Drought Explorations.

This afternoon, I thought I had a hair appointment. But I apparently did not – it wasn’t until the next Friday.

And so, I found myself with no kids and an entire afternoon to fill.

(The misery.) (I’m sure all moms would agree.)

On the way to my nonexistent appointment, I had rolled by our city’s main water supply, Lake Purdy, and had made a mental note to stop by for a photo op on the way home – if I had time. But now that I had more time than any mother ever has to herself, I relished the idea of giving the mostly-dry lake a thorough tour.

I drove back to the parking spot by the bridge, grabbed my camera and my tripod, and set off through the woods, down into the lake bed.

Now, I don’t often think seriously about the fact that we are in a severe drought. My greatest beef with it is the souring of my favorite season, fall. Instead of all the beautiful colors I am entitled to, many of the leaves have just died or fallen.

But when I reached the edge of what used to be Lake Purdy, I had an “oh crap” moment.

This was our water supply.


It looked like an entirely different planet – dust and moon rocks and weirdly shaped piles of mud.


The rocks all had a fascinating squiggly design in them, somehow formed by being underwater for most of their lives.

Every step had to be carefully watched to not fall in a giant crack or get too close to the tiny bit of remaining water – the mud went from dry and hard to slurpy with very little warning.


Animal prints were all over the place – hooves and claws and bird’s feet.


It was both a wonder and a sadness to behold.




I began my slow trek to find what was left of the lake. I knew that a portion of the lake still existed – but I didn’t know how long of a walk it would take to find it.

Along the way, there were many different terrains and interesting finds.



About 3/4 of a mile into my lakebed walk, piles of shells started showing up.

They, along with the flies buzzing around them, added another complication to the act of walking.


Finally, at approximately 1 1/2 miles in, I found the “lake.”


As I grew closer to it, the treasures abounded – clearly many similar things had already been picked up by other visitors in the parts of the lake that had been drier for a longer period of time

These bottles had been lurking under Lake Purdy since I was a kid. Which really made the whole drought thing seem more serious.


I turned around and headed back to my car, following the lake to the stream to the vast amounts of dry land.


The merciless sun and wind made it fairly easy to imagine that I was in a desert far, far away.

I passed my first other human when I was almost back. He’d parked on the other side of the stream, and we yelled back and forth about our finds. I told him that he could get to the lake from my side, and before I could stop him, he started toward the stream to come across. About four feet out, he instantaneously sank into the slimy, putrid mud – all the way up to his thighs.


I screamed at him to be careful – clearly too late to actually be helpful.

He hefted his legs out of the mud by pulling upward with his hands. There was no way to get to the stream to clean up without it happening again, so he walked on, frustrated, now with his legs covered in a tarry mud.

I headed toward the bridge and went under, where an older gentleman was fishing. I don’t know if he was catching anything, but one would think that the fish to water ratio was pretty favorable.


I took one last look around at the vast otherworldliness of the place, then headed out.


I’m still fairly angry at the drought for taking away my vibrant fall colors, but now I can see that perhaps that’s the least of our problems.

For information and permission to use these photos in the media or for any other use, please email me at rachel@picturebirmingham.com.

On My Whirlwind Relationship with a Spammer.

I came across this post in the course of conversation recently, and the memory made me giggle. So I decided it was worth re-sharing.

Originally posted September 23, 2014

As a blogger, I get hundreds of emails a day. Of those, approximately one is a real person emailing me to genuinely correspond.

If I’m lucky.

I adore emails from real people.

In the stack of emails, there are definite patterns that can be found.

PR Firms sending me press releases, hoping that I’ll write a glowing blog post about their newest product in exchange for hi-res images of said product!!

Because there’s nothing more exciting than the promise of hi-res images. I MEAN. I live my life to be able to zoom in on your product as tightly as I could possibly want, taking in every detail with wonder and excitement.

As do, I’m sure, my blog readers.

…Or PR firms offering me even more exciting perks in exchange for writing about their product.

“YOU will be honored to get an exclusive sneak peek at the ‘Our Stupid Movie 2’ MOVIE POSTER!!!”

Seriously?! A .jpg of a movie poster?? And all I have to do is spend a couple of hours and all of my credibility hawking the inane sequel to your straight-to-DVD movie??


I get thrilling offers to share 25 cent off coupons with you guys, invitations to give away smocked clothing (marketers: why not try searching key phrases before attempting to sell – you might find you are hawking smock to the World’s Foremost smock mocker), and even press releases written entirely in Danish.

