Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Texture Tuesdays--Simplicity

This photo was done for Kim Klassen's Texture Tuesday. The them was to use at least one layer of her 'simplicity' texture. I used one layer of it at soft light at about 80% opacity and one layer at multiply at 17% opacity.

I used my 100mm f/2.8L Macro lens with the following settings: 100 ISO, 100mm, f/32, 8 sec.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Word

ISO 100, 100mm,  f/5.6, 4.0 sec.
Humility. Sometimes I need it. I am not at all an immodest person nor am I not humble, so there is probably not a person who knows me who would think I need humility, but I realized this past Friday that is what I need currently and I am hoping, if I can focus on humility a bit, this can be helpful with some problems I am having with my son, Ian. He is eight years old (almost nine). He is the oldest of my two children. He has always been feisty and stubborn and set in his ways . . . a bit of a difficult child. There is no denying; he gets those traits from me.

He is also very single minded and has this sense of 'justice'. He has decided just how he thinks things should be. When things are not as he thinks they should be . . . well, sometimes, all hell breaks loose.  So I have struggled. And my husband has struggled.

Eighty to ninety percent of the time, Ian is fine; he is a joy to be around and we have a wonderful time . . . BUT it is that other ten to fifteen percent of the time that he can just turn our world upside down. He throws terrible tantrums. He yells and screams and hits. He tells us he hates us and that he does not want to live in our house. He has tried to run away. He has said he will stay in his room forever, never go to school again; he'll starve to death, because, what does he care? He does not want to live.

When this is going on, I don't respond correctly, I know. It is just too emotional. I am too attached and I feel so completely out of control and to be out of control is the thing I fear most . . . so it is a disaster nearly every time my son goes down this path.

These things he says in the heat of his emotional outbursts are not truly meant. Of course, he always goes to school. Of course, he does not actually run away or attempt to starve himself. Once he pulls himself together, it is like he never said anything of the sort. 

Thursday night was a particularly bad night. My son was exhausted to start with and his grumpiness was apparent from the moment he and his sister got home from school (in addition, I had not had the best day at work and had gotten home just in the nick of time to meet the school bus, so I was kinda grouchy myself). My kids ran ahead of me and into the house. As I was coming up our porch steps, I could hear my daughter, Margot, crying and yelling, "Mom!". When I got inside, Ian was holding the Wii remote and starting his game Zelda Skyward Sword (something like that), which he got for Christmas but has only just started to be able to play because the game required a Wii Motion plus and we had to order this; they are no longer being made as attachments. The items took nearly a month to come in the mail.  Margot told me Ian had grabbed the Wii remote out of her hand and had hurt her in the process.

"But, Margot, this is MY game. I got it for Christmas. It is MINE."

"Mom, that game should have been for both of us. It's not fair. Ian is never going to let me play."

"It's MY game. I don't want you playing."

Bicker, bicker, bicker. I said something along the lines of I did not want Ian being selfish about his game and it was only fair for him to share. He wasn't seeing this. It is his game and he should be able to decide if he will let his sister play or not.

"How would it make you feel if Margot was not willing share her games?" I asked.

"I don't care. Margot's games are stupid."

Obviously I wasn't getting anywhere with that reasoning, but they both calmed down enough that it was tolerable to carry on with the household chores--mail, dishes, straightening up, etc. I set the timer for the amount of time Ian could play the game until we had to leave for swimming lessons.

We were on time for swimming lessons. The lessons went well, but Ian got his heart set on having pizza for dinner and Margot wanted tacos. Margot started crying that Ian always gets to choose. Ian said that wasn't true. I said because it was late and Ian had a lot of work to do tonight, we'd have to have tacos. It was much faster. Ian was not okay with that but he settled down enough to accept it, eventually.

The thing was that after dinner, Ian had lots of work to do; he was not to play his video game anymore. Margot finished her dinner first and got excused from the table. She went immediately for the game. He told her to stop, but she did not stop. Margot was determined. He got more and more angry. My husband tried to diffuse the situation by joking with him, but he was in no mood for joking. In the heat of Ian's anger, he slapped my husband, who immediately grabbed him up by the armpits, yanked him out of his seat, knocking it over in the meantime and carried Ian up to his room.

