Losing Thomas

One of the first things my father said to me upon learning that Dylan and I had adopted a kitten was a reminder of the commitment a pet requires.  I know my mom mentioned the length of that commitment early on, too: cats can live 18-22 years, after all.   I wasn’t concerned; it was hard to be when looking at a fluffy black and white kitten with bright green eyes.  Besides, responsibility and commitment are kind of my deal.  In hindsight, it might have been better perhaps to warn me of the possibility of having to let go before I was ready.


I was prepared to feed, pet and love Thomas for as long as he was my kitty.  I was even prepared to forgive him when, as animals do, he ruined furniture and clothing with his claws.  I was prepared to clean up messes and make concessions when he grew neurotic about the litter box being ultra clean.  It was sometimes frustrating, but I had agreed to take care of Thomas and I knew that taking the good with the bad was part of the deal.  This January when Thomas became seriously ill, I was prepared to spend what savings Dylan and I did have to restore his health.  I fed him through a tube; I drove to visit him at vet-camp; I woke in the middle of the night to care for him.

I’ve always remembered my promise to do what was best for him.  Dylan and I are steadfastly loyal and loving to each of our cats.  Somehow, I thought this guaranteed us a happy ending; but then, without warning, the blow came: Thomas had cancer.  Cancer we couldn’t stop.  Cancer we couldn’t fix.  Cancer we couldn’t wish, weep, or love away.   I’ll admit it.  As sturdy as my understanding of my commitment to Thomas had always been, I was not ready for this.

I’m devastated.  I’m heartbroken.  I’m angry.  But I am not prepared.  For me, this is an issue.  I like to be prepared.   I like planning, punctuality, and endeavor to be as prepared as I can for any situation.  My cats have always been a piece of this planning, because I’ve always included them in our future.   Maybe we’ll take a trip next summer?  Guess who’s already making mental cat-care arrangements?  We’re thinking of installing wood floors?  I’m wondering how best to manage our cats during that process.  Because I’m a planner, it is more difficult for me to accept change.  Losing Thomas is a massive and terrible change.  No bright side tempers the sadness or eases what I must make peace with:  now that all is said and done, Thomas is gone.  He brought so much happiness to our lives and now there is an empty ache in his absence.

The last two weeks have been some of the toughest I’ve experienced.  We found out about the cancer last Monday.  Suddenly, years of time with Thomas became months.  There was talk of surgery and chemotherapy and weekly vet visits.  How could we possibly know what Thomas would want?  Thomas has been a source of joy in our lives for eleven years:  a kitty that has made it more palatable to return home from vacation, easier to shrug off a bad day, more fun to snuggle into the couch on a snowy day.  Thomas shared our home and life since I was twenty years old.  Now, when it was most difficult, was the time to honor our promise to him and make the decision that was right for him.  As the week progressed, we realized that we did not have months, or even weeks.  Thomas could not be made to suffer because we were not brave enough to take that final step.  Saturday evening, we helped our friend move on.

It has been hard for me to talk about Thomas, and not only because the hurt I feel is palpable.  It is more because in many ways, Thomas was not really my cat.  While I was the one that wrote the check and signed the paperwork, somewhere along the way an allegiance was made between Dylan and Thomas.  I can only tell you it happened early on and it was heart-warming to witness.  People make a big deal about man’s best friend; a boy and his dog is a well-tread theme.  I lived for eleven years with a boy and his cat.  Thomas rode around on Dylan’s shoulders, greeted Dylan at the door, sat on Dylan’s lap, slept by Dylan’s side, and was most content in Dylan’s company.  For his part, Dylan loved Thomas without reserve and would have taken him everywhere with him, had that been the sort of thing cats tolerated.

Thomas owned a piece of my heart, though I was not his boon companion.  He was my first pet as an adult.  His clever little face greeted me each day as I returned home.  Now there are empty spaces and moments that used to be filled by him.  As time marches on, as it has a habit of doing, I am sure that things will start to seem better.  That I will stop weeping in public.  That music won’t seem so sad.  That the house won’t seem so empty.  That two cats will seem like enough.  But for now, I am just incredibly sad and trying to slowly undo the knot of grief left in the wake of our loss.

Some Baking is in Order

Yesterday, I had one of THOSE days.  You know, the kind where very little goes well, or right at all, and at the end of it you want nothing more than to take the content of the day  and cram it into the box you keep at the back of your closet and never think of it again.  Well, then I had another such day today, making it one of THOSE weeks.  So I find myself at a bit of a loss.  It seems the small supply of cheerful I usually keep in my pocket has run dry.  I just feel…ugh.  That’s the only word, or sound effect I guess, that really has even the slightest bit of accuracy in my current state.  Although miserable serves as a pretty close second.


