Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I guess I'll play the rating game

I've been to a number of blogs that have joked about
their blog rating. I got curious and went to the blog rating site to see what my blog rating was. The reason my blog received the above rating is because of the following: pain (6x), crap (2x), and hell (1x). For some reason it totally cracks me up that a soon to be 50 year old woman's blog which deals primarily with flowers, melanoma, and neighborhood walks would be PG. Heck fire, sometimes I write a post and think to myself, when did I turn into Mr. Rogers (bless his soul)? I probably never was the wild child I aspired to be for far too long but lets face it, if my blog isn't G rated what is? Even this post, with its trip down memory lane, is so typically old lady looking back that it alone should make sure I get a G rating.

The funny part is that when I was 13, if I'd kept a blog it would have been at least PG rated. There I am with my Godmother trying oh so hard to be cool but mostly being 13. Even so, I wouldn't have wanted a child to read my blog as a child.
When I was 16, my blog, had there been an internet, would have deserved its R rating with a pretentious or trying too hard thrown in. Yep, that's me below at 16.Even when I was in my twenties and married I might have pulled off an R rated blog or at least PG. There I am being pensive.One last look back. This picture was taken in my thirties when I was already a Mom and performing songs from the cutting edge of compost. Note how I had already started saying compost instead of shit, even back then.Moving to the present, or not so long ago when I started this blog. Below is a shot taken shortly after my groin lymph node dissection. Is that a G rated lady in front of her blueberry bushes or what?
So in conclusion, I don't care how many times I say pain, crap, or hell, I deserve a G rating. Pain, crap, hell, pain, crap, hell, pain, crap, hell . . .

Monday, July 30, 2007

Closer, closer, closer

I may be going a little overboard with my close ups but I am entranced by how the closer I get, the more mystery there seems to be. I know I'm a bit silly with how I keep seeing the pistil as a mythical creature, but that is my first thought. I think wood nymph or fairy and almost never think pistil. I suppose part of the reason I'm fascinated by close up versions of what I see every day is because it lends a view not possible with the naked eye. The new view opens my imagination. Not that my imagination requires much prodding. I've always been quite comfortable in the land of pretend.Now that I've figured out more about how to get the macro view worked out with my latest camera, I am thinking about how to get better landscape shots too. I think a big part of it is remembering that unless I'm going to doctor up the shot with computer programs, I have to stop mentally editing what I shoot. Composition beyond the mental editing is another issue. Composition is easier with a close up. All I have to do with a close up is focus in on a tiny bit that interests me.That's not to suggest that with more attention to detail I can't improve on the close ups but they seem to take on a life of their own without much help from me. I am thinking more and more about taking a nature digital photography class. It wouldn't hurt and it might help. The lake I walk around which is close to where I live has a little arts center and they offer photography classes.
In a way it's rather odd that I haven't ever taken a photography class. It would be especially useful to take a class which is located somewhere I already enjoy taking pictures. There might be some simple techniques which would be useful for me to learn. It's nice to be thinking about something totally removed from melanoma. I almost hate to say that as if to name it I'll break the spell. However, it doesn't work like that. Even my imagination isn't quite developed enough to pretend my life hasn't changed as a result of having stage three melanoma but I can hopefully put it in its place and keep shifting and changing and learning.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Loving the Rain

Nothing like a dry summer to make the rain the most wondrous blessing. I have read that the scattered showers we're having don't have much of an impact on the drought and for the farmers and others whose living might be affected, I hope the rain will keep coming. For me, the morning and afternoon showers with some scattered sun during the day is truly wonderful.
The birds are happy too. I walk outside when the rain lets up and they are singing and dancing and splashing in the pools. The bird baths aren't located in good spots for pictures because there is too much blocking them from the camera lens unless I get almost on top of them. I prefer to watch them from my windows or a distance and not risk interrupting their baby bird pool time.The leaves and flowers don't mind if I get on top of them for a close up. Even the bees practically ignore me. I got a so so picture of a bumble bee in a flower but for now I'm posting the pictures with the big juicy water drops that make me feel good.
When I was a freshman in college I took a course in Indian literature and was introduced to the part that monsoons play in the culture of people in certain parts of the world. I was a little baffled by it at first and I can't pretend that I will ever truly understand how something as intense as a monsoon can make the difference in life for people who live in parts of the world where their agriculture depends on it. However, the older I get the more I have at least an inkling of it.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Land of the wood nyphs

