Monday, January 31, 2011


Not KC.

This was SO not in the plans.

I am maintaining my composure quite well. Despite screaming, "Fuuuuuuuuck!" over and over in my head.

So, to summarize: I am now in a city with no family and no work. Stranded. Can't go home, probably for a couple days.

They just came on. Flight cancelled.


Last flight out

Seriously. I'm on The Last Flight outta here for probably a day and a half. At least. Lucky lucky.

I hear KC isn't as bad as STL. Here's hoping, since I have to drive a rental car there.

Pilot just confirmed. We are last!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Eagle #8

And in the time it took to do this, we spotted #9.


Port of Grafton

Relaxing in front of the fireplace

After our lunch of open-face roast beef, mashed pots with gravy, and corn. Yum.

Commence food coma.

Alton Bridge

Day trip to Pere Marquette!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Office fun

Many apologies for the absence.  Work has been a maelstrom of confusion and home has been fun and happy.  Between the two, I have not much news to report, or even anything particularly funny.

Well, except maybe about how I'm making fun at work despite the confusion.  (Explanation of the confusion to come later, by the way, when things are done being confusing.  If they ever are.)

My colleague who has the office next to mine was out of town for about two weeks straight, both trips to warmer locales.  He was poking me with a stick about it before he left.  Which, of course, means I need to get even with him.  I didn't have much time to put into it, so I wound up just adjusting his monitor and chair, and changing his ring tone on his office phone to the highest setting.  I figured he'd know right quick who was messing with him.

Turns out, not so much.  Once he returned, he moved the monitor and the chair back without a peep.  When his phone rang, hours later, he about jumped out of his skin and somehow didn't make the connection.

So guess who now sneaks into his office at every opportunity and turns the ringer all the way back up.  Yesterday was the best day so far, because I was on it, and recruited an accomplice.  The admin who sits outside his office is now a co-conspirator and turns up the ringer every chance she gets, too.

Yesterday afternoon, his phone rang.  It's so loud everyone in the office can hear it.  We can also hear him startle and curse before he answers it.  Then he mumbles about having a heart attack and what the f*ck is wrong with his d*mn phone, anyway?  At that point, I couldn't keep it in any longer and burst out laughing.  So did the admin.  He heard both of us and asked, "What's so funny?"  She was quick and came up with something unrelated, and then said, "I don't know what Amy is laughing about."  Thankfully, he didn't ask me, because at this point I was giggling so hard I couldn't breathe and tears were streaming down my face.

He left before me yesterday, and so I went in and upped the ringer again.  Which scared the crap out of the admin when she came in early today and went to do the same thing. We agree it's worth it, though.  We'd rather have some overlap than miss an opportunity to make Kyle pee his pants.  She's taking it to new levels, giving the IT guy a heads-up this morning that Kyle will probably come asking him to "fix" his phone.

My best office pranks have always involved a team.  This one just may trump the one that's held the record for being The Best Ever for about 15 years now.  I was leaving on a business trip where my pager (remember those?) wouldn't work, so I was going to leave it behind anyway.  I set the pager to vibrate only and had one of the technicians from the shop come up to the offices with a ladder.  He put my pager on top of the ceiling tile directly over the chair of, once again, the guy who had the office next to mine.  As I walked out the door for my trip, I paged myself.

Apparently Dave drove himself crazy for two days, trying to figure out where the short bursts of buzz were coming from.  He tore apart his office.  He tore apart my office.  It never buzzed long enough for him to zero in on it.  He got a tech and asked him to poke around in the drop ceiling.  The tech did, and found my pager with my name on it, stifled his laughter and replaced it, telling Dave, "Dude, there's nothing up here."  The pager's batteries finally wore down and it stopped buzzing, and he never did figure out what happened.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, should you ever work with me, try to not have the office right next to mine.

Thursday, January 20, 2011


Snow day today.  Zozer spent the day at her grandma's and I worked from home.  Took two breaks.  One was to shovel the driveway, so I guess you couldn't really call that a break.

The other was to make some birdie pictures.

I am not a birder.  Birders go crazy and photograph only birds.  In strikingly beautiful detail with exquisite color.  Their portfolios are gorgeous, and they're very knowledgeable.

