Just Say Shook

You're My Best Friend



My mom is a woman of simple means. When I offered to take her to Costco today to get her whatever she needed, she genuinely sounded kind of excited. I guess getting out of the house can be excitement enough.


I told her that anything she wanted or needed, just get it. But she still looked at things and would say "No, that's too expensive!"


"Mom, do you need it?"


"Not right now."


"That's a yes", and I have to put it in the cart.


If it sounds like it was a chore, it wasn't. Anything but. We talked, we laughed, we had a really good time together. We got back, and I gave the dog some of the jerky I had brought from home (organic turkey). She loved it, and it actually got her to quiet down a little.


Mom and dog. Mom and me. Me and dog. We all built on our relationships a tiny bit today.


(And I wanted to take this picture with Mom wearing her mask. With the amount of insanity and childishness I see about "rights" and "medical exemptions", I was really glad that Mom understands how necessary it is to do something that is so simple.)


Happy Birthday 2019


Birthday time means Applebee's time for me and mom. It wasn't exactly a surprise when she told me where she wanted to go, but I WAS surprised when she actually ATE her birthday dessert! Sure, just like a kid, she only finished half of her lunch - how else are you supposed to have room for dessert? - but it was an absolute joy to see how much she enjoyed it all.


As simple as it is, I really look forward to it. I hope I see a lot more of these birthday celebrations.

In With the New


Old house last week, new house this week. If its a parent's dream to see his children be more successful than he, then my son (and I'm sure, one day, my daughter) has done me quite proud.

More Than This


Mom texted me during the week and asked me if I could take her grocery shopping sometime this weekend. Mom is on a fixed income, so anytime she asks for help I do the best I can.
And before anybody gives me any shit, Target was the LAST stop we made, having made three previous stops in addition to me bringing stuff with me. So don't anyone accuse me of being the scumbag ingrate son who only buys his mom one lousy pack of dog food when she asks for some help with the groceries. Hell, I even told her to buy two, but she refused!
I also like how Mom goes right into "Don't Smile" mode.
(photo title courtesy of Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music)

In the Blink of an Eye


Since the "Circus Room" photo was the first shot in the NEW house, they felt it was appropriate to redo it and make it the final picture (at least from me) as the new house becomes the "old house".


3.5 years has flown, just like the last 56 (for me). I honestly never thought I would see these days, couldn't even IMAGINE them. But I'm glad I did. The most a parent can hope for is to see his kids being happier and more successful than themselves. I guess at least I got THAT right.


Link to original:


<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/26178772@N02/20016785831/in/album-7..">www.flickr.com/photos/26178772@N02/20016785831/in/album-7..</a>.

Meet the Creeper


If I leave it to his mother, this boy will NEVER have any pictures with "sinister undertones". Isn't that a grandparents job, to get the grandkids the things their parents won't get them?

All Gone


As Mac walked from room to room, he would stare at us, almost incredulously, and simply say "All gone." Almost as if to say "Hey, don't know if you guys noticed but all our stuff is missing!" He would walk into another room, walk back in, and say it again, as if it should be back when he returned. I cannot imagine what he was going through his mind.

Nobody Puts Davy in the Corner


Because Davy can put HIMSELF in the corner, especially after Thanksgiving dinner.


While I'm not a big fan of turkey as a Thanksgiving tradition, I am a big fan of Football as a Thanksgiving tradition. It gives me a reason to do nothing more exhausting than sit for approximately 6 hours, and I don't even feel guilty.


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I've learned over the years that I have much more to be thankful for than I used to believe. And one of the things I am most thankful for is that I have a family that understands my sometimes twisted sense of humor.

Wonder


As I watch him grow, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to experience sensations again for the first time. Watching the world unfold around you. But then I remember that there are also certain fears you have that you don't understand, and they only start to make sense over time. I have vague memories of the fears I had as a child, and I'm not sure that I would want to have to learn to understand them all over again.


A Look of Terror


That look of uncertainty and fear is real. The only thing that kept her from having a heart attack was the fact that I was standing about 2 feet away from her. She may be a baby, but at least she's MY baby.



...Birthday to Mom


This is probably going to be long and rambling. Feel free to walk on by.