I could almost see the little wood nymph pop down the hidey hole as I was walking around my front yard. With a little help from a closeup it was clear to me that there was a maze of paths in the mushroom village so only the invited could find their way in. Besides the fact that I'd need some shrinking elixar, I wasn't invited so I settled for a few photographs.
I think part of the reason I tend to have better luck with close-up nature photography than with larger landscapes is because I see what's not there more clearly than what is there, more than half the time. I admire the composition techniques a good landscape photographer (amateur and professional alike) uses to make an interesting picture. I have a lot of trouble with that because I look out at a scene and I add or subtract or soften in my mind but when I snap the picture, I realize that the bits I mentally erased end up dominating the scene and what I thought I saw was only there in my imagination.
For some reason I don't have a problem with mental editing or adding when I take a close up of a flower or mushroom or a small section of whatever I'm interested in outside. Sometimes I find that there is even more going on than I originally thought once I look at the close-ups on my screen. More going on in a good way as opposed to a busy way like I sometimes get with my attempts at landscapes. I completely missed the ethereal fairy in the center of the morning glory until I looked at it on the screen. That would have been a shame because she is at least as interesting to me as the velvet drape that surrounds her on the perimeter.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Summer Days

Since I have this blog to refer back to, I can refresh my failing memory about where I was at last summer. There's no way I'd ever read back over much of the text of this rambling blog but it's interesting how I can go back and a title or a photograph will make me remember. One big difference between last year and this year is I'm enjoying the lazy summer days. I'm not in a hurry for the chilly weather to re-energize me like I was last summer. I still complain about the heat sometimes (not so much on my blog but in conversation) but in general I'm enjoying the slower pace of summer. I can still walk if I get up early enough but I can also limit my gardening to garden photography because it's too hot to garden but it's not to hot to step out for a few pictures. The main thing I do in my garden of late, besides take pictures, is walk around with a watering can and toss a few splashes hither, thither.
About the time I despaired of whether anything would survive the heat and lack of rain we got some nice soaking storms over several days. The top picture is of my crepe myrtle tree in the height of its glory when the blossoms were almost red. The second picture was from a few days ago. The crepe myrtle blossoms are fading to a pinkish color and the red cardinal no longer tries to blend into the blossoms when it sees me coming. What's the point now that it's so much darker than the fading crepe myrtle blooms. Instead it perches on the shroud (pvc pipe covered in burlap to be literal) and pretends to be a flower of its own. Okay, I'll admit that may just be what I think its doing because it fooled me until I looked closely. I literally wondered if a flower was volunteering through the burlap but I was pretty sure the PVC pipe wasn't full of dirt to support such a volunteer.It was so funny to me how it perched perfectly still and then turned very slightly as if posing for the next shot. I think I may be enjoying this summer so much because I don't feel any compulsion to get much done besides work. Since the work I get paid for is done inside on my computer, I have the luxury of letting the garden get wilder and wilder and it continues to provide me with plenty of photo ops. I think crepe myrtle trees rank up there with my favorite ornamental trees. They are interesting all through the year, especially a big bushy one like mine. Some people top them and that style has its own charm but I like the way mine has different leaves in different seasons. The fall leaves are almost as pretty to me as the blossoms and I love the way so many different birds like to get deep inside the covering of leaves and blossoms.
It's funny how different people are about something like a tree. I was walking not to long ago with a nice lady who lives several blocks away from me. She's never been to my house but I've admired her garden and when we were both walking in the same direction we've ended up walking together a few times. I was talking about how much I love crepe myrtles and she said she can't stand them. She said her next door neighbor has a crepe myrtle that grows over the fence into her yard and makes a mess. I had to struggle not to burst out laughing because it struck me as so funny that someone who I enjoy walking with on occasion, and whose garden I admire, would have it in for a crepe myrtle. She said she's going to start cutting the branches that grow into her yard. I did say that I have a crepe myrtle that's a bit of a trespasser but that my neighbor is welcome to cut any guilty branches. Moving right along to another subject on a leisurely neighborly walk.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007