(Those are the closest to my heart because I can pretend they’re offering me a Lego Factory Tour and want to give me one of everything they make, when in reality it’s just about some new freakish punk rock band called Fhrztengäggich with a feral cat for a lead singer.)

After I sift through all of the PR Firm emails (which would take approximately three days per day to accomplish if it weren’t for the cute little trash can icon on my toolbar), I still have the strange and mysterious guest post requests to deal with.

I get emails at least weekly and sometimes daily from almost assuredly fake people with these not-at-all believable stories about why they want to guest post on my blog. They never tell me what the subject matter would be, and there’s always the tiny stipulation that they’re going to place an undisclosed link (or ten) somewhere within their blog post that points to their “client’s” site.

And if I don’t answer them promptly with a giant flashing NO, they email me back – to check in.

Sometimes they offer to pay me in exchange for this guest posting opportunity, and other times they simply explain that the benefit for me is the post in and of itself. Here’s a direct quote from one of my favorite spins on this strategy:

“I was wondering if you would let me write a post for you?  I am looking to get my work placed on high-end sites such as yours and would be happy to write a unique article just for you.  I can come up with a title – or if you have something that you would like me to cover I can work from a brief.  What’s in it for you, you are probably thinking?  I place a sponsor in the post, which could take the form of a linked word to a reputable client relevant to the article.  Your free article would be 500 words or more in length and completely unique to you.”

500 words that are all my own?? How could I ever resist such a priceless gift.

(I especially appreciated that his next sentence after what’s in it for me was actually what’s in it for him. But hey. Technicalities.)

However. Even my collection of Guest Post emails deliver me a special jewel every now and then, as was the case recently. Read carefully and slowly, out loud perhaps, savoring the beauty of this document.

Andy Steve 8

On my first read-through of this email I knew it was something fantastic.

On my second read, I caught the fact that he changed identity from Steve to Andy back to Steve again, and I giggled with glee, then shared it with you on Facebook.

After riding the beautiful wave of your responses all day long,

Facebook Comments

I finally responded back.

Steve Andy 2

The next morning, I had a response. I shook with excitement.

Steve Andy 3

“…sorry to use as Andy as because I generally use Andy which is my alias when writing blogs.”

But besides that gorgeous sentence and the fabulous use of unnecessary parentheses, the real present was that tiny little picture I got next to his name.

It just didn’t look like the mental image I had of the AndySteve I know and adore.

So I clicked through to his Google+ profile and then clicked on the picture.


Steve Andy Gmail Profile Picture

Oh AndySteve…don’t you know that when you steal a picture of an actor to claim as your own, you should at least change the file name?

Steve Andy Gmail Profile Picture b

Naturally, I continued my investigation by looking Ben Wright up on imdb.

Turns out, AndySteve is also a stunt guy! Who knew?? He is SO DANG TALENTED.

Ben Wright

So I responded to his email, hoping to sound interested enough in his project that he would answer me again, but also referencing his acting career.

Steven Andy 4 copy

And then I waited. Because of course AndySteve only emails me in the middle of the night, as it is obvious that he’s not exactly from around here.

But alas. I apparently went too far with my caustic attitude. AndySteve cut off our relationship, leaving me saddened and alone, and once again with an inbox full of nothing that made my heart pitter patter.

I miss AndySteve. Desperately. I have many regrets about the way I handled our relationship. I was clearly not ready for a commitment and sabotaged what we had together.

I keep going back to my draft that asks him to come back to my inbox, to open up and tell me who he really is. Not to leave me without a word. We meant more to each than that.

But I never can hit that send button.

And every morning, when I open my email and read my latest request to hijack my blog, I am reminded of the hole in my heart.


Every morning, their grammar is too perfect, their consistency of name too exact. They don’t overuse the word “as” or have eternal run-on sentences.

There will never be another AndySteve.

And I let him go.

From my Brain Straight to Your Eyes.

Darn life.

It gets in the way of all that is fun and right in the world.

No really. I seem to have lost the time to write. I’m rarely home in the afternoons anymore, and when I am, my children have already fried my brain into oblivion. Which means that I either a) need to learn to wake up at 4am if I intend to continue blogging, or b) get rid of my children.

Both seem equally impractical.

Anyway. I have no truly coherent thoughts for you today, but I thought I’d just tell you random bits of our life. Because no matter how boring it is, at least it’s better than talking about politics, right? And you need SOMEONE in your life that isn’t mentioning those T and C words.


