Friday, December 27, 2013

This is the End

I have been working through Susannah Conway's Unraveling The Year Ahead 2014. It is a free downloadable PDF workbook. It is a super helpful way for me to organize my thoughts regarding reflecting back on 2013 and for setting goals for 2014.

At the end of the reflection time for 2013, Susannah asks us to write out anything we need to say to the old year or things we want to say goodbye to.

I had three things:

1. Goodbye to the Edge - I have been standing on the edge for a good part of 2013, watching and waiting and wondering when it was going to be the time to step off the edge. The time is now, 2014.

2. Goodbye to Fear - I took Brene Brown's e-course The Gifts of Imperfection this fall. A quote that was a big catalyst in her life has also really inspired me for 2014. The quote is by Theodore Roosevelt from his Man in the Arena speech.

"It is not the critic who counts;
 not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles,
or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. 
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena,
 whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood;
who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; 
but who does actually strive to do the deeds; 
who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions;
who spends himself in a worthy cause;
 who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement,
 and who at the worst,  if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly,
 so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls
 who neither know victory nor defeat."

Finally the 3rd one, which is the hardest one for me to say goodbye to, but it is time. I have been toying with idea for the latter half of the 2013.

3. Goodbye to Becoming a Finisher - This blog has served me well for two years and it was a great starting point for blogging. Some of my best and favorite stories are here, but it is time to put my focus on Paisely Rain Boots. No need to worry though the writing will not end, if anything I will be devoting more time to writing in 2014.

The words from Adele's song Skyfall from the James Bond Movie of the same name kept playing in my head as I wrote these three things out.

This is the end
Hold your breath and count to ten
Feel the earth move and then
Hear my heart burst again

For this is the end
I've drowned and dreamt this moment
So overdue I owe them
Swept away, I'm stolen

Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together

Time to stand tall in 2014 and go forth courageously.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Composting the Story

This Autumn I have lived very much in the moment. Particularly on a daily basis, through my camera lens. Everyday the focus was on getting the next picture for my 365 project, hoping it would be even better than the photo the day before. In this single minded focus somewhere along the way I lost my inner voice, that voice I rely on to write.

Now don't get me wrong my daily pursuit of my photography this Autumn has been more than worthwhile. I have learned so much about myself, my photography style, and yes how to get a better photograph. But when I am really honest with myself, for me photography is only half of what makes me whole. I need the words, the story, as much as I need the photograph.

I didn't realize how much I was missing that inner voice until I started reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones. This book has been sitting on my bookshelf next to my bed for nearly a year now, but I always think you can't really read something until you are ready to listen to what it has to say.

When I got to Natalie's chapter on Composting these words of her's really struck a chord with me:

"Our senses by themselves are dumb. They take in experience, but they need the richness of sifting for a while through our consciousness and through our whole bodies. I call this "composting." Our bodies are garbage heaps: we collect experience, and from the decomposition of the thrown-out eggshells, spinach leaves, coffee grounds, and old steak bones of our minds come nitrogen, heat and very fertile soil. Out of this fertile soil bloom our poems and stories. But this does not come all at once. It takes time. Continue to turn over and over the organic details of your life until some of them fall through the garbage of discursive thoughts to the solid ground of black soil."

This is what I had been missing; that reflective time, the composting, the sifting of experiences to make rich, fertile black soil in order to grow words, grow stories.

I feel that December is always that month of reflection, a time to look back over this past year, the time and place to sift through our experiences. I am going to be doing some composting this month and see what black soil emerges.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"So What Do You Do?"

Whenever you meet new people the inevitable question is going to come up "So what do you do?" which translates to "What do you do to make money?".

From the time I was 18 up until two years ago that question never bothered me. I always had an answer to that question " I am a receptionist for a new home builder", "I am a data-entry clerk for a library furniture manufacturer", "I work in retail". People understood those answers.

Even the couple of years that I stayed home when Mallory was in elementary school, people understood being a stay at home mom.

But now...what do I say I do now?

Technically, I am a photographer. I do product photography for a furniture store for their website and Facebook page, and I do get paid for that, but what I do is so much bigger than that.

What caused me to start thinking on this subject is a statement from Stephanie Levy who is teaching the Wild Courage class I am taking. She says "I often wonder why it is so difficult for most artists and creative people to say - publicly and out loud - I am an artist or I am a writer or I am a photographer".

The answer for me is FEAR. The fear of explaining what I do, the fear of being misunderstood about what I do. The fear of not being good enough.

What tangible evidence is there of my work? I haven't won any prizes for my photography, I haven't written a book. I don't do portrait sessions. So how can I say that I am a photographer or a writer?

