WELCOME TO MY WORLD! FOUR WAYS TO INVOLVE YOUR NON-SWIMMING SPOUSE OR PARTNER

This is dedicated to Bruce, my soulmate for over thirty years and husband for nearly 25 of them.  You have always been there for me, even when you thought I was nuts!  (Only you would have the patience to video my painstakingly slow 2000 yard butterfly for Butternuts.  Yes, I am a nutty Butternut!)  I love you more than ever, I’m your #1 fan, and will always remain your Aqua Dog.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

WELCOME TO MY WORLD! FOUR WAYS TO INVOLVE YOUR NON-SWIMMING SPOUSE OR PARTNER

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PRE-CRUISE:  VISITING VERO BEACH

The idea of going on an Impact Travel cruise came from our friends, David and Melody.  They had heard of Fathom’s unique concept and shared it with us.  We were intrigued and looked forward to experiencing it together.

Unfortunately, several days before the cruise, Melody had a back injury too serious to be able to travel; so, they had to cancel out.  David and Melody still wanted us to visit them in Vero Beach prior to the cruise, so we made our way south on December 28th.

While Melody rested, David gave us a fabulous tour of Vero Beach during the first full day of our visit; so, it made it easier for Bruce and I to find our way around while exploring over the next two days.

Over the next couple of days, between poking around the galleries, visiting the McKee Botanical Garden, taking long walks along the boardwalk at the beach, and watching the manatees; we got a great feel for the area.  Bruce and I enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and friendliness of the locals.

It just wasn’t the same not being able to share it with our friends, though; and, we were heartbroken Melody and David wouldn’t be able to experience the cruise.

On New Year’s Day, we left Vero Beach for Miami to board Fathom’s Adonia.  It was a day of mixed feelings—concern for Melody, and sadness our friends would be missing the upcoming adventure; but, excitement that our volunteer work in the Dominican Republic would have an impact in more ways than one.

The following are scenes from our visit in Vero Beach.:

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Bruce and David

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Melody, at a farm near their house, before her back took a serious turn for the worse.

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“Woody” was made out of LEGOS!  What a surprise to find an amazing Lego sculpture exhibit waiting for us at McKee Botanical Garden!  Throughout the gardens were beautiful Lego creatures constructed by Sean Kenney, the world’s first LEGO Certified Professional.  Made of regular off-the-shelf Lego pieces, the exhibition featured thirteen individual displays built with over 300,000 LEGO pieces.  This guy was the most complex and made from 4,424 pieces.  He measured 10″x 8″ x 20″.

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This life-size gardener was constructed from 34,340 LEGO pieces.

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42,164 pieces were used to build this praying mantis.

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This Monarch Butterfly has an 8-foot wing-span and was created with 60,549 LEGO pieces.  It’s the second largest sculpture Sean Kenney has every created.

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Uh-oh!  This Milk snake is about to chow down in this cute field mouse.  Both sculptures were made from a total of 12,069 pieces.

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Our national bird, the Bald Eagle is made from 42,198 pieces and measures five feet tall.

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In addition to this squirrel, there were other squirrels and birds on the fence eyeing the bird feeder above (filled with LEGO pieces!).

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31,565 pieces were used to create this huge hummingbird.

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This Giant White Triumphator Lily made from 32,514 pieces was giant, measuring 72″ in length!

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How about a life-size rototiller?  It took 20,903 pieces to create it.

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Next up:  Aboard Fathom’s Adonia

COLORS OF GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK

The path to Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair in Tennessee  from our home in Georgia is through gorgeous Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  One of the reasons we enjoy participating as vendors at the fair is so we can enjoy the park during our free time before and after the show.

You never know what you’re going to see.  In July, 2015, we came across “Lawrence Elk,” but we didn’t have such luck this past July.

Now that we are doing the fall show as well, we expected to see black bears, wild turkeys, and fall colors.  Bruce was in luck seeing a bear, we both saw several turkeys; and, best of all, we had the pleasure of enjoying the array of autumn colors of the leaves during the drive home.

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See some of Bruce’s art glass at http://www.CookedGlassCreations.Etsy.com 

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BEAUTIFUL BOTANICALS

If you find yourself in Atlanta and would like a peaceful place to get away from the noise of the city, Atlanta Botanical Garden is a lovely place to unwind, and get in a good walk.  Although we were there to enjoy the Dale Chihualy blown glass sculptures, I couldn’t resist photographing the gorgeous orchids and other beautiful botanicals.  Here are my favorites from our afternoon of wandering through Atlanta Botanical Garden:

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CHIHUALY IN THE GARDEN

Yesterday, Bruce and I visited Atlanta Botanical Garden to enjoy “Chihualy in the Garden,” a spectacular exhibit by internationally acclaimed glass artist, Dale Chihualy.

