Cow Tipping and Sky Scrapers

As the holidays approach kick-off, I find myself searching through old photos more frequently.  I’m thankful for old photos–they remind me of where I’ve come from and refresh the memories I’ve taken with me.

These images are from a photography workshop I went to back in Columbus, Ohio (I have to add “Ohio” now because when you live in Chattanooga, they usually assume you mean Columbus, TN or Columbus, GA).

As I review the images and look at the metadata, I realize just how many mistakes I made.  That, too, is a reminder of where I’ve come from.  Sometimes it’s nice to realize I am learning even if the process seems slow.

I ponder why these images all seem to have been shot with a wide open aperture, resulting in out-of-focus foregrounds and/or backgrounds.  These days, I like to see the entire scene in focus in most landscape shots.  The difference between having lots of depth of field and the images in the gallery probably comes down to the want of a tripod and low light conditions.

But what jumps out at me as I peruse these photos is that in over 40 years of living there, I had never really seen downtown Columbus before this day.

I had walked the streets more times than I can count.  I’d been to theaters, restaurants, shops, meetings, museums, and even two courthouses.

But I walked the streets with purpose, my mind busy with the reason I was there or the things I needed to do, focused on what was ahead or behind and not on what was around me.

I wonder if I returned to my home town how I would see it differently.  I think back to vague memories of the Columbus skyline from my childhood.  There was one sky scraper then, the Lincoln LeVeque Tower.  It remains the most interesting of the tall buildings in the Columbus skyline even though its height has been eclipsed for many decades by its neighbor, the Rhodes State Office Tower.

As I look at these images and see blocks and blocks of big-city buildings, I realize how much the town and I grew up together.

My family arrived in 1970 when Columbus was still called Cow Town.  In fact, even when we left, there were still cows grazing on the OSU Agriculture campus pastures well within the city limits.  It would be hard to grow up in Columbus without knowing what cow-tipping was.

At the same time, Columbus invested in revitalizing some of its worst neighborhoods, developing its downtown riverfront, creating an awesome metro park system, and attracting large businesses that built up the Columbus skyline.  In retrospect, I realize that Columbus grew up without me noticing.  It turned into a real city with real attractions.

None of that makes me regret our decision to move to Chattanooga, however.  Perhaps a mid-western metropolitan lifestyle is less important to me than views of Lookout Mountain.


One of the hazards of having a 2TB hard drive is the immediate accessibility of old photos.  There is something about fall that causes me to review.  With 9 years of photos on my hard drive, this can be quite a journey.

Along with review comes a sense of nostalgia.  As much as I appreciate my new life in Chattanooga, there are things I miss about my old life in Columbus, Ohio.

I try not to think about how much I miss my friends.  Although I have made a dozen or so friends in Chattanooga now and I would miss them, too, I don’t find that friends are replaceable or interchangeable.  Each is a unique relationship and each relationship is something I value.

I don’t need old photos to remind me how much I miss my friends.  What the photos do remind me of is there are other aspects of my old life that I miss as well.  Being within an easy 1/2 day’s drive of family is a big one.  Going from a 3 hour drive to a 7 and 10 hour drive is a big difference in how frequently we see family.

But there are small things I miss as well.  For example, I miss my gallery wall from our former living room.  Given that we somehow lost the prints on that wall in one of the two moves after selling the house, I miss the art as much as the wall to display it on.  It was one of those little pleasures I enjoyed everyday.

I also miss playing in the snow.  Although, I guess I would have missed that had we still been in Columbus this past winter given it was unusually warm.

Perhaps a bigger gap for me is the feeling of being part of the community.  Although I’ve found volunteer gigs I enjoy here in Chattanooga, it’s a little less immediate than being part of a neighborhood group that invests time and energy in improving the street we live on.

Along with changes that came from changing states, I also miss some of the things we left behind when we sold our house.  Like the raccoons on our deck that would eat peanuts left out for the birds.  Or being able to look out the windows and be eye-to-eye with birds ranging from Red-shouldered Hawks to Scarlet Tanagers to even occasional warblers.

I guess I am really missing living in a wooded ravine that not only brought the birds up close to our windows, but also allowed for a woodland garden, intense fall colors along our street, and a hummingbird nest above the deck in the summer time.

But even as I miss these things, I am also relieved.  After all, as much as I enjoyed life in the ravine and life in the house and community there, giving up those things has created an uncertain future that brings with it a sense of endless possibility.

