Is it Sunday?

I am suffering from an interesting phenomenon. I don’t know if it has a name. It’s the inability to keep track of the days of the week. This has led to a second phenomenon: posting my Sunday blog posts late.

Seeking to get myself back on a slightly more planned schedule, I spent some time contemplating why keeping track of the days seems so difficult. Let’s review . . .

Until 3 months ago, I was working long weeks for a large corporation. Monday-Friday, my alarm went off, I picked up my iPhone and checked my email and calendar. I answered any urgent emails from parts of the world that would be leaving work soon and then checked my calendar again to see 1) what time I needed to be ready for my first conference call, and 2) if I had any open time during the day to get anything done or if there were any conference calls I could skip to make time. Then I got ready to start my day.

Saturday and Sunday were days I didn’t set my alarm, didn’t have any conference calls (usually), and could catch up a bit on work I didn’t have time to do during the week as well as fit in some fun time.

That has a pretty definitive rhythm. It forces you to know what day of the week it is because you’re always working against deadlines and constantly looking at your calendar trying to find time to work and/or meet with people.

In comparison, I have not been setting my alarm most days unless I really think I’m going to oversleep. Generally, I wake up an hour earlier than I would set my alarm for anyway, so it hasn’t been an issue.

I have started trying to use my calendar because I do have appointments from time to time–or at least social engagements. But rather than actually looking at my calendar and figuring out what my day looks like, I am ignoring my calendar until a notification pops up reminding me that I have to do something. This does not require knowing what day it is.

There is little motivation to actually know what day it is. First, the only time it’s inconvenient is if you, for example, go to a store on a Sunday that isn’t open on Sundays. This hasn’t happened to me yet. Second, it’s depressing to realize x more days have gone by and you still haven’t gotten the things done you meant to get done, so why remind yourself by constantly knowing what day of the week it is? Finally, knowing what day of the week it is would mean having no excuse for the appointments I have missed when I didn’t get them added to my calendar.

Not knowing what day it is has not deterred my photography any, either. In fact, it may contribute to me shooting more because I am more apt to lose track of time altogether.

The Small Things

Thursday night, I stayed up late getting my gear together for an early morning shoot. I hoped to sleep in until 6AM. But this was a shoot different from my normal fare. And when I’m shooting something new, I dream about it all night and, inevitably, wake up around 4AM. Half excited and half anxious–much like Christmas in childhood: the impatient anticipation of something new and the simultaneous fear of disappointment.

I eventually gave up on going back to sleep and got ready to go at a leisurely pace–after all, everything I needed was packed and ready to go.

Then, it was time to leave. Time to get there early and check out the place in person before anyone else arrived. Time to see if Google Earth was enough of a preview to make choosing a location from the internet possible. And then, it happened. The thing I am unable to learn. The thing I fail at nearly every single day and then turn around and fail at it once again, often even the same day.

My car key was no where to be found.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time reading research on memory, working on improving memory, and observing people losing their memory (and I am not only referring to myself here). What I believe about memory is that:

  1. we are more likely to remember something when we are internally motivated to remember it.
  2. we remember repetitive things better than net-new things. For example, if I put my car key in a certain place every day for months and then stop remembering to put them there and put them in different places every day for a few days, I am going to remember the place I was putting them over and over again first. I will have to reconstruct history from other memories to get to where the latest place is I’ve left it.
  3. remembering to put something in a specific place when I’m done with it is more difficult than remembering where I left it. This is likely a difference in motivation. When I come home, I have no immediate need to use the car key, I just want it out of my pocket. When I am leaving home, I must find the car key or I will be searching for my bike lock key instead.

All of this leads me to question if perhaps I am agoraphobic at some deep, unconscious level. As soon as I get home, I forget that I will have the need to leave again. I misplace the means by which I can access transportation. Is the problem that I (someone who believes I love to travel, go out, socialize, be in the woods) deep down underneath my extroverted shell am terrified to step outside my home? This could put a major damper on going nomad in the future!

I did find my key and make it to the shoot, but I’m not ready to share any of those shots yet. Instead, I’ve shared a few shots of “small things” from an earlier shoot.

Spending Time

Another week gone by.  The weather changed from highs in the 80’s to highs in the 50‘s.  What is most shocking about the change in the weather is the sudden awareness of the passage of time.  This never fails to surprise me:  “What?  Is it really late enough in the year for frost???”