I thought it was too harsh. I yelled at my husband. Ian was up in his rooming yelling and stomping. I was angry. Ian was angry. My husband was angry.

After a while, Ian came back down and he started for the game. I told him no way. I did manage to get him up to his room again with me so I could talk to him. But he was too far down his negative path at this point. The more I talked, the worse it got. He said he was not going to school anymore . . . never, ever again. I said he mostly certainly was and he needed to start on his work that was due tomorrow. He said it did not matter because he was not going.

"You are going," I said. "But if you choose to not do your work you will suffer the consequence of getting an F".

"There are no F's in third grade!" he shouted.

"Okay, a zero then."

There was no reasoning with him and even if there was, I certainly was not doing a good job by continuing to engage him in his nuttiness. I was responding with too much frustration and anger. I should know this by now, but I continue to think that I can get through to him, even when he is like that.

This is where the need for humility comes in . . . there is more to it than that . . . I also need calm, which is very difficult for me, but perhaps I can achieve that as well through humility.

I don't mean to use this word in the sense that I need to be meek or submissive, but instead in the sense that I do not have all the answers here and I am not always right nor am I handling these outbursts correctly. I have to work hard to recognize that I am part of the problem and work hard to change my response. My husband needs to work on it, too. I am too far on the reasoning end of the spectrum and he is too far on the stern end of the spectrum. I think there is a place in the middle that will be more helpful. In any case, none of this will be easy, but I NEED to work on it and I need to remember and I need to train myself to respond correctly. I need to practice and not just know later what I should have done.

There are a couple of other factors here, too. Ian is a smart, imaginative boy, but he is a bit of a nerd and he is socially awkward. I have a suspicion that he is having some trouble in school (not academically and not in terms of behavior . . . not one of his teachers that he has ever had would ever, ever believe that he could act the way he does at home in the example I am including here. He is never in trouble, but that has a lot more to do with his shyness, his tendency to not draw attention to himself and the fact that he is so quiet in school that every one of teachers has told us that they don't know much about him.) I suspect he is bottling up some of his emotions and they all come flowing out at home. My husband and I have long been concerned about his lack of emotional maturity and difficulty making friends in addition to his emotional outbursts, which I believe are all connected.

A couple of months ago, Dave made a suggestion: we should start going to church. I dismissed this suggestion right away . . . out of the question. No way. I am not a person of faith . . . at least not in the traditional sense of the term. I am a nonbeliever. I am okay with this. I am also accepting of  anyone who does believe and has faith. In fact, I think it is (usually) a wonderful thing.  I rejected the idea that going to church was any part of a solution or not going to church was any part of the problem, but, see, that was my stubbornness and that was not okay. I have no plans to impose my beliefs on my children. They must decide for themselves and if this new social circle in addition to moral teachings CAN help Ian. . . even just a little bit; can play a part in all of us to change how we think, how we look at things and most importantly, for me, at least, how we respond, then there is nothing but good.

I have looked into the Unitarian church here in Indianapolis. That is a place, I believe, I can feel comfortable. A couple Sundays from now, we are going to go for the first time (the Superbowl is in Indianapolis next Sunday; it will not work to go downtown on February 5th . . . so it looks like Feb 12th). I think we can make this a great opportunity for family time as well. We'll go to church and go out to lunch together and maybe spend some time taking in a museum or other activity in downtown Indianapolis.




Thursday, January 26, 2012

Just Enough

This was my image for one of Kim Klassen's challenges for the Beyond Layers course.


