2016 Word – Hustle

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

In the early part of 2016, I used One Word to frame the year and my intentions. The word that chose me was “hustle” after I’d done Jon Acuff’s “30 Days of Hustle” in January. Although I’d initially picked something else as my word, it became apparent that was to be my word this year. I can’t say I was too thrilled with it and I didn’t quite warm up to it until this fall.

I didn’t want to hustle anymore. I wanted down time, time with family and friends, time to have more fun, and to not be constantly striving.

However, due to an almost immediate change in my new job, hustle was it for this year. A long-time employee quit and I was the only one on the team that had done what she did for sales, use, and property taxes (and a few more things besides that). I did it twenty years ago, but no one on my team had ever done it. As I joked, the last time I’d used some of that software, it was still DOS.

So I stepped up and took it on. It was highly stressful, but also good for me to brush up on old skills. It got better as the year went on, but there were several meltdowns on my part when I was overwhelmed and saw no way out.

My hustle went like this:

  • January to April – my changed job
  • May – new grandson / helping my daughter & son-in-law with their second baby in two years
  • June – my health as I did a Whole 30
  • July – changing my exercise – I spent the month tired and achy
  • August – working on my breathing as it became apparent with my exercise that this was a problem
  • September & October – work
  • November – smoking on my Big Green Egg
  • December – work

So it wasn’t all about my job, but that definitely impacted everything. As for my exercise, in the heat of the summer I stopped walking during lunch. Instead, I started rowing and doing yoga. Both were good for me, but it was hard for a long time. I’m now rowing with more resistance and for a longer time. The yoga has given me a better range of motion, although my balance has not improved much yet. I struggled to breath normally as I exercised and spent several weeks figuring out how to tame it so that I wasn’t puffing so badly.

The Whole 30 was interesting. It’s a cleaning eating detox program for 30 days. I did two weeks before the baby was born, then 5 weeks after I got back. I actually felt worse at the end than the beginning, which is not the normal experience. It took several more months before I started to really see benefits from it. Although wheat and gluten are not good foods for me, dairy turned out to be the worst problem and I’ve now eliminated it completely from my diet except for grass fed butter. Even yogurt was a problem.

As for work, my bosses and I have made an effort to get me back to my part-time hours. I took off two weeks in May when my grandson was born and didn’t use vacation time for it because my hours were so high. My employer has now hired a new employee for me to transition this work to, so I can go back to state income taxes, which is what I was hired to do. He’s still new and very overwhelmed, but that will resolve itself in the next few months.

My grandsons are 22 months and 7 months. They’ve kept their mother’s blue eyes, or as I tease my son-in-law, him and his father-in-law have a very strong recessive gene for two guys with brown eyes. The boys are healthy but keeping their parents hopping. Neither my daughter or son-in-law are getting much sleep.

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If you’re interested in trying One Word next year, Ali Edwards has just opened her class. I’ve taken it for a while now and it’s helped me get a lot out of my using my word and making it happen.

Prior Year Words With Links:

My words for the last few years have been:

2011 – Gratitude

2012 – Serene

2013 – Prepare (curiosity was the first choice, but not what I went with)

2014 – Remember (to smile)

2015 – Create


Finding New Hobbies

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As this year has gone on, I found myself needing some new interests. Unfortunately, very little appealed to me.

I finally set the following criteria:

  • It could not require hours behind a computer. I spend all day in front of a screen for my job and I can’t do it at home all night and weekend too. I love my camera as a means to take a walk, but hours of post photo processing are not fun.
  • I wanted something physically active. It didn’t have to be anything hard core, but I wanted something that was more than sitting around (see the first point above).
  • I also wanted something where I could grow and learn, something where I could take classes, ask questions, and experiment to a higher knowledge level.

I settled on:

  • Using my Big Green Egg (BGE) smoker more and
  • Doing yoga more consistently.

The Big Green Egg forum is a great place to learn more about how to smoke. I’ve also been experimenting with recipes that are not for grilling or smoking. Our local sporting goods store has two employees in the BGE section that don’t mind answering questions when I come in, which is especially helpful when I’m not understanding something from the forum. There are also classes that I plan to take next year.

As for the yoga, I’ve been using an on-line subscription to Yoga International. As with any class, some instructors are better than others with extra instructions of how to do it. I’ve learned a lot watching the videos closely and listening to the do this, be careful not to do that, etc.

Do you like this picture above? As we head into Christmas, the television is full of commercials that what a woman really wants is jewelry (lingerie, new car, etc.). Nah. What some women want is a second, smaller smoker and a hoodie Carhartt sweatshirt to wear on the days it’s cold out there. Something washable that can get wrecked by grease and soot when I’m reaching into the grill to clean it or fill it with charcoal. Something washable when I brush the dogs and get enough hair to clone another one.

