Life Goes On

20170909i-1658 BizSim w Star2
View at Short Pump Mall, Richmond, Virginia

Gretchen Rubin has often said:

The days are long, but the years are short.
I realized that part of why I’m not blogging is that I’ve been busy with so many other things. It’s not good or bad, it’s a season in life.

Last year, my favorite boy toy and I traveled extensively, both in-state and out-of-state. Some of the trips were to see our daughter, grandsons, and bestest son-in-law. One trip was to see my Dad and family in Texas. But mostly we wandered.

20170416i-740 Blog
My daughter and oldest grandson

I took nearly 2500 pictures last year, often with my cell phone. It’s always on me, it takes reasonably good pictures, and it’s easier to post to Facebook later.

Continue reading “Life Goes On”

Time For A New Story

Isn't he just handsome? Even if he is a bit impatient with me taking his picture.
Isn’t my husband just handsome? Even if he is a bit impatient with me taking his picture.

As May drew to a close, it became apparent to me that I needed to tell myself a new story. I need a story that doesn’t involve the workplace, doing taxes, being a CPA, or any of the other ways that I’ve defined myself for these many, many years.

I’m proud of my career accomplishments and the hard work I’ve put into being the best I can, becoming an authority in my field, and being a recognized name “out there”. I’ve dedicated myself to learning all I could about corporate state income taxes, showing up when I was needed, being a diligent employee and mentoring those around me.

But that time has come to an end. For the rest of this year, I am on sabbatical and planning what I want to do with my writing and photography as well as seeing that new grandson of mine.

Yes, that is a cannonball in the bricks
Yes, that is a cannonball in the bricks in Yorktown, Virginia

Continue reading “Time For A New Story”

My One Thing – Storytelling My Life

Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Path to Eagle Lake in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Pick a direction, start marching down that path and
see how you like it.  Time brings clarity and if you find
you don’t like it, you can always change your mind.
It’s your life.
– Gary Keller & Jay Papasan, The One Thing

The Short Version

After reading “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan (see my notes on it here), I realized that my ONE Thing is storytelling my life.  Being a writer is too narrow for my life and being a photographer is also too limited.  I desire both and need both to achieve what I want, which is to record and curate my life.

I first read about curating my life on Gretchen Rubin’s blog (here), particularly her comment from a book that said, “self-curate or disappear”.  She expands on this with these questions, all of which I answered “yes” to:

How about you? Do you “self-curate”?
What steps do you take to preserve memories,
to catalog memorabilia, to leave a record of your life,
thoughts, experiences, and to review it?
Do you do it for yourself, or with an eye to an audience?

Wikipedia says curation is, “archiving, historical record keeping”, and that “in general, archives consist of records that have been selected for permanent or long-term preservation on grounds of their enduring cultural, historical, or evidentiary value. Archival records are normally unpublished and almost always unique, unlike books or magazines for which many identical copies exist. This means that archives are quite distinct from libraries with regard to their functions and organization”.

This is what I do with my journals and photographs.  I keep a historical record of my life that is mostly unpublished and mostly unique, for which no identical copies exist.

No Longer A Writer

I realized earlier this year that being a writer no longer fit me, way before I started contemplating my one thing.  In my journal, I wrote:

What about not being a writer?

I’m okay with that.

I don’t want to be in front of the computer for long periods of time, just staring at it.

I really really hate the thought of writing and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting all those drafts.  I’d rather watch grass grow – at least I’d be outside!

My imagination / observation is not up to that of authors.  I read all the details they put in to bring a story to life and it just blows past me.  I skip over a fair of that, which is NOT helping develop my skills as a writer either.  But if I find it interferes with the enjoyment of the story, I’d find it tedious to no end to actually write.

My life experience is actually pretty limited to be a writing what goes on in my Walter Mitty imagination.  My real life is narrow and boring with few opportunities to experience what I daydream about.  In other words, I would write without authority or knowledge.  I suppose I could obtain such knowledge through research but my time is limited, my energy is low, and my desire to do so is non-existent.

And the photography? It’s easier for me, goes faster, I have my favorite boy toy as a resource,  and people would rather look at picture than read something thoughtful anyhow.

So I guess I want to keep my journals, but for now, nothing more beyond that.

After I wrote that, I stared at it for a couple of days, then grieved.  I wasn’t ready to give up being a writer, something I thought all my life I would do.  So I decided to not give it up.

And a few days later realized that yes, this door was closed for now.  It really was good to decide that I’m not a writer.

