Mystery “butterfly?”

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About a week ago, I went for a stroll down the little nature trail in a local park. This little guy obligingly held still, checking the ground for minerals while I shoved my ridiculous cell phone right up his antenna to get a clear shot.

Well.

A nearly clear shot.

I miss my camera!

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I am having no luck identifying this little bug, though. It was light brown, held itself like a butterfly, flew like a butterfly, seemed to be hunting for minerals like a mud-puddling butterfly… and yet, it doesn’t look quite right for a butterfly. It was out around 2pm in the afternoon. I can’t find it in any guide to the mid-western or eastern U.S. It was small, only about the size of a blue or hairstreak.

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Ah, well. I wandered the forest path, blissfully unaware that my keys were missing. It wasn’t until I arrived at my car, still luxuriating in air golden with heat and humidity, that I discovered the loss. People talk about sound shattering the air, but that air, in the triple digits on the heat index, was impervious to the mere blare of a car alarm. The blanket of muzzy gaseous water just wrapped around the sound and smothered it. Shatter smatter, nothing would break that clingy heat.

It wasn’t as enchanting of a walk the second time round. I was just happy I didn’t get sick or faint. I stopped where I’d photographed the bug. It was gone, but my keys were there. One discovery!

One more to go… if anyone knows what type of wee beastie this is, I’d very much like to know.

butterfly at the park

I have resorted to using my cell phone camera. While there are some things that this works quite well for — grocery shopping lists, quick selfies, that information on the back of a book that I just don’t want to take down — it’s not quite so ideal for butterflies.

This, as best as I can identify, is common wood nymph. Despite the “common” appellation, it’s the first time I’ve seen one in this area. The bright yellow on the wings highlights the eyespots very clearly in the second shot.

It was lovely and, for a butterfly being relentlessly pursued by an annoying two-legged waving a cell phone, a good sport too.  🙂

Camera Woes

I haven’t posted any pictures for quite a while. There’s a good reason for that.

20170811_142826.jpgI broke my first memory card! One of the first ones I ever owned, judging by the low number of gigs it stores. You can’t quite tell from the picture, but the card is bent slightly, the top and bottom have become separated, and the top corner’s plastic is broken.

The good news is I had already pulled the pictures off.

The bad news is the card at least partially broke inside my reader, and the reader, despite my best efforts, remains stubbornly jammed. Something, something small and evil and black plastic, has insinuated itself into the drive and refuses to become dislodged.

Finally, my long-range camera lens is being quite uncooperative. You all know, the heavy ones that stick out like gun barrels and cost as much as the standard pizza delivery car. To be honest, mine isn’t quite that expensive, but it’s valuable to me. Periodically it’s been getting out of alignment, or something that causes it to grind and fail to focus. It doesn’t matter how I beg or plead — or somewhat more productively, carefully clean and work my way gently through the settings — it sometimes works, and sometimes doesn’t. If you don’t want to disturb the wildlife you’re shooting, a long-range lens is vital. I know several photographers who work with different subjects and speak disparagingly of the long lenses, but they’ve never taken pictures of a wasp nest or a badger. I LOVE my zoom. I want it back!!

Too bad there are no camera stores in our area. Sending the lens to Nikon would cost as much as a new one, or very nearly. It doesn’t matter, though, because for a graduate student at the end of summer, it might as well be the cost to go to Pluto for summer vacation. So if anyone out there has had a Nikon lens suddenly grind, freeze, and fail, but only intermittently, let me know what the fix was!

 

 

 

 

Birthday Jubilation

Tomorrow will be my birthday.

I don’t write my birthday down on the calendar anymore. I put other people’s birthdays down on the calendar without hesitation. I even schedule reminders on my phone’s calendar, and it politely counts down the last 7 days until the celebration. Somehow, I can’t do the same with mine.

It’s not because I’m dreading growing another year older. It’s not because I think it will be a depressing day, full of regrets that I’ve lived so many years but have yet to fulfill my 4 year old self’s dream of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, or some such goal. It’s not because I think that birthdays are overblown affairs. Actually, I enjoy and celebrate birthdays with a zeal that borders on the absurd.

I don’t put my birthday on any of my calendars because some bit of me is afraid that if I put it down, I’m expecting it to happen. Somehow, it feels like if I do grab my sharpie and just scrawl it down on the blank white square I, who don’t believe in jinxes, will somehow jinx it. If it is another event on my phone then maybe, like any other event, it could get canceled. I don’t want to count on getting another year older, because in the topsy-turvy world of illness that I live in, getting another year older is far from guaranteed. Because I don’t know if my birthday really will happen, I don’t put it down.

Life is not guaranteed. The next day might not happen for any of us. It’s not quite like the sunny commercials with the song “Tomorrow” from Annie playing. I love tomorrow.  It just that, unlike Annie, I don’t always feel “it’s only a day away.” Somehow my friends seem to traipse through their days, knowing that life could end quickly but seemingly only rarely feeling the gut punch of it. But even though I walk the same halls that they do, go to the same library and grocery store, and watch the same television commercials, that’s not my life. You see, I have chronic and largely invisible illnesses.

