Monday, May 9, 2016

Optimist or Pessimist: Your Choice

There was a time in my life when I was indeed the pessimist.  Not anymore.  That is a tough existence!

This photo is the result of camera settings that were totally wrong.  But, it worked for today's photo prompts around fastener and blue.  Let's just say it ended up being a happy accident!

I had three finals to write tonight and another set to grade.  Even after many years of practice, I am still terrible at multi-tasking so in trying to get my photo of the day done in between all of my school tasks, I failed to check my camera settings before taking this photo.  This is the result.  Its got a character of its own; that character, however, is not what I originally set out to capture!

Four more days of this semester and then I shouldn't have to multi-task like this until August!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Me on Mother's Day

A nice and calm Mother's Day today...Offspring No. 2 and her significant other took me out to lunch after church.  Then we, the mamas of four-legged fur babies went shopping for them.  When I got home I took a few photos, played with the dogs, and wrote a final exam.  It was an OK day.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Another End

Today was the final class day of this semester. By this time next week, final exams will be over and another academic year will have come to an end.  I will have completed year twenty-five in the same teaching position.

The music theory sequence is a minimum of four semesters of paired courses; it can be five if a student comes in needing to make up a deficiency.  Of those five courses, I teach four of them, all but the first (or second).  So by the time I have had the same students for three consecutive semesters in two courses each semester, I know them well, and I have a genuine interest in their lives beyond my classes.  Of those completing the sequence this semester, some have auditioned at four year universities and are excited to take the next step in their education, some are experiencing disappointment because they were not accepted to the school of their choice, and some are questioning whether or not they want to continue on in music or choose another career path.  Whatever the case, it has been my job and my privilege to serve each one of them - to teach them, guide them, and support them along the way as they prepare for whatever their next step may be.

I am grateful that I teach so many courses in this sequence.  Although I am bidding farewell to my class of music theory IV students, I will see those students who have been in Music Theory II and III again next fall.  Knowing that I have a group of returning students makes it a little easier to say goodbye to those who are moving on.

Another consolation is that those students who left last spring have completed their first year in a four year institution.  They are now coming back or sending emails sharing their successes and excitement surrounding their academic achievements.  That students take the time to stop by or write an email sharing with me how they are doing lets me know that they were aware of my genuine care and concern for them while they were in my classes.  In case you are wondering...yes, there are some that I never hear from again once they hand me the final exam.  With a very few, that's OK. I wish them well, but that's it.

I will spend my weekend writing final exams and finalizing grades, enduring the stress that the end of every semester brings.  Next Thursday night I will play for commencement.  And Friday, summer vacation begins.  Just as the semesters seem to fly by, so will the summer.  Before I know it, August will be here and my year twenty-six will begin.  A whole new group of students will come and I will have the opportunity to get to know them, perhaps touch their lives in a meaningful way, and then send them on as well.  The cycle of the academic life.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Seven Days of Looking At Nature

Every now and then there is a photo challenge that goes around Facebook that challenges photographers to publish a nature photo a day for seven consecutive days.  In addition to posting a photo, you also nominate someone else to take on the challenge as well.  It is the 21st century incarnation of chain letters, but in the end you get to see lots of beautiful photographs.

I was "nominated" to do this by someone back in February, but failed to accomplish the challenge because I got sick, then busy, then uninspired by nature in winter here in Texas.  That is not an excuse.  It is the reality of where I was at the time.  I figured that being nominated again by someone else was my chance to redeem myself.

Though I thought that I might be overwhelmed by trying to do this, keep up with my Capture Your 365 picture of the day, and real life, I enjoyed the challenge.  It forced me to stop for those seven days and mindfully search for something beautiful in nature.  I was also inspired by following those whom I nominated during my seven day run.

Here are my seven photos.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Day 7

The quote by Albert Einstein that I included on the final photo is the perfect summary of my experience over the last week taking each of these photos.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It's Been Too Long!

