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Snow & Ice; No Fire

This week’s challenge fell under the category of “artistic” asking the challenger to use the color green as inspiration for the photo. The challenge went on to say that green was the color of life, hope and nature:)

Given that during this challenge, my city was covered in snow and ice, I thought: This will definitely be a challenge. After all, I couldn’t just go outside and snap a picture of a large weeping willow or an aged Oak tree.

Or could I…just go outside?

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On one of these snowy days, I took my two dogs to the park to play. They loved it!! They were too cute bouncing through the snow, chasing snowballs and each other. On one such trip, I unexpectedly stumbled upon something green, as I went to tie my shoe. There in front of me was a tiny, green tree peeking through the snow, holding it’s own in the windy cold. With a Samsung Galaxy 7, I captured its struggle for life.

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And I thought: Persistence. Life just persists.

This new life wiggling it’s way to the sun through a blanket of snow not only gave me the photo for the challenge, but also a slice of hope and inspiration.

For this blog, rather than a rant on resiliency, persistence, and the like, I will share a poem on the topic by Maya Angelou, one of my favorite authors, via YouTube. This is a very powerful clip. Remember to STILL RISE!

Some more pictures of the dogs in the snow that day:

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“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared.”- Tupac Shakur

In the comments below, please feel free to share what gets you through the hard days, or hell, the hard years.

And Peace on this Journey

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s All in the Angles

This week’s challenge asked challengers to choose a subject for the purpose of taking a portrait.

jdepp (Google Image)

1: Snapshots:

A picture is easy. A press of the button, the flick of light, and whola, capture.

A portrait seeks more. It wants your whole life in one shot. Brazen, I know. So, it settles for a few stories instead. And we all them; stories to tell.

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For this challenge, I chose someone I know but not uber well. More than a Facebook friend, an acquaintance plus, if you will. I met her, along with her husband, about a year ago through a writing group; one that she and her husband manage. We meet twice a month to give each other critiques on writing pieces submitted in between meetings.

“Dog are easy. Dogs love you, you love them. You feed them, play with them, take them on walks. They are pretty simple. The love is simple and good.”- Allison K.

I choose Allison for this portrait because, honestly, she is someone that I found myself admiring, someone with a bit of mystery. She is a favorite in the writing group, coming across as very thoughtful, intelligent—someone well put together, and as “one of the guys.” And it was that latter quality that struck me, how well she has adapted to the culture of the American male. No make-up, frills, or lace, she is a practical woman in jeans, a T-shirt, a cross-fit membership and one that likes, by her own admission and in her own words, “Shoot ’em up movies.”

Toward the end of the interview, I asked her about this:

“You’re kinda like one of the guys, so cool. Was this a persona you cultivated with intent or is it something that came naturally?”

“I didn’t realize I was cool. That’s nice to know. I grew up with the boys…all my neighbors were boys, and I grew up doing the things they did and liked it.”

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I also found myself admiring not only her but how she interacted with her husband, Mark. Personally, I can only think of one other relationship where two people interact with so much mutual respect, compassion and trust. I wondered, with envy, “What’s their sauce?”

2: The Interview:

I sat down with Allison, who always appears cool, calm and collected, even under pressure. She embodies the phrase: Cool as a duck but paddling like hell underneath. It wasn’t until this interview that I learned about the paddling underneath. I only had ever seen the cool duck. Being the unprepared, spontaneous, disorganized human that I am, I showed up to her home with an empty notebook, not a pen, and only a vague idea of what kind of questions to ask. And I was a bit nervous.

We sat in her living room: neat, organized, and eccentric. The whole house had a cozy, eccentric feel to it. Lining the walls, and shelves, I noted pictures, cards, and sentimental nick-knacks—many of which commemorate her marriage to Mark. One particular painting in particular—a master copy of Klimt’s “The Kiss,” shows a man holding a woman, and so gently. The pastel woman seemed to melt into the man’s arms. Allison tells me that her husband had painted it for her when they were dating. I had always seen Allison as the caretaker, the one doing the holding but that painting wielded another angle, peaking my curiosity.