I took my Mom out today to celebrate her 81st birthday. As per usual, it was her choice, and it was nothing fancy, but the place doesn't matter to her. She never WAS much for "fancy"


We had a nice enough lunch, and I was ready to take my annual "Mom Birthday Lunch" photo. I DID take some pictures in the restaurant, but it just didn't feel right. It felt forced.
While we had a nice time, there were little instances, little things said that made it more somber. We talked about age, we talked about where we are in our lives, and we talked about how life has turned out (and conversely, how it didn't).


The lunch wasn't bitter or sad. Neither of us walked away depressed. But as I said goodbye, I looked at her through her screen door, and I felt like I was abandoning her, like I should have stayed a little longer, or maybe we should have gone somewhere else after lunch. Maybe lunch was a little break from reality, and now it was time to go back to it.
I think I'm going to have to make a point of getting out to see her more often.


When It Was Still Magic


I never thought I would find myself living vicariously through a two year old, but life is funny that way.


It's been a pretty rotten Christmas season. But watching my grandson explore the lights and the sounds with wonder was by far the highlight of the last few weeks. While I am NOT a fan of decorating and many of the other holiday "trappings", I'll admit it was kind of calming to watch as he just stared wide-eyed and mouth agape at so many things around him.


But I'm still not going to decorate. I wouldn't have the energy to put it all away.


The Littlest Things


With the opportunity to babysit my grandson today, I figured it was the perfect time for my mother to get in some "great-grandma time".


I really don't even have to ask where she wants to go anymore, because it's ALWAYS the same - Applebee's. It's fine, but it's about the time spent as opposed to the food eaten anyway.


My mom doesn't have a lot of expendable income. But she brought this little stuffed snowman to give to Mac. He loved playing with it, and as he walked around the restaurant (with me following close behind). he hugged it tightly. I could see how happy that made my mom. I never realized that two people who are at complete opposite ends of the "life spectrum" could both derive such joy from a silly dollar store snowman.


I guess even at this age, I'm still learning things from my mother.


Game Day #2


I don't see this boy for a week, and it seems like he's grown so much. 3 word sentences, and he's definitely more accustomed to seeing Addie. But no matter how much he changes, he still has that infectious (and mischievous) smile and laugh.


80 Already


Today is my mother's birthday (that much I knew). Today is also her 80th birthday (that much I did NOT know). I had my years wrong, and thought today was #78. Although, in fairness, I also once forgot how old my daughter was (hangs head in shame), so I'm obviously bad with birthdays.


I don't know why, but I asked her where she wanted to go for lunch. I assumed correctly that the answer would be "Applebee's".


We had a very nice lunch, and some good conversation. I knew I wanted to get a picture, so I asked the waiter if we could get a birthday candle or sparkler for the picture. No candle, no sparkler, and mom is NOT a fan of dessert. So I found it only appropriate to make her "birthday cupcake" out of a mozzarella cheesestick and some tomato sauce. At least she got to eat the candle afterward.

Sleepy


I never really understood the "unconditional love" thing until this little boy came along. Obviously I have my own children and I love them with all my heart. But even as they were infants, you start to think about the responsibilities of time and finances that go along with raising children.


The relationship between a grandfather and grandson is based purely on love. The joy of just watching that little person do the simplest of things.


I am not trying to sound cold-hearted about raising my own children, but as a new grandfather, there is a difference. It kind of makes you wish you could go back and do it all over again, and this time, do a better job.

Father, Son by Father/Grandfather


My son with his new son. As I watch them bond, I already realize that he is going to be a better father than I ever was. I'm not sure if my father felt that way about me (it was never vocalized), but part of being a father is hoping that your kids do EVERYTHING better than you.

Green Steps of Rockford

Green Steps of Rockford


In Rockford for an art show this weekend, and there is no way in Hell I'm not taking my dog. I love my dog, and I'm glad that the gallery was very receptive to me bringing her with. She made a LOT of new friends while she was there.

Treatment Day


Yesterday was my mother's 77th birthday. I took her out for breakfast today to celebrate. But first, I had to take her to the hospital for treatment. She has leukemia, and she goes in for regular chemotherapy and neuplasty treatment.


The advances in technology and medicine are mind-boggling. When I found out she was sick, I immediately imagined the "classic chemotherapy" side effects, that I don't need to go into here. But when I first talked to her, I was surprised to hear her sounding better than I had in a long time. A very welcome relief.


