Brain Fog

Ah, Saturday.  A day to get things done that I want to do instead of things I have to do.  But there seems to have been a problem with that plan.

It all started when I made the mistake of logging on to my work computer.  I did this for the purpose of changing my password because it was about to expire and I didn’t want to be locked out.  The problem started in that I had to open my inbox.  One should never open one’s inbox when one only wants to work for 5 minutes.  2 ½ hours later, I realized I was still in my PJs, my dog hadn’t been out yet, and most of the morning was gone.

After taking care of Tisen, I spent some time trying to get my head around my latest volunteer gig–I’m now the photo contest chair for the local photography club.  I had no idea how complicated it is to organize a photography contest.  The good news is that it’s fun and I’m getting to know more people.

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but another couple of hours disappeared between testing FileZilla and realizing it was time to take the dog out again.  I decided I was not going to appear for a second time in the park in my PJs and headed for the shower.

. . . .

At the end of our walk, Tisen and I passed a chattering Belted Kingfisher hunting for fish over the wetland.

Now, I know it’s a long shot, but I figured something had to go right today, so maybe it would be getting a shot of the kingfisher?  My trusty iPhone is worthless when it comes to bird photography.  I rushed the last 100 yards of Tisen’s walk to get home and get my DSLR.  5 minutes later, the elevator reached the ground floor at the exact moment I realized the battery in my camera was dead.

Back up.  Back down.  Low and behold!  The kingfisher was still hunting over the wetland!  I crept down the long slope to the water, not looking at the bird.  Carefully, I raised my camera to focus on the bird.  The moment my lens pointed his way, he went chattering off to another section of the wetland, on the far side of a barrier that blocked my view of him.

I tried to move to the other side of the barrier, but as I was climbing over the rock wall, he reappeared, fish in his mouth, and flew off to enjoy his meal where he was never to be seen again.

This is when I discovered it is possible to do landscape photography with a 70-200mm lens and no tripod.  It’s kind of funny, really.  I think I started out doing landscape photography with the “wrong” lens and no tripod.  Today, it felt like a brand new epiphany.  As I searched for a subject, I discovered fog rising off the river.  Now that was fun.

Paying Myself First

When I was 9 years old, I started mowing lawns to earn money.  My mother used to tell me to “pay myself first.”  It was actually a rule back then, not just advice.  Half of my net earnings had to go into my bank account.

This philosophy works great for financial freedom.  It helped me pay for two degrees without any student loans.  This week, I decided to try applying the same philosophy to other areas of life to see if it works just as well.

Taking the attitude of “pay myself first,” I decided things that make me feel balanced, relaxed, and more at ease with the world work like a savings account–they give me energy and a calm state of mind to draw on when things get tough.  Since things get tough every day, I decided I needed to return to my old habit of getting “me time” in first thing every day–paying myself before I give any of my time or energy to anything else.

My first rule was not to check email until after I’d spent time doing what I wanted to do in the morning.  I got up dark and early most mornings at 5AM to have a few hours to myself before I needed to plug in and get online for work.

I rode my bike, went to the gym, or did yoga each morning.  I also made myself a healthy breakfast.  All of this made me feel cared for, relaxed, and far more ready to tackle work.

I also set some new limits for myself at work.  I decided I needed to limit the number of hours I would spend on work each week in order to make sure I wasn’t sacrificing on sleep.  To get 8 hours of sleep, have my time in the morning, and some time in the evening to write my other blog (snapgreatphotos.com), I had to limit my day job to no more than 10 hours a day.

This turned out to be the hardest rule to follow–especially coming back from a week off and knowing that I’m taking another vacation shortly.  I repeated the mantra, “I am enough,” over and over.  Anything I could delegate or let others handle I let go of.  I had to let go of the intense pressure I put on myself to be helpful at all costs.  I had to take a breath and ask myself if it was really important to jump in or if doing so would take time and energy away from more important things and/or deny someone else an opportunity to step up.

I can’t say I executed perfectly.  I was up later than I wanted to be on more than one night trying to get one more thing done.  But I keep telling myself that if I can pay myself first, I will be better at everything else I do and that will make the investment worth it to everyone.