Most of what I have isn’t the sort of thing that kills you, at least not directly. I have POTS – postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. My body doesn’t automatically adjust for the change from lying down to sitting to standing. There’s good days and then there are floor days. Will it kill me? Not directly, not unless I happen to pass out somewhere dangerous.  I also have chronic pain conditions, and while fibromylagia and/or myofascial pain syndrome and neuralgia won’t kill you, they occasionally made me wish for it. Like many chronically ill patients, I’m still waiting and fighting for other diagnoses that might be years in coming — answers to questions about an undifferentiated autoimmune condition and random bouts of anaphylaxis. Both of those have the potential to kill me, either slowly or quickly. Even if we don’t have the diagnosis down yet on paper, it’s serious enough so that my doctors have already started treatment.

My doctors are not good about talking about the emotional impact of these conditions. Once or twice, immediately after I was diagnosed with one condition or another, I was handed sheaves of paper as I blundered out the door. Somewhere on the back of the generic printout would be a similarly generic, bland paragraph about support groups and depression.

No one told me that I would find myself staring at an unmarked day on the calendar and wondering what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I just mark it off in the cheerful, sunshiny color I used for every other fun event, and move on?

Eventually, I did move on. I just put the pen down, walked off, and began the next thing. I proceeded to live my life, my new and strange life with chronic illness. It is not the Annie living that I do, where everything is only a day away. There’s usually plenty of everything in the current day, and I try to make it be good, too. I don’t use the YOLO philosophy anymore either, which often seems to be the excuse for doing things like having a pizza-eating contest or doing parkour on the third story of a building (I will neither confirm nor deny my past participation in such actions.) Instead I try to live knowing that even if I don’t know if I’ll be alive tomorrow, there’s no way I know right now that I won’t. I want to live life beautifully, honorably, uprightly. I want to live passionately and fully. I want to live so that my legacy is good, not bad.

I still can’t bring myself to mark the day on the calendar. Obviously, though, I know when it is. I recite the date every few days to someone in the medical profession, after all. I’m looking forward to spending the day with friends and family, whether that’s in person or virtually. I just want to live every day like it’s a celebration and appreciation of life, in some small way now.

Tomorrow is a blank day, full of the possibility for everything. Everything. Anything.

Titanium All Around

I’ve moved!!

And now I’m surrounded by a lot more metal than ever before. Even when I lived in a (to me, HUGE) city, I was still somehow out in the suburbs, commuting in each day. Now I’m much closer to the heart of my city – one of those places where all of a sudden public transit is a reality and dinner is a quick stroll up the street. There’s construction and sirens and helicopters and guys talking to their battered shopping carts filled with the flotsam of life on the fringe.

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It’s a shock all right. There were no birds on my non-existent balcony, no rabbits snacking on the carefully planted flowers, no dapple-coated fawns wobbling across the dew-soaked lawn this morning. Yes. I miss the green.

The good news: there IS green about, and it’s not very far. It’s more of a treat than an everyday reality, but to be honest just trying to live in my old place, with its three flights of stairs that insisted on pitching and yawing like the deck of a schooner in high seas, took so much of my energy that I didn’t really have a chance to explore the green around me. This might be much, much better — as soon as I find my missing roasting pan and fix my camera lens.

Time will tell. Strangely, in this new place I’m increasingly reminded of the reasons why I decided on titanium for half of my blog title. Strong, light, and resilient, it can burn where nothing else can throw off light. I hope that, mixed in with my flitting butterfly migrations this summer, I might also absorb a little of my new environment and learn a bit of titanium’s properties as well.

In the meantime, I may yet learn urban photography. One can only hope…  🙂

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Zebra Butterfly – Fan Submission

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This shot was shared with me by a friend (whom I haven’t gotten to see in a long time). She saw the butterfly, thought of me, and then discovered the delights (meaning utter frustration and blinding satisfaction) of insect photography.

I’ve yet to get on on film myself (camera lens is acting up again, sorry folks!). I’m very happy she decided to share this one. There’s not many in our area. 🙂

 

Just because I am disabled…

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am not a woman.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am stupid.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am incapable.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am not an adult.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am weak.

Just because I am disabled does not man I am not strong.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I don’t have an opinion.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I don’t enjoy life.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I don’t like sex.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am worthless to society.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am “broken.”

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am not proud of myself.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I don’t like my body.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am impolite.

Just because I am disabled does not mean you can push me or touch me without asking politely first.

Just because I am disabled does not give you the right to call me names.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am not important.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I can’t make my own decisions.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I can’t love.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I can’t drive.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I can’t earn a degree.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I can’t shop.

Just because I am disabled does not mean I don’t enjoy the natural world.

 

Just because I am disabled does not mean I am not a living human.