Not Only a Photographer Either

As the summer went on, I realized that I didn’t want to be just a photographer either.  It would have been easy enough to convert my blog to mostly photographs.  I’m capable of some really good work and have enough inventory that I could post a daily picture for a fairly lengthy period before I’d run out of ideas.

But that didn’t suit me either.  Just as being a writer was too limiting, being only a photographer didn’t contribute enough.

Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine
Witch Hole Pond in Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, Maine

Being a Storyteller

That’s when I realized that I wanted to tell stories from my life, with both writing and photography.  They complement each other and together give a fuller, more rounded story, the story of me.  Something to remember my life by and hopefully pass to generations after me.

Per Wikipedia, “storytelling is a means for sharing and interpreting experiences”, which is what I want to do.

Margaret Heffernan wrote an article in Inc. about a narrative template for storytelling, called ABT, that said:

So if you start with your information (And)
but only pile on information, you lose momentum
and a sense of destination. So you have to
move on to your challenges (But) and then
imagine a resolution (Therefore).

I haven’t overly focused on technique, but it matches what I try to do.  I make a point, share from my life how I executed (or failed) and why it was important to me.  As with anything, it doesn’t work everytime, but I get (and appreciate) the comments that you all are relating to many things that I post in my blog.

As I’m writing this, I did some research on Google about storytelling techniques.  Needless to say, there are all kinds of hints and tips out there.  Storyteller.net had a useful list of tips for those telling verbal stories that also applies to what I’m doing.  Two particularly good reminders were to tell stories that I like and to not hesitate to remove slow moving parts.  Amanda Lewan’s blog post is directed to the fiction writer, but she has a good reminder to show, don’t tell.

I’ve been working on this approach for a while and need to continue honing my skill at storytelling my life.  For now though, for my creative side, this is my ONE Thing.  Identifying it and writing it out nurtures my creativity by giving me focus and helping me prioritize my time and efforts.

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.

#write31days

Setting Expectations for Enjoyment

My daughter is cooking up a storm and has company for it too.
My daughter is cooking up a storm ten years ago and has company for it too.

One thing that helps nurture my creativity while traveling is to decide ahead of time what my expectations are.  I recheck them nearly every day while I’m on  my trip.  Did I do what I wanted?  If not, do I still want to do that?  If so, what do I need to do to enjoy or try whatever it is on my list?

Sometimes, of course, other things came up that were either a better choice, more fun, or unavoidable.  When my favorite boy toy and I went to Maine last year, it rained nearly every day.  It didn’t stop us from taking pictures, but we had to work a lot harder at it to get good pictures.  The rain was unavoidable.

Two years ago, while we were in Charleston, South Carolina, we realized there were tremendous opportunities to do night photography.  There were a number of cool things and we didn’t have trouble with being watched or stalked.  That was an opportunity that we didn’t expect.  Because we were out so late each night, we skipped the morning photography even though we wanted sunrises over the ocean.  Actually, we tried one and it was a fizzle due to fog.  But once we started staying up late at night, it didn’t matter if we got up early or not.

A baby Vizsla!  This was his first weekend with us.  He's 12-weeks-old.
A baby Vizsla! This was his first weekend with us. He’s 12-weeks-old.

So what are my expectations for my trip with my daughter?

  • Spend quality time with her
  • Take lots of pictures
  • Shoot more extensive videos of the ocean and surf than I did last time (to see what I shot last year, click here)
  • Show her around
  • Enjoy some fancy meals with her

When I went to Asheville earlier this summer, I set this for my expectations:

  • Relax
  • Write
  • Take pictures
  • Explore
  • Enjoy nice meals

Hmm. . . the food, photography and exploration seem to be a common theme here!

For my trip to Asheville, I met those expectations nearly every day and I had a blast doing it.  For my trip right now, since I didn’t plan to write, I took no laptop.  I also took minimal camera gear since my goal is to spend time with my daughter.

I find it comforting to identify ahead of time what I’m expecting from vacation, then adjusting it as each day unfolds.  This way I can make changes if I’m not getting what I want and adapt if the circumstances warrant it.  It helps me have a better vacation and enjoy my travels more.

So that’s today’s message for nurturing my creativity!  For those in the northern hemisphere, I hope you’re enjoying this fall weather and maybe even some color change.  The leaves are still green here, but you can see the yellow is starting to come through.  A few more weeks and the leaves will be a variety of brilliant colors.

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.

