Working A Day Job – Part 3

Looking to the east in Richmond, Virginia
Looking to the east in Richmond, Virginia

It comes the very moment you wake up each morning.
All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals.
And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back;
in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view,
letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.
And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings
and frettings; coming in out of the wind.
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

I certainly do not exist from nine to six, when I am at the office.
― Wallace Stevens

Today, I am finishing my series on how my day job nurtures my creativity.  Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Balancing Work, Family and Creativity

There are times work consumes my life, other times it is family at the front.  Creativity hovers around the edges of my week day life and tends to get the leftovers from me late in the evening.  I have to be careful to nurture my creativity, to focus on it and it alone for at least a short period each day.  That’s easy to say, harder to actually do.

Lately, I read more and more that it is impossible to balance one’s work and personal life and not even desirable.  I disagree.  We need to be passionate about what we’re doing at work, but so often it seem family and creativity lose out in that scheme.  I use routines to help me get things done quicker and I try to remain aware if I’m spending too much time with one thing or another.

Each day though, is a balancing act to keep work, family, and creativity in balance and I cannot nurture my creativity when my life is consumed with one to the exclusion of the others.  So when I’m working a lot of overtime, my creativity will suffer.  Overtime doesn’t go on forever, but I need to plan ahead of things I can do anyhow or accept that my creativity will be on hold for a while.  Sometimes I’ll spend 30 minutes a night editing photos or listening to a course on  One year end, I took my camera and tripod and did night shots from the window of a conference room while everyone else was eating supper.  The photos in this post are from that night.

9th Street over the James River in Richmond, Virginia
9th Street over the James River in Richmond, Virginia

Wallace Stevens

In both Part 1 and Part 2, I used quotes from Wallace Stevens.  What really caught my attention in Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry, was that Wallace Stevens worked a full-time job practicing insurance law.  Stevens wrote poetry as he walked to and from work, jotted notes all day long and walked for another hour during lunch.  I was envious that he could arrange his job around his poetry!  Yes, times were different in the 1930’s to 1950’s than they are today in that regular hours were kept and when you went home, you were home without further interruptions.  But still, being a lawyer at anytime is a challenging profession with many demands.

Stevens also was not immune to the conflict of balancing his personal life and creativity.  The Poetry Foundation, in its biography of Stevens, notes that following the birth of his daughter, there were nine years of “unproductivity”, and Stevens “found that parenting thwarted writing”.

I laughed at that.  Parenting, as rewarding as it is, does thwart creativity.  There are simply too many things to do, too  much fatigue, and too many demands when children are little.  So while he didn’t find his job to be limiting to his poetry, apparently fatherhood was.

BB&T Building (corner of Byrd & 10th Street) in Richmond, Virginia
BB&T Building (corners of Byrd, 9th & 10th Street) in Richmond, Virginia


Today, work weeks are much longer and the stress is much more intense.  I can sympathize with Wallace’s quote that his life ceases to exist during the workday.  It does, but as my other two posts discussed, there are also benefits for it.

Mason Curry, whose book Daily Ritual: How Artists Work started this train of thought, had a great article on-line with Slate.  He talks how having too much to do is a motivator, encouraging him to buckle down and get things done.  He shares how Toni Morrison worked full-time as an editor.  She was also a single parent, raising two boys.  She attributed her productivity to not doing anything else in her life except write after tending to her responsibilities.  Other authors are discussed as well, with how they did or did not work around their day job.

My job both decreases my creative productivity and makes my creativity easier.  I don’t have the time to devote to it that I’d like, but I have opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise, from business travel that lets me explore new areas to learning technology to keeping balance and prioritizing my time wisely.

There is no one single answer, but since this is how my life is for now, I remain focused on how having a day job nurtures my creativity and work with it.  I’m happier if I can balance between work and family, if I’m grateful for what I have instead of what I don’t have, and I try (as best as I can) to be open to all the possibilities I have at work and at home.

Click here to see my additional thoughts on balancing my life.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Working a Day Job – Part 2

Gazebo at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, taken earlier this year.  The sky really was that blue that day!
Gazebo at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, taken earlier this year. The sky really was that blue that day!

