Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 30Aug20

This morning, wanting to take some photos but also feeling very lazy and uninspired, I said to The Kid, “Hey! I haven’t taken pictures all week. Do you want to make a scene with your LEGO that I can take pictures of?”

He was enthusiastic! After setting a few parameters on size, he went to work and came back with a mountain with a crown of clouds in a jungle. After seeing a shot of it, he added two trees in the background. Then took the backdrop to his work space and added a cloud. Finally took the mountain to add a waterfall and a river. The low shot of the river is his favorite (left side, second from the bottom).

While he took parts and modified them, I took pictures of other things on the porch (where we were shooting).

We have quite a few potted plants. Most of them are plain old terra cotta pots, but only because outfitting the whole lot of them in pots like this isn’t cost-effective. A couple of pots at a time, the yard will be transformed…

And the errant extension cord…

We have an outdoor papasan, and in an effort to keep it usable for longer, it has a cover. The Kid is endlessly delighted that water beads up on it and he can race the beads across it just by tilting it. So we played with water just a little.

Finally, there was a shot from last week that I forgot to share! I had been out in the front yard, attempting pictures of lightning. I didn’t get any that were worth sharing but I did get a neat shot of our front door before I came back inside.

Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 23Aug20

People who exercise a ton on the weekends and not at all during the week are often called Weekend Warriors.

Lately, I’m a photography Weekend Warrior.

Last weekend, I had the honor of photographing this cutie pie. She lost both her front teeth, and her mama was lamenting the loss of school pictures this year.

They’re not school pictures, but they’re pretty cute.

Last night, we had a rainless lightning storm. I’ve never tried to shoot lightning before, and all of my photos came out very dark, a combination of user error and the lightning somewhat obscured by clouds. I had them here initially and decided that if you need to crank the brightness on your screen to see anything besides a black rectangle, perhaps they’re not worth posting…

A friend has an amazing huge saguaro in front of her house. Unfortunately, two of the arms broke off. We’re hoping the rest of the plant can stay healthy. (The image at the top of today’s post is my favorite from this lot.)

Their yard has other plants as well—mostly cactus.

I’m always impressed by the tenaciousness of desert plants, especially with this summer’s record heat (and not much relief in sight yet).

Posted in exercise, mental health, mindset, parenting, physical health, podcasts

Running with The Kid

The Kid has an enormous amount of energy.

To be honest, it’s exhausting.

But it’s who he is and, for the most part, it’s good for him. As a general rule, we all are too content to sit. He often can when he needs to and the rest of the time? In motion.

He received a small indoor trampoline for his birthday last fall, and while not aesthetically pleasing, it was a welcome addition to our living room. He used it frequently.

By mid-July, the beginning of our 5th month of shelter-in-place, I noticed that his energy was waning. He was more content to sit and almost never used the trampoline. Easier for me, sure, but a definite red flag.

School started online in early August, and while he doesn’t have hours upon hours in front of the computer, he does have hours of school work, and no playground to run around on.

This is not evidence that we need to go back to school. This is evidence that I need to do more to keep him moving.

I decided to bring him in to my morning running routine. We started with a plan of two weekday morning runs per week and one run on the weekends. We chose a short loop in our neighborhood dubbed The Cat Lady Loop and two mornings each week, we’d go out and run three quarters of a mile. He can usually do that distance without complaint and we didn’t need a ton of time to get it done.

We did two runs as planned that first week, decked out in bathing suits so we could swim for 10 or 15 minutes when we got home.

Over the weekend, we ended up hiking instead.

The Kid has a couple of podcasts he listens to regularly, including one called The Big Fib. The Big Fib is in the midst of a several-part series and he was anxious to hear the next episode, telling me he couldn’t wait until Thursday when it was available.

Thursday morning last week, I downloaded the new episode onto my phone and we listened to it while we ran a new route.

Together, we easily went just over a mile without any of the usual “this run is too long” complaints.

“Mom! That wasn’t even hard!”

In our post-run swim, we talked a bit and he suggested we go three mornings before school instead of just two. At first, we decided Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but then we decided to change Friday to Thursday. So we could listen to the new episode of The Big Fib on our run. The episodes and our time running nearly perfectly line up.

Yesterday, we easily ran a mile while listening to the new episode. Wednesday, without a podcast, we ran a mile on a new loop, as yet unnamed. No problem.

This weekend, we’re going to try the Starbucks loop (without a stop for a drink)—1.6 miles. He’s done it quite a few times with a fair amount of walking. I will definitely bring podcasts for that one but with him running more consistently, I’m curious to see how he does compared to last time, maybe a month ago.

