Jim Carretta shot this female dragonfly in Anza Borrego Desert State Park, northeast of San Diego. Here’s his story:
This dragonfly would not co-operate. It could not be approached from above or eye level, as it would fly off every time I got close. So I started by laying on my back and photographing it from about 3 feet below, SLOOOWLY raising my arm and pushing the shutter. Mostly, I was getting photos of blue sky, a piece of a blurry dragonfly, or just the branch. I couldn’t reach the tip of the branch that way. So I started to raise myself up on one arm, like a yoga-plank pose, one arm anchoring me, the other reaching up towards the sky, my body diagonal to the ground, my right hand only a few inches from the dragonfly. It took about 10-12 shots before I got this one.
Underexposed by one stop to capture the blue sky!
Camera: Olympus 850 SW Stylus
Settings: 1/400 sec, ISO 64, f/5.6
Courtesy of PhotoBotos.com
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
We had our breakfast gift on the lanai, anniversary morning.
I love giving gifts and receiving gifts. Who doesn’t?
But the very best gifts are those that arrive when they are least expected.
Velda and I celebrated our 30th anniversary in Hawaii (which I’ve written extensively about. Some of those links are below). We had never been to Hawaii before, so it was a very big deal when we made these plans. It was a rare vacation for us … if it wasn’t a family camping trip or a visit to see family in the Midwest, we simply hadn’t taken vacations. It was an even more rare adult vacation … something we’d never done before.
When we arrived at our hotel in Kauai, we were informed by the staff that we had two presents waiting for us. My boss Erica had sent a bottle of champagne for us to enjoy, and when would we like that delivered?
And my right hand, my good friend Kristy and her husband Aaron, had sent us an in-room breakfast. On what day would we like that delivered?
Simply, we were stunned. These gifts were totally unexpected, but the fact that these good friends wanted to make our special vacation just a bit more special was just incredible.
And 7 years later, those gifts are still very special. Can you say that about Christmas or birthday gifts you got 5 years ago?
This week, the family got another totally unexpected gift, and the result was truly uproarious.
Michael was graduating from the USC Viterbi School of Engineering with a Master of Science degree. There was a family lunch at El Cholo, which is our favorite Mexican restaurant in LA.
And since it was a family event, of course we were checked in on Facebook, and of course we had checked Tony in with us even though he was in Missouri (the tagging war continues!). We had introduced Tony to the glory that is El Cholo last year. He even enjoyed their guacamole. So while we were enjoying El Cholo, Tony was getting text messages of what he was missing. Everyone sent him pictures of their entrees as they arrived. Tony couldn’t have been getting any work done; he was just getting non-stop harassment from the Left Coast.
And then an anonymous gift arrived at our table. “Someone” had sent us a pitcher of margaritas. The only message: “I hope you all get sick, except for Payton.”
Payton assumed it was for her. If was within reach, after all.
At that point, the celebration kicked into very, very high gear. We laughed and laughed … until we finally calmed down enough to take this picture. My goodness, did we have a great time laughing at this gift and how wonderful it was.
How did he get the wait staff to find the right party? How did he DO it? (As his daughter Claire pointed out, all you had to do was look for the big table with 3 big guys and beards. That certainly narrowed it down!)
And then, there were some wonderful margaritas to share. You know how well that would have been received in this family!
And why was it wonderful? Because of the unexpected graciousness of our spectacular cousin. It was the perfect gesture, at the perfect moment.
Surprise gifts don’t have to be expensive, and they don’t have to be a part of a celebration. They do have to be heart-felt, personal, and loving. And that can be a candy bar when someone needs a chocolate pick-me-up as easily as it can be a pitcher of cocktails at a family celebration.
Me, I need to pay this forward to other friends & family. It’s not enough to fulfill obligatory gift giving for holidays & birthdays. To truly give gifts that properly, fully express your feelings, you need to find a gift that is wondrously surprising. I don’t mean doing the dishes when your spouse doesn’t expect it (though that’s not a bad idea, either).
The good news is that when a gift is unexpected, it’s a surprise for your friend or loved one. And don’t we all enjoy surprising someone we love?
