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Nine Years

Yesterday was the nine year anniversary of my car accident.

I admit, I’ve been “off” all week … not sleeping well, emotional, stressed.

But, in reality, a lot of other stuff has been going on in my life lately too.

One year ago, I wrote about beginning a search for a service dog to help me.

Fred has now been with me for almost seven months.

He turned nine months old yesterday.

Fred The Newf  —  My Service Dog Extraordinaire

In this last year, I’ve had some big changes.

I had record setting sales for my business.  It made for an incredibly busy work (and travel) year.

And, for the last seven months I’ve spent a huge amount of time on Fred’s training.

Fred – tired and messy after our hike last night.

I really had no idea how all-consuming it would be to have Fred as part of my life.

Puppies need a lot of attention.

Puppies who are training to be service dogs need NON-STOP attention.

And …?

I have one working arm.

That makes all the training harder.

(I can see why people, who can afford it, spend $20,000 to get a two year old fully trained service dog.)

But, at the same time, it’s been worth it.

Fred and I are SO bonded … we are like “one.”

Being together constantly, training all the time – it creates a very strong intuitive bond.

I know, as Fred gets older, he will continue to become more and more of a help to me.

My “situation” with my pain/arm/shoulder has improved also.

Paul Newman has been the best thing to ever happen to my arm.

(And, that takes nothing away from all the other medical people who have helped me SO much!)

I imagine I will always live with pain as my companion.

But, there’s no doubt I can *manage* my pain much better these days as long as I see Paul Newman regularly.

I still have bad pain days and flare-ups.

Most of the time, though, they’re less severe and don’t last as long as they have in the past.

With less pain, I can do more and live my life better.

I don’t want to sugar coat things …

I live with constant pain.

That’s something most people never have to experience to the degree I do.

Every day I have challenges where I can’t lift something, or open something, or carry something, or DO something.

It’s a frustration that doesn’t go away.

Pain and disability are constants in my life post-accident.

However, my situation is a lot better than it was.

And really, nine years later, that is what I’m grateful for.

Life is better than it was.

It might be improving with slow baby steps but that’s okay.

I’m happy with ANY improvements.

It’s just so nice to know I’m in a better spot now than I was a year ago.

And a much, MUCH, better spot than I was five years ago.

 

 

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Cecil The Lion

Today is the nine year anniversary of my car accident.

Today is Fred’s 9 month old birthday too.

It seems fitting, in so many ways, that those dates coincide.

I plan to give you a Fred update tomorrow.

Today, I want to write about Cecil The Lion.

This week, we learned Cecil The Lion was killed in an appalling and terrible manner.

If you’re the one person on earth who hasn’t already seen this, an emotional Jimmy Kimmel sums up what happened perfectly:

It makes me embarrassed to be an American.

Walter Palmer, the dentist who paid a reported $50,000+ to kill Cecil is now the most hated man in America and Zimbabwe.

He’s had to close his business and go into hiding.

(I’m sure he feels “hunted” now by both paparazzi and angry crowds.)

I can’t stop thinking about Cecil.

I also keep imagining Walter Palmer put into a Hunger Games situation where he becomes the hunted.

Yes, I have a vivid imagination.

And no, I’m not advocating anything other than justice through a legal system.

There’s just a part of me that feels a Hunger Game scenario would be fitting justice for Walter Palmer.

Someone asked me online yesterday, why people seem to care more about a lion than they do about all the people who die from violence.

My reply was as follows:

I think people have almost given up on how cruel the human race is to itself.  We are bombarded by news of it constantly.  

People are so overwhelmed, they often feel there is nothing they can do to change it.  

But, when someone is cruel to an animal many of us feel if we speak up we actually might be able to make a change.  

Certainly, the lion doesn’t have a grieving family member to speak up for the TV cameras on its behalf.  

Does it mean the same outrage doesn’t exist for human on human cruelty?  

No, not at all.  

It just means people feel, in this instance, their voices might actually be heard.

And that is why, even though the Internet is flooded with people in outrage over Cecil’s killing,

I chose to add my voice and write about it also.

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When Life Gets Complicated …

Some details in today’s post have been changed to provide a *mysterious* cloak of anonymity.

I’m sorry there was no post yesterday.

I’ve had a very rocky start to my week.

