Monday, March 29, 2010

More B&W and Catching up a Bit, too

Oh, I'm feeling inspired to continue playing with B&W images! Before I began dappling with photography, I always admired black and white shots. There is something clean and uncluttered about a well composed photo -- it allows you to really see the expressions on the subject's face. I personally find it much more challenging to create an interesting image that is equally powerfully without color!
And now for the catching up portion of today's entry . . . Big D had two weeks for Spring Break. A great idea for older students who use the time to participate in mission trips, etc. but for the younger set, its a headache for working parents. I took some time off last week and my mom (Nana) came for a visit. A wonderful time was had by all. We took a trip to the zoo one day. A gloriously sunny day. The next was an adventure to the mall to restock tennis shoes for the summer, get Little Sis' hair cut and finally, dinner and a movie for the grown up girls. Perhaps my favorite day was when we went down town to browse a fantastic toy store, road the street car, ate pizza and spent time reading in Powells. Ah. Perfect. The above picture is of Big D sucking up his portion of the 100% apple juice while waiting for his pizza.

My mother had a birthday just before her visit and it is my tradition to make the birthday person's choice of cake from scratch. Her choice was a mocha chocolate case with a glaze on top. Little Sis, in the first pic above, is licking every last crumb off her plate. It was rather tasty if I say so myself!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Drama in general -- Black and White, specifically!

This week's challenge at iheartfaces is DRAMA in black and white. I haven't spent much time playing with B&W images but I've certainly got more than my share of experience in the drama department. Oh. My. Goodness. Little Sis has found her inner Princess and she's a yeller. But rather than elaborate on the chaos that has recently descended upon my home, I'll share a little about the making of this photo.

I get a great deal of my photo editing tips from Rita at CoffeeShop. About the time we were putting up our Christmas tree this year, she gave a wonderful tutorial on using natural light. Feeling inspired, I grabbed a black blanket, my hubby to hold it, a string of white lights and the kids. They were generally good sports but they really wanted to get back to the tree . . . The photos turned out a little overexposed, so I opened them in Camera Raw and fiddled around a bit. Further editing and several months later -- Ta Da!

I'm inspired to work with B&W images now that I've gotten a taste!


The tulips are blooming vivid red and orange and yellow in my yard. And when the sun broke through the Spring rain, I ran into my yard in my pajamas and my husband's shoes, to capture the brilliant diamonds of water on the leaves and petals. 
There's a week's worth of photos cluttering my desk top, waiting for my attention. Big D is on Spring Break -- for two weeks. One down, one to go. 

Friday, March 26, 2010

Fix it Friday

It's Fix if Friday at I Heart Faces and this is the beautiful photo we have to play with. I use PSE 8 and I'll try to remember all the steps below. 
1. Messed with levels and brightness/contrast. 2. Sharpened the eyes and then used the dodge tool to bring out the highlights and lovely brown 3. Used an overlay and then a screen layer at various opacities 4. Clone tool to lighten the under eye circles

Then I sat and wondered if anything more would add to the image . . . can't think of anything! I love the contrast and her beautiful skin. Ah. . . good way to start the day:)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Balance -- Finding the Center

Today we are spending the day with friends, having a spiritual service in their home. The theme is Balance and I've been asked to lead the discussion . . . it's rather amusing, really! My dear friend knows that understanding and finding balance has been my quest these last several months. I'm not sure that we can say I've been successful yet but I've certainly been on a journey. So I'd like to share some of my thoughts with you, my benevolent and mostly quiet, audience. 

1. Adult life has brought many, varied responsibilities and demands. I tended to manage by making to-do lists and staying focused on the tasks to be completed. Any of you who are moms know that our lives can easily be consumed by repetitive mundane jobs that once done almost immediately have to be repeated. I knew that I was unsettled, lacking contentment, and felt guilty for not cherishing my time at home with the wee ones. 

2. From the to-do list to a pie chart -- I began to see my own personal resources of energy and emotional engagement as finite. I had to divvy them up carefully, taking into account the needs of family, household care, work, friendships and eventually, myself. Still there was an unsettled feeling that the demands of others so far out number or outweighed the needs of self that there'd be little time or room left for my own pursuits. I realize as I type this that I'm uncomfortable acknowledging my own interests and needs. There is a belief that as a mom and wife, I should selflessly place those after those of my family. The image of a tug-a-war competition comes to mind -- two opposing forces vying over my time, energy and resources. In this analogy, I suppose I felt myself to be the rope!

3. Hats -- there was more freedom and acceptance in envisioning myself as the owner of many hats. If I had to put off a particular part of my identity, it could be put back on. If I deferred my athletic self or artistic self in order to be more fully engaged in the young lives of my children or the demands of my job, I had the expectation that I would be able to embrace those parts of my self later . . . 

