Wednesday, May 29, 2013

52 Photos Project, Week Six: Uncommon Shapes

We see this sight every time we make our drive to the country. And since we go after work on Friday, the light is gorgeous when we pass. This photo does not do the scene justice! I notice it every single time and I have been saying that I'd like to stop and take a few photos of the sight. A couple of weekends ago, my husband pulled off to the side of the road and I got out and took pictures. Technically speaking, this is not a "spot on" photo. The highlights are blown out a bit. But I still like it and I can pretend I blew out the highlights on purpose!

I'd said something similar to this to a friend in email one day and it was suggested the words would do well in a "thang" and I immediately decided I'd like to use this photo. What I did was to make the photo reflect itself and combined that into one photo. I like the way it turned out. You may not be able to see the detail as well in this web-sized version but to me, it looks like there are a couple of faces in the photo. In looking at it, I realized that I had not made the ends of the photo reflect that I'd intended to.

This is what I intended to do originally, to join the lighter ends. But I liked the way the trees came together in the original version so I kept it. I'm waiting for inspiration to come for this photo. In the meantime, I like it as it is. It almost looks like a set of pincers coming together, doesn't it?

Actually, I have a version in the works with a Jung quote on it but I am not sure that is what I want to use for this photo so I am keeping it under wraps for now.

Uncommon shapes, that's the theme for week six of the 52 Photos Project.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tyler's Tree: May

I took this photo earlier in May, just almost waited till past May to post it! The tree is doing very well, growing and putting on new branches. The two flowerbeds you can see in the photo are very disheveled. We planted things in both beds without thoroughly cleaning them out. The theory was/is that the things we've planted will eventually take over the things we do not want in the beds. I have my doubts about that theory! Every weekend that we go up there, I pull a few more weeds. I must remember, gardening, like so many other things, is a process. Never a "once and done" thing.

I've been thinking about that a lot lately, how we never really "arrive," how we "learn" some lessons over and over in life. One of my biggest downfalls is that I think I have to have everything in order before I tackle actually living. It is not so, people! I have to live right here, right now, where I am, or I will have wasted my life.

Begin the work, the task, whatever it is, and know you may work on it your entire life, or you may complete the task only to be faced with other tasks. Such is life, I suppose.

Several weeks ago, I very casually began (or restarted) the task of moving toward better physical health. I signed up for "myfitnesspal" and "sparkpeople." I have been walking almost every day, I've been taking my medicines as prescribed (not skipping my night doses, not pouting because I have to take meds) and I have been tracking everything I eat. I installed the apps on my phone which makes it very easy to enter all the information. I've lost some weight. I'm not sure how much because I did not have a scale when I started and I just guessed my weight based on my last doctor visit. I am now within one or two pounds of where I was in November of 2011 after I had my cancer surgery*. But I still have more to lose. I've almost been doing this long enough that the experts would say I have established the habit. I am not so sure. In some ways, it is a big fat mind game, and I keep having to tell myself that just because I might not being doing the task perfectly, it doesn't mean I should quit altogether.

I checked out a book from the library (twice, I'm going to order a copy for myself) that has been very helpful to me. It's called "The Healthiest You: Take Charge of Your Brain to Change Your Life," by Kelly Traver. It's a 12 week program where you make small changes over the course of time. Of course, I have not followed her suggestions! I am still reading through the book. She does an excellent job of explaining things in terms so that one can make the connection between bad eating habits and poor health. I was planning on reading the book cover to cover and then going back and implementing her various tasks through the 12 weeks. As it turned out, I signed myself up on those websites and began recording my food intake and exercising. So I have begun. And I hope I continue!

Perhaps the "gardening theory" I spoke of earlier will work for me in my pursuit of better health--the good habits I am planting will soon (eventually) overtake the bad habits if I just keep on working on them.

(*A story of varying perspectives about my weight loss before and after the colon cancer surgery: When I went to visit the surgeon for the first time, I was a tad bit proud of my recent weight loss of about 20 pounds. However, I still was overweight. So when the surgeon mentioned the problem of having to go through "some fat" I was just a little bit insulted at first thought! But I realized he was right and it IS a problem.

I was visiting with an old friend the other night whose youngest daughter had to have surgery for Chron's disease. She'd had her surgery done here in town and couldn't remember the surgeon's name. She told the story of how the doctor who recommended the surgery told her daughter the surgeon would LOVE operating on her because she was thin!

