Sunday, January 26, 2014

Lessons: Constantly Humbled


     As we race through our lives we tend to get ahead of ourselves.  We are sometimes too confident, don't take the time to show the respect others deserve or feel jealousy about something  that is really insignificant. 

     It's then an occurrence happens that puts us in our place.  It may be tragedy or a moment that makes us slow down enough to think about how we are truly spending our time or how we treat others.  How long we stay there is up to us.  Life gets busy again and things are going great.  We don't want to think about reality, let's just have fun!  Then at some point we are right back in the spot we left, until another humbling experience afflicts us again.

     If each experience affects us that greatly then why do we need constant reminders?  

     The answer is because we are human.  We allow ourselves to become overwhelmed.  We try to be everything to everyone at the same time.  We get bogged down with every day nuisances and tend to forget the larger picture of who we really are and what it is we are supposed to be accomplishing in our lives. 

     Being reminded myself many times in my life that I am merely a human being and not invincible,  I tend to ask myself that same question each time.   Why can't I just remember to be humble at all times?    We consume ourselves with, "I want, I want, I want", instead of "look what I have", "look what I can give" and a larger one, "Thank You".

     Almost two years ago, a wonderful friend took time out of her schedule to take me on a date.  I believe I had endured eight surgeries by then, so I could walk, but with difficulty.  Divulging that we would be attending a concert had me eager to enjoy the evening.  Feeling quite unappealing by this point in my recovery, I wanted desperately to look cute for just a night.  

     My ankle braces would not fit into my boots, therefore I wrapped them with ace bandages for support.  We were able to park in the handicapped parking, but we must still stand in line and travel to our seats.   Up until this point I literally estimated my steps every time I walked.  Each endeavor my same thoughts would be, "How far is it and will I be able to make it back?  I can only make a few trips a day at that distance.  Is the ground flat or will there be a place to sit if it's too far for me"?

     Just standing in the line waiting for the gates to open was enough to make my ankles bark.   As we passed through to the walkway, I spent most of my time looking at the ground to ensure my steps would make favorable contact with the pavement.   Having balance issues, my next efforts were to assure myself that no one would come into contact with me!   Having fallen many times alone, I did not relish falling with an audience that I did not recognize.

     Making our way to our seats, I immediately pulled my legs from my boots for relief.  The energy from the concert was contagious.  Laughter, screaming, song from every voice was filling the amphitheater.  Those moments where the excitement entangles with your body and you must stand up to express it came to me often that glorious summer twilight.  Again I had to consider that if I stood for any length of time, I would not make it back to the car.  So I sat and clapped and sang and laughed and sat some more.  

     I did have a great time, but there are occasions that I would like to express the only form of sign language that I know about my situation.    I would like to scream, rant and stomp my feet like a child, but that would only inflict more pain, so I ascertain that this is a silly notion. 

     My ankles are on fire by the time we reach our ride home.   They are screaming at me for trying too hard.  I'm on my way to a self made pity party.  A hint of disappointment enters my mind of the pain my body feels each day and that I couldn't just simply walk to and from our seats without difficulty. 
  It was at this particular minute a woman passes in front of our headlights and looked to be having a tremendous amount more difficulty than I.    It also looked to be permanent.  I was finally out of the wheelchair and was not using a walker or cane.   Although I had considerable pain and difficulty, I could now walk on my own.
   My eyelids closed tightly as I sighed and felt the tears wet my eyelashes and I silently whispered, " Thank you Lord for saving my children and I and for giving me the ability and determination to walk and stay walking.   My life can always be worse and I am grateful for what I Can do and the people who surround me."

     Definitely the instant this all transpired could have been mere coincidence, but rather I believe this was my reminder of how far I had come, how fortunate I am and what an outstanding support group I have.  Again I had been humbled and rightfully so.

     I do not believe I confided all of these details to my friend, Melissa Albright, or how indebted I am to her for one of the few fun evenings out I've had the past three years.  I will keep her in my life and give her the respect she deserves for showing exceptional friendship, regardless of her busy schedule.  

