By: Angel | Discussion (2)

Wide-angle fun with big blue eyes. 🙂
30 October 2008

I’ve been struggling lately. Struggling with doubt and self-deprecation. Trying to balance familial duty with spontaneous creativity. Feeling a caged wild longing within myself, but having no idea how to set it free to dance and play. Feeling blind with wide-open eyes.

So I went to the sources which inspire me. Andrea Scher always seems to guide me home. Her words and photos shine light into the darkness of my often confusing world. It was her photographs of everyday beauty which inspired me to get back into photography.

Suburban Kamikaze makes me laugh at myself and my funny little family. Her humor can always brighten a gloomy day.

And Pilar Gerasimo, Editor in Chief of Experience Life Magazine, seemed to speak to me personally in her “Thoughts from the Editor” column this month. In fact, let me quote some of her column:

This, I realize, is one of the great lessons I have learned in the course of seven years editing this magazine: It is possible to shift your life, your circumstances, your self — simply by being willing to shift your thinking and attention, and then just doing the simple little things you can, even if your rational brain says they will never be enough.

Years ago, I was given a great piece of advice: In times of high anxiety and frustration, before desperately grasping for solutions not yet within your reach, focus on fully applying the solutions you already have at your disposal.

This often means doing the most mundane sort of inventory: Are you eating well, drinking enough water, getting daily exercise and sunshine? Are you spending time relaxing and enjoying time with your loved ones? Are you challenging your negative thoughts and beliefs, and taking small, daily, positive actions? Are you following the advice you’d give to someone else in this situation? And — ahem — are you getting enough sleep?

So often, when our problems seem unsolvable or our lives feel out of control, it turns out we aren’t doing the most essential things already within our grasp. In fact, we’re hardly breathing.

We put together this “Reflect and Revive” issue as an encouraging nudge, a reminder to do what you can to take care of yourself now — and to leave at least some of your worries behind.

It’s time for a system reboot. I got lost somewhere in the inky black darkness of the modern world. We desire so much that we can’t even see what we already have. The beauty of a green world, the love of family and friends, our own creativity. These things get lost in the pursuit of a large house in an outstanding school district with a white picket fence surrounding the perfect plastic garden.

I feel much better now after turning to some of the inspiring women who share their life’s journey with us.  I’ll end this blog entry with one of my favorite quotes:

Have you laughed today? Your children have. You should too.
     — Don Wetmore

By: Angel | Discussion (0)

Last Friday, we went with the Q’s to the Fall Festival
at Logan’s elementary school.
24 October 2008

In all their super-cuteness, Lily is Jasmine,
Clara is a pumpkin, and Logan is a clone trooper.
(That would be clone trooper, by the way. I was
corrected in a very severe manner when
I mistakenly called him a storm trooper.)

Daddies at the Festival.

Capt Hook fast asleep.


Capt Hook awake and with a pacie.

Jasmine with a tiny animate pumpkin.

Lily got a mermaid painted on her arm.

Damian really liked being in the bouncy house with the big kids.

In the bouncy house.

Destiny and Lily are two kitty-cat princesses.

Logan with his scorpion and Lily with her kitty face.

Really, not a lot to blog about. I’ve been a bit “angsty” lately, but I don’t know if I should do another angst-filled post. So, not a lot to say, except: Gene, will you please start updating your blog regularly?! For pete’s sake, how are we supposed to stalk you keep up with your life? Geez. Some people. Oh, and happy birthday. 😉

By: Angel | Discussion (2)

Logan stayed this past weekend with us, and, among the things he said
he wanted to do, he wanted to make pumpkin pie from pumpkins. So,
Uncle Matt, Logan, Lily and Damian all crowded into the kitchen to make
homemade pumpkin pie from pumpkins.
18 October 2008

I have been working hard for the past few days “catching up.” I had descended into a bit of a funk, and, as I go into the murky mire, so does my house. I told Matt that if he ever wanted to know what mental state I am currently in, just look at the condition of the house.

But the house is clean again. For the first time in perhaps a week, I woke up this morning without an agenda. There was no crisis cleaning to be done because I had finally caught up on the household cleaning. So, here it is 1:15pm, and I have been kind of meandering around in a mopey sort of way. “What do I do next? I’m so tired; I just want to take a break today after so many days of work.”

