Monday, September 29, 2008

Everything's coming up roses

When I was growing up, my mom and dad would throw me and my sister in the ol' minivan and we'd set out on a grand adventure. (Gas was cheap and for some reason my sister and I didn't kill each other in our second-row captain's seats, although I admit there was a fair amount of poking and glaring.) Granted, these trips weren't always so grand, such as the time that we decided somewhere in south-central Illinois around 3 p.m. that we'd like to visit Hannibal and see all the Mark Twain exhibits. We arrived at 5:05. The exhibits all closed at 5. Pretty sure Mom still hasn't let Dad forget that one.

We took Grandma Gibby along on one of these Sunday excursions. It was fall, and we decided it'd be nice to have a nice, relaxing drive through the fall folliage. As we rolled along the countryside, Grandma kept exclaiming over the vibrant colors. The rest of us looked at each other, completely puzzled. I mean, the leaves were pretty, but mostly they were just sorta brown. Grandma acted like she was seeing Monet at every turn.

Finally one of us, I think it was Mom, figured out that the reason Grandma was so vocal in her appreciation of the folliage was that her sunglasses were tinted just the right shade so that everything was transformed into ultra 3-D Technicolor. We took turns passing Grandma's glasses around and each of us started exclaiming just as emphatically as she had. I'll never forget Daddy wearing Grandma's sunglasses as he drove.

Last month, when we took Zozer to the zoo for her birthday, I tossed my Jackie O sunglasses in the bottom of her stroller when we went for our carousel ride. Later, as I struggled to cram more stuff in there I heard a loud crack and knew that my Jackie O's were no more. Indeed, I had popped one of the sidepieces off. Damn. We went to Target last weekend and I got new glasses. They're smaller than the original Jackie O's, so I had to settle, but at least they block the sun and so therefore are functional. At this point in my life I'm rejoicing in items that are functional.

As we've been driving around, running errands and such, I've noticed that the world looks absolutely beautiful. Gorgeous color. Awesome definition in the clouds. That sort of thing. Then I realized: I purchased Grandma's glasses.

I highly recommend looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. It's pretty damn cool.

Friday, September 26, 2008

The good new days

M and I attended the wedding of one of his colleagues last weekend. Lovely affair. Beautiful bride, handsome groom, blah blah blah. I did my usual inspection of the hired photog (he was shooting Canon with a Quantaray external battery pack, and couldn't bounce flash off the ceiling because it was too high, just FYI. Most girls look at the dresses. I look at the gear, then the dresses.) The family sitting in front of us pulled out an SLR to take pictures, as is common. Two things struck me, though. First, they have never turned off the auto-focus confirmation beep. Which is a ridiculous thing to ever install on a camera, especially an SLR. So, during the aisle walks and the ceremony, this was heard in the relatively small church: beep beep! click. beep beep beep! click. beep! click. Not exactly what one wants as audio background to your wedding vows. The official photographer was loaded with gear and moved all over the place, but stealthy as a black cat on Halloween. He blended and was unobtrusive. As opposed to cousin Bernie with his fancy schmancy SLR that beeped every 20 seconds.

By the way, at my own wedding some odd years ago, I made it a point to inform those friends and family members wielding cameras that we had paid for a professional photographer to capture our special day, and could they please stay out of his (and our) way. Hacked at least one person off, but damn if our photographs didn't turn out awesome. Having worked for a wedding photographer, I understand how hard it is to work when you've got a million family members angling for their shots, or planting themselves in your tripod holes after you've spent 10 minutes arranging a group on the altar, or tripping your slaved flashes with their own flashes.

But I digress.

The second thing I noticed about aforementioned Uncle Bernie's camera was the automatic film wind after the shutter click. Holy shit. Someone still actually shoots film. It made me stop and think about how long it's been since I've heard an SLR actually advance film. It's gotta be years now. Which made me nostalgic for film and all the crap that goes with it.

When I was in high school, we used to buy our film (Kodak T-Max black and white) in bulk, which meant we loaded the film cartridges ourselves. I became very adept at using a bottle opener to pry metal film canisters apart without bending them to hell (which would let light leak in and ruin your roll). Loading unexposed film is an art, I think. Well, at least in high school it was, because there were always students who just couldn't get it. They'd disappear into the closet for what seemed like ages, then reappear with a jumbled mess in the light-tight bag. "Can someone help me? I can't get it."