Yesterday, I began a discussion on how working a day job nurtures my creativity.  Today, I want to explore more of this:

Exposure to New Technology

My day job uses technology nearly all day long, from complex tax software to Microsoft Office and other specialty pieces of software.  There’s usually very little training for this – my co-workers and I struggle together to learn it and explain it to each other.  We have to learn it – there’s no choice – and learn it well due to the constant pressure of getting more done with less and less resources.

This model serves me well as I nurture my creativity.  What I don’t know, I can figure out.  For Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom, I can take classes on or ask my favorite boy toy.  For my blogging, there are extensive forums and help content to explore or I can search the Internet.  This is all similar and familiar to what I do at work.  Those same problem solving skills that I use to do my job effectively and efficiently are the same ones needed to use technology for my creative expression.

Above all, I know I need to just experiment.  It’s the best way to learn technology, as long as I’m careful to not wreck whatever I’m working on.

Business Knowledge

Another intangible benefit of my day job is the overall business knowledge it gives me.  It’s not a perfect knowledge, but I’m way ahead of the typical artist.  Although I do not sell my work, I understand there are costs that should not run amuck (i.e., keeping a budget).  I understand taxes, forms of business, how to read contracts, and the politics of the business world.  Well, I do sometimes.  Other days, I wonder what exactly I do know!

Still. . . the point is that my day job gives me constant exposure to the business world.  This helps me when I’m looking at the differences between and (.com is free and therefore does not allow advertising as compared to .org which allows you to accept advertising dollars, but you are responsible for everything from spam filters to firewalls).  It helps me when I’m reviewing my homeowners insurance and how it covers my camera gear, which is why I use a personal articles policy instead.  It even helps when I’m comparing different models of computers, their costs and what the warranties are providing.

How does this nurture my creativity?  I have to spend a lot less time on the mundane, administrative stuff.  There are less missteps and I raise more questions quickly.  My decisions are not perfect, but I struggle less to reach them than the artists my husband knows who do not have this background and are not married to someone who does.

I Have Money To Spend

One of the really great benefits of a day job is having money to spend on my photography and writing.  I don’t have an unlimited budget, but I am able to buy cameras and computers when it’s time.  Three years ago, I upgraded from a top end point-and-shoot camera to my first DSLR, a Canon Rebel.  It’s been a great camera and I’ve taken many wonderful pictures with it.  But a month ago, I wanted a better camera, something with a full frame sensor that would improve the quality of my shots, especially when I was processing night shots or something noisy.  After a short deliberation, I replaced my Rebel with a Canon 6D, and upgraded to an “L” lens for my main zoom lens.  This was a big step for me, but I’m glad that I could afford it.

Likewise, it’s been nice the last few years to take some vacations.  For my boy toy and I, they turn into photography trips.  That’s okay, I enjoy shooting pictures with him even though he rolls me out of bed before daybreak to go chasing the sunrises.  I’m glad we could afford those also.  For more on how we share our passion for photography, click here.

Having money to spend on my creativity is huge.  So many artists struggle with having the financial resources to buy what they need.  I’m glad I don’t have to do that.

More Tomorrow

That’s enough for today.  Tomorrow I will wrap this up and share about Wallace Stevens. Here is a final thought from Wallace Stevens, an observation on the beauty around us:

Beauty is momentary in the mind —
The fitful tracing of a portal;
But in the flesh it is immortal.

The body dies; the body’s beauty lives.
So evenings die, in their green going,
A wave, interminably flowing.
― Wallace Stevens

Click here to see Part 1 of Working a Day Job; click here for Part 3.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Working A Day Job – Part 1

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine.  Taken at 7:30 am.
Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine. Taken at 7:30 am.

“I find that having a day job is one of the best things
that in the world that could happen to me,” he once said.
“It introduces discipline and regularity into one’s life,
I am just as free as I want to be and of course
I have nothing to worry about the money.”
Wallace Stevens, American Poet, as quoted in
Daily Ritual: How Artists Work by Mason Curry

It’s not a surprise that working a day job interferes with nurturing my creativity.  I need it – predictably – to pay the bills, provide benefits for my family, and to foster a valuable career.  I’m thankful to have a good job, although it hasn’t happened by accident.  God has blessed me richly with my employment, in addition to a lot of work and hard effort.

But how do I reconcile the two – my creativity and my employment, especially when I’m working a lot of overtime?

