Category Archives: writing

A Year of Living the Dare—the Second Quarter Begins

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It’s April already.  It’s the second Saturday in April, in fact. Last Saturday, I was getting ready for Aaron’s wedding, eating breakfast in a hotel in Greer, anticipating the afternoon.

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(Handsome couple. Photo credit to Grady, the proud father of the groom)

Three weeks ago, I entered into a new season of living the dare, or perhaps living the dare. As a member of a “mastermind group” of women who desire to create a business for themselves, I began dreaming again of answering a call that I’ve felt for some years—to take control of my living, to step out on faith, to envision the life and work I want to do.

I have to be honest: taking dares, even the ones I give myself, is scary. What’s even scarier than taking the dare, is owning that dare. And now that I have accepted the dare, I am in the process of defining the dare.

So. . . . I’ve written before that one of my goals is to create a “space” for photographers, women especially, to gather to practice the art and craft of photography, to share the images we receive and make, and perhaps, most importantly, to realize that private dream of being an artist, of living the creative life. For me, photography is often a contemplative practice, of way of orienting me to the world around me, to see what is here right now. Looking through the lens of the camera (my Canon 7D, aka “the big girl camera”) reminds me to notice things. I’ve also written before that more often than not, when I don’t have the camera with me, I see photographs to receive and make.

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There’s another element, though, that pulls me. The little girl who wanted someone to tell her that she could be an artist if she wanted to keeps calling to me. I know that day was a long time ago in that third grade classroom at Dutch Fork Elementary (the old one that burned in 1976 or so), but I still feel the weight of the criticism and the implication that I was not, nor would be, an artist. I want others to know that we are all born with creativity and artistry in us. I may never draw realistic horses the way my third-grade friend could, but I can still create.

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I am not sure where my creative business planning may take me this year, but I am exploring and thinking. I am creating space and time for this. And who knows to what this dare will lead?

Me and My Big Ideas

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I’m afraid I have not been keeping up with my 365 turned 52 project very well. Some weeks I’m lucky if I look at the camera, much less pick up it and press the shutter button. It’s all good, though. I won’t beat myself up.

Have you seen the magazine Bella Grace? It’s a quarterly magazine published by Stampington, and it is gorgeous with a capital G. The articles are wonderful and often uplifting and inspiring. The photography is beautiful. I try to pick one up when I go to Michael’s. I bought issue 11, the spring edition, this week, and I’ve read about a third of it. There are some “journaling” pages to accompany some of the articles, too, and these pages are thought-provoking.

And article caught my eye: “30 Days of Smiles” by Ginny Kubitz Moyer. She wrote about how she sent uplifting emails to her mother as a birthday gift since her mother was in the process of downsizing her life. The emails contained pictures or graphics or links to videos that she thought her mother would enjoy. Her mother said that she saved each email it a separate folder and often returned to those emails when she needed a lift.

Lately, Facebook has been depressing me. Honestly, I am tired of political dissension and disagreements. I am tired of negativity. I am tired of the divisiveness that I see more and more often. Even movies are causing arguments (have you seen the discussions surrounding the movie The Shack?)

I am thinking that perhaps I need to think of at least one uplifting thing each day for the next thirty days and post it to Facebook or something—if nothing more than to say that I refuse to be pulled under by the negative things that surround me. That could be my April focus (it will be April before I know it, really. It’s already the midpoint of March!.

Here is one thing that made me smile this week. We’ve had some interesting weather—snow, rain, wind, clouds, COLD, freeze warning (it was 19 degrees this morning!). The other evening, the clouds were gathering in the eastern sky, and the sun was still shining in the western sky. The light was interesting. Of course, I picked up the camera and dashed out in the backyard to receive some images of that magical light. It made me smile.

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Beautiful light. . . . Yes, it makes me smile.

Would you like to start a movement on Facebook to crowd out the negative? If I can remember, I’ll use the hashtag #30daysofsmiles to designate my part. It may be become a habit. I think the rules will be simple: post anything that makes you smile—photograph, a graphic, a joke (Chris Copeland will surely have a pun or two), a video—anything that is uplifting to the spirit.

21 Days

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“They” say that it takes twenty-one days for an action or practice to become a habit. “They” also say that if you repeat something to yourself three times you can memorize it, but that didn’t necessarily work for me when I had to learn Latin! Still, repetition helps to instill habits.

I have been working through Sebastian Michael’s Photoshop Artistry class for a couple of years now. I love his approach, and I have learned a lot about using parts of Photoshop that I wouldn’t have learned on my own. Every so often, I have to go back into the class for refreshers—how to blend textures, how to create different effects, and so forth. I haven’t gotten the knack of using brushes and vectors for effect yet, but perhaps one day I will.

