How to describe 2017?

Complicated, I guess.

In the fall of 2016 we made what we thought was an innocent change to my prescriptions, and all hell broke loose as a couple of drugs had a gang fight in my liver and landed me in the emergency room. Even though we stopped and reset to the old drugs again, it started a chain of challenges: I found myself with a medical gremlin that randomly popped up and which we couldn’t identify or treat, and that gremlin tended to land me in the emergency room.

It randomly left me feeling awful and low energy, where anything beyond sitting in the chair at the computer exhausted me. As I was job hunting at the time, this as a problem. In reality, I stopped seriously looking for a few months because I couldn’t see how it was fair to anyone to inflict that on an employer.

In March we figured it out, although we wouldn’t be sure for another couple of months; the drug reaction and spiked my blood sugars and they were slow coming down, and my kidneys were really sensitive to that and randomly pushing me into dehydration and I don’t tolerate that well, something I’ve known since my athlete days in high school. So we switched meds around again to using insulin, and as we got the sugars down, all of the other issues went away. My living continued to be grumpy for a while and the test numbers for it didn’t get back to 100% normal until my most recent test in November, but now using insulin, my sugars are lower than they ever were on the other drugs, too (although I still hate needles, I’ve gotten past that. Mostly). My last ER visit was in mid-April and I must say, the folks who do ER work are the best damned group of folks I hope I never see again professionally.

I started 2017 at 381 pounds, and exited around 356, which is 25 pounds gone. I was hoping for a bit more, but I’m happy with the change. That’s taken me from 5XL clothing into mostly 3XL and it makes the knees massively happier with life. I’ve made progress on getting a regular exercise program (although that regressed across the holidays; back at it time now). And overall it’s really made things easier and more enjoyable. Still a lot of work to do and at least another 75 pounds to go, but right now I’m only thinking about the next 25. I am setting my goal for 2018 at another 50, which is aggressive, but I’d rather try and not get there than set a lower goal and be satisfied with it.

So, 2017 entered like a bad master of Gremlins II, but it’s exiting in fine fashion. There were times when I wasn’t sure I could go back to work, although I knew I wanted to, and times when I didn’t know if I ought to leave the house, much less grab a camera and go take pictures. But as we sorted it all out and evicted the gremlin and things got back to normal, the energy levels and the attitude both came back and went positive, and the second half of the year was a lot different, a lot more productive, and a lot happier.

Photography

The best thing I can say about my photography in the first half the year is that I did very little of it; not a single of my best of the year collection comes from the first six months. The health gremlin and the uncertainty of finding myself needing to go to the ER limited my motivation to go out and explore, and the associated low energy and feeling poor made it easy to just sit and do nothing, and set me into an intermittent poor mood; not conducive to good photography.

Fortunately once we got everything figured out and under control and I started feeling better, the attitude improved and with it the motivation came back, and I started shooting again. On top of that, I realized I’d put myself on auto-pilot at some point, and so I made a choice to stop looking for easy shots and start working on figuring out how to shoot good work again.

And I think I have, and I’m thrilled by the images in the second half of the year, and especially the last two or three months. I added 750 images to the collection in 2017, which matches my output for 2016, and 123 of those I considered portfolio quality, compared to 130, so it definitely ended up being a good year in terms of image creation and quality. And while it’s still early for me to define my “best of breed” images, I’ve tagged 35 images that way for 2017, vs. 25 in 2016. That number will change a bit over the next six months or so because I go back in after a few months and validate my choices, and there are always some changes (mostly demotions).

My personal opinion is that my work since my going on that Morro bay trip in October is the most consistently good I’ve done in years. Maybe something good came out of the gremlin and the time I lost to it by making me take some time off, step back and reset with a fresh attitude.

The app

I started the year with the idea of finally writing the app I’ve wanted to do forever, which in my design work became Dungeon Delve, and I made pretty good progress digging into Swift, but ultimately I decided to put it on hold, because I felt writing my novel was a higher priority. I still intend to do this (some day!) and putting a few weeks into studying Swift was well worth it, but I’ve learned I only stretch so far.

I also think, perhaps, that this decision was influenced by the gremlin and side effects of everything else going on. My motivation and concentration weren’t the best, but even now I think switching to the novel was the right call.

The novel

So I got started on the novel, Marowan. One of the first things I did was throw out all of the notes and text from when I put it on hold 25 years ago, because I’m a much different (and better) writer than I was then. I took a long weekend in Tahoe where I spent the time knocking out a new outline and starting to work on the book.