Just when you think you know where you stand,

Someone comes along and pulls the rug right out from under you.

Or me.

(This week it was, most definitely, me.)

I had “topics” and “subjects” and frivolous crap to write about this week.

But …?

I just can’t today.

I’m still trying to get my feet back on the ground from the unexpected shock of falling on my ass.

Also ..?

My car accident anniversary is tomorrow and I think it’s easier to knock me off my perch this time of year.

Bad anniversaries are such a weird thing.

Logically, I don’t see any reason for an accident date to have significance.

But, in reality …?

I find I’m more emotional, not sleeping, a bit anxious, etc.

I start wondering why I’m having all these *feelings* and then I realize it’s almost the day.

My subconscious never forgets?

Okay enough of my tangent,

Let’s talk about stupid things people say.

Who left the bag of idiots open?  (Not my quote.  I don’t know the author, but I love it!)

For instance, a random guy with a camera insulted me online this week.

He had never seen a single one of my photos, but he insulted me as a photographer anyway.

(He saw a comment I made online in a conversation about gear and responded without knowing who I am or what I do for a living.)

He even sent me a link so I might be inspired to better my photography by seeing his photos.

By the way, I DID look at his photos and they were technically and aesthetically horrible.

I think he’s just a random guy with a camera – not even a devoted hobbyist.

Seriously??

It seems to be my week to be insulted.

I was also informed I’m old and unattractive by someone who will not be named.

(Thank you – it felt so nice to have that VERBALIZED to my face!)

I also hit my head really hard on the (very male dominated) glass ceiling in the photography world this week.

“This is not at all personal, but since you’re a woman you won’t be invited.  Some of the wives would be uncomfortable if a female was there.”

So, in other words, if I had a penis this wouldn’t be a discussion?

What year is this … 1950?

Or 2015?

It gets so confusing sometimes.

AND THE WEEK IS STILL YOUNG!

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Why Do Weekends Go By So Fast?

I hope you had a great weekend.

Mine went by way too fast.

I saw Trainwreck.

I love Amy Shumer.

Her humor is extremely inappropriate which, of course, makes me laugh and laugh.

I’m pretty sure she and I are best friends … she just doesn’t know me yet.

My only disappointment was the meh popcorn I bought at the theater.

I *love* popcorn and it was way too salty and just BLEH.

(I didn’t even EAT it … and if I buy-but-don’t-eat popcorn at a movie you KNOW it’s bad!)

I guess next time I go to a movie I’ll have to smuggle in my own, homemade, much healthier, popcorn.

(By the way, I refuse to eat microwaved popcorn.  I’m pretty sure it’s made out of toxic chemicals.)

Anywhoooooo ……

The rest of my weekend was a mix of chores, and the beach, and Fred, Fred, and MORE Fred.

(Fred has a delightful life, by the way!)

Fred was *mobbed* at the beach this weekend.

At one point, Fred and I were surrounded by at least thirty people.

They were all vying to pet Fred, ask questions about Fred, have their photo taken with Fred, etc.

It was too much.

Fred was fine with it, although I think he was anxious to go play.

But, I couldn’t even move an inch.

I had to concentrate on NOT hyperventilating.

(Introverts should never be surrounded by mobs of people.)

I can handle one or two people at a time, but I might as well have been on a date with Brad Pitt.

The crowds we attracted were eye-popping!

In fact, my daughter has suggested we name our next Newfie Brad Pitt.

“Brad Pitt and I got mobbed by the crowds when we went out in public this week.”

“Brad Pitt wants me to stay in bed with him all day long.”

“Brad Pitt has the longest tongue I’ve ever encountered!”

“All the women want to touch Brad Pitt!”

Etc., etc.

I really can’t get over the reaction people have to Fred.

I can honestly say, I didn’t expect ‘this’ part of having a Newfie.

It probably doesn’t help that Fred is extra big even by Newfie standards.

And …?

He’s also very striking to look at.

He’s got his dad’s movie star good looks.

(Or should I say “show dog” good looks?)

Obviously, I need to get better at handling “the crowds” when Fred and I are out and about.

I don’t want to be rude to people, and I don’t mind a question or two.

But, like everything, there are limits.

A lot of times I just want to walk my dog.

Oh, and if I’m working, and Fred has his vest on?