There are several ways I frame this up for myself, to keep myself encouraged when it seems my photography and writing are far from me in my daily life:

  • My commute to work is short.
  • I’ve learned discipline.
  • I am exposed to all kinds of technology.
  • I have a highly developed business knowledge.
  • I have the money to do my photography and writing.

My Commute Time

I have my daughter to thank for this one, when one day during year end close, I was complaining about all the overtime.  She pointed out how short my commute was by today’s standards.  Most days it’s 30 minutes one way, more or less.  If I lived closer to her in Atlanta, my commute could easily stretch to 1 to 1.5 hours one way.  If I lived in the Chicago suburbs and worked downtown, it would be the same between the train ride and walking from the train station to and from work.

So while I work a lot of overtime at various times during the year, I’m not sitting in the car in traffic.  My field requires large amounts of overtime, which would be worse if I worked in consulting.  My overtime is fairly limited by comparison and a short commute makes it easier on my personal life.

I’ve Learned Discipline

Do I feel like being at work every day?  No, of course not.  But I show up, regardless of how I feel about it.  People depend on me and it’s part of the job.

Nurturing my creativity is the same.  I don’t feel like going out to take pictures some days.  It can be a fair amount of work and effort to show up when the light is right, especially if that happens to be 5:30 am or 9:30 pm (sunrise versus night photography).  That picture above?  I took it at 7:30 am.  By then, my daughter and I had been up for over an hour, having dressed for a cold morning, driven to Acadia National Park, left the car and walked the path to that part of Witch Hole Pond.  The path was uphill most of the way to the pond too (but very worth it).

It’s easy to be undisciplined with my hobbies – to keep reading, watching television, or even cooking another meal instead of going out to use my camera or sitting at my computer to write or process pictures.  It’s even easier to decide I’m too tired to learn something new or try another technique and keeping doing the same old things.  I wrote more extensively about this on the post, Creativity versus Craft.

But if want satisfaction, I have to be as disciplined as I am at work.  Well, okay, maybe not quite as disciplined.  It’s supposed to be fun after all and not another drain on my emotions!

But I have to show up, learn, push myself to do new things, and most of all, just be there.  Just like today – I’m up early before work to write this, having worked late again last night and then gone to bed early.

So I think I’ll stop here and write about the rest of my points in my next post, as well as share a little more about Wallace Stevens who is quoted above.

Have a good day!

Click here for Part 2 of Working A Day Job.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Foodie Tour!

Duck fat fries with garlic aioli and chipotle ketchup.
Duck fat fries with garlic aioli and chipotle ketchup.
Crab cakes
Crab cakes
Lobster rolls
Lobster rolls
Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar and olive oil
Blueberry popcorn
Blueberry popcorn

I’m doing this from my phone, so I won’t write much. We’re having fun and the food is great!  The tour was through Maine Foodie Tours and our guide did a wonderful job of showing us around and explaining things. I’m having trouble embedding a link, so here it is:


Chaos Is Inevitable – Part 2

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Taking a few minutes to center myself and quiet my mind makes a big difference. I love to sit here in the gardens at Colonial Williamsburg when I can.

A not-so-funny thing happens along the way to extraordinary results.
Untidiness.  Unrest.  Disarray.  Disorder. . .
Messes are inevitable when you focus on just one thing. . .
One of the greatest thieves of productivity is the unwillingness
to allow for chaos or the lack of creativity in dealing with it.
Gary Keller and Jay Papsan in “The One Thing”

There is the chaos of beginning new projects and learning new things, which I wrote about yesterday.  But there is another chaos that also impacts my creativity and it’s that of living a life.

The above quote from Gary Keller and Jay Papsan, in context, was about how when we focus our attention,

. . . the world doesn’t sit and wait. 
It stays on fast forward and things just rack up and
stack up while you bear down on a singular priority. 

The authors go on to say that there are things that can’t be ignored such as family, friends, pets, and jobs.  But you have to work around them, be creative in your solutions, and not let it limit you.  This chaos is one of thieves of productivity.

Whew!  We’ve all been there.  When my daughter was little and I was working full-time, I gave up most every hobby and outside interest.  I worked and took care of my family and that was it.  That was my priority at that time in my life.  I begged, bartered, and stole every moment I could to be with her.  It was worth it – so very worth it.  I was a good employee and attentive mother too.  It was hard, but I was glad I did it.

