RSWL: Manners

“I NEED that! Give me that!!” my 2-year old son yells across the room. I close my eyes, take a deep breath and give him my best “excuse me?” eyes. Pause. “Puhleease. Please can I have that Momma?” he rephrases in a sweet voice he has mastered so well in such a short life. A small victory. I hand him the book he “needed” so badly, and he says without prompting, “Thank you! Thank you!” Another small victory.

Meanwhile, my 1-year old is tugging on my leg, making her little begging noises. “Uh…uh…uh,” she pleads with big brown eyes. She doesn’t quite get the eye communication yet, so I ask her, “What do you say?” She stops and rubs her palm across her chest repeatedly, the sign for “please”. Another small victory.

Are these really all that small? Are they more like huge victories in a society where the presence of polite conversation is a surprise? I was in a playgroup setting once and a parent declared quite proudly that they aren’t teaching manners to their children. They don’t want to force them to do anything unnatural, and are curious to see if manners will develop as expected. Oh….kay. I couldn’t quite articulate (politely) why at the time, but that felt strange and…wrong.  

Here’s the thing. I believe (and I don’t think I’m alone) manners are pretty cool. They go a long way. I’m not talking about elbows off the table and napkins on laps. I’m talking about the kind of manners that make people feel appreciated and respected. I’m much more likely to help a child or adult who asks for something with sincere politeness instead of demands. Manners show courtesy and respect for others and are seemingly missing in far too many families and social settings.

Manners make friends! I’ve noticed in our field adventures that workers and people are very helpful when we show respect through our behavior. Instead of assuming that we can enter an area of a ship we are touring or building we are exploring, we engage the people there. We talk to them, with eye contact and kindness.  More often than not, we learn more than we thought possible, and we get to go in those areas that are “restricted” or for “authorized persons” only. We hear special stories from our new friends. We feel happy, and our new friends seem thrilled to share and valued for their knowledge. That’s a win in our books. And when that 2-year old on my back yells out an unprompted “thank you” as we walk away, we are rewarded with the biggest smiles possible. We taught him that. It’s working. That’s another win.

So, please, can we all just put our manners into practice and show those around us the consideration and respect that come with those open doors and “excuse me’s”? Even if we are rushed or in a hurry, we have opportunities to bridge gaps and teach by example. That’s the other thing.  Courtesy seems to spread. When a person greets you, asks about your day, holds open the door, picks up something you dropped or offers to help you, that warm feeling you get usually makes you want to do the same for others.

So go spread some manners! I mean, PLEASE go spread some manners.  Thank you!    

Nate’s Notes: THAT Just Happened!!!

I’m not sure when it happened, but it did.  Momma and Daddy try to confuse me with their smiles and big language like, “We are so proud of you!”.   Proud?  If ‘proud’ is something that makes me feel like running away from embarrassment, then okay.  That is what this is.  Somehow I doubt it. 

Somewhere along the way…I became one of them.  They tricked me!  They tricked me with their cameras and flash.  Wait, they don’t use flash.  Well, there are shiny buttons and fun numbers on the cameras.  Yea, that is what it is.  They tricked me!  They tricked me by giving me my own camera and letting me take my own pictures. 

It happened slowly but all at once.  I don’t even know when.  I have to sit.  I have to calm down.  Just. Relax.  Breathe.  Breathe.  I can’t!!!  What am I going to do????!!!!   Overreacting?   You think I’m overreacting?   How do I KNOW I am one of them?  Well I didn’t realize it until the other day, in the store. 

It was a day like any other.  I was loudly minding my own business, sitting in the cart, checking out the book and Lego selections, yelling “Hi” to anyone who would listen.  Momma and Daddy had already dazzled me by telling me I could get some Nemos to take home and feed for my very own.  My very own Nemos!!!   That must have been why my guard was down.   We were in the row with dog and cat toys.  Okay. Sure.  Momma picked out some small dog toys.  That was strange because we don’t have small dogs.  Okay. Sure. Whatever.  I get my own Nemos!!!!   I will feed them and love them and they shall be mine!!!  Wait…what was this?  We were buying cat toys?  Why??  We don’t need cat toys.  Strange.  But Momma is strange.  Nemos!!!    

“Excuse me.  Do you have suggestions of any of these toys for cats?” A short woman asked Momma.  “Oh no.  I’m not buying these for a cat.”  Blink.  Blink.  Blink.  Silence.  More blinking.  “You…aren’t buying cat toys for a cat?”  The short woman seemed confused.  “No,” Momma answered.      The short, confused woman repeated what Momma had JUST said.  Were her ears broken?  I took over.  “Yea..Why?!”  She looked at me, ignored me… then went back to Momma and asked, “So… you aren’t buying them for a cat, just to take pictures?  Pictures WITH a cat? Or just pictures??”  Clearly she couldn’t hear. So I repeated louder, “Yea…Why?!”

