What Inspires Me


The question I’ve been mulling over this week is what inspires me?

This came from this week’s management tip on lynda.com by Todd Dewett called, “Inspiration Is A Choice” in which he stated that inspiration is not a random occurrence, but is a choice.

According to the dictionary, to inspire is:

to exert an animating, enlivening, or exalting influence; to spur on, impel, motivate; or to affect, draw forth or bring out (such as thoughts or emotions)

Dr. Dewett gave four pointers to practice to attract inspiration:

  1. Always choose a positive perspective
  2. Spend your time with positive people
  3. Count your blessings
  4. Spend time every day finding things that inspire you

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On the day that I listened to this, I paid particular attention to what inspired me on that day to be energetic and engaged, to relax into finding the solutions I needed at work for several problems, and to desiring to spend time working on my photography at night instead of frittering away time in front of the television.

Here was my short list.  I share it with you to inspire you to look for and attract your own inspiration:

  1. Making random chitchat on the elevator.  This day happened to be an executive that I did not know, but I heard about his recent travels and what his family was up to (we actually started talking as we walked in from the garage, so it was bit longer of a chat than usual).
  2. Walking outside during lunch.  It was hot and humid, but the crepe myrtles are in full bloom right now and they are all different colors, as you can see in my photos, from white to purple to red to pink.  I love how the colors just make everything bright and cheery.
  3. Taking time to enthusiastically greet the dogs when they mob me at the door after work.  They’re so excited that I’m home!  It’s fun to make a big deal of them and get them more wild for a few seconds before they go lay down again.
  4. Working on my photographs and seeing them improve as I learn to use Lightroom better.
  5. Encouraging others in their creative ventures, from you – my blogging friends – to the waitress at Cracker Barrel whose poetry books I buy and read, to my favorite boy toy as we both realize that he’s having a major equipment failure with his photo printer.

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This is not a one-time exercise.  I’ve increased my observation of what inspires me, to identify and court it in my life, and just like I’m working on nurturing creativity, I’m also choosing to be inspired.

How about you?  What inspires you?  I’d love to hear it, because you give me ideas to consider and so often, help me clarify my own thoughts.

I leave you with these two quotes, to remind you that inspiration, like nurturing creativity, needs to happen daily.  And that it happens by paying attention, being present in the moment, and being eager to receive it.

People often say that motivation doesn’t last.
Well, neither does bathing. 
That’s why we recommend it daily.
- Zig Ziglar

Do stuff. be clenched, curious.
Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or
society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention.
It’s all about paying attention. attention is vitality.
It connects you with others. It makes you eager.
stay eager.
- Susan Sontag


Categories: Creativity, Passion | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Creativity vs. Craft

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Stylized rose using textures and presets

The artist is nothing without the gift,
but the gift is nothing without the work.

~ Oscar Wilde

One thing that makes nurturing my creativity hard is the difficulty in accepting that failure is necessary in the process of learning the craft, that the learning curve is messy and long, and the frustrations are endless.  It might be expensive also, as there doesn’t seem to be a way to learn something new without money getting wasted at some point.

Meshack Vallesillas wrote an excellent article here about how often when someone thinks they are not creative, they are confusing craft and creativity.  He states:

. . . anything you might consider ‘art’ is actually made up of two parts; creativity and craft. The craft is the artistic skill used to make art, and creativity is the spark of life or the ingenuity behind it.

It’s easy to look at others and their accomplishments and assume it’s because of their creative gifts that they are so good.  But in fact, creativity requires a perfecting of craft, of practicing, failing, and learning.

Rose as originally shot

Rose as originally shot

I love watching the Food Network.  There are so many examples of practice, creativity and failure.  When I watch Bobby Flay get ready for a throw down challenge, he experiments over and over with the ingredients.  He’s highly creative, but he also practices his craft and hones it.  And his failures seems pretty frequent too!  But if he didn’t try, he wouldn’t know what he knows.

I’ve learned from watching my favorite boy toy that photographers take thousands of pictures, analyze them, throw out most, and go out to take more, trying new techniques to improve their skills.  There is a huge difference in what my favorite boy toy took 40+ years ago when we were in high school together versus what he does today.  But just as importantly, there is a noticeable difference in what he did even several years ago versus what he does today.  I’m not the only one with that opinion either.  The manager of the gallery where he exhibits is amazed at how prolific he is and how each year’s new work is better than the year before.  If you’d like to see his talent, click here.

