family: my mother, Jane, and my father, George, who are no longer with us, and my brother, George, and sister, Jane, who thankfully are still with me.  The snowman in the upper left-hand corner is a plywood construction designed and painted by my mother who was a very talented artist and patiently cut out by my father.  It was the last piece in a set of large figures including Santa and Mrs. Claus, two reindeer, and a sleigh that graced our front yard – and still occasionally appear at my house.  To the right of the snowman is a picture of my brother, sister, and I celebrating Christmas at my grandfather’s house in Pennsylvania.  Next to it is an image showcasing one of my mother’s painted windows used to celebrate the holidays.  While we loved these creative, colorful scenes, my father was less appreciative since he was the one who had to help my mom remove them using razor blades!  The Christmas tree in the upper left-hand corner is one of the trees that Mike and I had in our first home together.  (If you read my blog on “Cats and Christmas Trees” then you will recognize it as the unfortunate victim of a felling.)  And of course you recognize the happy couple in the bottom left-hand corner – or perhaps you don’t, given the mustache that Mike sported at that time!  The picture to the left of Mike and I represents the happiest couple I’ve ever known – my mother and father.  Their story was a true love story, and every day I am thankful for the strong role models that they were for me.  Yes, the picture in the lower left-hand corner is a picture of me in middle school complete with braces and curly hair.  Yikes!  Don’t you love all of the tinsel and garland on the tree in the background?  I have fond memories of placing (ok, tossing) the tinsel on the tree; however, given that I am a cat owner of two cats who love to ingest anything bright and shiny, I can no longer recreate those particular memories in my own household.  The final picture is one of my maternal grandfather, Donald Higbee, watching as my sister and I opened presents one Christmas morning.   Such wonderful memories, and they only represent a few drops in the flood available to me.

I sincerely hope that all of you have a similar flood of good memories to revisit and share throughout this season.

Flood of Christmas Memories

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Day 4 – Time

It’s time for me to take time to post today’s Advent photograph and blog so that I am on time because time after time I find myself out of time, failing to complete something in a timely manner.  Time and time again I find myself spending time worrying about the rapid passage of time.  Once upon a time, when I was much younger, I didn’t obsess all of the time about finding the time to get everything done.  From time to time, I took time off from homework or chores simply to relax or have a nice time.  How unlike today, when making time for myself each day seems indulgent given that I hardly have time to breathe as I rush from one task to another.  I know that this obsession is not healthy and that it’s only a matter of time before I wind up burnt out or exhausted if I don’t learn how to take a time out a few times a week.  Despite this, I am having a devil of a time struggling against the feeling that I am wasting time whenever I step away from the daily race against timeIn the interest of time, I will cut short my rant against time flying.  I would love to devote more quality time to my writing today; however, I still have things on my daily “to do” list so my time is up.  Please don’t give me a hard time for dashing off.  I promise that I will get better at biding my time – in time.  Until next time…

Clock 3

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Day 3 – Peace

Whew!  Today’s word is much easier than yesterday’s.  Though “peace” often eludes me, I do recognize it when I see it.  As I work through my daily “to do” list, I often find myself yearning for the calm of a two-week vacation in a remote location such as the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, or Alaska.  Since the reality of work, home and other obligations prohibits me from jumping on the first flight out of Orlando, I am trying to be more deliberate in taking a little time each day to enjoy the peaceful moments that present themselves.  Today was a success.  It was a training day, which meant that I had to start my day earlier than usual; however, it also meant that I got home earlier than I normally do.  After spending an hour slogging through my never-ending “to do” list, I stopped to take a break and go outside to sit and enjoy the waning afternoon.  After all, December is a beautiful month in Florida, and I find it very relaxing to sit and simply watch – the movement of the water in my pool, the sun slowly dipping behind my neighbor’s roofline, and the birds and squirrels at the feeder.  So today’s photograph shares some of my “peace” with you along with my sincere hopes that you find your own peace each day.

Reflections in the Pool

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Day 2 – Bound

Definitions include:

a)    To leap forward or upward; spring – Hmmm…is there a basket ball game nearby?

b)   To progress by forward leaps or springs – Ok – no basketball game in sight.  Perhaps I can find a frog?

c)    To bounce or rebound – Where is that tennis ball I have?

As you can tell, I am having trouble with today’s word, especially within the context of Advent so I am going to have to fall back on the word as used in the idiom “bound and determined.”  Specifically, since I am bound and determined to recognize each day of Advent photographically, today I am offering a photograph that I took this week as part of my Christmas card preparations.