It’s the same now as I nurture my creativity.  I need to put that same focus into my writing and photography.  Once again, I’m giving up things to do it.  The stakes aren’t as high as raising a child (nor my emotions), but at the same time, it’s important to me.  I want to be creative.  I need to be creative.  It’s more important than watching TV, hanging out, or mindlessly reading.

I need to be kind to myself though.  No matter how much I prioritize or focus, chaos will still happen.  Dogs will need to go to the vet or make a mess that needs cleaning.  My employer will require extra hours.  The house needs a repair that can’t wait.  I need to roll with it and not let it derail me.

Some nights if I’m too tired, I set a timer for 30 minutes and just edit pictures.  Keep this or delete it?  Tag it.  3 or 4 star it if I want to process it sooner rather than later.  It’s better than nothing, so that the nights I have time and energy, I can get right down to working on photos, learning new techniques, or writing up a blog.  My goal is to show up every night and do something, no matter how small it might be.

So chaos is inevitable, both in the initial stages of creation and getting my arms around a project, and continuously as life intrudes and reduces my productivity.  Now I have to remember that and apply it!

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


Patience for the Learning Curve

Sunflower and bee at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens
Sunflower and bee at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

This is the essence of Rembrandt’s advice to Van Hoogstraten:
the authentic craft develops naturally from one’s own experience.
So, it seems reasonable to suggest that the search should not be for the lost secrets,
but for one’s own practice. This is in fact easy, you start making things.
At first they might not be perfect, but the information here
should provide you with a running start. And, if you are cut out for this
the learning curve will not be daunting, because you will realize that
you are finally headed in the right direction: towards the living craft.
― Tad Spurgeon (Tad is an artist – his website can be seen here)

Yesterday’s post mentioned that I got a bit snippy with my favorite boy toy as he was showing me some of his equipment to try out.

I left that comment in there, because it reflected the reality of the moment.  We’ve done much better at sharing a passion for photography (see my post here), but at times we conflict.

But as I nurture my creativity, I remind myself that the learning curve is frustrating.  No matter how intelligent I am, when something is new, there’s just a certain amount of fumbling and floundering that goes with it.  The concepts are tried and true, but don’t always make sense until I’ve done it and failed.

I’ve written about it here and here, but it’s apparently a lesson I need to keep reminding myself about.

I see this at work lately.  I’m training some new people to work on the state income tax returns.  They’re experienced and knowledgeable, just not in my area.  They feel overwhelmed because the software is so different than what they work with, the best practices are different, and of course, my management style is different than the person they report to.  It’s not good or bad, just different.

I keep reminding them that they’ve been exposed to the concepts for years simply as we interact together as a department.  But the first few returns – no matter how easy – will take a long time to get done.  The later returns will be much harder, but not take as long to prepare.

So when I get frustrated and feel like some of this photography will never make sense, it’s time to take a breath, relax, and give myself a break.  The technique will improve with time.  My role is to listen, absorb, and practice, practice, practice.  And of course, not snip at my favorite boy toy.

To see everything I’m doing with my 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity, click here.

To see what others are doing with their 31 Days project, click here.


31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity

White crab spider on a lantana at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
White crab spider on a lantana at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia
Nothing feeds the center of being so much as creative work.
– Anne Morrow Lindbergh
The things you do every day take on a certain beauty, and provide a kind of invisible architecture to daily life. – Gretchen Rubin

Welcome to my landing page for 31 Days of Nurturing My Creativity.  If you want to see my posts for the month, jump to the bottom!  There are also links to posts I’ve done previously about creativity.

Why I Am Doing This

Several months ago, I questioned whether I was doing enough to nurture my creativity.  By the time I finished writing my post, I decided that I was doing better than I thought, but not as good as I wanted to be doing.

In September, I participated in the 30 Days of Lists.  I posted a few of them to share, then realized that I’d rather spend that time working on my photography.  I did my lists everyday in my paper journal and thoroughly enjoyed it.  All that changed was I chose to not share it so frequently.  Instead, I worked on my pictures every night.

My Vision (Because Everyone Needs a Quest)

I intend to continue this nurturing of my creativity for the next 31 days.  Some of my posts might be simply the photographs I worked on that evening (with before and after examples), others will be longer as I record what is inspiring me or influencing my creativity.