It hurts my heart to admit that I have not written a single post here this year.  I have been writing, just not here.  One of the places where I do write almost daily is in my Morning Pages Journal.  This is a discipline that I have had for many years, one that fuels me creatively, intellectually, and spiritually.  Though this writing is not fit for public consumption, it is was inspires me to write in other places.  Over the last bit, I have found myself scrawling over and over how much I miss blogging regularly.  It is not that I think I have something to say that others want or need to read, it is more a discipline that helps me to document my life, a somewhat selfish act.

The other night I went back and read several of my posts from my early days of blogging.  I was so grateful for those words.  They gave power to such small and seemingly insignificant moments in my life, but moments that I wanted to remember nonetheless.  Moments that now are so much more important than I ever believed that they would be.   I am sad that there are now big chunks of time to which I did not dedicate even a few words.  There is nothing that I can do about that now, but I can try to pick up where I am and begin again.  Start where I am.  I need to write regularly.  I want to write regularly.  I will write regularly.

In the midst of being a bit hard on myself,  I do have to remember that although I have been absent here, I have been active creatively in other places.  I have continued to take a photo a day.  2016 is year four.  Here is a video of the 121 daily photos that I have taken so far this year.  The video creator crops the photos square though many of them were not originally square, so they look a bit strange.


I have also continued to write a food and photography blog, Pixels, Plates, and LOLs, with my friend Tracey Gehring.  This is a super fun venture, but it does take a fair amount of time each week.  Here is the link to some great recipes and food photos.  Currently we are documenting our joint weight loss adventure.

And, Weber and I continue to help our furry friend. Blueper B, with his blog.  Again, we have not been as diligent there as we would like, however, we are making a commitment to keep that space current as well.  If you are interested in the adventures of Blueper B, you can read his blog here, or follow him on Facebook.

As I approach the final two weeks of this semester, I know that I am biting off a big chunk here with a public promise to recommit myself to regular posting.  Even with the impending busy-ness of final exams, it feels good to write just this little bit here.  I am doing what I need to do.

Until tomorrow...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Birthday Traditions

Yesterday was my 54th birthday.  In the last week we have celebrated both of my daughters' birthdays and Christmas.  It goes without saying that this is a busy time in our family!  Interestingly, all of the men in our family--husband, ex-husband, daughter's boyfriend--all have summer birthdays, an they are months apart rather than days.

Despite being packed in around Christmas, I have always made a point to keep my girls' birthdays separate from Christmas and separate from each other.  Everyone gets her own birthday dinner of choice.  Sometimes it a home cooked meal and sometimes it is a meal out.  This year everyone chose to eat out.  We had an evening of Ethiopian, Upscale Americana, and Thai cuisine.  Good food and good company made for happy celebrations!

When the girls were eight and eleven, we gave them a one dollar lottery ticket for each year of their ages just for something fun and a little different.  At that point it was an under twenty dollar investment, my limit on spending when it comes to gambling.  Little did I know that the lottery tickets would become a tradition that has lasted fifteen years!  At ages 23 and 26 this year, the cost now exceeds my $20 rule, but we continue to play on.  And if that's not bad enough, the tradition has expanded to include the adults as well!

As silly as it is, we all look forward to scratching off all of our tickets and seeing who gets the most bang for their buck...literally.  It used to be that Offspring No. 1 always did quite well.  Her winnings would exceed those of us who had MANY more tickets.  This year, however, that was not the case.  With her 26 tickets, she won $10.  Offspring No. 2 won $16 with her 23 tickets.  For once, I was the big winner with $69 from my 54 tickets.  That is a 24% gain.  Pretty good for the most unlucky member of the family!  Maybe I should reconsider my investment strategies for 2016. :-)

Another December tradition that started three years ago when I began taking a photo a day is that Offspring No. 2 has collected my photos and organized them into a printed book.  The past two years I received the book as a Christmas gift.  This year I didn't.  I started thinking about putting the book together myself, but thankfully that was not necessary.  I received the book for my birthday!