     Great lessons I have learned in those stages of chagrin.   I trust that I can achieve great things by living simply and apologetically.  Surely if I couple this with determination and integrity, I will pass over this soaring mountain and come over holding the hands of my supporters, creating my own Tower of Strength.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Photography:What are my Camera ISO settings for?

      Let's chat about your camera ISO settings today.

     What does ISO stand for?

     International Standards Organization.  I'm sorry, what?   Exactly.  It doesn't really pertain to understanding your camera settings at all, so if you want, just forget about that.

     Next question:  What does it mean?
     Answer:  sensitivity

    Let's take you back to  the "old days" of using film.  Just a mere ten years ago we were phasing out film cameras and converting to digital.  Remember when you went to the store and the most common choices were 200,400 and 800 film?  Chances are you didn't understand what it meant so you picked the middle speed assuming that was the safest option.

     When using film, it meant film speed.   The film's sensitivity to light.  In our current world, it means sensitivity to the image sensor.  The "sensitivity" functions the same whether you are using film or digital.  
     Lower numbers (like 100 or 400) mean less light sensitivity.  If you already have an abundance of light, use a lower ISO setting. 
Higher numbers (like 800 or 1600) mean more light sensitivity, if you are in a low lit area, use a higher ISO setting.

     With low ISO settings you have less grain, whereas with high ISO settings, you have more grain.  What is grain?  Grain is sometimes referred to as "noise".  It is a graininess in your image when there is not enough light for an adequate exposure and your image sensor is compensating. 

     My first decision when I set out to photograph is where I want to photograph.  If it is outdoors, my initial question is: Where is the sun?  Will I be photographing in full sun or in a shaded area? Indoors: Where is the light?   I look for window light.  This is essential if you are using natural light and no flash.   I then set my ISO immediately.

     There is an ISO setting on almost every camera that you can set manually, even the smaller versions you can slip into your pocket.  When you have your camera on Auto, the sensor picks your ISO for you.  Sometimes it chooses correctly and sometimes, not so well.  I like control, so I am an advocate of NO Auto!  

     Here are some examples of events where you could push your ISO settings higher:
  • Indoor or evening/night sporting events-your subject may be moving quickly, yet there is limited light available
  • Churches and Birthday parties, Weddings - you are indoors with low lights.  Many establishments do not allow flash

     No flash was used with any of these photos, but the ISO was set high.  All three images were set at an ISO of 1600.  When looking closely at my daughter's skin or in the dark areas of the images, you can see the graininess.

     Some examples:                                 ISO
  •  Full sun, no shade                            100
  • Sunny day, but in open shade         200
  • Overcast day, but out in open         200
  • Sunny day, but in deep shade         400
  • Overcast day, in shade                      400
  • Setting sun                                          600-800
  • Indoors near window light               400
  • Indoors 5-10 ft from window           600-800
  • Indoors low light                                 1200
  • Indoor sporting events                       1200-1600+

If you are indoors, crank up your ISO no matter what, unless you are directly next to a window with great light. 

     Now if you are a visual learner, here are some photo examples:

      I procrastinated and it was dark outside, so I used a ceiling fan light located to the can's left.   I used the same exposure for each image only changing the ISO setting.   

     You can see the first image at ISO 200 is really unacceptable.  It bites.   Not much better with ISO 400 on the second.  The 3rd at ISO 800 is getting better, you can see the image is starting to lighten.  The 4th ISO 1250, 5th ISO 1600 and 6th ISO 2500 get better and better.   The last at ISO 3200 has the best image factor, but as stated earlier the grain increases with the higher the ISO setting.   

     So you can see the higher ISO setting is more sensitive to light.  It's trying to draw in more light to make your image more acceptable, but the draw back is graininess.  The objective is to create an exposure that is somewhere in between.  Decrease grain as much as possible without sacrificing your image.

    Human skin is a great way to show this, but I did not have any volunteers today, because it was lazy Sunday.

