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  • Jun
    19

    TOPIC: 365.

    Project 365-5 #3: Laissez-Faire

    When I look back over the last few years, I’ve spent most of them in a constant state of hyperactivity and stress.  While not all of it was stuff I brought on myself (certain health issues kinda just happen), a whole lot of it was.  At this time last year, I was in the middle of a two-month period of sleep deprivation brought on by chigger bites and overscheduling photo sessions that turned me into a raving disaster.  My exhaustion sent me rocketing back home from a dragonfly conference I’d been looking forward to for almost a year.

    This year, I’m happy to say, has been different.  I knew back in December when I made the decision to increase my photography prices that it would send me along one of two paths: either I’d continue to have clients and would be making enough to consider supporting myself as a full-time photographer, or my business would totally dry up and I’d have a little something I hadn’t seen in years: free time.  I was so worn out that I decided that whatever direction this process took, I was going to go with it and make the most of that path.

    You can probably tell that option #2 is where I’ve found myself.  Don’t get me wrong–I’ve still been shooting for friends and family, and I don’t think I will ever want to let that go as long as they’ll have me.  But it’s been so manageable.  Shooting less, and not spending every weekend tied to my computer screen, has made pretty much everything in my life more enjoyable.  I can say yes when someone wants to hang out.  I can go watch birds and bugs.  I just got back from a butterfly conference in Chattanooga, and I never once entertained the idea of leaving early.  I’ve had the time to spend with my mom while she’s been completing the back half of her chemo regimen.

    Plus, things have been what I would generously call insane at my regular job (you may have heard of a little thing called parking on the grass).  Had I been trying to work a shuttle launch (no, not the space kind–I’m not that cool), run a media relations campaign, AND shoot 2-3 times a week, I’d probably just be spending every waking moment sobbing.  I needed to take a step back.  It stings a little bit to move on from this era of my life, because I poured so much into it, but the writing was on the wall.  I’m a fatally poor businessperson, I enjoy portrait photography more when I’m doing it as a hobby, and I’m in love with the conservation field and really want to continue in it.  I don’t find myself in a situation where I have to shoot portraits or I’m completely lost.  I’m lucky enough to have a lot of things that interest me.  Happily, one of those things hands me a paycheck without my having to ask for it, which is why it probably makes long-term sense for me to stick with that.  I’ll save for another day my melancholy ruminations about how we photographers are initially so desperate for clients that we price ourselves too low for too long, ensuring that most of us will burn out just as soon as we get really good at it.  (And that people will expect a custom service to cost very little.)  There will always be another generation ready to take our place for a few years, and so it will go.  I’m not bitter or upset about it at all, because I know I brought it on myself 100%.  But I bet if I did it all over again, I’d make a lot of the same mistakes anyway.  Because I’m a ninny, and ninnies may just be more content working for The Man.  Or in my case, The Environment.  😉

    (Welcome to my thirties.  One of these days, I’ll do a Project 365 post that doesn’t involve philosophical rumination on career and life choices.  I’m sure there’s a more entertaining way to fill space!  Thank you if you are reading this for some reason.  Ha.)

    As far as highlights from this quarter go, I’m going to urge you to read the caption entitled “Fire Ant” for one of the weirdest-ever culminations of “What a cool camera–will you take our picture?”  I veer into some epic tangents, including the full expression of my rage at the “How I Met Your Mother” finale.  (An argument for “bail when something starts to suck” if ever there was one.)  I pay a brief tribute to country-western artist Moe Bandy.  And the final photo in the slideshow is captioned entirely with content from my all-time favorite Twitter account, which is a parody account by the “employees” of the truly terrible Kroger grocery in the neighborhood where I work.  It contains the phrase “due to cheese problems,” and if those four words strung together don’t amuse you, well.  I don’t know what to do with you.

    Here’s hoping you’re getting through the day without cheese problems, friends.

    (Don’t see any images below?  Click on the title of this post!)

     

    3/16/14: The Bike, My Sweet - On Sunday, Carissa and I reprised last year's Bosco's brunch date, this time with Baby Luke in tow. While we waited for our buzzer to sound, we visited Sweet Noshings across the street and picked up some chocolate for later. This is a tradition well worth keeping. Baby Luke even got chatted up by a member of Joyce Cobb's band.

    3/16/14: The Bike, My Sweet - On Sunday, Carissa and I reprised last year's Bosco's brunch date, this time with Baby Luke in tow. While we waited for our buzzer to sound, we visited Sweet Noshings across the street and picked up some chocolate for later. This is a tradition well worth keeping. Baby Luke even got chatted up by a member of Joyce Cobb's band.

    3/17/14: Crazy Like a Fox - This week is mostly birds. I dunno. I had a really good week at work, in contrast to the previous week when I just felt like I was drowning in miscellaneous tasks that had nothing to do with my own job. This week I had plenty of time to dive into finishing our newsletter, so I felt much better. And took plenty of forest walks. This fox sparrow plopped down in front of me for two seconds, but that was plenty.

    3/17/14: Crazy Like a Fox - This week is mostly birds. I dunno. I had a really good week at work, in contrast to the previous week when I just felt like I was drowning in miscellaneous tasks that had nothing to do with my own job. This week I had plenty of time to dive into finishing our newsletter, so I felt much better. And took plenty of forest walks. This fox sparrow plopped down in front of me for two seconds, but that was plenty.

    3/18/14: Attention - The birds seem to really like the enormous tree that fell down a couple of weeks ago. I often see wrens and thrushes perched on the edges. This is a pretty rough picture of a wren, but it was either this or an equally rough picture of a mourning cloak. It was a pleasant day, but not super-great in terms of sightings.

    3/18/14: Attention - The birds seem to really like the enormous tree that fell down a couple of weeks ago. I often see wrens and thrushes perched on the edges. This is a pretty rough picture of a wren, but it was either this or an equally rough picture of a mourning cloak. It was a pleasant day, but not super-great in terms of sightings.

    3/19/14: Flicker Meet Flickr - Wednesday's bird-spotting was a pair of northern flickers that I spotted while on my way out of the woods. They are very cool.

    3/19/14: Flicker Meet Flickr - Wednesday's bird-spotting was a pair of northern flickers that I spotted while on my way out of the woods. They are very cool.

    3/20/14: Tiny Miracle - On my Thursday walk, I ran across an itsy-bitsy spring azure on some leaf litter. It was right in the middle of the trail, and I had the long zoom lens on, so I couldn't get far enough away from it to get a good photo. Then suddenly it flitted up and landed on a perfectly backlit spicebush. Every time something like that happens, it feels like a tiny miracle. I was glad I'd stuck out the day despite wanting to go home and watch basketball, because then this happened.

    3/20/14: Tiny Miracle - On my Thursday walk, I ran across an itsy-bitsy spring azure on some leaf litter. It was right in the middle of the trail, and I had the long zoom lens on, so I couldn't get far enough away from it to get a good photo. Then suddenly it flitted up and landed on a perfectly backlit spicebush. Every time something like that happens, it feels like a tiny miracle. I was glad I'd stuck out the day despite wanting to go home and watch basketball, because then this happened.

    3/21/14: A Good Day for the Blue and Gray - I did go home at noon on Friday to chill out a little bit before Memphis' first NCAA tournament game. It was a nail-biter per usual, but they pulled it off. For some reason, we as a city aren't all that excited about this, probably because that UConn loss was an all-time stinker and we're just not far enough removed from it yet. Oh well--it's a good thing. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Duke-Mercer upset on the Chris Vernon Show. I'll wager I had more fun listening to their play-by-play than I would have watching it. I thought it was appropriate that today was the day the bluebirds picked to hang around in our tree all afternoon. I caught them peering into our bluebird house, so I hope they'll decide to make a real estate investment. I've been trying to poach these guys from down the street for a while now.

    3/21/14: A Good Day for the Blue and Gray - I did go home at noon on Friday to chill out a little bit before Memphis' first NCAA tournament game. It was a nail-biter per usual, but they pulled it off. For some reason, we as a city aren't all that excited about this, probably because that UConn loss was an all-time stinker and we're just not far enough removed from it yet. Oh well--it's a good thing. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Duke-Mercer upset on the Chris Vernon Show. I'll wager I had more fun listening to their play-by-play than I would have watching it. I thought it was appropriate that today was the day the bluebirds picked to hang around in our tree all afternoon. I caught them peering into our bluebird house, so I hope they'll decide to make a real estate investment. I've been trying to poach these guys from down the street for a while now.

    3/22/14: Criminal Trespass - While running errands on Saturday, I kept noticing how lovely one of the houses on Sycamore View looked with its many spring blooms. The people's car was never in the driveway all day, so I figured we were safe to do a 20-second photo shoot. Daniel and Ira are in town for a wedding, so since they were looking perfectly spring-cheery anyway (and Daniel was insistent that he be the subject of today's photo), it seemed like a logical matchup.

    3/22/14: Criminal Trespass - While running errands on Saturday, I kept noticing how lovely one of the houses on Sycamore View looked with its many spring blooms. The people's car was never in the driveway all day, so I figured we were safe to do a 20-second photo shoot. Daniel and Ira are in town for a wedding, so since they were looking perfectly spring-cheery anyway (and Daniel was insistent that he be the subject of today's photo), it seemed like a logical matchup.

    3/23/14: A Real Good Sport - Mom and I decided to dress Colbie up and make a birthday card for Lillian. While we were at it, we figured we'd outfit her in DJ Stephens' jersey and cheer on the Tigers to potential victory. Colbie performed admirably (look at that elevation!); the Tigers, not so much; the Tiger fanbase, MY WORD, they reached the nadir of their own entitlement complexes. I originally was going to post this photo on Monday and entitle it THE RANT, and it was going to be a really long analysis of why being spoiled and bitter is just dumb, but I took my medicine and listened to sports radio all day, where the hosts were reasonable even if not all the fans were. Also, if I'm going to slag the vocal members of the fanbase, I must give equal time to Carlos, who calls into the postgame show virtually every single time, filling the airwaves with positivity, good cheer, and enthusiasm. Viva Carlos. May there be more like you.

    3/23/14: A Real Good Sport - Mom and I decided to dress Colbie up and make a birthday card for Lillian. While we were at it, we figured we'd outfit her in DJ Stephens' jersey and cheer on the Tigers to potential victory. Colbie performed admirably (look at that elevation!); the Tigers, not so much; the Tiger fanbase, MY WORD, they reached the nadir of their own entitlement complexes. I originally was going to post this photo on Monday and entitle it THE RANT, and it was going to be a really long analysis of why being spoiled and bitter is just dumb, but I took my medicine and listened to sports radio all day, where the hosts were reasonable even if not all the fans were. Also, if I'm going to slag the vocal members of the fanbase, I must give equal time to Carlos, who calls into the postgame show virtually every single time, filling the airwaves with positivity, good cheer, and enthusiasm. Viva Carlos. May there be more like you.

    3/24/14: He Don't Seem So Keen - Fittingly for a day that saw me leaving work in tears, Monday was the day the cowbirds descended on the backyard. Once we discovered what they were, Colbie waged an intimidation campaign similar to the one she inflicted on the starlings. Now they're fewer and further between, and I can indulge my fascination with their calls, which is sort of an electronic water-gurgling noise that doesn't sound like it comes from a living being.

    3/24/14: He Don't Seem So Keen - Fittingly for a day that saw me leaving work in tears, Monday was the day the cowbirds descended on the backyard. Once we discovered what they were, Colbie waged an intimidation campaign similar to the one she inflicted on the starlings. Now they're fewer and further between, and I can indulge my fascination with their calls, which is sort of an electronic water-gurgling noise that doesn't sound like it comes from a living being.

    3/25/14: Quiet as a Mouse - My anguish from Monday's workday (which was too-much-being-dumped-on-me-induced in general and Salesforce-reporting-is-less-intuitive-than-brain-surgery-induced specifically) dissipated somewhat with a Twitter fan's realization that a map of Overton Park is hanging in the conference room on

    3/25/14: Quiet as a Mouse - My anguish from Monday's workday (which was too-much-being-dumped-on-me-induced in general and Salesforce-reporting-is-less-intuitive-than-brain-surgery-induced specifically) dissipated somewhat with a Twitter fan's realization that a map of Overton Park is hanging in the conference room on "Parks and Recreation." Not only was this one of my more fun social media days ever, but come on. To have my park show up on one of my all-time favorite shows...just shut up. That's amazing. I could have included a screenshot as the POTD, but that didn't seem legitimate. So you get a tufted titmouse instead.

    3/26/14: Stop, Look, and Watch - Tina and I had a meeting at one of the Broad Ave. design firms on Wednesday, and I thought I could stand to switch things up from the recent deluge of bird photos. I enjoy a good ghost sign (a far better term than

    3/26/14: Stop, Look, and Watch - Tina and I had a meeting at one of the Broad Ave. design firms on Wednesday, and I thought I could stand to switch things up from the recent deluge of bird photos. I enjoy a good ghost sign (a far better term than "palimpsest," which I acquired at CMU and which is such a terrible word for a cool thing), so this is a nice one to puzzle over.

    3/27/14: The Desolation of Smaug - There's really nothing that desolate about this photo, but it's so gray outside and this place is so deserted thanks to the construction fencing that I am kind of bummed it's the best I could do for the cover of the newsletter. It'll look nicer once there are people there, and the sun's out, and THE TREES HAVE ACQUIRED SOME LEAVES ALREADY.

    3/27/14: The Desolation of Smaug - There's really nothing that desolate about this photo, but it's so gray outside and this place is so deserted thanks to the construction fencing that I am kind of bummed it's the best I could do for the cover of the newsletter. It'll look nicer once there are people there, and the sun's out, and THE TREES HAVE ACQUIRED SOME LEAVES ALREADY.

    3/28/14: Fire Ant - On Friday I decided to pull the trigger and buy a used 300mm lens from Lens Authority, the better to improve my bird photos. On the way back to the office from picking it up, I stopped briefly at the Shelby Farms Beaver Pond to see if any dragonflies might have emerged yet (they haven't). I got back in my car and was putting the key in the ignition when I heard a

    3/28/14: Fire Ant - On Friday I decided to pull the trigger and buy a used 300mm lens from Lens Authority, the better to improve my bird photos. On the way back to the office from picking it up, I stopped briefly at the Shelby Farms Beaver Pond to see if any dragonflies might have emerged yet (they haven't). I got back in my car and was putting the key in the ignition when I heard a "Hey! Hey1" coming from the van to my left. I rolled down my window and the man said, "I'm sorry to bug you, but I noticed you had a pretty big camera there. Are you a professional?" I said, "Sort of." He said he was here with his daughter and wanted a picture of the two of them, and all he had was a crappy camera phone. Would I mind taking a picture or two of them? Since he had an adorable little girl in the backseat and there were a bunch of arborists climbing trees nearby, I said what the heck. We walked over to a blooming tree and fired off a few shots. They were extremely sweet with each other, and the little girl was happily running around and talking about feeding the geese. We walked back to the parking lot and I asked him to write down an e-mail address so that I could send him the images. While he was doing that, a red ant climbed under the girl's foot and stung her, and she started wailing. He dropped the paper, said, "What's wrong?! What's wrong?!" She frantically pointed to her foot, and he reached in and plucked out the ant. "Don't worry!" he said, popping the ant in his mouth. "Daddy ate it! Daddy ate it, it's gone!" For good measure, he released a legitimate belch to prove the ant had, indeed, gone down the hatch. She settled down but was now scared to keep walking around, so he told her to go sit in the backseat where she would be safe. Once inside, she settled down and started making faces out the window. He picked up the card, finished writing his contact info, and said thanks as I headed out. It was a few minutes later as I was driving back to the office that it finally registered...wait. That guy just straight-up popped a fire ant in his mouth. Is that a thing that people do? Is that standard? Or is this guy just aiming to be My Father the Hero to his little girl? Whatever the case may be...I'm glad I happened across them on a random Friday afternoon with my enormous bird lens.

    3/29/14: Try a Little Harder - Not much can be said for Saturday, which was frigid and windy (why?!), stymie-ing our pea-planting plans. Instead we went grocery shopping and I performed an odious work task that I didn't want to have to start my week with. (It's 2014. Why are there still SO MANY online calendars to post events to? And why are they all so many different shades of terrible? There should be one calendar that operates exactly like that of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, only with additional options for making it local to where you are. The end. A two-hour task becomes a two-minute one.) Anyway, it wasn't a great day to be outside, so here's a brief, sad look at a barely-bothering magnolia.

    3/29/14: Try a Little Harder - Not much can be said for Saturday, which was frigid and windy (why?!), stymie-ing our pea-planting plans. Instead we went grocery shopping and I performed an odious work task that I didn't want to have to start my week with. (It's 2014. Why are there still SO MANY online calendars to post events to? And why are they all so many different shades of terrible? There should be one calendar that operates exactly like that of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, only with additional options for making it local to where you are. The end. A two-hour task becomes a two-minute one.) Anyway, it wasn't a great day to be outside, so here's a brief, sad look at a barely-bothering magnolia.

    3/30/14: Magic Hour - Fittingly, my mom's first photo-shoot assist since her diagnosis was on this lovely family's session through the Magic Hour Foundation. This is an organization that offers free photo shoots to cancer patients and survivors (and their families) via a nationwide network of volunteer photographers. This is one potential direction my photography pursuits might take (as opposed to a full-fledged business, which yet AGAIN I think I may not have the stomach for), and I will do as many of these as are requested. It's such a treat to be able to give back some of the kindness that my family has received over the last few difficult years. Christal and her family were a delight, and little Elijah knows his way around a toy truck. We had a very good time.

    3/30/14: Magic Hour - Fittingly, my mom's first photo-shoot assist since her diagnosis was on this lovely family's session through the Magic Hour Foundation. This is an organization that offers free photo shoots to cancer patients and survivors (and their families) via a nationwide network of volunteer photographers. This is one potential direction my photography pursuits might take (as opposed to a full-fledged business, which yet AGAIN I think I may not have the stomach for), and I will do as many of these as are requested. It's such a treat to be able to give back some of the kindness that my family has received over the last few difficult years. Christal and her family were a delight, and little Elijah knows his way around a toy truck. We had a very good time.

