Returning Home

Trips to Columbus, Ohio are always confusing to me. I never know which direction should be referred to as “going home.” I once wrote that home is where your bed is. By that criteria, I guess Chattanooga is our home destination. However, having spent nearly 40 years living in Columbus, the paltry 3 we’ve lived in Chattanooga have not been enough to erase the feeling of returning home when we head North on 75.

This last trip North ended the longest stretch I’ve gone to date between trips to Columbus. It’s been long enough that I can’t actually remember when my last trip up was, but I know it wasn’t in this calendar year. With my remaining family all living elsewhere these days and many of my friends having moved away as well, it sometimes catches me off guard how much Columbus still feels like home. When I think about what makes it feel homey, here’s what I’ve come up with:

  1. I know how to get to every place I want to go without using GPS. If one route has traffic, I know another route, also without GPS.
  2. I can come up with restaurants I want to eat at based on style of food, quality of adult beverages, particular favorite dishes, or outdoor ambience. (I confess, I did have to check with several restaurants on whether they allow dogs on their patio or not–Tisen came along on this trip.)
  3. I know where the “bad” parts of town are.
  4. I know where the best camera shops in town are and which ones carry Canon gear.
  5. I have a doctor and a dentist there.
  6. I know where to go for a safe pedicure without an appointment.
  7. Graeter’s Ice Cream is available just about everywhere–even Costco.
  8. The biggest problem is trying to fit everyone we want to see into a few days and realizing we’re not going to be able to get to see many of the people we’d love to catch up with.
  9. We have a place to stay where there is a room just for us and our dog is welcome (and offers from several other friends to stay with them)–I guess we do have a bed in Columbus.

This trip was timed around the Columbus Guitar Show. It was my first time working a show (although I’ve attended a couple before). Manning the booth and giving away T-shirts to people who participated in my marketing campaign turned out to be both fun and exhausting.

One of the best things about our timing was that we were in Chattanooga for the beginning and end of the Riverbend Festival, but missed the middle of the 9-day event. This means we didn’t get tired of the extra people and traffic in the downtown area. And, we were home in time for the fireworks–out of all the fireworks in Chattanooga, the Riverbend fireworks are by far the best and longest display.

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Taking Stock

It’s officially been 2 months since my leave of absence began. I thought it would be a good time to enumerate both the new lessons I’ve learned and the old lessons that have  resurfaced as particularly relevant to this major shift in my life.

  1. Your time will fill. No matter how much you have to do or how long you think you have to do it, time will pass more quickly than you expected and you will get less done than you planned.
  2. It doesn’t matter how much of an out-of-the-box thinker you are; if there is no box, you can’t think outside of it.
  3. When you have a mile-long list of things to do and believe you have only a fraction of the time you need to get them done, you manage your time far more judiciously than when you have a short list of things to do and believe you have all day. (See #1.)
  4. There is always more opportunity than capacity.
  5. When one thing has been your biggest time investment for a long time, when you pull it out of your schedule, everything that surrounded it collapses on top of each other and you have to scratch and claw your way through the crap to shove in something new and get all the little stuff safely held at bay.
  6. Staying busy is not the hard part. It’s staying busy doing the important things instead of the distracting things that’s hard. (See #1.)
  7. Just because something must be done urgently doesn’t mean it should be done at all.
  8. I really mind a dirty house less than I mind cleaning it.
  9. We treat people we have an intimate personal relationship with like someone we have an intimate personal relationship with even when the topics are professional–it takes effort not to hear “I don’t love you” when you disagree.
  10. Working with your spouse is an opportunity to better your overall relationship. Creating artificial lines between your personal and professional relationship is only lying to yourself. The two roles are inseparable and must feed one another, driving both a closer, more intimate relationship and more creative energy from the feeling of being on the same team working towards the same goals.
  11. Sleep helps. This is theoretical. I used reverse logic: lack of sleep makes everything harder. Therefore, I believe that if I someday get enough sleep, it will make everything easier.
  12. Every day we have the opportunity to be more focused, more productive, more playful, more creative, more effective, more attuned to our health, and to get more sleep. We probably won’t do all of these things in the same day, however.
  13. At the end of the day, it’s you. There is only you and what you did and didn’t get done, whether what you did made a difference, and whether that difference is the difference you intended. Ultimately, there is not, and really never has been, anyone else to blame.

Final Curtain

Elvi and Bo

Elvi and Bo

One final post with guest photographer Patrick Murray (aka, my husband).

This will be the last post from the Raptor Experience with my husband’s aunt and uncle.  It was a great experience.  They came on a visit from Germany and the birds helped bridge any language gaps (at least for me–my husband speaks German just fine–it’s his first language).

