Friday, July 22, 2016

Photo Friday: The Photos That Are in My Mind

I love my camera. It is a really excellent compact camera (a.k.a. point-and-shoot), with a killer zoom. The latter is really important when you can’t always get close to what you’re photographing.

Nonetheless, I have been drooling at The Boy’s camera for the past two years. It’s a Sony Alpha, and it’s as close at DSLR as I can get and still lift/operate it (with some of the lenses, not all). But it didn’t belong to me, so I only borrowed it occasionally. (click photos to embiggen)

Every time we’ve gone out on one of our adventures, carting our own cameras, we’ll spend some time looking at each other’s photos afterwards, grumbling about how we hate the other person. Me because of the things that camera can do. Him for the exact same reason (aforementioned zoom).

For a while now, my beloved has been talking about upgrading, telling me that I’d get his camera when he did. I’ve tried to be relatively restrained about asking when he was going to upgrade — dignity is important, isn’t it?

And then last week, it happened. And I am now the very happy owner of a Sony Alpha. It’s a bit too heavy for me to lift, but I do it anyway. Have been wrecked repeatedly as a result, but it’s worth it!

What makes it different from my camera is the quality of the images. It has a much better lens and the result is photos with a lush softness, yet as crisp as a newly starched shirt.

It also helps me do nifty things with macro shots (I luuurve me some macro photography), shallow depth of field (oh, yum), and bokeh (haven’t begun to bokeh!). And what it does, more so than any other camera I've ever owned, is take the photographs that are in my mind. And that connection, the flow between what I envision in my mind and what actually shows up is a pretty spectacular feeling.

Which is not to say that I have disowned my old camera. It still has a better zoom and I can use it longer without getting wrecked.

If you see a woman in a wheelchair juggling two cameras, that’d be me!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Book Review You

“You should own what you love.”

Joe Goldberg is in love with Beck (first name Guinevere, can’t blame her for going by her last name). So naturally, he tries to woo her and that starts with research. The kind of research that involves watching her and hacking her email, and that’s just for starters.

You, an absolutely brilliant debut (!) novel by Caroline Kepnes, is about Joe and his pursuit of Beck. It’s also about Beck and her friends, who we get to know intimately through their emails. It’s a story of obsessive love and it is in so many ways recognizable. Isn’t therean element of obsession every time you fall in love?

The book starts like this:

"You walk into the bookstore and keep your hand on the door to make sure it doesn't slam. You smile, embarrassed to be a nice girl and your nails are square and your V-neck sweater is beige and it's impossible to know if you're wearing a bra but I don't think that you are. You're so clean that you're dirty and you murmur your first words to me - hello - when most people would just pass by, but not you, in your loose pink jeans, pink spun from Charlotte's Web and where did you come from?"

And right there, I was hooked.

The whole book is like that — it sounds like stream of consciousness, but it isn’t. Underneath this writing that describes exactly what Joe is thinking, which like with most of us can be a bit rambling, is the most pristinely tight writing. From a technical and artistic point of view, this author is one of the best I’ve ever read.

And it all gets much better by the narration in the audiobook. Read by Santino Fontana (such a great name), who appears to have been born to read this book. At no point does he falter, there are no re-reads that gets copied on top of the original, yet sounds sort of different. And more than that, he doesn’t read the book. He becomes Joe, embodies him, and this stream of consciousness writing sounds like Joe talking. Fontana’s inflections are perfection, disturbed, subtly conveying Joe’s emotions, whether he is smiling and happy, or enraged. Fontana also perfectly captures the accents of young women in the emails from Beck’s friends. And I could go on. I have read a lot of good audiobooks, but this man is at the very top.

Alternately creepy, chilling, and heartbreaking, You is one of the best audiobooks I have ever heard, and maybe one of the best books I’ve ever read. It does feel a bit weird to so highly recommend a book in which the protagonist is such a strange, disturbed man. And it is deeply strange to realize that you come to care about him, like him, forgetting how disturbed he is. And then you are reminded and that feels even stranger, but you can’t put the book down — it has sucked you in so deep that you need to know what happens next.