I was outside snapping some photos of my hydrangea when I heard what sounded just like a small human child screaming mommy but really drawing it out so it was more like maaaaahmeeeemaaaahmeeee. Scared me at first. I looked around and there was a juvenile mocking bird trying it's best to sound like a human child. Seriously it sounded like it was imitating the neighborhood children.
I managed to snap a few pictures and then a few more after it's mother chased it off into another tree. I'm pretty sure the second picture is the same child although it looks a little older so in the chasing that transpired, I may have caught another mockingbird in the next tree.
Once the birdie theatrics died down, I went back to zooming in on the hydrangea. I've photographed my hydrangea bush many times but never tried to get an individual out of the cluster blossoms. I'll admit that I got the idea from Confessions of a Pioneer Woman. I recently discovered her blog and am blown away by her photography. She had a photograph of an individual blossom on her hydrangea and I didn't even recognize it as a hydrangea until she said what it was. Although my photographs are quite different from hers, looking at what she does has helped give me some ideas which was why I was out playing with my hydrangea photography when the rowdy mockingbird sidetracked me, briefly.
I'm not quite sure how my hydrangea has ended up with a mix of blue and lavender blossoms. I know you can change the color based on the type of mulch used and how acidic the soil gets. However, I didn't realize that mixing pine straw and leaves would make my blue hydrangea end up blue and lavender.
Well, that's what has happened. The bush is practically split down the middle, one side of my blue hydrangea is still blue, the other side is lavender. It's so bizarre it makes me laugh and as Martha would say, that's a good thing. Somehow I doubt Ms. Stewart has any bushes that have mixed mulch and result in mixed flowers. It's not always easy being a slightly haphazard person but I do love the fun and surprises that sometimes come to the nuts.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's been a blogging year

I started this blog one year ago. I crashed my initial effort and lost the first two weeks of blog entries but I remember what they were about and where I was at. I was trying to push my physical activity level as hard as possible and was attempting to walk/jog again. I realized that running was probably not in the cards but I hoped that I could build up to a steady routine of walk/jogging. When I started this blog it was almost 18 months after my melanoma diagnosis and a little over a year after my chronic maladies began a few months after the groin LND. I was hoping that my emphasis would move away from the aftermath of melanoma and more towards gardening, pleasant walks and perhaps jogging, and that I'd start playing with photography again.
It certainly hasn't been a straight path but I have a lot to be grateful for. The friends I've made through the MPIP (it's been two years since I started participating on that site) and the support from them has meant so much. I appreciate people who've taken the time to visit this rambling photowordlog. Sometimes I lose site of the good and when I stop and realize how lucky I've been, I feel like an ungrateful jerk. I'm not ungrateful. I don't take what I have for granted and it's helpful for me to think through it all here.
When I sat down to write this look back over my blogging year, my initial thought was how things haven't changed that much. I started here trying to re-energize and move forward. I felt like after my first year of living with a stage III melanoma diagnosis, making it past the initial onset of chronic pain, making it past the first post LND scan where I had a mass which was consistent with a tumor recurrence and then thankfully it was a false alarm, that I was ready to begin putting it behind me. As it turned out the chronic mess got worse and my fitness efforts were stops and starts, I had a scan that couldn't rule out a recurrence (thankfully PET scans after that were good), I went through a bunch of physical therapy, I had a lump removed from my back (thankfully a benign lipoma), and here I am a year later once again ready to try and move forward and put the crap behind me.What I have to remember and be grateful for is in the final analysis, the news has been GREAT. I have not had a recurrence. I may have to settle for walks and stop trying to jog, but I can walk. I may have to settle for pain management but it can be managed. In so many ways, I am incredibly blessed. Most importantly, my daughter is healthy and in the scheme of things, I'm doing pretty damn well as I close out my 49th year. I turn 50 on November 11, 2007 and rather than get hung up on all those goals I had for turning 50 (before my post LND crap), what I should be grateful for is that it's looking like I will turn 50. When I find myself feeling like I'm back where I started a year ago, and perhaps that I've gone backwards a ways, I have to think about how many good things have happened. My daughter graduated from college and got a full scholarship for law school. Although that wasn't something I did, it makes me happy because she was able to make plans, follow through, move to a new town, and things are going well for her.I've been able to continue to work from home, take breaks to drown in the scent and texture of the flowers, walk on a wooded path on a regular basis. I am surrounded by the bird songs and shade trees and oh brother, am I starting to sound like a hallmark card or what? I think what I'm working around to accepting is there are much worse places to be than seemingly caught in circular motion. Circles have their own charm. Circles that keep ending with me continuing to try and find my own way of dealing with limitations I'm still adjusting to, beat the hell out of some far worse alternatives. It's been a blogging year . . .

