Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 in Nine Minutes

Another year behind me...the days seem to pass faster and faster!  I need them to slow down.  I have so much that I need to do, that I want to do.

One thing that I have managed to do every single day since January 1, 2013 is to take a photo a day, a photo that in some way represents my day.  Other than brushing my teeth, I'm not sure that I can say that I have any other habit that I have that I have done faithfully for 1461 days consecutively.  There probably should be others...

I used the Collect App for the iPhone to save each photo from 2016.  The app allows you to create a collage or a video of your photos.  This year, for the first time, I have created a video of all 366 photos.  It is amazing how a split second image from a day can transport me right back to that day, that moment.  I remember other things from that day.  I remember how I was feeling, who I was with, what the weather was like.  

Not all of the photos are good.  Not all of the days were good.  But lots of both were. That's life.  We need balance.  We need to be able to see and feel that ebbing and flowing of life's events and emotions.  And that's why I am so committed to this project.  It gives me perspective on my life.  As the video runs, I am reminded of how grateful I am for all that the past year brought - special moments with my family and friends, good food, quiet times, silly times, travel, illness, scary times, celebrations,  appreciation of the everyday, the beauty of nature in calm and storm.  The video is the Cliff Notes of my life in 2016.  Nine minutes of the 527, 040 minutes that made up 2016.

Happy New Year!
My hope for each of you is that 2017 brings you and those you love joy, hope, and peace.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Change Is Coming

As I mentioned in my post a few days ago, one of the many reasons that I have not been consistent in my writing here is because I am writing two other blogs.  I "met" Tracey almost three years ago through the Capture Your 365 community.  I say "met" because we have never met in person.  In the sharing of our daily photos in the CY365 forum, a connection formed between us.  Our communication moved from CY365 public gallery comments to personal email and text messaging.  In a nutshell, we discovered that though on the surface our lives appear very different, we actually share many common interests and experiences.  Two years ago, those commonalities led us to start writing a blog, Pixels, Plates, and Lols!,  together.  In it we discuss friendship, photography, and a lot of food.  This is another one of those people stories that I was talking about yesterday.  We wanted to find something we could do together to celebrate and nurture our friendship.

Tracey lives in Michigan and I in Texas.  We can't decide on a whim to go out for coffee, do lunch, or go on a photowalk together, but we can share our individual thoughts about and experiences with coffee, lunch, our cameras, and many other things with each other and with you through our blog posts.  Writing together is our way of sharing a long distance friendship.  And let me say, we have had A LOT of LOLs, both publicly and privately.  I think I can speak for both of us when I say blogging together is super fun.

As I sit here writing these words, I have just hit publish on our last post of Pixels, Plates, and Lols!.

Don't worry!  All is good with Tracey and me! Just as 2016 is coming to an end and 2017, with all of its possibilities, is about to be birthed, so our first blog together is coming to an end and something new for us is about to be born.  Though it was kind of sad knowing that when I hit "Publish" it would be the last time for Pixels, Plates, and Lols!, I know that things change.  Thankfully for us, this change is good thing!

I hope that I have figured out an effective way to balance my collaborative writing with Tracey and my personal writing here, but don't be surprised if every now and then there is a bit of "sharing" between the two blogs. Lol!

If you are interested in following us on our new adventure, I will share the details here as soon as I can!  If, while you wait, you want to read the detailed story of how we became friends and starting blogging together, here is the link to our very first post on Pixels, Plates, and LOLs!

Enjoy!  And thanks for reading.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

What's Really Important

I never quite made it totally to Christmas this year.  I loved Advent, that time of waiting, of reflection,  of trying to not get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas.  I "did" Advent so well that I didn't even get the Christmas tree put up until December 20th.  And by that time, other than some outdoor lights on the front porch, I wasn't inspired to do any other decorating.  Usually I seriously decorate the mantel and hearth, as well as both the dining room and library.  None of that happened this year.  It was kind of strange; I had no unhappy or negative feelings surrounding the holidays, I just didn't have the inclination to put all of the decorations up and then take them all down and pack them away.  So, I didn't decorate.  