I am not doing what I do for the money, I am doing it because I love it. I have heard in a couple of different sermons this year something that really struck me. God is the master artist and creator, he gave me these gifts and passions that I have, to use and be proud of, not to hide under a bushel.

So I am going to look fear in the eye, gather my courage and start saying "I am a photographer, a writer and an explorer". Who knows what interesting conversations might come from that statement.

What are you afraid to say that you do?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time Alone

I have been alone for the past two days. Alone for the first time in almost two months. First there was the busyness of getting ready for a two week vacation, then there was the vacation itself. Once home again there was the joy of spending time with Mallory and getting her ready to go back to college.

All these things have been wonderful, but they have left me with no time alone to think. My creative energy has been running on empty. Yesterday I realized why I have been floundering, the voice in my head has been missing. That "voice" fuels my creative fire.

I have been super productive the last two days. I was getting so many things crossed off of my to-do list, but I still wasn't taking time to just be.

Last night I decided to go to one of my favorite places, Lake Michigan. Sand and water are tinder for my soul. I was on the hunt for "numbers", which was the prompt of the day for a photo challenge that I am participating in during the month of August.

When I reached the end of the pier I found my "numbers" in some graffiti. Content to snap a photograph with my iPhone to transform later at home on my iPad, I started to wander back along the boardwalk towards the parking lot.

During this wandering is when it happened, the voice in my head returned. That glorious voice made me do a leap of joy. I was all alone out there, but really I would have jumped even if other people had been around.

That's when I realized this voice in my head, which I have generally taken for granted or wished would go away, is my creative muse. Photography ideas started popping into my head in rapid succession, this story started writing itself, and I felt alive again.

Driving home with all these ideas swirling in my head, I began again the debate I often have with myself. Which passion to pursue? Photography or writing?

Photography: I love the challenge of photography and the learning that goes into the process. I may never hit it "Big" as a photographer, but I would like to at least print some of my own stuff to hang on my walls.

Writing: I love it when the stories effortlessly write themselves, but I must have that voice in my head in order to write. Otherwise I am just an empty vessel.

While reading before bed last night, the answer presented itself. I am reading A Homemade Life: Stories and recipes from my kitchen table by Molly Wizenberg. She was writing about why she blogs, "I write about food and cooking, and in that sense I aim to be informative, but I write about my life some too, since it intersects with food roughly three times a day. I don't think many of us are terribly interested in recipes that have no stories or real-life context. For me, the two are inseparable. One is pale  and boring without the other."

Substituting my photography and exploring for her food and cooking, I had my answer to that nagging question once and for all.

Next time I am feeling uncreative or lose that voice in my head, I know that I must set some time aside to be by myself, head to the beach, and all will be well again.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Pool of Chaos

When you throw an introvert into a pool of chaos it quickly becomes a life threatening situation.

If a life preserver is not offered to the introvert in a short amount of time, the feeling of drowning begins.

The Life Preserver - is a place far from the edge of the pool. A place that is quiet and filled with only the introvert. The introvert needs this place to see the chaos but not be a part of it. A place where they can observe and process what is going on, so they can figure out where they will best fit into the pool party. 

Drowning - If the life preserver is not offered the feeling of drowning soon begins. The introvert thrashes out trying desperately to keep their head above water, but quickly they become tired, the life drains out of them and a feeling of depression fills them instead. 

One introvert can not save another introvert because they are too busy trying to keep their own head above water.

An extrovert will never understand the feelings of the introvert, as much as, the introvert tries to explain it, or how many times they go to the same pool party. For the extrovert, Life is the pool party.

The only thing that can save the introvert is that life preserver, the place, and time. So they can figure out where they fit in and always, always the introvert needs a purpose.

Give the introvert a job, a purpose, a way to use their gifts and talents and they will be so happy. Resuscitation has occurred.

*After I wrote this story I decided to reread Susan Cain's - Quiet: The Power of the Introvert in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Trying to make some sense of my Introverted Life.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

All That is Left is the Roses

classy by jennifernish
classy, a photo by jennifernish on Flickr.

 We have lived in our current house for almost 10 years now, and many days of those 10 years have been spent walking with Riley and Scout through our neighborhood.

I have seen many changes to the neighborhood over these past 10 years. Mainly in the form of houses being bought and sold. Younger families moving in and older couples moving out, needing a smaller place with less yard.

There have also been the cases where the moving truck comes but only half of the house's possessions leave. A sad reminder that vows pledged to spend a lifetime together didn't go as planned.

There are also two houses that I know of where only one spouse remains but for a different reason, a reason of great sadness. The lifetime that they envisioned together cut short by a ravaging disease.