Monday, July 23, 2007

More fun with close ups

Is it just me or does this look like a garden fairy lost her dress in her hurry to escape the wicked witch? Or perhaps it's the end of an orientalis plume.Just think, the gold finches, hummers, and butterflies can feast away and there will be many, many more of these beauties to come as long as we continue to get the soaking rain we've had lately.
I think I almost like the seed head of the echanasia better than the flower which is saying a lot because I love the purple petals. However, when the petals drop off I get to enjoy the seed head for many weeks before it gets to the stage where I toss them to the wind in strategic locations.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Up close and personal

After blogging yesterday about how, perhaps, my long time in coming patience could be one of the positive things to come out of this whole cancer deal; the little light bulb went off in my head. Why not go outside with my relatively new camera and tackle this macro/closeup issue. I'm on my third digital camera and although it's not super expensive, it's far more sophisticated than my first one which cost a grand total of 80 bucks if you were a member of something or another in 1999 (it was VERY cheap and limited). However, I got my best flower close-ups with that camera and have never felt as comfortable with any other digital camera I've owned, in terms of close ups.
I knew that there was no way that piece of junk first digital camera was really superior for close-ups. I couldn't even take one digital photo, with the first digital camera, at the resolution I can take hundreds and more photos with my current digital camera. My new camera has a ton of setting I haven't learned but it can also be switched to manual so it's more like the old 35 mm camera Bill got in the 1970s in Japan which was great. Not only that, later I can buy an adapter so I can add removable telephoto and wide angle lenses and then it really will be similar to the old camera I used until I went to digital ones. However, all this begs the issue that although, even without the add on lenses, having a much better telephoto lens built in to catch those flighty birds, than what I had with my early digital cameras, is great; and being able to take landscape shots without losing all the details is great; when it has come to close ups, I haven't been able to do as well as I did with the 80 buckaroo ultra cheapo digital camera. Yesterday afternoon, I went outside with my camera and I played. I still have a ways to go but voila, I think I have shown a little improvement with one session of fiddling with all the settings I didn't understand on my most recent camera. The last picture cracks me up. Talk about hiding your light under a barrel. I have quite a few gerber daisies that aren't hiding underneath the leaves but that one seemed to hold the most mystery. Or perhaps it's just a shy blossom. I'm rather proud of that plant because when my daughter was in 10th grade, a car pool mom gave it to me as a thank you for taking extra carpool pick ups for her. It was a nice little potted plant which I took out of the pot after it stopped blooming and discovered it was 3 plants. I divided them, planted them and they have come back each spring. They've even spread out a bit and 3 of the zillions of seeds they dropped, gave me 3 more plants so I have 6 healthy gerber daisy plants in my back garden for the price of a few extra car pool trips. Not a bad trade. Especially since I've had them now for over 7 years. Every spring I hold my breath unable to believe they will really come back but so far so good and we've had some of our most intense winters in that time period. The past few winters have been mild but as I recall 2001 through 2003 were amongst our most severe winters ever. I realize it's all relative but when you live in the southeast, 20 inches of snow at one time is an event. We're still talking about that one 6 years later.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Look Honey the Sky