    3/31/14: How I Went Off-Topic - Two things first: this zebra swallowtail was one of many swirling in the Old Forest on Monday, and it was beautiful. And I had a fine evening with Amanda enjoying pasta at Bari and listening to HR horror stories. AND THEN. I was actually sort of looking forward to the How I Met Your Mother finale. Half of this anticipation was because I'm just ready to be done with the damn thing, and the other half is that I've been waiting for that happy conclusion for so many years that I honestly was just so excited to finally see it. The last few years of the show have been suffused with a kind of sadness, mostly related to how Ted keeps mooning after Robin when she's moved on to Barney, and instead of just having him move on, they have her shoot him down every three weeks or so. It hasn't done Robin a lot of favors in general, really--taking her from an interesting feminist character whose reasons for being incompatible with Ted were entirely believable and unique for a sitcom lady, to a shrill dupe who repeatedly lets Barney off the hook for his increasingly sociopathic behavior. I didn't like where the show had put itself, but it had committed completely to Robin/Barney to the point where it wasted an entire final season on the trivialities of their wedding weekend. The only bright spot was the introduction of The Mother, who was so charmingly played and written that it was baffling that they didn't use her more. It turned out there was a reason they didn't use her more: they didn't give a rat's (or a cockamouse's, if you prefer) ass about her character. And the joke is on me for expecting one episode to redeem the last few lean years in any way. But I certainly didn't expect that when I turned off the TV, I would be sobbing uncontrollably. RAGE SOBBING. My first reaction was visceral, based on the idea of the mom being dead (I'm a little sensitive about such subjects at the moment...also, this is a sitcom--you do not have to have a bummer of an ending just to be

    3/31/14: How I Went Off-Topic - Two things first: this zebra swallowtail was one of many swirling in the Old Forest on Monday, and it was beautiful. And I had a fine evening with Amanda enjoying pasta at Bari and listening to HR horror stories. AND THEN. I was actually sort of looking forward to the How I Met Your Mother finale. Half of this anticipation was because I'm just ready to be done with the damn thing, and the other half is that I've been waiting for that happy conclusion for so many years that I honestly was just so excited to finally see it. The last few years of the show have been suffused with a kind of sadness, mostly related to how Ted keeps mooning after Robin when she's moved on to Barney, and instead of just having him move on, they have her shoot him down every three weeks or so. It hasn't done Robin a lot of favors in general, really--taking her from an interesting feminist character whose reasons for being incompatible with Ted were entirely believable and unique for a sitcom lady, to a shrill dupe who repeatedly lets Barney off the hook for his increasingly sociopathic behavior. I didn't like where the show had put itself, but it had committed completely to Robin/Barney to the point where it wasted an entire final season on the trivialities of their wedding weekend. The only bright spot was the introduction of The Mother, who was so charmingly played and written that it was baffling that they didn't use her more. It turned out there was a reason they didn't use her more: they didn't give a rat's (or a cockamouse's, if you prefer) ass about her character. And the joke is on me for expecting one episode to redeem the last few lean years in any way. But I certainly didn't expect that when I turned off the TV, I would be sobbing uncontrollably. RAGE SOBBING. My first reaction was visceral, based on the idea of the mom being dead (I'm a little sensitive about such subjects at the moment...also, this is a sitcom--you do not have to have a bummer of an ending just to be "realistic"). After spending several days sorting through my many feelings about the finale, I will now whittle them down to three issues: 1. They've had this ending written and filmed for seven years--and THIS is how they set it up? If you know you're going to reunite Ted and Robin in the finale, why spend half the run of the show illustrating that Robin has COMPLETELY moved on from Ted and considers Barney her true love? And the last 23 episodes AT THEIR WEDDING? There were plenty of ways to minimize that, but they chose to write an ending that emphasized a last-second plot twist rather than one that was true to who the characters had become over the years. That is bad writing. 2. They ultimately showed zero respect to the character of Tracy, bringing her on to fulfill Ted's desire for children and then offing her via narration. The next lines after we learn she's dead come from her children, who basically wave her off and tell their dad he's been in love with Aunt Robin this whole time YAY! The tonal shift is so alarming that I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. Especially because the one episode devoted to Tracy this season had a lovely scene of her asking her late boyfriend for permission to move on. I don't agree with the decision to kill her off, but if they were hell-bent on it, bookend it with a scene of Ted doing the same. (I was watching a show called "How I Met Your Mother"...apparently the show they were making was "How Your Mother Was a Nice Stopgap in My Real Love Story.") 3. Oh, Robin. They thoroughly completed the destruction of her character in this episode. Now she has to get a divorce because of her...career success? (Thus endeth any feminist message this show may have started out with.) And this time she can't bounce back and remain friends with the gang because...wait, not because she's divorced from Barney, because Ted is happy with another woman? That doesn't track with anything. Robin loved Ted, sure, but NOT LIKE THAT. She had a million chances, but the show said a million times that if she were following her heart, it kept leading her back to Barney. Ted was the guy she thought she should be with on paper, but that's not what she actually wanted. So she wound up bitter and isolated, and in the end could only be saved by the consolation prize of Ted. I think this was probably the most egregious failure of all. While I hated killing the Mother most on a gut-punch level, the reduction of Robin to yet another sitcom woman who's nothing without the love of a Nice Guy was so, so disappointing. So sadly, I could not have hated it more. With the exception of the long-awaited scene on the train platform (which was perfect and should have been the final sequence), it was just insulting garbage. Yes, this is all about a sitcom episode. But I have a master's degree in cultural studies from a fine university. The one, the only thing that degree really prepared me for was to talk at length about television. And it introduced me to some of my favorite people to talk about TV with. (It did not teach me how to cleverly avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.) So really I'm just fulfilling my educational destiny here. Feels good. This is the longest caption ever. Sorry, Me Who Is Trying to Put This in a Book next September.

    4/1/14: Bar None - This photo of a barred owl was an exercise in patience. I saw it from a distance at first, but when I went to try and get closer, it flew back toward my original position. I took several photos where it looked right at me, but it was cloudy and everything was pretty washed out. Finally the sun would break through for about 10 seconds at a time, at which point I'd start slapping my legs to make noise to see if it would look back at me. Mission accomplished (after looking like a darn fool).

    4/1/14: Bar None - This photo of a barred owl was an exercise in patience. I saw it from a distance at first, but when I went to try and get closer, it flew back toward my original position. I took several photos where it looked right at me, but it was cloudy and everything was pretty washed out. Finally the sun would break through for about 10 seconds at a time, at which point I'd start slapping my legs to make noise to see if it would look back at me. Mission accomplished (after looking like a darn fool).

    4/2/14: The Primrose Path - I'm not overly a fan of this photo (I love the Fuji, but not for anything vaguely nature-related), but it is a different view of where I go to work every day.

    4/2/14: The Primrose Path - I'm not overly a fan of this photo (I love the Fuji, but not for anything vaguely nature-related), but it is a different view of where I go to work every day.

    4/3/14: Us Two Shall Pass - Every time I pass this tree I hear the above phrase from Throwing Muses'

    4/3/14: Us Two Shall Pass - Every time I pass this tree I hear the above phrase from Throwing Muses' "Clark's Nutcracker" in my head. I will quote the section in full because it's so much more sad and beautiful than anything I could write: "Said a mouthful through a mouthful of ginger ale and love / lift our platinum son / us two shall pass / we're made of glass / it's complicated / you just crumple up / you just hunker down / don't you? / I mean, you know you do..." Probably the only musical artist I know who uses the phrase "hunker down," which of course calls to mind my mom's star turn in Jamie's and my 11th grade newscast. "I said you just hunker down, BooBoo!" she exclaims, complete with a chest shimmy. I wonder if anyone else was as thoroughly amused by it as Jamie and I were.

    4/4/14: You're So A-Pollen - (Sorry.) Naomi and I went for a walk on Friday afternoon to close out the week, and then I hopped over to Shelby Forest to look for odes. They are still not here, which you could probably tell by the fact that there's not one in this picture. I suppose we'll wait another weekend.

    4/4/14: You're So A-Pollen - (Sorry.) Naomi and I went for a walk on Friday afternoon to close out the week, and then I hopped over to Shelby Forest to look for odes. They are still not here, which you could probably tell by the fact that there's not one in this picture. I suppose we'll wait another weekend.

    4/5/14: Got Little Hands - The baby tulip poplar leaves look like a million little high fives waiting to happen.

    4/5/14: Got Little Hands - The baby tulip poplar leaves look like a million little high fives waiting to happen.

    4/6/14: Criminal Trespass, Part 2 - Another in a series of photos where I place my family members in the yards of neighbors. I've always liked these people's porch furniture, their Steelers mailbox, and their pretty magnolia tree. Note that Colbie is firmly on her leash; while we were planting the front garden yesterday, she took off across the road after a poor kitty, which I am assured by Mom that she couldn't possibly have murdered in such a short timeframe. Nonetheless, she's on probation.

    4/6/14: Criminal Trespass, Part 2 - Another in a series of photos where I place my family members in the yards of neighbors. I've always liked these people's porch furniture, their Steelers mailbox, and their pretty magnolia tree. Note that Colbie is firmly on her leash; while we were planting the front garden yesterday, she took off across the road after a poor kitty, which I am assured by Mom that she couldn't possibly have murdered in such a short timeframe. Nonetheless, she's on probation.

    4/7/14: Murinal - (The title is a Jerry Gergich reference brought on by the proximity of a port-a-john to the mural, not a commentary on the quality of the art itself.) On Monday morning I had another meeting on Broad, so I snapped a quick colorful photo beforehand. It was a startlingly cold and drizzly day, so I was pretty confident this would be the only time I spent outdoors.

    4/7/14: Murinal - (The title is a Jerry Gergich reference brought on by the proximity of a port-a-john to the mural, not a commentary on the quality of the art itself.) On Monday morning I had another meeting on Broad, so I snapped a quick colorful photo beforehand. It was a startlingly cold and drizzly day, so I was pretty confident this would be the only time I spent outdoors.

    4/8/14: Pastel Tale - I drove by the Gotten House on my way home from work Tuesday hoping to see some nice blooms. I'd say I was rewarded. To think this sort of display only lasts a couple of days out of the year.

    4/8/14: Pastel Tale - I drove by the Gotten House on my way home from work Tuesday hoping to see some nice blooms. I'd say I was rewarded. To think this sort of display only lasts a couple of days out of the year.

    4/9/14: Drivin' Me Wild - It was an insane week at work because I was attempting to throw together a bunch of content for the new Bike Gate banners at the last minute. I didn't make it out to the forest until right before heading home on Wednesday. It's so hard to get a clean shot of the profusion of wildflowers because vines and tree trunks get in the way, but the messiness is part of the charm.

    4/9/14: Drivin' Me Wild - It was an insane week at work because I was attempting to throw together a bunch of content for the new Bike Gate banners at the last minute. I didn't make it out to the forest until right before heading home on Wednesday. It's so hard to get a clean shot of the profusion of wildflowers because vines and tree trunks get in the way, but the messiness is part of the charm.

    4/10/14: The Beach Gives a Feeling - A palm tree obscures it, but Mom and I are here enjoying ourselves at The Gulf in Orange Beach, a spot that has quickly ascended to my all-time Happy Places list in the last year. I wanted to go look for some early-season dragonflies at Blackwater River and go see Granny and Fella, and she had the week off chemo and was feeling well enough to road-trip. So on Thursday we drove down, hit up the outlet mall (to my regret and her delight), swung by Hope's Cheesecake, walked on the beach for a little bit, and then wound up enjoying burgers and Elton John at the Gulf. I gracefully dropped a whipped cream-laden blackberry square onto the top of a mustard bottle, and also took several versions of this photo where I tried to prematurely hurl myself out of this lounge chair thinking my ten-second timer had already elapsed. It was another quality day for my dignity.

    4/10/14: The Beach Gives a Feeling - A palm tree obscures it, but Mom and I are here enjoying ourselves at The Gulf in Orange Beach, a spot that has quickly ascended to my all-time Happy Places list in the last year. I wanted to go look for some early-season dragonflies at Blackwater River and go see Granny and Fella, and she had the week off chemo and was feeling well enough to road-trip. So on Thursday we drove down, hit up the outlet mall (to my regret and her delight), swung by Hope's Cheesecake, walked on the beach for a little bit, and then wound up enjoying burgers and Elton John at the Gulf. I gracefully dropped a whipped cream-laden blackberry square onto the top of a mustard bottle, and also took several versions of this photo where I tried to prematurely hurl myself out of this lounge chair thinking my ten-second timer had already elapsed. It was another quality day for my dignity.

    4/11/14: Calico - The next morning we headed to Krul Lake, where Mom hiked the boardwalk portion of the trail and then headed back to read and nap by the lake. I continued on and was variously met by deer flies, about a million blue corporal dragonflies, and a teenage boy who walked all the way down the trail solely to break limbs off trees and hurl them into the water. It was weird. I didn't see anything new-to-me (except, oddly, around Krul Lake itself), but I did see lots of pretty calico pennants. After getting our fill of nature, we drove back to Orange Beach and had dinner at Cobalt, which was pleasant enough but failed to reach the heights of The Gulf in its perfect simplicity. We also made a stop at Souvenir City, because I think it might be illegal to visit Gulf Shores and not enter the mouth of a shark.

    4/11/14: Calico - The next morning we headed to Krul Lake, where Mom hiked the boardwalk portion of the trail and then headed back to read and nap by the lake. I continued on and was variously met by deer flies, about a million blue corporal dragonflies, and a teenage boy who walked all the way down the trail solely to break limbs off trees and hurl them into the water. It was weird. I didn't see anything new-to-me (except, oddly, around Krul Lake itself), but I did see lots of pretty calico pennants. After getting our fill of nature, we drove back to Orange Beach and had dinner at Cobalt, which was pleasant enough but failed to reach the heights of The Gulf in its perfect simplicity. We also made a stop at Souvenir City, because I think it might be illegal to visit Gulf Shores and not enter the mouth of a shark.

    4/12/14: Americana - It is a long drive from Milton, FL to Arab, AL. Especially when you begin the day with a sad continental breakfast at the Red Roof Inn that's most notable for spurring a fellow guest to volunteer that hot water with lemon cramps him right up. (The paltriness of the breakfast should have been no surprise, given that the Red Roof's guest rewards program advertises as its main perk a free bottle of water.) In any event, as we wound through the back roads into Arab, I flipped on the radio and said,

    4/12/14: Americana - It is a long drive from Milton, FL to Arab, AL. Especially when you begin the day with a sad continental breakfast at the Red Roof Inn that's most notable for spurring a fellow guest to volunteer that hot water with lemon cramps him right up. (The paltriness of the breakfast should have been no surprise, given that the Red Roof's guest rewards program advertises as its main perk a free bottle of water.) In any event, as we wound through the back roads into Arab, I flipped on the radio and said, "This next song will be about Arab." Sure enough, it was Moe Bandy's "Americana," which could not have been more apt in its celebration of good ol' small-town values. We got to hang out with Granny and Fella for a while, and she was quicker to recognize us this time and declare, "I like you." It was good to see them, and good to get back home. Mom's food follies continued with her decision to stop at McDonald's strictly for a fruit and yogurt parfait, only to have to ask for it 15 minutes later and be informed that all the fruit was frozen so unless she wanted it crunchy... Hey. That's TRUE Americana right there.

    4/13/14: Ethan/Elvis - On Sunday Mom and I met Caroline & Co. at the Gotten House to take Ethan's 3-month photos. Turns out Ethan and Fred are both crazy allergic to dogwood trees (and perhaps spring in general). We had to share the space with a guy who started by shooting a mom and her kids, drifted away for a while, and then came back to shoot sexy-pose pics of the mom while the kids sat on the porch and watched. It was weird...but Ethan was properly bemused by it all. He even gave us his first roll-over attempt on camera!

    4/13/14: Ethan/Elvis - On Sunday Mom and I met Caroline & Co. at the Gotten House to take Ethan's 3-month photos. Turns out Ethan and Fred are both crazy allergic to dogwood trees (and perhaps spring in general). We had to share the space with a guy who started by shooting a mom and her kids, drifted away for a while, and then came back to shoot sexy-pose pics of the mom while the kids sat on the porch and watched. It was weird...but Ethan was properly bemused by it all. He even gave us his first roll-over attempt on camera!

    4/14/14: Sometimes I Wonder... - if my inappropriate eye-rolling is visible in these mirrors.

    4/14/14: Sometimes I Wonder... - if my inappropriate eye-rolling is visible in these mirrors.

    4/15/14: Stinks for You - A sort of lackluster afternoon of bird-watching ended in the one-two punch of a tiny hummingbird enjoying some buckeye flowers and this worm-eating warbler struggling so mightily with a stinkbug that it jumped into the middle of the trail to corral it. That worked out well for me.

    4/15/14: Stinks for You - A sort of lackluster afternoon of bird-watching ended in the one-two punch of a tiny hummingbird enjoying some buckeye flowers and this worm-eating warbler struggling so mightily with a stinkbug that it jumped into the middle of the trail to corral it. That worked out well for me.

    4/16/14: Such Great Heights - Naomi and I walked in the forest and had a top-to-bottom lackluster birdwatching afternoon, so we stopped afterwards to brainstorm about the pickle of playground plaques. I spotted this little guy right before he descended the other side of the hill, thought,

    4/16/14: Such Great Heights - Naomi and I walked in the forest and had a top-to-bottom lackluster birdwatching afternoon, so we stopped afterwards to brainstorm about the pickle of playground plaques. I spotted this little guy right before he descended the other side of the hill, thought, "LIGHT!" and snapped away.

    4/17/14: You Make Me Feel So Brand-New - Eric and I had a meeting at Shelby Farms on Thursday at 11:30. I am ashamed to say I scarfed my lunch in the car on the way as no mention had been made of lunch, and if 12:00 sails by and I haven't been fed, there are consequences. I don't like it, but it's true. Anyway, they had pizza so I inadvertently consumed a lot of carbs, is what I'm saying. Afterwards I stopped by the Beaver Pond because COME ON it's gotta be time for dragonflies, right? It took a chunk of time, but I eventually found this freshly emerged baskettail in the pond drying out her wings before her first flight. She was in a rough position for me to see her, but the wind wound up pivoting her into a perfect place. After I finished shooting, I got to watch her take her first flight. I love this time of year.