Cat Toys_0010 Momma stopped me from continuing and settled it by just grabbing a few, kind of explaining what the pictures were for, and moving on.  The woman wasn’t going to get it…she was too confused to listen. And thankfully Momma stopped me, because I was going over a cliff.   

Clearly you can see that I’ve become one of them.  I normally would side with the short, confused lady, and begin distracting her from Momma’s embarrassing behavior with my charm. But INSTEAD…I sided with Momma!   I can’t believe this.  That just happened.  My life is over.  All this fun picture stuff is ruining me!!!  

TMG Philosophy: Support

A thoughtful card, a concerned voice message, a hand written letter, a quick post-it note on the counter, an encouraging text message, a “liked” Facebook post, email or tweet, a silent hug, hand on your shoulder, or knowing look.

Support. There are so many ways to show it. Support. It goes a long way. Support. It can turn feelings of hopelessness into hopefulness. Support. It strengthens us, sustains us, and encourages us. Sometimes just sitting at a support group, in a room with others on a similar journey, is enough to get us through. They don’t even need to say anything profound. Just knowing that these other people know what you’re going through is enough. Sadly, we often realize how much support and encouragement can affect us when we don’t get it. Those moments when we count on support and don’t get it…those are some of the most damaging moments.

Today happened to be a scary day for me. One of our babies is having medical challenges; it is nothing big enough to be an emergency, but certainly big enough to keep us worrying, waiting for results, wondering about the future and anxious between doctor visits. Today, in the words of our 2-year-old son, we visited a big doctor with big machines hoping for big answers. I woke up apprehensive and vulnerable. Yet when I grabbed my phone, I had a supportive text message. A little peace settled in. The busyness of the morning and the kids kept my mind from wandering back to the dark place of fear. A few hugs from my parents gave me courage, and we were on our way. My nerves, though, got the better of me again as I held my baby in the waiting room. She seemed so small, and all of this so big. That courage I had mustered cracked, and the lump in my throat almost choked my strength.

*Ding*…the notification of a text message. Once again, the support and love I read fortified me, calmed me. My husband’s arm around my shoulders and the love in his smile opened up that door for peace once again.
The day was long and emotional, and we certainly don’t have any more answers than we did when it started. Yet without the support and encouragement from those friends and family, the day would have been unbearably scary. I would have cracked. I would have emotionally run from the fear.

There are so many moments in my life that, if not for cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, and listening ears, I would have run the other way. Support. We all need it. Those nudges we get to call a friend, send a letter to a relative, lend a hand on a project, or give encouraging words…those nudges should NEVER be ignored. I often let myself be “too busy” to follow through. Shame on me. If nothing else, today reminded me just how much support means. So next time I have one of the nudges…I’m going to follow through.

Nate’s Notes: The Strangest Places I’ve Been, and the Strangest Things I’ve Done … Because of Pictures

It’s no secret we end up going many places for Momma, and sometimes Daddy too, to take pictures.  I even take a few to show them how it’s done.   They simply don’t appreciate my angle, my lighting choices and the perfect amount of blur.  Whether or not I take better pictures really isn’t the point.  I do.  But that’s not the point.  But I do.  My point today is that we end up in many strange places and doing many strange things.

I never thought I’d be telling my friends at the diaper changing station about wearing Daddy or Momma and walking over burned wood and broken glass in abandoned buildings.  I bet THEIR Momma’s faces were priceless when they took those stories home!!  Also, I’ve been in a ditch, on the side of a tunnel, straddling a fence and wandering through an old concrete plant, walking on all the machines still there.

I’ve been parked on the side of an old railroad track so Momma could run across the road and take girly pictures of poppies growing on the tracks.  I’ve jumped through mud and puddles for “work”. I’ve chased chickens, smeared paint, and shared my toys with Momma…all for pictures.  I’ve been to more cemeteries than probably any other 2 year old I know.  That’s just odd, and actually quite concerning.  Just ask Daddy.  I’ve been to the market, but not to buy food for eating.  Nope, just to bring the food home and take pictures of it.  I’ve walked across big bridges, under bridges, climbed huge hills and even some trees, just to take pictures of grass or peeling paint!  I’ve sat in corn fields and grape fields.

IMG_1446I’ve accompanied Momma on strange neighborhood walks that are slightly crazy as she takes pictures of every chimney or mailbox.  The looks we get there???!!!  Oh man. There are just some things I can’t use my powers on to fix.  I’ve been on my back in the park to help Momma take a picture of a tree from below.  I’ve been on my back in sand to help Momma take a picture of a slide.  These ARE public places people.  I’ll be shamed at school even before I start!!!   