The two houses that I thought about most this morning on our walk have experienced the ultimate loss, the loss of it's sole surviving occupant.

The first house was owned by an elderly lady, who was easily in her 80's when we moved here. She only lived in the house in the summer. I am assuming spending the colder months in a warmer climate.

Buick, a photo by cdine on Flickr

I remember she would come roaring out of her driveway in her monstrous Buick, making me extremely cautious as I approached her house. In the Winter when I walked past I could see through the thin sheer curtains the mannequin she had sitting on the couch. As the Winter wore on the mannequin's head would tilt closer and closer to her shoulder. Anyone just causally passing by would think the dear lady had passed on and was slowly deteriorating.

One Spring there was no roaring Buick but instead a For Sale sign in the front yard, and all her possessions were lined up in the driveway as part of an Estate Sale. Quite quickly the house was sold to the people next door, who tore it down and made the former site of the house a green space and garden. I miss the old gal and her Buick, but most of all, I miss seeing that mannequin in the window every Winter.

It is the second house that got me writing this post in my head as the dogs and I continued our Journey towards home. As we rounded the corner at our half way point in the walk, there they were...his lovingly cared for roses lit beautifully by the early morning sun. In glorious full bloom along his split rail fence. Each Spring he would be out there on his wheeled garden stool, tenderly weeding around each rose bush.

Saskia II (KC-19) a photo by handforged on Flickr
I never exchanged many words with him other than the occasional "hello", "Good Morning" or "it's a beautiful day", so I don't know much about his life other than what I observed. I know that he loved to sail at one point in his life, since there was a beauty of a wooden sailboat that sat in his side yard. I never saw it leave that spot though, so I think he was past his sailing days, but once in a while I would see him on a ladder next to it tinkering away, so I know he still loved his boat, possibly as much as he loved those roses.

I knew things changed the year the ceramic Christmas tree stayed on the table in the front window through all four seasons. Then the sad things happened, a For Sale sign went up on the sailboat, and a For Sale sign went in the front yard. I saw the cars with the out of state license plates emptying the house into a U-Haul truck. 

It took a while for the house to sell, and I am not sure the new owners live there other than in the summer. Thankfully though they have left his roses and have even weeded around them. They still bloom gloriously every summer, an ongoing testimony to the love he put into them. 

Someday we will sell this house and downsize, moving closer to wherever Mallory finally settles. This made me wonder what people will remember about me and our house. I am hoping they will remember the lady who dutifully walked her two golden retrievers through the heat of Summer, the rain of Spring and the cold of Winter. They will remember the house that always had it's garage door open when we were home. They will remember the lady who did still life photography on her front porch, and the year she finally did something with her hideous side garden and made it beautiful.

What will people remember about you and your house? I would love to hear your story.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Not Much to Say...

Ok... that isn't really true. I have lots to say, just no time to say it.

Summer is flying by way too fast. I know for those of you with kids in Elementary School through High School your summer just started, but for those of us with college kids, our summer is half over already.

Mallory leaves for her 5 week Campus Crusade Summer Mission Project trip to Montana in less than two weeks. We leave for our two week road trip to Montana in just over a month. By the time we all get home from Montana, there will be two and a half weeks before we pack Mallory up, take her back to school and move her into her apartment. So time is becoming very precious...

Hence why I have not been writing much here at Becoming a Finisher. I have been focusing my spare time on my photography this summer. I am sure it is because of our road trip. I want to be the best I am capable of so that I can capture some awesome shots on this trip. The scenery promises to be amazing, so I need to bring my A game.

For the moment I seem to have worked through all my heavy, thought provoking problems. I am sure given time that some new ones will find me.

Exercise - I am still working out with my personal trainer, Maribeth once a week. I am also still taking the High Intensity Interval Training class on Thursday nights. I dropped yoga for the summer, just to free up a day. I have started on the chin-up bar in the last couple of weeks, I am up to 5 shaky ones. Goal is to get to 7 strong ones.

Weight - Is in the maintenance mode, mainly I am gaining muscle, as we continue to concentrate on my upper body strength.

Self-Portraits - I haven't had much spare time to work on these this summer, and to be honest no burning desire to work on them right now. I did convince Mallory to take a new profile picture of me this week. It is current - the current season, the current hair style and length, glasses are coming next week.

Food - Meals continue to be hit or miss around here. I am mainly sticking to things that can be heated up quickly and fast meals. Although, Mallory did make a delicious, healthy Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp the other night. Get the recipe here.

Yes, the ice cream may diminish the healthy qualities a wee little bit, but it is so yummy!