The show featured 19 installations throughout the beautiful 30 acre-garden, including these:

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Next up:  Atlanta Botanical Garden Florals

GERMANY YESTERDAY, GEORGIA STATE GAMES OPEN WATER MEET TODAY!

When Vantage Travel needed to change our European river cruise departure date, I had pretty much written off the idea of competing in the Georgia State Games Open Water Meet.  It was scheduled for the morning after our evening return, and I knew I would be leaving my suit at home and taking three weeks off from the pool.

It made me a bit sad, because even though it is not a pool meet, it’s my favorite local swim event of the year.  It’s also the third event of the Georgia Grand Prix Series, and I am leading the series in my age group.  After winning it in 2012, 2013, and 2014; I wanted to win it back after having lost in 2015 due to sitting out a couple of the events after having hip surgery and a set-back.

I didn’t discuss competing at the open water meet with Bruce, because I just knew he would NOT want to get up early the morning after returning from Europe.  Besides, I was having a problem with my shoulder that required a short course of physical therapy before we went to Europe.  On top of that, I developed an acute case of calcific tendinitis in my other hip while in Vienna, requiring an injection of a short and long-term anesthetic.  (Thankfully, it worked like a charm!)

Late in the trip, I finally casually mentioned the upcoming meet to Bruce, and he said, “Well, are you going to compete in it this year?  I think you should!”  Really?  I couldn’t believe my ears!  We agreed to see how my hip was doing after our return and whether we would be up for peeling ourselves out of bed for the 1-1/2 drive to Lake Acworth.

Thank goodness traveling west is easier on the body than heading east.  Neither of us have jetlag when we travel west, so we were in luck.  We crashed by 9:00 PM last night (3:00 AM our body time), got a good night sleep, and woke up refreshed this morning.  We took one look at each other and said, “Let’s go!”

I was so excited, I felt like a retriever puppy waiting to get released from my leash, so I could go chase thrown sticks in the water!  We piled our gear into “AQUADOG” and hit the road.

Arriving just in time for the 3K start, my heart skipped a beat as I saw them take off.  The 3K is my favorite open water race, but I knew I shouldn’t push it, so I settled on racing the 1K instead.

After three weeks out of the water (even longer than after my hip surgery), it felt SO good to be back in!  The rest did my body good, though, and all four cylinders were working great.  I won gold (although there was only one other gal in my age group), my time better than last year, and it was a lot of fun.  My win also mathematically eliminated my competition in the Georgia Grand Prix Series!

Thanks, Bruce, for your love, support, and encouragement!  I love you!!

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Last year, Loukia and I were side-by-side and really pushed each other during the last half of our 1K race.  I won, but she beat me this year!  (Thankfully, she is in a younger age group, so I was able to still win gold.)

Stay tuned for blog posts about Europe.  After I edit the TONS of photos I shot, I will start posting the blog posts I wrote off-line and include my favorite shots.

Note about race:  Looking over the official results, I beat 13 of the 22 women younger than me, and 12 of the 23 men younger than me.  WooHOO!

QUEEN ANNE (AKA ANNE-WITH-AN-E)

Do a search within my blog site on “Anne Dunivin,” and you will see I have written several times about this amazing woman and teammate who has been a great inspiration to me.

Now 99 years old, and swimming faster than she did at Nationals three years ago, Queen AnnE had every swimmer at the U.S. Masters Swimming meet at UGA echoing what I said to Anne when we first met, “I want to grow up to be just like you!”

Check out this link to read on about Anne’s amazing accomplishments at last Saturday’s swim meet.  This article appeared in print in yesterday’s edition of Atlanta Journal Constitution:  http://www.ajc.com/news/lifestyles/health/99-year-old-atlanta-swimmer-completes-swim-and-set/nrbXf/

IT’S STILL MY FAVORITE SHOT!

Since starting my blog nearly five years ago, I have been pleasantly surprised by the wonderful comments I’ve received not only from friends and family, but also from other bloggers who have read my posts from all over the world.  It has been very gratifying!

Yesterday, I received a very different response to my blog. I was introduced to a company called Light. They are a start-up aiming at perfecting a new camera technology that was shared with me along with their Vantage Project on Pinterest.  I was asked to write a story about my favorite photo for their site.

Rather than pondering my options, I immediately decided on my favorite photograph that dates back to 1987.  It’s hard to believe it has been almost thirty years since I captured this shot at the Albuquerque Hot Air Balloon Fiesta!  I was excited to try out my new Canon A-1 (identical to my dad’s beloved camera) and two Tamron zoom lenses.