And then… I put it on hold, because I fell into a rabbit hole I lovingly call The Project.

Again, I intend to finish the stupid book, but again, I know better than to spread myself across too many projects at once, and this new thing took priority. So maybe it’ll surface again in 2018. We’ll see.

The Project

And the Project. I’ve written about it elsewhere, so I won’t go into detail, other than to say it’s taken up most of my attention for about two months, and I probably have another two months to launch, now that I’ve gotten back to a real job as well. Maybe sooner, maybe not. I continue too make progress, but still in a stealthy way. I really need to start building content and getting it onto the channel, but the to do list is still growing, not receding, as I realize there are more details I have to figure out or wrangle. Like realizing one morning while taking a shower I’d forgotten to create, or even think about needing, a marketing and launch plan. oops.

The cats

Manon the brainless, not only on the warmest spot in the house, but in a place guaranteed to get her attention and petting


2017 was the year we lost Manon, after 18 years of her sharing our life. We did what we could for her, but ultimately it was time to let her go, and we did. A couple of months later we were ready for the next generation and we brought home Hunter and Buster. To put it mildly, they’re a big change from a mostly sleeping arthritic 20 year old cat, but we love it (when we aren’t thinking of killing them). They’re active, curious, cuddly, into everything and still working on a cunning plan to attack the ceiling fan.

And they aren’t intimidated by Tatiana like our old cats were, which is, well, interesting.

The Bird

Tatiana (the Umbrella Cockatoo) isn’t thrilled with the cats. She and Manon and Archie had agreements on what was acceptable, and while they were never friends, they learned to tolerate each other with minimal supervision. These new cats? Not intimidated at all and this is driving Tatiana crazy. Fortunately most of their interest seems to be curiosity and not hunting, but we’re currently keeping them out of the front of the house when we have the bird out of the cage, because we need to get that curiosity toned down a bit.

About a week ago, Hunter booped her on the beak. Reached up from the floor, stretched really high, stuck his paw into the cage and patted her on the beak. The reaction and look from the bird was amazing, although we were mostly in “did he just do THAT mode?” At the time.

I expect a nipped toe one of these days and that’ll likely settle things but we’re managing the situation very carefully right now and not leaving her unsupervised outside the cage. This is, by the way, nothing new. Tatiana use to throw food pellets at Archie because it annoyed him. In return, when Tatiana started making too much noise (she is, after all, a cockatoo), he’d come into the front room and yowl at her to shut up. Oh, the joy of life in a blended household.

And exiting 2017

As I exited 2016, I felt like crap, my body was randomly sending my to the emergency room and we had no idea why — and I was convinced it would get bored with doing that and just kill me instead at some point. Oh, and Trump was becoming president. So I have to admit I wasn’t really entering the year in a good mood or really looking forward to what it brought.

On the plus side, we found and evicted the gremlin before it killed me, I lost 25 pounds and I feel a lot better both physically and mentally. I’ve just started a job I like a lot, I’m doing the best photography I’ve done in years.

But, well, Trump has lived down to my expectations, as has the entire GOP. We’ve seen them gleefully working to destroy a lot of things I depend on or care about, from health care (that keeps me alive) to our national parks and wild areas (which keep me sane). The good news is they’re pretty lousy at their job or the damage could be a lot worse, but it’s going to be a challenge to undo 2017 once we get them out of office, which we must.

So yeah, 2017 is leaving as at best a mixed blessing, and I hope it understands when I don’t send it Christmas cards down the road. My personal attitudes are a lot better headed into 2018, and I’m hoping we’ll look back on 2017 as the low point in this down cycle as a country and a people and 2018 is where we start making the changes that help us put it back together and fix the damage that’s being caused.

But that’ll only happen if people get involved and work at it. The last thing I did in 2017 was send another round of donations to the organizations I support, since I also got my first paycheck at my new gig. There’s been an attitude among many, especially younger people, about why vote, because my vote won’t make a difference — but look at many of the elections that led to 2017, including Hilary Clinton’s loss, and you can see that many of these were decided by people who chose not to vote, not by people who voted for those we don’t like. I wrote up my marching orders on this a year ago and they’re still how I feel today. Consider adopting them yourself, or create your own plan of action. But do something other than complain about it.

So if you don’t like our society as it’s currently happening, make sure you get registered and vote. Honestly, I don’t care HOW you vote, that’s up to you. But get involved and off the sideline.

Because otherwise, 2018 may not get better. It won’t happen by magic, it happens by people caring enough to get involved to change it.

See you in 2018. Unless you’re that gremlin.