People STILL approach us nonstop.

It’s crazy!

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The Unexpected Bug Man

Yesterday morning I ran a few errands.

When I got home, I knew I was going to do some cleaning.

I also wanted to gesso several art journal pages so I can make more Bad Art over the weekend.

(Gesso takes several hours to dry.  I wanted to prep some pages ahead of time.)

Gesso is messy.

Cleaning is messy.

I put on old, really ugly, skin-tight, cleavage-popping, very cool (temperature-wise), super comfortable, clothes.

I tied my hair up in a messy knot to complete my horrifying “look.”

I wasn’t planning on seeing anyone other than Fred for the remainder of the day.

Fred loves me no matter how I look.

I was elbow deep in gesso when I *thought* I heard a faint knock on the front door.

No one EVER knocks on my front door.

Yes, people DO ring the doorbell.

No one ever knocks.

I was pretty sure I was mistaken about the soft knocking sound so I kept right on gesso-ing.

(I’m pretty sure “gesso-ing” is not a real word.)

Again, I heard a very faint knocking.

This time Fred barked.

Fred has never once barked at a knock on the door, or at the doorbell, or at anything other than canyon wildlife.

I hastily ran to answer the door.

In case my attire and messy hair weren’t bad enough, at this point I had white gesso all over my hands and up to my elbows.

It was The Bug Man.

The Bug Man who is supposed to call before coming by to kill the scorpions, black widows, etc.

My Bug Man isn’t on a regular schedule.

He comes by seven times during the year.

Why SEVEN?

I do not know.

Anyway, I told The Bug Man I would keep Fred indoors so he could do his thing in the backyard.

Then I closed the door and ran as fast as I could to the backyard so I could bring Fred’s toys, water bucket, etc. inside.

I didn’t want any of Fred’s belongings to be exposed to the bug spray.

Awhile later Fred began barking to tell me there was a stranger in the backyard.

I let Fred know it was “ok,” and I praised him for telling me.

(Fred does NOT like The Bug Man – they had a bad encounter one time.)

I bent down to give Fred a big pet and hug.

That’s when I noticed The Bug Man at the back window just STARING in at me.

When I looked up, he looked away – embarrassed.

I promptly realized I was giving quite a cleavage show when I leaned forward to hug Fred.

Or, maybe, The Bug Man was actually staring at my odd appearance … white gesso hands, messy hair knot, overflowing cleavage, old clothes and all?

Or, maybe, it was the combination of the boobs, the odd outfit, the white gesso on my hands and arms, and the enormous “beast” I call a dog?

Fred and I might make for an odd sight?

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Planning Trips!

I’ve got the travel bug BAD lately.

Everyone I know is taking amazing vacations and Fred and I are doing NOTHING.

I can’t stand it.

(OK, so Fred and I are finger painting.  And, going on a lot of walks.  And, visiting local beaches.  But …!)

I’ve started very early-days planning of a trip to New Zealand for next February.

I’ve wanted to go to both New Zealand and Australia for DECADES.

(Seriously, I’ve been wanting to go since I was in elementary school!)

My original plan was to do both countries over a six week period when my youngest left for college.

Having six weeks to travel just doesn’t seem possible with my reality.

Instead, I’m trying to plan approximately two weeks for *just* New Zealand.

I hope I can then follow up, a year later, with two weeks in Australia.

(I’d also like to visit Bora Bora while I’m in that part of the world, but …!)

So many places to visit and so little time!

Also, thanks to Paul Newman, I now feel like I *have to* go to Alaska next June/July.

Yes, I really am trying to pull off two big trips for 2016.

New Zealand in the winter and Alaska in the summer.

(Which is exactly why I’m doing NOTHING this summer???)

Neither of my 2016 trips is definite yet.

I’m working hard to figure out New Zealand details first.

Actually, I’m waiting for a travel agent to get back to me with an estimate of what a two week trip will cost.

After I faint from the shock of THAT,

I’ll have a better idea of how many corporate buildings I need to “dress” in gigantic photographs.

If you’ve got any travel tips, “must sees,” or suggestions for either New Zealand or Alaska let me know.

I welcome the input!

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Random Art Play

The rest of the world might have had sunshine yesterday,

But “my” mountain was shrouded in clouds and rain all day.