Surprises

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I am not an expert in flowers.  I know the occasional flower, but am often stumped by what a particular flower might be called.  I envy people who can pull out that information on a dime.  I can do that with a lot of birds, but in spite of how immobile plants are, they seem to fly right out of my brain.

But these flowers didn’t just stump me, I couldn’t remember having ever seen one before.  Perhaps I walked by too quickly and didn’t notice that it wasn’t just another Queen Anne’s lace.  But as I looked at these images more and more, I couldn’t come up with any memory of one.

Besides being surprised by the new flower in my life, I was also surprised when I went a little nuts playing with adjustments and pulled the curves feature in a direction that created much of the effect in this image.

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This is a “normally” post-processed version of the same image:

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As you can see, I was playing again.

Perhaps the biggest surprise today was when I was working away at my desk and a man hanging from a rock climbing rope appeared outside my 7th floor window.  I’d forgotten that the building’s windows were being cleaned until I was in the middle of a conference call and suddenly joined by this mysterious window ninja (that’s the name of the window cleaning company).

Had I not been in the middle of a conference call, I might have had the where-with-all to snap a quick shot of this guy hanging outside my window with my iPhone.  It didn’t occur to me to do anything but pretend the guy wasn’t there (once I got over my initial shock).

Tisen’s girlfriend is visiting for a few days.  She noticed the window ninja about 2 minutes after he appeared.  She immediately jumped up and started barking.  I’m confident Tisen would never have noticed him had it not been for this alarm–he’s so oblivious it’s almost funny.  However, he joined in the barking and I had a difficult time explaining to the folks on my call that I had a man hanging outside my window.  Fortunately, it was an informal and internal call with colleagues I know well.

It wasn’t the most exciting day, but there were quite a few surprises.

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Bright Beauties

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As I look through my images from Sunday in the search for something to post today, I realize that I can’t remember going outside today.  My first conference call started early and I ran out of time to take Tisen on his morning walk.  My husband filled in for me on walking duty–I was happy to hand off given that it was pouring down rain.

My day remained jam-packed until 6:30PM when my husband came home and I looked up to realize I’d been sitting at my desk nearly non-stop for 10 ½ hours.

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That was when I actually did go outside.  Poor Tisen hadn’t had a mid-day break because I was too busy.  I took him out in a bit of a daze, having trouble focusing after having been looking 2 feet in front of me all day.  We did a quick lap around the smaller section of the park given that it was misting and threatening to break out into another honest downpour at any moment.

As I think back, I now remember that trek around the park.  The exercise class working out in the misting rain, the children up on the sledding hill, and running into a neighbor with a  tiny pomeranian puppy Tisen seems to be afraid of.   It was while I was talking to the neighbor that it dawned on me I hadn’t brushed my teeth.  I tried not to smile too much.

Appearing out of seemingly nowhere amongst what might be grass

Appearing out of seemingly nowhere amongst what might be grass

When we got back inside, I went back to work, trying to wrap up on a couple of items I hadn’t had time to finish.  But not for too long–one of my goals is to keep my work day to 10 hours unless it’s a dire emergency or pressing deadline.  I’ll get there some day.

Eventually, I turned to my photos.  It was the images of the yellow flowers whose name I once knew but now escapes me that caused me to wonder if I had been outside.  Doesn’t it seem like it would be hard to walk by such bright beauties without noticing?

The new snapgreatphotos.com model

The new snapgreatphotos.com model

 

New View

Writing my blog at the end of my day, which seems to be getting later and later, leads to pondering the meaning of life.  I’m becoming increasingly suspicious that the meaning of life cannot be pondered–if I’m thinking about it, I’m probably missing it.

Having been obsessed with Powerpoint for the past couple of weeks, spending virtually every waking moment either on conference calls looking at/talking to Powerpoint presentations or creating/revising one giant Powerpoint file that likes to crash whenever I modify the data contained in the charts, I found I’ve gradually lost sight of everything else.  It’s as if my vision has shortened to the distance between my eyes and my computer screen.