I  realized then that she was probable talking about my surgeon so I named my surgeon to my friend and she said "yeah, that's him!" So I was mad all over again at my surgeon for daring to mention the obvious to me!

In spite of that, I liked him a lot and he did a great job. He is known around here as the Colon King. He served in the military and worked around big military jets which impacted his hearing. So you have to sort of talk loud about your business. That part was not so much fun, yelling out in a hospital room where you know they can hear you all through the halls, "YEAH, DOC, MY BOWELS MOVED TODAY. IT WAS GREAT AND EVERYTHING WORKED JUST FINE!")

Two last things and I will hush--My oncologist told me the biggest factor that would cause the cancer to come back is a high fat diet. I read on the internet that not enough oncologists tell their patients that regular exercise is a huge help in causing cancers not to come back. I am trying to work on both of those factors. I can't control these things (and I do not necessarily spend a lot of time fretting about it coming back) but I can do some things to help improve my odds. 

Actually, I have one other thing to say about this current pursuit of better health. I have a friend at work who has done an awful lot of work on her health and fitness. It's been very inspiring to watch her and to see the results of the changes she has made. I won't name her here, but she knows who she is and I just want to say, "thank you very much, friend, for the inspiration and the courageous example you have been." I just might add a few years to my life, thanks to you!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

"Show up and Shut Up"

(My son's first, and last, pair of boots. Photo taken at a picturesque little open air chapel, a very peaceful spot for me.)

I've seen this quote several places in the last week, with people passing it on from Rick Warren's Facebook page.

In 2011, I was inducted into two tribes, neither of which I wanted to be in. The first was the Cancer Tribe in November, the second was the Bereaved Parent Tribe in December. And, well, a year later I was also inducted into the One Year Cancer Free Tribe, which I wanted to belong to and for which I am very grateful.

These things change your life. And you learn things about how to comfort others, things you might never have learned any other way. But it's a high price to pay for the privilege of learning.

It takes a special kind of person, a hardy person, to be able to "show up and shut up" and, I would add, sit with, a person in such deep pain, in that place where there are often so many unanswered questions.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

52 Photos Project, Week Five: Water Droplets

 (and a story of grief and gratitude, of joy and sorrow)

These are photos from November of 2010. I used the stick in the second photo to create a "thang" that still rings true to me.

I was reminded that joy and sorrow are never far apart today when I read a post on 3X3X365 that talked about honoring death and grief (it's the middle photo and story). When she wrote about the grave being covered by fake green grass carpet, she triggered a memory for me of my son's burial.

The cemetery is about an hour and a half away from where the funeral services were held. Several of his friends stopped to eat at a home where they all often hung out together. They thought they had plenty of time. But they were a little late arriving, and some of them were pallbearers. Because the friends were late and we took a little longer than planned, the grave digger people could not wait for us to all clear out before they lowered the casket. They had another burial at another cemetery to attend to. So there I was, still sitting in my front row seat, the grieving mother with what was left of her family. I watched carefully as they lowered the casket in the ground and then shoveled the dirt back in over the casket. Somehow, watching that ritual was strangely comforting to me.

I did not know until I read the blog post story today about honoring death and grief that I am so grateful his friends were a little late so that circumstances transpired such that I could sit and breathe my final goodbyes to my son's body.

Joy and sorrow, they are never far apart.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

I Made a Cairn!

Creating this was such a fun experience. It was all so accidental! I had written love, joy and peace on the three rocks and had taken photos of them with my phone. My intentions were to keep a bowl around and fill it with rocks with different words on them.

This past weekend as I was walking, I noticed the rock that I've written perseverance on. I didn't stop to pick it up until I'd gone to the end of the road and turned back around. I was in the country and part of my walk was on a dirt road, which is a bit difficult when you are accustomed to walking on hard concrete. I liked the rock because it was long and relatively flat which meant it would be easy to write on. When I picked it up, I knew I wanted a long word to take up all the space I had. Since I was struggling with my walk, perseverance was the first long word that came to my mind!

I got home from my walk and sat down on the porch to write on the rock. By this time it was fairly dark and I was writing by candlelight (the ones you light to keep the mosquitoes away). I wrote the word twice and left letters out both times! The third time was most definitely the charm! I finally got it spelled right. I persevered!