Horst and Dante

Horst and Dante

Bo and Dante, the Harris’s Hawks, got to spend a little time learning German.  They normally don’t participate in raptor educational programs these days, although one of them may be making a debut soon, but during the raptor experience, they get to spend a little time visiting with participants.  Bo and Dante normally sit out on perches in the yard.  One of the first questions people ask is “what about coyotes?”  Bo and Dante don’t sit out on their perches unattended.  If no caretaker is going to be close at hand, they go back into their enclosures where they are safe.  But, they enjoy hanging out under the canopy of trees and are quite content.  They are also content to sit on a glove and look beautiful.

Elvi, Cayce, and me assisting

Elvi, Cayce, and me assisting

Harris’s Hawks are not found in the majority of the US.  Texas is the most likely place to find them, although they are also seen in New Mexico, Arizona, the most Southern part of Southern California, Louisiana, and, occasionally, Oklahoma and Nevada.  To see two in Tennessee is quite a treat–they truly are beautiful birds.  They’re also quite intelligent hunters.  They hunt in a cooperative fashion in small groups.  This has made them a favorite among falconers and they work very well with hunting dogs.

Elvi and I confer while Cayce heads off the other direction

Elvi and I confer while Cayce heads off the other direction

I have never seen a Harris’s Hawk in the wild, although they are not considered endangered or rare.  The just have limited territory in the US and I haven’t been where they are.  Just as I wouldn’t expect to see an Anna’s Hummingbird in Columbus, Ohio, it would be silly to think I’m going to spot a Harris’s Hawk in Chattanooga.  Sometime I’m going to make a trip back to Harris’s Hawk territory when I have time to go birding.

Cayce flies up to Horst's glove

Cayce flies up to Horst’s glove

As usual, in spite of the charm of the owls or the flying of the Red-tailed hawk, Cayce stole the show.  She refused to fly from glove to glove.  Instead she hopped along the ground, only flying up to a glove for a treat.  She’s a funny girl.  I wore my boots just in case she decided to try to bite my legs.  She chased me briefly, snapping at my calves.  I was happy I had my boots on.  I don’t know exactly what makes Cayce so universally lovable.  Maybe it’s just the surprise of getting to know a vulture and discovering that they’re so cool?  What ever the reason, Horst and Elvi appeared to enjoy Cayce’s antics just as much as if we were all speaking the same language.

Cayce lands on Horst's glove

Cayce lands on Horst’s glove

Cayce waiting for us to get our act together so she can hop onto Elvi's glove

Cayce waiting for us to get our act together so she can hop onto Elvi’s glove

 

Loaned Camera

There I am, sharp as a tack back by the car

There I am, sharp as a tack back by the car

Another post with guest photographer Patrick Murray.  I particularly like these images.  Why, you ask?  Well, I like the fact that while my husband had an incredible Red-tailed hawk flying right at him, he was focusing on me in the background.  🙂

But, for the budding photographer, there are several lessons here.  First, there is the “someone just handed me their camera and asked me to take pictures with it” lesson.  Had I planned better, I would have taken my husband’s camera, with which he is slightly more familiar.  Or, I would have at least turned off the back-button focusing setting on my camera, which was something my husband wasn’t used to (I am a huge fan of using back-button focusing instead of pressing the shutter button ½ way to find focus, but that’s another subject).

Yep, it's me again in focus in the background

Yep, it’s me again in focus in the background

I did think to put my camera in Aperture Priority mode (where you pick the aperture and ISO and let the camera pick the shutter speed) and set the aperture for what I thought would be a pretty good depth of field for someone who might not always focus exactly where I wanted him to.  However, I failed to change the focus point selection to a single focus point, which probably would have made it a little easier on my husband.

But then, he might have focused on the birds instead of me and I wouldn’t have gotten quite the same kick out of it.  🙂

I'm not really in focus in this one, but I have to laugh at me peeping around the corner!

I’m not really in focus in this one, but I have to laugh at me peeping around the corner!

I also set the camera in single-shooting mode when we started the raptor experience for my husband’s aunt and uncle.  This was appropriate because they were holding owls on their gloves who can’t fly.  These owls don’t move fast enough to justify continuous shooting mode.

But, this created a problem when we switched to flying the birds–he was getting finger cramps trying to press the shutter button fast enough.  Being in single-shot focusing mode also didn’t help.  Of course, since he wasn’t remembering to use the back button to focus anyway, using the continuous focusing mode wouldn’t really have helped in this case.  I guess that takes us to point 1.