Ringing in the New Year


For 41 years, I lived in one place.  Even when I went other places for weeks or months at a time, it was always temporary and I knew I would be returning home to Columbus.  There are certain things that happen when you always return to the same place for 41 years.

First, you make friends.  This happens through the natural course of life, although most of my current friends are people I met through work or a networking effect of those I met through work.  Over 41 years, I ended up with an eclectic group of friends who honor me by at least acting like they enjoy our company.

A second thing that happens is a place becomes familiar.  You hear about an event one year and think “Oh, we should try that next year.”

Between learning about the annual events and having friends who invite us to do things and/or have parties, we never really had to put much thought into New Year’s Eve.  We stumbled across something we wanted to do as a couple, were invited to do something with other couples, or were invited to someone’s party.

Now, as a couple with no dogs, no children, activities that mainly take us out of town, and home offices, it’s suddenly very difficult to meet friends.

The strangeness of being without geographically close friends stuck home when we found ourselves with no plans for New Year’s Eve.  I realize in retrospect that I have simply gotten lazy when it comes to planning New Year’s Eve.  I have taken it for granted that something will fall into our laps without considering how that could possibly happen in a new place.

Figuring that New Year’s would take care of itself, I didn’t bother to make any definitive plans.  Then, New Year’s was upon us.  Interestingly, it did take care of itself.  We decided to walk across the bridge to downtown and return to a restaurant we hadn’t been to since a visit to Chattanooga before we moved here, back in March.  I was skeptical that they would have any tables open, but it turns out that they had several tables for two available.  Apparently going out as a twosome is not that popular on New Year’s Eve.

We had an amazing dinner and shared a great bottle of wine.  After talking and laughing our way through four courses, we walked out feeling reconnected and ready to face a new year together.  However, it was only 9:00PM.

So, we went to the new Sherlock Holmes movie to keep us up until midnight.  It turns out I’m much older than I thought–I was nodding off in the first 10 minutes.

After the movie, we walked to the center of the Market St bridge by midnight.  We stood on the bridge and kissed at midnight and watched fireworks in at least 5 different directions as we made our way home.  So what if we were home by 12:15AM?

Wandering and Belonging

Sunday morning, we take our time leaving Columbus.  We have all day to get home and nothing on our calendar.  We decide to stop at the Wildflower Cafe for breakfast before heading out of town.  We’re surprised by their almost empty parking lot at 10AM–there used to always be a line by this time.  I wonder if the fact that they’re now open for dinner has diluted their breakfast and lunch crowd.

I think about having a small, healthy breakfast.  Something my body would much appreciate after nearly a week of a “see-food” diet.  However, I have a hard time resisting the eggs benedict on their Sunday brunch menu.  And while I’m at it, I might as well have their potatoes, which are sliced thin and pan-fried to a nice crisp brown on the edges.  I tell myself I’ll start eating healthy again tomorrow.  I laugh at my optimism–seems like I’ve been telling myself that for many months now.

After stuffing ourselves and trying not to drink so much coffee that I have to stop every 15 minutes, we take turns using the restroom before getting on the road.  I don’t feel like a visitor today even though we’re about to leave–the owner recognized us when we came in and the restaurant is just so familiar.  It feels like there’s been a time warp and we never really went anywhere.  But, as we head out the door, the prospect of a long drive looms before us and I feel like a visitor again.

Pat drives and I write.  But I am not feeling prolific today.  I suddenly realize that we will have only 3 days at home before we’ll be packing again for our Thanksgiving weekend trip to the Smokies.  We’ve decided to spend the long weekend at a lodge we discovered on the way home from Great Smoky Mountain National Park over Labor Day weekend.  Originally, Pat’s family was going to come down to see us for Thanksgiving.  Then, Pat’s sister was going to join, so the date changed to when she could be gone from the store she manages (which is not Thanksgiving weekend).  Unfortunately, she couldn’t travel on a date when we didn’t have a commitment, so she went to Youngstown instead and the rest of the family decided not to come for Thanksgiving.

It occurs to me that while Thanksgiving has been the holiday we spent with my husband’s family vs my own for many years, this will be the first time in my life I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without getting together with any family members.

