If it’s the thought that counts, think about it.

I wasn’t going to do much blogging on holiday shopping, but people keep asking me what kind of stuff I’m buying for Christmas gifts or what are good gifts to give that give back to people in need?  So here it is… my brain dump on Christmas shopping.  Yes, I call it Christmas shopping, not holiday shopping.  I suppose we could also call it Black Friday shopping.  It seems as though that’s become a bigger holiday than the actual Christmas holiday we’re shopping for.

Now that I think about it, these principals could apply all year long and to any holiday where it is customary to give a gift.  Birthdays and Christmas are the two big ones.

So what gift shopping is considered good?  Shopping in and of itself is not bad, it’s some of the things associated with it that are bad.  Debt is bad.  Buying gifts for people you don’t want to buy gifts for because you’ve succumbed to the cultural purchasing pressure is bad.  Buying people stuff they don’t want or need is bad.  Spoiling kids with a bunch of stuff they don’t need is bad.  If it’s the thought that counts, then let’s think about it.  There are many positive ways to shop, supporting good for humanity, the environment and for your pocketbook.

Service, not stuff.

You might believe our country is using up most of our planets’ resources and you might be trying to lower your carbon footprint as much as possible, or you might even think that’s all an bunch of hype.  No matter which end of the spectrum you’re on, buying services versus physical goods is, well, all around good.  Why?

  • You’re supporting a skill or a trade.
  • You’re helping the economy without physical stuff.
  • You don’t have to worry if the recipient likes your gift, and the best part? No looking around their house to make sure they’re using the item you gave them and no getting your feelings hurt when they tell you the dog broke it.
  • Maybe the gift recipients will get this concept too, then they won’t give you anymore giant golf ball candles, Chia pets or Santa figures that poop candy.
  • Most service places have gift cards or gift certificates.
  • It takes less time to shop because you can shop at places you do business while everyone else is in line at W*%#@!t.
  • There’s a better chance they’ll have a need for a service than a need for more stuff.  If you need something, or even want something, you go buy it, right?  Why would your giftees be any different?  Well, they could be unemployed.  If that’s the case, they have needs, not wants.

So what are good services to buy?  There are many choices here, some more practical than others.  Some of these services could be provided by you, which means no cost to you other than your time.   Continue reading

road trip adventure

18 hours in a car?  Not a problem for us!  Yeah, I would love to fly and get to my destination quickly, but I’m good with a road trip.  There’s more adventure in driving.  (Texas to northern Colorado)  I don’t have photos of all the beautiful sights along the way, but I have some.  God was showing off His beautiful art yesterday… lightning, rainbows, rain, sunshine, deserts, mountains, clouds, storms, trees, rocks, sand…

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urban explorers [day 308]

I love exploring abandoned houses and buildings.  A friend sent me a link to an article about “urban explorers” on howstuffworks.com.  This explained my attraction to these old, and sometimes dangerous places.  I learned a few things from this article, but mostly, it explained a lot.

“Urban exploration purists advocate only trespassing — not breaking and entering.  This forces explorers to get creative when finding an entry point into a structure.”

This is true, I have been creative on ‘entering’ some of these places.  If they’re locked up tight, then I enjoy the outside.  If the no trespassing signs are visible and well posted, I leave it alone.

“It should be said that UE is an extremely dangerous and illegal pastime. By nature, old abandoned buildings are unsafe.”

This is true, as I’ve fallen through several rotted floors.  Being careful is good, but being aware and preparing for a UE trip are necessary.

“Some appreciate the old architecture and ancient machinery. For other people, it’s the thrill of just standing still in a silent, untraveled place. Others find beauty in the type of decay that can be found only in neglected buildings.”

I do find beauty, but I’m also fascinated by the personal effects people leave behind.  I’ve found many things in abandoned houses, everything from photographs to electronics.  One house had the whole backside blown out by a storm, the closet full of clothes and the vacuum cleaner from 20+ years prior, sitting there as if the people ran out quickly, never looking back.  I can’t help but wonder why people leave stuff behind, what situation made them leave and how they determined what they did take.