    4/17/14: You Make Me Feel So Brand-New - Eric and I had a meeting at Shelby Farms on Thursday at 11:30. I am ashamed to say I scarfed my lunch in the car on the way as no mention had been made of lunch, and if 12:00 sails by and I haven't been fed, there are consequences. I don't like it, but it's true. Anyway, they had pizza so I inadvertently consumed a lot of carbs, is what I'm saying. Afterwards I stopped by the Beaver Pond because COME ON it's gotta be time for dragonflies, right? It took a chunk of time, but I eventually found this freshly emerged baskettail in the pond drying out her wings before her first flight. She was in a rough position for me to see her, but the wind wound up pivoting her into a perfect place. After I finished shooting, I got to watch her take her first flight. I love this time of year.

    4/18/14: Warble Me This - Tina hooked me up with an experienced bird enthusiast on Friday morning, and while it wasn't exactly a bonanza, it was very pleasant to walk with someone who knows birds by ear (I know the cardinals are the ones going pyew-pyew-pyew, aaaaand that's about it). The last bird we saw was this beautiful black-throated green warbler. After work I paid a visit to Shelby and the girls, and then Jamie was unexpectedly in town so we had an evening of TRAINS OF GLORY. I benefited from having the same strategy as Jamie but everyone else at the table inexplicably colluding to stymie her while I quietly racked up the points. Victory in our time.

    4/18/14: Warble Me This - Tina hooked me up with an experienced bird enthusiast on Friday morning, and while it wasn't exactly a bonanza, it was very pleasant to walk with someone who knows birds by ear (I know the cardinals are the ones going pyew-pyew-pyew, aaaaand that's about it). The last bird we saw was this beautiful black-throated green warbler. After work I paid a visit to Shelby and the girls, and then Jamie was unexpectedly in town so we had an evening of TRAINS OF GLORY. I benefited from having the same strategy as Jamie but everyone else at the table inexplicably colluding to stymie her while I quietly racked up the points. Victory in our time.

    4/19/14: Meaningful Progress - Today we officially dedicated Bike Gate, and it was the most beautiful spring afternoon. Several hundred people came out to celebrate, and Mayor Wharton eloquently summed up why it's so important that what could have been an interstate is now a bike/ped plaza:

    4/19/14: Meaningful Progress - Today we officially dedicated Bike Gate, and it was the most beautiful spring afternoon. Several hundred people came out to celebrate, and Mayor Wharton eloquently summed up why it's so important that what could have been an interstate is now a bike/ped plaza: "When mindless progress ends, then meaningful progress can begin." This photo makes me so happy because it's what all the other photos of this project over the past year and a half have been leading up to. Elsewhere today: some photos of Eli and Ethan in their Easter finery, attained by seven adults singing and dancing, a giant Easter bunny lawn ornament, Pappy's cane, and Pharrell Williams. My confusing Abuelo's for Firebird's and getting inferior Mexican than the Las Tortugas I was craving. (I was going to compromise, but I thought I was compromising with Firebird's. Because I can't distinguish one seldom-visited-restaurant-in-the-parking-lot-of-a-big-box-store-in-Cordova from another.) Mom making an Easter lemon pie only to have it slide out of the refrigerator and onto the floor. The Griz getting pantsed in Oklahoma City so emphatically that the announcers called their first-quarter performance "obscene."

    4/20/14: Happy Hoppy - We spent Easter at Dennis and Cindy's, and Mom asked if I would take a photo of them with her and Dad. I obliged, and this shot was before everyone had the chance to line up and cheese. I think Dennis is doing some kind of spin move, to the delight of the crowd.

    4/20/14: Happy Hoppy - We spent Easter at Dennis and Cindy's, and Mom asked if I would take a photo of them with her and Dad. I obliged, and this shot was before everyone had the chance to line up and cheese. I think Dennis is doing some kind of spin move, to the delight of the crowd.

    4/21/14: Uncle Buck - Monday was a non-starter as far as birds went in the forest. Lately I always take a buckeye shot as backup in case nothing more exciting happens, and today I finally had to use one.

    4/21/14: Uncle Buck - Monday was a non-starter as far as birds went in the forest. Lately I always take a buckeye shot as backup in case nothing more exciting happens, and today I finally had to use one.

    4/22/14: You Should See Pollenthene Pam - For some reason when I got home on Tuesday I was compelled to gather the copious amounts of pollen into an allergy-inflaming homunculus. I braved the bumblebees to gather some fallen azalea blossoms for her hair, and then body-blocked the wind to avoid her fingers blowing away before I could take a photo. I am super proud of this accomplishment, especially because after I finished, I felt pretty terrible for a little while. I am far from immune to Pam's histamine-related charms.

    4/22/14: You Should See Pollenthene Pam - For some reason when I got home on Tuesday I was compelled to gather the copious amounts of pollen into an allergy-inflaming homunculus. I braved the bumblebees to gather some fallen azalea blossoms for her hair, and then body-blocked the wind to avoid her fingers blowing away before I could take a photo. I am super proud of this accomplishment, especially because after I finished, I felt pretty terrible for a little while. I am far from immune to Pam's histamine-related charms.

    4/23/14: Tom Cruiser - After work on Wednesday I went to Shelby Forest to scope out dragonflies. I really only found stream cruisers and baskettails, but my most notable acquisition was a TICK ON MY FACE. That then vanished into my hair and was later discovered crawling down my back. I am shuddering just typing that. Gross gross gross gross gross.

    4/23/14: Tom Cruiser - After work on Wednesday I went to Shelby Forest to scope out dragonflies. I really only found stream cruisers and baskettails, but my most notable acquisition was a TICK ON MY FACE. That then vanished into my hair and was later discovered crawling down my back. I am shuddering just typing that. Gross gross gross gross gross.

    4/24/14: Azaleas for Zadie - Our beloved Carol (who has been sending my mom so many hilarious cheer-up cards that we could paper a wall with them) has the most beautiful backyard. She decided she wanted to try individual photos of the grandkids since photographing them all together is such chaos. First up was Zadie, and it was a total breeze. Why can't this spring gorgeousness stick around a little longer? It's just riotously beautiful.

    4/24/14: Azaleas for Zadie - Our beloved Carol (who has been sending my mom so many hilarious cheer-up cards that we could paper a wall with them) has the most beautiful backyard. She decided she wanted to try individual photos of the grandkids since photographing them all together is such chaos. First up was Zadie, and it was a total breeze. Why can't this spring gorgeousness stick around a little longer? It's just riotously beautiful.

    4/25/14: Double Zeroes - On Friday I headed to Pittsburgh for a fine exhausting weekend. First stop: Aiello's with Beth, then on to Laura's to meet new baby Parker, and then to Mad Mex for Tara's birthday. After eating an obscene amount of Pickadippas and watching Justin attempt to choke down an all-foam beer Chris had been given free by the bartender, we headed over to play laser tag. I probably haven't done this since a church lock-in type of situation in high school, and the rust showed. When Justin and I got our scorecards at the end, we discovered we were tied for last. The difference, of course, was that I took 120 shots and he took zero, opting for a surrender position throughout the proceedings. I think mine is a worse humiliation.

    4/25/14: Double Zeroes - On Friday I headed to Pittsburgh for a fine exhausting weekend. First stop: Aiello's with Beth, then on to Laura's to meet new baby Parker, and then to Mad Mex for Tara's birthday. After eating an obscene amount of Pickadippas and watching Justin attempt to choke down an all-foam beer Chris had been given free by the bartender, we headed over to play laser tag. I probably haven't done this since a church lock-in type of situation in high school, and the rust showed. When Justin and I got our scorecards at the end, we discovered we were tied for last. The difference, of course, was that I took 120 shots and he took zero, opting for a surrender position throughout the proceedings. I think mine is a worse humiliation.

    4/26/14: Let It Go - Saturday was notable for the nuptials of Justin and the once-skeptical Lillian, who offered him a Play-Doh ring after he charmed her by using a banana to make telephone consultations with a dog physician. I wonder if any of that will make sense to me five years from now. Then Tara came over and we watched

    4/26/14: Let It Go - Saturday was notable for the nuptials of Justin and the once-skeptical Lillian, who offered him a Play-Doh ring after he charmed her by using a banana to make telephone consultations with a dog physician. I wonder if any of that will make sense to me five years from now. Then Tara came over and we watched "Frozen" up through "Let It Go," which I thought was the climactic number until Joanna later informed me I had only watched maybe a fourth of the movie. Guess I'll need to look into that.

    4/27/14: Youngstown - I shuffled over to Ohio on Sunday morning to do some photos with the Forbes fam at Youngstown State University. I will probably not be asked back to campus given that at one point I attempted to drive onto a sidewalk. Jules worked it as usual, Jude became the Hulk and rescued a damsel as usual, and I fully enjoyed myself. Also, the Struthers PD guy now has painted his rage wall in seasonal colors and messages in addition to his accusations of biased jurists. After I got back, I met Tara and Chris and we did some photos with Penny in Schenley Park. Then I headed back to Joanie's, and Justin's grandparents kindly sent over some special Passover rainbow cookies, which we all agreed were fun to look at but far less so to actually consume. But we tried them! Points for trying!

    4/27/14: Youngstown - I shuffled over to Ohio on Sunday morning to do some photos with the Forbes fam at Youngstown State University. I will probably not be asked back to campus given that at one point I attempted to drive onto a sidewalk. Jules worked it as usual, Jude became the Hulk and rescued a damsel as usual, and I fully enjoyed myself. Also, the Struthers PD guy now has painted his rage wall in seasonal colors and messages in addition to his accusations of biased jurists. After I got back, I met Tara and Chris and we did some photos with Penny in Schenley Park. Then I headed back to Joanie's, and Justin's grandparents kindly sent over some special Passover rainbow cookies, which we all agreed were fun to look at but far less so to actually consume. But we tried them! Points for trying!

    4/28/14: The Newest Little Penguin - Before I headed home on Monday, I went back over to Laura's for Parker's welcome-to-the-family photos. Much Owen-related hilarity ensued. Then it was off to LaGuardia, because that's how much sense Delta's schedules make these days. Oh, LaGuardia: the loveliest airport on the inside; I guess that lulls one into forgetting that it's going to take an hour to get from the gate to the runway. Still--points for both the copious iPads and the salad bar.

    4/28/14: The Newest Little Penguin - Before I headed home on Monday, I went back over to Laura's for Parker's welcome-to-the-family photos. Much Owen-related hilarity ensued. Then it was off to LaGuardia, because that's how much sense Delta's schedules make these days. Oh, LaGuardia: the loveliest airport on the inside; I guess that lulls one into forgetting that it's going to take an hour to get from the gate to the runway. Still--points for both the copious iPads and the salad bar.

    4/29/14: Ask Me About Spring Bird Migration - After four nonstop days, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to drag myself into the office on Tuesday morning. I succeeded in so doing, but had to stop by the Bike Gate first to confirm that someone's paver was indeed there (and yes, I had nightmares that it wasn't even though I huptoople-checked those orders). So I went into the woods instead of the office for a while, and was immediately so relaxed and at home. I'm nothing without the quiet, I guess. I stumbled across several lovely birds cloaking themselves in the trees, but this summer tanager was my favorite of the day.

    4/29/14: Ask Me About Spring Bird Migration - After four nonstop days, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to drag myself into the office on Tuesday morning. I succeeded in so doing, but had to stop by the Bike Gate first to confirm that someone's paver was indeed there (and yes, I had nightmares that it wasn't even though I huptoople-checked those orders). So I went into the woods instead of the office for a while, and was immediately so relaxed and at home. I'm nothing without the quiet, I guess. I stumbled across several lovely birds cloaking themselves in the trees, but this summer tanager was my favorite of the day.

    4/30/14: Think I'm Gonna Hurl - Several times over the past few days, I've heard a bizarre, repeated buzzing noise, almost like a cicada that's zinging back and forth. It keeps turning out to be hummingbirds hurling themselves in and out of trees. I should probably look up why they do this so that I can stand firmly out of their way.

    4/30/14: Think I'm Gonna Hurl - Several times over the past few days, I've heard a bizarre, repeated buzzing noise, almost like a cicada that's zinging back and forth. It keeps turning out to be hummingbirds hurling themselves in and out of trees. I should probably look up why they do this so that I can stand firmly out of their way.

    5/1/14: A Lot to Admire - No good bird photos on Thursday (although the next day was a migratory bird bonanza), but this day's lovely walk featured a friendly red admiral who posed for a while.

    5/1/14: A Lot to Admire - No good bird photos on Thursday (although the next day was a migratory bird bonanza), but this day's lovely walk featured a friendly red admiral who posed for a while.

    5/2/14: A Chair is Still a Chair - In the continuing Cordon grandkid photo shoot series, on Friday I photographed Holly's three kids while we still had some azalea blooms left. Austin and Taylor are sitting and crawling now, and the other grandkids are all in that special phase of life where they're fascinated/repulsed by garden worms. I remember that phase well--especially when my grandparents were digging out the hole for their pool and there was just this insane amount of worms everywhere. I do not know why I remember this so fondly, but watching these kids relate to worms made me laugh so hard.

    5/2/14: A Chair is Still a Chair - In the continuing Cordon grandkid photo shoot series, on Friday I photographed Holly's three kids while we still had some azalea blooms left. Austin and Taylor are sitting and crawling now, and the other grandkids are all in that special phase of life where they're fascinated/repulsed by garden worms. I remember that phase well--especially when my grandparents were digging out the hole for their pool and there was just this insane amount of worms everywhere. I do not know why I remember this so fondly, but watching these kids relate to worms made me laugh so hard.

    5/3/14: With Abandon - Becky and I spent Saturday doing some futile royal-stalking, since Princes William and Harry were in town for a wedding. We saw nothing because they weren't let out of their cages that day (although she saw their van the night before AND was interviewed for the news), but we did hit up the Brewery Untapped deal and have a nice walk down to Aldo's. So it was a successful day if not one that yielded a photo of Becky and a prince. That will have to be continued somewhere down the road. Instead we have this humorous photo of the Vafs at historic Bartlett cornerstone Elva T. Bledsoe Park. I have directed Evie to tickle Tamsie, and she is following my instructions WITH GUSTO.

    5/3/14: With Abandon - Becky and I spent Saturday doing some futile royal-stalking, since Princes William and Harry were in town for a wedding. We saw nothing because they weren't let out of their cages that day (although she saw their van the night before AND was interviewed for the news), but we did hit up the Brewery Untapped deal and have a nice walk down to Aldo's. So it was a successful day if not one that yielded a photo of Becky and a prince. That will have to be continued somewhere down the road. Instead we have this humorous photo of the Vafs at historic Bartlett cornerstone Elva T. Bledsoe Park. I have directed Evie to tickle Tamsie, and she is following my instructions WITH GUSTO.

    5/4/14: Gomphids Are a Girl's Best Friend - I feel like I have been editing photos non-stop since Tuesday morning. Six shoots in a week! That's no joke. I took a break this morning to visit the pond at Shelby Farms, and it was so non-humidly warm and pleasant outside, and so far from a computer screen, that I enjoyed myself even more than usual. I remain sort of bummed that our local gomphid population is not very diverse (it's lancet clubtails or nothing most of the time), but I enjoy them whenever I see them. They just look so happy to be here!

    5/4/14: Gomphids Are a Girl's Best Friend - I feel like I have been editing photos non-stop since Tuesday morning. Six shoots in a week! That's no joke. I took a break this morning to visit the pond at Shelby Farms, and it was so non-humidly warm and pleasant outside, and so far from a computer screen, that I enjoyed myself even more than usual. I remain sort of bummed that our local gomphid population is not very diverse (it's lancet clubtails or nothing most of the time), but I enjoy them whenever I see them. They just look so happy to be here!

    5/5/14: I Can Hear the Ticking of the Clock - Monday was an auspicious occasion for Dad: the return of his beloved

    5/5/14: I Can Hear the Ticking of the Clock - Monday was an auspicious occasion for Dad: the return of his beloved "24." Since he loves to throw "Dammit Chloe" into casual conversation, I snagged him a shirt to celebrate its return to the lexicon. Mom and I also got to spend the afternoon chatting with my cousins and their significant others since they were in town for their grandma Dot's funeral. It was very nice to see them, although I wish the circumstances had been happier.

    5/6/14: Sittin' On a Fencepost - Today's photo was either going to be of this house sparrow or of a hawk with a half-eaten lizard dangling from its mouth. I would have preferred the latter, but I have a feeling that would have alienated some people (i.e., my mom).

    5/6/14: Sittin' On a Fencepost - Today's photo was either going to be of this house sparrow or of a hawk with a half-eaten lizard dangling from its mouth. I would have preferred the latter, but I have a feeling that would have alienated some people (i.e., my mom).

    5/7/14: This Little Squirrel I Used to Be - I haven't been having great luck with birds in the afternoon this week. On this excursion I did discover a plant that wasn't listed in the forest floristic survey, though, so that was at least a teeny tiny victory for my observational skills.

    5/7/14: This Little Squirrel I Used to Be - I haven't been having great luck with birds in the afternoon this week. On this excursion I did discover a plant that wasn't listed in the forest floristic survey, though, so that was at least a teeny tiny victory for my observational skills.

    5/8/14: Chestnuts Roasting - Most of the birds I've spotted this week have been chestnut-sided warblers, which are birds that look like they've been crayoned. It has been a tough week at work, and I've become a little disillusioned with how politics work (which happens every time I get close to anything political). At least my forest walks help me right the ship mentally.

    5/8/14: Chestnuts Roasting - Most of the birds I've spotted this week have been chestnut-sided warblers, which are birds that look like they've been crayoned. It has been a tough week at work, and I've become a little disillusioned with how politics work (which happens every time I get close to anything political). At least my forest walks help me right the ship mentally.

    5/9/14: Shower Scene - I didn't think I'd be able to walk at all on Friday because it was supposed to storm all day, but the rain actually cleared out just before I got to work in the morning. I got nailed several times from drops slipping off the leaves, but it was worthwhile. It smelled SO GOOD in there and everything just looked magical in its post-rain state. I have a pipe dream of making a photo book of the Old Forest, which is a variation on a pipe dream I had in Pittsburgh that never came to fruition. We'll see if I can make it work, or if the chiggers chase me out of the woods for the next few months. I know it's coming and I'm dreading it.

    5/9/14: Shower Scene - I didn't think I'd be able to walk at all on Friday because it was supposed to storm all day, but the rain actually cleared out just before I got to work in the morning. I got nailed several times from drops slipping off the leaves, but it was worthwhile. It smelled SO GOOD in there and everything just looked magical in its post-rain state. I have a pipe dream of making a photo book of the Old Forest, which is a variation on a pipe dream I had in Pittsburgh that never came to fruition. We'll see if I can make it work, or if the chiggers chase me out of the woods for the next few months. I know it's coming and I'm dreading it.

