Friday, July 21, 2017

Notes from a Midlife Crisis

When Socrates insisted that "the unexamined life is not worth living," most people agree that he was encouraging us to examine our interior lives, the ideas and beliefs and motivations and choices and reactions that propel us through the world. Ever since I turned 50 a few months ago, however, I've been equally interested in doing some exterior examination: How have I changed over the years? Do the physical changes I've gone through in the last few decades--the added pounds, the new wrinkles, the ever-multiplying gray hairs and slowly-receding hair line (and, if I'm really honest, the additional chins...*sigh*)--say anything about the interior changes that I've also experienced?

Yeah, probably. I don't know. Maybe.

But there's one thing I can say: My hair has changed quite a bit over the years, but my hair style hasn't changed at all. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, indeed.

The above picture is me from sometime around 1977 until July of 2017, approximately every thirteen or fourteen years. Maybe one of the reasons looking back on my life like this is valuable is because, seeing myself at ten, at twenty-three, at thirty-eight, I can remember many wonderful things from my life at those times, and, if I'm smart (and that's a big if!), it prompts me to count all the wonderful things there are in my life right now, even if I am (gulp!) fifty years old. Midlife may not be quite as much fun or as free as childhood, or young adulthood, or not-young-but-still-not-old adulthood, but it's still life, and that's worth a lot.

Also, I find a great deal of pleasure in this Peanuts strip from 1973, drawn when Charles M. Schulz himself was fifty:

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Many Miscellaneous Recent Pics

Here's a random assortment of pictures I've taken in the past two weeks:

July 4th at Granny and Pa's house:

The sky over Granny and Pa's neighborhood on July 4th:

(It wasn't like that the whole day, but it did rain.)

Annie reading on Granny and Pa's porch on July 4th:

Annie looking at stuff in Helen (on July 7th):

Annie and Jessica looking at stuff in Helen:

The sign for the Troll Tavern & Restaurant, where we had lunch in Helen:

A couple of Vines Gardens selfies (July 8th):

(That's the Vines Gardens Railroad behind me.)

Me doing one of the things I do best, roaming around a Target (this one in Cumming, on July 12th):

A random neighborhood I passed by on the drive that first sent me to the Target in Cumming:

The beach at West Bank Park on Lake Lanier, near Buford Dam Park (we didn't go to this beach, I just stopped at it to go for a walk on my home from my drive on July 12th):

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Once More to the Zoo

We went to the zoo again today. It's been cloudy lately, so first we consulted the weather forecast, and since it projected 15% chance of rain for the time we planned to be there, we figured it would be a pretty good bet to go.

It rained.

Not here at our house; we didn't hit any rain until we were several miles from home, but by the time we got into Atlanta proper, it was really raining. Fortunately, we had an umbrella in the car, and I even had my raincoat, so we braved the weather and saw the animals anyway.

You might assume that a rainy Sunday morning would mean the zoo would be nearly empty, but you would be wrong. There were probably fewer people there than on a non-rainy Sunday, but it was still pretty busy. That's okay, of course; it's a big place, so we didn't feel crowded at all, and we want the zoo to thrive.

There was one disappointment: the old parakeet exhibit that Elyse was looking so forward to seeing again is closed, permanently, but in all other ways it was a fine visit. Despite the rain, most of the animals were fairly active.

This is Jessica and Anna walking in the reptile house:

And the girls getting some change for their donation thingy:

Elyse was delighted to see a bald eagle:

We at lunch at the super-duper expensive place that, several years ago, used to be a McDonald's:

(It is expensive, but I think it's worth it.)

 Panda cubs sleeping:

Jessica, taking a picture of the panda cubs:

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Vines Gardens Haiku 14

Scaled bridge sentinel
with a flick of his forked tongue
allows me to pass

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


Elyse wanted to see some real fireworks for the Fourth of July, so tonight at about 9:00 she and I drove over to Snellville.

Holy cow, was it crowded!

I had planned to park in the Ollie's parking lot at 78 and Wisteria, right across the street from the church from which the fireworks were being launched, but that was already crammed full (and probably had been for hours). We drove around for a few minutes, passing one full parking lot after another, even driving up to St. Matthew's before I realized that St. Matthew's is too far away to see much of anything (the parking lot, not surprisingly, was empty).

I said to Elyse, "I'm sorry, honey, I didn't know there would be this many people," and she said, "Well, you should have. People like to see fireworks!" She was right, of course.