The challenge was 'just enough' and the idea was to not over process (which I have a tendency to do sometimes, especially since I discovered Rad Lab, PS Actions, Textures and Lightroom presets). Also part of the challenge was to be simple and 'light' in the composition and include plenty of white space. I think I succeeded more in the second part. I did still use Lightroom and then Photoshop (and Rad Lab) and then added 2 layers of Kim's 'Awaken' texture . . . one at soft light 100% and one at muliply 17% . . . so the overall image is still light but perhaps over-processed. Hopefully it does not look that way, though. It is hard to pull back on the processing when there are so many great processes and tools that can take a photograph in so many directions . . . where to settle is often very hard for me.

More about the image:

100mm. f/5.6. ISO 400. 1/180 sec.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Another Six-word Story

I thought of another six word story today. This one is a little more serious than most of the others I wrote yesterday, but I also think it may be the most fitting. It is a bit more of a story and these words, do, I think, tell my mine. I'm going to let it speak for itself, though, and not explain like I did with my last ones .. . because I do think that is mainly the  point.

Ran too steady on life's treadmill.

I like coming up with these. I got to thinking today: when I start trying to come up with a story in six words, I find that it is easy to think of a lot that are seven words, but not so much six. Also a little easier to come up with five, but not as easy as seven (or more), so I wonder . . . is the six word idea based on something a little bit scientific? Is it just the right amount of words to make it difficult enough to have to think a little harder, but not too few that you cannot do anything with it? Any rhyme or reason for why Smith Magazine picked six words and not seven or five or nine? I will have to look that up and see. I'm sure I'm not the first person to ask that question.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Six Word Memoir

The assignment for Kim Klassen's Beyond Layers course for this week was sparked by an idea from Smith Magazine (http://www.smithmag.net/). The assignment is to write a six word memoir. Below are several of mine.

These sentences are not exactly memoirs when I think of what memoirs are supposed to be: life stories. These are more like six word sentences about who I am or what I am like or how I think . . . and for this exercise . . . warts and all . . .

(I know I should write only one because that seems like the point of the exercise, but I went to the Smith Magazine site and I see people are writing more than one, so I decided I could, too.)

  1. I dwell on the greener grass.
  2. I'm still a nerd. Now proud.
  3. I'm not optimistic, but that's okay.
  4. Wanting to live simply. It's complicated.
  5. I am learning to like myself.
  6. I cannot explain myself in six words (see, told you.).
  7. Initials: BJ. It sucks. Pun intended.

(Okay, a little dirty on that last one . . . sorry . . . but having these initials did haunt me as an adolescent.)

I know mine aren't as positive as many others will be. It is true that I am not an optimist. I never have been and it's hard to change that part of me, so instead I try to work on how being pessimistic (or, actually, realistic) can be a positive trait . . . yeah, I'll keep working. You can roll your eyes if you want.

I do dwell on what I think of as other people's greener grass . . . all the time. This is something I am trying to stop. My life is good and it always has been. I just wish for things and often have trouble with how to make the things that I want happen. And if I do make something happen, it seems like it is never enough. Also, sometimes, I really don't even KNOW what I want.

I am learning to like myself and embrace my nerdy side.

Also I loved this exercise . . . more than I ever thought I would. Perhaps I am making progress.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My Creative Story

I am writing this for Kim Klassen's Beyond Layers course. When I signed up for this year long class, I promised myself I would not half-ass it and do my best with it. I promised myself I would do all the assignments. And the first assignment came and it was to write your 'creative story'. I have to admit, my first reaction was 'what?' . . . I mean, what good would that do? How was that going to help at all? What would it mean? Plus, deep down,  I did not want to do that . . .I felt like it was a bit goofy: 'We all have stories to tell and blah, blah, blah' ... no, I really don't  . . . at least, not about this .. . not about myself.

So I thought, 'well, this is optional . . . Kim said . .. everything is optional. I can skip this part and just do the photography part'. But here I am at the first assignment and already I don't want to do it. That is not good. Then I realized that Kim is right . . . writing down what we think about our creative selves or why we are here in this class and what compels us to pursue creativity does matter and it can bring some clarity as well as some purpose. And so what if it feels goofy ? So here goes:

I wanted to be be a writer .. . a novelist, to be specific . .. when I grew up. I wanted that ever since I was in junior high school and realized that I actually had to pretend to hate the books that we read in English class and grumble about the assignments with all the other junior high students, so I wouldn't be considered even more of a nerd than I already was.