But after awhile, it all starts to blur together.  Everything starts to look the same.  A bird is a bird is a bird.  I like more diversity.  I decided a long time ago to consciously not become a birder.


I do like birds.  Last year I purchased a bird feeder.  It's probably not a good one, technically speaking. But I like the bright yellow color and the meshiness and it takes black sunflower seeds which are good for oilers.  Whatever that means.  So I bought this adorable little yellow feeder and about 800 pounds of birdseed. (I had M with me, and the boy likes nothing more than to buy in bulk, thereby reducing the price-per-seed.)

I put the feeder up and filled it and it swung there for a couple weeks.  No birds.  I was disappointed, but reasoned I couldn't really do a damn thing about it.  Sit out there and call, "Here, birdie birdie birdie!" would probably be fruitless.

Then, in the fall, my feeder's business began to pick up.  I started having to refill the feeder every two weeks, then every week and a half, and then every week.  Now that it's winter, it's much, much more often.

I looked out my office window today: egads!  The feeder was down to about an eighth.  I read somewhere that you shouldn't let it get below a quarter full or you'll lose your birds.  I tried to work, but worried and worried that it was too late.  I had lost my birds.  Finally I decided the distraction was too much so I got all bundled up again, waded through the snow, and refilled my feeder.

Within minutes, I had birds.  Lots and lots of them.  Distraction over birdseed grew into distraction just watching them.  Something about the peacefulness of the world - it's always so quiet after it snows - and these little birds going to town.

I don't have a great telephoto lens.  I have a crappy, plastic-barreled, sounds-impressive zoom that gets out to 300mm and wobbles all over the place when hand-held. Better than nuthin'.  Especially for as little as I go out to 300mm.

So these shots are pretty cruddy from a birder's point of view.  Technically awful and horrific and something I'm sure no self-respecting birder would ever show.

Good thing I'm not one of those.


I was trying less for a technically perfect photograph and more for the mood, the feeling, of watching these fat little birds get their fill on a quiet, snowy day.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Potties in heaven

Fielding some tough questions this week from The Bug.  It appears we're back on the ol' death & heaven subject.  I'm thrilled about that, you know, given my squeamishness regarding the very idea of it.

Last week, she wanted to know why the flags weren't all the way up on the flag poles.  I explained that it's called "half-staff," and it's because we, as Americans, are very sad about something that happened.  "What happened?"  (Yeah, like I didn't see that coming.)  I thought about it for a minute.

"A very mean man went into a crowd of people in Arizona, and he shot them with a gun."
"Are the people okay?"
"No, sweetie.  Some of them are hurt really bad, and some died and went to heaven.  But you know what?  The police got the mean man, and they took away his gun, and they locked him up in jail so he can't hurt anyone else."

As I'm telling her this, a feeling of dread washed over me because I realized I'm not able to always protect her.  I'm not able to protect any of us.  My heart broke, again, for Christina Taylor Green's parents.  In today's world, anything can happen.  Anything.  That's scary for me, a supposed grown-up, so I can't imagine how frightening it must be for a five-year-old.  I did the best I could to explain that the police help us stay safe, and that Mommy and Daddy will always try to keep her safe.

She had a lot of questions about the jail.  Where is it, how big is it, how does the mean man get his food.  Where is the gun.  That sort of thing.  I answered honestly, and tried hard to reinforce that she should feel safe.  When really, in my head, I'm screaming that none of us are safe, and that we never know what could happen.

She also recently asked, "Mommy, where will I stay if you and Daddy die?"  Oh, jeez.  So we talked about that, and I told her I wasn't planning on going anywhere, and she said okay.  And then a small voice from the backseat of the car (we always seem to have these convos in the car) said, "I will miss you."  I almost drove off the road.

Last night, as I tucked her into bed, she wanted to know how I would recognize her, and how she would recognize me, if we were in heaven with all the other people who go to heaven.  "What if there's another mommy there, who looks like you, and has the same shirt as you, and she knows my name, and it's not you?"  I climbed into bed with her, knowing this wasn't a short conversation.  We talked about it, and even though I reassured her she would know me, and I would know her, that wasn't cutting it in her book.  So we made a deal. In heaven, I will call her by a special name that only I call her, and that way she would know it's really me.  She was satisfied with that.  I also told her that no matter what, for ever and ever, I will always be her mommy.  Which, to be honest, also made me feel better.