    5/10/14: You're Gonna Make It After All - Ira's graduation from MCA was Saturday, so we all headed over to the Shell to watch her walk. We're very proud of her, and God knows she earned every bit of that degree! Then Mom and Dad I tried out the Grove Grill while Daniel and Ira stayed behind to chat with the other grads. Mom and I were definitively not impressed, but you never know till you try, I guess. Then I went to Home Depot and bought a new grill (new life skill just waiting to be acquired!), we dropped Daniel and Ira off at the airport, and Mom and I went to get bedding plants at Bayless. And then we dropped flat of exhaustion.

    5/10/14: You're Gonna Make It After All - Ira's graduation from MCA was Saturday, so we all headed over to the Shell to watch her walk. We're very proud of her, and God knows she earned every bit of that degree! Then Mom and Dad I tried out the Grove Grill while Daniel and Ira stayed behind to chat with the other grads. Mom and I were definitively not impressed, but you never know till you try, I guess. Then I went to Home Depot and bought a new grill (new life skill just waiting to be acquired!), we dropped Daniel and Ira off at the airport, and Mom and I went to get bedding plants at Bayless. And then we dropped flat of exhaustion.

    5/11/14: Planting Day - This Mother's Day was a mashup of the past few: waffles for breakfast and a day spent planting flowers. We also returned to Home Depot to fill in some blank spaces and purchase propane and propane accessories (I think Hank would have been ashamed that we basically got all our goods at MegaLoMart). And I went for a walk in Nesbit Park, where I had to bite my tongue to avoid audibly laughing at the family who could not convince its matriarch to traverse the creek and its hillside.

    5/11/14: Planting Day - This Mother's Day was a mashup of the past few: waffles for breakfast and a day spent planting flowers. We also returned to Home Depot to fill in some blank spaces and purchase propane and propane accessories (I think Hank would have been ashamed that we basically got all our goods at MegaLoMart). And I went for a walk in Nesbit Park, where I had to bite my tongue to avoid audibly laughing at the family who could not convince its matriarch to traverse the creek and its hillside. "This guy's doin' it on a damn BIKE!" It was 5-10 minutes of about eight people all screaming at the tops of their lungs at each other. The poor mom wound up turning around and waiting in the parking lot. Happy Mother's Day INDEED.

    5/12/14: If I Toad You Once - This week was much the same as last week: work was a mix of Day of Merrymaking scrambling and zoo parking back-and-forth, Mom had a terrible time with chemo, and I walked around in the mud a lot looking for birds. Nothing particularly notable on Monday, so today's photo is a yelpy toad from the backyard.

    5/12/14: If I Toad You Once - This week was much the same as last week: work was a mix of Day of Merrymaking scrambling and zoo parking back-and-forth, Mom had a terrible time with chemo, and I walked around in the mud a lot looking for birds. Nothing particularly notable on Monday, so today's photo is a yelpy toad from the backyard.

    5/13/14: You Get Burned, You Get Cold - I needed a walk badly on Tuesday, but the skies kept opening and closing at random. I tried to head over to the woods but noticed a Mississippi kite perching on the golf course, so I decided to pull over. While I was standing there, the huge thunderclaps started, so I was glad I had stopped when I had the chance.

    5/13/14: You Get Burned, You Get Cold - I needed a walk badly on Tuesday, but the skies kept opening and closing at random. I tried to head over to the woods but noticed a Mississippi kite perching on the golf course, so I decided to pull over. While I was standing there, the huge thunderclaps started, so I was glad I had stopped when I had the chance.

    5/14/14: You're On Your Way - Wednesday was rainy too, but after slopping some delicious ramen noodle soup all over my shirt, I decided I didn't mind the humidity in the woods that afternoon. I had an entertaining amount of birds, but I liked this shot the best. (A lot of the time, the bird shots are sufficient for me to ID them, but the lighting is so terrible that they're not really fit for public consumption.)

    5/14/14: You're On Your Way - Wednesday was rainy too, but after slopping some delicious ramen noodle soup all over my shirt, I decided I didn't mind the humidity in the woods that afternoon. I had an entertaining amount of birds, but I liked this shot the best. (A lot of the time, the bird shots are sufficient for me to ID them, but the lighting is so terrible that they're not really fit for public consumption.)

    5/15/14: Catch Me If You Can - Thursday morning was spent pleasantly touring the woods with a researcher from the U of M who's going to study people's attitudes toward the forest over the next few months. Eric, Allan, and I kept interrupting our own sentences with whiplash-inducing bird-spottings. This blue-gray gnatcatcher was one of 20+ species Allan recorded, some from sound only (walking with a real naturalist is like having a human cheat sheet).

    5/15/14: Catch Me If You Can - Thursday morning was spent pleasantly touring the woods with a researcher from the U of M who's going to study people's attitudes toward the forest over the next few months. Eric, Allan, and I kept interrupting our own sentences with whiplash-inducing bird-spottings. This blue-gray gnatcatcher was one of 20+ species Allan recorded, some from sound only (walking with a real naturalist is like having a human cheat sheet).

    5/16/14: Sing the Blues - Mom had a terrible night Thursday, so I stayed home with her Friday to make sure she wasn't going to have to go to the hospital. Thankfully she got the all-clear and an antibiotic. Later in the afternoon, I ventured over to Ghost River in search of dragonflies, which didn't pan out so well. But there were lots of cool birds! I enjoyed standing on the Bateman Bridge watching the cliff swallows swirl overhead. This indigo bunting gets the photo nod because he posed in such lovely light instead of trying to hide from me.

    5/16/14: Sing the Blues - Mom had a terrible night Thursday, so I stayed home with her Friday to make sure she wasn't going to have to go to the hospital. Thankfully she got the all-clear and an antibiotic. Later in the afternoon, I ventured over to Ghost River in search of dragonflies, which didn't pan out so well. But there were lots of cool birds! I enjoyed standing on the Bateman Bridge watching the cliff swallows swirl overhead. This indigo bunting gets the photo nod because he posed in such lovely light instead of trying to hide from me.

    5/17/14: Backyard Visitor - Saturday was spent driving around town in search of various food items. In the afternoon, the rain finally stopped and I went into the yard to watch the chickadees screech at each other. I wound up staying out for an hour watching this magnolia warbler (our first backyard warbler sighting!) and all the bluebirds, robins, and finches with their new babies. Adorable.

    5/17/14: Backyard Visitor - Saturday was spent driving around town in search of various food items. In the afternoon, the rain finally stopped and I went into the yard to watch the chickadees screech at each other. I wound up staying out for an hour watching this magnolia warbler (our first backyard warbler sighting!) and all the bluebirds, robins, and finches with their new babies. Adorable.

    5/18/14: Nice Spread - On Sunday I paid my first visit to Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, which turns out to be off the same highway exit where I once deliriously drove into a cornfield because of a poorly-marked on-ramp. Passing it again only reiterated that my confusion would have been justified in broad daylight, never mind in the late-night stupor I found myself at the time. Anyway, this is a nice little refuge and I saw many interesting birds. Odes were mostly limited to about ten zillion dashers and pondhawks, but occasionally I stumbled across a spreadwing in the grass.

    5/18/14: Nice Spread - On Sunday I paid my first visit to Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, which turns out to be off the same highway exit where I once deliriously drove into a cornfield because of a poorly-marked on-ramp. Passing it again only reiterated that my confusion would have been justified in broad daylight, never mind in the late-night stupor I found myself at the time. Anyway, this is a nice little refuge and I saw many interesting birds. Odes were mostly limited to about ten zillion dashers and pondhawks, but occasionally I stumbled across a spreadwing in the grass.

    5/19/14: Everything Falls Apart - I drove to the downtown post office on Monday to put in some money for our direct mail. During my drive, the Grizzlies front office completely imploded, which made for the first of a week of utterly riveting editions of the Chris Vernon Show. I could barely make myself get out of the car to run in and deposit the money.

    5/19/14: Everything Falls Apart - I drove to the downtown post office on Monday to put in some money for our direct mail. During my drive, the Grizzlies front office completely imploded, which made for the first of a week of utterly riveting editions of the Chris Vernon Show. I could barely make myself get out of the car to run in and deposit the money.

    5/20/14: Dumpster Fire -

    5/20/14: Dumpster Fire - "Dumpster Fire" was a phrase invoked often re: the Grizzlies this week, but it could also apply to our battle at work over the issue of zoo parking. We decided at 1:00pm Tuesday to launch our Overton Square parking shuttle that Saturday, in response to a zoo press release whose tone was so unbelievably nasty that the mayor asked for a public apology. It instantly became the most baffling public relations choice I have ever witnessed. So after a very long day of writing the first of the week's four (!) lengthy public position statements and making 20+ shuttle signs, I came home and attempted grilling for the first time. I yelped in fright during several flare-ups, and in the end was not a huge fan of any part of cooking a whole chicken. I shall try again with something simpler.

    5/21/14: Duck and Cover - I somehow made it out of the office for a few minutes on Wednesday, but it was another long, statement-y day full of twists and turns. Stuff like this is exhilarating for a few days, and really keeps you sharp professionally. Then you just feel exhausted. My motto for the whole process has been

    5/21/14: Duck and Cover - I somehow made it out of the office for a few minutes on Wednesday, but it was another long, statement-y day full of twists and turns. Stuff like this is exhilarating for a few days, and really keeps you sharp professionally. Then you just feel exhausted. My motto for the whole process has been "keep a cool booty" (TM Tony Allen). It is not always easy to curb your strong viewpoints and be the diplomat, but that's what we've been doing and I'm always so, so glad in hindsight that I bit my tongue instead of taking the bait.

    5/22/14: I'm That Chick You Like - We have a large number of chickadees who rove through the yard every few hours making an adorable racket. This one kindly flew into some pretty light during a break from its feeding frenzy.

    5/22/14: I'm That Chick You Like - We have a large number of chickadees who rove through the yard every few hours making an adorable racket. This one kindly flew into some pretty light during a break from its feeding frenzy.

    5/23/14: I Can See Your Britches - I wanted to leave work early on Friday because I knew I'd be there all weekend, but alas--I made the fatal error of allowing our shuttle signs to be delivered instead of making the trek to Southaven to pick them up. Thus I was wound up tighter than a drum when I finally got out of there at 5:30. All I could muster was this picture of our backyard hummingbird looking mean and showing his bloomers.

    5/23/14: I Can See Your Britches - I wanted to leave work early on Friday because I knew I'd be there all weekend, but alas--I made the fatal error of allowing our shuttle signs to be delivered instead of making the trek to Southaven to pick them up. Thus I was wound up tighter than a drum when I finally got out of there at 5:30. All I could muster was this picture of our backyard hummingbird looking mean and showing his bloomers.

    5/24/13: Be Cool, Man - All day Saturday was devoted to the shuttle, and I gave my first TV interviews in years moments after wiping sweat from my eye sockets. You picked a fine weekend to be above 90 degrees, Lucille. We only had 32 riders on Day One, but it's hard to really call that a referendum when the zoo was allowed to park on the grass and said 345 cars were mostly out-of-towners. That night I took Mom for her first Jerry's experience. It reaffirmed that I am just not a big fan of sno-cones, but it was notable because Mom practically glued herself to Memphis Tiger Nick King to take a

    5/24/13: Be Cool, Man - All day Saturday was devoted to the shuttle, and I gave my first TV interviews in years moments after wiping sweat from my eye sockets. You picked a fine weekend to be above 90 degrees, Lucille. We only had 32 riders on Day One, but it's hard to really call that a referendum when the zoo was allowed to park on the grass and said 345 cars were mostly out-of-towners. That night I took Mom for her first Jerry's experience. It reaffirmed that I am just not a big fan of sno-cones, but it was notable because Mom practically glued herself to Memphis Tiger Nick King to take a "subtle" shot with him in the background. This is after I have requested that she move closer to me.

    5/25/14: Get On the Bus, Gus - Sunday was even quieter than Saturday, with no overflow parking necessary and thus no demand whatsoever for a shuttle. Mom and Dad kindly came down and rode it anyway, and we had a nice brunch at Bosco's. So at least we got something accomplished.

    5/25/14: Get On the Bus, Gus - Sunday was even quieter than Saturday, with no overflow parking necessary and thus no demand whatsoever for a shuttle. Mom and Dad kindly came down and rode it anyway, and we had a nice brunch at Bosco's. So at least we got something accomplished.

    5/26/14: Run White and Blue - I decided that since I'd spent the weekend in the park, I might as well get out of bed Monday morning and take some photos of the Memorial Day Race. It was incredibly hot, but I got to talk to Becky afterwards so that was nice. An older gentleman called Pawpaw claimed that she had once forced him to pee like a dog, and he got on his knees and pantomimed this exercise for us, to Becky's total bewilderment. Then I spent the rest of the day at Ghost River because I was already thoroughly disgusting. I saw a new-to-me dragonfly and some far-out-of-range anhingas flying overhead, so that was notable.

    5/26/14: Run White and Blue - I decided that since I'd spent the weekend in the park, I might as well get out of bed Monday morning and take some photos of the Memorial Day Race. It was incredibly hot, but I got to talk to Becky afterwards so that was nice. An older gentleman called Pawpaw claimed that she had once forced him to pee like a dog, and he got on his knees and pantomimed this exercise for us, to Becky's total bewilderment. Then I spent the rest of the day at Ghost River because I was already thoroughly disgusting. I saw a new-to-me dragonfly and some far-out-of-range anhingas flying overhead, so that was notable.

    5/27/14: Watch From Above - Tylur and his crew were putting the finishing touches on the lighting of Bike Gate Tuesday, so they had a lift truck until 2:00pm. Eric apprised me of this, and after I ate lunch I decided I'd better fly home and get my camera, because how often do you get the opportunity to sail over such things? So we went up over Sam Cooper Blvd., and it was windy and rather nerve-wracking, but we came out unscathed. Well, Eric kinda broke his toe repositioning the machine, but that happened on the ground, not in the air.

    5/27/14: Watch From Above - Tylur and his crew were putting the finishing touches on the lighting of Bike Gate Tuesday, so they had a lift truck until 2:00pm. Eric apprised me of this, and after I ate lunch I decided I'd better fly home and get my camera, because how often do you get the opportunity to sail over such things? So we went up over Sam Cooper Blvd., and it was windy and rather nerve-wracking, but we came out unscathed. Well, Eric kinda broke his toe repositioning the machine, but that happened on the ground, not in the air.

    5/28/14: Rep Your Hood - There is very frequently a bluebird perched atop our misspelled street sign, but I generally notice it at times when I don't have my camera. Today I managed to approach it stealthily enough that it didn't fly away, but the neighbor whose yard I had to stand in did arrive home during the exercise. He just ignored it. Perhaps I have a reputation.

    5/28/14: Rep Your Hood - There is very frequently a bluebird perched atop our misspelled street sign, but I generally notice it at times when I don't have my camera. Today I managed to approach it stealthily enough that it didn't fly away, but the neighbor whose yard I had to stand in did arrive home during the exercise. He just ignored it. Perhaps I have a reputation.

    5/29/14: Park After Dark - This neverending work week also included two public meetings about park entrance improvements. (The only real Pawnee-an soundbite was a guy who bitterly declared

    5/29/14: Park After Dark - This neverending work week also included two public meetings about park entrance improvements. (The only real Pawnee-an soundbite was a guy who bitterly declared "good for the city for deciding to do those; maybe they can hold a BAKE SALE to raise the money!") After the Thursday night meeting, Eric and I went to take some photos of the new Bike Gate lighting. I didn't particularly care for many of those, so here's a rare East Parkway streetlight shot instead.

    5/30/14: It's a Swamp All Right - I hung around at work until about noon on Friday and then went home for the afternoon. I kept trying to go get bug photos, but it would start randomly raining whenever I got out of my car. So here's an on-the-fly grab of a swamp darner in the backyard. I did accomplish getting the new Mariah Carey album, though, for which I had to go multiple places. I guess I'm not the only one who just had to have a pop album that name-drops hollandaise sauce. Multiple times.

    5/30/14: It's a Swamp All Right - I hung around at work until about noon on Friday and then went home for the afternoon. I kept trying to go get bug photos, but it would start randomly raining whenever I got out of my car. So here's an on-the-fly grab of a swamp darner in the backyard. I did accomplish getting the new Mariah Carey album, though, for which I had to go multiple places. I guess I'm not the only one who just had to have a pop album that name-drops hollandaise sauce. Multiple times.

    5/31/14: Under Umbrellas With Your Shades and Your Straw Hats - I started out Saturday at public meeting number 2, then headed over to the Overton Square garage for shuttle duty. Eric, Susan, and I were loath to leave any of the volunteers by themselves in such punishingly hot conditions, so we alternated sitting there and going to do work in other locations. I was so spent by the end of the day that I had to go buy a bottle of wine (which I could only drink a little of because I was so tired I figured I'd pass out if I kept going). I hope this shuttle starts becoming self-sufficient pronto. We are all pretty on edge.

    5/31/14: Under Umbrellas With Your Shades and Your Straw Hats - I started out Saturday at public meeting number 2, then headed over to the Overton Square garage for shuttle duty. Eric, Susan, and I were loath to leave any of the volunteers by themselves in such punishingly hot conditions, so we alternated sitting there and going to do work in other locations. I was so spent by the end of the day that I had to go buy a bottle of wine (which I could only drink a little of because I was so tired I figured I'd pass out if I kept going). I hope this shuttle starts becoming self-sufficient pronto. We are all pretty on edge.

    6/1/14: Bugs and Bunnies, V.2 - Shelby and I used to refer to the area between her yard and the next house as The Bugs and Bunnies Gallery. It involved a lot of swinging around a light pole and a particular tree, but no actual bugs or bunnies to my recollection. She and the girls came over for a little while this afternoon and we introduced them to this magical space. They were more enamored of our backyard gate, the dryer vent, and mom's cow planters, but they gave us a good run or two that reminded me of how we must have spent many a childhood afternoon of our own.

    6/1/14: Bugs and Bunnies, V.2 - Shelby and I used to refer to the area between her yard and the next house as The Bugs and Bunnies Gallery. It involved a lot of swinging around a light pole and a particular tree, but no actual bugs or bunnies to my recollection. She and the girls came over for a little while this afternoon and we introduced them to this magical space. They were more enamored of our backyard gate, the dryer vent, and mom's cow planters, but they gave us a good run or two that reminded me of how we must have spent many a childhood afternoon of our own.

