A Walk At Night

After a diligent weekend of doing laundry, cooking and paying bills, I skipped out after supper to take a night walk at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens.  I wasn’t planning on taking pictures – I really wanted just a walk – but I hadn’t taken any daily pictures.  Oops.  So I took my camera and tripod and practiced some night photography.

This year’s theme is bicycling, a nod to Lewis Ginter’s bicycle club as well as the 2014 USA Cycling Race that came through Richmond this summer and the UCI Road World Cycling Championships coming in 2015.  There were a number of bicycle themed decorations, but the Christmas tree made up of all bicycles was the best!  I’ve ever quite seen a Christmas tree like that before.

If you blow up some of the other pictures, you’ll see that I figured out the aperture settings on my camera to get the little starbursts on the lights.  Cool!  I was really pleased with it.  I even got a flare on the moon – that’s not a Topaz effect – I got it with my camera.

Greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia

Greenhouse at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia

Because it was nearly 8 pm by the time I got to the gardens, I didn’t have a lot of crowds getting in the way.  As closing time came, the garden emptied out quickly.  Of course, being so cold helped encourage the crowds to leave.  I wore my heavy hiking boots, but even with that  my feet got cold after several hours.

Since I have more time this holiday season, I plan to go back and hone my night photography skills more.  Well, no, I mostly want to go just to enjoy the lights and pretty things.  Because it was just fun to walk around in the cold, look at the holiday decorations, and simply enjoy being there.  But working on night photography skills just sounds so much more noble.

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.
Norman Vincent Peale



Christmas Long Ago


Thanksgiving Almost 50 Years Ago

This year for Christmas, I’ve been fascinated with decorations.  I want to look at them, photograph them, and just enjoy them.  I was browsing the Williams-Sonoma catalog and found a lovely set of Christmas plates and started drooling.  I wanted those plates!  It didn’t make sense.  We don’t have parties or entertain.  We go to our daughter’s house every holiday.  But those plates just called to me.

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Battle of the Turkeys

My son-in-law, my daughter, and his cousin's wife

My son-in-law, my daughter, and his cousin’s wife

One of the newest traditions for Thanksgiving is the battle of the turkeys, done for the second time this year.

My daughter roasts a turkey in the oven; my son-in-law smokes it in the Big Green Egg.  There’s a fair amount of taunting teasing as to who will have the superior turkey, along with the usual craziness of trying to get them to both finish at the same time.

And for the second year, the oven roasted turkey won!  My poor son-in-law.  He needs to up his game if he’s going to win this challenge.  It’s either that or get razzed again next year.

My son-in-law relaxing while waiting on the turkey in the smoker.

My son-in-law relaxing while waiting on the turkey in the smoker.

And for your entertainment, I also have some baby bump pictures.  My daughter finally looks pregnant!

Common Enchantment

Vizsla sleeping on the couch, where he is NOT supposed to be.

Vizsla sleeping on the couch, where he is NOT supposed to be.

We wait, starving for moments of high magic to inspire us, but life is full of common enchantment waiting for our alchemist’s eye to notice.
– Jacob Nordby / Author, Speaker, Coach

We had a wonderful time visiting the kids in Atlanta.  My daughter is doing well, sprouting along in her 7th month of pregnancy.  My son-in-law is also doing well and like good husbands everywhere, has learned to let it slide when his wife’s hormones kick in and she snaps at him.  Her father also got snapped at and he too just backed away.

As for me, she complained about how uncomfortable she is, how bad her heartburn is, and how junior won’t stop kicking her, especially at night.  As nicely as I could, I turned around, put a pleasant look on my face and said, “payback’s a bitch”.  She was not amused.

I started some steps towards a job search before I left and spent today doing a great deal more.  I’m still not settled into a routine nor have I been nurturing my creativity.  But late last night I wanted a simple project, so I processed up a sleeping dog.  The Vizsla is getting so gray!  He turned ten years old this month, so there is a reason for all the gray.

I was looking for a quote to match the picture, when I found the one above.  One thing my blog is full of are ordinary moments in a day.  Dog pictures, the backyard, walking at the local botanical garden are all part of my portfolio.  I have some spectacular pictures too – Acadia National Park, Harper’s Ferry (West Virginia), Charleston (South Carolina).  But my life is limited by my job and my time.  If I don’t find enchantment right here where I’m at, my life will be small and miserable.  I love the high magic as much as anyone, but it’s not realistic nor is it something to be seeking.

I need to notice the enchantment that is around me right where I’m at.  I need to enjoy and appreciate my life, whether buying groceries with my husband or talking to a recruiter about possible job opportunities here in town.  What better way to enjoy the little things than to pet a sleeping dog, stroke those soft ears, and maybe even get a little grunt of contentment from him?

Life is good.


Happy Thanksgiving!

Dogs Getting Fed

Dogs Getting Fed

It’s feeding time at the zoo, although the miniature pinscher is more intent on scratching himself than what’s happening at the sink with the food bowls!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your food as much as my boys do.  Do eat a little more slowly though and actually taste your food :)

Seeking Closure

Train on Brown's Island, Richmond, Virginia

Train Cars on Brown’s Island, Richmond, Virginia; Stylized With Various Topaz Filters Including Grunge Desaturated

My employer (well, former employer) has had a number of layoffs over the years.  People just mysteriously disappeared.  People that I worked with, laughed with, and got to know.