So, ostensibly, I have a day off today. But I’m still in “responsible mode” and I’m having a hell of a time gearing out of it. After being so responsible and so reliable for years (ever since giving birth to Lily), I realized that I don’t know how to have fun anymore. I know how to clean the dishes and feed the children and do the laundry and pay the bills. I know how to plan and execute the fun of others — parties, trips, festivals — and organize, clean and cook while others are having fun during these events, but having fun myself… I’ve forgotten. My understanding of how to have fun has atrophied from lack of use over the past few years.

And even the things that I once enjoyed — writing, gardening, running — they have become too “goal oriented” to be fun anymore. I don’t write to enjoy the process of creating a story while playing with the English language; I write to have a chapter finished so I can upload a podcast. I write to have a completed story, not to create a story. I don’t garden to tend to and watch my beautiful plants grow towards the sky; I garden to have pleasant backyard for myself and my family, and I get impatient that the garden is not already completed. I don’t run to enjoy the feeling of my body; I run for exercise and to get to the goal of a marathon.

Children know how to have fun. They have fun all the time. They don’t go to the park to slide and swing and run with the intention of burning 500 calories so they can fit into skinny jeans. But as a responsible, reliable and really useful adult and surrounding myself with all these goals, the actual moment of life gets lost.

It’s so hard to reclaim though. Sure, I have the mental realization, “Hey, I need to be more childlike in my approach to life, fun, and not being so goal-oriented,” but it’s another thing entirely to grok that philosophy and have it become a natural extension of myself. (I’m sorry. I couldn’t think of another word that worked as well as grok, and thesaurus.reference.com doesn’t even have an entry for grok. Go figure.)

And, in the end, I still have to wash the dishes, feed the children, do the laundry, plan the trips, and execute the fun of others. But, while washing, cleaning and planning, I want to also reclaim the natural joy of life that comes from being in the moment — playing with words and plants and my own body — and appreciating this amazing physical realm where we are so privileged to live. This is something that children innately understand, but many adults lose this skill as we grow up, become responsible, and focus too myopically on our life goals.

By: Angel | Discussion (0)

Steve, Clara, Lily and Damian riding the tractor pull
at the Baptist Children’s Home Fall Festival
13 October 2008

My computer and the TV each have their own gravity well when they are turned on. To avoid being sucked in and hours of my life (or my children’s lives) disappearing forever in a foggy stupor of mindless media, I have to keep them turned off when we are not actively using them for a purpose.

By: Angel | Discussion (0)

Lily posing for the camera.
12 September 2008

I’ve been reading a lot about the credit crisis, trying to understand what happened and what is going on now. The current economic situation and its history are very convoluted and not easy for the layman to understand. I found two excellent radio shows produced by This American Life in conjunction with NPR. They are each an hour long, but very much worth the time:

The Giant Pool of Money aired on May 9, 2008.
And Another Frightening Show About the Economy aired on October 3, 2008.

Both of these shows are very very good. Really, take the time and listen.

This morning, Matt asked for a brief summary on what the shows were about and what else I had learned while surfing on our economic disaster last night. While talking to him, I kept using charged words that implied criminal intent, such as “they laundered the tranches of mortgage backed securities into a AAA rating by bundling good mortgage loans with bad mortgage loans” and “the credit default swap scam.” I told Matt that the words “scam” and “laundered” were my terms, and he said, “You should write a blog entry using your terms.” That, coupled with Sam saying, “Hey! Post more pictures!” has me here, writing this entry. 🙂

Adam Davidson and Alex Blumberg, though they didn’t use the word “laundered,” did say that bundling good mortgages with “toxic” mortgages was “a sort of financial alchemy.”

Jim takes that toxic stuff, these low-rated, high-risk tranches, puts them all together [with high-rated, low-risk tranches]. Re-tranches them, and presto: he has a CDO whose top tranche is rated AAA, rock-solid, good as money.

Personally, I prefer the word “laundered” because I find it much more accurate.

As for the unregulated credit default swap scam, I swear it reminds me of a pyramid scheme. At the top, you have the original bank that decided to insure bonds without the requisite capital, and then everybody piled on for the easy money.

However, I will admit that my knowledge on this subject is very limited; I had never even heard of credit default swaps (or CDOs for that matter) before this all went south. Listen to the two radio shows I linked. That’s where my information came from. And then decide for yourself if the words “laundered” and “scam” work well.