4. This fall, I found myself rapidly burning out of a job that I love. Now in hindsight, I can see that the balance between being accommodating versus remaining grounded in the knowledge of what I (and my family needed) was the culprit. The teeter totter tipped too far in favor of accommodation, flexibility and caregiving . . . leaving me depleted, sad and overwhelmed. In efforts to recover a balance, I became more assertive at work, made changes in my job description and established firmer boundaries in the use of my time. My mantra was that I successfully balance my work and life

5. This began my true quest in finding new ways of seeing balance. Of better understanding the opposing and at times, equally valuable forces that I'm seeking to negotiate successfully. Acceptance of myself and others as we are now versus striving for change. Both good, both necessary. Care of self versus care of others. Ways of knowing -- intuition versus logical, linear thinking. Flexibility versus organized, consistent routine. No rights and wrong. This requires  radical acceptance! 

6. My final thought, or really image, is of a changing, powerful ocean which is our lives. Unpredictable, at times dangerous and at others beautiful. Without balance, we feel ungrounded, at risk of being swept away and overwhelmed. But if we can ride or surf the waves, riding along the top, we can be both carried by change and centered. Balance itself is always shifting and changing -- moving your weight from one foot to another, front of the board to the back. Your center remains true. 

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Little Sis and Daddy

Ah, beautiful sun today. When I came home from work, I found my family on the back porch, soaking it up like cats. Well, one of my cats was a bit sulky because he was supposed to be doing homework! Notice his absence from the photos . . . oh dear.
My dear hubby is so delightfully photogenic. And game to do just what I ask. He and Little Sis are good sports -- though it is not hard, at all, for the two of them to ham it up together. She is in love with her daddy! And he with her. 
We have a weekend of sun and mild temperatures in our forecast. We have plans to spend time with friends, kitty-sit for another friend and do a little Spring Cleaning. Feels good to air the house out, tidy the closets and plan for the coming season of warm outdoor fun. 

Monday, March 15, 2010


Reminding myself, on the eve of another work week, of the things and people and intangibles that fill me with gratitude:
1. A husband who, as I type, is washing the bowl he just mixed our baked oatmeal in. Because of his kindness, we will have a hot breakfast and cut grapefruit to begin our day.
2. A quiet house. The children are sleeping. Ah.
3. Longer days -- meaning, when we all return home in the evening, we can begin to walk outdoors, play, even eat our suppers on the porch. It is the beginning of my favorite time of the year!
4. Laundry done (though not put away).
5. A delicious curry supper that the whole family enjoyed. That's a rarity!
6. Healthy children who are growing and full of energy and love. More on that later . . .
7. Good friends who celebrate in my successes and encourage me.
8. A mind that likes to stretch and grow and think thoughts worth thinking!
9. Strong body that also likes to stretch (but we'll not discuss the growing!)
10. Productive day. A sigh of satisfaction and accomplishment.

Today while driving to pick up Big D from school, Sis had quite an imaginative game going from the back seat. She was a cook in a restaurant and she kept taking my orders. If I happened to misunderstand what it was I needed to request, she would prompt me helpfully. Then the game shifted ever so slightly and she announced that I would be her Sweetie and she continue to be my cook. Our dialogue went something like this:

What do you want to eat, Sweetie?

I would like apples with peanut butter.

Ok, Sweetie. 

Thank you, Yum, Yum.

What else would you like to eat, Sweetie?

Um. Crackers, please.

Alright, Sweetie.

This continued with mild variations. If very much felt as if I was listening in on a typical mid day snack discussion, except our roles had been reversed. It was reassuring to hear her kind, gentle tone. My hope being, of course, that that is how she experiences my communication with her. Oh, I know that there are plenty of times when my scary voice is, well, scary. And certainly both of my sweet tots let me know when they disapprove of my mothering ways . . . but in sweet play like this, I choose to believe that this is how they generally experience me.

It's been a beautiful day!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bleeding Hearts

A little color from our walk about the neighborhood this evening. I had plans to be witty and delightful. Eh. Tomorrow is the Portland Shamrock Run. Despite sniffles and various-virus inspired elements, I plan to run! Oh, you'll be missing a good time. Pass the Kleenex, please!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fix it Friday

This is my first stab at Fix it Friday at I Heart Faces. Now, I haven't quite got all my wits about me as I'm home with the sniffles . . . so I'm not sure I can describe very well what I did. And let's be honest. Half the time, if it turns out well, its beginner's luck! I did add a soft layer to the skin, brightened the eye area, cloned out the distraction in the bottom left corner, added texture, a colorful background and a polaroid frame. I think that's about it. Oh, and before all that there was levels adjustment and increased contrast.

