January 1—Time to Reframe

Today is New Year’s Day, that day we set aside to announce to the world (or as I say sometimes, to “God and everybody”) out New Year’s Resolutions. You know, those things that we say we are going to commit ourselves to accomplish in the coming year.

I’ve made resolutions. And after about a week, I’ve forgotten them.

Then I “met” Ali Edwards through the late Big Picture Scrapbooking website and found her year-long class “One Little Word.” (By the way, it’s still available on her website, Instead of making resolutions that we will either forget or just not keep, she recommends that we think of a word that will express what we want to get out of the coming year. The more complex the word, the richer the results. I liked that idea, and I dove in. I mean, how often can you buy a year-long online class for $31.00 or so! Seriously! The content was wonderful. (Now, if I could only complete all the activities and finish that darn One Little Word Scrapbook. I did read every single lesson, though. . . . .)

Then, in the last year or so, I met another online friend, a photographer and printmaker, Jennifer Upton. Her work is so swoon-worthy! She taught an online class called “Reframe,” in which she encouraged us to look at our everyday with new eyes and see the beauty in the ordinary and mundane and chaos. That class and those ideas have resonated with me for a while.

Last year, my word was “seek.” I am in a place in my life where I am seeking things out—learning new things, experimenting with things, discovering things. For instance, during one of my last medical checkups, my liver enzymes were high, and the doctor told me to stop taking products like Tylenol. Well, what’s a migraine sufferer supposed to do if she can’t take the one product that produces some results (Excedrin Migraine formula and the generic versions of such). I had to “seek” alternative relief. Thank goodness for the Internet and my job teaching at a college where the instructors are nurses, pharmacy technicians, or pharmacists! I found essential oils that relief my pain! That is just one way that my word last year helped me. This year, when I went for my physical exam, my liver enzymes were normal, my lipid panel was “Great!”. Now, I need to implement that word “seek” to find ways to lower my blood pressure and blood sugar. I’m seeking in November and December a healthier lifestyle. I’m not resolving to go on a diet or go to the gym three times a week or any other practice. I am seeking out healthier choices and seeking ways to implement exercise into my routines.

As I write this (in December), I haven’t yet settled on my word, although I am close. There are some words that shimmer and that I come to. Over the next four weeks, I am joining a ReFrame community to explore how to incorporate a “one word” into my practices. You can follow along with me on Mondays here on the blog.

So, let’s get started. If you haven’t already found your word (or perhaps it found you), these are some ways to start:

1. List the things you want to achieve or do in the coming year. It may be something like traveling, preparing for retirement, learning a new craft, finding new, healthier practices, reading a book a week, or something like that.

2. List some words that “embody” those goals. For example, you could choose the verbs from the sentences you wrote for #1—travel, retire, learn, etc. Here are some additional thoughts about the words you might list:

a.  Nouns name things or qualities. So maybe, like my year this year, you have experienced events that caused you grief. You might want to focus on “joy” in the coming year. Try to make those nouns very specific. For example, “happiness” or “success” do name qualities that we might pursue, but we may be able to name the emotion more specifically. (More on that in a minute.

b. Verbs are action words. You may want to choose an action verb to help you “do” those things you want to accomplish.

c. Adjectives describe things. So again, perhaps you may want to be more “joyful” or more “grateful” or “loving”. As with the nouns, try to be as specific as possible.

3. After you have spent some time brainstorming words, choose the ones that seem to “shimmer” or stand out (I’m borrowing language from Christine Valters Paintner, Eyes of the Heart, when she talks about receiving images to photograph during contemplative walks). Look those words up in a dictionary and/or a thesaurus. You might even go so far as create clusters with these words. Look at the synonyms and antonyms. Notice how the connotations change with each word. Perhaps one of those synonyms is a better fit for you than the original word. (This tip comes from Ali Edwards.)

4. After narrowing your list to a few (two or three), let the words sit with you a bit over the next week. Meditate on that word. During your day, see whether that word fits into your personal and/or work life.

I would love to see what words you have chosen for 2016. You can leave your word in the comments below. I’ll see you next week!

Edited: If you’ve followed me this week, then you know that I have selected the word “Abide” as my word for 2016.


Thursday Thanksgiving: The Week Is Nearly Over


It has been that kind of week. It started off just fine. I had some time to read and reflect and create as I read along with others in Liz Lamereux’s Inner Excavation read-along for this summer. It’s based on her book of the same title. Each week, we will explore a new idea and a new chapter. This week, it’s all about beginnings and taking some first steps. I am trying to “reframe” my attitude, especially during these last two weeks before I return to the classroom for one of the marathon teaching schedules in which I begin the day at 9:00 a.m., teach two classes, have a three-hour break, and then teach two more classes beginning at 5:30 and leaving campus at 10:30 p.m. Yes, it’s going to be some very long days.