Are you starting to get the picture??? 

RSWL: The USS Hornet

It’s no secret our team at The Transmogrifier thinks our jobs are the best.  In our endless quest to photograph everything in the world (yep!), we are constantly on field adventures to capture our images.  These adventures take us to abandoned places, long forgotten and dilapidated, needing to be preserved and appreciated for their story in time.   They take us to gardens, full of beauty and color.  They take us through neighborhoods of varying architectural styles.  The adventures allow us to walk through history, discover, and learn.  We are constantly learning new things both by photographing and by researching what we have photographed. 

One recent field adventure was to the USS Hornet in Alameda, California.  I have lived here for over 30 years and don’t recall ever hearing of it.  And I liked school; I paid attention in classes!   One day in a work meeting, Tim asked if I had ever been, expressing that pictures from the Hornet would be a great addition to our warships gallery.  That was all the incentive I needed.  Assignment accepted.  That Friday, my little family headed out, eager to discover.  Just imagine my two year old boy’s eyes when he saw this huge boat (actually it’s a ship)!! 

The USS Hornet was a United States Navy aircraft carrier of the Essex class. She played a major part in the Pacific battles of World War II, served in the Korean WarVietnam War, and also played a part in the Apollo program, recovering astronauts as they returned from the Moon. The first steps on Earth of returning moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, with Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, are marked on her hangar deck, as part of her Apollo program exhibit.

 USS Hornet_0005 USS Hornet_0048 USS Hornet_0106 USS Hornet_0155 USS Hornet_0172





Some quick, fun facts about the USS Hornet:  Aircraft based on the Hornet destroyed 1410 Japanese aircraft and 1,269,710 tons of enemy shipping; 72 enemy aircraft shot down in one day; 255 aircraft shot down in a month; She supported nearly every Pacific amphibious landing after March 1944; a quarter of the crew that built her were women.  (Source: 

 The USS Hornet is said to be one of the most haunted warships in the American Navy, with numerous reports of supernatural events occurring on board.  Luckily I didn’t know this bit of information until AFTER we were back home.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent so much time alone in the corners of this floating piece of history!

You can read more about this ship on the website.  And if you ever get a chance, be sure to visit this not-so-random piece of history.  Her story is inspiring.  

Nate’s Notes: It’s a Plane! It’s a Boat! It’s a Big Boat! Nope…It’s a Ship!

Military Jet on USS Hornet

Military Jet on USS Hornet

Aircraft on USS Hornet

Aircraft on USS Hornet

The USS Hornet

The USS Hornet

Rescue Helicopter on USS Hornet

Rescue Helicopter on USS Hornet

Lyla wearing Momma

Lyla wearing Momma

Actually it’s a boat WITH a plane.  And more than one plane.  Another one plane…and another one plane…and another one plane…and a hepiloctooper …and another one hepiloctooper.  I have to say that we do get to see some pretty cool stuff, but PLEASE don’t tell Momma or Daddy that.

This time, our field adventure was to a huge huge boat!  There were other boats around too, but we only got to go on the one boat.  That’s okay, the big boat we went on had planes and hepiloctoopers on it.  Really!  It did!   They were just hanging out on there like they were confused.  So I asked them,

“You go fly?”  But they didn’t answer.  Silly planes.

There were nice people on the boat telling us stories.  I love stories!!  I wore Daddy, and Lyla wore Momma. I had to keep squirming to get people’s attention.  Daddy used his angry voice to tell me to stop.  Oops.  I just wanted to talk to people!!!  If people walked by without saying hi, I just yelled at them, “Hi!  You go on boat?  You fly plane?  Hi! I’m Nate!  Nice to meet you!!”.  Momma slapped her forehead a lot and shook her head a little.  What?!  

One of the nice people who told stories stopped me and said, “Actually young man, this isn’t a boat.  This is a ship!”  Who’s HE calling young? A ship?  Okay. Sure.  “Oh, I see,” I answered him.  Get it?  Like a boat, in the ocean, or a sea…and I said see?!  Okay, maybe Momma helped me with that one, because I don’t get it.  So it’s a ship.  Okay. Fine.

So this boat…I mean SHIP was so super cool.  I wish I could take it home.  There were planes.  Oh, I think I told you that.  And hepiloctoopers.  Wait, did I say that too? These planes and hepiloctoopers helped a lot of boys and girls.   And also there were special plane thingies that touched the moon!  Yea!  Like they took boys to the moon!!!   I see the moon at night.  I wonder if I could go to the moon?!  I even got to touch one of the planes!  We went down small stairs, had to duck and bend over, saw lots of beds where people used to sleep, some really shiny kitchens, even went on the roof and saw more planes!! I……LOVED IT!!!!