I looked out the window last night and caught the most gorgeous sunset I've seen in a long time. I was reminded of when I used to drive my daughter crazy by making her come look at sunsets. She could be on the phone or studying for an exam but I would make her stop what she was doing and come look at the sky. I hope I didn't ruin sunsets for her for life.
For some reason catching the sunset last night made me think of a phase I went through of blowing bubbles. I still have a big jar of bubbles and different bubble wands in my water heater room so maybe I'll give it a go again. I got a lot of pleasure from the 6 months or so when I was doing that A LOT. It would be a lot less strange if I'd been 6 but I was actually 40 when I went through my recreational bubble blowing phase. My daughter was too old at 12 to be as enamored with bubble blowing as I was so it wasn't something I did with her. I would spend hours out on my deck blowing bubbles although I didn't always blow. I had some of the big wands you sweep around to make enormous bubbles.I think I started my bubble blowing phase when I was working through a program called the Artist's Way which was geared to getting back to the joy we have as children and to use that in artistic pursuits. I am a good and bad person for those programs. Oh I get into it all right but my problem has never been releasing my childlike side. That side is always too near the surface. My problem is having the patience to develop the craft side and adopt an attention to the details that make such a difference whether it's performing or fine arts.I've talked before about how it didn't take a melanoma diagnosis for me to stop and smell the flowers since I already did that. I also stopped and ate a few, such as nasturtiums. Maybe one positive aspect I can wrestle out of my cancer diagnosis is to develop patience. In a way I have developed more patience in the past two years than I had developed in the previous 48. I no longer expect any one doctor to find THE answer to the slew of mess I developed physically following my groin lymph node dissection. I spent 10 years writing and performing original music and never crafted an individual song in the way I would have liked to. Who knows, although I have no interest in performing again, maybe I could try my hand at actually crafting a song.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

You have got to be kidding

As I have mentioned many times on my blog, I love volunteers in my garden. Some volunteers are planned as in self seeding annuals and biennials. Others are surprises like the cherry orchard and mulberry trees. I've developed a theory that my house will either be pulled down or supported by the vines and ivies which are increasingly winding there way up the side and back of my house, some by intent, others by giving them their own willful way. However, it never would have occurred to me in a million years that my house's foundation would be an attractive spot for ferns. The closest planned ferns are at least 8 feet away. Apparently the storms which ended our summer drought sent some spores flying and that was all she wrote. When I glanced at the foundation of my house in the front and saw the fern above I burst out laughing and thought, you've got to be kidding God. Then I grabbed my camera.
The daily thunder showers have given me and my garden a new found energy. In spite of the fact that it feels a bit like pea soup outside with the heat and humidity, seeing the buds forming again on plants that looked like goners a few weeks ago, and how green and lush everything is becoming, makes me want to sing. There is something invigorating about water from the sky. I've collected about 30 gallons of water in large outdoor trashcans and washtubs so even if it dries up I have a lot of places to dip my watering can for the odd splash here and there.
My city has recently started year round water restriction which I was very pleased about. For summer after summer we've had to have mandatory restrictions on irrigation and other water usage but they never made the leap to putting sensible restrictions in place permanently until this year. There was a recent newspaper article in my local paper about how the bulk of the citations for ignoring the water usage restrictions were handed out to people in the most expensive houses with automatic irrigation systems to keep their lawns green and their flowers pretty. Suits me. The fines they are paying could be well spent in the community. Probably the same people that want to keep taxes low are willing to pay fines to have green grass so why not use their fines to help people who are homeless, or to build much needed new schools, or to help people that can't afford rising energy costs. The fines probably won't be spent that sensibly but one can but hope.I recently found out that the National Wildlife Federation will certify your yard as a Wildlife Habitat site. Looking over what you have to do to qualify, I was pretty sure that my yard would qualify although I'm not sure how my non native plants fit into the guidelines. I have everything they require but I also have a lot of non native plants too. The part of the program I find appealing is silly. First, the reason the silly part is appealing is because whether they certify me or not I'm already providing a rich habitat for wildlife so I don't need certification to do that. I am glad they encourage others to do the same and don't find that part silly at all. However, it's kind of silly that I want to be able to order their sign saying that my yard is certified by the NWF as a backyard wildlife habitat site. The reason I think the sign would be fun is my subdivision has a yard of the month sign. Every month, they reward one of my neighbors who has green grass (top priority) and well tended flower beds (slightly lower priority).
The one thing they don't reward are habitat gardens. Let's face it, birds poop on cars and trees litter on their neighbors yard. I'll admit it, I'm overstating and being a tad silly but I've already said this train of thought is silly. I've often joked that I'll never get yard of the month and my daughter pointed out that the reason was because I don't have a yard, I have a garden. Nice thought but I don't think that's it. I think it's about an overall attitude towards the way I want to live which is evidenced by my wild and woolly surroundings. I do think it would be hysterical to have a NWF sign certifying me as a habitat gardener which would say, hey guys this is intentional.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Permission to Play Hooky