#write31days

Traveling Helps My Creativity

Ocean Trail near Sand Beach on Mount Desert Island, Maine
The Atlantic Ocean from the Ocean Trail near Sand Beach on Mount Desert Island, Maine

All photography, including travel photography, can provide
an essential means of communication. Images have the potential
to expose people to new locations, diverse lifestyles and
wide-ranging ideas. They can help educate, raise awareness,
and provide insight into an unfamiliar world.
The making of a photograph is a process of discovery and self-expression.
They can reveal relationships between events that might otherwise go unnoticed,
and they are one of today’s most common chronicles of mankind.
– Julieanne Kost, Photographer
(interview on adobe.com)

I’m off on a trip with my daughter!  While I never take off at this time of the year due to the tax returns, an opportunity came up for me to spend some time with her before the baby comes.

Traveling is something else that helps nurture my creativity.  It gives me new things to photograph, new experiences to enjoy (or not), and gets me out of my comfort zone.  Of course travel is not always fun.  I dislike being short on sleep because a bed was uncomfortable or other travelers were noisy.  Food is problematic, either being too junky or too rich.  Of course, there’s the inevitable getting lost, turning around, and constant vigil to not have a car accident because I / we don’t know what we’re doing or where we’re going.

But it’s great to have new things to photograph.  Not only is it stimulating, but there are challenges trying to take something new.  I might take a picture and be disappointed in the results.  Then I have to look more carefully – what attracted me?  What was it I was trying to capture?  Do I need to come back at a different time?  Do I want to try it again at sunrise / sunset / after dark?

Sometimes a picture doesn’t work no matter what, such as building that faces such a way that it’s always in shadow.  Or the sky is always a flat gray, day after dreary day.  Or there’s a limitation that can’t be worked around, such as cars in the street or crowds of tourists all day and night.  Then I have to decide how to frame it up to leave the cars in or minimize tourists in the picture.  It challenges me to work at getting the photographs that I see in my mind.

There is something else that a trip can provide – experiencing the passion of others whether it’s other tourists or the locals.  We’ve eaten in restaurants where the server was full of suggestions of places to visit.  We’ve chatted up other photographers who shared restaurants to try out.  It’s all the same – watching people’s faces light up when they get to describe something special to you, in a way that you want to try it too.

Passion is contagious!  It not only makes the trip memorable and fun, but it encourages me to intensify my reactions and be equally passionate about the trip, my photography, and what I’m visiting, in addition to the added bonus of experiences I might not have had otherwise.

Of course, a day trip can do the same thing.  For that though, I have to actually move my rear end and do it!  No staying home to get one more thing done or take a nap.  But once I get going, I’m usually glad that I did.

If you feel yourself getting stale with your creativity, consider whether a change in scenery would help you get back your mojo.  And remember to enjoy it and not fret about the cost, discomfort, or how you’re going to handle getting around.  Just go and experience something new!

For me, it’s just plain old fun to have new things to take pictures of.  That right there makes it worth my while.

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.

#write31days

 

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.

#write31days

I Can Talk For Hours About. . .

Although I enjoy visiting, it doesn’t seem like I spend as much time talking as I do listening.  But get me onto a favorite topic and I can talk your ears off (provided you don’t die of boredom because you don’t share my enthusiasm).  So for today’s 30 Days of Lists, here are the subjects that I can talk about for hours.  They will not come as a surprise to any of you, since I also blog about them frequently!

Books – at a previous job, one of the consultants loved to read as much as I did and very often read the same books too.  We had to be careful to not talk too long as we both enjoyed comparing notes and making recommendations.

Dogs – I can never tell or hear too many dog stories.  They are an endless source of cute, frustration, and affection.

Photography – I don’t meet many photographers who are as advanced as I am, outside of my favorite boy toy.  So when I meet one, I can stand and talk forever about equipment, Adobe software, social media, and places to go for taking pictures.  I had that happen a while back at the botanical gardens.  The other photographer and I had a great time visiting and had to cut it short because the good light was leaving.

My Daughter – she’s the greatest and I love to talk about everything she’s up to.  Last weekend, she participated in a mini-triathlon, placing in the middle of the pack (the only photos I have are copyrighted, so I cannot post them).  Her skin tight clothes for the event just looked like she was a bit pudgy, not four months pregnant.  When I was four months pregnant, I was already waddling from the bowling ball that was sticking out in front!