It helps me to set out expectations when I start something.  I can always adjust them along the way, but it helps me frame up a project and what I need to do to accomplish it.

My expectations are:

  • It will focus me on my photography and writing
  • My creativity will be nurtured and strengthened
  • To continue with the routine of working every night doing something for my creativity (for more on how a routine makes it easier to get something done, check out Gretchen Rubin’s post – Why I Try To Do Some Things Every Day, Without Exception)
Why am I sharing how I nurture my creativity?

  • To encourage my readers to nurture their own creativity, whatever it is
  • To give my readers things to consider for their own application to their creative processes
  • To practice nurturing myself with evidence of it
  • To give me a body of work for my own future reference and encouragement
Details Behind 31 Days
I’m participating in a challenge called 31 Days:  A Writing Challenge, Every October, Every Day.  It’s an interesting idea – I choose my topic, put in a one-time link, and post every day.  The challenge is to go deeper into one topic for the  month.  As I considered whether to do this, I read over some of the bloggers who participated in 2013 and there is some incredibly good stuff out there.  The topics are all over, from cooking to faith to crafts of all kinds, and changes in home or behavior.  They all shared a desire to do something for 31 days and write about it.
Prequel Posts
To help get you started, here are some past posts on nurturing creativity:

 Creativity vs. Craft

 Nurturing My Creativity. . . Not

 What Inspires Me

 Special Photo Challenge:  Inspiration

 Inspired for Creativity

Sharing a Passion For Photography

Working Back From Discouragement – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 & Part 4

Index of Posts

Day 2 – Weekly Photo Challenge:  Nighttime (Processing A Night Photo)
Day 4 – Weekly Photo Challenge:  Signs (Trying out Topaz Labs filters)
Day 12 – Foodie Tour! (in which I try blogging from my cell phone)
Day 14 – Weekly Photo Challenge – Dreamy (thoughts on being a more creative photographer)
Day 17 – Got Rust? (trying something different with my photos)
Day 21 – Baby Bump
Day 30 – Time For Tea
Day 31 – 31 Days Wrap-Up

Things To Nurture This Month

Clouds over the Smoky Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina.  Taken in the late afternoon.
Clouds over the Smoky Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina. Taken in the late afternoon.

Where do I spend my time and energies? What do I need to focus on to bring along and develop? Wiktionary defines nurture as “that which nourishes; tender care, education, training”.

So what do I want to nurture this month?

  • My photography and creativity
  • My soul (spirituality)
  • My body

For the next three weeks, those are the things I want to emphasize, grow, and develop.  I didn’t put my family or pets on here, as I am already nourishing them.

For my photography:

  1. The classes I’m taking
  2. Investing in a new camera
  3. Blogging daily
  4. Decluttering the house more (it frees up physical and mental space)
  5. Taking better care of my body

For my soul:

  1. Praying regularly
  2. Doing my daily devotions (I use YouVersion for this)

For my body:

  1. Get back on my diet
  2. Walk daily
  3. Do 20 minutes of yoga each night (of course, tonight I was too tired and skipped it. . . again)
It looks beautiful, in the few minutes before the squash started to rot before they ripened and the vines died from powdery mildew.  The tomatoes burst open from blight.
It looks beautiful, in the few minutes before the squash started to rot before they ripened and the vines died from powdery mildew. The tomatoes burst open from blight.

There are things I no longer want to nurture, mostly dreams and passions.  I’m no longer interested in homesteading, gardening or food preservation.  The garden totally didn’t work out despite repeated efforts (my husband think it’s not enough light in the yard).  My husband is not interested in homesteading and I don’t have the time or energy to do it by myself.

I’ve cut back my writing.  I don’t feel like sitting in front of a computer for hours on end to craft a book.  It’s a great idea, but not for me at this time in my life.  I want to record my life, so I’ve increased my journals and photographs.  But writing anything else is not happening.

Cooking has also gone by the wayside.  I simplified my diet as I lost weight, but there’s still a lot of cooking to be done.  I’ve gone to cooking protein once a month and freezing portions for use later, supplemented by fish several times a week.  I cook vegetables and a bit of carbs every other week.  It’s not fancy, but it doesn’t have to be to nourish me without costing a lot of time.

So. . . photography / creativity, spirituality, and body.  That’s what I want to nurture (nourish) this month. 


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 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