 

 

 

The Downside of Positivity

I was on the phone with a dear old friend, telling him about an upcoming move. “And it’s right across from the hospital, which is either terrifically convenient or phenomenally depressing!” I finished, describing my new apartment’s location with as much humor as I could manage.

“Well, that’s a good thing!” he said.

“Why?” I asked. “Which one? That it’s convenient…?” There was something in his tone that made me think I was missing something here.

“I was going to say, because it will inspire you to get better!” he told me.

Ouch.

 

With well-known illnesses — say, a cold — most people do not dole out droll little bits of wisdom concerning positive thinking and inspiration. No one believes that a cold will go away because I simply want it to. Instead, they recommend some OTC medications, rest, and perhaps a good hot whiskey with lemon. It’s only when an illness or condition is not particularly well-understood and is (usually) long term that the troubling statements about positive thinking start. Once you’ve experienced this for a while, you begin to notice some very troubling downsides to positivism.

  1. The continual stress on “being positive” can deny the validity of other feelings, like sadness, anger, or loss.
  2. Pushing positive thinking can lead someone to feel guilt over feeling any other emotions but positive ones.
  3. Positive thinking alone will not cure diseases. But statements like the one my friend made place the burden of regaining health solely on the patient. To get better, I just needed the proper mental state, or the right motivation.
  4. The “positive thinking will cure you” mindset leads to guilt on the part of the patient when positive thinking does not actually lead to health. Since guilt is a negative emotion, this can lead into a downward spiral … must think positive to get healthy – not getting healthy – not positive enough – my fault, guilt is a negative emotion, must instead think positively – still not well, more guilt because the first influx of guilt wasn’t apparently quashed well enough. Guilt on top of guilt.
  5. If a cure is not achieved, then to those pushing positive thinking, you just haven’t thought positively enough. This leads to patient-blaming by those who believe in positive thinking as a cure-all.
  6. A failure to improve could imply that you just need more motivation to truly be positive. This does not always mean creating positive and enjoyable experiences for a patient. My friend thought that living next to a hospital might, through mentally stressing me, inspire me to become get better. Emotionally and physically vulnerable patients can be put in harmful situations quite easily. To this school of thought, a more intense job, a long hike, or abusive emotional manipulation are all just things to motivate you to get better, and are therefore completely justified.
  7. I sometimes feel that positive thinking became a fad so quickly because Western society is losing the ability to deal with negative emotions. We become frustrated when someone is hurting and we can’t do anything about it, and instead of empathizing, we cheat. We tell someone to stay positive. We blame them for their emotions and condition. We run from the wide range of emotions someone who is chronically ill experiences. Embracing positive thinking as a cure for illness doesn’t just hurt the patient — it stifles emotional growth for those around them by giving them an easy out. Blame is usually easier than empathy, sympathy, and compassion.

Being positive is not completely a bad thing. Most of us, when given the choice between being depressed and being content, will wholeheartedly chose contentedness! It is also very possible to be both chronically ill and happy. I am by no means against positive feelings or saying that those with disabilities cannot be happy. No.

Rather I think it might be time to admit that positivism has a negative side too, and applying it as a panacea might very well wound those it is supposed to heal.

 

 

 

Traveling with POTS, VI

Travel buddies are the best.

When I was a teen, I couldn’t wait to take a few solo trips. In college and the first few years of graduate school, I did just that. There was something thrilling about setting off by oneself into the great world and successfully conquering one small bit of it. (Even though in my case it was usually more luck than skill that saw me through my (mis)adventures!).

To be honest, though, the joy of traveling by myself had started to wane just a little bit even before I got sick. Taking pictures was a way to share my experiences with others without having anyone physically present, but it was initially a sort of substitute for real human company. Then I feel in love with photography in earnest, and I also became much more ill. As I really began to struggle, a travel buddy was the ticket to successful travel… not my boarding pass, which I lost once. When you’re lost in brain fog, a travel buddy can help point you towards the right sex bathroom; when you’re too weak to lift a case, a travel buddy can help lug it over (or convince someone else to do the lugging for both of you!). A travel buddy can remind me about medications, shout at rude people, drive a rental car, and make sure no one accidentally puts something I’m allergic to in my water or meal while I’m in the loo. In return, I’m an endless source of bumbling amusement most especially, but I try to have their back as well. And the tab, whenever possible, I’ll admit.

The funny thing is, even with my changing perspective on solo travel, if POTS hadn’t slammed into me I might not have learned to not only tolerate, but to even enjoy someone else’s company on trips. Wrecking ball style, it shattered my illusions about the safety of solo hiking, and brought in instead an appreciation for fellow travelers and their journeys that I had never even considered. Even when I am well enough to go driving around a city and spend a day on the town by myself, I find myself checking over my shoulder not because of danger of being alone, but because more often than not I want to look back and share this experience with someone.

Travel buddies. Hard to find, but worth the investment.