Even when I took a break to walk Tisen (poor guy had to wait for my husband to come home for lunch to get a mid-day break) at what was supposed to be dinner time (Dinner!  I knew I forgot something!), I was so inside my head thinking about what I was working on that I could only remember about half of the walk when I returned and I wasn’t sure which route we had taken through the park.

Now, having temporarily pulled myself away from the need to endlessly revise my slides, I find myself wondering why I am so obsessed with finishing something that can never be done.  It contains information that will change, data that will grow, and theories that will be disproven.  It is as transitory as I am, but with a shorter life expectancy.

I will finish using it for what I need it for.  I will change it if I need it again in the future.  I will share it and get feedback and make more changes.  Some day, it will be set aside never to be opened again.  Yet, right now, it has become the center of my life.

I decided I needed some perspective.  Having shortened my view for so many hours over so many days now, the endless view from an overlook seemed like just what I needed.  Unfortunately, it’s too late to take a drive to an overlook and I’m too tired to contemplate going out for a view.  Instead, I dive into my photos and find the views I’m looking for.

It’s a funny thing how looking at a photo of a big view can make you feel like you’re really looking out a window instead of at yet another computer screen the same distance from your eyes as the one you were tired of staring at all day.

Speak No Evil

I am having a lot of issues with my TMJ.  It feels physically impossible to relax the muscles of my jaw.  Some have told me that this implies I’m holding back.  I wonder about that.  Generally, I am an outspoken person.  But, when I think about the things I would like to say vs the things I actually say, I realize I do hold back.  A lot.

For example, when I’m at work on a call with someone who is preventing me from moving forward with a project and I can’t figure out why they are even involved in the decision making process,  I don’t say, “why do you think you have the right to an opinion about this?” or “I’m sorry, why are you here?”

There was a time in my life when I probably would have.

Acclimating myself to a career in the corporate world has largely meant learning how to keep my mouth closed.  Apparently, clenched tight.

Oddly, people seem to feel like they’re a “value add” (one of my favorite corporatisms) by pointing out any possible reason why we shouldn’t do something.  It’s rare to meet a person who wants to suggest how we could do something.

Even more oddly, this has been consistent across the companies I’ve worked for throughout my career; it is not unique to the company I work for now.  I wonder what it is about corporations that create the need in people to be gatekeepers?  Or is it that they feel that way their whole lives and a corporation just provides a place to express their inner selves?  Is there such a thing as a born gatekeeper?

When these people say “I’m here to help,” what they mean is, “I am here to maintain the status quo by causing delays so that we’ve completely missed the market before you can force any changes.”

In the meantime, I clench my jaw and try not to scream.

I guess I am holding back.

Thankfully, I now have Tisen to nudge me with his nose during the highest stress moments in my day.  Tisen reminds me that there are far worse alternatives to being gainfully employed and able to work from home.

Working from home also saves me an hour and a half a day that I get to spend on trying to become a better photographer.  So, who am I to complain?

On the subject of photography, this is the final edition of “Going Vertical.”  Today’s shots are, however, macro shots rather than landscape.  Well, at least some of them.  I’ve been told the official definition of “macro” means a 1:1 relationship between the size of the image and the size of the subject in real life.  Clearly, not all of these photos meet that criteria.

I had a lot of fun shooting reflections in the wetland area.  Unfortunately, I’ve found that how much fun I have while shooting is not a predictor of how much I like the resulting images.

UPDATED:

The completely original 3 images processed into the horizontal shot:

Riding the Storm Out

Today was crazy busy.  I got out of bed, started working immediately following Tisen’s walk, and didn’t get a chance to shower, eat or even take a break until well after 5.  When I did take a break, it was largely because my father had been trying to reach me to make sure I was still alive.  Apparently, I was just missed by a tornado and I failed to notice.

I vaguely recall realizing it was raining hard.  I remember Pat coming back from his noon walk with Tisen soaking wet.  And I remember the smell of wet dog wafting up, alerting me when Tisen was at my feet.  I also remember commenting on the ridiculous number of sirens today.  But I was clueless as to why.

As it turns out, the worst is yet to come.  I decide to take Tisen out for his evening walk, figuring I’d better get him out before the next storm comes through.