So, today, when Sebastian sent his newsletter with information about new postings on his Quill and Camera website, I began reading. And there was the mention of his twenty-one day course “21 Days to Creative Abundance.” I need some abundance in my life right about now. I think it’s the winter doldrums or something, even the spring is blooming all over the place down here in South Carolina.

I am just getting started with the class. I am looking forward to it. There are some habits that I need to change and develop, especially when it comes to creative work.

Today’s assignment had three or four parts, depending on how you look at it. The first is to get a journal. I keep blank composition books all the time. I get them from the dollar store, from Walmart, or any other place I can find them on sale. They aren’t pretty, but I can fix that! I have a ton of patterned scrapbook paper and Mod Podge. Instant pretty covers! The second assignment is all about the goals for my artistic and creative work. What do I want to accomplish?

This year, I some work in January to make a plan for one year, five years, ten years, life time. That is hard for me, and I need a way to keep the goals front and center so that I don’t forget them. After all, it’s no good making goals unless there is a plan to follow through.

These are my goals—again—in front of me:

1. To engage in photography regularly, whether it’s every day or not. My realistic goal is to engage in some kind of photographic experience every week. To me, that means either making images with the camera or working with images in Lightroom and Photoshop to create something “artistic.”

2. To write regularly. I already “do” morning pages, daily writings in my personal journal, but I want to expand that idea to focus on creative writing or at least writing more creatively.

3. To publish blog entries regularly. I guess that could go along with number 2 above, but I tend to write for the blog when I feel like it. I may need to go in and do a total revamp of the blog to figure out what it is supposed to “be.” But that’s another thing altogether.

4. To have a gallery show of my photographic art. Lately, I have been doing “stuff” with my images. For Christmas, I gave my father- and mother-in-law a photograph of the old barn that still stands on their house place. I had doctored it up in Photoshop. Then I mounted it on a 13 by 12 piece of board that I had stained. I gave my children the same thing! Last week, I attempted to do a photo transfer on a canvas.  My goal is to get my images off the computer and into the world. I suppose I should start looking for some kind of venue for the show.

5. Along with number 4, to get some photographs in the State Fair in October.

Sebastian said in the video for today, that telling others about goals forces accountability. So, by writing these words where people will read them, I suppose I am asking that you all, the readers, be my accountability partners, to hold me accountable for following through on some, if not all, of the goals I have in mind for this year.

So, for the next twenty-one days, between now and March 21, I will be working toward creating the habits that will help me achieve these goals in my creative and artistic life.

Style? What’s that?!

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Back when I thought I could make a living with photography, everything I read, from books to blogs to Facebook posts encouraged me to “find my style.” You know, I’m still trying to find my style. Sometimes, I think I know, and then. . . . well, something happens that changes me, and I’m off somewhere else.

I know what I like. I like to wear soft, stretchy pants, like leggings with long, loose-fitting tops. I like long “peasant” skirts and gypsy blouses. I like colors in jewel tones. I like costume jewelry.

Image result for costume jewelry 1950s(not my photograph)

I like shawls and capes rather than close-fitting coats. I guess one way to describe this “fashion” style would be Bohemian, or perhaps even “hippie.”

NO.36      Purple Cotton Tiered Peasant Skirt: (Not my photograph)

I like old things—cameos, pearls.

(Not my photograph)

I like orchids.

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Photographically—uh, that’s another story. I can’t quite decide what my style is there.

Yesterday, I downloaded and skimmed through a free ebook by Denise Love, who designs textures and Photoshop actions and Lightroom presets for 2 Lil Owls. I love her textures and use them often in my photography. She said something that made me step back and think. She wrote that when she started in photography she joined groups and went on photo walks and trips with them, and she tried various styles and subjects. She learned what she liked regarding what she enjoyed shooting and what she didn’t. As I drove to deliver a saxophone to my son and back, a 275-miles round trip, I thought about that one statement. She learned what she enjoyed photographing and what she didn’t. I thought about that myself.

Here’s what I know: I don’t enjoy photographing weddings and “events,” even though I do it. I enjoy photographing children at play, but not for portraits. I enjoy photographing “nature”—flowers, trees, acorns on the ground, the birds at the feeders outside the window. I enjoy photographing water and whatever happens to be just beneath the surface under the clear water. I see textures and colors and shapes through the lens, and I want to capture those details (even though I am truly a “big picture,” global thinker. My eyes are drawn to old things—old, dilapidated houses, barns, buildings, peeling paint, rust, faded colors. I enjoy walking through cemeteries—old ones with weathered and worn tombstones carved with all manner of funerary art.