And here's the original:
This was lots of fun and each time I fiddle, I learn more and more about what PSE can do! Now to take my place on the sofa with my juice and Kleenex box. Cheers.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Kitty Love

This is our other kitty -- Odyssey is her name. I'm feeling inspired to share some of my childhood memories by Georgia's post today.

I remember the litany of kitties that joined our family at various times -- our very first kitty was Tinkerbell and we would play doctor with the poor dear. And swing her around by her front paws. We were not cruel children, my sister and I. We just thought she'd enjoy that as much as we did when our dad swung us in the yard! She was a patient puss. Never scratched or bit. Though she did hide her litter of kittens from us -- repeatedly. Hmm . . .

We moved around quite a bit as children. Our parents were church school teachers and generally made a move every 3-4 years. When we moved across country to Nebraska, Tinkerbell found a home with an elderly lady. Actually, she was cat-napped. The woman refused to relinquish our kitty because our new home was in the country and she feared that coyotes would gobble up our little friend. So, my sister and I got new kittens. Cinders, who was an all black kitty and the runt of the litter, and Frisky. Poor Frisky met her fate under the wheels of the family car . . . but Cinders was a spry, unstoppable kitty that stayed with our family for 16 years.

Cinders was a resilient and tough. She treed tom cats and chased dogs out of our yard. Apparently no one told her she weighed maybe 5 pounds! Her devotion knew no bounds. She followed us on walks, a little shadow  at our heels. She brought gifts to the back door and was never put off by our squeals and disgust. Nothing made her happier than finding an empty lap or sharing our popcorn with us.

Staying with the theme of worthiness -- pets love us unconditionally and without expectation. Well, I supposed they'd like to have regular feed and water! But barring that, it amazes me how loyal they remain when our life circumstances shift, new children join the family and our pets get short shift. They continue to sit at our feet, purr when we pat their heads and follow us with their eyes. Its no wonder that pets are so good for our mental health!

My mantra for today, who I hope will shadow my moves on kitty feet, is that I am worthy of this love and devotion. Not just from my pet but my family and friends. That I can accept it with open arms and gratitude!

Monday, March 8, 2010


Today in my happy blog wanderings, I came across Brene Brown's blog, Ordinary Courage . . . it is kismet. It is inspiring! I'm at risk of gushing and embarrassing myself. She is a smart, educated and articulate woman talking about being authentic and about whole-hearted living.
There are days on this quest for balance and self-acceptance when I feel as if my equilibrium is constantly threatened by fearfulness, worry and a general sense that I'm not good enough . . . these are the dark moments. In these moments, I remind myself that good enough is good enough. That the voices that would convince me that being bravely and vibrantly myself isn't safe are likely feeling scared and small themselves.
I'm grateful to women, such Tracy, Robin, Georgia and many others who have inspired me with their words and art. Who have consistently celebrated the present moment, the beauty of connection and joy of discovery. Who have insisted that we are worthy just as we are!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Spring Afternoon and Kitty Photo Shoot

This is Athena -- beautiful goddess that she is. Feisty and furry. She is an incredible pest when trying to weed the yard. She crawls under and between your legs and eventually finds the very weed you're eye balling, plopping herself down smack dap on top. She and her feline companion, Odyssey (there's a Homeric theme in our cat name selections) have gotten less of our love and attention since the children. Certainly they know that the wee boy and girl are to blame for their shoddy treatment. And to be honest, the devotion of young children is not viewed by our kitty pets as adequate compensation . . . in fact, upon hearing the children enter the yard, they generally dart away and look back warily. Poor dears.
Oh, look, there's one of them now. Tearing up the grass, picking the new flowers -- all to make mommy a gift! The gift, as I know you're wondering, comprised of an inverted frisbee, filled with dirt, rocks and the aforementioned picked flowers. It was lovely. Breathtaking really :) It's still on the porch if you want to come by and take a look!

Tomorrow promises to be sun-filled and pleasantly mild. We are planning all manner of outdoor fun. And I am determined to capture some of the spring sights with my camera! I feel as if its been weeks since I've had a truly full day of picture snapping. I'm anxious to have new pictures to play with and share.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's Your Play #85

Ah, so nice of Laura to inspire me with something on a Tuesday morning. I had nothing, nothing and some more of the same to offer all on my own. No new pictures. No new inspiration. Just kinda needed a poke and a prod to get going.
And here's my make over. A little of this (crop, contrast, some filter thing that accented the edges) and that (warming filter, a texture, a dash of salt) and ta da.

I began the edit this morning, over coffee, deliberately disregarding the mad dash that is morning in our household. The kids were meandering upstairs (as opposed to getting dressed!), the clock was relentlessly ticking and so, I put it aside until this evening. Ah, rather nice way to end a chaotic day . . . kids are tucked away, hubby is getting supper, dryer is running and I'm working my way towards balance.