Every year goes faster.  This is an inevitable effect of aging–the older I get, the smaller the portion of my life a day represents.  The perception of time is relative.  Ironically, the more I want to slow the clock down, the more it speeds up.

Time has become my most cherished commodity.  There is so much to do and so little time in which to get it done.  I have come to long for sleep with the same nostalgia I once longed for Christmas–it always seems far off and then disappointing when it’s over.

In choosing to spend more time on enjoyment, I have seem to amassing a time deficit.  Even when having a great time, I wish for long nights of solid sleep and slower days with less to do–is it possible to just enjoy without wishing for something more?

I seem to vacillate between exhaustion and hyperactivity.  Exhaustion leads to periods of time of keeping to myself, not socializing, not taking on extra activities.  Boredom and frustration sends me back into hyperactivity.  Doesn’t it seem like by now I should know how to strike a happy medium?

Of all the things I have going on right now, most of them are fun.  Other than our dog who has horrible allergies that keep him scratching and licking himself all night, disturbing our sleep, I only have my usual complaint, which is work.

I’m staying up late Friday and Saturday nights volunteering for the Acres of Darkness haunt.  It’s so much fun, I can’t complain about that.  I’m also having a ball preparing to teach my first photography workshop.  No complaints about that time spent.

Work is work.  It’s hard to let go–it haunts my dreams far more than the ghouls and zombies found along the trail at Acres of Darkness.

I gave up on keeping up on my other blog this week, opting to skip many days of posts on in favor of getting to bed before midnight.

Social engagements and early morning yoga on Friday’s are really the only other things occupying my time.  These are energizing and balancing activities for me–they keep me centered.

So, what do I give up?  The things I love doing?  The things I do to pay for the things I love doing?  Or sleep?  I am reminded of a quote from Carl Sandburg:

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

How do I decide if I’m spending my coins or someone else is?

Another Year

Don't know this one's name, but I like it--and the dew covered spider web

Don’t know this one’s name, but I like it–and the dew covered spider web

If New Year’s isn’t enough of a reminder that another year has passed, my birthday comes as a second reminder that time is flying.

I’d like to think that means I’m having fun.  And, I suppose I am.  But as I find myself crossing over the mid-point between 40 and 50, my breath catches in my throat as I choke back the shock.  How exactly did that happen?

A youthful wood ear

A youthful wood ear

Immediately, I start to list the endless list of things I haven’t done that I was sure I would have done long before now.  But I take a deep breath and exhale slowly.  I tell myself, “I am enough.”  I think that’s my new mantra.

Shelf-forming fungus against a bed of moss

Shelf-forming fungus against a bed of moss

So, if I am enough and my life is enough, what has my life been about?  In a word, I’d have to say if you take my life and add it all up, it comes to a work in progress.  And that’s enough.

Fungus or sculpture?

Fungus or sculpture?

In the interest of celebrating, here are random moments/experiences from my life I am grateful for:

  • Climbing trees and clinging to the branches while the tree swayed in the wind.
  • Swinging so high the swing would go above the top bar and then jerk on its way back down.
  • The warm feeling of sharing a smile.
  • Watching my nephews grow into amazing young men.
  • Friends.  Especially friends who know me and remind me my flawed and imperfect self is enough.
  • Every dog I have ever known and especially those I have shared a lifetime in dog years with.
  • The moments when I managed, in spite of the improbability, to do the exact right thing to connect with someone in way that left us both feeling like we mattered.
  • Fireflies and the childhood delight of watching them flash their lights against my skin just before floating off, back into the night.
  • Having parents who supported me when I took chances and helped nurse me back to health when the odds didn’t go my way.
  • Having followed my teenage dream of working with horses far enough to have no regrets over giving it up.
  • The day I knew, absolutely knew without a doubt, my husband loved me.
  • The feeling of being a millionaire when I bought my first piece of real furniture even though it was a damaged floor sample.
  • Soaring downhill on my bike with no hands, fingers spread wide to catch the wind whistling between them.
  • The foresight and caring of a friend who got me to the hospital in time to hold my mother’s hand while she died.
  • Standing on top of Half Dome feeling like I had just conquered the world.
  • Bad boyfriends without whom I couldn’t have appreciated good ones.
  • Having a father who could talk me through disassembling a garbage disposal to remove a clog and reassembling it over the phone.
  • The day I realized women should be allies, not enemies.
  • Every time my husband plays one of his songs for me.
A wood ear looking like it's getting ready to take a walk

A wood ear looking like it’s getting ready to take a walk


This is what happens when you live with too many regrets

This is what happens when you live with too many regrets


Baby Mom

I love the photo of my mother in her formal.  It’s such a crazy dress!  But what’s most remarkable about that photo is that it could have been taken a few years before her death–she looked so much the same.  It’s hard for me to see that she’s a college student when I look at the photo.

