Moments of Joy: March 2015

Last month, my daughter created a touching moment that nearly melted my heart.

This month’s post shows the unexpected impact a simple gesture can make and the joy and friendship that can grow from it.

friends and families seated in a restaurant

photo by Edmund Yeo

I’ve gathered my things off the pew, chatted with multiple friends and acquaintances, and am heading toward the door of the church building on a Sunday evening.   As I turn a corner, I see a sweet friend of mine standing by herself in the foyer (for the retelling of this story, let’s call her Beth).

Beth is a fun lady to talk to.  She is such a kind soul, but also quite a character!  Blunt as a butter knife, she will usually tell you exactly how she feels about any given topic of discussion.

Knowing several people had agreed to go out to dinner after worship, I wondered if I should invite her to go with us.

“There’s probably no point in asking her,” I think as I approach her.  “I don’t ever see her going out to eat.  She’ll probably be embarrassed when she says ‘no’ because we both know why she can’t go.”

We’d previously had lengthy discussions about ways to stretch grocery dollars and make cheap, nutritious meals at home.  One Sunday morning, she had told me that she would not be back for evening service.  When I showed curiosity about it, she explained it was because her car was nearly out of gas, and she did not have any money to fill up the tank.  To put it simply, she lives on a very tight budget.

I decide to ask her to dinner anyway, at least just to show her that I care about her and enjoy spending time with her.  To my surprise, she thinks for a brief moment before responding, “I’d love to go.”

We converse for a while until everyone is ushered out the door by a pair of “starving” girls, and then we head off to the restaurant.

We are all soon seated around an L-shaped set of tables, with drinks in hand and food ordered, before either girl has enough time to collapse from hunger!   😉   We form a motley little group:  several teens of various ages and interests (military, singing, professional target-shooting, etc.), several adults (big-game hunter, editor, homeschool mom, etc.), and our somewhat-older friend Beth.

The food is good, and so is the conversation, which varies over multiple subjects.  The restaurant is crowded and noisy, especially when part of the staff comes out clapping and singing to a customer for their birthday.  We enjoy sharing stories and laughs long after the food is gone from our plates.

After watching the girls devour a “molten chocolate cake,”  Beth places her hands on the table, leans forward, and with a slightly-raised voice announces:

“You know what?  Now that the meal is over, I want to tell you all something…Last week was my birthday.”  I laugh, knowing that she waited until now to announce this so we wouldn’t embarrass her by asking the waiters to sing to her.

“Well,” she continues, “this evening is like a present to me.  It gets lonely living by myself, and I am really having a great time with you guys tonight!  Thank you for inviting me!”

“How sweet and straightforward,” I think.  “We should share feelings of appreciation like this with people more often!”

 We all tell her how glad we are that she joined us and how we need to spend more time together, and she reiterates how special this meal is to her.  I feel the warmth of loving friendship as she looks into my eyes and smiles.

I’m amazed at times how a gesture that seems small to one person can make a big impact on someone else.

When we all finally push back from the table and go our separate ways, my family drives home with happy bellies full of food and a happy hearts full of thankfulness.  What a great way to end a great day!

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B&W Photo 5-day Challenge: Day 2

Cynthia M Voss recently challenged me to participate in the “Black and White Photo Five-day Challenge.”  Obviously, I have accepted!   😉

What is this challenge?  As Cynthia explained it,

The goal is to post one B&W photo each day for five days…Part of the fun is to nominate another blogger, one on each day…There is no pressure to accept this challenge.  It’s just for fun! 🙂 

Today, I nominate dizzylizzie, author of the blog called called “Helping Others.”  She is a kind soul who blogs about issues relating to Dementia, with a little photography and fun thrown in, too.  I reblogged an inspiring post she wrote about “Bouncing Back” from tragedy and grief.

So…what do you say, dizzylizzie?  Feel free to ignore this challenge if you do not wish to participate.  If you do decide to join in, I look forward to viewing your photos!   😀

Here’s my entry for Day 2, which I took a year ago during a vacation:

tall observation tower with angular beams across the outside, spring trees in bloom

Observation tower on a hill above Hot Springs, Arkansas. It’s a good workout, and so enjoyable, to take the 10 or 12 flights of outdoor stairs instead of taking the elevator. What a view!