To load film, you must do it in absolute darkness. Not one drop of light. We had a small room (storage closet, really) separate from our darkroom that was strictly for loading film canisters and for loading exposed film onto reels that were then inserted into the light-tight developing tanks for processing. I'd lock myself in and wait a moment for my eyes to adjust to pitch black, just to be sure I couldn't spot a little ray of light anywhere. I never did. After I felt confident, I used my tools I had carefully arranged on the desk in front of me before switching off the light. Open the bulk canister, and pull out the giant roll of 35 mm film. There was a way we measured approximate frames so we'd know how much we were loading into our canisters, but I can't remember that part. Cut your film, tape the first end to the spindle (being sure to have the film the right side up, because it'd be pretty stupid to load it backwards and get no images at all) and wind around and around and around. Fit the canister back together, feeding your leader through the felt-edged slot, and cram the end on tight. I could sit in there, in the dark, for an hour and load film canisters and be perfectly happy.

Thinking back on all this made me realize I haven't been in a blackest-black light tight room since then. I admit I kinda miss it. Along with processing my own film and getting to see the negatives for the first time. Bending over a light table with a loupe, studying negs to see if there was anything worth printing. Then working in the darkroom for hours, trying to produce the perfect print.

I miss the smell of developer. I miss the timer in the darkroom that my friend Kevin had pasted a picture of his grandfather's head to the center of, so Grandpa Thayer spun round and round and round as we worked. I miss watching the image appear on the paper, which I don't care how many times you see it, is like magic and can not be replicated by watching your image appear, line by line, from your inkjet printer. I miss rushing out to the light to see the print, and then bringing it back into the darkroom for its wash in the ice-cold drum. I do not miss plunging my hand into an ice-cold drum crammed with prints, trying to find mine. I miss that time of being alone (even if there were other people working in there) in the dark, working on something that made me happy. I even miss sitting at a table with a tiny bottle of Spotone, touching up dust spots on a finished print. Now I just use the clone tool in Photoshop.

I admit, new technology is good and has made me a better photographer. I shoot more and therefore learn more, and have more images to play with and work on. But I miss all that old-school stuff sometimes. Hearing that SLR advance film at the wedding last weekend brought all that back to me.

On the back of the wedding program, the bride and groom had written a message, thanking everyone for coming and we love you, etc. But there was one phrase in there that really resonated with me:

"...the capacity to love deeply, enjoy simply, and think freely."

Damn, isn't that what it's all about? Perhaps I equate all my high school darkroom work with a time that was relatively simple in my life. All I really needed to do was get to school, where I had a sure-fire way to skip most of my other classes to spend the day in the darkroom. Out of school, I did everything I could to shoot. I had no obligations, really, except for the enormous number of extracurricular activities on my plate (huh, some things never change, eh?). I didn't have to pay for my film or paper, or my chemicals. I had a good camera my folks had gotten me for Christmas, so I didn't have to check out the beater Pentax K1000s in the class pool. Homework didn't take me 20 hours a week like it does now. The only kid I had to worry about was myself, and bills were something that sat on my parents' shoulders, not mine.

So, while I miss the darkroom, I think I'll stick with my digital set-up, which is much more conducive to my current lifestyle, complicated and sticky and wonderful as it is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Making a difference

Went to a "Women and Science" luncheon sponsored by Siteman Cancer Center this afternoon. They have these about once a quarter and they always bring in some fancypants doctor who tells us things we should know about living healthy and all the great things that Siteman and Washington University are doing because they know, for the most part, that we're gonna ignore all their advice and they'll have to help our disease-ridden asses out sometime in the future.

The doctor introduced today was, as usual, brilliant. He's a viralogist and epidemiologist and about fifteen other kind of -gists. It took the person introducing him about 10 minutes to read all his education, credentials and research experience, and she got hung up on more than one five-syllable word.

I tuned out after awhile, because really, at a certain point it was all meaningless to me. The intro, that is. His talk was wonderful.

So, anyway, the intro got me to thinking about what I've done with my life. Actually, my colleague leaning over 3/4 of the way through the intro and whispering, "And what have you accomplished today?" got me to thinking about what I've done with my life. At first I was a little disappointed with myself. I mean, marketing for a day spa? Really? Not exactly earth-shattering.

But then I thought about how I'm one of the two most important people in the whole entire world to a phenomenal little girl, and how cool that is. "Mommy" is the highest title I will ever earn in my life, and I'm proud as hell to have it. Beyond that, I'm pretty happy in that I do feel as though I make a difference in my job; my actions affect the business, and the business affects 160 employees who depend on their jobs to earn a living to support their own families. My efforts as a wife mean that I have an awesome husband who makes the world a better place just by being in it, and if I support him even one iota in that, then I've succeeded. My volunteerism serves to help people I don't even know (and some I do). And there are a few people in the world who enjoy my photographs, which I selfishly make just for me...what more could I ask for?