I devoured this book, and when it was over I was both relieved and disappointed. Relieved because of the intensity of the experience, and disappointed because it was hard to let go of a book that had been so amazing.

Go get this one And make sure you get the audiobook.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

3 Months after the ICU: A Surreal Normal

Every time I wash my hands or brush my teeth I see it in my washroom mirror. The line at the base of my throat, a barely-there horizontal divot that is the only visual reminder of my medical adventure. It jolts me every time, bringing back a moment of memory so intense that for a split second my core is shaken. It feels like a speeded-up movie reel of hospital highlights plays within me, plucking at all the senses involved in the memory. Everything I felt — fear, curiosity, helplessness, frustration, to name a few — overwhelms me. And then I get the soap or toothpaste and life continues.

You might wonder why I get that surprise so many times a day. After all, it’s only been three months since I got home from the hospital. Surely I still remember? And yes, all of that is true, yet there it is.

 April 16, celebrating with the Tinks, 
only a few hours away from being discharged 
from the hospital
(Photo by Janne)

Life has in many ways returned to normal. I’m back in my routine, puttering through my life more or less as always. There are groceries to buy, bills to pay, errands to run, doctors’ appointments to go to, work to do, a cat to cuddle, The Boy to love, friends and family to talk to.

In other words, normal. And it makes it so easy to forget — i.e., repress — everything that happened just a few months ago. Most of the time.

Much as I try to focus on the normal, there are still things that remind me that my life is not normal quite yet.

Although my hands are better, the swelling having subsided enough that I can wear my ring again (which makes me very happy), my little fingers still buzz and more so when I use the computer.

My pain levels go a bit wiggy at the slightest provocation and I have to be careful with how much I do. Although I went back to work, I am nowhere near my previous capacity. Although I might do things during the day, the evenings are a wash. Three months in, I still need an extra lie-down in the evening and when I do, a mere three hours after getting up from my daily nap, my body whimpers in relief.

The biggest reminder, though, is the fatigue. And it drives me crazy.

April 16. Sisters. 
(Photo by David)

I am tired all the time. It doesn’t help that I spent June having tag teaming illnesses — first a cold, then a sinus infection, and then a massive case of laryngitis. That tends to sap your energy, but they also sent a message loud and clear. Namely that I went back to work too soon.

As of July 1, I took a leave from work, regardless of how nervous it’s making me about the state of my bank account. It’s taken me two weeks to feel more like myself. Still tired, but not completely exhausted.

Did I mention it’s driving me crazy? My wonderful friends keep reminding me that I had a really significant medical crisis and it is only to be expected that it will take a while to recover. I have no issues with that. What I take issue with is how long that ‘while’ is taking.

It reminds me of when I was recovering from the Big Flare eleven years ago. When I first started Enbrel, every day was a new discovery as I regained strength and ability. Every day, I could do another thing again that I hadn’t been able to do before. And then it became more subtle and felt as if there was no progress. Only when I would do something that required significantly more strength or which I didn’t do often, did I realize I was still improving.

April 16. The Boy and I
(Photo by Janne) 
It is like that all over again. I have regained the immediate and more obvious abilities, and now it feels as if I have plateaued and the frustration nags at me daily. And then I’ll realize that I can now lift a whole cup of tea, and it is easy to put it in the microwave without spilling. And so on. It is a moment of joy, of realizing that there is progress. I need to focus on this, because that is the way to being happy.

But it is really hard. The fatigue overwhelms me so often. When I spend days recovering from seeing a friend, taking a walk on the Islands, writing a blog post or article, or simply puttering through the day without doing much, the frustration and disappointment bubble to the surface. I’m beginning to realize that the strength I had in February has not been lurking underneath, waiting to burst forth and snap me back to normal.

I’m grateful that I am alive. This goes without saying. But the whole experience feels so far away and as foggy as a November day by the sea. It makes it difficult to understand that I mostly feel like myself, yet still have a long road back before I am truly myself again.

Then I go to wash my hands or brush my teeth and for a moment, it all makes sense. 

And then life goes on.