From that realization and decision about what I really loved, I went with it. I was going to be an English major in college; I was going to be a writer. I never told anyone. I only told my journal. I continued to grumble about English assignments--hoping that in some small way, I, this scrawny, awkward, too-young-looking, underdeveloped and terribly unpopular girl could at least be able to be  a tiny bit cool if I hated writing and hated reading  . . . and if I acted a bit dumb in school in general.

So long story short, I did go to college for English/Journalism. I did well enough. I wrote. I got a lot of good feedback and I got a lot of bad feedback. I went to graduate school to get a Masters in Creative Writing. I wrote some decent stuff there. I never tried to publish anything, but I think there were a few pieces that were publishable. I wrote my thesis. I got my degree. I earned it, but I got discouraged . . . particularly by one professor. She was a great writer but not a very nice person. I was young. I felt beaten up and humiliated and  like I had nothing interesting to say anymore. I felt unworthy of being a writer, too. After all, I was not depressed or an alcoholic; I was not poor. I had had a relatively easy suburban, middle class upbringing. I was just not what writers were made of. I quit writing. I abandoned my creative side. I decided I was stupid to ever have been an English major. And I thought I should have pursued hard sciences or finance. It is more practical. I got really into finance; I read all sorts of investment and financial planning books; I started taking classes in accounting.

Then I looked for work. I got a regular, well paying job in a large corporation . . . it was a tech writing job; something I could do with my background. I worked hard . . . all sorts of hours; excelled and I was happy. It was (and is) a good job. No-one can argue with that. But something was missing. I was working. I was making money. I was making A LOT of money for someone who came out of graduate school (an English major to boot) and was used to living on less that $10,000 a year. I was even able to continue taking accounting classes through work . . . free. But it was not enough.

But I did have to admit, I didn't really feel a lot like writing. Then I met an interesting colleague at work. She was a triathlete, a professional . . . and a stained glass artist. I asked her to teach me how to do stained glass and she did. It was really fun and I discovered how fun crafty-type arts are to do. I started designing my own pieces and cutting glass . . . a lot. I spent most of my weekends doing this, but I only ever gave items away as gifts or kept them for myself.

I stopped doing the glass work after I had my kids. The chemicals and lead just were not good for me or the kids. I got into beading and jewelry making for a while. I loved that as well because, though, quite easy and not necessarily an art when you are just stringing together beads or doing basic wire work, it is pretty creative from a design perspective. Again, I gave a lot away. My sister and sister-in-laws still wear a lot of the pieces.

Then one day, my husband and I were talking about upgrading our camera. We had an old and now slow point and shoot camera that we bought about 4 months after my son (my first child) was born. At that time, it was a good camera. I took a lot of pictures of the kids with it, but always, all on full auto. We went from the idea of upgrading to a better point and shoot to getting an actual SLR camera. I had no idea what an SLR even was. Single Lens Reflex? Okay? Eventually my husband settled on a Canon Rebel Xsi. When we first got it, I had no idea what to do with it. I got him some photography lessons and thought I'd just not bother. But from that class, he brought home some books on digital photography. I read those and something 'clicked' . . . I don't know what .. . I was even hung up on the fact that the photos were coming out not with everything in perfect focus, but now I was getting it. I devoured the books and started playing around with the camera more and more and soon, the camera became mine.

From there I had a new hobby . . . it continues today. It is maybe a bit more than a hobby at this point--and I toy with the idea of making it even more someday; can I do it? Is it even possible? No matter what it can be, for now, it is a creative outlet and it fits me . . . more than anything else I have tried; I like it because it does communicate and it does connect with people, but it is not that hard .. . not as hard as writing. It is what I want to do and I plan to stick to it and continue to learn. This year, I want to try to stretch; to think more about my approach to subjects . . . even if I continue to do the same thing over and over. I want to be more deliberate about it all.