Last night at Cubbies (Awanas, like Scouts but at Church), I noticed that Noah was the first kid to, without asking, pick up his snack trash and throw it in the trash can. LIKE A FREAKING MODEL. This made me think back, and I began realizing that I have observed him doing this every single week at Cubbies, then I would promptly black out the memory because it was too painful to process.

This kid has been my kid for nearly six long years and NEVER ONCE has he cleaned up after himself without being asked. NEVER ONCE has he thrown away his paper plate. NEVER ONCE has he put his cup in the sink. NEVER ONCE has he picked up a single flipping Hot Wheels without me prompting him to do so.


And I still might. Right after I remind him to clean from yesterday’s breakfast.


Raise your hands if you’ve upgraded to iOs 10.

(Sit down if you don’t have an iPhone. Yes I’m discriminating against you.)

If you haven’t realized it, they created iOs 10 for sixth grade girls.

And I am in love with it.

You can send texts with invisible ink! And slam texts! And texts with balloons or confetti or lasers! You can send memes RIGHT FROM THE TEXTING INTERFACE. You can add stickers to your friend’s texts. You can download grammar correction stickers to correct your acquaintance’s texts.

It’s really the best.

But my favorite feature has been, by far, the handwriting feature. (Turn your phone sideways when you’re on the text screen to handwrite your texts.) I have friends with whom we almost exclusively hand-write our texts now, and nothing could look more beautiful than screens and screens of messily handwritten texts back and forth.

It’s like I’m passing notes in class, way back in the elementary school I never went to.

(It has also drastically improved my electronic signature at the grocery store.)

But one of my further goals is to regularly text beautifully(ish) written insults to those I hold dearest. Like this exchange with my precious friend Nikki (and several other friends, because you really should insult fair and wide.)


I have a long way to go on having beautiful cursive (I know, “breath” is barely legible), but I want to promise to you now that I will apply myself tirelessly to achieve my goals.


For my entire adult and adolescent life, I have been on the search for The Perfect Pen. This need is doubly important for left-handers, because we need a pen that won’t smear when the backside of our pinky finger rakes across freshly crafted script. I love a good, bold line which deepens that issue – I want boldness that dries immediately, and I want it to feel good coming out of the pen – none of that scratchy Sharpie crap.

I once found this Perfect Pen and I bought them out. But unfortunately, it didn’t last. They made the pen for about half a second after I discovered it, and then it was gone forever. It could have had something to do with its rather unfortunate naming (Permaball) but other pens with less fortunate names have made it longer (Uniball.)

However. I have once again discovered The Perfect Pen. My adoration for it may very well doom it to an untimely death, but I’ll quickly tell y’all about it while there are still some in stock: The Papermate InkJoy.


Isn’t it LOVELY?

Besides the fact that it comes in fourteen beautiful colors (you must buy the 14-pack to fully appreciate the superiority of this product), it writes boldly, dries quickly, and feels like writing with real creamery butter.

If I were Oprah, I’d be sending you all a pack of these. Just for being here today. But I’m not.


On Sunday, I ran my fifth half marathon on my 35th birthday. Chris and I went to Athens, Georgia for the weekend and enjoyed the college town (I would describe Athens as “adorably quaint and historic with an always-present more-than-faint stale beer odor.”)

As races always do, there were photo ops along the way. I wanted to scream at each and every photographer – “GET OFF THE GROUND!!”

Every one of them were sitting on the pavement, shooting upwards at my lack of thigh gap.

If they want to actually sell these race photos (which, considering I’m still getting emails from the race I did in March trying to get me to buy their blasted upshots), they should learn people’s angles.


Despite my best judgement, I opened the email boasting of my magnificent race photos ready for purchase.

And I wanted to scream at the photographers all over again.


This made me realize, though – I should surround myself by tall people. The taller a person is, the more of a downshot they have on me, and the skinnier I look. Oh – and that means I look EXCEPTIONALLY thicker to my short friends.

I’m taking applicants now to replace them.


Dishwashing pods are the worst invention ever.

“Do not allow moisture in bucket of dishwashing pods.”

“Do not touch with wet hands.”

Guess what I NEVER need when my hands are dry??

Dishwashing pods.

So I’m destined to an existence of clumped-together dishwashing pods. Then I have to rip them apart (with wet hands) and spray the powder from within all over my kitchen.

This has to be part of The Curse. Thanks, Eve.