It all started when I awoke yesterday morning with a lovely twinge in my knee.  Rather than suffer through a day of discomfort, I took a couple of Aleve and went on my merry way.  Which was actually rather merry by the way, until my right eyelid took issue with the Aleve and puffed up in angry allergic reaction.  Seriously people, it took effort just to keep the stupid thing open and it looked worse than it felt.  Plus, it’s not like I have a nice desk job where I get to sit in a cubicle and never, ever interact with other human beings.  Nope.  I got to answer all kinds of questions about what had happened to my eye, and even got to have it pointed out to me a few times that it looked “all weird and gross.”  It was super fun.  By the time a trudged through my front door I had pretty much had it.  And that’s when I ran out of Glee episodes to watch.  I mean, if ever there was a time to watch people burst spontaneously into song and revel in the melodrama of high school, wasn’t that it?  At the end of a day spent looking and feeling like a social reject?   Yeah, I thought so too.

I had kind of hoped today might bring a change of luck and attitude, if I’m being honest.  I’ve felt stretched so thin lately; there’s too much to do and way too little time to accomplish it.  I feel like I’m going through the motions and never achieving the result I’m aiming for because there’s just no way to give it my all.  Not and get it all done, anyway.  But a windfall of fortune was not in the cards.  I delivered a set of proofs for some senior photos I’d shot a few weeks ago.  By my standards, they were pretty good.  I don’t sell myself as a pro.  I don’t even advertise.  If I’m taking your photos, I’m viewing it kind of as a favor, because I don’t charge nearly as much as I could.  Anyhow, the proofs weren’t well received.  I believe the word “disappointing” was used.  This has never happened to me before, so I don’t really know what to do.  Even though I don’t fully agree with the assessment, I offered to reshoot, which was declined.  So I’m stuck wondering what the point of the complaint was.  If you don’t want me to do anything about it, why make a point of letting me know I do unsatisfactory work?


Unfortunately, this is coming at a time when I don’t feel like I’m doing much of anything well (see above: too much squeezed into too little time), and it’s pretty well putting my self esteem down for the count.  I don’t feel like I’m teaching as well as I could be because my classes are overcrowded and I’m being assigned extra duties on top of my teaching responsibilities.  I’m not keeping my home and personal life in the condition I’d like because I’m just too dang tired when I get home from half-heartedly fighting the good fight all day.  And now, I feel like a crappy photographer, even though I kind of think that sometimes there is just no pleasing some people.  I hate feeling this way.  I don’t like pity parties.  I know that things could be so much worse.  There are really a lot of very good things in my life, and I try never to lose sight of that.  So…I think I will crawl out from under the rock I’ve chosen as my permanent hiding place and go find something to bake.  Preferably chocolate.

The New Busy-ness

It’s official. School has been in-session for a week. And already the idea of staying up past 9:00 is just completely unfathomable. I’m beginning to truly understand the concept of “So much to do and so little time”. I kind of thought my third year might bring a touch more surety and breathing room, but alas, I haven’t seen it yet. Hope remains, however. A small part of me believes that maybe I just need to get back in the swing of things and it won’t feel so much like I’m drowning amidst a sea of late bells, extra students and committee meetings. I’ll give it a few more weeks and see if I resurface.


In fact, I had to duck out of today’s intended yoga session to even find time for this post.  The photos are from Dylan and I’s last trip to Estes Park and are providing a nice reminder of already-forgotten Summer freedoms.  I am supposed to be stretching and meditating my way back to the state of zen I generally like to exist in, but you know, these moments of writing and reflection are doing a pretty nice job of that too.  I need to find a way to integrate this stuff back into my schedule.  I’d like to post three days a week if I can somehow finagle the time.   Ah, time….it always comes down to you.  And you’re such a pain in the butt.

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An Hommage

Well…would you look at that?  It’s already August somehow.  My good intentions at the start of summer meandered and eventually lost their way completely in the void of July and I am now faced with beginning another school year in less than 48 hours.  Admittedly, a small, unpopular part of me longs for the structure that keeping a regular schedule brings.  It’s much easier to instill self-discipline when you have a solid framework to hang plans on.  Much of my life gets upended in the summer months, as lovely and lazy as they may be.  I just get a little lax about everything, but really, what’s the harm in that?

6:10 Photo of the Day

And so, while I am not exactly dreading plunging back into the real world very soon, my awareness of the last few moments of summer break have awakened a certain nostalgia for what I’ll be leaving behind for the next nine months. The funny thing is how random and surprising my list turns out to be.  I love going to the grocery store on weekday mornings, having the time to bake leisurely, being able to pop in at my mom’s place of business with a coffee, attending yoga classes at all times of day, watching movies in near-empty theaters on Wednesday afternoons, letting the ginger cat loose in the grass while I water the flowers, and spending Thursdays on the lake with my dad.  I’ve been able to go to three yarn stores in one day this summer, which is just as ridiculous a delight as there is, and I’ve spent whole days camped out on the couch with movies and knitting projects.  I’ve dawdled to my heart’s content, which is a miracle considering how efficient I pride myself on being.  I’ve ventured to Albuquerque and Estes Park, and headed to Fort Collins on a whim on more than several occasions.