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I threw the first question out, and listened intently, not to the words, but the pauses between them, the words unsaid, the themes repeated. This, my friends, is where people tell you their story.

3. Who Are You?

I asked Allison to describe herself. She found the question too broad and wanted specifics. I found that this was something Allison likes—specifics, color-coded file folders. At one point, she described having a large room in her mind, filled with several boxes, and herself busily moving the boxes in organized haste. She described that small fluctuations in routine (a meal plan changed) would cause her to seek mandatory pause so that she could situate everything as needed in her mind before she could resume. Her mind—this is a place it seems she spends a lot of time, thinking and teasing apart moments in her life, things that she is curious about, worried about, trying to solve, and such (paddling like hell). She is one of those very analytical, rational people, the kind that thinks before they talk, and act. It is something for someone without these traits to envy.  Adaptable though, she still answered that broad, spontaneous question, and answered it well, describing herself as:

“Insecurities wrapped in Bravado.”

It really does sum her up. Sums us all up, doesn’t it, except some of us have more bravado than others. I see Allison as someone who has a lot of it.

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4: Heroes:

Allison spent a lot of time talking about what kind of person she hoped she was and strives to be. There was a consistent theme in her words; it is very important to Allison to be the good guy, the hero, the person who does the right thing. This isn’t something she views casually either, no, this is serious business to her. You do the right thing, or you don’t, and she isn’t very forgiving of those who do not—not even of herself, and actually, she appears to be less forgiving of her own transgressions than those of others. Allison is someone who truly believes in the tenet, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” taking that belief to the bank. She practices her preach.

“What is an insecurity that plaques you?”

“Not being the good guy. Everyone is their own protagonist. I always thought I was the protagonist, always did the right thing, was always nice and polite and sometimes that got me shit on (excuse me) but then I’ve made decisions in my past that I’m not proud of…ones that have made me feel bad and I don’t like feeling like the bad guy. I want to be the hero who does the right thing.”

I agree with Allison. Everyone is their own protagonist–not the protagonist, and everyone is their own antagonist, too. I could not help but admire her strong convictions, though, even if she doesn’t have Batman’s hero status. It is no doubt in my mind that the ones who know her best consider her a hero. Even from a distance, in the wind blowing, I can see her black cape riding waves.

“What do you want your legacy to be? How do you want people to remember you?

“I want to be remembered as the person who is dependable. If I say I’ll be there at 6:00 PM, I will be there at 5:55 PM. When someone calls me and says I just broke up with my boyfriend. I’m miserable. I don’t know what to do. I will say come to my house, I’ll put sheets on the bed if I have to. Tell me what you need to tell me, I will keep it to myself, whatever you need. I want to be the friend, the daughter, the wife people can depend on. I don’t waffle. People know they can depend on me.”

5. Mark and I:

Allison described Mark as someone who chose her, despite herself, saying he saw her at her worst, among several other women, and still chose her. I knew this was an ingredient in the sauce: Allison feels chosen and special to Mark; she feels lucky.

Calling him consistently her partner, Allison sees Mark on his best day every day, and in his best light. To her, he is the bee’s knees.

Allison talked at great length about how much she admired Mark, describing him as the more positive of the two of two of them, someone who works hard to provide for them, someone she can depend on, and as she talked, I couldn’t help but go back to the painting on the wall, the Klimt master copy. I realized it wasn’t just one holding the other, but both, and both adoring each other for the giving act–the act of love. The two of them are both diligent and ever present in protecting the bond between them, too, not taking it, nor each other for granted.

Marina Klimowa, Sergej Ponomarenko (Google Image)

“When you look back on your life, what is one thing that makes you say, “yeah, I did that right?”

“My partner…There has always been a comfort with him. He settles me. Even with the last few weeks being crappy, with various things, I can always come home to him.”

“What do you attribute to this being such a stable, secure, loving relationship?”