The Incredible Tagging War Of 2011
The Magic Of The Unexpected Gift
Unexpected Gift Giving = MilSpouse Joy
It was Christmas break, and Little Girl was home from college. We went out to lunch at a SoCal favorite, In-N-Out Burger.
And Little Girl fired the opening salvo of a war that still reverberates today.
What did she do? She checked in (because you have to tell everybody when you eat at In-N-Out). She tagged me, and she tagged our cousin Tony. His family had visited that year, loved them some In-N-Out, and she knew Tony would be jealous of where we were. And he wasn’t.
We could almost hear his groans 1,816 miles away. And the war had begun.
Soon, we were tagging Tony and his family wherever we were. Venice Beach. A prison that we drove by. Dodger Stadium. Every airport anyone flew through. If we were there, Tony was there. According to Facebook.
And, of course, Tony gave as good as he got.
Our family was tagged when he went to Spring Training in Florida. We were tagged when he flew to South America on business. We were tagged everywhere his family went. We always knew what they were doing!
And then one day, he tagged us and achieved tagging immortality. He tagged our family as being with him when he visited that mecca of local retail, Walmart. Now, of course, it’s sad that Tony went to Walmart, and it’s sad that anyone thought we went with him. What do they think of us?
But that Facebook tag was seen by Velda’s sister. And Velda’s sister asked their Mother when we had arrived in the Midwest, because she saw that we were at a local Walmart. And Velda’s mother then called Velda’s cell, asking why we kept our visit to the Midwest a secret from her.
Now, Velda’s mother does not use a computer. Imagine having to explain to her that we weren’t actually in Missouri, we were in California. But we were shown as being in Missouri on something called Facebook. And that it was a joke.
That she didn’t get, of course.
I still don’t think she believes us. After all, somebody read about it on the internet.
Fillmore’s portrait by an unidentified artist dates to about the time he retired from the House of Representatives in the early 1840s. National Portrait Gallery
Millard Fillmore (1800 – 1874)
The 13th President of the United States, 1850 – 1853
AKA: The Accidental President, The Wool Carder President, The American Louis Philippe
From: New York
College: One of eight US Presidents that did not attend college
Married to: Abigail Powers (1826 – 1853), Caroline Carmichael (1858 – 1874)
Children: Millard, Mary
Party: Anti-Masonic (before 1832), Whig (1832 – 1856), American (1856 – 1860)
Photo by Matthew Brady
Previous Jobs: Lawyer, New York State Assemblyman, New York State Comptroller, Chancellor of the University of Buffalo, US Representative, Vice President
In His Words: “The Government of the United States is a limited Government. It is confined to the exercise of powers expressly granted and such others as may be necessary for carrying those powers into effect; and it is at all times an especial duty to guard against any infringement on the just rights of the States.”
“An honorable defeat is better than a dishonorable victory.”
“God knows that I detest slavery, but it is an existing evil, for which we are not responsible, and we must endure it, and give it such protection as guaranteed by the Constitution, till we can get rid of it without destroying the last hope of free government in the world.”
Not true: Millard Fillmore did not install the first bathtub in the White House.
A piece authored by HL Mencken was published in the New York Evening Mail on December 28, 1917 — 33 years after Fillmore died! — that credited Fillmore with the plumbing innovation. It was all a hoax, though … but it was a hoax that came to be cited as fact for decades after the piece was published.
Mencken eventually admitted that the article was not true, but not before Millard Fillmore had his reputation besmirched. Poor guy; his reputation wasn’t that good to start with!
True: Millard Fillmore was born in a log cabin, and grew up very poor on the New York frontier, in the Finger Lakes region.
He was apprenticed to a cloth maker at age 15, where he learned to card wool.
He was a compromise candidate when he became the Vice Presidential nominee for Zachary Taylor.
As the Vice President, he of course served as President of the Senate during Taylor’s Presidency. He came to support what is now known as the Compromise of 1850, and he championed its final passage early in his Presidency. That legislation was intended to calm emotions and help strengthen the republic, but in the end it only inflamed divisive passions further. It was composed of five separate bills:
- Texas surrendered its claim to New Mexico.
- California was admitted to the Union as a free state.
- The slave trade in Washington DC was banned (though slavery was not).