It always bothered me that they just vanished without me even being able to say goodbye, I’ll miss you, and I appreciated the help you gave me.

Now it’s the other way around.  When I left last Wednesday, there was no opportunity to walk around and say goodbye, to thank people for making my job easier, and express appreciation that they were there for me these last seven years.

So instead of ramping up a job search, I spent my time last weekend saying goodbye.  I wrote e-mails to co-workers.  I wrote e-mails to several of those left behind, reminding them of things they asked me for and would likely need during year end.   I wrote my consultants to let them know I was gone and hoped to work with them again some other time.  I didn’t get around to everyone, but I got enough done that the urge for closure is mostly satisfied.

I know that for my former co-workers, life goes on as they know it.  It will be harder because of all of us who are gone, but in the end, things will be the same for them.  They will come in to the same office, see the same people, eat the same lunches.

But I had to say goodbye.  I couldn’t just leave.  People were important to me and I wanted them to know that.  To know that I will miss them.

Because until I told them that, I couldn’t move on.  And now I can.

[Changing topics] The day after I was laid off, I went downtown with my camera to capture Brown’s Island during the morning light.  The shoot didn’t quite go as I expected, but it did serve to distract me from what happened the day before.  The picture above is one of the ones that I took.  The trees were too far gone to be pretty, but the train standing still was something I’d not shot before.  It really appealed to me to stylize it with various Topaz filters, but below is how the original looked in case you were wondering!

Train Cars on Brown's Island in Richmond, Virginia, with minimal post processing.

Train Cars on Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia, with minimal post processing.

Naming My Emotions

Walking with my Vizsla

Walking with my Vizsla

I was laid off on Wednesday.  Outsourced.  Bye-bye.  7 years of my life over just like that for myself and my entire team, all of whom had been with me for over 5 years.

Whew!  There.  I finally told it.

My former employer left me in good shape, so I have time to thoughtfully look for another job, for which I’m glad.  But I’m also upset for all the hard work and effort I’ve put in.  I expect that in a very short time, all of that will be gone.  Outsourcers tend to use the cheapest labor they can find, which does not equate to experienced.

Each morning I’ve woken up with a different set of emotions about this whole chain of events.

Thursday I was elated.  Free time!  Time to do what I want!  No year end!  I can enjoy the holidays instead of working late most nights in December!!  I made lists and lists of all the things I want to get done while I’m out of work.  Five pages of lists in fact – I have a lot of catching up to do with my life.

Friday morning though found me sad.  I went back after hours on Thursday to clean out my desk and it was hard.  My favorite boy toy was with me to help out and the HR rep was compassionate about the whole thing.  She was (thankfully) someone I’ve known almost since my first day there.  I was glad for that and glad for her understanding, but it was still hard.  All those years reduced to a few boxes.  Packing up my desk was as upsetting as being told to leave.  I was also sad that I didn’t have a chance to say goodbye to people.  I had a lot of good friends at work and there was no closure.

Saturday was fear.  Fear of the unknown.  What’s going to happen now?  Will we have to move again?  I don’t want to move.  Are there jobs out there?  What will I do?

Sunday was fear again, but a different type.  I don’t want a bad boss – I’ve had several in my career and they really wreck one’s life.  I don’t want a ball busting job.  I want a better work / life balance, something I’ve had very little of with my last few jobs.  And I don’t feel like cleaning up yet another mess.  I’ve cleaned up too many of them in my career.  It’s no fun and there’s no glory in it, as no one wants to admit things were so bad before I came.  In fact, the job that I just left had been outsourced for two years before I came and the files and positions were non-existent, along with numerous errors that took me years to clean up.

I don’t know what my new routine will be yet.  The Vizsla is getting a long walk every day.  He’s gotten excessively clingy again and keeping him tired means we don’t have a dog jumping the gates at 2 am to come visiting, which he did Thursday night.  It took several hours and numerous tries to convince him that he was staying downstairs and not in our bed.  Thankfully the beagle slept through most of it and I didn’t have to contend with two of them refusing to go back downstairs!

I’m drinking more tea.  I sit at the kitchen table, looking out the windows and enjoying being quiet as I sip it.  Sometimes I read, sometimes I just daydream.  It’s nice to be able to leave my brain off even if for just a few minutes.

I’m finding a nap each afternoon to be good for me.  It doesn’t matter if I’m not sleeping as well as I should if I can make it up later.

I’ve gone back to taking daily pictures.  I enjoy it and it records my life for me even if they aren’t high art.  The silhouette above was taken with my cell phone during our walk at the woods.  I look like a lump in my winter coat (it’s been that cold here!) but I liked the way my grey muzzled puppy was looking at me.  That stick in my hand is actually a retractable leash.  His recall isn’t the best, especially if we walk past another dog, so I keep him tethered to me like the park requires.

After Thanksgiving, I’ll be contacting people and start the process to find another job.  For this week, I plan to enjoy time with my family.  My daughter says she finally looks pregnant, so I hope to get some baby bump pictures to show everyone.