At my age it's always more fun to play hooky when it's approved. I don't talk about my job online much because it's confidential (no not the CIA) and they let me work from home which is a necessary perk because I fear I'd have to apply for SSD if I had to commute daily. It's not exactly a state secret who I work for but since it involves tests and I don't want to run the risk of mentioning something I shouldn't, I tend to avoid discussing it in my blog. Since I do work from home I have some flexibility because I will work evening and weekends when necessary. The flip side is when work is slow I get to play, keeping track of it so when it's busy I make up time. I do feel obligated to be available during work hours unless I'm on vacation or sick leave because it's a full time job and occasionally I'm asked to do something which is needed fast. Not too long ago I had an unexpected conference call on my cell phone and it worked out but little did they know I was walking as fast as I could back home as I was on a morning walk. I could have said, I'm on a walk because I had worked the prior evening and intended to work a long day but with 2 PD's on the phone I didn't. Fortunately they did most of the talking and hopefully it wasn't too noticeable that I was panting when I had to talk.I'm in a brief lull before the storm with work. I know a huge project is on the horizon so I'm glad that I'm having a slower few days. What I wasn't sure how to handle is the planned electrical outage either tomorrow or Wednesday. The power company is installing new equipment so for one of those mornings I'll be off line and won't be answering emails with the quick response time I usually have for work. Also, if it takes the full time for the power workers, that they say it might, (and I also add to estimates) my house will be getting rather warm and I may want to go somewhere cool for a few hours. After much debate I let my PD know what was going on and she thanked me and said to enjoy the brief lull in work because it wasn't going to last long. Now I can play hooky when my power is out without feeling guilty.I may go to the YMCA and try the elliptical trainer which might be a good alternative for me anyway in the summer when it's too hot to walk. I don't know why I haven't done that yet this summer, as I keep thinking that I should. I'm having a lot of trouble these days getting motivated to do much physically and the odd part is I'm losing weight much faster than when I was pushing to do as much walking as possible. I think part of it is the heat. Although normally I have the benefit of AC, even being outside briefly curbs my appetite. Since I need to lose at least 30 pounds, I am going to go with the appetite loss and try to do enough walking so it's not like starting at square one when the weather cools down.When I was putting together health links, I noticed in the survivorship tools a report discussed the need to address physical therapy and other needs which survivors of surgery, chemo, etc. often have. I have been lucky in that I have had physical therapy, lymphedema specialist, pain specialist, and in general better care than many people. However, I sometimes wonder how different things might have been if I'd automatically been sent to a lymphedema clinic and physical therapist after the drain came out following my groin LND. I had the seroma (fluid pocket), ongoing nerve pain, a lot of adhesions, starting pretty early in the process. However, these issues weren't addressed at all until things got worse and worse. I wonder how many people find that to be true and how big of a difference it would make if potential problems were addressed before they become acute.