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The school year just doesn’t allow for that kind of freedom…of course, most jobs don’t, so I shouldn’t complain and  I’m not.  Really.  I don’t view my reluctance to give up these things as a gesture of dislike for my job.  Rather I think of it as gratitude for the opportunities I’ve had this summer.  It hasn’t been an extravagant break by most measures of the word, but it has been an immensely wonderful one.  So, here’s to the remaining hours of summer laziness and the start of a new school year.

P.S. Look closely at the first of the “Runner Up” pictures for today.  A mountain goat is at the bottom right.  Generally, I try to avoid honking my own horn, but I just gotta in this instance because I was literally 20 feet from this fellow and quaking in my boots.  Obviously he wasn’t too concerned about my presence, but I felt sure he was going to charge me at any second.  I think I may have even had one leg in the car the whole time so that I could jump back into my seat at a moment’s notice if need be.  But seriously…he looks downright ferocious, right?

The Heat is On

The heat wave that threatens to overcome all attempts to be outdoors, or active at all, each and every July is upon us.  I don’t do so well with the heat.  First of all, it means that the sun is present in all it’s skin-reddening glory.  Second, it makes getting up the gumption to do anything just about impossible, because you’re already melting and all you’ve done is put on your socks.  I mean, if you’re silly enough to actually find socks necessary in this swelter, that is.  But I did manage to brave the warmth and brightness for a few minutes yesterday to take advantage of new surroundings (mi padre’s casa) and take a few pictures.

7:16 Photo of the Day

Don’t let the little crescent of a moon fool you; this was taken in broad daylight as the runner up shots demonstrate.  I’ve been missing black and white work lately, so I’ve begun tinkering around with it in Photoshop. Anything you want to accomplish in Photoshop can be done about five different ways, so I’m on a quest to find the method of black and white conversion that I like best.  I don’t think that this is it, but it’s not bad. This was accomplished by clicking on the Image Menu, going to the Adjustments fly-out menu and selecting the Black and White option.  It allows you to adjust each color channel (green, yellow, red, magenta, cyan, blue, etc.) separately and create a custom black and white image.

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I know I’ve used other methods to achieve the black and white look, but at the moment, my heat-addled brain refuses to retrieve the information.  Alright. Maybe it’s more like my summer-addled brain, since the day has only begun and the heat hasn’t broken out the big guns yet.  What happened to the rain? That’s what I want to know.

Two Truths

Okay, so when I said that eventually things might slow down a bit here on Photodork, I didn’t really intend for eventually to mean right now, or for slow down a bit to mean stop dead in its tracks.  But that’s exactly what happened.  For about ten days.  Tsk, tsk.  It’s not that I haven’t been photographing at all.  In fact, I just finished editing about 364 photos that I took for a commercial event on Sunday.  I must admit though, that photographing for artistic or personal reasons took a slight vacation.  I got sidetracked with my knitting, which I realize sounds like the least distracting activity ever, but it can be quite addictive.  In an effort to find balance, however, I am trying to reintroduce the photo habits that consumed much of June.

7:14 Photo of the Day

Although I’ve probably said these things before, two truths about photography became evident during my short sabbatical from the medium.  The first realization can actually be applied pretty broadly: if you want to do something, you’re going to have to make time to do it.  Even in the summer, when I am technically unemployed, and therefore have a lot of free time at my disposal, I don’t always feel I have time to photograph.  I have time to read a bunch of frivolous books, dork around on the internet for hours at a time, go to two yarn shops in one day, and ponder the precise method of creating my favorite designer coffee treat.  We have time for what we make time for.  If it’s important, let your schedule reflect that.  I know, I know…easier said than done, but so true.  And the second truth?  Take your camera every where. Plenty of occasions to take a quick picture presented themselves over the last week and a half.  Many of those occasions found me without a camera available, and that’s just frustrating.  Sometimes I think about buying an inexpensive point-and-shoot that would fit in my purse and solve this problem.  But then I remember that I am really too spoiled by my super-nice, fancy-pants digital SLR.  So then I think about getting a bigger purse, which I am trying to hold out on, because I can think of about seven other gadgets that I’d really like to stuff in there and have with me always.  What can I say?  I foresee back problems in my future.  At the moment, the best solution is not to be lazy and just carry my not-so-heavy SLR separately from my purse.  Usually it can just ride along in the car with me and be handy if the proper moment presents itself.