I also love the last photo of her sitting next to her niece.  Her niece is older than her.  How many people are born already an aunt?  There is a story about one of her uncles, when in his 50‘s, out on a work run with a co-worker.  When he realized they were close to my mom’s, he asked his single and much younger co-worker if he wanted to meet his niece.  The co-worker protested that he wasn’t dressed appropriately to meet a girl.  The uncle assured him his niece wouldn’t mind. When they went in and met my mother, the co-worker was highly disappointed to discover she was an infant.

My mother was a beautiful baby with big, bouncy curls in her hair.  People used to stop her mother in the street and suggest she stop what she was doing and take my mother to hollywood immediately.  Supposedly, Grandma didn’t want that kind of life for my mom, but I suspect she really just couldn’t imagine it as a real possibility.

Regardless, my mother was a favorite.  An adorable baby surrounded by adults who oohed and awed over her.  At least that’s what I imagine her childhood was like.

Her cousin, Carl, was certainly a favorite.  I guess it was mutual.  The photos of the graduate are him.  He looks very happy to have been a favorite of my mother’s.

She loved her relatives, all of them, so much that I could only imagine them treating her like a special pet.  The one regret she shared with me when I was old enough for her to start to speak of her regrets was that we lived so far away from extended family.

She described her childhood as though the center of it was a door constantly swinging open as another family member came through.  My childhood was very much the nuclear family variety.  I tried to imagine a constant parade of aunts, uncles, cousins, and second cousins marching through the kitchen and found it vaguely disturbing.  I guess it’s true that children don’t know what they’re missing.

The first two photos could have been of me when I was younger (if I were dressing for a 50’s party).  It reminds me of when I walked out of a back room into the living room of my parents house right after my mother’s wake.  One of our visiting family members got a shocked look on her face as I approached and then suddenly, realizing her mistake, said out loud that she’d thought I was my mother.  Now, I would be grateful to look like her.

Blues on the River

I have a confession to make.  In spite of the fact that I’m married to a guitar player and song writer who has been dealing in vintage guitars for about 20 years, I’m not that much into music.

In some ways, I suppose this works.  I enjoy music.  I love listening to music.  I just don’t really spend a lot of time seeking out music and I was never one to go out of my way to find a concert.  That’s not to say I don’t enjoy concerts.  I just never kept track of who I listened to enough to find out when and where they were playing.

We periodically venture out to hear a band.  In Columbus, when we were still energetic enough to stay up later than 11PM, we would go see friends’ bands every once in a while.  But, I have to admit those nights out have gotten fewer and further between over the years.

In a sudden surge of protest (of the possibility that we’re getting old), when a friend from Columbus gave us a heads up that a Columbus band was going to be playing at Riverbend, we rallied and made our way across the river.  It wasn’t much of a rally since the set was scheduled from 5-6:30PM.

We’d already bought “pins” for access to all 9 days of Riverfest.  We’d gone to see Foreigner, but we took Tisen with us and he wasn’t allowed in.  So, other than me running in to buy a funnel cake (who can resist a funnel cake?), the pins hadn’t been used.

Hadden Sayers, as it turned out, is a guy with a band (I thought it was the band name).  He’s originally from Houston.  He told the story of moving to Columbus on a day when it was 7 degrees and how that led to his song titled “Take Me Back to Texas.”

This is almost the opposite of our experience of moving to Chattanooga on a day when it was 110.  Neither my husband nor I wrote a song about it, however.  I guess we didn’t want to go back to Ohio that much.

Hadden and the band are awesome musicians, every one of them (verified by my husband since I’m impressed by anyone who can play anything).  But, when we arrived, there were only about 20 people standing around in front of the stage.  As they progressed through the set, more and more people arrived.  As it turned out, the next band was Government Mule.  I’ve never heard of Government Mule, but I guess they’re popular in this part of the country.

Hadden told the crowd that the Mules were in the house and, if it was OK with the audience, he was going to play a few more songs (his set wasn’t over).  The audience cheered–I wasn’t the only one impressed.  I don’t know how many people in that audience had heard of Hadden Sayers before, but I think we all went home glad that we had now.