So I'm thinking I don't really need a medical degree from Harvard and years spent learning about how this virus affects that cancer to make a difference in the world. At least, in my little corner of the world.

Want to help me make a difference? E-mail me to find out how you can help couples struggling with infertility just by eating dinner at McAllister's Deli in Des Peres tomorrow night!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


So, as you know, I like to visit different photographers' web sites and have a look around. Sometimes I hit some real bombs, and some are rather good. Then there are those that make you suck in your breath really quick and go, "Ooooooo."

I hit one of those this morning, and thankfully I had just swallowed the Raisin Bran or that would have been bad.

I have my list 'o favorite photogs and I visit from time to time, just to see what's up, if they've done any new work, etc. One of the guys I like to drop in on conducts regular workshops with another photographer. I'm starting to see his name around other places, too, like in LensWork and such. I never much paid attention before, but this morning, while perusing said first guy's site, I clicked on a link for second guy's site just for shits.

Sucker punch right in the solar plexus. Wow. Made me pine away for my Nikon and want to play hookie from work today, just to go try to make images like that.

Way cool stuff.

Food for the soul, I say.

Suddenly, I don't care too much about the group project any more.

Posting schmosting

In our on-line class, we have a discussion forum. This is where we can post comments and questions, and interact with our classmates. It's our "classroom" so to speak. Because we have group projects this term, our instructor created separate, private discussion boards for each group. We can post to each other and none of the other groups can see it, which would be awesome except at this point my group really has nothing worthy to steal.

Last night, my group's discussion board hit 100 posts. I wondered, because I'm a giant nerd and there were a few brain cells actually not working on my own and four others' homework, if 100 posts for the group board was average, high or low.

"Hey, M," I said. If I'm gonna be distracted from my studies, I might as well take him down with me. "How many posts does your group board have?" He checked - they have 105 posts. I thought that was mildly interesting. A short time later I mentioned to him for the bajillionth time how worthless my teammates are. He asked what they were posting. I read about 10 out loud to him.

He said, "So, your people are posting, but they're not really saying anything."


Monday, September 22, 2008

The term "group" is relative

I figured out pretty early in my high school career that I don't care for group projects. "Group project" is a different way of saying, "Hey, slackers! You get a free pass for this assignment, because the anal-retentive control freak in your group will do all the work, thereby ensuring you have an easy A! So sit back, relax, and say, 'Duuuuude, you need me to do anything?!'" Since I'm the anal-retentive control freak who does all the work, group projects aren't exactly my cup o' tea.

This feeling continued pretty much through college, and it was with much relief that I graduated and could put group projects behind me. Granted, I have to work within groups every day at work, but it's different somehow. People get fired if they slack. I'm a big fan of consequences.

Anyhoo, I've been doing just fine in my post-graduate studies with nary a thought about those old, stressful, group-project riddled times. Until advanced finance. Where I find myself, yet again, a pushy team leader who needs an internet-based cattle prod to get my teammates off their asses and actually, you know, contributing.

I did most of the work for the first portion of the project. We just got it graded, and got a 90% on it. All of the mistakes but one are the result of the teensy bit of work that someone else actually did. And did that person correct his mistakes and move on? Hell, no. He instead moaned about how sorry he was that he screwed up, and then proceeded to ensure that he won't be any help this week, either, when we have another portion of the project due. I got to go in and correct his mistakes, and move everyone forward onto the next step. Which they aren't doing. Because they have a myriad of reasons why. Like they're too busy getting stoned and saying, "Duuuude."

M has a pretty decent group, hence his 10 out of 10 on the first portion. That's what I would expect to happen in grad school. People step up and do what they're supposed to do and act all professional-like. I say it's a bit hard, though, for one person to do the job of four people, all while also completing reading, homework, discussion, quizzes and a mid-term. There are only so many hours in the day, people. I'll grudgingly take my 90%, although I really wish I could fire my team.

I hate group projects.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Just a thought

Have you ever had one of those days where you don't figure out until 4 o'clock in the afternoon that you've been wearing your underwear inside-out the whole day?

Yeah, me neither.

She don't need no stinkin' nap

Zozer has decided that nap time, at home at least, is not a time for napping, but instead a time of exploration and song. The last few weekends she's been more apt to engage in activity than slumber. Here's a summary of her nap-time exploits.

A few weekends ago, she "discovered" the baby monitor. She's known about it for quite some time, and likes to stand in our room and scream loud enough for the speaker in her room to pick it up and transmit it to the receiver in our room. The red bars bounce and she laughs with delight. That's been going on for quite some time. A few weeks ago, though, she put two and two together and determined that the monitor could, in essence, be used to summon her parents.