Oh yes, there I am again

Oh yes, there I am again

I forgot I was enumerating the lessons, so let’s review.  If you’re handing your camera off to a novice and expecting them to do all the shooting of an up-close and person raptor experience:

  • Turn off back-button focusing if you normally use it
  • Set the focus point selection to a single focus point
  • Use an aperture setting that provides an appropriate depth of field (like f/8ish)
  • Select a high enough ISO setting that the shutter speeds won’t get too slow for the action shots
  • If the birds are perching, use single shooting mode
  • If the birds are flying, turn on high speed continuous shooting and continuous focusing
  • Try to stay out of the background
  • Be prepared to do a lot of editing.

Of course, if you’re not assisting in the raptor experience, you can take the photos yourself.

I just like this one--Elvi looks so happy

I just like this one–Elvi looks so happy

Speaking Owl

Artie looking very happy on Horst's glove

Artie looking very happy on Horst’s glove

Note:  my husband is once again the guest photographer for all photos of the Raptor Experience, including in yesterday’s post.

One of the great pleasures in life is sharing something you love with someone who enjoys the experience.  Think about it.  While on the one hand, we might respect that everyone has different tastes, there is something in human nature that causes us to gravitate towards people who appreciate the same things we appreciate.  And introducing someone to something that’s a personal favorite makes for a particularly enjoyable experience.  It’s like discovering a new food that makes you want to groan when you put it in your mouth and finding out that someone else has the exact same reaction–it’s something in common, creating a tiny bond.

Elvi speaks owl fluently

Elvi speaks owl fluently

I think that’s why I enjoy volunteering for Wings to Soar so much.  There aren’t many people who don’t enjoy getting up close to birds of prey.  There are a few.  I recently met someone who is terrified of birds–probably not a great idea to introduce her to the raptors.  But most people are pretty fascinated by getting to see a creature up close that they normally only get to see soaring overhead or perched high above.

Me assisting in the background in my Cayce-protecting boots

Me assisting in the background in my Cayce-protecting boots

It’s interesting how this interest crosses cultures and language.  I may not be bilingual, but I’m pretty sure the owls are.  They seem to recognize their admirers in any language.

Artie, the Barred Owl, hopped on Horst and Elvi’s gloves and immediately settled down and looked content.  he wasn’t the least concerned about what language they spoke–as far as he was concerned, they spoke owl.

Theo hopping over to Horst's glove

Theo hopping over to Horst’s glove

Theo, the Barn Owl, however, might have been a little too settled–he was content to ride over to Elvi and Horst when we were hoping he would fly.  He sat on the perch and stared, occasionally acting like he was going to fly, but then waited patiently for Dale to come over and put him on her glove.  Dale walked Theo closer to Elvi and Horst in turn, trying to get Theo to a distance from which he would fly.  Theo looked longingly at the tasty piece of mouse on the destination glove, but he wouldn’t fly to it.  When Dale put her glove next to Horst or Elvi’s glove, he happily hopped over to their glove and munched contentedly.  He seemed perfectly happy; he just didn’t feel like flying.

Theo happy to join Elvi

Theo happy to join Elvi

Theo is a human imprint–he was raised by humans and doesn’t really understand he’s an owl.  I sometimes wonder if his reluctance to fly is because he identifies so much with humans, he starts to think it’s unnecessary.  But, then there are days when Theo doesn’t seem to want to sit on a glove at all.  He baits and baits and can’t seem to stay still.  I don’t know if it was the calming influence of Horst and Elvi, but I think he would have sat all day.

The 3-gloved approach

The 3-gloved approach

Speaking German

My husband with his aunt and uncle (this was a test shot when I was setting up my camera for my husband)

My husband with his aunt and uncle (this was a test shot when I was setting up my camera for my husband)

It’s been a pretty crazy week.  Last Wednesday, I left for a solo road trip to Columbus, Ohio.  I spent a few days up North and then met up with my husband’s family to pick up his aunt and uncle, who are visiting from Germany.  I brought them home with me to Chattanooga on Sunday.

As a typical American who speaks only 1 language with anything close to fluency, driving for 7+ hours with two people who speak little English introduced some interesting challenges.  We attempted to address the challenges with technology.  I downloaded the Google translator app on my iPad and handed it to Pat’s aunt so she could speak into the iPad and translate what she wanted to say into English.  The app will even read the translation out loud, which is perfect when you’re driving.

Horst takes a turn holding Buddy

Horst takes a turn holding Buddy

There were a few glitches, however.  Elvi, Pat’s aunt, had trouble getting it to hear her properly.  At one point, I heard her mutter, “Transfestite . . . transvestite . . . oh!  Transvestite!”  I looked over at her, smiling, and she said (in much better English than google managed), “Something I never said!”  I was just impressed she knew the word.