Long exposure photo of a cloudy beach day.

Fred and I were baffled!

Drizzly rain in JULY??

What does that mean?

IMG_1967

A cartoon of a baffled Fred.

I *should* have spent the day editing photos.

Instead, I used the weather as an excuse to play “art.”

Here’s a not-so-good iPhone photo of a two page spread in progress ….

IMG_1992

Not yet completed – Art Journal Pages

The background is primarily “thrown” ink.

Yes, I’m still playing with finger paints … particularly, on rainy days.

I’m having fun experimenting with a lot of different inks, paints, mediums, and textures.

Here’s the *very beginning* of what will eventually become two art journal pages.  (Excuse the blurry iPhone photo)

IMG_1988

Stars made from modeling paste will add texture to these pages.

I know the above looks strange, but it’s only in a very rough Stage #1 of what will be many stages.

After gessoing  (is gesso-ing a word???)  my pages, I begin with either inks or acrylics.

I build up layers and textures – often using BOTH ink and paint.

I stop when I have my background is done.

Later, when I have time, I add the subject/focal points to the already-done background pages.

Stupid © 2015 Suzanne Haggerty W

Completed, snarky, art journal page.

The problem is the waiting.

(Even Tom Petty thinks The Waiting Is The Hardest Part!)

I have no patience and layering takes patience.

You have to wait for things to DRY before each step.

I’m also still trying to learn how to “do” faces.

This is the first face I’ve attempted to paint:

IMG_1974

Painted female face.

She’s not very good, but she’s a start.

I got tired of painting her and just “tossed in” her eyebrows.

SEE???

I have no patience!

I truly felt like I was back in kindergarten yesterday.

Do you remember the rainy days when the teachers would let you paint?

It’s too bad most of us give that up after age five ….

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Do You Like Quickies?

I’m rushing to write a quick post.

I’ve been at the local beaches with Fred nonstop.

I can’t seem to stop taking photos!

Fred is having a ball.

Last night he learned how fun it can be to dig in extra-soft sand.

(I let him dig, and dig, because I was taking FOREVER.  He might as well have a little fun!)

I was working on more long exposures, plus some “regular” photos too.

Here’s one shot from one of the Laguna beaches last night:

A glimpse of sunset through the clouds!

I’ll probably post it on social media later today.

I got an email from one reader concerned about risks I might be taking while out shooting.

I think it’s worth clarifying my thoughts on this topic publicly.

First of all, I try to be VERY safety-oriented when I’m shooting.

I carry pepper spray with me always unless I’ve flown somewhere.

(No pepper spray allowed on planes!)

I try to keep an eye on my surroundings.

I admit, I do get very absorbed on making photos while I’m working.

I get lost in a zone.

I become very intent on getting my camera to see the vision my brain sees.

I could do a better job with being aware of my surroundings, but Fred makes sure no one approaches me without me being aware.

I definitely feel safer with Fred around.

When a beach evacuation is called, for whatever reason, I leave when the lifeguards leave.

(Or sooner, if they want me to.)

I don’t chase lightning, but I will shoot it from a safe distance.

I’m a 5th generation Californian … I have the utmost respect for the ocean.

I probably “know” the ocean better than most people, but I never take the power of it for granted.

Could I have an accident while shooting?

Sure I could.

Do I push my limits?

Yes, sometimes … but, not often.

I know what I can and can’t do.

I know there are sometimes rogue waves and they’re completely unpredictable.

Will I shoot in the rain?

Yes.

Will I shoot when the ocean is crazy-angry?

Absolutely!

Would I suggest anyone do what I do?

Absolutely not.

If you haven’t spent your life “knowing” the sea, you absolutely should NOT do what I do.

And, even if you have, you’re probably better off not doing what I do.

(Who needs all that sand and mess, anyway?!!)

I do think odd things once I’m headed home from a night of shooting, though.

For instance, as I drove home last night I thought,

“If I ever win the lottery, I’ll pay someone to clean all the sand off my gear.”

(I hate cleaning my gear … and guess what I’ll be doing for hours today?)

The next thought I had was,

“Well, if I win the lottery I could also pay Paul Newman lots of money to take care of my arm every single time I shoot.”

(Can you tell my arm really hurts?)

Am I the only person who has the,

“If I win the lottery ….” type thoughts?