This morning, she wanted to know if the mean man from Arizona will be in heaven.  No, he won't be.  He'll go to a place where all the other mean people go.  And it for sure isn't heaven.  I was just starting to worry that her questions are going way beyond the typical pre-schooler ideas, when she was completely, wholly, five years old again: "Mommy?  How do we go to the bathroom in heaven?  Are there potties in heaven?"

I said yes, there are potties in heaven, but are there, really?  Do our heavenly bodies, our spirits, require, ahem, facilities? Methinks I went with the simple answer, and the easiest for her to understand.

It's all a bit overwhelming at times, fielding these questions and trying to answer them in ways that are accurate (at least, as accurate as I know) and reassuring at the same time.  Especially when just thinking about it all gives me the heebie-jeebies.

Zoe's self-portrait

I sent this to M this morning. He responded, "Zozo is almost at my level of drawing without a ruler."

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The remains of the day

or at least our Rice Krispie treats pot.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mess be gone

The messy-house thing bit me in the butt this weekend, big time.

Yesterday I woke up feeling really, really awful.  Super terrifically omg-let-me-curl-up-in-a-ball-and-pass-out awful.  Which, as you can imagine, isn't possible when you have a five-year-old poking you in the forehead, "Mama?  I'm hungry!"

I got her some breakfast and contemplated my options.  I have a wealth of resources available to me...women who would, in a heartbeat, drop whatever they're doing and come to my aid.  I ran down the list in my head, which in and of itself is comforting.  And then reality struck.

I can't let anybody in here.  My house is beyond disaster-status and I would be mortified.

From the cluttered kitchen counter to the cat-barf stains on the carpet (Tachi has been on a spree) to the fur-covered couches and tumble-furs (as M calls them) that loll gently across the hardwood floor whenever there's a slight breeze.  Zoe-toys everywhere, a dining room table with crumbs, a stinky trash can (good night...what did we put in there?).

So I cleaned.  I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned.  I vacuumed and dusted and mopped and put everything away and de-furred the couches and Spot-Shotted the carpet.  I made my own glass cleaner (!) and hosed off the dining room table.  The fridge got cleaned out, the Christmas tree taken down, ornaments stowed for another year.

By the end of the day, I still felt awful and then exhausted on top of it, but relieved.  My house is finally, blessedly, clean.  And it smells good, too.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Christmas Card '10

I was very pleased with how our Christmas card turned out this year.  Zozer had this combination on one day to go to school, and I stripped her down and made her re-dress so it wouldn't get messed up before I could shoot her.  I just loved loved loved the colors.  They fit her vibrant personality.  So a few days later we had our shoot, and I made a ton of exposures, and then edited down and gave a few to M to review.  He and I both liked this one the best, so that's what we went with.  We got tons of compliments on it, which is awesome.  But I always think it's fun to show the stinkers, the ones that didn't quite make the cut. 

And so, here they are.  My little drama queen, during her close-up.  You can tell she's just thrilled with me in a couple of these.  (If you want to see them a little bigger, just click on 'em.)
One of these years, maybe when she's older and easily embarrassed by her mama, I'll actually use a blooper reel on the Christmas card instead of the keeper-shot.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Clare's Wedding Day (and why I won't do this professionally)

While we had planned to go to Cincinnati for Cousin Clare's wedding, and we had planned to stay with Cousins Dave and Meghan (and Rufus!), we hadn't given much thought to what we'd do, oh, the other 90% of the time we were up there.  Until...Meghan e-mailed me.  And in her sweet, adorable Meghan way, she said (I'm paraphrasing here), "Hey, so, Clare doesn't want to see any men before her wedding, so Mike's gotta get outta the house that day since that's where we're getting dressed, so he can hang out with the guys in the wedding party at the pub.  Oh, and since you can't go with the guys to the pub because you're a girl and you have cooties and the men would feel obliged to not say f*ck and do other manly things like burp and fart around you, and we don't have anywhere else for you to go when we kick you out of the house, you can hang out with us.  'kay?"