This time last week I started feeling a little guilty about my lack of environmental holiday cheer, but thankfully, that quickly subsided.  Christmas has now come and, for all practical purposes, gone.  I know, I know...Christmastide lasts until Epiphany on January 6th, but let's face it,  once we all go back to work and school next week, or this week for some, Christmas is over.  Since I now have some down time, I have had the opportunity to reflect on what was going on for me this holiday season.

I usually do our holiday decorating the weekend before my final exams; that was the weekend of December 9-11.  This year, Weber and I travelled to Colonial Williamsburg that weekend for a photowalk with some fabulous Capture Your 365 photography friends.  The weekend was filled with lots of fun, laughter, photos, and Williamsburg was filled with much holiday cheer. 

During the weekend,  I also reconnected, after thirty-five years, with my college sweetheart.  He read On Blueper B's blog that we were close by and made the hour drive to come see me.  We shared, over a few beers, the Reader's Digest condensed version of our respective lives over the last three decades.  

 I don't regret for one second having taken this quick weekend excursion instead of decorating.

By the time my semester was over the following weekend, I still had a few gifts to buy and everything needed to be wrapped.  Once the tree was up, I got right on the wrapping.  Unlike in years past, I had all but two or three things wrapped and under the tree by the 22nd.  That's a good thing because on the 22nd and the 23rd Christmas was again put on hold so that we could celebrate the girls' birthdays.  Ethiopian food and the musical The Book of Mormon on Brooke's birthday and an Escape Room and upscale southern cuisine for Erin's.  We had two wonderful days of our entire family being together having fun and literally celebrating life.  If you have never done an Escape Room, I recommend it!  Lots of fun and a great family bonding experience, even though we were crushed to death because we were trapped in a cabin whose roof could not support the weight of the snow during a blizzard.

And then it was Christmas Eve.

Because my entire family (kids, ex, significant others) gathers at our house to celebrate Christmas, I spent most of the 24th grocery shopping and making sure that we had everything that we needed for Christmas Day.  Brunch is our "big" family meal.  Well really, Brooke's homemade Christmas cinnamon rolls are our big family meal, but we did have a spinach and potato slab pie just to give the illusion of being slightly more healthy.  Food beyond the breakfast feast is grazing, as we call it.  Brooke did most of the brunch food preparation and while I was singing two Christmas Eve Masses, Weber made a brisket and barbecue sauce for later in the day.  The others brought simple sides to go with the brisket.

Christmas morning came.  We opened our stockings, ate, drank coffee, exchanged gifts, drank more coffee, ate some more, sat outside in the 70 degree weather, ate some more, played Cards Against Humanity (I know. A bit irreverent for Christmas, but we sure had fun!), ate a little more, packed up leftovers (Yes, there were some!), packed up gifts.  Everyone headed to their respective homes.  I fell asleep.

We had a wonderful, happy, beautiful day.  And you know what?  No one cared that the hearth and mantel weren't decorated or that the dining room wasn't decorated, or that the library was void of any hint of Christmas.  You know why?  Because it is not those things that make Christmas.  Christmas is love.  Christmas is joy.  Christmas is peace.  Those things may be found in beautiful decorations, but at our house they were most certainly found in homemade cinnamon rolls, coffee (The Bailey's may up the coffee's joy factor slightly), laughter (even if it did come from playing a raunchy game), and just being with people that make you happy.

Looking back, I now realize that my Decemeber was all about being with people who make me happy - my photography friends that I was blessed to spend a day with in Williamsburg, my college sweetheart, my girls, my local friends, my ex, my husband, even my students and colleaugues as we all dragged ourselves to the end of the semester finish line.  It was all about people.  

People are what's important.  People will make or break your spirit.  It has taken me a long time, but I now surround myself only with people who make my spirit, not break it.  Those people protect me from others who may want to break me, hurt me, or steal my joy.

Think about the people that surround you.  Do they bring you happiness?  Do you bring them joy?  Do you share peace with one another?  If so, count your blessings.  If not, ask why.  