Horst meets Gilbert--they had no trouble communicating

Horst meets Gilbert–they had no trouble communicating

I learned that, in Germany, people are not allowed to talk on their cell phones while operating a vehicle.  Elvi was rather shocked when she saw a man driving by in what seems to be the common posture of 20-something American men:  slouched low in the seat, elbow propped on the window sill, cell phone held tight against his ear.  As he sped past me at something well over 75 mph, I wondered if it was physically possible for him to see out of his windshield, let alone his side windows or rearview mirrors.

I also learned that in Germany, passengers can drink alcohol while someone who is not drinking is driving.  I thought about this for a while.  Study after study has shown that people who are on a cell phone can’t drive.  Some studies suggest cell-phone-talkers exhibit worse response times and greater levels of distraction while driving than people who have a blood alcohol level that barely exceeds the legal limit.

Elvi and Buddy bonding

Elvi and Buddy bonding

I did not even try to explain why we Americans (except in a handful of states) think it’s our god-given right to talk on the phone while we drive, yet think it’s just plain criminal to let a passenger enjoy a beer as they ride down the road.  I picked up my cell phone and called my husband instead.

We made it to Chattanooga with what may have been a world record for the fewest words spoken during a 7 hour car ride ever.  I spent most of the journey trying to remember all the German words I once knew (not that there were a lot).  It wouldn’t have helped much–even if I could remember them, I wouldn’t have been able to pronounce them in a recognizable form.

I think Gilbert developed a crush on Elvi

I think Gilbert developed a crush on Elvi

Entertaining Children

Ireland giggling in spite of the bright sun in her eyes

Ireland giggling in spite of the bright sun in her eyes

One last post from my visit with friends Friday morning . . . I think I am suffering from child envy.  Not something that happens too often, but seeing this particular family always makes me long for the particular set of joys and heart aches that come with having a family.

I mentioned in a previous post that watching the adults entertain the children was well worth the visit.  Entertaining the young involves making many faces.

There’s the I’m-so-exuberant-that-my-face-is-going-to-break-if-I-smile-any-harder face.  I suspect I make this face a lot at babies.  The eyes open wide, the eyebrows raise, nose crinkles, and the mouth opens into a jack-o-lantern grin.

Grandma make Ireland squeal and she comes in for some sugar

Grandma make Ireland squeal and she comes in for some sugar

For me, perhaps because I have learned through many years experience working with dogs and don’t have any other skills, this face is accompanied by the high-pitched happy-puppy voice.  It’s the voice that tells dogs you’re pleased and excited and they should be, too.  It’s effectiveness with babies may be limited–it did not convince little Ireland that I was more interesting than getting fed, for example.

There’s also the “awww” face.  That’s the face that may be accompanied by a pouting bottom lip, a head tipped downward, eyes rolled slightly upward and a general “aww, aren’t you happy?” sort of demeanor.  This face, by the way, is also ineffective at distracting a baby from the 3 basics:  1)  hunger, 2) fatigue, or 3) dirty diaper.  I did enough babysitting growing up to know that if you have an unhappy baby, start with those 3 things and then move on to making faces.

There’s also the I-love-you-so-much-I-would-do-anything-to-make-you-smile face.  Grandma’s seems to have this face down.  This is not terribly different from the I’m-so-exuberant face, but seems to be honed for kissing.  My friend exhibited this behavior in a way I can never hope to imitate.  I think you have to be a card-carrying grandma to do this effectively.

Grandma demonstrating how to make a finger jump from one hand to the other

Grandma demonstrating how to make a finger jump from one hand to the other

Besides baby Ireland, there was also a young nephew visiting, Jonathan.  As one might expect with any 8-year old, Jonathan was not so entertained by sitting around watching adults make silly faces at a baby.  Lucky for Jonathan, he was in the hands of professionals.

From Ireland’s grandparents, he attempted to learn how to make mosquito sounds with his mouth, how to make frog noises by flicking his throat, how to make one leg disappear, and, most challenging, how to move one finger from one hand to the other.  I was a little disappointed that no one showed him how to steal a nose, but he was pretty caught up in the finger-jump trick, so I didn’t want to confuse him further.

I did capture my friend/Grandma teaching the finger-jumping trick.  I wish I would have been standing on the other side of her, though, to capture Jonathan’s face of wonder.

My canine baby patiently waiting for my return to Chattanooga

My canine baby patiently waiting for my return to Chattanooga