TMG Philosophy: Cause and Effect – Part One

This is a subject that I think is so important – I will write about it in several parts (fair warning)…

The concept I want to talk about is “cause and effect.”  The way my mind works (this may be a fairly scary area to go into), this has always been a pretty straight forward idea.  For instance, as a kid if I was told not to do something and I went ahead and did it anyway, I could expect that there would be an “effect” for what I did.  Make sense so far…?

Another idea I firmly believe, that is closely tied to the concept of cause and effect, is the idea that when you break it down, life is quite simply a series of choices.  We all have many, many choices to make in our lives.  Some are hard, some are easy.  Some may appear to be easy, but turn out to be more complex or difficult than we anticipated   In any event, we have choices to make and hopefully, at the end of our lives, we have made more good choices, than bad.

The thing that makes choices even more exciting is when that whole cause and effect thing comes into play.  Even choices that we believe are good, and the right thing to do, may have an unintended effect that could even be negative.

Again, does this make sense to you so far…?  If it does make sense to you, then let’s move onto the next idea.  If it doesn’t make sense… well, I guess you should stop reading because this is just the beginning of my thoughts on this (hence, the “Part One” on the title above).

Okay, since you have stuck with me, I guess I can assume you understand what I am proposing so far.  If we agree that there is definitely a cause and effect, and that life is in its most basic form – a series of choices… then why do people seem to be so stupid…?

Admittedly that last statement was a bit harsh, but really – why is it so hard to understand? For instance, we talk quite a bit about learning, exploring, and asking questions on this blog.  That is because those things are firmly rooted in who we are, and as such – help to make up our philosophy. The obvious effect of all of that is that you learn and see new things.  That, for the most part, is a good thing.  Right?

So, when you listen to people (or even listen to yourself) and there is this theme of “why am I stuck in this” –  (fill in the blank) or, “I am tired of this”  – (fill in the blank), and so on, doesn’t it make sense that the answer to whatever is that is irksome is to change it.  So now you have choices to make.  Is it really that bad? (Yes or no.)  Are there other options?   (Yes or no.)   Is it time to make a change?  (Yes or no.)  And of course that process goes on and on…

The “effect” in what I am talking about is your life.  And by and large, you are the “cause”, so take charge and make choices that will hopefully have the “effect” you are looking for.  Make sense so far…?

More to come…


RSWL: Roadtrip- West Sonoma County, California

One of the hardest parts of my job at The Transmogrifier is the numerous field adventures I absolutely MUST take in order to take photos for our texture and imagery websites.  It’s just torture having to explore cities, sites, and towns near and far.  I dread waking up and searching for all that beauty.  Okay, so it is actually amazing, something I am grateful for each day.  Something that has changed the way I look at life and what happens around me. 

One of these recent adventures took me and my little family on the back roads of Sonoma County.  From our house, we drove out Westside Road past budding vineyards with happy spring wildflowers waving as we passed.   Landmark barns and beautiful winery structures begged to be photographed. Eventually, hundreds of shots later (again, we mean camera shots, not liquor shots), we connected with River Road, where we followed the Russian River all the way to Highway 1.  Before joining the coast highway, we passed the infamous winery, Korbel, and the Armstrong Redwoods grove.   As we traveled south along the rugged coastline, we passed beach shacks, crashing waves, and seaside ice plants.   More pictures were taken.   By this time, our 1 ½ year old, Nate, looked completely dismayed and determined to get his hands on our cameras so that he might dismantle them.  He told us this in many words, half of which are clear, the other half guttural. 

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Off of Highway 1, we circled back inland through the town of Bodega with its charming cemetery and famous schoolhouse building from Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds.   This Highway 12 carried us past sprawling ranches and farms with proud farm equipment, timeless barns, cattle and sheep dotting the open land.   Large rocks and majestic oak trees covered the rolling Sonoma County hills as we approached home.

Despite Nate’s protests, we arrived home content from our Sonoma County road trip and well satisfied with the number of photographs.   These roads and their scenery make them just one of those random things we like.   If you are ever in Sonoma County, these idyllic backroads are a MUST for your camera and your soul.  

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Nate’s Notes: Chickeeeeen!

I love chickens!  They are super!! And super pretty.  Have you ever seen them up close? Their feathers are popular with Momma and her camera. She says that their feathers have great texture.   Our Ladies are still growing, just like me.  We had some older ladies, but Momma and Daddy said a beast of the night took them.  That’s not very nice if you ask me.  I’m suspicious of their disappearance though.  After all, I have seen Chicken Run.  I know the Ladies make plans to escape, go on holiday and what not. And… I did see some pencils, notepads and rope in the chicken pen before they disappeared.

Anyway, we got baby baby chickens, and I watched them grow on our back deck in a container until they were old enough to move into the chicken pen. Now I get to watch them run around in the chicken pen…which is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.  Have you ever seen a chicken run?  It will make all the  “no’s” and “you can’t do that’s” you hear in a day vanish, leaving only a smile on your face and a giggle in your heart.  You almost forget that you aren’t allowed to bounce their white ball thingies that they hide under their butts!

Here are some pictures of grown Ladies from our cousins in Oregon.  When ours grow up, they’ll be travel agents, designers, teachers and stunt doubles.  What?!  Oh…I meant to say that when ours grow up they’ll look like these.

Chickens Running...Oh man. It's the best!!!

Chickens Running…Oh man. It’s the best!!!

Run Ladies, Run!!

Run Ladies, Run!!

TMG Philosophy: The Art of Distraction

My 19-month old boy, Nate, fills my days with joy and adventure, along with a sprinkling of challenges and humbling encounters.   I’ve learned, either by listening to wise family or by trial and error, that distraction is key to survival.  Okay, maybe that’s melodramatic.  But if distraction isn’t the key to survival, then at the very least it IS key to thriving.  Every day, I make it a goal to help myself and my family thrive, not just survive(See Daniel J. Siegel’s book “The Whole Brained Child” or watch for me to discuss it in RSWL!)  In order to thrive with Nate, I try to head off unnecessary tantrums (Nate’s, not mine) while setting boundaries and guidelines.  When Nate seems to lack any bones, and melts on the floor while screaming bloody murder because his crayon broke or the bananas stayed at the store, I distract him with silly questions.  I ask him where his frog is…if it has a name.  I ask him if he heard the helicopter or saw the elephant.  I ask him anything that will distract him!   When this happens in public, I breathe, and remind myself that the part of his developing brain that regulates emotions and decisions is still under construction.  Then I work on mastering the art of distraction and redirecting.

Most of the time, I feel pretty good at the end of a day about helping Nate, and in turn, myself, survive the day and thrive.  However, this past week’s news feed, from Boston to Texas to China and everything in between, admittedly left me a little cheerless and feeling anything but thriving.  The daily television, radio and internet coverage of sickening and saddening headlines not only made me shake my head, but also created an uneasy pit in my stomach.  My heart has been heavy all week, my mind scattered, my emotions right at surface level.  I didn’t even seek out the news, but it seemed each time I was watching a program or listening to a song, the damn ticker tape at the bottom of the screen or the interrupting radio broadcast added more weight.   And this didn’t even include the personal struggles being hurled at my family.  It was so bad I didn’t even want to take any pictures!  The negative band-wagon came to my front door, and I jumped right on board.   

How was I supposed to focus?  Furthermore, how was I supposed to stay focused on what is good and joyful in my life?  Each time I asked myself these questions (and it was often), a little Nate tugged on my pants asking me to color, read a book or play with cars.   I brushed him aside, though, dazed by a general lack of enthusiasm.   How dare he interrupt my negative stupor!   After about the zillionth time of my frustrated sigh and asking him why he insisted on distracting me, my thick skull registered what was happening.   When I needed it most, my little guy, one of the joys in my life, was trying to redirect me.  He was the perfect distraction from the negative to absolute delight.  I have a frog; his name is Nate.

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Nate’s Notes: Left Behind

Last week Uncle Tim and new friends, Jon and Tina, came to visit us.  I already knew I liked Uncle Tim because he is going to help with my tree fort.  Tina and Jon…I liked them instantly for their laughs and kind faces.  They played with my cars and trucks and bouncy balls.  They sat at my level and smiled a lot.  Pretty much they were super cool.  At least I THOUGHT they were cool.  And then…

They pulled out cameras.  Just like Momma.  My head started to hurt.  My eyes watered.  NOOOOO!!!  Not you guys too??!!   Had Momma gotten to them too?  Or were they all to blame for Momma and her cameras? Even Daddy had a camera.  Not only did they come with cameras, they talked about cameras, and pictures, and textures, and numbers of pictures. Strike one.  Go ahead…feel sorry for me.  You better sit down though; it gets worse.

I pretended not to care too much about the cameras, though I had to stop myself from “accidentally” spilling my drink cup on them. I could totally use toddler clumsiness to explain that away.  However, my self control seems to be increasing, darn it. I had begun to accept this cameras-everywhere-world as they discussed our field adventure for the next day.  We were going to explore Mare Island.  I had heard Momma and Daddy talk about how cool this place was.  I was going to see cool rust patterns, pretty broken glass, gauges, old brick buildings, burned wood, great colors and peeling paint.  I was going to see a big big crane-claw for the first time!  Okay, let me grab my camera too, pathetic as it is.  Let’s go!