I thought this for two reasons:

1.) The Z women of Cincy are capital F.U.N.  I mean, these girls make laughing an Olympic sport.  One must prepare one's abdominal muscles for gales of laughter for hours on end.  It takes endurance.  Trust me.  I know this.

and 2.) PHOTO OP!

Clare is one of those remarkable women who looks good in every damn photograph taken of her.  She is beautiful inside and out (hard to tell where she's more beautiful, really), and smart as a whip.  If she weren't so damn sweet and adorable to boot, I'd resent the hell out of her.  Anyway, I knew that, if she'd let me, I could get some really great shots.

So, naturally, I butted right into her wedding day and stuck a big ol' black lens in her face.  The 17-55 f/2.8 to be precise.  She was gracious enough to let me document The Event before The Event, that is, the pre-wedding preparations.

With mimosas, no less.

Okay, so let's add this up: fun girls, great shooting, and mimosas.  That pretty much equals heaven in my book.  It was like I was in the wedding party, without having to do The Hair and The Face and The Dress. 

The photograph above was captured in Meghan's kitchen, after The Hair but before The Face.  Look at if she needs a single atom of make-up.  Anyway, it's my favorite of the lot, which is saying something as I made a haul that day image-wise.

Now is the time where my mom starts chirping her favorite song, You Should Do This For A Living.  So I will stop before she hits the refrain and say this:
  • 99.9% of brides are not as calm, cool, and collected as Clare.
  • There are way too many brides who require beer goggles to look good, and Nikon doesn't make  a decent set that I'm willing to put in front of a lens.  I assisted a wedding photog in the past, and know that no matter how much you spend on gear it still can't perform plastic surgery - too many brides complain that your images made her look unrealistically fat, puffy, red, snaggle-toothed or all of the above, when she actually is, in reality, all of the above.  "Does this lens make my ass look big?"
  • Four words: mother of the bride.
  • I don't want to work weekends, and weekend nights, through the best parts of the year.
  • Clare didn't know I was shooting until I showed up and pulled a honkin' camera out of my bag.  Which takes the pressure off.  I don't like pressure with photography.  Takes all the fun out of it.  And there's no higher pressure in photography than a wedding day, which typically can't be thrown back together for a photographic mulligan.
  • When you're working a wedding, they typically frown upon you helping yourself at the open bar.
This is all a round-about way of saying thank you to Clare for letting me share her special day.  And telling anyone who reads this, "No, I don't do weddings."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

On being messy

I haven't been blogging much because, well, because I've been lazy.  Lazy lazy lazy.  Sloth-like.  A giant slug.  The queen of vegging.  Procrastinator extraordinaire.

And it has felt great.

The house is a disaster.  If I don't finish laundry soon we'll be forced to string together dish towels to make clothes.  (Oh, wait, the dish towels are dirty, too.)  The Christmas tree is still up, and the stockings are still hung. Some of the Christmas presents are put away/in use, but there are still stacks in the library.  In fact, there stacks everywhere I look.  Magazines that piled up from last October through present.  Bills that are paid but not filed.  From the last two months, no less!  Zoe's new art supplies are scattered over the darkroom floor.  New books on the "Oooo, I can't wait to read" list.   Every shoe we own now resides by the back door.  And did I mention that laundry?

I needed this, though.  This time to just be messy.  Things that MUST get done ARE getting done, but little else. It's felt freeing, in a way.  Definitely relaxing.

By nature, I am not a messy person.  I much prefer order and organization to chaos.  Which, at least in my mind, goes against the very grain of creativity.  Isn't creativity supposed to be messy and glorious and feel a little bit like free-falling through life?  So why, in my Type A mind, can I not create unless everything else is done, tidied up, put away, filed for eternity?  I think it has to do with several things: being Type A is at the top of the list.  Being the pleaser first-born is there.  Being a working mom, for whom organization is the very essence of mere survival, contributes.  This self-defined notion that a "good life, the proper life, the key to success" is to be, or at least appear to be, in complete control at all times.