As we finish our lap around the park, lightening charges across the sky in a display that makes me wish first that I had my camera set up and then that I wasn’t standing in an open field.  I’ve never seen so much lightening all at once before.  It was like a giant spider web illuminated in the clouds.  Thankfully, none of it headed for the ground.

As large drops start to fall from the sky, I start running.  Tisen is not initially sold on the idea we had to hurry, but after a few more drops, he starts to move faster.

From our balcony, I watch the storm come in, camera in hand.  As much as I probably needed a tripod, I was feeling rushed, like we might have to run for safety at any moment.

This, of course, doesn’t stop me from firing off shots for as long as I can stand on the balcony.  It starts hailing like mad.  It’s the biggest hail I’ve ever seen in person, although I did have a car pummeled by grapefruit sized hail in Dallas once (fortunately, I was in Columbus at the time; unfortunately I flew and left my car at the Dallas airport).

After the storm dies down, the aftermath starts.  We watch the weather on TV and listen to sirens.  A bigger storm front is approaching.  Tisen will not settle down.  It’s a little nerve wracking to be in a top floor apartment even if it is only the 4th floor.  We plan to head for the first floor and hang out in the stairwell if things get really bad.

I decide I’d better shower and clean up in case we end up in a crowd  That done, I wrap up some unfinished work and then start shutting down computers and unplugging them.

Tisen walks around with his lamb in his mouth.  Pat thinks he is preparing for an emergency, taking his most valuable thing.  Pat asks me what I will take.  My first answer is my camera.

The Singing Towhee

I sit on the balcony and watch cars roll by.  It’s been a while since I’ve sat out here with my morning coffee–I am reminded of when we first arrived in Chattanooga 5 1/2 months ago.  Although, it was August then and I only sat on the balcony before sunrise–it got much too hot once the sun was up.

Earlier this morning, Tisen and I walked through the park listening to birds who clearly felt it was spring.  I believe it was just two nights ago there was a winter weather warning.  I listen to an Eastern Towhee and realize I’ve never heard one sing before–well, at least not when I knew that’s what I was hearing.  In fact, seeing an Eastern Towhee was always a rare event for me.  When I check the range map, I learn that they are present year round and this is not a harbinger of spring.  However, the urgency and vigor of his song competing with the robins’ probably is.

Our walk is uneventful, but when we return home, Tisen cannot wait to get off his leash and prance into the living room.  He does his playful prance that involves throwing limbs in directions it doesn’t seem like they should go.  I think he’s excited to see his daddy, but it turns out it’s Mr. Beaver he’s so excited to reunite with.

He and Mr. Beaver curl up on the couch.  Since my camera is still sitting on the tripod, I figure I might as well take a few shots, although I don’t bother to change the lens.  And, since I have my 17-55mm lens on the camera, I might as well go out on the balcony and see if the light is doing anything interesting to the view.  The city is shrouded in a slight mist this morning–the sun casting long shadows as it rises above the horizon.  In the sky above, a waning moon hangs mid-sky, too far from anything to get a decent shot with a my wide angle lens.

One thing is obvious–it’s going to be a beautiful sunny day.  Or at least morning.  I plop myself down on a balcony chair to write wearing my pajamas and no jacket and feel sorry for all the people below me in their cars who had to get up, get showered and into office clothes and are now on their commute to the office.

Of course, maybe they’ll have move fun at the office than I will have working from my isolated home office.  There is something about working from home that can make a person a little stir crazy.  I catch myself talking to Tisen more and more often.  He hasn’t answered yet, so I think I’m OK.  But perhaps it’s the fact that I don’t see other people all day that makes me notice things like the song of the Towhee?

The Etiquette of Dog Flatulence

I took Tisen to the vet.  He was due for heartworm medicine and given the number of mosquitos that have been active, I figured it’s not safe to skip heartworm in the winter like we used to in Columbus.

He weighed in at 60 pounds, but the vet thought he still looked like he was on the thin side.  He’s gained 20 pounds since he first arrived at the McKamey Animal Center.  1/3 of his total body weight.  I wonder what I would look like I lost 1/3 of my total body weight?  That’s rhetorical.

