Love Looks

While processing the photos of my nephew (alias Sam) and his girlfriend (alias Ellie), I sighed and thought “Aww.  Young love!”  But when I flipped through some recent photos of my brother and my sister-in-law a few minutes later, I realized this had nothing to do with age.  My nephew’s face is just a younger version of my brother’s when they are with their respective partners.

It’s an interesting phenomenon.  Sam looks very little like my brother except when he’s around Ellie.  Then, it’s like his dissimilar features mold themselves into a shape that exactly resembles my brother’s face.  Who knew that falling in love could be hereditary?

But shooting both Ellie and Sam with one small strobe on an umbrella stand and in the confines of the family room proved to be challenging.

First, there was the issue of light.  Lighting one person is much easier than lighting two when there’s only one light.  Getting light on Ellie, sitting furthest from the light, was quite difficult.

This led to the second challenge, depth of field.  Opening up the aperture to try to overcome the shortage of light led to a very shallow depth of field, which led to portraits of one subject with another person in the frame instead of portraits of two people.  However, I still like some of the resulting images.

The need to shut the aperture down a bit to increase the depth of field to get Ellie and Same both in focus increased the problem created by the third challenge.  Because we of where Sam and Ellie were, traffic kept moving in and out of the room behind them.  Of course, some of the best expressions on their faces were in the shots with people behind them.  This led to extensive use of the “blur” brush to reduce the distracting background.  I am not fond of doing that much editing, but it’s my nephew.

It occurs to me that perhaps it would be easier if I could shoot in the same environment more than one time.  It’s hard to master something when there are so many variables changing each time.  But then again, it’s the variables that make it fun.

I think about photographers who have marks on the floor and who have their subjects go through a formula of poses.  I suppose this would be extremely efficient and may even help guarantee that the subject gets a decent portrait, but I don’t know how the photographer keeps from getting so bored s/he stops paying attention.  And what happens if someone comes in who just looks horrible in that particular set of poses?  Do they have formulas for such variables?

If there’s one lesson I’m sure of, I have a hard time paying attention to all the details when I feel rushed.  I guess I need to find someone who really wants to model for me.  And then, I need to take my time.  What’s that old expression?  Haste makes waste?


It’s begun to look like we will be in Chattanooga for longer than we originally thought.  As such, it’s time to get serious about getting organized.  I am torn between getting organized and getting rid of more stuff.

We still have things laying around that we haven’t used in years, but it’s still functional and we have yet to get our money’s worth out of it.  With only one large closet and virtually no furniture that creates storage space, we are constantly moving stuff around from spot on the floor to spot on the floor and we’re never able to find any of it when we actually need it.

We’ve asked the building manager if we could have an extra door put in our very large closet to give us better access to about 7 feet of space currently behind a wall.  Now, we need to get the rest of our stuff out of the way and stored so that we can easily cover it up when they come to do the work.

So, today, our big undertaking will be to find an inexpensive and reusable way to store the miscellaneous stuff that we want to have accessible inside the apartment.

Now, Pat and I have different ideas about how to tackle tasks like this.  Me, my priority is efficiency.  Pick the place most likely to have what we’re looking for, go to it, and if they have anything even close, buy it and go home.

Pat has a different approach to shopping for home goods.  I don’t really understand his approach, but it usually involves making multiple trips to several places several times and not buying anything.  If I have no vested interest in a project and I’m not forced to go shopping with him, I’m OK with him spending time looking at things and not making a decision.  But, I am not wired for shopping.  I like to get in, buy something, and get out.

Today is one of those days when we will compromise.  I let Pat take us to Home Depot “just to look,” and then to Target, and finally to Lowe’s.

Then, just when it looks like Pat is content to go home, I talk him into a couple of sets of industrial-looking shelving units that are on sale and some baskets.  We have to return to Target to get more baskets to put on the shelves.  While this breaks one of my cardinal rules, “Thou Shalt Not Go Backwards,” I figure it’s less backwards than going all the way home and coming back another day.

We get home and begin assembling the shelves.  The instructions say it takes 10 minutes to assemble them.  Ten minutes in, we have the first set out of the box and have removed the plastic wrap.  There really are few things that test a relationship more than assembling something together that’s supposed to take 10 minutes.  Especially when I’m already cranky from our shopping excursion.  We manage to get both sets assembled in about an hour without filing for divorce.