I would like to be more at ease with messiness.  This trial run has been good, but I'm realizing there's a reason I like order.  It's easier.  I just need to ensure that order and organization don't, as they have in the past, stand in the way of creativity.  I have to un-train (de-condition?) myself that the darkroom must be immaculate before I can work on images.  Because the darkroom is never, ever clean.  Three of us use it, creatively, far too often for it to stay clean. Plus it's the business center of the house.  Paperwork central.  (This is why our new house, hand to God, will have a bill/paperwork station/desk in the kitchen - it's too hard to be creative when a stack of retirement investment statements looms just within reach of the mouse.)

M leaves for Paris tomorrow.  I'll most likely do what I always do when he's gone: bury myself in projects to avoid thinking about how much I miss him.  I'll tackle the house after he's gone, when the temptation to hang out with him on the couch is also gone.

But I might just leave a little strategic messiness to get out of my tightly-knit personal, self-developed boundaries.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

At M's company holiday party

M = G+T
A = cheap white wine

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Can't even get through lunch

Just got back from lunch with my boss and a colleague.  Halfway through the meal, during a conversation about Las Vegas, my colleague brings up TV.  "I watch that show, Pawn Stars, that's set in Vegas.  Have you seen it?"

It's a daily thing.  It comes up in nearly every social setting.  I'm beginning to think television is way too important to Americans.

I now know that Pawn Stars is on the History Channel, five days a week, and stars someone named Chumley.  Or something like that.

(Thankfully, when I shook my head no to the question about whether I've seen Pawn Stars, the conversation didn't evolve into questions about what I do watch.  Which is usually where the wheels fall off.)

Shit my TV says

I went to a St. Louis Camera Club meeting last night.  My first in about a decade.  I figured they probably finally went digital and so I thought I'd check 'em out.  10 years ago they were all still shooting slide film, which is incredibly expensive to buy and have processed, and insanely expensive to make prints from, so I walked after about a year.  Anyway.  They have gone digital and so I went last night and had fun and will probably re-join the group.

When I got home shortly after 9, M was camped out on the couch surfing the internet with the TV on as background.  (We are greatly enjoying a sense of normalcy after the past few months of insanity.)  Some awards show was on.  I asked, "What is this?"  He told me it was the People's Choice Awards.  I hung out for a few minutes, telling him about the meeting and stuff when there were breaks in the action on TV.  The only person I recognized on the show was Queen Latifah (whom I adore - that girl rocks it no matter what she's doing). Well, and William Shatner who is playing the curmudgeon in "Shit My Dad Says," which I have followed on Twitter for a couple years and which is hilarious (the Twitter feed...not sure about the show as I've never seen it).

So I realized last night that I'm amazingly out of touch with pop culture these days.  The show introduced Kristen Stewart and my brain vaguely recalled the name and that it thinks she was in the Twilight movies which are about, maybe, vampires and werewolves and hobgoblins and what have you.  However.  I wouldn't recognize her if I saw her on the street.  Latifah introduced some other celebs who not only didn't look familiar, I didn't even recognize their names.  M asked, "Who are they?"  I shrugged.  "I dunno.  I'm gonna go wash my face and read a book."  And so ended my television watching.

Is it necessary to know pop culture?  I mean, by and large, my brain will not turn to mush if I don't watch television.  Quite the contrary.  However, am I missing something important by not being able to talk with or relate to others about what's currently on television?  So often, I'll be with a group of people and a television show is mentioned.  "Did you see...?"  In a group, it's easy for me to just go quiet and hang back.  One on one, though, is tougher.  I used to just say, "I don't watch television."  Several people told me that I'm being snobby about it, so now I shrug and apologize.  "I'm sorry, I don't really, um, watch TV?"  People look at me like I'm an alien, or still a snob, so I guess there's really no way around it.

I'm not trying to be a snob.  I don't think people are horrible for watching TV.  It's just now how I choose to spend my time.  It seems to be an issue, though, to others.