    6/2/14: MY TURN!!! - I finally made it back into the woods after an eternity of desk work, and was having a very sweaty, not terribly productive walk when I followed an incessant chirping into some vines. The chirping turned out to be nothing interesting, but then there came a loud whining and a lot of flapping of big brown wings. Soon I realized I was looking at not one, but two barred owls. No sooner did I get them in frame together on their separate branches than a third swept in, nearly knocking one off its perch in its quest to stare me dead in the eye. That would be the moment of this snap, with the original owl wincing and literally losing its footing. Owls. Listen to me. YOU ARE DELIGHTFUL.

    6/2/14: MY TURN!!! - I finally made it back into the woods after an eternity of desk work, and was having a very sweaty, not terribly productive walk when I followed an incessant chirping into some vines. The chirping turned out to be nothing interesting, but then there came a loud whining and a lot of flapping of big brown wings. Soon I realized I was looking at not one, but two barred owls. No sooner did I get them in frame together on their separate branches than a third swept in, nearly knocking one off its perch in its quest to stare me dead in the eye. That would be the moment of this snap, with the original owl wincing and literally losing its footing. Owls. Listen to me. YOU ARE DELIGHTFUL.

    6/3/14: You Can Talk a Hairstreak - I took Mom to her second-to-last chemo on Tuesday, and she was a champ even while having to school me on not fearing the POP! of the chemical hot packs she has to use on her hands. Speaking of hot, it was another entry in this miserable humidity sweepstakes we're calling

    6/3/14: You Can Talk a Hairstreak - I took Mom to her second-to-last chemo on Tuesday, and she was a champ even while having to school me on not fearing the POP! of the chemical hot packs she has to use on her hands. Speaking of hot, it was another entry in this miserable humidity sweepstakes we're calling "spring." I'm not seeing too many butterflies in the yard just yet, but this gray hairstreak was worth following around for a while.

    6/4/14: Backyard Expedition - On Wednesday I was so excited to go to the salon, because we are reaching Defcon Hair over here. Plus this will be the first time I've indulged in a shampoo/head massage situation since I left Pittsburgh, and I am so stressed out that this just sounds good to me. (I'm too weirded out by the idea of an actual massage, but even I concede my scalp once in a while.) Anyway, my day was derailed by yet another chapter in the saga of Greensward parking. I stayed several hours late working on yet another Public Statement, which I never even wound up publishing because yet ANOTHER chapter in the story happened before I had the chance to. This is no matter; I am deeply, profoundly fatigued of making statements, and I honestly believe the best course of action is to be quiet for a while until we have something super-productive to announce, like a fundraising campaign. I hope I get my wish. And my haircut. Soon. I did get to go to Carissa's for dinner and hang out with my good friend Cliff here, so the day at least ended on a high note. We played with worms in the backyard while Carissa fed Luke, and then we all went for fro-yo. Good times.

    6/4/14: Backyard Expedition - On Wednesday I was so excited to go to the salon, because we are reaching Defcon Hair over here. Plus this will be the first time I've indulged in a shampoo/head massage situation since I left Pittsburgh, and I am so stressed out that this just sounds good to me. (I'm too weirded out by the idea of an actual massage, but even I concede my scalp once in a while.) Anyway, my day was derailed by yet another chapter in the saga of Greensward parking. I stayed several hours late working on yet another Public Statement, which I never even wound up publishing because yet ANOTHER chapter in the story happened before I had the chance to. This is no matter; I am deeply, profoundly fatigued of making statements, and I honestly believe the best course of action is to be quiet for a while until we have something super-productive to announce, like a fundraising campaign. I hope I get my wish. And my haircut. Soon. I did get to go to Carissa's for dinner and hang out with my good friend Cliff here, so the day at least ended on a high note. We played with worms in the backyard while Carissa fed Luke, and then we all went for fro-yo. Good times.

    6/5/14: You'll Catch More Flies With Honey - The great crested flycatcher has quickly become one of my favorite birds, because in its appearance and its yowping/ribbiting, it is sort of cartoonish. The other day I heard one high up in our tree and wandered across the street, craning my neck, until I managed to spot it. Later on our walk, an old man across the street called out,

    6/5/14: You'll Catch More Flies With Honey - The great crested flycatcher has quickly become one of my favorite birds, because in its appearance and its yowping/ribbiting, it is sort of cartoonish. The other day I heard one high up in our tree and wandered across the street, craning my neck, until I managed to spot it. Later on our walk, an old man across the street called out, "Did you find it?" I wonder how many people observe me looking like a total space cadet on a daily basis and wonder what on earth I'm staring at.

    6/6/14: Crushing A Fence - Not content to just be humid, this week's weather has turned to vicious thunderstorms. We've lost several big oaks in the forest, which is just great considering that our biggest observation of late is that we have very little oak regeneration in the forest--it's all going to maples, which are lovely in their own right but don't grow into the sort of giants that tower over everything so majestically. Anyway, we also had a tree take out a fence on the playground the day before our big family festival, so Echo had to come to the rescue.

    6/6/14: Crushing A Fence - Not content to just be humid, this week's weather has turned to vicious thunderstorms. We've lost several big oaks in the forest, which is just great considering that our biggest observation of late is that we have very little oak regeneration in the forest--it's all going to maples, which are lovely in their own right but don't grow into the sort of giants that tower over everything so majestically. Anyway, we also had a tree take out a fence on the playground the day before our big family festival, so Echo had to come to the rescue.

    6/7/14: Rainbow Brite - I slept barely at all the night before Merrymaking this year because I was just convinced it would be called off due to rain, and that it would also rain Sunday and/or no one would show up. Happily, the storms held off and we got away with just a pleasant shower in the last hour of the event. The heat index was pushing 100 all day, though, so it was a day of sweat towels more than anything else. The event was Susan's usual tour de force, but the crowds were sparser than last year. I blame the 15-degrees-hotter weather, certain vocal board members blame me (actual quote uttered before I turned my back and removed myself from the discussion:

    6/7/14: Rainbow Brite - I slept barely at all the night before Merrymaking this year because I was just convinced it would be called off due to rain, and that it would also rain Sunday and/or no one would show up. Happily, the storms held off and we got away with just a pleasant shower in the last hour of the event. The heat index was pushing 100 all day, though, so it was a day of sweat towels more than anything else. The event was Susan's usual tour de force, but the crowds were sparser than last year. I blame the 15-degrees-hotter weather, certain vocal board members blame me (actual quote uttered before I turned my back and removed myself from the discussion: "We have got to start doing some marketing at the Conservancy." I felt like I was back in the early days of Roy and Meg, only now I *know* I'm doing my job correctly). Still. Fun event, and I am just thoroughly charmed by this junior acrobat enjoying a Coca-Cola Classic.

    6/8/14: Daniel, Daniel Skipped a Toad - Buried somewhere in my brain is the above quote, the concluding line in a song I wrote about one of our Alabama vacations many years ago. My brother had picked up a toad and skipped it across the surface of my uncle's pond, which he thought was basically the funniest idea he'd ever had. Here he is holding a tiny baby toad that my dad noticed in the driveway when we came home from dinner. He refrained from throwing it at Mom's back (another thing he did as a kid) or skipping it across anything, so perhaps the young man is growing up.

    6/8/14: Daniel, Daniel Skipped a Toad - Buried somewhere in my brain is the above quote, the concluding line in a song I wrote about one of our Alabama vacations many years ago. My brother had picked up a toad and skipped it across the surface of my uncle's pond, which he thought was basically the funniest idea he'd ever had. Here he is holding a tiny baby toad that my dad noticed in the driveway when we came home from dinner. He refrained from throwing it at Mom's back (another thing he did as a kid) or skipping it across anything, so perhaps the young man is growing up.

    6/9/14: Cry. - (I named it for you, Mariah.) Tonight was probably the first time in my life I have left a board meeting and didn't make it out of the building before starting to cry. It seems to be a commonly held view, at least among the more vocal of our board members, that we are somehow not doing enough to promote either ourselves or a three-week-old shuttle service that we launched with three days preparation and zero promotional budget. I sat there for an hour and a half feeling like I was facing a firing squad, not allowed to speak up for myself and pretty sure it wouldn't do any good anyway. Ordinarily I shake these comments off as the suggestions of people who don't occupy my shoes and see how I spend my days. But lately I have been working seven days a week, often in the extreme heat, navigating a very fraught political climate that requires me to constantly keep my emotions in check and take the high road even when I'm angry. I haven't publicly cracked, ever, even though I'm so tired I'm basically a raw nerve. And so to hear not one positive word, only criticism, was just too much. This whole situation has had so many highs and lows. Today was a pretty darn low one for me.

    6/9/14: Cry. - (I named it for you, Mariah.) Tonight was probably the first time in my life I have left a board meeting and didn't make it out of the building before starting to cry. It seems to be a commonly held view, at least among the more vocal of our board members, that we are somehow not doing enough to promote either ourselves or a three-week-old shuttle service that we launched with three days preparation and zero promotional budget. I sat there for an hour and a half feeling like I was facing a firing squad, not allowed to speak up for myself and pretty sure it wouldn't do any good anyway. Ordinarily I shake these comments off as the suggestions of people who don't occupy my shoes and see how I spend my days. But lately I have been working seven days a week, often in the extreme heat, navigating a very fraught political climate that requires me to constantly keep my emotions in check and take the high road even when I'm angry. I haven't publicly cracked, ever, even though I'm so tired I'm basically a raw nerve. And so to hear not one positive word, only criticism, was just too much. This whole situation has had so many highs and lows. Today was a pretty darn low one for me.

    6/10/14: Chips on the Side - Tuesday was Mom's birthday as well as her final chemo treatment, which is a double cause for hurrahs around these parts. She's been a true soldier and I'm very proud of her for carrying on through some very painful stuff these last 6-7 months. Let's hope it all gets better from here. Elsewhere, the tiny chipping sparrows who occasionally appear in the yard have had babies. This is not one of the babies (all of whom I have named Gus), but it is one of the parents (both of whom I have named Rufus). They were all so busy making their chip noises that they didn't seem to mind my close proximity.

    6/10/14: Chips on the Side - Tuesday was Mom's birthday as well as her final chemo treatment, which is a double cause for hurrahs around these parts. She's been a true soldier and I'm very proud of her for carrying on through some very painful stuff these last 6-7 months. Let's hope it all gets better from here. Elsewhere, the tiny chipping sparrows who occasionally appear in the yard have had babies. This is not one of the babies (all of whom I have named Gus), but it is one of the parents (both of whom I have named Rufus). They were all so busy making their chip noises that they didn't seem to mind my close proximity.

    6/11/14: Surprise! - Jessica brought Kaylea out to the park on Wednesday to do some photos to surprise Mike for Father's Day. Kaylea pulls off the rare trick here of also looking surprised. Afterwards we had a fine carbo-load at Bosco's, making for a very pleasant afternoon.

    6/11/14: Surprise! - Jessica brought Kaylea out to the park on Wednesday to do some photos to surprise Mike for Father's Day. Kaylea pulls off the rare trick here of also looking surprised. Afterwards we had a fine carbo-load at Bosco's, making for a very pleasant afternoon.

    6/12/14: How to Train Your Seadragon - On Thursday I drove to Chattanooga for the North American Butterfly Association conference, figuring that if I flamed out of a bug-related event this summer, at least I'd be able to drive back home. I did not flame out, and in fact very much enjoyed myself. It rained on Thursday afternoon, so I went to the Chattanooga Aquarium and spent the bulk of my time staring at the weedy seadragons (which is what I do at every aquarium, because there's probably no cooler creature in the world). Then I had dinner at Public House, which elevated the

    6/12/14: How to Train Your Seadragon - On Thursday I drove to Chattanooga for the North American Butterfly Association conference, figuring that if I flamed out of a bug-related event this summer, at least I'd be able to drive back home. I did not flame out, and in fact very much enjoyed myself. It rained on Thursday afternoon, so I went to the Chattanooga Aquarium and spent the bulk of my time staring at the weedy seadragons (which is what I do at every aquarium, because there's probably no cooler creature in the world). Then I had dinner at Public House, which elevated the "vegetable plate" to an art form and was so delicious I almost skipped out of there when I was done.

    6/13/14: Pom-Poms - I started Friday by having breakfast with my friend Emily, who I met a year ago at the Pinkle Toes workshop. I asked for

    6/13/14: Pom-Poms - I started Friday by having breakfast with my friend Emily, who I met a year ago at the Pinkle Toes workshop. I asked for "a little" whipped cream on my waffle and got an entire inch-high border, because apparently the regulation dosage is the full waffle's worth. I probably don't need to tell you it was delicious. Then I spent the day at South Cumberland State Park, learning all about the history of East Tennessee from our touring state naturalist. Part of this included a brief hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail. It was a great day, even though the closure of the interstate meant we had to travel about an hour out of our way to get back to the hotel (luckily, our state naturalist drives around for a living and knows every road there is AND who built it). I elected to forego the evening festivities for some quality introvert time at Community Pie, where I ate a margherita pizza, drank a locally-brewed beer, and continued to be mystified at why people are interested in the World Cup.

    6/14/14: Lookout Below - Saturday's field trip was to the Reflection Riding Arboretum, and was another really fun (if quite a bit hotter) day. We ended a few hours earlier than we had on Friday, so I somehow mustered the strength to drive up to Rock City and revisit a place from several childhood memories. It was different going as an adult and wanting to move a little faster than the wide-eyed kids, but I still enjoyed myself. I skipped the evening conference stuff again (whoops) in favor of that vaunted luxury: the room-service club sandwich and fries. Then I tried to go to bed early because our tours left at 8:00AM and I needed to check out beforehand. I was first awakened by booming fireworks at 11:00, and then much more harshly by the fire alarm going off at 12:45. In my stupor, I somehow found the time to put my watch on, unplug and store my phone charger, grab all my other electronics, and of course put a bra on. I have a genuine recurring nightmare that I'm being pulled out of bed and into a public situation before having the chance to put a bra on, and every time I'm so horrified. The fire alarm was just a teenage prank, but it's good to know that when given the choice between death by fire or being publicly unsupported, I will choose the flames. (Ironically, the next day I changed from a shirt into a dress in my car, in full view of several of my fellow tour participants. So apparently once the bra is actually on, anything goes.)

    6/14/14: Lookout Below - Saturday's field trip was to the Reflection Riding Arboretum, and was another really fun (if quite a bit hotter) day. We ended a few hours earlier than we had on Friday, so I somehow mustered the strength to drive up to Rock City and revisit a place from several childhood memories. It was different going as an adult and wanting to move a little faster than the wide-eyed kids, but I still enjoyed myself. I skipped the evening conference stuff again (whoops) in favor of that vaunted luxury: the room-service club sandwich and fries. Then I tried to go to bed early because our tours left at 8:00AM and I needed to check out beforehand. I was first awakened by booming fireworks at 11:00, and then much more harshly by the fire alarm going off at 12:45. In my stupor, I somehow found the time to put my watch on, unplug and store my phone charger, grab all my other electronics, and of course put a bra on. I have a genuine recurring nightmare that I'm being pulled out of bed and into a public situation before having the chance to put a bra on, and every time I'm so horrified. The fire alarm was just a teenage prank, but it's good to know that when given the choice between death by fire or being publicly unsupported, I will choose the flames. (Ironically, the next day I changed from a shirt into a dress in my car, in full view of several of my fellow tour participants. So apparently once the bra is actually on, anything goes.)

    6/15/14: Field of Dreams - ...but not so many butterflies. After barely sleeping on Saturday night, I dragged myself out to the Sunday field trip to Soddy-Daisy. We started in the most gorgeous roadside meadow, but sadly it was too early in the day for much activity. We then spent the next hour-plus getting absurdly lost on Bakewell Mountain, because our trip leaders hadn't properly vetted the route. Our seven-car caravan was forced to stop in the middle of a road and U-turn one-by-one no fewer than four times, several times while weaving around curious dogs. The lady in front of me was apoplectic by the time we finally reached the parking lot we'd been seeking. I learned that no one else had a GPS or thought to write down a cross street so that one might be used, and that they were fully aware that getting *off* the mountain only took a single turn...which begs the question, why didn't we just come up that way? So Sunday was a straight-up bust, but the rest of the weekend had been so nice that I couldn't complain too much. I did everyone a favor and left before lunch, navigating the angry lady down the mountain with my GPS as I went.

    6/15/14: Field of Dreams - ...but not so many butterflies. After barely sleeping on Saturday night, I dragged myself out to the Sunday field trip to Soddy-Daisy. We started in the most gorgeous roadside meadow, but sadly it was too early in the day for much activity. We then spent the next hour-plus getting absurdly lost on Bakewell Mountain, because our trip leaders hadn't properly vetted the route. Our seven-car caravan was forced to stop in the middle of a road and U-turn one-by-one no fewer than four times, several times while weaving around curious dogs. The lady in front of me was apoplectic by the time we finally reached the parking lot we'd been seeking. I learned that no one else had a GPS or thought to write down a cross street so that one might be used, and that they were fully aware that getting *off* the mountain only took a single turn...which begs the question, why didn't we just come up that way? So Sunday was a straight-up bust, but the rest of the weekend had been so nice that I couldn't complain too much. I did everyone a favor and left before lunch, navigating the angry lady down the mountain with my GPS as I went.