This week, his energy is higher. He’s bouncing on his trampoline again. He’s walking around to tell stories again.

I’m relieved. And I’m happy to have a morning running partner. Even if we’re only running a mile.

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

As an aside, here are the podcasts he listens to:

  • The Big Fib
  • Brains On!
  • Smash Boom Best
  • Big Life Kids Podcast
  • Eat Your Spanish
  • Tumble Science Podcast
  • Wow in the World
  • Stories Podcast
  • Storynory
  • The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian
Posted in Sunday photos

My photography journey 16Aug20

We went hiking early last week at South Mountain, a local park with a zillion trails.

It’s been over 110 every day for at least a week, so even at dusk at 7, it’s still over 105.

The trails aren’t crowded.

The clouds this time of year are often amazing, and I’ve been trying to capture them at sunset when they’re still big and puffy but pink.

The Climbing Daddy, The Kid, and I went again last night. I took Sir Nikolas Cameron and stationed on one of the peaks. They continued on the trail.

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Phoenix is called The Valley of the Sun. Most people know about the sun; not as many know about the valley. I took shots in a couple of different directions of some of the surrounding mountain ranges.

The Climbing Daddy can name most of them; I can name a few.

This is Four Peaks, also the name of a local brewery.

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I don’t know what mountains those are (facing east), but it’s as close to the clouds that I wanted as I was going to get.

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I don’t know which ones these are, either (facing south), but I love the layers.

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Dusk.

The mountains on the left are all part of South Mountain, where I was. To the right, you can see a bit of the lights in Phoenix.

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This one isn’t the best but I want to leave it here to measure growth. Because I really like the idea and wasn’t able to capture what I wanted.

From where I was standing, a creosote bush stood between me and Phoenix. I liked the juxtaposition of the bush and the city behind.

When I started, there was enough light to see the bush in the foreground and the lit city behind. Just as I got settings and everything ready, a slight breeze kicked up. While the breeze felt good, it prevented me from taking a sharp photo via long exposure.

I have a handful of shots with much better color and such where the bush is blurry from moving over the length of a longer-exposure shot.

So I threw my flash on and took this one with a fast enough exposure for the bush to be still. But it’s not great.

I will go back up soon and see about getting a better version of this. For now, this is what I got.

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Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

Depression prepared me for shelter-in-place

First: this is my experience. It might not match yours.

I’ve struggled with depression for about as long as I can remember. In relatively recent years, I’ve learned how to manage it.

Mine seems to be connection-related. When I feel well-connected to important people, my brain chemicals stay happy. When I feel disconnected from people, my brain tries to kill me. Occasionally literally.

There is a limit to how much control I have over being connected to people. Everyone is busy. There is no village. (This is a highly destructive side effect of our “rugged individualism” and so many of us struggle with it.)

What can I do that doesn’t involve other people?

I can run. High-intensity exercise in general is helpful, but running seems to deliver the most immediate and most reliable hit. People in my circle know that if I’m struggling, an entirely appropriate suggestion is to go for a run. It doesn’t magically make everything better, but it does improve my mood and tidy my mind.

The thing is—I don’t love running. It vacillates between pretty good and tedious, depending on the day. I don’t run long distances. (Two half marathons taught me that 13 miles is too many miles.)

On the other hand, I love how I feel after I’ve run.

Between the couch (or the bed) and the post-run goodness, I have to get changed (ugh), I have to wear socks (ugh), I have to run (ugh), I need to wait until I’ve cooled off before I can shower or change or I will get out of the shower still sweating* (ugh), I need to get dressed again (ugh).

(*In the summer here, it takes at least 20 minutes after coming back in the house to stop sweating, but since we put in a pool, I just jump in after a run and refresh that way and that’s definitely not at all ugh.)

There are a lot of places for this to get derailed.

As a result, I’m quite used to forcing myself to exercise when I don’t really feel like it.

Speaking of “when I don’t really feel like it”…

High-functioning depression requires so much powering through. Getting tasks done when I don’t feel like it is a way of life.

Enter shelter-in-place.

I will not be in a good head space if I stay in my house all day.

I get up and get dressed every week day. This still affords me “lazy Saturdays” if I want them.

The weather was gorgeous when this all broke in March. It was easy to go for an afternoon walk and a run some other time and a bike ride with the family in the evening.

And then it was summer.

Afternoon walks stopped.

I learned to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. And to do something outside in the evening when the sun was low or set. Whether I felt like it or not, because my mental health depends on it.

This is what I’ve been doing all along. The what and then when look marginally different. When I go back to working at work, running in the morning will stop, because I have a limit on how early I’m willing to get up. I don’t need to worry about that now, though. All I need to know is that this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run.