At one of my former jobs, the company had Casual Friday.  My boss decided that our department was "above" Casual Friday and that we needed to maintain business casual each day of the week.  (Easy for her to say...she didn't work on Fridays!)  After about a month of this, I went to her.  "This is becoming an issue.  Every Friday I get comments about my attire.  People ask me why I'm dressed up, if I have an interview somewhere else, if there's an event, etc.  Our attempt to maintain professionalism is backfiring, as being the odd duck is calling more attention to our dress than to our work.  It's actually wasting time."  She acquiesced and the following Friday we fit in and didn't have to answer 90 questions about our clothes.

The television thing reminds me of this.  If someone mentions a TV show, the conversation invariably turns to why I don't watch television.  And most of the time, I'm on the defensive.  I'm the odd person who doesn't do what's "normal."  I find myself explaining that we stopped watching television three years ago when we went back to school, simply because we had no time to watch.  Each and every night was devoted to homework.  It was the only way to make it through - something had to give, and television was it.  (Well, and pretty much ignoring our families and friends for two years.)  Then I say something about how I've tried to start watching again but it's hard to get into shows that have been on for a couple seasons already, etc.  People like to hear that.  They nod and say, "Yeah, I get that."   A couple people have recommended that I rent the back seasons on DVD to get caught up.  I just nod.

It's too difficult to explain that we realized we haven't really missed TV.  People, by and large, can't relate to that.  The only time I think I might miss it is when I have a conversation like that outlined above.  Only because of the hassle of having that conversation over and over again.

However, I'm not going to start watching again in an attempt to fit in.  For me, there's more to life than what's on the boob tube, and my life isn't somehow deficient because I don't watch.  In fact, I dare say my life is richer because of it.  I suppose I'm just surprised that I have to point that out to people. It's ironic that people think I'm truly missing something because I don't watch TV.

This week has been perfect for me.  Monday and Tuesday nights, we played games as a family (after we made dinner together, ate together, and cleaned up together).  Don't Spill the Beans and Trouble and Hungry Hungry Hippos.  Lots and lots and lots of laughing, hugs and kisses, and high-fives/fist bumps.  After tucking Zozer into bed, I've visited my favorite photography web sites and read an incredible book I received for Christmas.  I went to bed early, which let me have enough sleep to actually get my ass up at 5:10 a.m. and to the gym.  Last night I went to the photography club meeting and had a lovely conversation about my most favorite thing in the whole world, and saw over a hundred beautiful images created by people just like me.

How on earth can someone feel sorry for me for having these experiences instead of watching TV?  I just don't get it.

Monday, January 03, 2011


Well, here we go.  2011.  A new year.  A new outlook?


I don't have any big resolutions. I don't have any huge "Things I Want To Do in 2011" lists.  Because those things never, ever work out.  They are like the to-do lists I create for work.  I come in with a defined set of tasks to tackle and walk out at the end of the day with maybe one crossed off.  And despite being incredibly productive I feel like the day has been blown to hell because I didn't get to The List.

I had one rather large thing on my 2010 list that I did accomplish, and that was the sprint triathlon.  But other things that I wanted to do fell by the wayside.  However, I don't want to get hung up on the fact that I didn't try a certain local restaurant (that has since closed) because I had so many other great things happen instead.  The to-do list was scrapped in favor of far better things.  I'd rather go to Estes Park than the restaurant that closed.  I'd rather eat in the Corvette Cafe the day we picked up our new car.  I'd rather try what is billed as The World's Best Clam Chowder at The Black Pearl in Newport.  (I do think it is The World's Best, by the way.  It was yummy.)

2010 taught me to be open to possibility, and, to quote Jen Lemen, to know that the universe is unfolding exactly as it should.  This is particularly imperative in my career right now...more on that later.  If I feel like it.

Sure, I'll try to cram in more photography (as always).  I'll try to cut down on my f*cking expletive use (but don't hold me to to it, damn it).  I've given up on any semblance of weight loss and instead want just to be (and feel) healthy.  If I can complete a sprint triathlon, I figure I'm doing fine.  I won't hold myself to fitting into a certain jean size because that's just frustratingly ridiculous.

In other words, I have no specific goals in mind for this year.


I do rather like this idea:

Sunday, January 02, 2011

The party continues

for some, at least.

Peg game

Waiting for lunch at Cracker Barrel in Plainfield, IN. On our way home after an obscene amount of fun in Cincy.