Editor’s note:  Yes, I do recognize that this is somewhat lame, but I hope that my readers will forgive me as I am starting this photograph-a-day challenge on the third day so I am playing a bit of catch up.  : )

Heavenly Bound

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ADVENT PHOTO-A-DAY

Our associate pastor Brian posted an interesting challenge on Facebook – celebrating each day of Advent with a photograph tied to a specific word.   Given two factors – my love of photography and my goal of being more intentional in appreciating Advent this year – I am taking on this challenge. The word list is as follows:

  1. go
  2. bound
  3. peace
  4. time
  5. flood
  6. awake
  7. ready
  8. wisdom
  9. delight
  10. holy
  11. steadfast /steady
  12. hope
  13. justice
  14. gather
  15. rejoice
  16. strong
  17. free
  18. mercy
  19. patient / patience
  20. good news
  21. prophet
  22. sign
  23. neighbors
  24. joy
  25. light

Day 1 – Go

When asked to define the word “go,” most people are likely to provide a meaning associated with “go” as a verb:

-to leave or depart

-to move from one place to another

On the other hand, I am focusing on the definition of “go” as a noun – an attempt or trial of something.  Advent is supposed to be a time during which we slow down, taking time to reflect upon our spiritual lives and prepare ourselves for Christ’s birth.  Ironically, this time of year is often the busiest for many of us as we rush to get our Christmas cards in the mail, march through an endless progression of stores in search of the “perfect” gifts, and dash between holiday parties and family get-togethers.  I have never really observed Advent properly, but I want this year to be different.  Getting older often causes a shift in values.  The past few years have given two key things to me – an increasing desire for a slower pace in my life, filled with fewer, but more meaningful experiences, and the wisdom to know that I will not attain this goal without intentional action.  Therefore, I am committed to celebrating Advent this year through daily readings, lighting of Advent candles, and making a “go” of this Advent Photo of the Day challenge.

Candlelight Processional 2013

I took this photograph on Sunday, the first day of Advent, as Mike and I enjoyed the Candlelight Processional at EPCOT with our favorite guest narrator, Gary Sinese.   Our first experience with the candlelight processional was in 1988 with guest narrator Walter Cronkite in its original location of Main Street in the Magic Kingdom.  Attendance has become an annual event for us, and we have many great memories of seeing amazing narrators including James Earl Jones, Edward James Olmos, and Levar Burton and enjoying the pageantry with family and friends.

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“Hei Photographers!” – There it is, the e-mail message announcing our next, and sadly final, field trip location.  Our destination?  Downtown Disney.  The assignment?  “Obvious to me.”  Riku’s guiding question to us was quite simple, “What will you see?”

As a native of Central Florida who loves Disney animation, I am very familiar and comfortable with this location.  Photos ops for someone with my interests abound – buildings with unique architectural features, a brilliant palette of bold colors, and interesting patterns and textures throughout the area.  However, as this was our last trip, I decided to honor my original commitment to growth by trying something different.  As a result, I focused on people since portrait photography is definitely an area of weakness for me.

My first thought was to capture the activities of families having fun on vacation – the pixie dust experience.  However, I changed direction slightly after walking around because I began noticing an interesting contrast in the compositions provided by the children and those offered by the adults.  All of the children that I saw were having a great time as they splashed in the water fountains, had their picture taken with their favorite characters, made faces in the funhouse mirror, or played with the plethora of toys and stuffed animals.  On the other hand, though some parents obviously enjoyed themselves, the experience was definitely less magical for the majority of adults.  Unfortunately, many of them seemed overwhelmed by some of the negative aspects of a Disney vacation such as high prices, large crowds, and long waits.  As a result, I selected the photograph above as the key image for the site because it showcases the contrasts – the joy of a child playing with a toy while her parent contemplates the cost and the juxtaposition of the sentiment of the quote on the door with the ostentatious merchandising within the store.  Once I settled on this theme, I found it easy to find supporting images.

As I already mentioned, I really love animation, especially the art from Disney’s films.  I took every animation art course offered at the short-lived Disney Institute, and though I’m not very good at it, I sometimes spend time drawing cartoon figures.  Additionally, I once spent an entire week at an animation workshop at the Contemporary Hotel in which we learned numerous techniques from actual people who had worked on various Disney films and produced our own short animated work.  (Yes, the event took place during the second week of that particular school year, but I couldn’t resist.  After all, they featured the villains – my absolute favorite characters!)  So as I wandered, a secondary theme emerged.  I started seeing different Disney characters in the people who were visiting.  For example, the young girl in blue above reminded me of Bashful whereas the kids frolicking in the water brought the character of Happy to mind.  I saw other representatives of the seven dwarves such as Grumpy (the man sitting on the stroller) and Sleepy above and the picture of the elderly man sitting on the wall that I call “Doc”.  I really wanted to portray all of the dwarves, but Sneezy and Dopey eluded me.

Overall I am pleased with these images.  None of them are outstanding, but I think that they are a step forward for me since I struggle with taking pictures of strangers.  Besides, any time you are able to capture the Evil Queen in a picture is a good time!

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