- New Mexico and Utah were named US territories with no clear ruling about slavery within their borders.
- The Fugitive Slave Act required Federal law officers to return runaway slaves to their owners.
Fillmore directed Commodore Perry to travel to Japan and open that nation to trade with the west. Fillmore directed Perry to use the guns on his steamships to persuade Japanese representatives if they refused to allow Perry to present Fillmore’s letter to the Emperor. The threat was not necessary, and trade with Japan became a reality.
Fillmore threatened to use the US Military on three occasions to help enforce domestic law: against Texas, when that state’s militia was about to invade the territory of New Mexico; against South Carolina, when that state was rumored to be near secession; and against a citizen revolt that attempted to lead a coup against Cuba … and failed.
The Whig party would not nominate him as their candidate in 1854. He eventually became a third party candidate representing the racist “Know Nothing” American Party … which he joined perhaps not because of their ideology, but because it was the best political platform available to him at the time. He lost, winning only the state of Maryland, and retired from politics.
He was not a weak President, but is often seen as such, since his actions failed to save the Union and prevent the Civil War. Today, his legacy is as much about what isn’t true as it is what he actually accomplished.
The Official Portrait: Congress commissioned George P. A. Healy to paint six Presidential portraits: John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, James K Polk, Franklin Pierce and Millard Fillmore. Fillmore was finished in 1857; the rest were all complete by 1859. At that point, the paintings were then stored in the White House attic, as framing had not been budgeted. It was left to Andrew Johnson to frame and suitably display the paintings after the Civil War.
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Fillmore Still Dead, Still Misquoted
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Mencken’s Hoax
Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub: Sources on Millard Fillmore
I subscribe to the SHORPY historical photo archive RSS feed. They have a variety of 20th century photographs … Adam West on the Batman set, beach goers at Atlantic City in the 1920s … you never know what photo they’re going to share each day. The feed is free, and they sell high quality prints of the photographs in the archive.
Subscribe to the free feed here.
They delivered a photo of Red Fox James who was identified as a Blackfoot Indian … and it looked like he was wearing a Boy Scout pin. In a photo dated 1915! This was a story I had to learn. Here’s one picture … click on it to see it full size.
I can’t identify the medal on the ribbon; don’t know if that’s a BSA award or not. He is wearing what looks like a Tenderfoot pin, and has a “BSA” pin on his hat. I believe BSA was worn on the collar by leaders in this time period … uniform experts, please correct me if that’s wrong.
Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian, rode horseback from state to state seeking approval for a day to honor Indians. On Dec. 14, 1915, he presented the endorsements of 24 state governments at the White House. There is no record, however, of such a national day being proclaimed. (Library of Congress)
James rode “his famous Indian pony” throughout the country in 1914, and then again in 1915, to inspire support for a designated “American Indian Day.” He met with citizens all across the country, and frequently met with Scout troops during his journeys. He spoke to a gathering of 35,000 people in New York … he was trying to build a groundswell of opinion before mass media would have made his work much easier.
24 Governors signed James’ petition proposing a new holiday called “American Indian Day” be added to our calendar. James presented the petition to President Wilson in 1915. Unfortunately, there’s no record that Wilson ever acted upon the plea.
James had a colorful history, as one might expect from someone that became a celebrity in an era when Indians could not be US citizens. He did not live on a reservation; rather he was raised in white society. He went by many names, and at various times claimed to be graduated from the University of Oklahoma, went by the name Reverend St James, and raised over $15,000 for the American Red Cross in the early part of the 20th century – a very significant sum!
In January of 1915, James helped found the Indian Scouts of America, which was a part of the Boy Scouts. He was designated as “Acting Scout Master” according to the record of the event, which you can view here. He was a part of the founding of another organization, the Tipi Order of America, for non-Indians to learn about the Indian culture. That organization (you can find references that use both the Tipi and Teepee spelling) eventually transitioned into an adult fraternal organization.
1915, Red Fox James at the White House. Note the “Be Prepared” pennant. State, War & Navy Building at far left. Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative.
Native American Heritage Month
The Star & Sentinel, 12/08/1914
Biographical Background For Red Fox Skiuhushu
Examiner.com – Origins
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Quarterly Journal of the Society of American Indians
The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements