Monday, October 10, 2011

Short Break from Blog

I couldn't take it anymore. After two weeks without my wife and daughter I had to see them. Yesterday I loaded up the car and headed to Wisconsin. The only internet connection I have until friday is my Droid, so there will be no new posts until then. All I have time to say now is how good it is to be with them. Freja has changed a LOT. She also has a bad cold, so I kept her home with me... I never thought I'd be so happy she has a runny nose!

Friday, October 7, 2011

How I Met Teri - Part 4 - Finding Solace

I know my shooting bull riders, then getting bronchitis, followed by being told I only had 6 months might seem like an odd introduction on how I met my wife, but it's the truth. I was sick. While I'd recovered quickly from the bronchitis, it seemed my end was neigh.

My mother frets over her son's immanent demise... My father tries to deal with how things may turn out as he drives me back to my apartment. I'd just been under and camera stuck down my throat. Of course, it was also raining... such is life.

Working at the museum seemed more pointless than ever, both my parents were all gloom and doom. Of course they tried to keep me from worrying. What surprised me was how little worrying I actual did. Now that I'm a parent myself, I understand a little more about how they felt.

I also had no serous "love interests" having recently found a need to not actually want one. One friend I did have though, and this is going to sound ridiculous, was Pellé my cat. He just died today. I'd thought he might be 22, but now I realize he's actually 20.

RIP my friend. 1991 - 2011

I also made it point to drive out to what I jokingly called the "provinces." One of my best friends, and also a former coworker at the Carnegie, owned a coffee shop/art gallery called DV8 Espresso Bar & Gallery. Even during these visits they would ask me if I'd "meet their friend Teri." She was supposed to be my "perfect match" according to my friend Mark's wife, also named Terrie. They just wouldn't let up...

I just went fishing with my father more. I'd enough of trying to be in relationships. My experiences as a bachelor had taught me some lessons. Maybe that's where I'll jump track here a little and try to explain it. Later maybe...

Involved Alright!!

My wife just pointed out that my previous two posts made it seem like she wasn't involved in the raising of our daughter to this point. Nothing is further from the truth! When my wife is home from work, she is completely involved. In fact, when she is home I get little time with Freja as she all she wants to do is be with mommy!

While Teri did work a lot of crazy hours, one week for instance she put in around 90 hours, when she was home, she truly was home. Her commitment to our family, and how loving and nurturing she is are part of the reason I'd married her. I can't think of anyone better suited to be a parent. As I write this I miss her so terribly much and cannot wait to finish with our old house!

Also, she says the frogs were her idea. I'm sure she's right. My memory isn't always as accurate as it should be!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Intrepid Explorer

The first time we all went to Madison, WI was in late June, 2011. We went to an interview for a job being offered my wife. We'd spent a lot of time investigating the area, mainly using Google Earth. Being that we may end up here I'd taken Freja exploring. It was a warm, sunny day, so a beach seemed like the best idea.

I knew from looking at satellite images about where to find a small park. It had a tiny, little, mostly wild beach. Freja immediately began to comb the waterline, looking for treasure. I love how she can immerse herself in the simple act of exploring everyday objects. A side effect from us always being alone, aside from becoming socially inexperienced, is how imaginative she's becoming. Things I think most adults take for granted are wondrous objects of expression.

I'd expected her to get soaked, so I'd packed her swimsuit. She played for over an hour by herself. We saw ducks, and chased butterflies. I watched her litteraly chase a yellow one for over ten minutes, eventually picking up with her fingers. She even found treasure in some loose change.

Eventually some small children did come, but they didn't know how to deal with this overly friendly, "play with me, kid." She didn't know how to play with them, though she kept trying in own unique way. With time, she'll sort it out though. She was only 3 years old...

Viking Tomboy

So my daughter is acting out at preschool, which doesn't surprise me. New town, new apartment, mommy's back to work and daddy is GONE! Then we throw her into a crowded building full of people and kids she doesn't know. Naturally, she's going to go at in her own, unique way.

The thing about my daughter is, instead of mommy being the primary parent, I am. When Teri and I agreed to get married we came up with a plan. I'll detail that conversation later. For now let's just say part of our plan was for me to quit the museum and become a stay at home dad.

Skip forward 14 months and Freja is born, soon there after Teri went back to work and I was the one who took over full care. From the beginning, even before she was born, I'd begun my role. I carried her everywhere I went, strapped to my chest. While I always took precautions to make sure she was safe, we began to adventure.

At first, when she was so small she slept facing my chest, we just went for walks around the neighborhood. But as she grew we began to branch out. With a year we'd go for hikes along trails in all seasons. I could sense her need to explore and adventure, and it echoed my own. I was going to open the world for my daughter.

Most of those photos were taken by Teri.

While we enjoyed a lot of adventures as we explored, we were almost always alone unless mommy was with us. I'd tried to join play groups, all of which are run by women around Greensburg, PA. I was told I couldn't join because I'm a man. So she didn't have a lot of chances to actually play with other kids. It was usually just us, with me being the one she was with the most. We've had some great times too!

Like the frogs we just raised from eggs to adults. We went out and collected them together, then raised them in her room using two aquariums. It was an interesting learning experience for us both.

Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica)

So instead of dolls, we played in nature, but I did try to teach her about cooking. We ran around playgrounds all the time, and went for hikes. Boating and swimming, exploring and creating art, the days flew by.

Anyway, so now she's acting out at school. I'm told she's only comfortable interacting in small groups. That she objectifies people and has no boundaries. When my wife was there she acted out, doing crazy stunts like lying down in puddles and showing off. She just needs time and patience, and for me to get back in her life full time. This staying behind to finish the house renovations was a great idea on paper, but the reality stinks.

I know she just needs time to learn how to interact with other people. I also know how she pushes boundaries to see how far she can go. If I'm being told she doesn't have any, then I worry perhaps no one is imposing any. Until I actually get out there, I won't know for sure what is going on. I'll be home soon. It must all be so confusing to her. She's not even four years old. It's tough on a little girl when you're raised by a man in his 40's. We don't play with dolls...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

How I Met Teri - Part 3 - Gonna Take it Out

As soon as they released I drove strait out of there. I knew I had some quick changes to make. It was time to stop messing around with stupid things. From the way they all looked at me, from the medical staff to other patients, I knew this just might be it. One of the first things I did was make it a priority to spend time with my family and closet friends.

To me, there's nothing more important than family, and I'd never spent enough time being with them before. When I was in my twenties I was too focused on my own brand of crazy, and married to my first wife to boot. My thirties where my "bachelor years," and that's all I need say about that. Thinking the clock was ticking I could no longer waste time.

It was also comforting beyond explaining, especially after they told me it looked like I had aggressive stomach cancer. Instead of scheduling a biopsy, they set up to carve into me and take the whole thing out. I had less than four weeks until surgery from the time they found it. I was told that, worst case, I'd be dead in around 6 months. Also, that in removing it, they may have to take out my entire stomach. So, even if it's not cancer I could end up not being able to eat ever again. I appreciated the blunt worst case appraisal. I allowed me to prepare myself.

I will never, ever be able to repay all the love and support I received from friends, family and even strangers. There are too many to name individually, but if any of you read this, thank you.

How I Met Teri - Part 2 - A Fel Wind Blows

So how did my shooting a crazy, late winter jaunt into the world of indoor arena bull riding lead me to marrying this amazing woman? Let me see if I can explain something about myself as I illustrate how one lead to the other.

The Monday after that shoot I went back to work at the museum, like I had for going on 15 years. That's not quit accurate, buy this time I was well underway in trying to find a viable avenue out. I wanted to be a shooter, and I carried my Canon 10D everywhere I went. I'd also made friends with a proshooter, who seemed interested in giving me pointers and advice. We'd even begun to talk about long range business goals. Of course, I also had a major dose of the excitement I usually get when I'm on the cusp of a new direction. In the past, it's been know to cause headaches.

So anyway, two weeks passed and I'd begun to feel very ill. More than usual, but being stubborn I kept pushing on. I'd spend at day working at the museum, then at night spend as much time as possible shooting, exploring. I didn't want to admit I was really feeling down. Then, at the end of those two weeks, I hit a wall.

As I sat in my office I realized I couldn't breath. Seems I'd caught bronchitis from breathing in all those wonderful bluish hazed manure clouds. I called my doctor and they instructed me to call an ambulance. Ambulance? What drama, I don't think so.

I decided I was going to walk. The hospital was only a few blocks away. Unfortunately, I'd neglected to consider it was also uphill. A walk that usually takes all of 10 minutes, if that, took me 45!

So they admit right away when they saw I couldn't breath at all. Security also took my camera, which was in my hand as usual. A short time later an intern is telling me I had bronchitis but he wanted to run a CAT Scan, as routine.

Not long afterward, as I sat in a room with two other folks, I spotted my intern. He was in tow of another, older man and looked worried. Looking into the eyes of the older Doctor I knew it was going to be bad news. After asking me a number of questions, and lots of poking around my chest he said something that changed my life.

"Mr. Lutz, the CAT Scan has revealed a massive tumor the size of a softball under your ribs. I don't want to alarm you, but we're keeping you over night."

When the doctor actually went to get my camera from security I knew he saw a dead man walking. The other two patients, who'd been constantly bitching and moaning before I was told this, were so quiet I couldn't hear them breath. I remember calling my mother...

The only bed they could find me for the night was in the liver transplant ward. After some medication, I could breath again and I was feeling a lot better. I couldn't sleep of course, I never even undressed from my street clothes. I just walked around and around, talking to patients, all of whom were so ill. One poor soul was in for his second tranplant. They'd all ask me what I was doing there. After saying they'd found a mass in my chest, these so very ill people would give me that look. The one that says, "damn, you've had it."

I watched the sun rise over Oakland, Pittsburgh. A section of the city I'd spent nearly 20 years of my life existing. The storms from the previous night, which I'd watched to intently, had blown away. I didn't panic, I just waited until they released me so I could go home.

Monday, October 3, 2011

How I Met Teri - Part 1

So all this alone time, packing up stuff and working on the house has made me particularly reflective. As I wrapped up our art pieces for storage I couldn't help but think about my wife, Teri. Our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up in less than two weeks. The time has gone by so very fast. It's been the happiest I've ever been in my life.

I thought I'd write about how we met. It's a bit of a long story, so I'll break it up into parts. The first part will be a bit of back story and will begin in the oddest of places, a rodeo arena.

In early 2006 I was on the verge of heading off in a new direction in my life. After years of working at the Carnegie Museum in the exhibits department I was ready for a change in career paths. I'd fallen in love with photography and was actively seeking a way to do so fulltime. It wasn't just work related changes though.

My 30's were my "bachelor years." They were adventurous times, with a mixed success rate as far as relationships went. As I approached 40 I'd reached a point where I no longer wished to be in poisonous entanglements. I just wanted to be alone for a while. I had a few different female "friends" and it was all I wanted at the time. I'd accepted I'd be going solo and really stopped worrying about dating, etc. Of course, my friends wouldn't hear it. They started trying to get me to "meet" a friend of theirs.

All of my focus was on shooting, to the point were I was looking for any sort of crazy project I could assign myself. Through I friend I was invited to spend a weekend traveling with an ex-Omish bull rider. Who knew there was an entire indoor rodeo culture here in Pennsylvania? I sure didn't!

I spent a couple of days traveling with an ex-Omish rider named Aaron and his girlfriend and buddies. It was quite the adventure into the PA cowboy culture. I swear, I had no idea there was one! Indoor arenas filled with blue smoke, smelling of manure and chewing tobacco, carousing in bars after an arena event, crazy antics late at night on small farms, and the sounds of people "knocking boots" filled my weekend in very unusual ways.

Needless to say it was a weekend I'll never, ever forget as long as I live. I met some interesting people, as well as saw a lot of interesting things. It was a trip into a culture I hadn't experienced before and I felt honored to have been given such intimate access to.

How does this relate to how I met my wife? I'll explain that in a later post...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Leaving Moraine Behind

After picking up some tools from my father I took quick spin around Moraine State Park. It never occurred to me how sad it would make to leave this particular patch of ground. I've been coming to this lake since I was a little kid. It was created around the time I was born in fact. There's a connection I feel with it I cannot explain. So many memories. It's the one place I think I'll miss the most outside of family homes.

Black-throated Green Warbler, Dendroica virensOsprey