At work, the younger staff is amazed at the things I know.  I remind them that I’ve had many years to learn this and it’s not something that they will know overnight.  I tell them that learning to do state income taxes is an apprenticeship – not Donald Trump’s apprenticeship, but Mickey Mouse’s Sorcerer’s Apprentice.  And that it takes practice to get the brooms to bring the water without the water running everywhere!  They laugh, but it gets the point across that their success at work is a matter of practice as much as it is head knowledge.

My new header photo

My new header photo and an excellent example of patience in capturing the subject matter and practicing technique  with Lightroom to fix a small blemish on the bee and properly adjust a photo taken in camera raw (which needs more processing than a jpg)

So when I talked about nurturing my creativity the other day, I forgot the reminder that to be creative means to be learning and executing technique as well as having failures.  I have to remember that practicing something – anything – is part of being creative.  The ideas alone are not sufficient if I can’t make them into reality.  I need to try things to see if I like them and to expand the tools I can use.  Creativity will remain unfulfilled without practice and hard work.

Here are some other links that you might enjoy:

Changing This One Thought Could Lead You To a Better Life (the article I discussed at the beginning of this post)

Why People (Incorrectly) Think They Are Not Creative (best quote – Craft is something you acquire by learning a skill.  If you want to develop your craft, put in your time.)

Creativity, Craft and the Quants (the story about John Lennon and how he could just throw a song together is particularly good – that the song didn’t just happen, it happened to someone with years of experience in listening to and crafting songs)

The Art vs. Craft Gap – A Writer’s Paradox  (another good quote – Art is the essence of that originality and the power of the end result.  Craft is execution using the tools of the trade.)

Crush the “I’m Not Creative” Barrier

Doing a Daily Photo Challenge (my story of how doing a daily photo challenge helped me be a better photographer)


Categories: Creativity | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

First Comes Love

Then comes marriage.

And on Friday, my daughter and her husband announced:

baby announce

Yes, there is a baby on the way for next February!

Categories: Family | Tags: , , , | 17 Comments

Nurturing My Creativity. . . Not


Lilies Worked with a Dark Mood Preset in Adobe Lightroom

Lilies Worked with a Dark Mood Preset in Adobe Lightroom

So I’ve been rather missing around here and it’s weird to sit and try to write the first blog post in a long while.

It’s not like my life was wildly interesting during my break.  Mostly I decluttered the house (in a big, big way), cooked, and read.

I lost 40 pounds.  Woohoo!!!  Which is a big reason why I spend so much time cooking.  I’d gotten away from it the last few years.  My favorite boy toy went onto his own diet last fall and lost weight, and I did so as well.

As for the reading, I have been missing that the last few years.  My writing and photography, while fun, took time away from a lot of other things.  As I looked over my goal ideas for 2014, I wanted to read a great more again.  Everything is a trade-off and I knew that when I started to blog.  But I enjoyed the blogging, the new friends that I made, and having a show case for my writing and photography.  But this year, I wanted time for other things as well.

I started a class with Kim Klassen called “Be Still – Fifty Two“.  It’s a year long creativity / photography class.  Kim does some lovely and creative work (you can see it at http://www.kimklassencafe.com/).  I was intrigued by what she would share over the course of a year.  From what I’d seen of a similar course she did in 2012, it appeared to be moderately paced so that I could keep up with it.

Week 6 was working with a preset called “Dark Mood” that she provided.  I was pleased with how the lilies above turned out.  Below is how they originally looked, which is also very nice.  They just aren’t as moody.  I don’t know that I’d alter too many of my photographs with this preset, but it was fun to play with.

The question for Week 6 was what do we do to nurture our creativity?  My initial reaction was, not much.  But as I wrote this, I realized that I am:

  • Writing daily in my journal.  It’s short paragraph using a Moleskine 12 month-weekly notebook, but it is usually daily.
  • At least once and sometimes more in a week, I write a much lengthier entry in my regular notebook journal.  It might be about something I read and want to explore more or an event I want to record in more detail.  But at least once a week, I write more than just a daily paragraph.
  • I’ve started taking Lynda.com courses again (click here for a review on Lynda.com).  This is because I recently upgraded both Lightroom and Photoshop to the latest versions and have no idea what the changes are.  I also don’t remember how to do much in Photoshop anymore as I’m not using it enough.