There is something satisfying about seeing the year's photos in print.  And an added bonus for me is that I now know which photos are Erin's favorites.  They get more room on the page.  Yeah, the book doesn't include quite the whole year, but that is perfectly OK.  Having 2015''s book done and printed before January 1st is exactly the motivation that I need to commit to a photo a day again in 2016.  That right there is a huge gift!

So here I ago...another year of fun and photos!  I am grateful to my entire family for all of their support as models, assistants,  lens cap finders, and most importantly, for their unconditional love!

Ironically, these are all unedited phone photos. :-)

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas 2015

Christmas has come and gone.  In Texas, at least for us, it was the calm before the storm.  The Dallas area had devastating tornadoes last night, one of which contained 200 mph winds, that left eleven people dead and massive property damage that has not yet been fully assessed.  Though the tornado sirens sounded for us and we had a plan for taking shelter, we never moved from our positions  in front of the TV where we were watching the storm's movement, to our secure place in the hall.   Many people in DFW were not as fortunate as we were.  This kind of  loss is heartbreaking anytime, but perhaps even more so at this time of year when happiness and joy should prevail.

Christmas Day in Dallas was marked by temperatures in the high 70's.  There was no cozy family gathering around the fire for us.  In fact, we spent almost the entire day outside on the patio.  It was beautiful...and stress free!  We did not have a formal sit-down-at-the-table meal this year.  Brooke made her traditional Christmas morning cinnamon rolls and the coffee was free flowing.  We all grabbed a mug of coffee and paper plate with a cinnamon roll (or two) and made our way outside.  This was followed by self serve line that included an egg casserole and bacon.  We ate what we wanted when we wanted it.  I loved the relaxed, unstructured nature of our day.  Everyone could read their instruction manuals, program their electronics, play their games, and finish their chapters without being interrupted by a formal "dinner bell."

I need to remember this low stress approach to Christmas Day for next year...and pray again for the unseasonably warm temperatures.  Don't get me wrong, I love a white Christmas, but the out of the ordinary weather helped make our out of the ordinary celebration feel right this year.

Once my semester ended on December 17th, I was able to truly relax.  I knew that I was stressed at the end of the semester, but I don't think that I realized just how much.  A huge weight was lifted.  With some truly "free" time I was able to enjoy wrapping gifts, some last minute decorating, a little cooking, and fun with my two and four-legged family members...and our "bestest" friends.

I love this ornament given to us by one of the members of our "tribe."

A few images leading up to Christmas.

Oh, and did I mention between school ending on the 17th and Christmas we also celebrated the birthdays of Offsprings No. 1 and No.2?  Good times!

Offspring No. 1 - age 26

Offspring No. 2 - age 23

After singing the late night Christmas Eve service, we have this crazy tradition of going to Waffle House just down the road from our house.  I'm not sure how or why this tradition got started, but we've done it for at least five years and I look forward to it no matter how tired I may be at 1am on Christmas morning.  It is interesting to people watch at a sit down restaurant that is open in the middle of the night on Christmas.  There are travelers trying to get to family before morning, families for whom this may be their Christmas meal, and people who are a party of one who may be lonely and want to be among others.  In addition to scrambled eggs with cheese and hash browns, part of our Waffle House tradition is to share the love and hospitality of Christmas with our fellow patrons and the staff at our local Waffle House.  This is one of my favorite family traditions.

Christmas morning began with the littlest among us, all decked out in her Christmas PJ's, opening her gifts first.  Piper's four-legged brother and sister followed right along.  They all played while we waited for all of the humans to gather.

I put my camera down during the gift exchange.  You'll just have to believe me when I say that everyone did great both in the giving and receiving!

Here are a few shots of our relaxed Christmas afternoon.

Holiday cheers to each of you from each of us!