I don’t even PLAY the lottery!

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The Last Few Days

Thank you for all the well wishes.

I’m glad to have last week behind me.

All my medical stuff didn’t turn out quite as well as I hoped,

But the week is over and that’s the very best part.

I feel pretty much back to “normal” too.

Many of you know we were experiencing monsoon weather in Southern California this weekend.

That’s a big deal to our drought ridden state.

I knew right away I’d be shooting most of the weekend.

(Rain!  Clouds!  Lightning!  YAY!)

In reality, I got kicked off beaches both times I went.

On Saturday, Fred and I arrived at The Wedge just as an evacuation was ordered due to an inbound lightning storm.

“Don’t I look handsome when I wear my Service Vest?” asks, wind-blown, sandy-mouth, Fred.

The lifeguards love Fred.

(Fred is a water rescue dog after all!)

They let us stay and shoot photos as they cleared all the people who were reluctant to leave the beach.

Fred liked the big winds from the storm.

He liked the sand, the friendly lifeguards, and pretty much everything about The Wedge on a stormy day.

By the way, Service Dogs don’t have to wear service vests.

It’s often way too hot here for Fred to be comfortable with a vest on.

On Saturday, I knew the storm would keep the weather cool enough for Fred to wear his vest.

In fact, it ended up pouring all afternoon.

We really needed that rain!

Saturday evening I went shooting without Fred.

(I was concerned it would start raining again.  It would be hard to manage a *giant* WET dog while trying to keep my gear dry.)

I wanted to do hours, and hours, of stormy long-exposure shots.

Long exposure of a wave crashing in Laguna Beach at sunset.

It’s the first time I’ve done long exposures with my new camera and I was very, very, happy with the results.

For those of you who aren’t a part of the photography world, a long exposure photo is when you intentionally leave the camera shutter open for a long time to record movement.   (There are things you have to learn in order to do a long exposure WELL, but that’s a whole different post.)

The end result, is a soft, silky, look like you see in these photos.  The movement of the water (and clouds) becomes a blur and sort of “fluffy.”  This isn’t done in photoshop – it’s an “in-camera” technique.

The combination of storm clouds and angry waves made for ideal long exposure conditions.

The skies darkened early due to such heavy cloud cover!

Of course, even though I did *try* to stay dry while shooting,

I ended up a wet, sandy, mess.

(Becoming a mess is pretty inevitable when I shoot.)

I roamed up and down the Laguna beaches for a few hours.

I was getting great shots and I didn’t want to stop.

It could be ages until weather conditions are this ideal again.

But sadly, eventually, I was interrupted by some late night lifeguards.

They weren’t the type of lifeguards who sit in red shorts saving people from drowning.

No, they were fully dressed in real clothes/uniforms and they wanted the crazy blonde woman with a tripod and camera to leave the stormy beach.

I’ve never been kicked off the beach at night before.

It must be a summer rule to save drunken tourists from their own stupidity?

But, I was compliant.  After just a couple more shots I headed home.

I think I’ll probably be publishing photos from this weekend for ages to come.

The shots came out stunning.

I have to say, I’m very pleased with the abilities of my new camera.

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The Week of Bleh!

I’m having a medical procedure done this week.

I have to undergo general anesthesia.

I realize “going under” is not the biggest deal in the world, but I’m dreading it.

I’m dreading it because medical stuff is never fun.

I’m dreading it because hospitals bring back a lot of bad memories and anxieties for me.

And, I’m dreading it because I never feel very good for a few days after having general anesthesia.

I think, also, I always have a lot of anxiety around the anniversary date of my accident.  (July 30th)

Having to go to a hospital this close to my “bad” anniversary, is more anxiety producing than it would be at a different time,

Even though “this” is not at all related to my bum arm.

ANYWAY, it’s not a big deal and I will be FINE.

I expect I’ll be sleeping a lot the next few days so I may take the rest of this week off from blogging.

??

Or, maybe I won’t be sleeping and I’ll write several loopy posts each day?

WHO KNOWS!

I’m planning to see Paul Newman regardless of how I’m feeling on Friday.

(See how highly I value him?!!)

And, I hope (??) to feel close to normal this weekend.

Fingers crossed ….

Because, I really could use an enjoyable weekend!