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It’s hard to see in this picture – but the beagle has lost a lot of weight. His diet is finally working and each time we walk, the harness gets tightened up a bit more.

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Of course, he can still pop it over his head anytime he feels like it. Thankfully he’s a good boy and just sits in the middle of the road as I put it back on him. I’ve tried several harnesses on him and he does it with all of them. He collapses those shoulders, digs in those big paws, and off it comes.


Missing: A Personality

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in March

I seem to have lost my personality recently.

My “part-time” job has been fairly high stress due to some turnover and I’ve been working a lot of hours to transition, streamline, and meet tax due dates. I’ll get those hours back, but not for a while.

If you want to discuss Excel functions and formulas, downloads from the general ledger, and strengthening the accounting around the tax filings, I’m your man! Or person, as it would be.

But if you want to discuss what I’m reading lately (all the  J.D. Robb’s starting with the first one), what television shows I’m watching (reruns of Numb3rs), and what hobbies I’ve been enjoying (none), forget about it.

I considered that if I wasn’t reading anything complex or doing any writing or even photography, perhaps I should find a new hobby or resurrect an old one. So I started doing a bit more cooking and I figured out how to use the Big Green Egg. About every other weekend, even in the snow, I’m happily smoking away something for my lunch.

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I’ve had a few times where I didn’t pull the meat off until 2 am.

Otherwise, my life consists of work, sleep, and exercise, along with laundry and dog duty. I’m pretty boring to be around right now unless you want to talk about taxes.

But if you have a few minutes, I’d love to tell you all about how I just knocked eight days off the process from last month to this month. I’ll even brag that I haven’t worked to 9 pm the last two weeks – woohoo!

Or for even more fun, I’ll talk about the cuddles I get when I take a few minutes before bed to read. My electric afghan draws quite a crowd.

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My puppy is getting more gray every day!

So this is the season of my life for now. It’s not good or bad, it just is. My husband reminds me that it’s happened before and eventually, it ends. I do miss having a personality though.

 


ABFriday: Derelict Boat

Happy New Year! And what better way to start the year off than with After Before Friday, sponsored by Stacy Fischer at Visual Venturing. To see how other photographers interpreted this month’s photograph, click here.

This month’s selection came from Laura Macky, whose past participation encouraged many of us to up our game after seeing her imagination let loose. Laura is a fantastic photographer; I follow her on Facebook and also on her blog, Laura Macky Photography.

Laura’s picture looked pretty good to me without any adjustments:

Original Photo

Original Photo

I did a minor correction to the horizon, using the far shore as my leveling point. I enhanced the colors, contrast, saturation, etc. in Lightroom. I also applied a preset by Matt Kloskowski called “Game Day”. I don’t usually use presets in Lightroom, but I liked how this brought out the colors and textures in Laura’s photograph. I also did a hard crop, to bring better focus on the bow of the boat. That was strictly a judgment call; the picture could easily have done without a crop. I didn’t do any cloning, although in hindsight, I wish I’d gotten rid of that piece of metal sticking out of the front of the boat.

After Lightroom adjustments, including the Matt Koslowski preset, "Game Day"

After Lightroom adjustments, including the Matt Kloskowski preset, “Game Day”

I tried one other crop – a square. It was only okay.

After Lightroom adjustments, cropped to a square

After Lightroom adjustments, cropped to a square

Topaz Labs came out with a new package that uses textures. I wanted to try it out! I liked the outcome, but I need to play more with these presets before being satisfied with how my work looks.

Topaz Textures, "Summer Haze"

Topaz Textures, “Summer Haze”

The preset, “Bold”, in Topaz Adjust gave everything a gritty look. This picture held up well with that and I considered just stopping here. I was surprised to see the light arc in the sky. It’s there in all the pictures, but not noticeable unless you look for it.

Topaz Adjust, "Bold"

Topaz Adjust, “Bold”

I also tried Topaz Simplify. It didn’t turn out badly – I liked all the textures better – but this worked better than I expected. It gives it more of a graphic look.

Topaz Simplify, "Painting 2"

Topaz Simplify, “Painting 2”

And lastly, I decided to play around in Topaz Black and White. I did it just to experiment a bit more. The colors were so rich and vivid, I couldn’t imagine not playing them up. Well, it shows how wrong that thinking was. This desaturated look from “Milk Memories” turned out to be my favorite. The hazy, gauzy look really played up the abandoned feeling of this boat.

Topaz Black & White, "Milk Memories" with the black grunge border #5

Topaz Black & White, “Milk Memories” with the black grunge border #5

Now that I look at them all again, I’m thinking maybe I do like the colors in the Topaz Simplify better. Maybe. Maybe not.

Still, it was fun to try things out and see what worked and what didn’t.

As always, let me know what you think! Did I pick it right or would you have picked something else? Don’t be shy – let me know!