As a (mostly) self-taught, (mostly) amateur photographer, I shoot photos for my own satisfaction, concentrating on what makes me happiest:  COLOR.  One of my passions is travel photography, and color is like a magnet for me.  I see something colorful, and I am immediately drawn to it.

In Albuquerque at the hot air balloon grounds, I was like kid in a candy store– or, more accurately, me in a chocolate shop!  Color surrounded me, and I didn’t know which way to turn first.  There were literally hundreds of multi-colored hot air balloons in various stages of inflation preparing for a mass ascension into the crystal clear New Mexico skies, and I wanted to see– and, photograph– them all.

Back then, digital cameras and SD cards didn’t exist, and the cost of film and developing was expensive.  I was on a tight budget, so I had to balance being selective with not letting great shots go by uncaptured.  (Wow, how photography has changed…)

The warm hues of this particular balloon grabbed my attention, because of the way they looked so saturated in the early morning light.  The stripes also made for interesting composition– especially since one of my favorite “rules” in photography is the Rule of Thirds:  The Rule of Thirds states that an image is the most pleasing when its subjects or regions are composed among imaginary lines which divide the image into thirds– both vertically and horizontally. (www.cambridgeincolour.com)

 

As I approached the inflating envelope of the hot air balloon, one of the crew opened a flap and invited me to take a peek inside with my camera.  I looked towards the lighter side of the envelope and was delighted to see the shadows of others watching the balloon being inflated from the other side.  The man with the baseball cap grabbed my attention, as did the child who was waving his arms.

One shot is all it took.  I trusted the terrific metering of my new A-1, and I knew the photo I had captured was exactly what I was after:  Saturated color, composition using the Rule of Thirds, texture from the wrinkled fabric of the part of the envelope still bunched up on the ground, and those great shadows.  Other than knowing the photo was shot using my Tamron 28-70 zoom lens with the camera on auto, I haven’t a clue of the technical data.  Who had time to notice?  “Mr. Peanut” was about to launch from the other end of the row, so I made a mad dash in pursuit of my next shot!

At the time, I was sure I would be happy with that photo and others I had shot at the balloon grounds, but I had no idea what the future would bring as a result of my favorite shot.

My dad encouraged me to enter some photo contests with it, so I entered it in the Del Mar (San Diego County) Fair as well as Price Club’s photography contest.  (Price Club is now Costo.)  Much to my surprise, I won “Best in Color” at the fair and Price Club’s grand prize!

Between the video camera I won from Price Club (and sold), and cash prizes won from various contests, that photo netted me more than enough money to pay for all my film, developing, photo albums, and travel for that Albuquerque trip, and more.

After nearly thirty years of incredible travel photography experiences, I would have to say this is still my favorite shot!

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GOING FULL CIRCLE

We had good intentions when we collected all of those shells, but Bruce and I never followed through with crafting a shell-covered mirror frame for our powder room– in San Antonio. It was seven years ago when we moved from that house, left Texas behind, and made our way to Georgia. Our shell collection came with us and ended up in the attic, never to be seen again until I got motivated to sell some of our collectibles on ebay and donate the rest.

There it was, the bucket of shells collected from South Padre Island, and who knows where else. I don’t remember, but I think we even added to the bucket when we brought home shells from Sanibel Island. Why? I have no idea, because those good intentions were a distant memory by then.

Perhaps it’s all about the hunt. Hunting for shells is much like doing macro photography. It forces you to slow down and carefully study your subject. In doing so, you appreciate the beauty around you so much more. Besides, it’s fun! You never know what you’re going to find, and when you will find the one; that beautiful specimen might end up proudly displayed on a shelf to admire.

I imagine the thrill of the (shell) hunt to be much like “garage sale-ing.” Is it really about that perfect find? It could be the process that is so enjoyable to garage sale enthusiasts: Waking up at the crack of dawn, pouring over the classifieds while sipping a cup of coffee, circling the locations of garage sales to shop, mapping out a route, and then hopping in the car with great anticipation of bargaining for a great deal.

After contemplating our motivations, Bruce and I came to the same conclusion: Collecting shells was much like travel; it was about the journey, not the destination. We enjoyed the process, but not necessarily the collection itself. Aside from a few beauties I’ve displayed to enjoy , there was no longer a valid reason to keep the rest. The shell mirror frame was forgotten long ago, and our good intentions were gone.

It was time for our shell collection to go full circle. They had come from the sea, so we returned them to where they belonged. Who knows where they will end up next? Perhaps another couple combing the beach for shells will gather them with good intentions, and they will go full circle once again.

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