She was in her crib, most definitely not sleeping. Songs interspersed with dialogue (one-sided, although perhaps she can hear Hoot talking back), that sort of thing. I like listening on the monitor because it's a way to peek into her brain. So I was in our bedroom, listening, and then suddenly I heard this:

"Oh, I'll just get the baby monitor."
"Helloooooo? Helloooooooo! HELLOOOOOOOO!"
"I like the baby monitor"

I ran to get M so he could listen, too, and when we went in later to get her up she pointed to the monitor, now in a different position on the dresser, and said, "I found a spot for it."

Zoe has also figured out how to open the wooden shutters that cover our windows. We recently moved her crib to free up space in her room, and now the crib is near one of her windows. She likes to stand in her crib and open the shutters, and peer out into the world. Normally she opens them and begins an audio catalog of what she sees: "Birds, squirrels, trees and flowers! Oh, and a house, cars, playground! A lawnmower! A fence!" While this is amusing, it's nothing compared to what she saw last Saturday.

Once again, she was in her room and I was in ours, listening on the monitor (now strategically positioned by M so as not to allow her to use it as a one-way walkie-talkie). I heard the shutters creak open and the catalog begin. Then I heard this:

"Hey, I see someone! It's Gene! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hi! Hello! Do you see me? Gene! Hi! Do you see me?" I looked out my window. He didn't see her, or hear her ('cause her window was closed, natch), but that didn't stop her from trying. I told M, "It's only a matter of time until she figures out to knock on the window." Within minutes, the knocking started. By then Gene had finished up in the yard and went inside, so he never did get to see an adorable face peering out the bottom corner of a window in the house next door.

And people wonder why we haven't moved her to a big-girl bed yet. She'd be out visiting the neighbors instead of sleeping.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Writer's block

I think that there is only a finite amount of work a human being can do in one day. After that point has been reached, the brain shuts off. "Nope. Uh uh. Not gonna do it."

I have hit that point today.

This morning was filled with lots of little projects, culminating in one slightly bigger project that required creative writing. Which, at that point, my brain was not wanting to do. It's like when your car sputters and has a hard time starting when your gas tank is almost empty. It'll run, but grudgingly.

So it was particularly hard for me to get my brain engaged in creative writing this afternoon, which was compounded by the fact that I was on deadline and really needed to wrap it up. I wrote something and knew it was crap. I read it out loud to my colleague, who doesn't mince words. "That sucks." That lead to five wasted minutes of conversational boxing:

"That sucks. I don't like it."
"Shut up."
"Well, it does."
"You write it, then."
"No, you're the writer. Just write something better."
"Don't you think if I could write something better, I would?"
"Well, you need to write something different. Because that sucks."
"Shut up...I know."

This, of course, was all punctuated with various hand gestures. I finally produced something marginally better that people here seem to be pleased with, although I'm getting a secret chuckle out of the fact that I have "but" twice in the first 8 seconds. I mean, it's not "butt," but it sounds like it.

And now my brain's gas tank is completely empty and I'm half-ass searching the piles on my desk for tasks that require little to no brain power.

Wouldja look at that? I just wasted five whole minutes here!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


My third visit to the ortho in six days confirms that something is indeed wrong, as I suspected. It's kinda cool, actually, in a grisly sort of way. Apparently I'm rejecting an internal suture. Cool, huh? Except that now a little bit of infection is starting, so we're nipping that in the bud. I got to visit Walgreens this morning and walked out with a mini-pharmacy in my shopping bag: antibiotic pills, antibiotic cream, hydrogen peroxide and a heat pack.

Apparently the heat will help the renegade suture work its way to the surface, where, after it's out enough, I get to pull it out the rest of the way. That part totally grossed out M on the phone this morning (he's still in Atlanta), which was really fun. I think part of it had to do with the fact that he's hung over, having collaborated with his (male) coworkers to throw a "bachelorette party" for one of their (female) colleagues.

The great news is that the wraps are all off. No more ace bandage, no more brace, no more nuthin'. Just a little ol' Band-Aid. Which, after weeks of being wrapped to high heaven, feels weird and awesome at the same time. Typing is much easier, and I'm working my way back up to my normal speed of a gajillion words/minute.

You know the best thing about this whole surgery thing? I mean beyond the "no more pain" stuff and getting my grip back and all that. The coolest thing is that I'm gonna have a wicked scar to show off. It's s-shaped. Serpentine, I'm calling it. Because, you know, I have to use a big fancy word instead of something normal. My other scars are pretty cool, though, too. One from a car accident (thigh) and the Zozer c-section scar (that only one person gets to see). That's about it.