I stop musing and start talking to Pat about our upcoming plans.  We are both looking forward to the mountain lodge–a mere two hour drive instead of an 11 hour drive to Pat’s family’s house.  I find myself wondering if we should have stayed in Columbus a few more days and then driven up to Youngstown for Thanksgiving, though.  We need to think more about how to get together with Pat’s family now that the drive is so much further.  It’s hard for us to stay in Columbus that many days, but it’s easier than trying to work from Youngstown.

In any case, this coming weekend, we will be in the Smokies enjoying the mountains and relaxing.  I am looking forward to the relaxing part as we haven’t really done a lot of that lately.  To ensure I can really relax while we’re there, I am working on writing blog entries ahead of time.  That way, I can have all my blog posts scheduled to run without me and I don’t have to worry about keeping up on my blog in case there is no internet access from there.

The drive flies by for me.  Between writing and napping and talking with Pat about his plans for his business, we seem to arrive in no time.  Pat, however, is stiff and sore having driven the entire way himself.  I feel guilty that I didn’t do any of the driving, but it did allow me to use the time productively.

We pull up in front of the entry to our building and unload the ridiculous amount of stuff from the van.  Even though I reduced my load by a couple of bags on the way out, Pat picked up a bunch of guitars while we were there, so our load looks vaguely reminiscent of moving day.

A neighbor comes in while we’re unloading and gives us a nasty look.  I’m not sure why, but it’s the same one that was irritated the day we were moving in because we had an elevator blocked.  Apparently she didn’t realize she could push the button and the other elevator would come and she stomped off with a big “huff” to the stairwell.  Another neighbor comes along with a friendly dog who I greet while Pat is parking the van.  When he returns, we load our stuff into the elevator and head upstairs.  I think to myself that we really ought to just invest in a cart if we’re gong to continue to do this on a regular basis.

We get unpacked and then head out to grab dinner.  We end up at Taco Mamacito’s because it’s close and decision-free.  We talk about our trip to Columbus and how much more enjoyable this trip was.  Besides having a get together with friends we haven’t seen in a year who came in from Seattle, we also enjoyed the pace of a Saturday vs a trip where it’s all weekday time.

I contemplate the impact of not having an assigned office at work anymore.  There is something freeing about it–like not having a door with your name next to it implies that no one is waiting for you to show up.  It feels, finally, like we really have moved and when we go to Columbus, we really are just visiting.  As we sit in this restaurant where at least half the wait staff recognizes us contemplating sleeping in our own bed tonight, we feel the sense of having returned home in a way that we haven’t felt here in Chattanooga before.  I find myself wondering how important wandering is compared to having a sense of belonging somewhere.

Embracing My Inner Jerk

After feeling like I’d walked into an abandoned office building following some massive nuclear holocaust or something yesterday, I’d thought about just working from my friend’s house today.  However, I do have a couple of face-to-face meetings scheduled, plus I have a lunch date that is closer to the office and closer to Pat’s daytime destination.  So, I have Pat drop me at the office again.  Now this is a bit of a sore subject.  I was supposed to have the car today so that I could get to my lunch date and a doctor’s appointment at the end of the day without having to worry about Pat driving back and forth to cart me around.  However, Pat did not come up with a plan that would allow him to get from my office to the workshop where he’s working today without a car.  So, I’m a little irritated that I am the one who is always stuck asking for rides.

But now, I get to the gym and am a little more cheerful.  I get to walk outside during the sunrise, something that always makes my morning, and then laugh a lot with the guys I workout with.  By the time I’m on my way up to my office, I have forgotten about not having a car.  When I get to my floor, there are actually people there!  Not a lot, but at least a handful in each quadrant of the floor.  I say hello at least 3x on the way to my office and even stop to chat for a minute with 1 person.  It’s a banner day!

When lunch comes, Pat picks me up and drops me at the restaurant where I’m meeting my friend.  My friend has a tight schedule, so I get there early and order for both of us so that she arrives about the same time the food comes out.  This works well–we’re not as anxious about getting our food and eating it fast enough to get her back in time for her next appointment so we can talk more leisurely.  Fortunately for me, she doesn’t need her car the rest of the afternoon, so I’m able to make arrangements to drop her at her office and take her car back to my office when we’re done.  Then, I drive back to her office after work, where Pat will pick me up.  That saves Pat from one round-trip at least.  But, I feel bad having to borrow someone’s car.  Especially since I get caught up in a crisis at the end of the day at work that prevents me from leaving the office until later than I needed to leave.  As a result, I don’t have time to put gas in her car before returning it.  I console myself that the needle hasn’t moved and that I’ve only driven about a 1/2 a gallon’s worth, but I still feel bad.