State Taxes – put me in a room with the consultants, and we can be swapping stories for hours.  They like it as much as I do, mostly because I’m interactive with them and have good stories of my own.  I enjoy being able to dissect the nuances behind various tax positions and events, especially with someone who knows as much or more than I do.  It’s just plain old fun :)

How about you?  What can you talk about for hours?  Will I be surprised?  Let me know!

#30Lists

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. 

#30Lists

Sharing A Passion For Photography

Day 2, 4:00 pm
Day 2, 4:00 pm

My favorite boy toy has been in love with the camera for years and I have the pictures to prove it too!  (Click here for pictures of a younger boy toy with his camera.)

He’s encouraged me over the years to do it with him, with varying levels of success.  Not that I’m stubborn or anything (cough, cough).  Not that he wasn’t insistent that I do it exactly the same way he did it (more coughing).  Over the last few years though, we got it figured out.

Day 5, 7:30 am
Day 5, 7:30 am

So our vacations don’t quite fit the norm of everyone else, as these pictures show from our recent trip to Maine.  Our days might start at 5:30 am to catch the sunrise.  It might not end until after midnight if we’re out doing some night photography.  We catch up on our sleep in the middle of the day, when the light is flat.

He enjoys using a tripod and composing each scene to the nth degree, a holdover from his days of film when film and processing were expensive and took way too much money from our household budget.  Me, I hand hold my camera and in a short period can shoot several hundred pictures.  After that, I get bored waiting for him.  Eventually I find someplace to sit and read while I wait for him to (yet again) get done.

Sometimes I amuse myself by taking pictures of him.  It’s best to catch him from behind or when the camera is in his face so he’s not scowling at me.  It did occur to him though that he might want to use some of these on his website and he got much friendlier about it!

Day 5, 3:10 pm
Day 5, 3:10 pm

There are other big differences in how we approach our photography.  He’s blowing his up into 18″ x 27″ canvases to sell for hanging on the wall.  Mine are going into a blog or photo album.  His have to be perfect – people don’t want to pay for “it’s good enough”.  Mine are “good enough”.  I have limited patience and time for editing and processing them and because they’re so small on the screen, they don’t have to be perfect.  My audience loves them as they are; his criticizes everything he does.  Not everyone, but every year there’s a few customers who get nasty about it.  I don’t know why they don’t just keep walking and feel they have to tell him what they think is wrong with his work and how they can do the same thing with their little point and shoot camera.

Day 5, 3:40 pm
Day 5, 3:40 pm

It’s taken us a long time to get to this point.  He was critical that I didn’t do it the way he did.  I responded by not bothering to take pictures.  If I took pictures, I came home with all kinds of good things.  He’d come home with a few, then complain that he didn’t get any good pictures.  He’d give me advice, I’d ignore it, then find out the hard way why it was good advice – like when I tried taking pictures of the lightning several years ago.  He insisted that I upgrade my digital camera several years ago and he was right about how the quality improved.  But when I turned up my nose at learning Adobe Photoshop, he backed off and suggested I try Adobe Lightroom instead, which I love using.

Then one day he looked at my pictures and realized that I’d gotten very, very good at the photography.  When I demurred, he told me to look around at the art fairs and art galleries that he liked checking out.  He was right – my pictures were nearly as good as his and in some cases, even better.  I definitely had an eye for composition.  Funnier yet, I was asking him questions about Lightroom that he couldn’t answer.  He’s still the king of Photoshop, but I’m not bad with Lightroom!  He’s been more supportive of the way I do my photography and as a result, I’ve been much more receptive to his advice.

Day 3, 10:00 am
Day 3, 10:00 am

According to a recent article from the Wall Street Journal, sharing an interest good for a relationship as it prevents boredom and complacency, and encourages the brain chemicals related to pleasure and bonding.  In the article, it talks how learning a new hobby from scratch is one way to go, but another way to consider is when one partner has a passion already.  For the other partner, they have a build-in teacher and get bonus points for efforts.  Of course, that has its pitfalls, as my husband and I found for ourselves.  For the newbie, check the attitude, take direction, and don’t kill the joy for the partner with the passion.  For the proficient partner – reward the newbie, be patient, and stay focused on the long-term goal of introducing your passion so the other partner will want to learn it.

Day 2, 7:00 am
Day 2, 7:00 am

At the end of the article, one of the partners commented on learning beekeeping with his wife saying,

“If you create fun, enriching experiences together, you reinvent yourself and your marriage. . .
you look at your partner in awe.”

[If you’re interested in improving your photography or other skills, check out this review of Lynda.com for inexpensive on-line training.  I highly recommend it!]