     Practice using your ISO settings indoors and outdoors. Keep a journal of your exposures so that when you view them later you can see how much your images change.   By documenting you can always return to those images and remind yourself of how to assess future situations.  It's also a great way to make it stick in your memory.

     Feel free to post your images to my FaceBook Page or email to for this assignment.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Blogging: May I ask Why?

     Sure.  I've never had anyone ask why I want to blog about my experience.  I've had plenty ask me if I will talk about it.  You are curious.  It's a natural instinct. 

      How many of us live through a trauma like that and are able to confess intimate details of the exact moments leading up to the most formidable juncture of your entire life?   

     I would take a gander that there are few.  I have been asked out of genuine inquisitiveness about specific moments before, during and after the impact.  I have never taken offense to any inquiries.   The same interest afflicted myself and I was the one who lived it! 

     The reason we are so interested is without having lived through it, we cannot fathom the thoughts, the emotions or the terror our minds process in those few short seconds.

     Granted I can pull up certain moments, but they are only moments.  I wouldn't be able to tell the story without the help of others.   I had pieces of the puzzle, but I needed the rest filled in so I could fully understand what happened to us.  

      Think of it like this: you are watching a dramatic, intense movie and you are interrupted consistently.  A moment peaks and you rush back to the screen and you are upset and asking questions of why, how, but I don't understand! 

       Being in control of my life is essential to my existence, but  having those black holes in my memory was eating at me.  I needed it explained.  I needed the whole story.   I needed to know that I tried to help my children, that I tried to avoid the collision,  how my family was coping while we were being extricated, that I was calm and not a raving lunatic while the rescuers picked away at my car with the 'jaws of life'. 
     My unfortunate husband was my primary resource and speaking of it made him uncomfortable.   To my dismay, I had him recall the same details over again.  The plethora of narcotics failed to let me remember our conversations.  The poor man deserves his halo, but I think sometimes he wants to take it off and choke me with it!

     From the moment I opened my eyes while laying in my hospital bed, I focused on looking forward.  Although I wasn't in denial about my predicament, I didn't dwell on it either. 

  For those of you who are asking why I would want to talk about it, I would say this:  it's time for me to heal.

     I cry each time I write, but I also purge.  Physically I am as good as I am going to get.  Now I must focus on something more powerful.   My mind, my emotions and moving on.  I have many more months of recovering from this last surgery, but once I am well, I will finally be able to stop surviving this "accident"  and truly start living my life again.
     And if another human being gains encouragement from my trials, well hey,  I'll kill two birds with one stone.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Snow Day and Beefy Vegetable Soup!

and maybe some wine!!!

     There is nothing better to do on snow days than stay inside and cook!  I started in the morning using the crock pot, but you can make this just 30 minutes before dinner.  Now realize I cook for a family of six so this recipe fills up a large crock pot to brimming.

Beefy vegetable soup (with a couple of twists)
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 2 c. tomato juice
  • 3 c. tomato sauce
  • 3 c. water 
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp all spice/seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp basil
  • 1/8 tsp celery salt/seed
  • 1/8 tsp marjoram
  • 1 c. peas
  • 1 c. corn
  • 1 c. green beans
  • 1/2 c. carrots
  • 1/4 c. rice 
  • 1/2 c. mozzarella cheese 
     I have not been  to the grocery store in quite a while since my surgery.  I opted out of the adventure fulling knowing that I would be safer at home than battling the snow storm crazies at the store. 

 There is nothing in my pantry.  Sifting through the contents, wondering what in the world we were going to eat,  I had enough food items to make a soup.

  1.  Brown meat in a skillet, then drain fat 
  2. Add onion, garlic and all of the spices to skillet
  3. When onions & garlic are slightly soft, add all to crock pot with 2 bouillon cubes
  4. Add water, tomato juice, tomato sauce, all of the veggies & rice
  5. Stir together, cook on high for 4 hours or low for  hours

     I did not have potatoes, this is why I chose rice, but just enough not to overwhelm the soup.
Before eating, add the mozzarella cheese, stirring to melt.  I only had a mozzarella ball in the frig.  I liked this better than shredded because it had a creamier texture.