I am grateful that this year's twinkling Christmas lights came not from strings of lights and glittery baubles, but from the sparkling eyes, smiles, and hearts of all of the beautiful people with whom I shared my December.  Thank you, everyone!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

All In A Decade

Today is my 55th birthday.

Exactly ten years ago, on a whim, I decided to start writing a blog.  At that point I had no idea why and was fairly sure that no one really wanted to read what I was writing.  But, I did it.  The title perfectly summed up what I wrote about, all the things that happened in my day.  I was faithful to the process for quite awhile.  And then I became unfaithful.  And then faithful again.  And then unfaithful.  It was like the the plucking of the flower petals...he loves me, he loves me not, faithful to blog posting, not faithful to blog posting...and there I ran out of petals.  Realizing that this was the tenth anniversary of beginning All In A Day and that I have done a terrible job keeping up makes me sad.  So much has happened in my life during these ten years, some of it I have written about and lots of other parts I have not.  Here is the condesnsed version.

  • I have lost both of my parents.  My mom died three days after my first post in 2006 and my dad in 2014.
  • Both of my girls have graduated from high school and college.  
  • I have gotten divorced and remarried.  A new flower with enough petals to end with "He loves me." 
  • I've moved about fifty miles away from where I lived for 25 years, from the country to the city.
  • I've lost a few friends and made a whole lot more.
  • I succumbed to Facebook.
  • I've reconnected with friends from high school and college.
  • I've lost some weight.  Gained some weight.  Lost some weight.  Gained some weight.  I need another petal on this one too!
  • I've traveled to many U.S. cities that I have never before visited.
  • I've been to Europe three times - once to Italy and twice to England.
  • I've had some stitches, just a few and it was the fig's fault for not being still, not my mediocre knife skills!
  • My hair has gone from really short to really long.
  • I have discovered my love of photography.
  • I broke my leg.  It was a sacrifice I made for my art.  I NEEDED to be in THAT spot.  They shouldn't have put that big drop off there, especially when it was dark when I needed to be there.
  • I have gained two dogs and a cat and lost three cats.
  • I have read lots of books, but not as many as I would like.
  • I have written lots of haiku but not as many as I would like.
  • I have knitted lots of things but I still have lots of "unknitted" yarn.
  • I have become part of NOAH (National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation) and now have lots of cool pale pals.
  • I still don't like mushrooms, olives, peas, or fish.  I've tried.  I really have!   It hasn't worked.
  • I have become part of the online community Capture Your 365 and have taken at least one photo every single day for the last four years.
  • I have learned to drink coffee, lots of coffee.
  • I am writing two other blogs: Pixels, Plates, and LOLs with Tracey, a new friend, and Blueper B's Blueprints with Weber and our furry blue and orange monster, Blueper B.
  • I have had lots of thoughts that have not made it to written words.
  • I have learned to relax.
  • I have learned to love myself.
  • I have learned how to be happy, really happy...not just on the outside, but on the inside too.
  • I have remembered how much I love to write.

As I reflect on 2016 and look forward to my desires for 2017, reviving my relationship with my blog is at the top of the list.  I miss it.  I want it.  I need it.  It doesn't matter to me one way or the other if other people read it.  If you do and some of my words speak to you, make you think, make you feel, make you act, that's great.  But if not, that's OK too.  I will have written for me.  I will have acknowledged in words what is in my head and on my heart.  THAT is what I want.  THAT is what I need.  THAT is what I miss.

A stray faithful to blogging...has been found!

This is the best birthday gift!

Beginning on January 1, I will also post my daily photos along with my musings of the day.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Where I Stand

Every month, the Capture Your 365 photo prompts include this one - "Where I Stand."  I have pictures of my bare feet, my sock covered feet, my feet in comfy shoes, funky shoes, and dressy shoes.  Throughtout these photos I can be seen with my feet curled around the base of my desk chair, propped up on the couch relaxing, standing side by side with the one I love, on rocks and mountains,  close to home, and faraway.  Each photo tells a story of where I was physically in that particular moment on that particular day.