“Work. Lots of work. I was under the erroneous assumption as most people are that relationships just fall together and they either work or they don’t, which is not true. With Mark, we decided we would always be honest with each other and that’s what we do, and that we would always make big decisions together…and if there is ever a problem between us, we will sit down and talk about it… even the most piddliest of thing. We will talk about it to the death.”

“Hermione is my spirit animal.”- Allison K.

6: Wrap it Up:

Did I gather a whole person? That’s impossible to do with a few generic questions and a camera. After all, it takes a lifetime for us just to get to know ourselves, sometimes, but I got a portrait at one angle. And a very lovely one at that. Allison is the good person she hopes to be remembered as, and, honestly, someone I would like to make a better friend.

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“People say I make strange choices, but they’re not strange for me. My sickness is that I’m fascinated by human behavior, by what’s underneath the surface, by the worlds inside people.”- J. Depp

Be Well on this Journey.

 

 

 

 

 

The Realist Grinch

This week’s photo challenge fell under the category of telling a story, asking the challenger to use geometric shapes as the subject of that story.

Shapes, like stars, squares, circles, and triangles.

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Being that we are on the heel of Christmas, I decided to stick with a Christmas theme for the photo and blog.

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And it was a Christmassy event that inspired my chosen picture for the challenge. Every year in Memphis, the Memphis Zoo opens its gates during the holidays for an event known as ZOO LIGHTS. My family and I went to the event, and there in the midst of snow globes, reindeer, and pronto pups, I snapped this photo with a Nikon D7200.

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I LOVE Ferris wheels, and what a perfect circle:)

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So, with picture in hand, I only needed a Christmas themed blog post.

Christmas.  What about Christmas? I typed a word, then deleted it, repeat.

Perhaps the history of Christmas. After all, Christmas has a pretty interesting history.

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Nah…

The joy of Christmas cheer, holiday hugs, jingle bells, eggnog…

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Egg, no.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday spirit, the family gatherings, the food, the giving of special gifts and yes, I even like the Christmas music. I downright love it!

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But at heart, I must admit, I’m a Grinch in some ways:(

Or maybe, I’m just a realist. Or maybe the Grinch was a realist. Either way, a lot of aspects of Christmas make my stomach turn. I warned you: I’m a realistic Grinch.

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With climate change, fresh water shortages, and a 6th mass extinction underway, I find the consumption part of Christmas, not only nauseating but painful to watch. Instead of a beautiful tree, lights, and gifts wrapped, I see dead trees—once the home of a squirrel families, the unnecessary use of paper boxes and bows, and for the most part, plastic toys landfill destined.

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I mean, really, how many toys does little Suzie need to feel complete in the world?

In all that oozing Christmas joy, I came across this image by Paul Nicklen:

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(Link to story on this Polar Bear: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/11/world/canada/starving-polar-bear.html?_r=0)

At the image, I wept like a baby. And later on, that same day, while at Walmart buying cat food, I saw Santa. She was poised on a cheap fold-out chair. Yes, it was a woman. I knew this because just as I looked at her, she was re-positioning her wig. I watched her for a moment. A young parent hoisted her overweight toddler in the woman’s lap and snapped photos on her phone. The toddler stared at me. I wanted to scream, in the middle of that Walmart,

“The North pole is melting, the polar bears are starving and Santa is the reason!”

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Yes, that fluffy, jolly old man and his constant ramblings about, “What can Santa get you?” That mentality of buy, buy, buy and buy again is destroying our planet and all life on it. And we are ingraining that perverse message into the minds of our children before they can even talk. Tips on how to raise a narcissist, right?

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Why doesn’t Santa ever say something truly inspiring like: “Happiness is from within, and cannot be found at the toy factory.”

“You can’t just change the light bulb and think you saved Earth, you have to turn off the light, and learn to dance under the stars again.”

Bottom line: Everything has a price, whether we are paying it now or later or someone else is holding the tab altogether, it all has a price.