Apparently the bald patches in his fur are due to a severe allergy to fleas.  Although his hair is growing back and we’ve seen no sign of fleas, the vet encourages me to try a flea treatment that is a bacteria taken orally.

I give him the “test” pill with his dinner Friday night.

He does not exhibit any allergic reaction, but by Saturday morning, he seems to be suffering from excessive flatulence.  Well, at least he has excessive flatulence–not sure he’s suffering as much as we are.

Of course, this is the day I am having a guest.  What exactly is proper etiquette when your dog is passing gas silently, but so lethally that it makes your eyes water?  Do you say, “Oh my, Tisen, you’re really stinky today!”

I think about an article by Miss Manners on this topic.  As I recall, she felt because a polite person would, of course, never pass gas, there was no reason to excuse one’s self because it simply didn’t happen.  Does this rule apply to dogs?

I eventually am so distracted by his stench, I have to say something.  I end up telling this story:  When I first started working from home many years ago, I didn’t have a desk.  So, I would sit in a recliner with my laptop in my lap and a speaker phone further down on my legs, which were propped up on the foot rest.  Our Mastiff, Bogart, liked to come over and sit in my lap from time to time.  He would walk up, swing his rear around in a large arc, and then plop his butt down on my lap while all 4 feet were still on the floor.

On this particular occasion, I was on the speaker phone on a call with 12 people.  When Bogart swung his rear around, he paused about 6 inches above the speaker phone.  Then, he passed gas for at least 10 seconds with reverberation audible in the next room.

The longest silence on a conference call I’ve ever experienced followed.  Since I didn’t think “It was the dog” was going to fly, I remained silent and hoped no one knew it was my phone.

I wonder what Miss Manners would say about that?

Today, I am back to using the iPhone to snap a few shots of Tisen curled up next to my lap, still stinking up the room.

Rescuing a Heron

I woke up at 3AM, pinned under the covers by the weight of a sleeping dog and too content with him by my side to move him.  I eventually squirmed my way out, managing to heed the call of nature without waking either my husband or my dog.  But when I returned to bed, I was left out in the cold.  I think I got another half an hour of sleep before finally getting up at 6AM.

In those 3 hours, Tisen moved only if chasing something in his dreams and Pat snored quietly, marking the time.

I get Tisen walked, fed, and into his create in time for me to get to the gym.  We are using the create when I go to the gym.  Tisen rather likes his crate with his new bed and collection of squeaky toys–we’re getting close to trying going out to dinner again.

After the gym, I buckle down to work and try to focus.  It goes like this:

  1. Start to work on presentation
  2. Think, “I need the dates in that email from yesterday”
  3. Open inbox, see 18 unread messages have arrived in the past 5 minutes.  Start reading and responding to each one, opening files until there are 40 files open and 16 applications running.
  4. Remember I was looking for an email for my presentation, I return to the inbox to find new messages and start over again–I’m in danger of an endless loop.
  5. A reminder it’s time for my first conference call pops up and interrupts my interruption.
  6. Remember I was trying to get my presentation done before my first conference call.
  7. Look at calendar for meetings I can cancel later in the day.

In the midst of this, Pat returns from Tisen’s second walk and reports he spotted a Great Blue Heron with a broken wing.  I start juggling phones with the conference call in one ear and a call to S.O.A.R. in the other.

Pat is able to meet John (from SOAR).  When my morning conference calls end and Tisen insists he needs to go out, we are able to check on the heron rescue progress.  We arrive as Pat dives into the bushes with a large butterfly net, just missing the heron.  I get out my iPhone and snap a few pics.

John catches the heron moments later.  John asks me to remove a stick from its mouth.  I reach out and gently pull the stick free, hoping it will be a little more comfortable.  This poor bird has exposed bone where its wing has snapped and bent backwards.  John will take it to a licensed bird rehabilitator, but he doesn’t seem optimistic.

Much later, John’s wife, Dale, tells me the heron had to be euthanized.  I am sad this one could not be saved.  But, I am happy there are people like John and Dale to make sure if there is a chance a bird will survive, the bird will get it.

Now, I need to finish that presentation . . .