The next day came, and I woke up early, ready for the adventure ahead.  Momma announced it was time to go, and then Grandma Sue was at the door.  Wow, she is coming too!!!  This will be great.  Maybe Papa and Gram will be there too!!!   And Daddy!  Oh man, I almost peed it was that exciting.  Self control folks, self control.   And then Momma left…and I stayed.  She left.  She left me home.  She left me behind!  She left me behind to be with THEM!  Strike two…

Photo taken without me. Broken glass...LIKE MY HEART.

Photo taken without me. Broken glass…LIKE MY HEART.









Like I said, I THOUGHT they were cool.  As if all this wasn’t bad enough, they all came to MY home, after I had been left behind, and talked about the adventure at Mare Island!  Yep, they ate pizza and drooled over the images they captured with those cameras.

One more strike.  They have one more strike.  They are on thin ice if you ask me.  I’m all broken up over this.

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RSWL: Photojojo Store

I stumbled upon this fun, online store when I was looking for unique Christmas gifts last winter.  I ONLY window shopped…but filled my cart with items I loved.  I exercised impeccable self-control, even if I did refill the cart with the same, and more, items on many occasions!  It might even be time to revisit this unique store!

Even if you only dabble in photography, chances are someone in your life could be a photo geek (which, by the way, is equivalent to super cool).  Well, then you really should mosey on over to this website for the Photojojo Store!

Some of the fun items:

  • Kitchen timer disguised as a zoom lens.  Be careful!  Don’t grab the wrong lens when you head out to shoot your photos (Tee hee…okay, maybe only I would do that.)
  • Canon and Nikon photo lens coffee mugs!
  • Film Roll salt and pepper shakers
  • Shot Glass lens set
  • Stylish camera satchels and bags
  • A Three-Way camera strap: allows you to wear your camera around your neck, your wrist, or your waist!
  • Phone photo accessories
  • Camera accessories galore!
  • And…so much more!   
Kitchen Timer

Kitchen Timer

Maybe I should leave a wish list.  Hmmm…In any case, happy browsing and shopping!

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Nate’s Notes: What Do You Mean I Don’t Know How To Do That?

I have so many plans! Big plans! Plans that get squashed like bananas in the couch.  Plans that get flattened like cereal puffs under my feet.  Plans that get tossed like the dirt I throw over my head.   Why?  Give me a second to calm myself before I answer…

My plans mostly don’t happen because I hear, “You don’t know how to do that.”, or worse, “You aren’t old enough yet, sweetie.”  Sweetie?  You wouldn’t call me that if you knew what I was thinking right now.  Hmmmph.

How am I supposed to learn how to do “that” if I don’t try?  I am not asking to drive the truck or anything…not this week.  I just want to climb a few things, take apart and rebuild Momma’s camera,  attempt flying with my super-hero-in-training cape, take photos to contribute to the website, start the fireplace, and give the dogs a bath.  Those are just SOME examples of my dashed dreams.  Instead, I get plastic toys, cardboard books, and blunt crayons.  Have you ever tried staying in the lines with huge, blunt crayons?  Impossible!! Simply impossible!!!  And I’m guessing Mommas feels threatened by the superb quality of my photos.

Here he comes to save the day! Super baby!

Here he comes to save the day! Super baby!

Momma is always encouraging me to try new things, but then she tells me I might get hurt when I propose MY plans.  Well it’s hurting me not to try!   Both Momma and Daddy tell me it is okay to make mistakes as long as I try.  Well, I think it’s a mistake to NOT let me try MY plans!  Hmmmphh…the audacity.  Momma says Daddy has gumption and he tries things he doesn’t know how to do all the time. How come he gets to but I don’t??? (They think I’m not listening.) Well, once I figured out gumption didn’t mean I have to go to the doctor, I realized I have it too!  What good is having gumption if I don’t get to use it?  What about MY plans?  Work with me people!

TMG Philosophy: On Taking Yourself (Or Not) Too Seriously

Calvin-and-Hobbes-4-19-92One of the major ideas I want my son, Nate, to acquire in life, is to not take himself too seriously.  It’s a tough one, but important to remember that we and our problems won’t stop the earth’s rotation, and that we need to laugh at ourselves and our situations more often than not. Of course, to an 18-month old, when his truck falls off the couch, you’d think the earth DID stop moving, and tantrums rule the day. However, I’m learning very quickly that he will learn about not taking himself too seriously most effectively by watching our example as his parents.  This is a humbling exercise daily, if not hourly.

Of course, I could just tell Nate repeatedly not to take himself too seriously in life, and hope that works. Success probably wouldn’t follow, though, unless I back that up with living it out.  So I started thinking about how I do this.  Is it innate?  Did I learn it?   It sure feels like a discipline to me, and one I fail at miserably sometimes.   I’m a list person, so I began a list which goes something like this…

I believe part of not taking yourself too seriously is knowing who you are:  the good, the bad, the ugly, the strengths, and the weaknesses.  Go one step further.  Know these vices and virtues, work on what needs improving, use your talents, admit faults, understand what might not improve, and accept the journey.  I’ve been knocked down a few times before I accepted the journey, and know I’ll have more knockdowns.  I’ve made enough messes and mistakes that could have been avoided had I admitted my weaknesses, my limits, and my faults. Everyone has.  That’s the next part of my list.