Skinned Knees, Wuthering Heights, and South Korea

While shooting wildflowers up close may invoke yoga muscle memory, shooting a landscape of not-so-wild flowers from the ground invokes many childhood memories. First, there is the memory of scraped knees as I kneel onto the sidewalk with my older-than-their-years knees and feel a stab of pain. This is a different stab of pain than the feeling of having your flesh grated by concrete (an all too familiar feeling for me). But being outside fascinated enough by the way the sun hits different flowers as it pokes through holes in the clouds to set up a tripod flat to the ground and then kneel down to look through the viewfinder to see what I can see, that feeling invokes the feelings of exploring and trying something new–a feeling my childhood was full of.
My photo album from my childhood is full of pictures of me in dresses with both knees scraped, bruised, or stained white from climbing a big white fence in our back yard.
I could never get away with anything on today’s world–I left way too much DNA evidence behind everywhere I went. This is still true today. It’s hard for me to make it around the park without a single stumble. At least I outgrew the desire to wear dresses all the time.
I try sitting all the way down to the ground on one hip. My knees are grateful, but my neck kinks as I twist to look in the viewfinder. Is getting older really better than the alternative? I would prefer a just staying young choice.
As I look up the slope with its long grasses and mixed flowers, another memory comes to me. It’s a memory of reading Wuthering Heights. I don’t know what a landscaped slope in Chattanooga, Tennessee has to do with an English moor, but I am suddenly reminded of the Monty Python skit where Catherine and Heathcliff are running towards each other across the moors and inevitably pass each other (since it was a Monty Python skit).
But the memory of Wuthering Heights takes me to another place. It takes me back to South Korea where I spent 4 months when I was 18. I bought a bunch of books there. They were pirated classics, poorly copied and poorly bound, but they were the only affordable books in English I could find.
In a place where everything felt different and strange, I found a little slice of “home” by reading stories that took place in England, where I’d never been. I wonder why that felt familiar?
Today, I wrap up my shoot and slowly stand, testing my sore knee gingerly before putting weight on it. I try to imagine Heathcliff and Catherine with my knees running across the moors. If it would have been me, I would have tripped at the last second and cracked heads with Heathcliff. I should have been on Monty Python.

Treat Me Right (Even When I’m 86)

I have never seen B.B. King perform before.  When we saw he was coming to a small venue in Chattanooga, we had to go.  I am so glad we did.

B.B. King is 86 years old and still so full of life that you just want to stand where his light can shine on you.  He is so adorable that he could have just sat on the stage smiling and the audience would have been grateful.

I could not stop thinking to myself, this guy is the same age my aunt was when she died.  I cannot help but compare the sad shell of a woman my aunt was at the same age vs the belting-out-the-songs (albeit in short spurts) B.B. King.  What an inspiration.

I looked at Pat and said, “I wonder what it would be like to have a job you still want to be doing when you’re 86?”

What was really cool was the reverence the audience had for this octogenarian.  I think everyone there felt honored to be listening to B.B. King talk and play and sing.  I compare this to going to my aunt’s bell choir performance at her assisted living facility.  The attitude of the audience was one of amused patience; we were doing a favor for the performers by being there.

The B.B. King audience was there for the opposite reason–to have the honor of being in B.B. King’s presence.  That audience felt gratitude for B.B. King doing us the great favor of getting up on that stage.

I sometimes think about aging and what it means if, at the end of your life, who you are is taken from you in the form of dementia (something that happened to all four of my grandparents and half of my aunts).  I had a recent conversation with a friend about the Okinawa study.  There, the elderly are revered and good health reigns, even amongst centenarians.  And they have more centenarians than any where in the world.

My friend said the families there fight over who will get to take care of their aging parents.  It’s considered an honor and a privilege to take on this responsibility.

B.B. King made me feel honored and privileged; I have to wonder how much this ability contributes to the difference between a man who still lives life and a woman who sits idly in front of the TV while her memories slip away.

On a photographic note, the one disappointment of the evening was that I called ahead to make sure I could bring my camera, but when I got there, they told me I couldn’t take it in.  I should have tried a different security person because I met man with a very large point-and-shoot who said he was told just not to use flash.  I had to make do with my iPhone.  When I saw how horrible my pictures were, I understood why the promoters didn’t take away phones.