This week I was prompted to focus on where I stand not through my camera, but through my heart.  I was faced with examining where I stand emotionally, spiritually, theologically, and morally, not though pictures, but through my actions..  It is much more diffucult to create an image of where the inner me stands than it is to show where the physical me has planted my feet.

The week began with awakening last Sunday morning to the devestating news of the attack on the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.  Such an attack is horrifying in its own right, but when I learned that the attacker specifically targeted  the LGBT community, it felt like salt being poured into wounds that were already quite deep and painful.  The LGBT community is my friends, my family, my church.  If such an incident were to occur here in Dallas, I have no doubt that someone I know would have been among the dead or injured.

I actually went to two different church services last Sunday morning, the Episcopal church, the church in which I grew up, the church in which my children were baptized, and the church in which I was married...twice. :-)  Sadly, the events in Orlando were not mentioned during that Sunday morning service.  I then went to Cathedral of Hope United Church of Christ, the largest LGBT church in the world.  There the events in Orlando were on the hearts and minds of everyone.  The response, however, was not one of hate, but of sadness for the great loss of life and a need to extend our love to a commuity that is grieving and in pain.  There was an outpouring of love for the victims and families in Orlando and for the LGBT community here in Dallas.  Yes, there was anxiety and some outright fear, but when we came together as a community a faith, that fear was lessesned a bit during that time when we all stood together in prayer and praise.

On Monday, I received emails from both churches.  The one from the Episcopal church sadi that the regularly scheduled Wednesday night Eucharist would be a Requiem offered for those who lost their lives in Orlando, but because the sanctuary was being used for another event during that time, they did not know yet where that service would be held.  Interestingly, I never recieved any further information about that particular service.  

From Cathedral of Hope came an anouncement that The Turtle Creek Chorale, a premier men's chorus here in Dallas, and the Cathedral of Hope Sanctuary Choir were going to offer a concert entitled "Songs of Healing" on Tuesday evening.  I was honored to be asked to sing as part of that concert.  In a time when I felt helpless, music was something that I had to offer.  

That Tuesday night concert was attended by 1600 people and watched by 500,000 more via live streaming broadcasts.  In addition to the gift of music offered by the collective musicians, those who attended the concert, through generous hearts, gave $18,000 to be sent to agencies Orlando who are helping the families of the victims with final expenses.  The people of Dallas showed their love for the people of Orlando.

This event was engineered and executed in forty-eight hours thanks to the hard work and commitment to the cause by many, many people, not the least of whom was the Dallas Police Department who sent sixty officers to keep us all safe that night.  For that ninety minutes, fear subsided.

I have no idea how many attended the service at the Episcopal church that I assume ocurred Wednesday evening in some undisclosed location.  

It should come as no surprise that because of Cathedral of Hope's position in the Chritian church and the LGBT faith community,  our head pastor was sought out by reporters for his thoughts and commentary on the week's events.  As ones who are proud of the work of our church and its leaders, we shared many of those articles and videos through social media.  I was no exception.

I was surprised yesterday when my Facebook feed included a "rant" against our pastor's words by someone I consider to be a good friend.  At first I was hurt.  Then I was sad.  I then felt God's hand on my shoulder and words in me ear telling me that this was my chance to show where I stand.  When I am hurt or upset, I generally have one of two responses - withdraw completely from the situation, or fire back in "unpleasant" discourse.  I knew that neither of these responses was acceptable this time.  The person who wrote the post in question is someone who I believe God intentionally brought into my life.  We have had several different, all positive, encounters prior to this.  And as I said, this is someone I consider to be a good friend, so withdrawing would be a personal loss to me.  And now more than ever, as is evidenced by the political climate in this country, I know that angry discourse is a coward's response.  It is a response from the head, not the heart.  The heart responds with love as its guiding force.  With God's help, I did my best to respond in love - balancing my love for my church, my pastor, my faith, myself, and my friend.  I received a gentle response saying that we could agree to disagree.  Indeed we could and that was ok.  I honestly believe that responding to the initial post was God calling me to articulate in a respectable way, where I stand not for my friend, but for me.