    6/16/14: #thisisjanice - I'd like to cede today's caption to some of my favorite tweets from the all-time greatest Twitter parody account, @midtownkrogers. I honestly could not whittle it down more than this. 1. TERROR ATTACK! Lol just kidding we are its just a big tonka scraper tearing up the old peoples bulding down for the big new store. 2. If you see fruit bees in the broccallis dont pook at them they attack you pretty bad just ask produce Pat this morning he got stang 4 times. 3. Sorry no checks cash today yall Janice is having her fancy wedding petty cure nails done today at Ghouls Dayspa today. #thisisjanice 4. Yall dont grab up all our vanila cokes today Janice is having her mindgrain head aches again she says they help. 5. I know were always have some problems but today our midtowns kroger location really has it's shit together! 6. Happy Easters to today! He is risen and he is so hungry why not feed him our steakums and Minite Maids juice you choice 1.99$ with card. 7. Did somebody say ST Paddys day specials on #green lettice and peppers and of you find other green foods ask Karen or Danny he might say yes. 8. Did you know before this midtown Krogers was there was a #seesells here then before that here was a #shuncks. #history #krogerremembers 9. We still have these nasty old Marti gra's cakes if you come buy them but no babies are inside sinced on old man choked last year. #nobabies 10. One of our workers is really bad sick with the flu guess who it is for a gifts card worth 25$ 11. Weare soldout of a lot for Christmas now but not mini freezer corns or nofat creams or fancy circus peanut puff candy or bleach or shallits. 12. I wan't to bring up that Rusty is #not a good person and tonight because he is not helping out tonight and looked in my purse at break. 13. Yay we put the Christmas holiday tape in today but as usally no frosty the snowman because Danny cried in soups that one year. #frostysads 14. Coinstars update the coinstars is broken down. 15. Unfortunally we are out of cheese tonight due to cheese problems so please dont be mad if you want cheese since we told you now. #nocheese 16. If you are stealing our kroger butter singles stop it we dont know what to do with the other 3 butters that get left. 17. OK Hi tweeps but can som body please call the store ask for karen than just say janice is shutup in the meat cooler behind dairys lol thanks 18. If you found a L'eggs contaner in the dairy to day we are SO sorry it is a joke and we dont believe in jokes with contaners in that section 19. Our produces department employees arent traned to identify vegetebles but will do there best to help you figure it out for tips. 20. Your kids are so loud why not spank them in our #fresh bleached bathrooms behind the yogerts stand in the cold section?

    6/16/14: #thisisjanice - I'd like to cede today's caption to some of my favorite tweets from the all-time greatest Twitter parody account, @midtownkrogers. I honestly could not whittle it down more than this. 1. TERROR ATTACK! Lol just kidding we are its just a big tonka scraper tearing up the old peoples bulding down for the big new store. 2. If you see fruit bees in the broccallis dont pook at them they attack you pretty bad just ask produce Pat this morning he got stang 4 times. 3. Sorry no checks cash today yall Janice is having her fancy wedding petty cure nails done today at Ghouls Dayspa today. #thisisjanice 4. Yall dont grab up all our vanila cokes today Janice is having her mindgrain head aches again she says they help. 5. I know were always have some problems but today our midtowns kroger location really has it's shit together! 6. Happy Easters to today! He is risen and he is so hungry why not feed him our steakums and Minite Maids juice you choice 1.99$ with card. 7. Did somebody say ST Paddys day specials on #green lettice and peppers and of you find other green foods ask Karen or Danny he might say yes. 8. Did you know before this midtown Krogers was there was a #seesells here then before that here was a #shuncks. #history #krogerremembers 9. We still have these nasty old Marti gra's cakes if you come buy them but no babies are inside sinced on old man choked last year. #nobabies 10. One of our workers is really bad sick with the flu guess who it is for a gifts card worth 25$ 11. Weare soldout of a lot for Christmas now but not mini freezer corns or nofat creams or fancy circus peanut puff candy or bleach or shallits. 12. I wan't to bring up that Rusty is #not a good person and tonight because he is not helping out tonight and looked in my purse at break. 13. Yay we put the Christmas holiday tape in today but as usally no frosty the snowman because Danny cried in soups that one year. #frostysads 14. Coinstars update the coinstars is broken down. 15. Unfortunally we are out of cheese tonight due to cheese problems so please dont be mad if you want cheese since we told you now. #nocheese 16. If you are stealing our kroger butter singles stop it we dont know what to do with the other 3 butters that get left. 17. OK Hi tweeps but can som body please call the store ask for karen than just say janice is shutup in the meat cooler behind dairys lol thanks 18. If you found a L'eggs contaner in the dairy to day we are SO sorry it is a joke and we dont believe in jokes with contaners in that section 19. Our produces department employees arent traned to identify vegetebles but will do there best to help you figure it out for tips. 20. Your kids are so loud why not spank them in our #fresh bleached bathrooms behind the yogerts stand in the cold section?