Next, we need to put our stuff into the baskets and put the baskets on the shelves.   My sweaters go in one basket.  Jeans go into another.  The stockpile of lightbulbs goes into a third.  The collection of miscellaneous bike tools and accessories goes into a fourth.     Then there is the pile of cables that we don’t seem to need anymore, but I’m sure we will need the second we get rid of them.  I decide they can go under the lightbulbs.  The dirty laundry gets a basket for each sort.  Then there is a small basket for gloves, hats, and scarves–items I’m sorry to say I’m starting to wear more and more.  I am quickly running out of baskets.  Is it really possible that I still have this much stuff?

We’ve sold, donated, given away, recycled, and, when all else failed, thrown away all of the miscellaneous crap that we thought we could live without.  We’ve gotten rid of dishes, glasses, furniture, area rugs, electronics, camping gear, and what seems like an endless amount of clothes.  How is it that we still have piles of stuff we don’t know what to do with?

My sudden desire to get all of the crap that has piled in the corners of rooms up off the floor expands into the living room.  I find myself standing at my desk (which is really a table) and wondering if I need an actual desk.  One with drawers so I wouldn’t have the entire top covered in crap.  Then I ask myself, am I heading down a dangerous path?  Am I about to start replacing all the stuff we just got rid of?  Does it really make sense to buy stuff in order to organize stuff that we probably don’t need in the first place?

All this thinking about stuff is making my head hurt.  I decide I’ve had enough for the day.  We now have the things I haven’t known what to do with it hidden away in baskets that look, well, if not nice, better.  It’s sort of dorm-room like in decor, which is not exactly the look I was going for.  But, that’s OK.  Better a dorm room than something less reusable.  After all, someone can always use shelves.

Date Night

We are going on a date.  I can never decide if Date Night is a modern marriage concept or just a modern twist on what used to be called “Take the Wife Out to Dinner.”  The fact that we, a couple who has no children, eats out more often than we eat at home, and spends most of our waking hours (and all of our sleeping ones) in close proximity need a date night seems like a modern twist indeed.  But, if there’s one thing we have learned, two people can be sitting right next to each other and not actually be together at all.

We have decided that we will go to an early movie and have dinner afterwards because I have the problem that I have trained myself to go to sleep when I watch TV and this has now carried over to movies.  Unfortunately, when I get out my Fandango app and check out what’s playing, the movie we both want to see–George Clooney’s latest, The Ides of March–has early shows too early for us to make.  But, the next showing is at 8:30PM, so we decide we have time to make dinner at home and then walk over to the theater.  I’m hoping the brisk walk on a cool night will help wake me up after eating, too.

We cook dinner together.  This happens every once in a while.  Pat gets tired of doing all the cooking and I occasionally take pity on him and help out.  Although, I think we’ve been averaging less than 2 dinners a week at home lately; I’m not sure how much of a break Pat needs.  But, it’s date night, so we cook together.  And it’s nice, although we sometimes struggle to stay out of each other’s way.  Funny thing about a kitchen–even though our current kitchen has about 2x the space of the kitchen in the house we rented between selling our house and moving here, we still both end up needing to get to the same corner all the time.  But, we are in a playful mood and have fun with bumping into each other and turning it into an act of affection rather than one of annoyance.  It never ceases to amaze me how the exact same action can have so many different intentions and interpretations.

Once we are well fed, we now have too much time before the theater to go straight there, but too little time to hang out here and start anything else.  So, we decide to walk over early and get our tickets and then grab a beer at a local pub if there’s enough time.  We head out and take the shortest route now that we have a plan to get a beer before the movie.  We stop in and buy our tickets and then walk back a block to Big River Grille, where I met Clyde the previous weekend when I went out to dinner by myself there.  Clyde is not there tonight, so I cannot introduce him to Pat, but the same bar tender is there and he recognizes me, making me feel like a local.  We each order a pint and sit and drink it while we talk.

It’s a little hard to talk in the bar.  It’s noisy and crowded with people waiting for tables as well as those who have given up on getting a table and are eating at the bar.  Plus, one of the challenges of spending a lot of time with someone is that there often isn’t much left to discuss on date night.  Pat has been back in town for 4 days.  We’ve caught up and experienced most things together ever since.  He knows I worked late every night this week and that I’m stressed about work–my office is in the living room.  It’s hard for him to miss how long I work.  And he can tell when I’m stressed by the way I’m breathing (or not).  I’ve already shared my frustrations with him.