As if all these things weren't enough to make one question the goodness of life, on our way to Cathedral of Hope this morning we received a text from a friend saying that the building had been evacuated because of "suspicious packages" left on the premises.  The worship service was moved to a safe spot outdoors, away from the packages.  Amidst the Dallas bomb squad and a number of other police officers, worship went on.

I have written here many times that I am not a risk taker; yet despite all that was going on, it never crossed my mind that I should not attend the worship service at Cathedral of Hope this morning.  Another opportunity to show where I stand.  This morning I stood with my closest friends, surrounded by lots of love and police officers.  And it was good.

As it turned out, the "suspicious bags" were harmless, clothes and a cell phone.  We were able to return to the building, and the air conditioning,   There was an amazing sense of community as we all held hands and sang, "How great is our God" after breaking bread together.   Love will conquer hate. It may take awhile, but love will win.

As is the case with our "village" of friends, we headed to brunch after church.  On the way, I checked my Facebook feed.  There were lots of posts about the morning's events at church.  Hidden amidst all of that was a notice that my friend, with whom I'd had the exchange yesterday, had tagged me in a post.  In it, she said that she had misinterpreted the article that was posted, responded without fully processing what was said, and after some time to let it settle, now understands what was really being presented and what I was trying to say in my response.  Wow!  The Spirit is at work!

There was a huge lesson in this for me.  First of all, I neither retreated or responded from the wrong place when faced with, what was for me, a challenging situation.  Nor did I judge my friend, because I have done the very same thing...replied to someone or something without taking time, without listening to God guide me through to the place where I should be.  I also learned from my friend how to admit when I have made a mistake.  I hope that I have the courage to do as she did the next time I find myself having jumped to a conclusion too quickly.

So as a new week dawns, where do I stand...
  • Still deeply saddened by the loss of life in Orlando
  • Grateful for the healing power of music
  • Proud to be part of a community of faith that not only talks the talk, but walks the walk
  • Thankful for the support of the Dallas police department throughout this week
  • Truly blessed by friends both far and near
  • Certain that love conquers hate
  • Confident that God is good.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Magical Day at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens

A week ago today I spent an amazing Saturday with four awesome photography friends, and several supportive family members, on a photowalk at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens.  Most of us had never met before that day, yet from the moment that we all gathered at the front entrance to the gardens, it felt like we had been lifelong friends.  The excitement with which we all met that day was like a bunch of teenagers at a sleepover.

With cameras around our necks and camera bags on our shoulders we set out to photograph the beauty before us.  At least that was the premise of our day.

I don't know about any of the others, but once we started walking and talking and smiling and laughing, the photos that I was taking were really of little consequence.  I was more interested in talking to and enjoying these woman, completely being in each and every moment.  Most of what I know about photography seemed to escape me on that day.  I didn't pay nearly enough attention to camera settings and light angles and composition as I normally do.  I realized that although we were on a a "photowalk," the time with new friends was way more important than the photos that I may or may not "get."

I'm not sure how many photos I actually took.  What I am sure of is that the ratio of good ones to bad ones was far less than it usually is.  I am perfectly OK with that.  As the day went on,  it became patently obvious to me that this day was about the journey, not the destination.

Even behind the cameras, the pure joy on everyone's face is evident!

And even just behind there is excitement over what is being photographed!

Here is the star of the above shot!

 Some serious shooting...

Our tour guides, photo op spotters, bench testers, and most importantly, loving supporters...

The fun lasted all day long!

I managed to get a few decent shots.

The Norfolk Botanical Gardens were full of beautiful blooming flowers...

...and lush green...

...and other awesome things to look at!

Though many of my photos are poorly exposed, composed, and focused, my memories of this day are perfect in every way...clear,  exactly what I had hoped for, and will forever fill my heart with light and joy!

Thank you to everyone who helped create this magical day - Garnett, Amy, Kay, Sherri, Andrea, Sarah, Weber, Ray, and most of all Katrina Kennedy and Capture Your 365!