(Perseverance might also have been on my mind because the day before I'd celebrated 39 years of maintaining the satisfying annoying delicate balance people refer to as marriage! LOL)

I do not know what possessed me to begin trying to stack these rocks but that is exactly what I did the next day after my walk. I fiddled and played, and got extra rocks from my stash I'd picked up on other walks. Finally I got this arrangement to stay stacked. But the rocks that have life and hope on them were blank and it didn't look right. I decided to put life on the big rock and then the empty hope rock looked lonely! So I thought a bit and added hope to the mix.

Maybe sometime I will find another rock that will balance between love and joy. I'm not sure. It will be difficult as the love rock was the most difficult rock of all to keep balanced (and that surely might be a metaphor!).

Anyway, it was a very Zen thing to do, relaxing and soothing. I might try to make another cairn someday soon. In the meantime, I am very pleased with this one!

Also this past weekend, I looked up from talking to my husband just in time to see a bobcat cross the driveway road into our yard! It was one of the times when you blink and ask yourself, "Did I just see what I thought I saw?" It was probably a once in a lifetime experience.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


I did this one completely on my phone. I don't think I've posted it here.

This was a coneflower I'd taken a long while back. I played with it in Photoshop Elements.

And this was one of the honeysuckle (or wild azalea) that I'd taken earlier this year. 

52 Photos Project, Week Four: Crop It

I realized as I was getting ready to post that these are not actually the same photographs! But they are essentially the same, a cardinal at my backyard feeder, taken through the kitchen window this weekend.

I also realized, as I looked for a suitable photo for this week's 52 Photos Project theme, Crop It, that I probably don't crop often enough.

Most of the time, the only time I do it is when I am trying to bring something in a bit closer, as I did with this new bird we saw last weekend.

Facebook discussion indicates this is a summer tanager. We saw a couple of them again this weekend but I did not get photos of them.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

52 Photos Project, Week Three: Street Art

I know, it is not exactly normal street art, but it seems close enough for me. We bought sidewalk chalk last September to write messages on my son's grave for his birthday and we've kept the chalk up there in a zip-lok bag ever since. I came to the cemetery alone the day before Mother's Day and left a message for my son. Silly? Maybe so. But I still did it.

(My contribution to Week Three of 52 Photos Project.)

Sunday, May 05, 2013

STIMULUS- (my power to choose) -RESPONSE

I am trying to make some changes in my life. My area of focus is very scattered. Because, well, maybe because if I keep my focus very scattered I will actually hit something on my target. But if I don’t, I won’t feel so bad, because I can tell myself it was because my focus was so scattered!

I am bumbling back and forth between (at least) three self-help type books. One that I finished was a very old, very sexist book about how to live on 24 hours a day. In spite of the archaic language I got a lot of good out of the book. This quote happened to be in that book. I want to read Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning,” but that is a story and a desire for another day.

So here’s the thing: I want to become more aware of that space between stimulus and response. I really do believe that when I am more conscious of that space, and become more aware of the fact that I have the power to choose my response, I can (maybe) make some of the changes in my behavior that I want (and desperately need) to make. 

Let me just tell you, it is not as easy as it might sound. 

One recent evening, we waiting to be seating at a local Mexican restaurant. We had been told the wait would be 20-25 minutes. I am usually extremely patient about things like this. But (in my defense) it had been a while and I had not eaten lunch that day so I was hungry. I decided I would go and check to see how close we were to being seated. The nice little girl at the hostess stand told me we were next on the list. “Well,” she said, “there is one group ahead of you but there are 17 in that party and they will call you first.” I went back to my waiting spot in the vestibule to sit with my family. 

After about five minutes, they called the party of 17 (stimulus!).  I was fine at that point. I figured they would be calling us next (response!). But, no, they called a party of 14 (2nd stimulus!)! For some reason, that lit my fire. I got up and marched myself to the door (2nd response!). I could hear the shocked voices of my family behind me. Believe me when I say I am not usually the one who gets upset in public. Honestly, I am practically a saint. 

I shoved on the door and it dared not open! I know I stiffened up and got this crazed look on my face as I shoved the door again. My head was trying to tell me the door was not locked, that they were not “out to get me,” but I was not listening. I know it was not too long before I figured out I needed to pull the door to get it to open but when I did figure it out and opened the door, I noticed a woman on the inside giggling to herself. At me, I am sure. I would have giggled too, had I clearly seen myself. In fact, I am giggling now. But I also hope not to get myself into such a wild tizzy again anytime soon. 