She has gone through quite a battery of medical procedures in the last couple of years, and to her credit, she NEVER complains about it. I most likely would spend an inordinate amount of time lamenting "my lot in life", but not her. She doesn't have much, but she knows she is better off than so many.

Resilience


Shorty went in for his latest check up, and the vet was amazed at how much better he seemed. Considering just last week I thought I was going to be saying goodbye to him, I'm pretty amazed too. 16 years old, and most days he can still run around like a puppy. Whoever said dogs are man's best friend was absolutely right. I don't know what I would have done without this guy to help me through the bad times.

Divine Intervention


I apologize in advance. This may turn out to be my longest story ever…


Months ago, I "re-gifted" a German version of the game Monopoly to Goodwill. Not worth the effort to try an sell it online, and I couldn't think of anyone who would want it. Until I found out (via my son) that Quinn (L) loves Monopoly, and her grandmother, Evelyn, was born and raised in Germany. She always had a VERY close relationship with her grandmother, and her German heritage.


Let's just say I've been searching in Goodwills since then looking for it. I screwed up bad.
Quinn's grandmother passed away earlier this week. It has been a very trying time for the whole family. No matter how much they were "expecting" it, it is still painful when someone you love so dearly passes.


I paid my respects yesterday at her wake. On my way home, I had to stop at Goodwill to try and find a coat (divorce can put a damper on your finances). No coat, but Alex had always told me to be on the lookout for a board game from the "Catan" series that they both love to play. He told me I most likely would not find one, because they are fairly uncommon and fairly expensive.


Someone upstairs said yesterday "You need a sign." There, on the game shelf at Goodwill, with a $2 price tag on it, was the German version of "Settlers of Catan". A 20 year old game that was practically brand new. Sometimes things just happen that make you think "This is not just random chance."


I gave Quinn and Alex the game today, as I know it was meant for them. I was just the delivery boy.


They have had a very draining week, both physically and emotionally. I'm sure the last thing they wanted to do was pose for one of my portraits where I tell them "Don't smile." This is one of the pictures that I will cherish forever because I will know all the memories that go along with it. These are the kind of pictures that make me so glad that I do what I do.


I told you it was a long story.

Kapow


Abbey and I went to lunch today (Parlor Pizza on Green St…shameless plug!) and had to do the suburban thing of stopping at Garrett's to get our cheese corn on. A no brainer since I have the diet of a 4 year old.


I really wanted to get a portrait of Abbey upstairs and had found the perfect spot. That is, until the man at the desk told me there is NO photography allowed anywhere in Ogilvie Train Station, and I can't take a picture. I call bullshit on that.


So we went downstairs, and I can honestly say, I have never seen this station more bereft of people. I don't know what happened to the thousands of people that were supposed to be out shopping today, but it wasn't anywhere near this. Maybe they all went out to the burbs.

Full Circle 


Any time spent with my family is going to result in another family picture. That has been my favorite part of this whole project. It has given me so many photos that I can look back at, and all the memories attached to it. The people, the places, the events…all of it will come back to me when I look at these pictures.


The Easter picture I did of my mom and my nephew David (on the right) and the Mothers Day picture I did of all 3 (Mom, David, and Daniel) are still 2 of my favorites from this whole year, and really set me off on my "please don't smile" series of portraits. I figured I had the opportunity to sneak one more in, and I was not going to let that opportunity pass me by.


I'm really glad that my family is so willing to go along with this. It made it so much more fun for me.

Best Friend


A boy's best friend is his dog. Even when that boy grows up, his dog is still his best friend.


As silly as it sounds Shorty has been my rock over the past year. He is always there for me, and he never fails to lift my spirits. When I wake up at 4 am, he is there, and I start my day with a smile. When I get home from work, he is waiting at the door, and I walk in and I laugh and smile. He runs around the house like he hasn't seen me in weeks, even though it's only been hours. I never dreamed that I would be able to make any living creature that happy.

Back To School 


Another trip to take Abbey back to ISU means another trip to Avanti's. YAY! Best sandwiches (The World Famous Gondola) ever, my ultimate comfort food. Leaving the restaurant, my "to-go" sandwich fell out of the bag and into the parking lot. BOO! But a little dusting off, throw the cheese away, and we are all good. Hell, I've eaten a LOT worse than a little gravel before.