If you want to see what I did in other challenges, click here.


Ornate Tattoos on Exhibit

Through November 29, the Virginia Museum of Fine Art has an exhibit on “Japanese Tattoo: Perseverance, Art, and Tradition“.

To say they’re ornate is an understatement. They are fantastic. I’m not a big fan of tattoos, but the artistry is incredible. This enormous picture shows a variety of tattoos, some of which are still in progress. In the exhibit, you’ll see that it’s mostly men. There are a few women – the picture below has a female on each end, but I’m pretty certain the rest are men (the other side does not show their faces).

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Japanese tattoos have a long history. Its perseverance is from its long history of old rules and new ones. Mainstream Japan is not very accepting of it, regarding it as part of an underground or criminal activity. Even in the art world it’s not fully accepted.

This part of the exhibit shows life size fronts and backs:

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Here is a closer look of three different men:

The women had their own section in the gallery:

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This weeks photo challenge is to demonstrate the word “ornate”, i.e. something that is “breathtakingly extravagant”. These tattoos are that. The time and effort, the designs – those designs are intricate! – and the sheer volume of what has been done are both breathtaking and extravagant.

More information is on the wall (thank you everyone who has commented that they appreciate me putting these in the posts):

You can get a better look at any of these by double clicking the picture and zooming in. To see what others did, click here for the weekly photo challenge.


Topaz Labs Free Trial

If you’re considering buying or using Topaz Labs products, I suggest you download a free trial now. Topaz often runs a sale of some sort on Black Friday (i.e., the day after Thanksgiving when the Christmas shopping bargains happen). I don’t know if they are this year, but they have in the past. This way – with less than three weeks left until Black Friday – you’ll know for sure if you want to buy it in the event there is a sale.

At this time, when their software is upgraded, owners receive a free update (note that is always subject to change).

To find out more about downloading Topaz Labs, click here. You’ll receive a $20 coupon and supposedly I get one too. I’m not a Topaz representative nor do they offer me anything for doing this. I’m merely sending around a reminder since so many of you have commented on thinking about trying it out.

More about my post processing can be found here.

Here are some examples of things I’ve done using Topaz Labs. Most of the frames around the pictures are from a different software, onOne Effects. They also offer a free trial (click here), but I don’t know if they offer any sales on Black Friday.


ABFriday – November 2015

Another month has gone by and it’s time again for the ABFriday One Photo Focus, sponsored by Stacy Fisher over at Visual Venturing. A number of us take the same picture and post process it with our own interpretation. It’s always fun to see what everyone does! This month’s entries can be found here and was provided by Helen Chen.

The original photo is on the left. I applied a few standard adjustments to improve clarity, contrast and exposure. I did some minor cloning of the inside doorway to get rid of the red object and some of the speckles in the upper half of the doorway. After some debate, I also cropped it down. The wall on the left was interesting, but I found it hard to figure out where I wanted to look! After that, the brick wall to the left was burned out and I used a masking brush to darken it down more. I also darkened the inside of the doorway. Since it was a bit junky, I felt a darker look made it more mysterious.

Now it was time to play with some Topaz Labs filters! This one was my favorite – a charcoal picture done in Topaz Impressions, with a dark vignette around the outside.

Topaz Labs Impressions, with a dark vignette

Topaz Labs Impressions, with a dark vignette

My intention was to create something mysterious and creepy looking. The charcoal didn’t do that, but I felt it really highlighted the jumble of vines and bricks.

This was a close favorite. It’s the same picture as above, but before I turned it into a charcoal drawing. This used Topaz Labs Adjust “Brilliant Cold” and “Dark Night”. It turned it into something dark and mysterious, while bringing up a lot of interesting colors and textures. I had to lighten the exposure more after doing that because it got too dark.

Topaz Labs Adjust - Brilliant Cold and Dark Night

Topaz Labs Adjust – Brilliant Cold and Dark Night

This one used Topaz Labs Restyle, “Swamp and Sherpa” (those names!). It’s a little too dark and I didn’t like the colors as well as on the one above. I could easily lighten it, but didn’t want to play with it any further since it wasn’t going to be my final version.

Topaz Labs Restyle

Topaz Labs Restyle “Swamp and Sherpa”

And here was my least favorite. It’s really hard to tell what the picture even is. It used Topaz Labs Simplified “BuzSim”. I like the bricks and foliage, but the vines to the right of the door are kind of weird and too blotchy for my taste. I’d also do a little more cloning on the inside left of the doorway, where that sliver of light is. On the other pictures it works as is, but in this one it doesn’t fit in.

Topaz Labs Simplified BuzSim

Topaz Labs Simplified BuzSim

So what do you think? Did I pick the right one or should I have picked something else? Let me know!

To see how I’ve edited other photographs, click here.