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When I’m processing photographs, I enjoy applying textures and “manipulating” images to create a new vision or a new story. I like “vintage” and “old-fashioned” things. I want to learn more about this aspect of photography as well, creating “digital” art through photography and post-processing.

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I don’t know what to call my style, though. I don’t have a name. What I do know is that my style is fluid; it changes, evolves. And maybe that’s the way it should be.

Thurdays Are for Thanksgiving

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There are so many people who recommend keeping gratitude journals—simple lists of things for which we are grateful. Studies have shown that people who are grateful are happier and less stressed; have better relationships with family, friends, and colleagues; and are healthier.

This week, I’ll keep it brief. I am grateful that the holidays are over! I did enjoy the various activities this year much more than last year, but I am glad to slow down. I am thankful for family time, for seeing nieces, nephews, and their children. I am thankful for the delicious food (I ate too much). And I am thankful for the birth of Jesus even though that birth also leads to death and ultimately the resurrection.

I am grateful for the quietness of this week. I am enjoying the time to walk around the ponds, to enjoy the beauty of creation.

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Pictures and Words

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When I was new to scrapbooking, I followed Ali Edwards’s blog. Her philosophy of scrapbooking is “pictures and words.” Together both tell the story of our lives. I no longer scrapbook in a formal kind of way although I may start again. What I have found, though, is the importance of letting photographs and images convey stories. And I’m rediscovering my love of poetry.

Last week, I was walking around the ponds with the camera. It’s winter here in South Carolina (even though the temperatures are not very winterish). But I was out in the coolness, bundled in my son’s Marine Corps sweatshirt, looking at whatever caught my eye. And this cedar caught my eye.untitled-16

And as I looked at the cedar, and then later at the image, Robert Frost came to mind:

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay. 

Remember that poem Johnny quoted in The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton? I read that book way back when I was in seventh or eighth grade. The poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” has stayed with me for more than forty years (yes, I’ve been out of high school for almost 41 years!).  The gold tips of the cedar reminded me that this gold will subside into green as the cedar needles continue to grow. Perhaps if I were to go back to that same tree on the other side of the pond, take a picture of the same branch, those gold tips would be green now. Time passes; youth become adulthood. . . .

The gold of autumn, too, has subsided. I’m waiting for my grandmother’s camellia to bloom in the next month or so. I’m still waiting for the sasanqua camellia to bloom as well. I think I saw some golden buds on the bushes last week. . . . .

This week, look for the gold. And look for the beauty.

My Word for the Year 2017—Dare

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To dare:

  1. :  to be sufficiently courageous to <no one dared say a word> <she dare not let herself love — G. B. Shaw>
  2. : to have sufficient courage <try it if you dare>
  3. :  to challenge to perform an action especially as a proof of courage <dared him to jump>
  4. :to confront boldly : defy <dared the anger of his family>
  5. :  to have the courage to contend against, venture, or try <the actress dared a new interpretation of this classic role>

My word for 2017 has chosen me: DARE. I cannot begin to explain why this word keeps resonating with me because, if the truth be told, I am a coward. I am afraid of taking chances, making mistakes, and getting messy. But this year, I am going to try to channel my inner Ms. Frizzle (of Magic Schoolbus fame), and take some “dares.”

When I looked up the word, there are all kinds of grammatical notes with the word. it can be used as a verbal auxiliary, and a transitive verb, and as an intransitive verb. It can take direct and indirect objects, or not.

No matter, though, how the word is used grammatically as a verb or even as a noun, it means I have to step out of my comfort zones, take risks, and have the courage to do what I may not want to do. This is the year of being daring.

I am not sure where this word will take me. Last year, I allowed myself to abide in my mourning after losing my father in August 2015. I found myself this year “in a better place” at the end of the year. The mourning has lifted even though I still grieve for Daddy. This year, I could enjoy the holiday season without loss. Yes, I missed Daddy sitting at the table this year, but I didn’t want to throw Uncle Lee out for sitting in Daddy’s chair! I did break down when I visited his grave on Christmas Day, but I was able to smile when I told Mama that I had given a memorial to the church’s building fund. I could not do that last year. I needed to abide in the mourning.

This year, I will be daring. I’ll be sharing my dares throughout the year in this space. Tuesday night, one of the performers on the Kennedy Center Honors special sang “The Impossible Dream” as a tribute to President John F. Kennedy, for whom the arts center is named. This has always been a favorite song of mine, and I am going to claim it as my “anthem” for this year. (Click on the first line of the lyrics to hear Ed Ames sing this song!)

To dream the impossible dream 
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I’ll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I’m laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star