Nobody is perfect.  The mistakes we make, the blunders we cause, all can be learning opportunities if we let them.  I’ve told myself this for years, but I’ve only really practiced this recently. I definitely am exercising this now with Nate.   In doing so, when a coworker, family member, friend or even stranger tells me something about myself, my life, or my work that feels negative, I can say, “Yep!  You’re right, I am/it is INSERT WHATEVER HERE… but I’m working on it.”  And then I don’t tend to carry it around. When I burn everything I attempt to make in the kitchen, I can usually laugh it off (after a dramatic hand to the forehead action). When I fall in public, cause half the grocery shelf to collapse, botch an assignment, run into someone, spill my drink on the stranger next to me, hit my head on a closed window as though forgetting the barrier is there, fall off my bike, trip while running, etc…I can say,yep, that’s me…soooo not going to make a big deal about this”, and basically diffuse these scenarios by laughing at myself, or joining the others laughing at me.  That’s the last part of my list (I think).

Humor.  Have it, find it, embrace it, use it! Having a sense of humor makes accepting my quirks, even admitting them, that much easier.  Laughing at myself is actually a relief!  When Nate was 8 weeks old, I was mixing his formula in a big batch. We were in the home of two very important people in his life, the wife next to me, her husband holding their little dog across the counter. I shook that formula as I nervously talked to them, determined to prove I was a great mom by perfectly mixing and preparing Nate’s bottles.  Just when I was feeling confident, the cap flew off the container and a half gallon of warm liquid flew across the counter, covering the husband and their little dog.  Formula dripped from his chin and the dog’s ears.  The 5 second silence seemed like hours as I calculated my next move.  Pretend I don’t have a skeleton, sink to the floor and out the front door?  Attempt to dry him off?  Pretend nothing happened? Growl? Cry?  So I laughed and said he looked thirsty.  One by one they joined me and the laughter became accented by apologetic snorts. Years ago, I would have lost it, and then beat myself up over it for a long time.

When blunders happen, when turmoil strikes, when my toy falls off the couch and I’m super close to throwing my own tantrum,  I try to find that humor, forgive myself if I need to, and allow myself a little joy knowing the world will still be spinning when my chaos ends.   After all, it’s not all about me. My baby boy helps me live this out every day, and reminds me not to take myself so seriously.  For that, I’m so grateful…and here I thought I was teaching him!

Nate’s Notes: I Was JUST Trying to Help!

I’m not sure how many times I have to tell people that I’m a big boy now.  I mean, Daddy calls me a “little man”, so….yea.  I know a lot.  Like…a lot.  I know things people don’t think I know.  I watch everything.  That’s why I know Momma needs help with taking pictures.

So the other day, the big helper I am, well, there was nothing for me to do but help.  Momma was trying to get photos of the fur on our dogs, Ellie and Benson.   She calls them wiggle butts because they move so much and she could never get a good shot.  Really?  They move a lot???  I seem to remember them ALWAYS sleeping, but complaining about being dog-tired. Guess what they are doing now?  Oh, would you look at that!  They are sleeping.  I am so surprised. That was without sarcasm, by the way.  I’m too young to know about sarcasm.

Go ahead...tell me they could possibly be tired!!

Go ahead…tell me they could possibly be tired!!

Anyway, Momma really wanted to get these fur texture shots but was getting frustrated.  Since her camera is off limits (boooo!), I decided I would capture the fur in a more creative way.  When Momma turned her back, I carefully approached the lazy beasts.  I placed my hands on their sides, and when they picked up their heads, I pretended I was going to pet them, or hug them, or tickle them, or something.   They quickly returned to snoozing. Surprise, surprise.  I seized the opportunity and grabbed a handful of fur from each.  Luckily, they are shedding their winter coats so it came out pretty easily and they only seemed slightly startled!  I started a pile.  It grew.  Oooo, Momma was going to be so happy! I could see her joy now. Just imagine the pictures she could take!

When she turned around again, I beamed proudly.   She grabbed her head, made a strange shrieking noise, and loudly said, Nathaniel!  Stop!  WHAT are you DOING????”  Uuhhhh…was that a trick question?  It had to be a trick question.  Clearly I was helping her!  By this time I was sitting on Benson’s neck for better leverage.  Stop!, she yelled again.  She rushed over so quickly, lifted me off Benson, and kept making strange noises while checking on the dogs and shaking her head. Why was she reacting out of proportion? What was her problem?  Had her lower brain hijacked her upper brain?  I was JUST trying to help…

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