“Whatever his or her motive, an urban explorer finds adventure in these abandoned sites. There’s a peacefulness in these empty, concrete caves that isn’t like the solitude found in the woods. It’s an experience opposite of nature; instead of finding reassurance in the renewal of the seasons, the urban explorer finds kinship with the past.”

This is so true, it’s a peacefulness, but very different than what’s found in nature.  It’s a serene feeling, laden with curiosity and wonder.

“These explorers usually take photos of the places they visit.”

Here’s some photographs I’ve taken in abandoned places, mostly houses.  I photograph these as a hobby, but I just can’t get past the fact that people throw away buildings, houses and cars as if they have no value.  Some of these places are structurally good and it just makes no sense that they’re thrown away.  Continue reading

la, la, la, la, la, la, la.. catscratch… [day 297]

 

One of our favorite cartoon shows is Catscratch.  Every time they see it or think about it, they want a cat.  My kids have been begging to get a pet.  With our lifestyle, a dog just won’t work.  My friend just adopted a kitten, which of course got them thinking about it again.  My kids have been good with their chores, so I’m pretty confident that they’ll help with a pet.

This is Zuri.  She’s up for adoption at the Frisco Humane Society.  Here’s her story:

This is one precious girl! Zuri leans up against you and purrs purrs when you scratch behind her ears or down her back. She’s a laid back beauty with simple needs – good food, cozy bed and loads of loving! She, her sister and her probable mom were jammed together in a small crate and left at a vet’s office. Zuri is more than content to perch on the back of your couch and watch the world go round – she’s not super imposing nor a crazy girl – lower play level. She gets along with other animals. Zuri is so sweet and will let you carry her around. She loves to be petted and has a great purr!

Zuri is the sister of my friend’s new kitten.  We’re going to pick her up today.  I found used cat supplies, a place for a litter box, but I’ll still need to get her something to scratch on.  Off to work and to get Zuri a little later today.  :)

go to your happy place [day 284]

I have many happy places, as well as many non-happy places.  I guess we all have those lists.  Sitting in my hot tub, happy place.  Going to the mall, not a happy place.  Jumping on the trampoline, happy place.  Driving in traffic, not a happy place.  Going to the beach, happy place.  Going to a snowy place, not happy.  Some happy places are obvious, while others are not.  One of my happy places is being in an abandoned house or building.  It sounds crazy, but take a look.

This is an abandoned church up in Maine.  It was locked up tight, so no inside time here, but it was a beautiful day and many photo opportunities outside.  It’s so peaceful, yet mysterious.  I also got to spend some quality time with a great friend here.

Some of the best happy places don’t cost money, there’s no admission and can be a spontaneous thing to do.  I have a happy place with my kids.  When the weather permits twice a year, in the fall and in the spring, we sleep outside on the trampoline.   My happy place in my house is standing in front to my latte machine in the kitchen.  No, it’s not in anticipation of the steamed, frothy greatness that I’m about to drink.  It’s because there’s a small rug there to warm my feet from the cold floor and the heater vent gently blows a soft breeze of warm air, wrapping me in an invisible blanket.  I stand there every morning and count my blessings.  Occasionally, one of those little blessings will stand there with me if  he’s awake, as it’s his happy place too.

Some of the best things in life are free.  Enjoy them.  Where is your happy place?  I’m going to mine right now, you should too.

where is she? [day 251]

I still need to get rid of some of my clothing.  I downsized by 50% a few weeks ago, but there’s still a few more pieces I could part with.  I was thinking about the clothing again after a short trip I took recently.