I like the bold, geometric pattern on the building juxtaposed against the curvy, flowing lines of the tree branches with their sparse growth of early spring.

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B&W Photo 5-day Challenge: Day 1 (Pssst…look for a total lunar eclipse on April 4th!)

Cynthia M Voss recently challenged me to participate in the “Black and White Photo Five-day Challenge.”  Obviously, I have accepted!   😉

What is this challenge?  As Cynthia explained it,

The goal is to post one B&W photo each day for five days…Part of the fun is to nominate another blogger, one on each day…There is no pressure to accept this challenge.  It’s just for fun! 🙂 

Today, I nominate bibleis4me, who writes the thought-provoking blog called “Blessed.”  Hers is the first blog I ever followed, and I reblogged her post about appreciation last week.

So…what do you say, bibleis4me?  Feel free to ignore this challenge if you do not wish to participate.  If you do decide to join in, I look forward to viewing your photos!   😀

Here’s my entry for Day 1:

a detailed full moon on a black night

I took this picture last October a few hours before a “blood moon” appeared. This was the second of four total lunar eclipses occurring in 2014-2015.  The third is expected to appear this Saturday, April 4th, so be looking up if you live anywhere from the eastern half of Asia to the western half of the Americas.  Timeanddate.com has a map to show you how great of a view you can expect in your local area.

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Photography 101: The Journey of a Girl and Her Camera Manual

Yes, after all these years I’m finally reading my camera’s User Guide manual.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wishes to improve their photography skills.  There’s no need to rush through it.  Digest it a couple of pages at a time — it’s not exactly riveting reading — and you will discover many simple methods to improve your photos.

Through this process of reading the manual (and somewhat randomly pushing buttons on my camera), I’ve produced quite a few enjoyable photos.  Here’s a compilation of my favorite images.  Some you’ve seen if you’ve read my previous Photography 101 posts; others are new.  (You can scroll over or click on the photos for more info.)

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Photography 101: Truimph

Day 20:  Today’s theme is about celebrating triumphs, big or small, with instructions to use editing tools to play with the contrast in order to create a more dramatic effect.

This is the last day of the WordPress Photo 101 class I’ve been participating in all month.  I have enjoyed completing every assignment, which I would consider a small triumph!

For this last assignment, I created an image to portray the triumph of reaching my greatest personal goal.

Adjusting the contrast did nothing to add to this image. I did, however, use the “boost” editing tool in the PicMonkey editor. With the paintbrush tool, I returned everything except the rainbow back to its original state, thus making the rainbow stand out more vividly.

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Photography 101: Edge

Day 18:  Today we’re livin’ on the edge in our Photo 101 class!  Lol.  The tip for this assignment was to use photo editing software to make sure the edge we photograph is lined up nice and straight in the photo.

Thankfully, my father let me borrow his camera tripod a couple of weeks ago (he was quite a good photographer back before I was born).  The tripod makes it so much easier to line things up straight and to take macro shots without losing focus due to camera movement.

Once again, I utilized the trusty Aperture Priority setting on my Canon Power Shot camera to capture these images of our Beta fish.  There are plenty of edges in this photo  — the tank, the water, the corner of the room, and the window edges.  When viewed from the edge like this, water refraction and tank reflections make it look like we have three fish instead of one.  (Please scroll over the images or click on them for more info.)

Did you notice the extreme difference in the view out the window?  Shooting photos with and without the flash can cause surprising changes…Well, surprising to me, anyway, since I’m new to photography.  Which photo is more appealing to you?

There was an issue with using the Aperture Priority setting for this photo shoot.  The shutter speed on this setting is slower to let in that rich lighting, which means any motion in the shot will be nothing but a colorful bblluurr.  It’s not noticeable in the first set of photos because the fish was not moving.  Here are some examples of him swimming: one using the Aperture Priority setting and the other using the Sports setting.

I guess that’s why the mouth on my little bunny friend blurred when I used the Aperture Priority setting to take this photo of him licking his lips in the yard today.