Does my reading nurture my creativity?  I would say it does.  It inspires me, relaxes me, and often gives me things to think about and write about.  It’s a welcome break in my day and far better than watching television, even if I do read trashy romances or too many murder mysteries.  Of course, after doing corporate taxes all day, my brain is too fried to read anything much more complicated than that!  But I read more than fiction.  I recently finished Creativity: The Perfect Crime by Phillippe Petit (he walked the high wire between the Twin Towers of World Trade Center in 1974) and very much enjoyed it.

Is that enough nurturing of my creativity?  I have to think about that more.  On a daily basis, I’m not doing much.  Often, I’m too tired after work to get much done, so my creativity happens in starts and fits on the weekend, after chores and errands are done, assuming I still have anything left over for extra endeavors.  If it sounds like I’m whining, I am.  Which is not right.  My life is good.  But as always, I have more I’d like to do than I have time to do it.

Gratitude, gratitude.  I need to keep practicing that.


Lilies As Originally Shot

Lilies As Originally Shot


Categories: Creativity, Gratitude, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

Words of Encouragement for 2014

Winter at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Winter at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Holley Gerth, author of “You’re Made For a God Sized Dream” has a 2014 Encouragement Challenge going on. For the first week, she’s thrown out the question:

What encouraging words do you want the people you care about
to hear as they begin a new year?

You know what I want to remind each and every one of you, my readers and friends?  When times are tough and discouragement is high, remember. . . it doesn’t last forever.

Either it ends, and things go back to normal.

Sometimes it ends with a new normal that is different than the old normal.

And sometimes, you have to get used to this is the way it is and it will never go back to what it was.  You can be miserable grasping at what you can’t have or you learn to be content and grateful where you are at.  I know this is similar to the one above, but the new normal is a change that after an adjustment, is doable and acceptable.  This is more of a devastation that will never go away and all you can do is grieve it and move on.

Now what I’m sharing here is Nancy’s observations.  It’s lessons from my life, not anything special from a book or an advanced education (other than my very advanced degree in the school of hard knocks) and it’s certainly not vetted by the supposed experts who supposedly know more than I do how to live a life.  No, I’m sharing what I’ve done in my life.

So sometimes a tough time ends and things go back to what passes as normal.  I’ll finally get over a cold and lingering bronchitis and have energy again to do something – anything! – after work or on the weekends.  I’ll get a bonus at work, pay down some bills, and have a little extra to take a vacation (always so very nice).

During one extended period, after my favorite boy toy quit work to pursue his art and raise our daughter, we had to downsize to a very small house.  Interest rates were high, which didn’t help, and our neighbors were obnoxious (loud parties, vandalism, trash, vicious gossip).  We stayed for nearly two years and then interest rates went down.  We started looking into refinancing the house and realized we could afford to move about ten miles away to a much bigger and nicer house for nearly the same money.  It was such a relief to do that and escape that house and neighborhood.

But things don’t always go back to the old normal.  The new normal isn’t all that bad, but it is different.  That can be hard to accept and adjust to, especially if you really liked the old normal.  That was hard for me in my career.  At one point, I handled a lot of federal tax audits for my employer (i.e., I defended against the I.R.S.).  As my employer was losing money and people left, I picked up more and more responsibility including all the state income taxes.  Eventually the company went out of business during a terrible recession.  The only job I could find was doing state income taxes.  I was mad, I was upset, and I was really unhappy.  But I needed to support my family and I took the job doing state income taxes.

It took a long time for me to realize how well that worked out.  My new employer was a huge pharmaceutical company.  They filed in all 50 states in the United States and were audited by pretty much everyone (no, they wouldn’t let me go to Hawaii to file the tax returns but I did ask).  I was responsible for all of it.  My employer was fairly derogatory about what I did because the tax dollars were so much larger in the federal and international income taxes and my area was a nuisance that got done because it had to.  What I found though was that I was very, very good at state income taxes.  I could be an average federal income tax person or I could be an outstanding state income tax person.