Even Tuesday was a good day. I went out for a photo walk along the pond. I noticed some wild flowers I had not seen before, or perhaps I have seen them; I just haven’t paid attention to them before. That’s the beauty of contemplative photography as a practice (it’s not technical, so don’t expect a “how-to-do-contemplative-photography” post any time soon!). With contemplative photography, the photographer learns how to see differently and to accept what he or she sees as a “gift,” if you will. It’s a way of acknowledging that there is beauty in the world, in the ordinary, and what some people may see as the mundane.


Wednesday was a different animal altogether. First, I knew I had some errands that I needed to complete, but I woke with some severe pain which colored my outlook. I did not want to get out of bed because lying flat on my back was the only position that was in any way comfortable, and that wasn’t the most comfortable! I don’t know that I’ve had this bad a sciatic attack before. Then there were the other phone calls that put some additional demands on my time. But begin “Mom,” I answered the call, and helped out. At least by the end of the day, I had some relief from the pain. Moreover, I had some encouraging words from some online friends in the Inner Excavation group. What I needed to hear most clearly is, “you are not alone.” Sometimes, this journey of mine seems to be a solitary one.

Today, I have been catching up on my writing, my dreaming, my responding. In a few minutes, I’ll pull out the piano bench and practice and play some music to set my soul singing. I will read some inspiring words, and I will sit awhile with my Inner Excavation journal. Perhaps I will pick up the camera and walk around the ponds to see what has changed since Tuesday. 



Sometimes, life is just hard. Sometimes, I have to create space. And I am thankful that I can do these things.


What IF. . . .

This morning, I made my creamer with a little coffee (you see, while I like the way coffee smells, I don’t really enjoy the coffee flavor, so I add LOTS of creamer and flavored syrups and honey), and I sat in my corner of the couch where I can see the bird feeders and the birds. I picked up one of my favorite fountain pens and my nearly full journal to write my morning pages. Last year, I made a commitment to myself that I would follow through with three handwritten pages a day, and I can honestly say that, for the most part, I have maintained that commitment. Most of the time, my morning pages are just drivel, but, as Julia Cameron discusses in her book The Artist’s Way, as well as in other books, those morning pages sometimes lead me to nail down some rather vague ideas. Or at least, the writing brings out and makes concrete some things that are floating in my brain, capturing them and forcing me to scaffold them.

And that’s where I am this morning. I woke earlier than usual, started writing earlier than usual. I know I need to concentrate on the third prompt in my ReFrame Pilgrimage series. I think I know the direction it should take, but that’s not where my morning pages directed me today. I found myself daydreaming a little bit.

What if I turned these prompts into an in-person retreat for women who needed to reframe the way they see things?

And I began dreaming. . . .

I also read an article this morning, “25 Things Creative People Do Differently.” These articles are really a dime a dozen out there on the Internet, but sometimes, I need to read them again because they remind me that I’m not so screwy or zany after all. There were a couple of points that relate directly to this dream I’ve been contemplating.

The one that struck me:

They daydream. Creative people let their minds wander, and don’t ask any questions until later. They simply enjoy traveling to new lands and thinking up new concepts through their imaginations, and know that daydreaming can lead to the most profound, unparalleled ideas.

And that’s what I’m doing now, if you will allow.

I dream of a retreat

for women who love photography but who are not necessarily professional photographers.

For women who see the value of capturing the everyday in its good, bad, and ugly forms.

For women who want to see the beauty in everything.

Why a retreat? Why not just create this as an online retreat or a class or even write a book about it? The reason is simple: even though creative women like their solitude, they also crave community.

We want to be with other women who share our same ways of thinking, to connect with flesh and blood, to build a tribe who will support each other through the journey, to find others who will understand why we receive images through our lenses of bands of sunlight on black scarves hanging on door knobs, of images of aged ivory piano keys, of died roses long past their prime, of spider webs, stumps, peeled paint, or painted toe nails.

We want to share lives.

We want to learn new things.

We crave inspiration when our wells are dry and we feel empty.

We want to bring beauty into our lives, to learn to see through “new” eyes. Sometimes, we want affirmation that we are beautiful ourselves.

This is what I envision for my ReFrame Pilgrimage: A retreat to take us out of the ordinary so that we can re-enter into the extraordinary. A pilgrimage takes us out of our comfort zones for a time, but then returns us “home.” And the result is that we see “home” differently.

This is a ReFrame.

Will you join me?