When Pat picks me up later, I am running late from my appointment, having gotten there late.  We are leaving to return to Chattanooga straight from the office, but now we will get a late start.  Plus, I have a couple things I need to drop off to someone in Grandview, so we have to take a slightly indirect route out of town.  We make the drop and then decide to get dinner before getting on the road.  We stop at Donatos and order subs to go.  However, they’re very busy and there’s a long wait for the food.  Since I’m still trying to wrap up the work situation, I go out to the car and get online for a while.  I get a start on the slides I need for a meeting tomorrow and then I decide to change into more comfortable attire.

Since we have a van with tinted windows, I’m able to do this without anyone noticing by sitting on the floor in the back.  Taking off my work shoes feels so good!  I think my feet are growing now that they’ve been set free in hiking sandals most days–shoving them back into heels feels like foot binding.  Now, taking off my heels has the opposite effect–my feet feel like they are exploding into their preferred size like compressed sponges dipped in water.

We finally get our food and head down the road.  Pat is tired, so I will drive the first stretch.  It’s after 7:00PM.  We accept that we will not make it home tonight. As I merge onto the highway, I’m stuck behind a slower vehicle in front of me.  There is a young guy in an SUV behind me who starts to get over and block me in.  This is one of my pet peeves.  I can understand that we all have moments when we lose patience, but if you’re going to block someone in, make it the person who’s causing the problem, not the innocent victim behind them.  I can’t say I snap.  I really feel totally calm about it.  I just don’t feel like being blocked in.  So, I move over in front of him.  Yes, he has to either swerve or slow down to avoid hitting me.  Yes, it’s a risky move on my part.  But, I just don’t feel up to taking any crap from this guy.

Then, a second merge approaches.  There we are, dejavu all over again.  And what do I do?  You guessed it, I cut him off again.  Only this time, he’s not content to just back off (accompanied by his horn and hand gestures).  Instead, he swerves into the shoulder and continues driving too close to me, holding down his horn.  Now this is what we call an “escalating situation.”

That is the problem with being a jerk–you trigger competitive jerkiness in others which turns into a game of chicken as to which one of you is going to back down first.  The problem is that once you’ve committed yourself to being a jerk, it’s hard to back down.  Fortunately for everyone on the road tonight, I take a deep breath and recognize that I’ve pushed too far and it’s time to back down.  Unfortunately for everyone on the road tonight, he is less forgiving.  He starts cutting in and out of traffic so that he can get in front of me and slam on his brakes.  I take another deep breath and let it go.  I remind myself that he probably doesn’t even know why I cut him off and thinks I’m the only jerk in this scenario.

As luck would have it, he continues out of town along with us.  I laugh to myself thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if it turns out he’s our next door neighbor?”  He periodically appears in my rearview mirror gesturing at me and then next to me and then in front of me, still angry.  But, as the traffic makes such maneuvers more difficult, he either calms down or gives up.  Thankfully, he disappears near Grove City (aka, “Grove’tucky), which explains it all.  I make a mental note to not cut people off just because I think they’re rude in the future–I admit, it’s not the first time I’ve made this mental note.  At least it kept me wide awake for the first part of my drive.

We cross our fingers as we approach Cincinnati–tonight is not the night to have an hour delay trying to get out of Ohio.  Traffic flows smoothly into town and slows only briefly on the other side of the river as we get into highway construction.  I am starting to nod.  It’s only about 9:30PM, but I’m so mesmerized by the rhythm of the road that I can barely keep my eyes open.  We find a place to pull off to get gas, use the restroom, and switch drivers.  Now I am wide awake again, which is a good thing because I need to finish some slides for a call tomorrow morning.  I work on the deck for the next 2 hours while Pat drives.

Pat gets us to Lexington, KY, but then we are done.  It’s close enough to Chattanooga that we’ll make it back tomorrow morning, so we look for a motel.  However, Pat has stuff in the van that makes him want to stay in a motel where we can park outside the window.  Usually, the choices are limited and these types of motels are not so nice.  The one we find tonight is no exception.  But, we see no signs of bed bugs, so we throw down and tuck in for the night after setting the alarm for an early rise.