    3/16/14: The Bike, My Sweet - On Sunday, Carissa and I reprised last year's Bosco's brunch date, this time with Baby Luke in tow. While we waited for our buzzer to sound, we visited Sweet Noshings across the street and picked up some chocolate for later. This is a tradition well worth keeping. Baby Luke even got chatted up by a member of Joyce Cobb's band.3/17/14: Crazy Like a Fox - This week is mostly birds. I dunno. I had a really good week at work, in contrast to the previous week when I just felt like I was drowning in miscellaneous tasks that had nothing to do with my own job. This week I had plenty of time to dive into finishing our newsletter, so I felt much better. And took plenty of forest walks. This fox sparrow plopped down in front of me for two seconds, but that was plenty.3/18/14: Attention - The birds seem to really like the enormous tree that fell down a couple of weeks ago. I often see wrens and thrushes perched on the edges. This is a pretty rough picture of a wren, but it was either this or an equally rough picture of a mourning cloak. It was a pleasant day, but not super-great in terms of sightings.3/19/14: Flicker Meet Flickr - Wednesday's bird-spotting was a pair of northern flickers that I spotted while on my way out of the woods. They are very cool.3/20/14: Tiny Miracle - On my Thursday walk, I ran across an itsy-bitsy spring azure on some leaf litter. It was right in the middle of the trail, and I had the long zoom lens on, so I couldn't get far enough away from it to get a good photo. Then suddenly it flitted up and landed on a perfectly backlit spicebush. Every time something like that happens, it feels like a tiny miracle. I was glad I'd stuck out the day despite wanting to go home and watch basketball, because then this happened.3/21/14: A Good Day for the Blue and Gray - I did go home at noon on Friday to chill out a little bit before Memphis' first NCAA tournament game. It was a nail-biter per usual, but they pulled it off. For some reason, we as a city aren't all that excited about this, probably because that UConn loss was an all-time stinker and we're just not far enough removed from it yet. Oh well--it's a good thing. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to the Duke-Mercer upset on the Chris Vernon Show. I'll wager I had more fun listening to their play-by-play than I would have watching it. I thought it was appropriate that today was the day the bluebirds picked to hang around in our tree all afternoon. I caught them peering into our bluebird house, so I hope they'll decide to make a real estate investment. I've been trying to poach these guys from down the street for a while now.3/22/14: Criminal Trespass - While running errands on Saturday, I kept noticing how lovely one of the houses on Sycamore View looked with its many spring blooms. The people's car was never in the driveway all day, so I figured we were safe to do a 20-second photo shoot. Daniel and Ira are in town for a wedding, so since they were looking perfectly spring-cheery anyway (and Daniel was insistent that he be the subject of today's photo), it seemed like a logical matchup.3/23/14: A Real Good Sport - Mom and I decided to dress Colbie up and make a birthday card for Lillian. While we were at it, we figured we'd outfit her in DJ Stephens' jersey and cheer on the Tigers to potential victory. Colbie performed admirably (look at that elevation!); the Tigers, not so much; the Tiger fanbase, MY WORD, they reached the nadir of their own entitlement complexes. I originally was going to post this photo on Monday and entitle it THE RANT, and it was going to be a really long analysis of why being spoiled and bitter is just dumb, but I took my medicine and listened to sports radio all day, where the hosts were reasonable even if not all the fans were. Also, if I'm going to slag the vocal members of the fanbase, I must give equal time to Carlos, who calls into the postgame show virtually every single time, filling the airwaves with positivity, good cheer, and enthusiasm. Viva Carlos. May there be more like you.3/24/14: He Don't Seem So Keen - Fittingly for a day that saw me leaving work in tears, Monday was the day the cowbirds descended on the backyard. Once we discovered what they were, Colbie waged an intimidation campaign similar to the one she inflicted on the starlings. Now they're fewer and further between, and I can indulge my fascination with their calls, which is sort of an electronic water-gurgling noise that doesn't sound like it comes from a living being.3/25/14: Quiet as a Mouse - My anguish from Monday's workday (which was too-much-being-dumped-on-me-induced in general and Salesforce-reporting-is-less-intuitive-than-brain-surgery-induced specifically) dissipated somewhat with a Twitter fan's realization that a map of Overton Park is hanging in the conference room on "Parks and Recreation." Not only was this one of my more fun social media days ever, but come on. To have my park show up on one of my all-time favorite shows...just shut up. That's amazing. I could have included a screenshot as the POTD, but that didn't seem legitimate. So you get a tufted titmouse instead.3/26/14: Stop, Look, and Watch - Tina and I had a meeting at one of the Broad Ave. design firms on Wednesday, and I thought I could stand to switch things up from the recent deluge of bird photos. I enjoy a good ghost sign (a far better term than "palimpsest," which I acquired at CMU and which is such a terrible word for a cool thing), so this is a nice one to puzzle over.3/27/14: The Desolation of Smaug - There's really nothing that desolate about this photo, but it's so gray outside and this place is so deserted thanks to the construction fencing that I am kind of bummed it's the best I could do for the cover of the newsletter. It'll look nicer once there are people there, and the sun's out, and THE TREES HAVE ACQUIRED SOME LEAVES ALREADY.3/28/14: Fire Ant - On Friday I decided to pull the trigger and buy a used 300mm lens from Lens Authority, the better to improve my bird photos. On the way back to the office from picking it up, I stopped briefly at the Shelby Farms Beaver Pond to see if any dragonflies might have emerged yet (they haven't). I got back in my car and was putting the key in the ignition when I heard a "Hey! Hey1" coming from the van to my left. I rolled down my window and the man said, "I'm sorry to bug you, but I noticed you had a pretty big camera there. Are you a professional?" I said, "Sort of." He said he was here with his daughter and wanted a picture of the two of them, and all he had was a crappy camera phone. Would I mind taking a picture or two of them? Since he had an adorable little girl in the backseat and there were a bunch of arborists climbing trees nearby, I said what the heck. We walked over to a blooming tree and fired off a few shots. They were extremely sweet with each other, and the little girl was happily running around and talking about feeding the geese. We walked back to the parking lot and I asked him to write down an e-mail address so that I could send him the images. While he was doing that, a red ant climbed under the girl's foot and stung her, and she started wailing. He dropped the paper, said, "What's wrong?! What's wrong?!" She frantically pointed to her foot, and he reached in and plucked out the ant. "Don't worry!" he said, popping the ant in his mouth. "Daddy ate it! Daddy ate it, it's gone!" For good measure, he released a legitimate belch to prove the ant had, indeed, gone down the hatch. She settled down but was now scared to keep walking around, so he told her to go sit in the backseat where she would be safe. Once inside, she settled down and started making faces out the window. He picked up the card, finished writing his contact info, and said thanks as I headed out. It was a few minutes later as I was driving back to the office that it finally registered...wait. That guy just straight-up popped a fire ant in his mouth. Is that a thing that people do? Is that standard? Or is this guy just aiming to be My Father the Hero to his little girl? Whatever the case may be...I'm glad I happened across them on a random Friday afternoon with my enormous bird lens.3/29/14: Try a Little Harder - Not much can be said for Saturday, which was frigid and windy (why?!), stymie-ing our pea-planting plans. Instead we went grocery shopping and I performed an odious work task that I didn't want to have to start my week with. (It's 2014. Why are there still SO MANY online calendars to post events to? And why are they all so many different shades of terrible? There should be one calendar that operates exactly like that of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, only with additional options for making it local to where you are. The end. A two-hour task becomes a two-minute one.) Anyway, it wasn't a great day to be outside, so here's a brief, sad look at a barely-bothering magnolia.3/30/14: Magic Hour - Fittingly, my mom's first photo-shoot assist since her diagnosis was on this lovely family's session through the Magic Hour Foundation. This is an organization that offers free photo shoots to cancer patients and survivors (and their families) via a nationwide network of volunteer photographers. This is one potential direction my photography pursuits might take (as opposed to a full-fledged business, which yet AGAIN I think I may not have the stomach for), and I will do as many of these as are requested. It's such a treat to be able to give back some of the kindness that my family has received over the last few difficult years. Christal and her family were a delight, and little Elijah knows his way around a toy truck. We had a very good time.3/31/14: How I Went Off-Topic - Two things first: this zebra swallowtail was one of many swirling in the Old Forest on Monday, and it was beautiful. And I had a fine evening with Amanda enjoying pasta at Bari and listening to HR horror stories. AND THEN. I was actually sort of looking forward to the How I Met Your Mother finale. Half of this anticipation was because I'm just ready to be done with the damn thing, and the other half is that I've been waiting for that happy conclusion for so many years that I honestly was just so excited to finally see it. The last few years of the show have been suffused with a kind of sadness, mostly related to how Ted keeps mooning after Robin when she's moved on to Barney, and instead of just having him move on, they have her shoot him down every three weeks or so. It hasn't done Robin a lot of favors in general, really--taking her from an interesting feminist character whose reasons for being incompatible with Ted were entirely believable and unique for a sitcom lady, to a shrill dupe who repeatedly lets Barney off the hook for his increasingly sociopathic behavior. I didn't like where the show had put itself, but it had committed completely to Robin/Barney to the point where it wasted an entire final season on the trivialities of their wedding weekend. The only bright spot was the introduction of The Mother, who was so charmingly played and written that it was baffling that they didn't use her more. It turned out there was a reason they didn't use her more: they didn't give a rat's (or a cockamouse's, if you prefer) ass about her character. And the joke is on me for expecting one episode to redeem the last few lean years in any way. But I certainly didn't expect that when I turned off the TV, I would be sobbing uncontrollably. RAGE SOBBING. My first reaction was visceral, based on the idea of the mom being dead (I'm a little sensitive about such subjects at the moment...also, this is a sitcom--you do not have to have a bummer of an ending just to be "realistic"). After spending several days sorting through my many feelings about the finale, I will now whittle them down to three issues: 1. They've had this ending written and filmed for seven years--and THIS is how they set it up? If you know you're going to reunite Ted and Robin in the finale, why spend half the run of the show illustrating that Robin has COMPLETELY moved on from Ted and considers Barney her true love? And the last 23 episodes AT THEIR WEDDING? There were plenty of ways to minimize that, but they chose to write an ending that emphasized a last-second plot twist rather than one that was true to who the characters had become over the years. That is bad writing. 2. They ultimately showed zero respect to the character of Tracy, bringing her on to fulfill Ted's desire for children and then offing her via narration. The next lines after we learn she's dead come from her children, who basically wave her off and tell their dad he's been in love with Aunt Robin this whole time YAY! The tonal shift is so alarming that I just sat there with my mouth hanging open. Especially because the one episode devoted to Tracy this season had a lovely scene of her asking her late boyfriend for permission to move on. I don't agree with the decision to kill her off, but if they were hell-bent on it, bookend it with a scene of Ted doing the same. (I was watching a show called "How I Met Your Mother"...apparently the show they were making was "How Your Mother Was a Nice Stopgap in My Real Love Story.") 3. Oh, Robin. They thoroughly completed the destruction of her character in this episode. Now she has to get a divorce because of her...career success? (Thus endeth any feminist message this show may have started out with.) And this time she can't bounce back and remain friends with the gang because...wait, not because she's divorced from Barney, because Ted is happy with another woman? That doesn't track with anything. Robin loved Ted, sure, but NOT LIKE THAT. She had a million chances, but the show said a million times that if she were following her heart, it kept leading her back to Barney. Ted was the guy she thought she should be with on paper, but that's not what she actually wanted. So she wound up bitter and isolated, and in the end could only be saved by the consolation prize of Ted. I think this was probably the most egregious failure of all. While I hated killing the Mother most on a gut-punch level, the reduction of Robin to yet another sitcom woman who's nothing without the love of a Nice Guy was so, so disappointing. So sadly, I could not have hated it more. With the exception of the long-awaited scene on the train platform (which was perfect and should have been the final sequence), it was just insulting garbage. Yes, this is all about a sitcom episode. But I have a master's degree in cultural studies from a fine university. The one, the only thing that degree really prepared me for was to talk at length about television. And it introduced me to some of my favorite people to talk about TV with. (It did not teach me how to cleverly avoid ending a sentence with a preposition.) So really I'm just fulfilling my educational destiny here. Feels good. This is the longest caption ever. Sorry, Me Who Is Trying to Put This in a Book next September.4/1/14: Bar None - This photo of a barred owl was an exercise in patience. I saw it from a distance at first, but when I went to try and get closer, it flew back toward my original position. I took several photos where it looked right at me, but it was cloudy and everything was pretty washed out. Finally the sun would break through for about 10 seconds at a time, at which point I'd start slapping my legs to make noise to see if it would look back at me. Mission accomplished (after looking like a darn fool).4/2/14: The Primrose Path - I'm not overly a fan of this photo (I love the Fuji, but not for anything vaguely nature-related), but it is a different view of where I go to work every day.4/3/14: Us Two Shall Pass - Every time I pass this tree I hear the above phrase from Throwing Muses' "Clark's Nutcracker" in my head. I will quote the section in full because it's so much more sad and beautiful than anything I could write: "Said a mouthful through a mouthful of ginger ale and love / lift our platinum son / us two shall pass / we're made of glass / it's complicated / you just crumple up / you just hunker down / don't you? / I mean, you know you do..." Probably the only musical artist I know who uses the phrase "hunker down," which of course calls to mind my mom's star turn in Jamie's and my 11th grade newscast. "I said you just hunker down, BooBoo!" she exclaims, complete with a chest shimmy. I wonder if anyone else was as thoroughly amused by it as Jamie and I were.4/4/14: You're So A-Pollen - (Sorry.) Naomi and I went for a walk on Friday afternoon to close out the week, and then I hopped over to Shelby Forest to look for odes. They are still not here, which you could probably tell by the fact that there's not one in this picture. I suppose we'll wait another weekend.4/5/14: Got Little Hands - The baby tulip poplar leaves look like a million little high fives waiting to happen.4/6/14: Criminal Trespass, Part 2 - Another in a series of photos where I place my family members in the yards of neighbors. I've always liked these people's porch furniture, their Steelers mailbox, and their pretty magnolia tree. Note that Colbie is firmly on her leash; while we were planting the front garden yesterday, she took off across the road after a poor kitty, which I am assured by Mom that she couldn't possibly have murdered in such a short timeframe. Nonetheless, she's on probation.4/7/14: Murinal - (The title is a Jerry Gergich reference brought on by the proximity of a port-a-john to the mural, not a commentary on the quality of the art itself.) On Monday morning I had another meeting on Broad, so I snapped a quick colorful photo beforehand. It was a startlingly cold and drizzly day, so I was pretty confident this would be the only time I spent outdoors.4/8/14: Pastel Tale - I drove by the Gotten House on my way home from work Tuesday hoping to see some nice blooms. I'd say I was rewarded. To think this sort of display only lasts a couple of days out of the year.4/9/14: Drivin' Me Wild - It was an insane week at work because I was attempting to throw together a bunch of content for the new Bike Gate banners at the last minute. I didn't make it out to the forest until right before heading home on Wednesday. It's so hard to get a clean shot of the profusion of wildflowers because vines and tree trunks get in the way, but the messiness is part of the charm.4/10/14: The Beach Gives a Feeling - A palm tree obscures it, but Mom and I are here enjoying ourselves at The Gulf in Orange Beach, a spot that has quickly ascended to my all-time Happy Places list in the last year. I wanted to go look for some early-season dragonflies at Blackwater River and go see Granny and Fella, and she had the week off chemo and was feeling well enough to road-trip. So on Thursday we drove down, hit up the outlet mall (to my regret and her delight), swung by Hope's Cheesecake, walked on the beach for a little bit, and then wound up enjoying burgers and Elton John at the Gulf. I gracefully dropped a whipped cream-laden blackberry square onto the top of a mustard bottle, and also took several versions of this photo where I tried to prematurely hurl myself out of this lounge chair thinking my ten-second timer had already elapsed. It was another quality day for my dignity.4/11/14: Calico - The next morning we headed to Krul Lake, where Mom hiked the boardwalk portion of the trail and then headed back to read and nap by the lake. I continued on and was variously met by deer flies, about a million blue corporal dragonflies, and a teenage boy who walked all the way down the trail solely to break limbs off trees and hurl them into the water. It was weird. I didn't see anything new-to-me (except, oddly, around Krul Lake itself), but I did see lots of pretty calico pennants. After getting our fill of nature, we drove back to Orange Beach and had dinner at Cobalt, which was pleasant enough but failed to reach the heights of The Gulf in its perfect simplicity. We also made a stop at Souvenir City, because I think it might be illegal to visit Gulf Shores and not enter the mouth of a shark.4/12/14: Americana - It is a long drive from Milton, FL to Arab, AL. Especially when you begin the day with a sad continental breakfast at the Red Roof Inn that's most notable for spurring a fellow guest to volunteer that hot water with lemon cramps him right up. (The paltriness of the breakfast should have been no surprise, given that the Red Roof's guest rewards program advertises as its main perk a free bottle of water.) In any event, as we wound through the back roads into Arab, I flipped on the radio and said, "This next song will be about Arab." Sure enough, it was Moe Bandy's "Americana," which could not have been more apt in its celebration of good ol' small-town values. We got to hang out with Granny and Fella for a while, and she was quicker to recognize us this time and declare, "I like you." It was good to see them, and good to get back home. Mom's food follies continued with her decision to stop at McDonald's strictly for a fruit and yogurt parfait, only to have to ask for it 15 minutes later and be informed that all the fruit was frozen so unless she wanted it crunchy... Hey. That's TRUE Americana right there.4/13/14: Ethan/Elvis - On Sunday Mom and I met Caroline & Co. at the Gotten House to take Ethan's 3-month photos. Turns out Ethan and Fred are both crazy allergic to dogwood trees (and perhaps spring in general). We had to share the space with a guy who started by shooting a mom and her kids, drifted away for a while, and then came back to shoot sexy-pose pics of the mom while the kids sat on the porch and watched. It was weird...but Ethan was properly bemused by it all. He even gave us his first roll-over attempt on camera!4/14/14: Sometimes I Wonder... - if my inappropriate eye-rolling is visible in these mirrors.4/15/14: Stinks for You - A sort of lackluster afternoon of bird-watching ended in the one-two punch of a tiny hummingbird enjoying some buckeye flowers and this worm-eating warbler struggling so mightily with a stinkbug that it jumped into the middle of the trail to corral it. That worked out well for me.4/16/14: Such Great Heights - Naomi and I walked in the forest and had a top-to-bottom lackluster birdwatching afternoon, so we stopped afterwards to brainstorm about the pickle of playground plaques. I spotted this little guy right before he descended the other side of the hill, thought, "LIGHT!" and snapped away.4/17/14: You Make Me Feel So Brand-New - Eric and I had a meeting at Shelby Farms on Thursday at 11:30. I am ashamed to say I scarfed my lunch in the car on the way as no mention had been made of lunch, and if 12:00 sails by and I haven't been fed, there are consequences. I don't like it, but it's true. Anyway, they had pizza so I inadvertently consumed a lot of carbs, is what I'm saying. Afterwards I stopped by the Beaver Pond because COME ON it's gotta be time for dragonflies, right? It took a chunk of time, but I eventually found this freshly emerged baskettail in the pond drying out her wings before her first flight. She was in a rough position for me to see her, but the wind wound up pivoting her into a perfect place. After I finished shooting, I got to watch her take her first flight. I love this time of year.4/18/14: Warble Me This - Tina hooked me up with an experienced bird enthusiast on Friday morning, and while it wasn't exactly a bonanza, it was very pleasant to walk with someone who knows birds by ear (I know the cardinals are the ones going pyew-pyew-pyew, aaaaand that's about it). The last bird we saw was this beautiful black-throated green warbler. After work I paid a visit to Shelby and the girls, and then Jamie was unexpectedly in town so we had an evening of TRAINS OF GLORY. I benefited from having the same strategy as Jamie but everyone else at the table inexplicably colluding to stymie her while I quietly racked up the points. Victory in our time.4/19/14: Meaningful Progress - Today we officially dedicated Bike Gate, and it was the most beautiful spring afternoon. Several hundred people came out to celebrate, and Mayor Wharton eloquently summed up why it's so important that what could have been an interstate is now a bike/ped plaza: "When mindless progress ends, then meaningful progress can begin." This photo makes me so happy because it's what all the other photos of this project over the past year and a half have been leading up to. Elsewhere today: some photos of Eli and Ethan in their Easter finery, attained by seven adults singing and dancing, a giant Easter bunny lawn ornament, Pappy's cane, and Pharrell Williams. My confusing Abuelo's for Firebird's and getting inferior Mexican than the Las Tortugas I was craving. (I was going to compromise, but I thought I was compromising with Firebird's. Because I can't distinguish one seldom-visited-restaurant-in-the-parking-lot-of-a-big-box-store-in-Cordova from another.) Mom making an Easter lemon pie only to have it slide out of the refrigerator and onto the floor. The Griz getting pantsed in Oklahoma City so emphatically that the announcers called their first-quarter performance "obscene."4/20/14: Happy Hoppy - We spent Easter at Dennis and Cindy's, and Mom asked if I would take a photo of them with her and Dad. I obliged, and this shot was before everyone had the chance to line up and cheese. I think Dennis is doing some kind of spin move, to the delight of the crowd.4/21/14: Uncle Buck - Monday was a non-starter as far as birds went in the forest. Lately I always take a buckeye shot as backup in case nothing more exciting happens, and today I finally had to use one.4/22/14: You Should See Pollenthene Pam - For some reason when I got home on Tuesday I was compelled to gather the copious amounts of pollen into an allergy-inflaming homunculus. I braved the bumblebees to gather some fallen azalea blossoms for her hair, and then body-blocked the wind to avoid her fingers blowing away before I could take a photo. I am super proud of this accomplishment, especially because after I finished, I felt pretty terrible for a little while. I am far from immune to Pam's histamine-related charms.4/23/14: Tom Cruiser - After work on Wednesday I went to Shelby Forest to scope out dragonflies. I really only found stream cruisers and baskettails, but my most notable acquisition was a TICK ON MY FACE. That then vanished into my hair and was later discovered crawling down my back. I am shuddering just typing that. Gross gross gross gross gross.4/24/14: Azaleas for Zadie - Our beloved Carol (who has been sending my mom so many hilarious cheer-up cards that we could paper a wall with them) has the most beautiful backyard. She decided she wanted to try individual photos of the grandkids since photographing them all together is such chaos. First up was Zadie, and it was a total breeze. Why can't this spring gorgeousness stick around a little longer? It's just riotously beautiful.4/25/14: Double Zeroes - On Friday I headed to Pittsburgh for a fine exhausting weekend. First stop: Aiello's with Beth, then on to Laura's to meet new baby Parker, and then to Mad Mex for Tara's birthday. After eating an obscene amount of Pickadippas and watching Justin attempt to choke down an all-foam beer Chris had been given free by the bartender, we headed over to play laser tag. I probably haven't done this since a church lock-in type of situation in high school, and the rust showed. When Justin and I got our scorecards at the end, we discovered we were tied for last. The difference, of course, was that I took 120 shots and he took zero, opting for a surrender position throughout the proceedings. I think mine is a worse humiliation.4/26/14: Let It Go - Saturday was notable for the nuptials of Justin and the once-skeptical Lillian, who offered him a Play-Doh ring after he charmed her by using a banana to make telephone consultations with a dog physician. I wonder if any of that will make sense to me five years from now. Then Tara came over and we watched "Frozen" up through "Let It Go," which I thought was the climactic number until Joanna later informed me I had only watched maybe a fourth of the movie. Guess I'll need to look into that.4/27/14: Youngstown - I shuffled over to Ohio on Sunday morning to do some photos with the Forbes fam at Youngstown State University. I will probably not be asked back to campus given that at one point I attempted to drive onto a sidewalk. Jules worked it as usual, Jude became the Hulk and rescued a damsel as usual, and I fully enjoyed myself. Also, the Struthers PD guy now has painted his rage wall in seasonal colors and messages in addition to his accusations of biased jurists. After I got back, I met Tara and Chris and we did some photos with Penny in Schenley Park. Then I headed back to Joanie's, and Justin's grandparents kindly sent over some special Passover rainbow cookies, which we all agreed were fun to look at but far less so to actually consume. But we tried them! Points for trying!4/28/14: The Newest Little Penguin - Before I headed home on Monday, I went back over to Laura's for Parker's welcome-to-the-family photos. Much Owen-related hilarity ensued. Then it was off to LaGuardia, because that's how much sense Delta's schedules make these days. Oh, LaGuardia: the loveliest airport on the inside; I guess that lulls one into forgetting that it's going to take an hour to get from the gate to the runway. Still--points for both the copious iPads and the salad bar.4/29/14: Ask Me About Spring Bird Migration - After four nonstop days, I wasn't sure I was going to be able to drag myself into the office on Tuesday morning. I succeeded in so doing, but had to stop by the Bike Gate first to confirm that someone's paver was indeed there (and yes, I had nightmares that it wasn't even though I huptoople-checked those orders). So I went into the woods instead of the office for a while, and was immediately so relaxed and at home. I'm nothing without the quiet, I guess. I stumbled across several lovely birds cloaking themselves in the trees, but this summer tanager was my favorite of the day.4/30/14: Think I'm Gonna Hurl - Several times over the past few days, I've heard a bizarre, repeated buzzing noise, almost like a cicada that's zinging back and forth. It keeps turning out to be hummingbirds hurling themselves in and out of trees. I should probably look up why they do this so that I can stand firmly out of their way.5/1/14: A Lot to Admire - No good bird photos on Thursday (although the next day was a migratory bird bonanza), but this day's lovely walk featured a friendly red admiral who posed for a while.5/2/14: A Chair is Still a Chair - In the continuing Cordon grandkid photo shoot series, on Friday I photographed Holly's three kids while we still had some azalea blooms left. Austin and Taylor are sitting and crawling now, and the other grandkids are all in that special