As a result, we now sit in the bar with not much new to say.  Pat’s already told me about his week, too.  We alight on beer as a good topic given that Big River Grille is a brewery as well as a restaurant and bar and we are drinking some of their brews.  I wish I could say that they’re a local, family owned business, but they’re actually a small brand in a larger restaurant company that owns about 5 or 6 different chains.   We generally try to avoid chains, but every once in a while, it’s just convenient.  I am drinking their Oktoberfest brew, which is good, although a little subtler than my usual fare.  Pat is trying their pilsner, which he does not believe is actually pilsner.  He drinks it anyway and even enjoys it once he stops expecting it to taste like a pilsner.  Before we know it, we need to return to the theater and I have yet to finish my beer.  I don’t enjoy chugging beer and I have nearly half my pint left.  I decide to take a couple more swigs and then leave the rest.  It makes me sad to leave behind an unfinished beer.

When we get to the theater, we realize that we could have stayed so I could finish my beer at a reasonable pace–there are 25 minutes of ads and previews before the movie starts.  I try to remember the last time I saw a movie in a theater where there weren’t any ads except maybe for the theater’s snack counter.  When the movie finally starts, I’m already getting sleepy.  I make it through the first 30 minutes and then the rest of the time it’s a painful effort to keep my eyes open and my chin keeps hitting my chest.  When the movie is over, I’ve lost the entire thread and have no idea what happened.  Pat fills in a few blanks for me, but says it wasn’t just me, the movie was pretty slow.  I feel bad for falling asleep on George, although it’s not the first time.

As we cross back over the river, the wind has picked up and I am wide awake now.  We hold hands and I walk close to Pat, shielding myself from the wind and trying to share some body heat.  I have the funny sensation of a split screen of our date night.  There is the experience that it is:  uneventful, predictable, reliable, and relaxing.  Then there is the experience that I somehow feel it’s supposed to be:  exciting, wild, fun, and energizing.  Oddly, so many times in life I’ve been out with people doing things that were supposedly exciting, wild, fun, and energizing but I still felt bored.  I suddenly have a strong sensation that it doesn’t matter what we do, it all comes down to the story that we make from it.  This thought threatens to depress me.  I turn my attention back to Pat and concentrate on being with him and letting that be the story for tonight.

One Small Chirp for Man; One Giant Mistake for Womankind

It starts with a small beep. A high-pitched chirp that demands my attention even though it’s coming from somewhere outside the apartment. It sounds like a smoke detector with a low battery, but our smoke detectors are wired. Every 15 seconds, “Chirp!” It’s like an alarm clock with a leak.

During the day, I manage to distract myself most of the time. I cannot hear it over my headset when I’m on the phone. For the first time, I find myself looking forward to conference calls.

But at night, I lay in bed waiting for the next chirp to come. Finally, I pull out the iPad, put in some ear buds and watch a show from my cable company’s app until I nod off. Still, the next morning I wake up feeling like I’ve been fighting with that chirp all night long. My jaw has practically seized into a clench, my TMJ flares when I bite into an apple, and I am cranky. Cranky, cranky, cranky.

I wander around trying to hear where the stupid chirp is coming from. It could be on the roof. It could be next door. It could be below us. After I’m dressed, I walk out into the hall and listen. Eventually, I determine the beep is coming from next door. It go back inside and check the time. It’s only 6:30AM. I decide that a) it’s improbable our neighbor is there, listening to the chirp and doing nothing about it, and b) it’s too early to knock on her door to find out because I will wake up many other neighbors in the process.

For the next hour and a half, all I hear is “chirp!” I try taking my coffee outside. For once, there is very little traffic. I can hear the chirp even from the balcony when there are no cars driving by. I go back inside. Pat gets up. I ask him, “Do you hear that?” He looks at me like I’m insane. I am beginning to have memories of “The Tell-Tale Heart.”

At 8:00AM, I go next door and knock. No one comes to the door. I knock again, standing there, listening to the chirp echoing inside. One of the disadvantages of a loft-style apartment, by the way, particularly one with finished concrete floors, is that sound bounces all over the place. I wait for the next “chirp!” and then knock one last time. Another neighbor comes in with his dog. I smile, but don’t ask if he hears the chirping or not.

I go inside and tell Pat I’m going to send an email to the manager to see if maintenance can come without the tenant calling them. He is upset by this notion and tells me not to. When I ask him why not, his justification is because we watch TV loudly (to hear over traffic noise) and no one complains. I give him a look. I cannot understand his logic on this–it’s like he thinks I’m telling on the girl next door for having a chirp. After much debate, I finally decide to give it a day.