I went house hunting last Sunday, no, not to buy one, but to look for an abandoned house.  I’m part of a photo group that goes to small towns looking for abandoned houses, vacant buildings, old vehicles or anything else that has been left to deteriorate and wither away.  We’re never disappointed.  This last trip to Krum, Texas produced an abandoned house, a school bus, a fire truck and a semi truck, among other things.  The abandoned houses are always left full of stuff, but the things that surprise me the most is the clothing and the photographs left behind.  Who leaves a house without taking these things?

Just to give you an idea, this was the living room, going into the kitchen.

These are pics of the clothing left behind.

The nightgown still hanging on the back of the door…

I always wonder what the story is, but have yet to find one.  I’m led to look at the artifacts, ponder the possibilities and create my own fictional tale.

It’s dusk, the daylight slowly fading away.  The stuffed pig is sad, waiting patiently for the missing woman that should be coming home now.  After a long bath, she will put on the flowered gown.  Where is she?  Rarely is she late.  What was that?  A sound, followed with silence.  Silence that has turned to deafness over the years.  Still waiting.  It’s dusk.  Where is she?

a year in pictures [day 216]

Honestly, some of these might be more than a year old, but they’re all the same, year after year… lots of stuff.  Most of these were taken in abandoned places, houses, farms, buildings, vehicles, you name it.  No matter where I go with my camera, I always find lots of stuff to shoot.  There’s something about each place that intrigues me, saddens me, excites me and disappoints me.  Take a look.

a day in pictures [day 210]

I just don’t have much to share on the shopping front.  I’m just not doing it.  Instead, I’ll share a few photos today.

Abandoned…

This house was abandoned in the 70’s, and interestingly enough, it looks as though they moved nothing out of it.  Not only are the clothes still hanging in the closet, but there was a vacuum cleaner, furniture, kitchen stuff, photographs… you name it.  Apparently they were not emotionally attached to their stuff.

Here’s a bunch of random “abandoned” photos.  Enjoy…

a college degree in zombies and lady gaga? [day 159]

Zombies 101: Okay, this is for real.   The University of Baltimore is offering a new class, a class on zombies.  The class will study America’s fascination with zombie movies and pop culture.  The class will watch 16 classic zombie films, read zombie comics and their final project is to create their ideal zombie flick.

The University of Baltimore is not the first to have this type of class.  A college in Illinois and one in Iowa did something similar.  I’m all about studying pop culture, as I do it, I just don’t have a college credit for it.

Lady Gaga Intermediate: Yep, she’s now the focal point of a college course at the University of South Carolina.  The only point.  A class fully dedicated to the study of Lady Gaga.  The professor starting this wants to explore what makes a person famous and what superstardom means in today’s culture.  Here’s the course description: “The central objective is to unravel some of the sociologically relevant dimensions of the fame of Lady Gaga.”

Again, it’s good to study pop culture, and I’m not opposed to the study of specific people or groups, but I think we should expand our realm of analyzation.  Instead of one case study, why not look at 5 or 6 of them?  Make it more of a pop culture class versus studying one situation.  That would be like ditching psychology classes and having a class only on Pavlov or Phineas Gage.  There’s a lot to be learned from them, but a whole semester?

Cultural Issues Class: Now this is a class where all of this could fall under a logical heading and allow the study of culture.  Some say we are still in the post modern era but I think it’s time for a new era.  I have no idea what to call it or how to even identify all of the details of what that might look like.  The closest I can come is a word I made up.

Excessable: [ex-ses-uh-buhl]  The materialism excess in our current culture and how readily accessible it is. [see the art collection excessable]

Finding and Photographing Creepy Dolls: Yes, I’m starting my own class.  It is the study of our cultural obsession with plastic, lifeless beings that we love as children and abandon as grown ups.  We will concentrate on where these dolls live, how to find them, strange displays and how to photograph them in their own abandoned environments.  Here are some of the photographs we will look at and analyze.  Classes will begin in December and you must have your own camera and transportation.

Jody Wissing is a professor of doll and mannequin creepology in the Dallas area and has extensive experience locating and photographing these plastic inanimate creations.

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