     If you have forgotten to decrease the size of this recipe for your family and have lots left over, just freeze up to three months.

     This is a mostly organic meal for us.  We raise our beef and I grow most of our vegetables, which I then freeze or can.

If you are looking for a healthier life style, contact your local farmer for any of these items.  Most individual merchants will not use growth hormones or severe pesticides, etc.  Plus you are helping to support the local "little man.".

     I also made some yummy spicy crackers and apple fritter cake, we'll save those recipes for another snow day!

Now enjoy! 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It's a New Dawn, a New Day, a New Year!

      A New Year!

    What I am about to write is not my originally intended post.  I was following the timeline of the year.  Sticking to New Years resolutions, which still ends up at the end of this column, just in a different manner than anticipated.
     When deciding to create a blog I accepted that this meant opening emotional scars, healing, criticism and hopefully encouraging others.  This is why I must be honest, painfully honest about my day yesterday.  New Years Eve.
     The day was filled with wonderful moments of sharing a couple of hours with our two middle children while watching them get beautified at the salon.  Listening to their teenage goofiness ends with me shaking my  head, but smiling none the less. 

(not a pic of recent hair changes, just the most recent one I could find of them together)

 Next was lunch at the Mexican restaurant with friends I may not get to see often, but pick conversation up with as if we were just visiting the day prior.

(gorging on Mexican food with laughter around the table is the best!)

      An afternoon nap was essential since my energy level is low after recovering from surgery. I awoke with my chest tight, my spirits low and an #anxiety coursing through my body that I could not shake. Here is where my day takes a ninety degree turn from fantastical to bleh.

      A couple hours of fervently trying to rid myself of this mood, I acknowledged where I was. This same familiar place I pass through after every single flippin' surgery. 

      I'm in pain, from recovering and from two dopey falls in the past week. I've come down from the narcotics, my body is using all of it's energy to heal, I am again dependent on others until I can walk again. I have seven more months of casts, air boots, braces, physical therapy and healing before I feel decent. Anger is waiting for me to let it completely take over, but something holds me back from letting myself adequately dive into it. 

      I live in the Jacuzzi bathtub due to my severe arthritis, trusting that this will decrease the pain and ease my apprehension, I slide in to the steaming water. In a sense I am soaking out my anguish, except that my left leg is propped on the edge of the tub, owed to the red cast covering it, tears are brimming at the ledges of my eyelashes and the scars that ordinarily don't bother me are flashing like the vacancy sign in the hotel window.

      In a short amount of time, I have effectively made myself miserable. Just me, myself and I. I did this. Knowing from past lessons what I need to do to get myself out of this trench is not helping. This is crap. 

      When I make a conscious decision to step out, get back into my positive pace, a smile replaces my frown, a glint returns to my eyes and all is back on track. The first two years this would sometimes last for days, on occasion, weeks. The past year I could change it within hours, at the most, a day. 

      At the same time I establish that I will obligate getting out of this hole I've fallen into, my husband is right on cue with an hour of motivational coaching. To my dismay and his delight, I whisper that I perceive his words are correct, tears of release flow down my cheeks and I am spent. It's late and I am exhausted. I eagerly anticipate a new dawn on the horizon.

      I am in bed when the new year arrives. A cheerful realization cracks my thoughts. December 29th has come and gone. Without thinking, I wake my husband. I exclaim, "Husband! It's the thirty first!" His sleepy "uh huh" response really meant " No #*%! Sherlock"
      " Husband, the day passed and I didn't even think about it, not once." I am ecstatic. The day nor the six o'clock hour of the collision has haunted me this year!

      It's literally now a new day and new year. My muscles tense with exhilaration, my fists ball at my sides, I feel like I've just made the best play of a softball game. I point my finger at nothing into the darkness and say "You just try to keep me down! 2014, I am going to kick your BUTT!!!"

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