You know who has great scars? M. M has awesome scars. My favorite is the one just below his eyebrow, earned when he was a child and fell off the toilet while watching his mom get ready to go to a funeral. Then he's got the little notch on his forehead from running himself into a piece of plywood at our first house, the incisions for his appendectomy and his shoulder surgery, and the remnants of various cuts and burns on his arms and legs. The boy's body tells a story, that's for sure.

So, that's about it for me. M comes home tonight (yippee!) and I'm returning to normal (whatever that is). Finance continues to kick our collective ass this term. Work is good, home is good, and Zozer rocks. I have a bunch of stories I need to post here, as she's coming up with new material nearly every day now.

Here's a tidbit:
The other day while M was dressing her and all I could do was watch, I realized yet again that I'm simply mesmerized by her. So I said to M, "She just blows me away, you know?" Zoe solemnly said, "I blow Mommy away." Then she looked at me quizzically and asked, "Mommy, when I blow you away, where do you go?"

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Back on wrist rest

Doc prescribes rest for wrist - part of incision not healing properly. Just took me 40 seconds to spell "properly" properly using only my left hand to type. Grrrrrrr.

Fortunately, I can mouse left-handed decently enough to Photoshop. Another goody from her birthday:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Long live Tina Fey and Amy Poehler

This is one of the funniest things to come out of SNL in years. I think it's actually eclipsed the infamous "lockbox-strategery" debate as my favorite SNL politcal parody.

Tina Fey rocks.

Waiting for the Train

First Birthday

Second Birthday

Third Birthday

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Catching Up

I filled almost three memory cards right before my surgery, thinking I'd get to muck around with the images while I recovered. Turns out I felt like doing pretty much absolutely nothing, so the images didn't even get dumped to the Mac until today.

The brace was removed Friday, and boy was that the start of a fun ride. I was so looking forward to being out of the damn thing that I completely overlooked the possibility that actually moving a body part that has recently been through surgery and then immobilized for 10 days is bound to be stiff or sore. It was both, and it wasn't pretty. I had prided myself on being off the pain meds for about five days before going back to the doc, only to have to go back on them for a day and a half after the brace came off. Doing much better now, though.

And tonight, finally, I transferred images over from mem card to computer, and went searching for the one in particular that I knew was good. It was one of those where the instant you trip the shutter, and the mirror clicks up and everything in your viewfinder goes black, you think, "Got it!" You don't even have to chimp the screen to know. But you do anyway, and then you drive M crazy the rest of the day going, "That's it. That's the shot of the day! Look at that!"

Total grab shot. We were waiting for the zoo train on her birthday and she was running around being her normal silly three-year-old self, when she ran straight towards me (and the camera). Click, click, click. The last click was it. Love it. Love her.

More to come...I've got a lot of catching up to do.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

T-12 hours

The cast comes off in 12 hours.

But who's counting?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008


I'm off this morning to the surgery center, to have my little friend who has taken up lodging on my wrist permanently removed. After surgery at 10:30 a.m., the wrist cyst will be no more! Of course, my right arm will essentially be like a club hanging off my body for a few days, but the little bastard that's been causing pain, numbness and loss of grip for months now will be gone.

I'm nervous, of course, but not about the surgery. I'm nervous about the loss of independence that comes after the surgery. I don't like to ask people for help, and I'll definitely need it, so I'm already a bit freaked about it.

I have taken some precautions, though. M is lined up to be my knight in shining armor (or Final Four t-shirt, whatever) for the day. Lots of people are bringing me food. The house is clean and the laundry is done, folded, and put away. And perhaps most importantly, I've put the camera on the tripod so as to avoid a futile one-handed attempt to snap it into its quick-release plate. There will be no shooting free-handed for awhile, but maybe I can catch up on some still-life work I've been meaning to get to.

I made tons of great images of Zozer this past weekend, as it was her third (!) birthday and we went to the zoo and for a ride on the Wabash Frisco, among other things. I'm hoping to perfect my left-handed Photoshopping skills quickly, and figure that my basic alterations (level adjustment, sharpening, cropping) will go fairly quickly even with my less-dominant hand.

Anyway, seeing as how typing will be reduced to left-handed hunt and peck, I don't think I'll be spending a lot of time here. And when I do feel like getting on, capitalization is likely to disappear. Just a warning.

I'll also be under the influence of pain meds. Which, come to think of it, might make for some very interesting posts.

Wish me luck!