Right now, we in America and other industrialized nations, are rather shielded from the effects of too many Christmases and Santa’s ideas on what the good life looks like. But, our over consumption has a price. Global warming has a real face: it has many faces. The polar bear—unnamed, and only referred to as, “a dying polar bear,” is just one of those faces paying the price of a planet in peril, and we are runner-up if we do not wake up. Our gluttony depends on infinite resources and the resources on the planet are simply not infinite. It will not be long before the fate of the polar bear dying is our fate, too.

Happily, Christmas–nor life, has to center on material things. The connections with those we love, and share life is enough, plus more.

Information is Power:

Information on the 6th Mass Extinction:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/10/earths-sixth-mass-extinction-event-already-underway-scientists-warn

Information on Climate Change:

https://climate.nasa.gov/

How to Help:

https://earthjustice.org/

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My brother and his little girl, Julia, at the Zoo Light event:)

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My boo and I:

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Be Well on this Journey:)

Pillow Talk

This week’s challenge fell under the umbrella of artistic expression asking the challenger to capture an image that represents the word Soft.

Fluffy pillows, puppy ears, a bunny’s tail, warm blankets, rose petals, a goose feather, baby’s skin soft?

And then I thought of the sweetest, softest thing—Love.

“…Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.”

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

Love is also one of the most powerful forces on this planet. And there is ample evidence that it exists not only among us wily humans but also among other animals.

Whether or not love is a result of some “inner” goodness instilled in creatures by a greater good (God) or just a series of biological firings in the brain matters the least. Love feels good, either way.

Whether or not humans (and other animals) can truly show love and kindness at the expense of themselves (true altruism) is debatable, but again, it matters the least. Love eases the burden of suffering.

“If you Judge people, you will have no time to love them.”- Mother Teresa

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“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” -Lao Tzu

I used to work at a small daycare inside a growing church. At first, the daycare cared for a few babies on Sunday mornings. But, as the church home grew, so did the daycare.

I will never forget one of the first little boys that started coming to the center those early days of growth. His name was Samuel and he was about 4 years old, and still in diapers. He was so large (overweight) that his mother had to put him in adult diapers.

Right before service, you could always hear his mother screaming and yelling as she drug Samuel and her newborn baby down the hall to the nursery door. With a slap on the head, or back, she would push Samuel in the door and tell us something about how “bad” he was or something “bad” he had just done. She consistently reminded us that he was out of control. His behavior was extreme. He would hit, scream, throw things, and even curse—oftentimes using explicit language. There were now two of us running the still- growing daycare; My best friend Jessica and I. Her and I sat down and decided that we would LOVE Samuel as much as we could. Every time he acted out, we would ask him what he was feeling? Thinking? We decided early on that we would go out of our way to show him what a special little guy he really was. And he was very special. When his mother dropped him off with the usual, “Here he is, bad as ever,” descriptions, we would say something like, “Samuel is just the sweetest little boy.”

We wanted him to hear something different than he was just “bad.”

One of the first times I sat Samuel on my lap was after he had thrown Goldfish crackers across the floor. He was incensed that he could not have more than was allotted for the snack. I looked into his young eyes and told him that he was a good boy and that I understood him wanting more. After all, Goldfish are rather tasty.  He answered back very quickly, “I’m bad.”

I said, “No, you did bad, but you are not bad, and WE can try this again by sitting down and I will get you some more goldfish, but only a snack amount.” He sat down and locked eyes on me. He wanted me to see that he could be good. And he was good.

Before long, he would come sit on my or Jessica’s lap, randomly. He wanted to hear more about the goodness in him, his ability to do good things, and the acknowledgment of his being as deserving and worthy. Samuel melted from this angry, hurting child into one of the most delightful children in the center. His mother was amazed at his new behavior while at the church. I was not. I know the power of love to melt away layers, and layers of hurt and pain.

I did try and talk to Samuel’s mother more about parenting techniques, his home life, but in the end, she was just an adult version of Samuel. She was a young mother bound in the pain of her own childhood abuse, and further caught in the cycle of drug addiction. After discussions with church elders, it was decided that government intervention was the best option. We reported Samuel’s mother to child protective services, hoping that she and her children could find the services they needed to thrive. Within a month, Samuel did not return to the church. An investigation had ensued and both children were, whether for the best or not, removed from the home.