Finally we found a parking lot at a medical complex on Oak Road, just past and across from the RaceTrac, that had some parking spots. It was a decent place to view the fireworks display, if a bit farther than I'd intended to be. The first couple of pictures below give a pretty good idea of our vantage point:

 (The bright light above the fireworks burst is a streetlight that was much closer to us than the fireworks.)

Fortunately, our eyes are pretty good at tuning out those distracting details, and my camera has a zoom lens (and I can crop on the computer), so we were able to enjoy the fireworks display.

We stayed until it was over, then went all the way up Oak Road to the Kroger so I could get some gas (otherwise we might not have made it back), then headed back to Loganville, passing by lots of police officers directing traffic through the very busy Snellville streets. We got back home at about 10:45, and it took Elyse only a couple of minutes to get to sleep once she got into bed.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Kids Playing with Trains

Here's a picture of me and Jeff playing with out train set, somewhere around 1974:

And here are Jessica and Elyse doing the same thing, forty-three years later, with some of the same trains and track:

Sunday, July 2, 2017


This afternoon, after another of the hard but quickly-passing rainstorms we've had so many of in the past few days, there was a rainbow over our neighborhood! (Or over Loganville, anyway. Anna saw it from the Walmart parking lot.) Elyse was very excited to see it:

It may be a little hard to tell in this picture, but for a while it was a double rainbow:

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Stone Mountain SkyHike and Loganville Fourth of July Parade

Today we went to Stone Mountain so Elyse and Anna could try out the SkyHike "family adventure course" (which, thankfully, is free with our Mountain Memberships). Elyse has had such a good time at Tree Top Quest that she wanted another gallivanting-among-the-treetops experience, and she really wanted her mommy to try it too.

First we had a picnic lunch (from Subway) on the granite fields in front of Memorial Hall:

Then we went to SkyHike:

Elyse did okay at first, but some of the crossings fairly early in the course are pretty scary:

And unfortunately, after these wobbly, way-high-up first few minutes, it turned into not such a great experience for Elyse, and she was ready to get down. I let them know she didn't want to do this any more, and they sent one of the attendants to rescue her:

She didn't have to go all the way to the end of the course to get out, thank goodness, but she did have to cross a few more bridges before they made it to the "Emergency Exit - Authorized Personnel Only" stairs. (I assured Jessica that Elyse would be authorized to use them.)

There's nothing inherently wrong with the Stone Mountain course, and most of the people there seemed to be really enjoying it. However, they don't give the kind of instruction and practice time Elyse is used to from Tree Top Quest, they just secure the harness on you and set you out twelve feet off the ground. For some people that's not enough preparation.

Next we were intending to ride the skylift up to the top, but we got distracted by the museum in Memorial Hall and so never made it to the top of the mountain.

These are of the diorama of a nineteenth-century farm:

After we got home, we only had time to change clothes (those of us who got really sweaty at Stone Mountain, anyway) and use the bathroom, and then Elyse, Anna, and I went to downtown Loganville to watch the Fourth of July parade. (Yes, today is July 1st, but I guess they believe having it on a Saturday afternoon will yield a greater turnout.) (Jessica stayed home because she didn't care anything about the parade, and she likes the novelty of staying home by herself for a while, even if it also makes her a little nervous.)

You can't really tell from these pre-parade pictures of the route down Main Street, but there were hundreds of people there:

Elyse brought Else, nicely attired in the new dress that Anna made for her:

Me and Anna:

Me and Elyse:

I don't remember who these people were, but this picture gives you a feel for what this small-town parade was like:

I don't know if anyone else would see it like I do, but this old-fashioned cart, pulled by a tractor, bearing the July 4th Youth Ladies Club (a club whose requirements for membership seem to be that must be a lady of at least retirement age), decorated by their handmade "Celebrate" sign, struck me as something delightfully out of one of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegone stories.

I don't know who they are, but I hope there names are Wilma, Betty, Doris, Laverne, Shirley, and Helen. They were the best part of the parade, as far as I'm concerned. I hope they have a wonderful celebration.

The parade was half an hour long, and included noisy motorcycles, police cars, fire trucks, lots of local business (many of them handing out cards and candy) including a Karate studio, one or two insurance agents, and Bojangles, the high school beauty queens, and, of course, the mayor. Elyse was little disappointed: "What do cars have to do with the Fourth of July?" she asked as we were leaving. I don't think she was satisfied with our explanation.