I make it through the day, but the chirping doesn’t abate. I tell Pat I’m sending an email and, once again, this leads to a debate. Now, I am irritated with him. I cannot understand how he can think it’s a bad thing to tell maintenance that there is something wrong in the apartment that needs to be addressed when the resident is clearly not home to take care of it herself. Finally, the core of the argument seems to hinge around Pat’s assumption that our neighbor must have something in the apartment that belongs to her that’s beeping whereas I tend to assume it’s something that goes with the apartment. I allow Pat’s anxiety about upsetting our neighbor infect my thinking and forego the email again.

But now, my ire has turned from the chirp to Pat. The chirp is now his fault. Every time he is in he room, I wait for a chirp and then say, “Did you hear that?” What I discover is that he can’t hear it most of the time. Only if there is absolutely no background noise and he’s listening for it is he able to hear it at all, and even then, it’s so quiet to him that he’s not annoyed. Now I am doubly angry. He doesn’t want me to solve the problem because it’s not bothering him!

For reasons I do not understand, instead of just ignoring Pat and sending the email to the manager, I’m now pissy about absolutely everything. The apartment is a mess; there’s too much clutter that we still need to find places for. That is Pat’s fault. I stand up without realizing my foot is asleep and sprain my left foot. That is Pat’s fault too. I am tired and sore and it’s raining and I need to get away from that incessant chirp! All of it is Pat’s fault.

His tenacity is remarkable. Four days later, the chirp is still going and so am I. I’m amazed that he hasn’t begged me to write a letter to the manager by now. Instead, he just seems puzzled as to why I’m so irritable. Even when I explain that I’m not sleeping well because of that damn chirp, he doesn’t believe that the chirp (which by now he seems to think is just a figment of my imagination) could possibly disturb my sleep.

Finally, on Saturday, Pat walks out to get something out of the car and runs into movers coming out of the apartment. He asks them if they heard a chirp and they say no. Now I’m really pissed. Pat feels like he’s taken action to resolve the problem, but all he’s done is prove that I have better hearing that a total of 3 men. However, at least it eliminates Pat’s argument that I will upset the neighbor if I report the chirp. I sit down and send a note to the manager.

Of course, the manager won’t get the note until Monday. This is Pat’s fault, too.

A funny thing happens to me when I’m overly tired. I start dropping things a lot. Usually little things. This time, it starts with the hair clip I use when I wash my face. I drop it, pick it up, and drop it again. I pick it up a second time and it falls from my grasp before I can even stand up again. Next, it’s my glasses. Same thing. Three drops in a row. Then, it’s a bottle of beer, which I drop only once because it shatters on the concrete floor. Each time I drop something, my temper ignites. By the third drop, I can literally feel the anger shooting through my body in a trail that runs from my toes to the top of my head. If I were a rocket ship, I would be airborne. Thankfully, the weekend distractions keep me from completely losing it. When we are out of the apartment, I feel much, much better.

We both live through the weekend. Monday, I get a note from the manager that maintenance will be over the next day and they will fix it then. I decide to concentrate on ignoring the chirp. It’s like the old trick where someone tells you not to think about elephants and that’s all you can think about. Fortunately, it’s a work day and I spend most of the day with my headphones on. The weather has also warmed up again and I discover that sleeping with the ceiling fan on helps drown out the chirp.

The next day, I hear men in the apartment next door, but the chirp is still going strong. I walk over and knock on the door. When the door opens, the chirp echoes even more loudly with the apartment empty and the door open. I look at the men inside and ask if the can hear it. They look at me like I’m playing a joke and they are waiting for the punchline. After a moment, one responds that they have to get batteries for whatever it is (maybe it is a smoke detector after all). I explain that I just wanted to make sure they could hear it because my husband can’t and he thinks I’m insane. The men laugh at this and assure me it’s loud and clear to them. I am relieved to know I am not crazy (well, at least not in this particular way).

I return to work and am on the phone for several hours straight. When at last I take off my headset, I am still thinking about work as I get up to grab a bite to eat. Suddenly, I realize I feel a little happier and less annoyed than I’ve felt in days. I freeze and listen. The chirping has stopped! I sigh with relief. But when Pat comes home that evening, I am annoyed again. I don’t know why I’m annoyed with him because I let him talk me out of solving my problem a week ago, but I am.

I suffered through that incessant chirp for a week because I listened to him. I suppose I must first stop being annoyed with myself for listening. Then, I must stop being annoyed with Pat for thinking it’s more important to avoid irritating the neighbor than to stop the neighbor from irritating his wife. I wonder how long that will take?