phase of life where they're fascinated/repulsed by garden worms. I remember that phase well--especially when my grandparents were digging out the hole for their pool and there was just this insane amount of worms everywhere. I do not know why I remember this so fondly, but watching these kids relate to worms made me laugh so hard.5/3/14: With Abandon - Becky and I spent Saturday doing some futile royal-stalking, since Princes William and Harry were in town for a wedding. We saw nothing because they weren't let out of their cages that day (although she saw their van the night before AND was interviewed for the news), but we did hit up the Brewery Untapped deal and have a nice walk down to Aldo's. So it was a successful day if not one that yielded a photo of Becky and a prince. That will have to be continued somewhere down the road. Instead we have this humorous photo of the Vafs at historic Bartlett cornerstone Elva T. Bledsoe Park. I have directed Evie to tickle Tamsie, and she is following my instructions WITH GUSTO.5/4/14: Gomphids Are a Girl's Best Friend - I feel like I have been editing photos non-stop since Tuesday morning. Six shoots in a week! That's no joke. I took a break this morning to visit the pond at Shelby Farms, and it was so non-humidly warm and pleasant outside, and so far from a computer screen, that I enjoyed myself even more than usual. I remain sort of bummed that our local gomphid population is not very diverse (it's lancet clubtails or nothing most of the time), but I enjoy them whenever I see them. They just look so happy to be here!5/5/14: I Can Hear the Ticking of the Clock - Monday was an auspicious occasion for Dad: the return of his beloved "24." Since he loves to throw "Dammit Chloe" into casual conversation, I snagged him a shirt to celebrate its return to the lexicon. Mom and I also got to spend the afternoon chatting with my cousins and their significant others since they were in town for their grandma Dot's funeral. It was very nice to see them, although I wish the circumstances had been happier.5/6/14: Sittin' On a Fencepost - Today's photo was either going to be of this house sparrow or of a hawk with a half-eaten lizard dangling from its mouth. I would have preferred the latter, but I have a feeling that would have alienated some people (i.e., my mom).5/7/14: This Little Squirrel I Used to Be - I haven't been having great luck with birds in the afternoon this week. On this excursion I did discover a plant that wasn't listed in the forest floristic survey, though, so that was at least a teeny tiny victory for my observational skills.5/8/14: Chestnuts Roasting - Most of the birds I've spotted this week have been chestnut-sided warblers, which are birds that look like they've been crayoned. It has been a tough week at work, and I've become a little disillusioned with how politics work (which happens every time I get close to anything political). At least my forest walks help me right the ship mentally.5/9/14: Shower Scene - I didn't think I'd be able to walk at all on Friday because it was supposed to storm all day, but the rain actually cleared out just before I got to work in the morning. I got nailed several times from drops slipping off the leaves, but it was worthwhile. It smelled SO GOOD in there and everything just looked magical in its post-rain state. I have a pipe dream of making a photo book of the Old Forest, which is a variation on a pipe dream I had in Pittsburgh that never came to fruition. We'll see if I can make it work, or if the chiggers chase me out of the woods for the next few months. I know it's coming and I'm dreading it.5/10/14: You're Gonna Make It After All - Ira's graduation from MCA was Saturday, so we all headed over to the Shell to watch her walk. We're very proud of her, and God knows she earned every bit of that degree! Then Mom and Dad I tried out the Grove Grill while Daniel and Ira stayed behind to chat with the other grads. Mom and I were definitively not impressed, but you never know till you try, I guess. Then I went to Home Depot and bought a new grill (new life skill just waiting to be acquired!), we dropped Daniel and Ira off at the airport, and Mom and I went to get bedding plants at Bayless. And then we dropped flat of exhaustion.5/11/14: Planting Day - This Mother's Day was a mashup of the past few: waffles for breakfast and a day spent planting flowers. We also returned to Home Depot to fill in some blank spaces and purchase propane and propane accessories (I think Hank would have been ashamed that we basically got all our goods at MegaLoMart). And I went for a walk in Nesbit Park, where I had to bite my tongue to avoid audibly laughing at the family who could not convince its matriarch to traverse the creek and its hillside. "This guy's doin' it on a damn BIKE!" It was 5-10 minutes of about eight people all screaming at the tops of their lungs at each other. The poor mom wound up turning around and waiting in the parking lot. Happy Mother's Day INDEED.5/12/14: If I Toad You Once - This week was much the same as last week: work was a mix of Day of Merrymaking scrambling and zoo parking back-and-forth, Mom had a terrible time with chemo, and I walked around in the mud a lot looking for birds. Nothing particularly notable on Monday, so today's photo is a yelpy toad from the backyard.5/13/14: You Get Burned, You Get Cold - I needed a walk badly on Tuesday, but the skies kept opening and closing at random. I tried to head over to the woods but noticed a Mississippi kite perching on the golf course, so I decided to pull over. While I was standing there, the huge thunderclaps started, so I was glad I had stopped when I had the chance.5/14/14: You're On Your Way - Wednesday was rainy too, but after slopping some delicious ramen noodle soup all over my shirt, I decided I didn't mind the humidity in the woods that afternoon. I had an entertaining amount of birds, but I liked this shot the best. (A lot of the time, the bird shots are sufficient for me to ID them, but the lighting is so terrible that they're not really fit for public consumption.)5/15/14: Catch Me If You Can - Thursday morning was spent pleasantly touring the woods with a researcher from the U of M who's going to study people's attitudes toward the forest over the next few months. Eric, Allan, and I kept interrupting our own sentences with whiplash-inducing bird-spottings. This blue-gray gnatcatcher was one of 20+ species Allan recorded, some from sound only (walking with a real naturalist is like having a human cheat sheet).5/16/14: Sing the Blues - Mom had a terrible night Thursday, so I stayed home with her Friday to make sure she wasn't going to have to go to the hospital. Thankfully she got the all-clear and an antibiotic. Later in the afternoon, I ventured over to Ghost River in search of dragonflies, which didn't pan out so well. But there were lots of cool birds! I enjoyed standing on the Bateman Bridge watching the cliff swallows swirl overhead. This indigo bunting gets the photo nod because he posed in such lovely light instead of trying to hide from me.5/17/14: Backyard Visitor - Saturday was spent driving around town in search of various food items. In the afternoon, the rain finally stopped and I went into the yard to watch the chickadees screech at each other. I wound up staying out for an hour watching this magnolia warbler (our first backyard warbler sighting!) and all the bluebirds, robins, and finches with their new babies. Adorable.5/18/14: Nice Spread - On Sunday I paid my first visit to Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, which turns out to be off the same highway exit where I once deliriously drove into a cornfield because of a poorly-marked on-ramp. Passing it again only reiterated that my confusion would have been justified in broad daylight, never mind in the late-night stupor I found myself at the time. Anyway, this is a nice little refuge and I saw many interesting birds. Odes were mostly limited to about ten zillion dashers and pondhawks, but occasionally I stumbled across a spreadwing in the grass.5/19/14: Everything Falls Apart - I drove to the downtown post office on Monday to put in some money for our direct mail. During my drive, the Grizzlies front office completely imploded, which made for the first of a week of utterly riveting editions of the Chris Vernon Show. I could barely make myself get out of the car to run in and deposit the money.5/20/14: Dumpster Fire - "Dumpster Fire" was a phrase invoked often re: the Grizzlies this week, but it could also apply to our battle at work over the issue of zoo parking. We decided at 1:00pm Tuesday to launch our Overton Square parking shuttle that Saturday, in response to a zoo press release whose tone was so unbelievably nasty that the mayor asked for a public apology. It instantly became the most baffling public relations choice I have ever witnessed. So after a very long day of writing the first of the week's four (!) lengthy public position statements and making 20+ shuttle signs, I came home and attempted grilling for the first time. I yelped in fright during several flare-ups, and in the end was not a huge fan of any part of cooking a whole chicken. I shall try again with something simpler.5/21/14: Duck and Cover - I somehow made it out of the office for a few minutes on Wednesday, but it was another long, statement-y day full of twists and turns. Stuff like this is exhilarating for a few days, and really keeps you sharp professionally. Then you just feel exhausted. My motto for the whole process has been "keep a cool booty" (TM Tony Allen). It is not always easy to curb your strong viewpoints and be the diplomat, but that's what we've been doing and I'm always so, so glad in hindsight that I bit my tongue instead of taking the bait.5/22/14: I'm That Chick You Like - We have a large number of chickadees who rove through the yard every few hours making an adorable racket. This one kindly flew into some pretty light during a break from its feeding frenzy.5/23/14: I Can See Your Britches - I wanted to leave work early on Friday because I knew I'd be there all weekend, but alas--I made the fatal error of allowing our shuttle signs to be delivered instead of making the trek to Southaven to pick them up. Thus I was wound up tighter than a drum when I finally got out of there at 5:30. All I could muster was this picture of our backyard hummingbird looking mean and showing his bloomers.5/24/13: Be Cool, Man - All day Saturday was devoted to the shuttle, and I gave my first TV interviews in years moments after wiping sweat from my eye sockets. You picked a fine weekend to be above 90 degrees, Lucille. We only had 32 riders on Day One, but it's hard to really call that a referendum when the zoo was allowed to park on the grass and said 345 cars were mostly out-of-towners. That night I took Mom for her first Jerry's experience. It reaffirmed that I am just not a big fan of sno-cones, but it was notable because Mom practically glued herself to Memphis Tiger Nick King to take a "subtle" shot with him in the background. This is after I have requested that she move closer to me.5/25/14: Get On the Bus, Gus - Sunday was even quieter than Saturday, with no overflow parking necessary and thus no demand whatsoever for a shuttle. Mom and Dad kindly came down and rode it anyway, and we had a nice brunch at Bosco's. So at least we got something accomplished.5/26/14: Run White and Blue - I decided that since I'd spent the weekend in the park, I might as well get out of bed Monday morning and take some photos of the Memorial Day Race. It was incredibly hot, but I got to talk to Becky afterwards so that was nice. An older gentleman called Pawpaw claimed that she had once forced him to pee like a dog, and he got on his knees and pantomimed this exercise for us, to Becky's total bewilderment. Then I spent the rest of the day at Ghost River because I was already thoroughly disgusting. I saw a new-to-me dragonfly and some far-out-of-range anhingas flying overhead, so that was notable.5/27/14: Watch From Above - Tylur and his crew were putting the finishing touches on the lighting of Bike Gate Tuesday, so they had a lift truck until 2:00pm. Eric apprised me of this, and after I ate lunch I decided I'd better fly home and get my camera, because how often do you get the opportunity to sail over such things? So we went up over Sam Cooper Blvd., and it was windy and rather nerve-wracking, but we came out unscathed. Well, Eric kinda broke his toe repositioning the machine, but that happened on the ground, not in the air.5/28/14: Rep Your Hood - There is very frequently a bluebird perched atop our misspelled street sign, but I generally notice it at times when I don't have my camera. Today I managed to approach it stealthily enough that it didn't fly away, but the neighbor whose yard I had to stand in did arrive home during the exercise. He just ignored it. Perhaps I have a reputation.5/29/14: Park After Dark - This neverending work week also included two public meetings about park entrance improvements. (The only real Pawnee-an soundbite was a guy who bitterly declared "good for the city for deciding to do those; maybe they can hold a BAKE SALE to raise the money!") After the Thursday night meeting, Eric and I went to take some photos of the new Bike Gate lighting. I didn't particularly care for many of those, so here's a rare East Parkway streetlight shot instead.5/30/14: It's a Swamp All Right - I hung around at work until about noon on Friday and then went home for the afternoon. I kept trying to go get bug photos, but it would start randomly raining whenever I got out of my car. So here's an on-the-fly grab of a swamp darner in the backyard. I did accomplish getting the new Mariah Carey album, though, for which I had to go multiple places. I guess I'm not the only one who just had to have a pop album that name-drops hollandaise sauce. Multiple times.5/31/14: Under Umbrellas With Your Shades and Your Straw Hats - I started out Saturday at public meeting number 2, then headed over to the Overton Square garage for shuttle duty. Eric, Susan, and I were loath to leave any of the volunteers by themselves in such punishingly hot conditions, so we alternated sitting there and going to do work in other locations. I was so spent by the end of the day that I had to go buy a bottle of wine (which I could only drink a little of because I was so tired I figured I'd pass out if I kept going). I hope this shuttle starts becoming self-sufficient pronto. We are all pretty on edge.6/1/14: Bugs and Bunnies, V.2 - Shelby and I used to refer to the area between her yard and the next house as The Bugs and Bunnies Gallery. It involved a lot of swinging around a light pole and a particular tree, but no actual bugs or bunnies to my recollection. She and the girls came over for a little while this afternoon and we introduced them to this magical space. They were more enamored of our backyard gate, the dryer vent, and mom's cow planters, but they gave us a good run or two that reminded me of how we must have spent many a childhood afternoon of our own.6/2/14: MY TURN!!! - I finally made it back into the woods after an eternity of desk work, and was having a very sweaty, not terribly productive walk when I followed an incessant chirping into some vines. The chirping turned out to be nothing interesting, but then there came a loud whining and a lot of flapping of big brown wings. Soon I realized I was looking at not one, but two barred owls. No sooner did I get them in frame together on their separate branches than a third swept in, nearly knocking one off its perch in its quest to stare me dead in the eye. That would be the moment of this snap, with the original owl wincing and literally losing its footing. Owls. Listen to me. YOU ARE DELIGHTFUL.6/3/14: You Can Talk a Hairstreak - I took Mom to her second-to-last chemo on Tuesday, and she was a champ even while having to school me on not fearing the POP! of the chemical hot packs she has to use on her hands. Speaking of hot, it was another entry in this miserable humidity sweepstakes we're calling "spring." I'm not seeing too many butterflies in the yard just yet, but this gray hairstreak was worth following around for a while.6/4/14: Backyard Expedition - On Wednesday I was so excited to go to the salon, because we are reaching Defcon Hair over here. Plus this will be the first time I've indulged in a shampoo/head massage situation since I left Pittsburgh, and I am so stressed out that this just sounds good to me. (I'm too weirded out by the idea of an actual massage, but even I concede my scalp once in a while.) Anyway, my day was derailed by yet another chapter in the saga of Greensward parking. I stayed several hours late working on yet another Public Statement, which I never even wound up publishing because yet ANOTHER chapter in the story happened before I had the chance to. This is no matter; I am deeply, profoundly fatigued of making statements, and I honestly believe the best course of action is to be quiet for a while until we have something super-productive to announce, like a fundraising campaign. I hope I get my wish. And my haircut. Soon. I did get to go to Carissa's for dinner and hang out with my good friend Cliff here, so the day at least ended on a high note. We played with worms in the backyard while Carissa fed Luke, and then we all went for fro-yo. Good times.6/5/14: You'll Catch More Flies With Honey - The great crested flycatcher has quickly become one of my favorite birds, because in its appearance and its yowping/ribbiting, it is sort of cartoonish. The other day I heard one high up in our tree and wandered across the street, craning my neck, until I managed to spot it. Later on our walk, an old man across the street called out, "Did you find it?" I wonder how many people observe me looking like a total space cadet on a daily basis and wonder what on earth I'm staring at.6/6/14: Crushing A Fence - Not content to just be humid, this week's weather has turned to vicious thunderstorms. We've lost several big oaks in the forest, which is just great considering that our biggest observation of late is that we have very little oak regeneration in the forest--it's all going to maples, which are lovely in their own right but don't grow into the sort of giants that tower over everything so majestically. Anyway, we also had a tree take out a fence on the playground the day before our big family festival, so Echo had to come to the rescue.6/7/14: Rainbow Brite - I slept barely at all the night before Merrymaking this year because I was just convinced it would be called off due to rain, and that it would also rain Sunday and/or no one would show up. Happily, the storms held off and we got away with just a pleasant shower in the last hour of the event. The heat index was pushing 100 all day, though, so it was a day of sweat towels more than anything else. The event was Susan's usual tour de force, but the crowds were sparser than last year. I blame the 15-degrees-hotter weather, certain vocal board members blame me (actual quote uttered before I turned my back and removed myself from the discussion: "We have got to start doing some marketing at the Conservancy." I felt like I was back in the early days of Roy and Meg, only now I *know* I'm doing my job correctly). Still. Fun event, and I am just thoroughly charmed by this junior acrobat enjoying a Coca-Cola Classic.6/8/14: Daniel, Daniel Skipped a Toad - Buried somewhere in my brain is the above quote, the concluding line in a song I wrote about one of our Alabama vacations many years ago. My brother had picked up a toad and skipped it across the surface of my uncle's pond, which he thought was basically the funniest idea he'd ever had. Here he is holding a tiny baby toad that my dad noticed in the driveway when we came home from dinner. He refrained from throwing it at Mom's back (another thing he did as a kid) or skipping it across anything, so perhaps the young man is growing up.6/9/14: Cry. - (I named it for you, Mariah.) Tonight was probably the first time in my life I have left a board meeting and didn't make it out of the building before starting to cry. It seems to be a commonly held view, at least among the more vocal of our board members, that we are somehow not doing enough to promote either ourselves or a three-week-old shuttle service that we launched with three days preparation and zero promotional budget. I sat there for an hour and a half feeling like I was facing a firing squad, not allowed to speak up for myself and pretty sure it wouldn't do any good anyway. Ordinarily I shake these comments off as the suggestions of people who don't occupy my shoes and see how I spend my days. But lately I have been working seven days a week, often in the extreme heat, navigating a very fraught political climate that requires me to constantly keep my emotions in check and take the high road even when I'm angry. I haven't publicly cracked, ever, even though I'm so tired I'm basically a raw nerve. And so to hear not one positive word, only criticism, was just too much. This whole situation has had so many highs and lows. Today was a pretty darn low one for me.6/10/14: Chips on the Side - Tuesday was Mom's birthday as well as her final chemo treatment, which is a double cause for hurrahs around these parts. She's been a true soldier and I'm very proud of her for carrying on through some very painful stuff these last 6-7 months. Let's hope it all gets better from here. Elsewhere, the tiny chipping sparrows who occasionally appear in the yard have had babies. This is not one of the babies (all of whom I have named Gus), but it is one of the parents (both of whom I have named Rufus). They were all so busy making their chip noises that they didn't seem to mind my close proximity.6/11/14: Surprise! - Jessica brought Kaylea out to the park on Wednesday to do some photos to surprise Mike for Father's Day. Kaylea pulls off the rare trick here of also looking surprised. Afterwards we had a fine carbo-load at Bosco's, making for a very pleasant afternoon.6/12/14: How to Train Your Seadragon - On Thursday I drove to Chattanooga for the North American Butterfly Association conference, figuring that if I flamed out of a bug-related event this summer, at least I'd be able to drive back home. I did not flame out, and in fact very much enjoyed myself. It rained on Thursday afternoon, so I went to the Chattanooga Aquarium and spent the bulk of my time staring at the weedy seadragons (which is what I do at every aquarium, because there's probably no cooler creature in the world). Then I had dinner at Public House, which elevated the "vegetable plate" to an art form and was so delicious I almost skipped out of there when I was done.6/13/14: Pom-Poms - I started Friday by having breakfast with my friend Emily, who I met a year ago at the Pinkle Toes workshop. I asked for "a little" whipped cream on my waffle and got an entire inch-high border, because apparently the regulation dosage is the full waffle's worth. I probably don't need to tell you it was delicious. Then I spent the day at South Cumberland State Park, learning all about the history of East Tennessee from our touring state naturalist. Part of this included a brief hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail. It was a great day, even though the closure of the interstate meant we had to travel about an hour out of our way to get back to the hotel (luckily, our state naturalist drives around for a living and knows every road there is AND who built it). I elected to forego the evening festivities for some quality introvert time at Community Pie, where I ate a margherita pizza, drank a locally-brewed beer, and continued to be mystified at why people are interested in the World Cup.6/14/14: Lookout Below - Saturday's field trip was to the Reflection Riding Arboretum, and was another really fun (if quite a bit hotter) day. We ended a few hours earlier than we had on Friday, so I somehow mustered the strength to drive up to Rock City and revisit a place from several childhood memories. It was different going as an adult and wanting to move a little faster than the wide-eyed kids, but I still enjoyed myself. I skipped the evening conference stuff again (whoops) in favor of that vaunted luxury: the room-service club sandwich and fries. Then I tried to go to bed early because our tours left at 8:00AM and I needed to check out beforehand. I was first awakened by booming fireworks at 11:00, and then much more harshly by the fire alarm going off at 12:45. In my stupor, I somehow found the time to put my watch on, unplug and store my phone charger, grab all my other electronics, and of course put a bra on. I have a genuine recurring nightmare that I'm being pulled out of bed and into a public situation before having the chance to put a bra on, and every time I'm so horrified. The fire alarm was just a teenage prank, but it's good to know that when given the choice between death by fire or being publicly unsupported, I will choose the flames. (Ironically, the next day I changed from a shirt into a dress in my car, in full view of several of my fellow tour participants. So apparently once the bra is actually on, anything goes.)6/15/14: Field of Dreams - ...but not so many butterflies. After barely sleeping on Saturday night, I dragged myself out to the Sunday field trip to Soddy-Daisy. We started in the most gorgeous roadside meadow, but sadly it was too early in the day for much activity. We then spent the next hour-plus getting absurdly lost on Bakewell Mountain, because our trip leaders hadn't properly vetted the route. Our seven-car caravan was forced to stop in the middle of a road and U-turn one-by-one no fewer than four times, several times while weaving around curious dogs. The lady in front of me was apoplectic by the time we finally reached the parking lot we'd been seeking. I learned that no one else had a GPS or thought to write down a cross street so that one might be used, and that they were fully aware that getting *off* the mountain only took a single turn...which begs the question, why didn't we just come up that way? So Sunday was a straight-up bust, but the rest of the weekend had been so nice that I couldn't complain too much. I did everyone a favor and left before lunch, navigating the angry lady down the mountain with my GPS as I went.6/16/14: #thisisjanice - I'd like to cede today's caption to some of my favorite tweets from the all-time greatest Twitter parody account, @midtownkrogers. I honestly could not whittle it down more than this. 1. TERROR ATTACK! Lol just kidding we are its just a big tonka scraper tearing up the old peoples bulding down for the big new store. 2. If you see fruit bees in the broccallis dont pook at them they attack you pretty bad just ask produce Pat this morning he got stang 4 times. 3. Sorry no checks cash today yall Janice is having her fancy wedding petty cure nails done today at Ghouls Dayspa today. #thisisjanice 4. Yall dont grab up all our vanila cokes today Janice is having her mindgrain head aches again she says they help. 5. I know were always have some problems but today our midtowns kroger location really has it's shit together! 6. Happy Easters to today! He is risen and he is so hungry why not feed him our steakums and Minite Maids juice you choice 1.99$ with card. 7. Did somebody say ST Paddys day specials on #green lettice and peppers and of you find other green foods ask Karen or Danny he might say yes. 8. Did you know before this midtown Krogers was there was a #seesells here then before that here was a #shuncks. #history #krogerremembers 9. We still have these nasty old Marti gra's cakes if you come buy them but no babies are inside sinced on old man choked last year. #nobabies 10. One of our workers is really bad sick with the flu guess who it is for a gifts card worth 25$ 11. Weare soldout of a lot for Christmas now but not mini freezer corns or nofat creams or fancy circus peanut puff candy or bleach or shallits. 12. I wan't to bring up that Rusty is #not a good person and tonight because he is not helping out tonight and looked in my purse at break. 13. Yay we put the Christmas holiday tape in today but as usally no frosty the snowman because Danny cried in soups that one year. #frostysads 14. Coinstars update the coinstars is broken down. 15. Unfortunally we are out of cheese tonight due to cheese problems so please dont be mad if you want cheese since we told you now. #nocheese 16. If you are stealing our kroger butter singles stop it we dont know what to do with the other 3 butters that get left. 17. OK Hi tweeps but can som body please call the store ask for karen than just say janice is shutup in the meat cooler behind dairys lol thanks 18. If you found a L'eggs contaner in the dairy to day we are SO sorry it is a joke and we dont believe in jokes with contaners in that section 19. Our produces department employees arent traned to identify vegetebles but will do there best to help you figure it out for tips. 20. Your kids are so loud why not spank them in our #fresh bleached bathrooms behind the yogerts stand in the cold section?
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  • 2 Comments

    1. krugthethinker

      I so look forward to these posts! And I am writing this comment even before looking through the photos because I know I will become distracted by the awesome and forget everything I want to say about your post (pregnancy brain!) I am just so impressed and inspired by you. This is the kind of post that it takes courage to write, and the kind of decision that takes courage to make. I am so so so happy that you are not stretched too thin anymore. And seriously impressed by your ability to see what is right for you and take the steps in that direction, even if they are difficult. I am sad to hear how things went with the photography, but so very happy that you have a meaningful and challenging job that makes you feel fulfilled. You are AWESOME, and whatever you do will be awesome too;) Just throwing my hat in the air in support of you! And now I am off to look at all your delicious photos and read your hilarious captions!

      • Melissa

        Cameron, you’re the world’s best inspirer! Thank you. :) This is something that’s been brewing for a long time, and I’ve known for about a year that I was going to need to either commit full-time to the business or scale it waaaay back. I took a hard turn towards the former option for a while, but when life basically grabs you by the shoulders, picks you up, and turns you in a different direction, I think it’s best to listen!

        However, don’t think that I’m not gonna aim my camera at your little guy the next time you come to Memphis. I can’t wait to meet him when he arrives!

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