So…will I be here tomorrow?  Meh.  It’s hard to say.  Will I try?  Most definitely.

Back on Track?

Well, let’s hope so anyway.  Things have gotten a little off-kilter the last few weeks, and I’ve found myself in a bit of a funk for four or five days.  And not an awesome funk; you know, the kind that start with a “ph” instead and mean you’re feeling all sorts of groovy.  Nope, just a standard, capital “F” sort of funk that leaves you down and despairing.  Well, maybe not despairing, but it certainly isn’t a cheerful state.

7:4 Photo of the Day

So the chocolate really shouldn’t be a surprise, should it?  What do I do when in a bit of a slump?  Eat chocolate….er, I mean, bake.  But yes, usually the something I bake has chocolate in it.  Plus, I discovered a small trick that I’m just dying to share.  See that lovely white paper sitting under the chocolate?  It’s your new best friend, and not just because it was wrapped around a square of chocolate.  It’s going to save the day the next time you want to shoot indoors and there’s not enough light to do it without a flash. See, the thing is, I hate flashes.  Hate them.  You end up with a bright white area in your image and generally distort all the nice colors you were hoping to capture.  So I avoid using my flash at all costs.  I’ve dragged in lamps from other rooms to add light to a situation, moved things closer to a window to add more natural light, all kind of things.  This trick is much easier, and I owe it all to Dylan.  As I was grumbling about the lack of light at 9:30 at night and the necessity of using my flash for this shot, he grabbed one of the extra chocolate wrappers and held it in front of my flash so that it would diffuse the light.  And it worked. Beautifully.  Every time.  The little hints of chocolate residue in the creases will wipe off easily with the use of a clean, damp cloth and then you can just tuck them in your camera bag and have an instant diffuser anytime.  Go buy some baking chocolate and try it if you don’t believe me.  When it blows your mind with its cheap effectiveness, feel free to send me some of the treats you made with that baking chocolate.

What Happened

Well, I warned you it would happen.  I was hoping to get through a whole month posting each and every day, but I fell just short.  And really, I blame Harry Potter.  Oh, and my sinuses.  My guess is that eventually (as in right around August 18th when school is back in session) my posts will become less frequent.  My goal is to still update every couple of days at least.  However, for now, I promise to be better.

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One super notable thing did happen while I was away though: I discovered cherries.  Previous to Saturday evening, my only experience with this fruit came in the dye-saturated, jarred format.  Yech!  So when I was offered some of the real deal on Saturday, I didn’t have high expectations.  What a difference though!  Instead of being laden with syrup and rubbery, the fresh variety is crisp and barely sweet.  They actually remind me a great deal of grapes, without the tartness.  This may be one of may favorite finds of the year.  The added bonus?  They’re lovely little things, visually.  I love the color, shape, and size.  I expect you’l be seeing more of them here.

Glee Full

Okay, time for a confession: I spent most of yesterday curled up in my bed watching the episodes of “Glee” I missed at the end of the season.  Yes, “Glee”, and I may have even shed a tear when “To Sir, With Love” was sang during the season finale.  I’m not proud of it, but I’m not wholly ashamed either.  I love the show and there are much worse things I could be watching.  Plus, I was having some sinus issues yesterday and any excuse to stay dormant was a welcome one.

6:27 Photo of the Day

It seems only fitting then, that the only picture posted today is one of the lamp on my nightstand.  It was a fairly dismal day yesterday, full of rain showers and clouds, which I didn’t mind in the least.  Due to my malfunctioning sinuses, I had no desire whatsoever to venture outdoors and it made staying in my warm bed all the more cozy.  The lamp lets off a nice, subdued glow, giving the image a rich, suffusive feel.  It’s all I have to offer for the day.  As my sinuses have seemed to master themselves for the moment, I am hopeful that today will be a more productive, or at least, mobile day.

The List

It has not been a banner week for shooting.  I think it is closely related to my general apathy towards most everything the past few days.  Call it the mid-summer blues if you will, I just don’t have a lot of get-up and go at the moment.  Yesterday’s shots weren’t taken until well into the evening even though I carried my camera around with me most of the day.

6:26 Photo of the Day

Hopefully, I will find the energy to crawl back onto the horse soon as a good chunk of summer remains, as does my to-do list.  Today is starting overcast and cool: perfect conditions for starting an art project or curling up on the couch with a movie and my knitting.  You might be wondering why the heck I mentioned my to-do list if I’m just going to ignore it and knit.  And that’s why I love my to-do list, because I put knitting on it.  I hate it because I also put less-than-fun things on it like cleaning out the den closet, as well.  If you’re beginning to think that this is a serious list and that I am a huge dork that relies on said list pretty heavily, well, you’re getting the idea.

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