Ocky Dislikes the Painter


Not usually a fan of cat pictures but this is one of my favorites.

Abbey, Through the Looking Glass


I think the biggest difference between this 365 effort and the previous one is my daughter Abbey. Last time, she was very "into" having her picture taken, regardless of the circumstances. This time around, not so much.


I assumed I would be questioned and somewhat mocked when I asked her to please humor me and lay down on the floor for a couple of minutes in the Student Center at ISU. She obliged me (I was surprised), but the request was rather loudly questioned.

This Wasn't the Plan


Yesterday was my mother's birthday, #78. I told her last week that wherever she wanted to go for lunch, I wanted to take her. She chose Applebees.


I do not say that in a mocking way. I love my mother, and she is a woman of simple tastes and simple needs. But I sometimes wonder if those simple tastes are out of desire or out of necessity. I know that her life has more chaos and turmoil than there should be.


She always has a smile, and she is always grateful for whatever my brother and I can do for her. Unfortunately, I can't do as much as she deserves. But to her credit, she NEVER complains about her "lot in life".


She had a very nice time at lunch. we talked, we joked, and I took one of my standard "don't smile" pictures of her with a member of the wait staff. And when I got home to process it, this shot stuck with me for reasons that only I would fully understand.


She never complains, but I wonder how many times a day she quietly says to herself, "is this how it was supposed to be? I somehow imagined it would be different all those years ago. I imagined it would be better, or, at the very least, less stressful from day to day."


When my father died, he left her in some serious financial straits. I'm sure he didn't do it on purpose, but had he seen the occasional glimpse, or the eyes welling up with tears in gratitude for a birthday meal at Applebees, he may have made some different decisions.
Thanks for listening. I think I'll have a little cry myself.

High and Mighty


Bear with me here. OK, I was going to do something very deep, a scathing Social Commentary on organized religion (I may still…not sure). Anyway, as I was driving tonight, I just couldn't get "Mighty Dog Dog Food" out of my head. Hence, "Mighty". I was going to Qualex's apartment, so I wanted to do a shot, looking up above me, at Eli. Therefore, you have "High and Mighty" (at least in my mind).


Alex wanted to make sure that I used a frame without him in it, just use the dog. But as I looked at my choices, I couldn't help but look at what he has accomplished so far, and how far he has separated himself from all of the dysfunction he grew up with. Needless to say, I'm "Mighty" proud of him.

Dorm Life


Abbey moved on to the next stage of her life today, and moved on Campus as a freshman at ISU. It was a long day, lots of work, but I'm happy for her. She needed an escape from the craziness and dysfunctionality of the family. I hope and pray that she takes full advantage of the opportunity that she has in front of her, and makes the most of the next four years. She frustrates the Hell out of me sometimes (as I'm sure I do to her), but I would do anything for her.

Yay...Graduation Day


Today my daughter, my youngest, graduated from high school. As many of you know (if you live around me), it rained pretty good last night, well into the morning. The school decided to hold the graduation ceremony outside, even tho the gymnasium was set up (inside). I asked a gentleman from the school if they were really planning on having it outside. When I informed people inside the school they were indeed having it outside, the Principal told me to stop riling people up and "making the day about" myself. Then he called me an asshole.


I will be speaking to the Superintendent next week.

Happy Mother's Day 2015


There are so many things that I love about my mother, but I think the thing that I like best is her willingness to give her all for her children. No matter what picture I have asked to do, she hasn't batted an eye. She's up for it, no matter how silly it sounds.


Had brunch today at the Warsaw Inn (Lynwood). I knew I wanted a picture of my mom, and this '70s wallpaper fit the bill. I might do one of these shots of her every holiday. A new family tradition.

Grandmother, Grandson


This is my mother (left) and my nephew (right). I was only going to take a picture of my mother, so I was out in the garage looking for rope to tie her up with. My nephew was enjoying his phone and his cigarette when my mother came out to talk. I didn't have to look for the rope anymore.


By the way, my nephew has a full-time job, also takes night classes, and loves his grandmother very much. He is not as shiftless as he looks.

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