By: Angel | Discussion (0)

Lily playing in the sprinklers.
30 November 2008

It’s been a long time since I’ve fallen in love with someone over the internet. The internet is covered with amazing personal pages, each site filled with that person’s passion and photos and thoughts. When I surf for an image or an idea, I always stumble onto personal pages and see a little glimpse into a stranger’s life. I think it’s wonderful. Sure, it’s an anonymous way to connect, but it is still connection. And I love seeing a person’s passion — whatever it is that makes them shine — and personal pages are always full of passion.

However, I have not fallen in anonymous love with an internet stranger since Jamie Zawinski back in late 90s. I idolized him from afar. And then I met Matt and well, random thoughts of Jamie fell to the wayside along with all of my random thoughts of Bill Hicks and David Duchovny/Fox Mulder. My mind was consumed with my new — real life — hunk of burnin’ love.

But today, while surfing for images of Asajj Ventress (who is way hotter than Angelina Jolie in the “bad girl” category, by the way), I ran across the webpage of Kim Dylla. I first stumbled upon her fashion page. I thought, “These are cool,” but it wasn’t until I saw her “Chainmail Top and Belt” picture that I went “Wow! Who is this person?!” and surfed her site. I thought her wide-angle Stockings drawings were from an unusual perspective and very nice. By the time I read her one-panel cartoon, I was in full idol mode.

Sure, I’m 40-years-old. Sure, I’m a stay-at-home mom who lives in the suburbs with two preschool kids and everyday is filled with Thomas the Tank Engine and peanut butter and jelly. Sure, we have absolutely nothing in common and maybe I should have Hillary Clinton or my mom as my hero instead. But anybody who can — in such a beautiful and artistic way — stand out from the pack and follow her own passion… well, how can one not fall in anonymous love with her?

By: Angel | Discussion (0)

Okay, I was not quite pleased with the last beautiful photo of Lily because, by raising the brightness and contrast, I also completely blew out all detail of her hair in the sunshine. This is where we left the photo:

It was kind of nice because the white halo made her look like an angel in the light, but I really wanted to turn the brightness down for just that part of the picture. So I experimented with the Photoshop burn tool, and this was the result:

At last, I am completely happy with the photo. Photoshop now officially rocks my world. 🙂

By: Angel | Discussion (0)

Matt and I have been playing with Photoshop a lot lately. I have always used Photoshop to brighten and resize my photos.  For example, here is the picture as the camera took it:

01 October 2008

Much too dark. So I would brighten it:

But lately, Matt and I have been brightening, upping the contrast, and then adding a faux-dodge look to it:

A lady had written on her photo blog that she had to tweak a photo so it represented what she had seen with her eyes. This last photo of Lily is what I saw that morning when I was looking over my desk at her and grabbed my camera to capture her beauty. The first photo — the photo straight from the camera — is a muddy version of the reality. I had to digitally tweak it afterwards to reveal what I had originally seen and wanted to photograph.

I wonder if this is a problem with digital cameras, or if film cameras also photograph a slightly watered-down, muddy version of what was so brilliant in reality.

Let’s look at another photo, one of my recent favorites. This is how the camera took it. It was a nice exposure, so I didn’t tweak the brightness that much:

But recently, I brightened it, raised the contrast, and added a faux-dodge look to it:

Very cool.

Here we have the contrast and brightness increased, but the faux-dodge has not been applied:

Of the two, I’m not sure which I like better.

I have a lot to learn about Photoshop. I didn’t realize that it could take a nice photo and turn it into a beautiful photo.

By: Angel | Discussion (0)

I’m supposed to be writing the next chapter of my great American romance novel right now… but that’s a bit intimidating — you know, trying to bend my artistic ego into narrative poetry — so instead, I’m writing a blog entry! Procrastination comes in many forms.

I took a lot of photos last night of the children. As dark fell, Damian was screaming and laughing and I had to switch to flash to catch the moment. I love comparing different factors that compose a great photo.

No one can deny the beauty of the lighting in the first photo. The photogenic baby just makes the picture that much more beautiful:

Damian in the back garden.
30 September 2008

But sometimes, catching the “moment” — emotion revealed on a person’s face, an action shot, etc — can definitely make up for inferior lighting:

Damian in the back garden.
30 September 2008

I used the Photoshop burn tool on both of the above pictures to make the subject pop.  Having a dark circle around the subject of the photo acts like the perfect frame for the action.

Photography is fun.