The respect in the workplace has improved a lot, particularly with the SEC investigations and the new accounting requirements.  Companies who don’t need my skills continue to be rather derogatory about it.  But when they need a state income tax person, there aren’t many out there like me and I am well known in my field.  The Vice-President that I work for likes to tease me that state tax people have their own little club.  I told him it’s because we’re all weird and need to hang out together.  It gave him a good laugh that I could poke fun at myself like that.

And sometimes, I have to get used to the fact that normal will never come back again.  Several years before I become our main breadwinner, I had a real meltdown that I couldn’t stay home to raise our daughter.  I wrote about that in this post here.  It was a very hard time in my life to accept that I couldn’t have what I wanted and to grieve the loss of that dream.  But I’m glad I didn’t stay stuck on it and that I did eventually move on past it to acceptance, so that I could be happy with my life and grateful for what I had.

Alexander Graham Bell once said:

When one door closes, another opens;
 but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door
that we do not see the one which has opened for us.

I encourage you in 2014 to remember that the tough times don’t go on forever.  Either they will change or you will change.  And that change may not be bad, even though you don’t like it.  But hang in there and see it through.  It will eventually be resolved.

Categories: 2014 Encouragement Challenge, Coffee For Your Heart, Discouragement, Faith, Life Lessons | Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Bride Was Beautiful

It’s been a while since I’ve been here and the reasons have been many.  One of the very best reasons has been our daughter’s recent wedding to her super smart sweetie.

The minister was my son-in-law's cousin.  I thought it was great that he did the ceremony for them!

The minister was my son-in-law’s cousin. I thought it was great that he did the ceremony for them!

After a year long courtship, the two of them decided that yes, they did want to get married.  Shortly after, they set the date – for four weeks later!  My favorite boy toy and I made a quick trip to Atlanta to help them plan it out.  I was so proud of my daughter as we picked out her wedding dress.  She was happy and in a good mood, treating the sales person with respect and courtesy as she made her choice.  We laughed our way through it, from the dresses that didn’t fit to the ones that looked like a giant pillowcase billowing out in front of her.

The bride and groom with her parents.

The bride and groom with her parents.

It was a wonderful evening.  Even though it was short notice, there was a good turnout of friends and family to wish them well and enjoy the celebration.  The wedding was held outside and unfortunately, the weather was unseasonably cold.  I gave up after a while and just wore my winter coat.  My daughter’s dress was so heavy and thickly lined she didn’t notice the cold until towards the end, so thankfully it wasn’t much of an issue.

Something about the lights in the gazebo made her diamond ring glitter like a strobe light - it was really cool!

Aren’t they happy?  And good looking too!

During the toasts, her new father-in-law talked about when he and her mother-in-law first met my daughter.  They expected a princess who would hang out in the air conditioning while the family was working on the farm, repairing and stringing fencing on that day.  Instead, they got a girl who asked for a pair of work gloves, then marched out and spent the day working with them in the hot sun.  He finally sent her back to the house with his wife for interrogation to find out who she was and where she came from.  They fell in love with her from the get-go and wanted to make sure their son kept bringing her around.  Later, they would meet her mastiffs and understand that she was used to hard heavy work with animals and her own house.

I love the intimacy of this picture as they share a private joke.

I love the intimacy of this picture as they share a private joke.  The pearls on her wrist were given to me by my great aunt (my daughter shares her middle name).

Our son-in-law is a great guy and we’re glad that she kept dating despite the many disappointments she had out there.  He was worth waiting for.  His parents are good people too and she’s enjoyed many visits with them already, letting them stay in her guest room whenever they come to visit (her sweetie shared bachelor quarters with several other guys and had nowhere to put them up).  They treat her well and I’ve enjoyed getting to know them.

So it’s been a bit busy around here lately!  Between tax season at work and getting ready for a wedding, time has flown by quickly.  It always does, but lately it seems to move even quicker.

I’d like to thank my sister and my son-in-law’s friend, Alex, who shared photos they took during the ceremony.  There will be other photos from a professional photographer, but not for a while yet.

Have a good week!

Categories: Family | Tags: , ,

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