I was really stirred up. I got to the hostess stand and told the little girl what had happened. She was beginning to explain (they must have had the group tables already set up and she didn’t know) when they called our names. Thank God, because I might have been almost ready to give that little girl a piece of my mind, and I really didn’t have any pieces to spare!  Instead, I said, “oh, okay, thanks” as I gently touched her arm (it’s a wonder she didn’t flinch, given my body language) and walked off, deeply humbled, to my table. 

Obviously, that is not the better part of me. Obviously, I missed the space between stimulus and response, where I could have chosen to behave in a better manner. Yep, that’s part of what I want to work on.

One of my many targets right now is a place where I really do need to respond with a righteous anger, and stand up for myself. Another target is in the area of taking care of my health. Yet another is in my own personal time management. And always, I could do with being a little less scatter-brained and a little more focused.

(I work in the Psychology Department of our local university. There are professors there who have spent their careers looking at various behaviors and how they are shaped. This is something I knew nothing about before going to work there. It's interesting stuff, but like many other things, it ain't magic. It takes work to make personal changes. One of the other books I am reading says that the brain fights change, but if you make slow changes over a period of time, you can fool the brain into not fighting the change. Or at least, that is my interpretation of what was said! It's a complicated battleground I am walking.)

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Missing the Country

We stayed in town this weekend, the first time in quite a while. So usually on Friday nights I am sitting in front of the fire pit or on the front porch pondering the meaning of life rather than squandering my night away on the internet.

I don't think I've posted this dogwood photo here on the blog. I took it a couple of weekends ago. The dogwoods are all through blooming now, as are the azaleas. They were gorgeous while they lasted.

My uncle built this bird feeder for me a while back. I took the photo of the cardinal through my kitchen window. We have since attached flat boards to the top of several fence posts so we can put food out for the birds. They are all very skiddish. I think eventually they will get used to us being around and I can get in closer to photograph them.

Usually this is what happens when I try to get their picture. They fly away. It's very annoying! It also explains why I am not much of a bird photographer. I don't have the patience to sit and wait for the birds to come flying in and then get accustomed to my presence so I can take their photo.

I did manage to catch this woodpecker at the top of our light pole. My lens is not quite as strong as I'd like it to be to get the bird photos.

Now this guy was as happy as he could be to take a few moments out of his busy schedule to pose for me! I'm not the world's greatest biology student. Someone smarter than me told he was doing this to woo the ladies. I think it worked. I saw him later with a friend.

I love this old cypress tree. It is on land that is near where my grandparents' lived. We would often go down there to look at the creek. I always thought it was the prettiest place. It was part of the scenery when I was writing for my "fake journal project" in April of 2011. I kept most of that project to myself.

In this present moment I find it fascinating that I imagined myself being in the house we have fixed up in the country when in reality it was so badly in need of repair. And now, a year later, the house is livable again and we are really going there nearly every weekend and it has been such a peaceful and healing place for us to be. And I am so grateful.

Here is the same scene in black and white. I don't know which version I like best.

I also planted sunflower seeds this past weekend. I hope they will be pushing up out of the ground when we go back. And my cousin's wife had given me a couple of climbing roses to plant. One of them had three buds on them so maybe they will have opened up and I can finally know what color they are. And maybe the wildflowers that I planted from seed will also be a little taller. Perhaps the honeysuckle that we are training to grow on the hurricane fence gate will be blooming, or at least will have climbed to the top of the gate (we put one of the gates from my grandparents' yard in the middle of our flower bed for the honeysuckle to grow on).

And maybe the huckleberries will be starting to show up! I saw a few green berries last weekend. Hopefully we will have enough for us AND the birds!

Ah, Spring is such a hopeful time of year. Though my phone shows it being 48 degrees outside. That doesn't feel so much like Spring and interferes with my Springish hopes!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

52 Photos Project, Week Two: Microscopic

Spider webs fascinate me. Wet spider webs with rain droplets thrill me. I can spend an inordinate amount of time fighting with my lens trying to get focused on the thin thread of a spider's web.

(My contribution to Week Two of the 52 Photos Project: Microscopic. Go check it out, there are many others who participate!)