You guys have to go to this huge huge boat…I mean SHIP!!  You gotta see it.  (Get it?!)

RSWL: The English Language

A while back, during one of our travels, we spent some brief time on a Jeep tour in the mountainous area of the United Arab Emirates, which also took us into a remote area of Oman.  Our driver/guide was very familiar with the area as he had been giving tours in that area for more than 25 years. As a result, he knew many of the people who lived in the area and had a good plan of where to take us for photos.

He knew that I was particularly interested in unique architecture and photo opportunities (he had already taken me off the “beaten path” to get some great shots of some old metal gates – which you can see on the site).

After a few hours of bouncing through the rocky desert mountains, he took us onto a nice paved asphalt road with a clean yellow stripe down the center.  While I have to admit, my back and various other typically unused muscles that go to work when you are bouncing in a Jeep were relieved for the break,  I still felt a bit of presumptive disappointment that what we would see on a road like this would only be ordinary.

So, imagine my surprise when the nicely paved road rounded a gentle curve and ended… into the side wall of a building.  Well, a small, simple mosque to be exact.  We got out for a few minutes to look around (and take some photos of course).  He told us he was friends with the family and they had built the little mosque for themselves at the end of the road. We were free to look around and take as many pictures as we wanted as he went through a small doorway in a smooth plastered wall to say hello to the family.  As we looked around, a curious little boy his equally curious sister and an even more curious goat came out to look at us.  The little boy and his sister appeared to be about 4 and 6 respectively (no idea how old the goat was).

We smiled and waved to the two children, who giggled, smiled shyly in response and slowly backed around the corner of the doorway with that universal childlike body language that can express both curiosity and cautiousness at the same time.

The goat on the other hand was not shy at all and trotted up to us, his mouth in a perpetual chewing motion.  The expectant look on his face appeared to be his only expression.   We had nothing on us to give him so we showed him our empty hands and continued to walk around.

After about fifteen minutes our guide came out and asked us if we were ready to go.  We said we were and we climbed back into the jeep.  A few minutes down the road, the way we had come, our guide slowed and asked if we wanted to go back and meet the people who lived there and visit with them.  We immediately felt a mixture of wanting to and not wanting to intrude on them.  He said it was no problem, that they liked visitors and insisted that we return.  As her turned around, we hesitantly agreed.

Upon our return, we got out of the Jeep and decided to leave our cameras in the vehicle (it just didn’t feel right.) We followed our guide through the narrow doorway in the wall that the children had been observing us from.  Within minutes, we were greeted by members of the family with smiles, hospitality, and food and drink.  The mother held out a large tray of sliced melon, smiled, nodded and greeted us in Arabic.  We smiled back, thanked her and took a piece of melon.  Fresh, plump dates and hot aromatic Arabic coffee followed, all of which we accepted by returning their smiles with our own and “thank you”s confident that even though we did not share a common language,  smiles and nods of gratitude were universal.

Our host family gestured for us to sit, and we sat on a low wall around a planter in the courtyard.  After a few moments the shy children must have decided that us being on the inside of the wall made us okay now and they came quickly over to us, stood about three feet from us, and beamed with some of the warmest, most genuine smiles I have ever seen.  (I am not sure where the goat was at this point.  He was probably nibbling on the tire or bumper of the Jeep. )

After just a brief moment of grinning at us, the little girl must have realized that we were speaking English, and started counting.  At first it felt a bit random, especially when she switched to letters in English.  We soon realized that she was reciting her ABCs and 123s and was pausing for feedback from us.  Once we clued in to what she was doing, we gave her our undivided attention.  She recited her ABCs half way through and stopped.  We smiled larger, and nodded, saying, “Yes, that is very good!”  She responded with a giggle, clapping of her hands, and a little hop of excitement.  Next, we were treated with her performance of 1 through 10.  Our affirmation of her work was again greeted by her with even more joyous, well-earned self satisfaction.

Our guide explained that even out here, in the rural, fairly remote areas of Oman,  the children learn English in schools.  As I turned back to the little girl who was excitedly repeating her performance over and over with absolute glee, I couldn’t help but think what a wonderful thing human communication is on any level, but here, far from any city, people were making an effort to learn a language that was native to me and not at all to them, so that one day we might be able to communicate more effectively.

I will probably never see that family or that little girl ever again, but her unbounded enthusiasm to learn one of the most complicated, exasperating,  contradictory languages in the world, and her pride in sharing what little she knew of it, touched me…

I wish her, and all of us who seek to connect to others through a common language (any language!), all the support in the World.