I missed Samuel and his habit of crawling on my lap to tell me about his week. I also worried about him for a long time.

Today, all these years later, I still think about Samuel and wonder if he found a loving home that all children deserve. I don’t know.

I do know the power of love to transform.

Life is hard. Life is full of many hardships, battles, and grievances, but in life, there is the opportunity to love, and the opportunity to be loved. Embrace both with hands wide and a heart open.

Be soft.

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And my picture for the challenge is of my sister Nina, and her beloved Matt. Roughly a month before writing this blog, I walked into Nina’s room to see her and Matt looking into each other’s eyes with the biggest grins, pillow to pillow, eyes locked, and in love. Not everyone is lucky enough to find the kind of romantic love that exists between the two of them, and so it is something worth capturing.

This photo was taken with a Nikon D7200 and filters were used.

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“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.”- E. Hubbard

Acts of Love:

Walking the dog, a kiss on the cheek, a back rub, a thank-you note, a hot meal, an apology, forgiveness, trusting, sharing, picking up something someone needs, listening–really listening, etc…

Share Acts of love below:)

And be well on this journey.

 

BOO

This week’s challenge fell under the technical umbrella asking the challenger to replace the sky in their image using a sky overlay. Unfortunately, I do not have the photo editing program required to apply this technique, so I passed on this challenge.

However, for those inclined to master this technique, here is an informative YouTube video that I came across on the subject:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rlzok66iIos

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The image above is an advertisement for sky overlays (many you have to purchase).

This challenge fell just a few days before Halloween, so I decided to blog about just that! Halloween—or more specifically, a quick history of Halloween.

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Before haunted houses and pumpkin carvings, Halloween was first celebrated roughly 2,000 years ago by ancient Celtic tribes in Europe, during the festival of Samshain, which celebrated the end of the fall harvest, and the coming of winter. Festival patrons would create large bonfires, and engage in different games and rituals. They also did more practical things, too, like ready resources to make it through the winter, bring animals back from the pasture for slaughter or place them in the barn houses. The ancients believed that during this juxtaposed time of food sources being harvested (life) and winter beginning (death) that the living and dying world were enmeshed making communication with the dead easier. Whether or not the ancients feared the dead among them is debated. Some historians believe that people welcomed the dead as loved ones revisiting them, while others believe that costumes were invented during this time as ancients dressed as “demons” so that real demons would not harm them.

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Children knocking on doors for snickers bars is reminiscent of the poor dressing in costumes (called “guising”), and then knocking on doors begging for food, sometimes in exchange for prayers for the dead (called “souling”) during the celebration of “All Hollows Eve.” “All Hollows Eve, or “All Saints Day” was just Halloween reinvented by the Catholic church. The Catholic Church absorbed many pagan holidays by renaming and re-framing them with the doctrine of Christianity. Nonetheless, this practice of “guising” or “souling” became a common tradition throughout Europe during the Middle Ages. Children in the US would not trick or treat until after the second World War when Americans attempted to come up with ways to tame the Halloween spirit. However, interestingly, children were known to knock on doors during the Thanksgiving holidays to beg for food.

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As for the “trick” in “trick or treat,” tricks used to not only be a big part of Halloween, but a serious problem. Many immigrants from Ireland and Scotland coming to America brought the tradition of Halloween with them. Some of that tradition was chaos, and mischief. These pranks were not always just harmless annoyances either, but included acts of vandalism, and some pranks that led to accidental deaths.  Common tricks ranged from knocking on windows in the middle of the night, freeing pigs from pig pens, to stringing ropes in the dark to trip people, or throwing bricks through shop windows.

The urban areas of the United States racked up more economic  damages (usually vandalism to local businesses) to the point that many wanted to actually outlaw Halloween. However, a more creative solution emerged—one in align with America’s love of capitalism. Ultimately, trading tricks for costumes, candy and Halloween parties would sedate the prankster’s pranks, along with harsher penalties for those who engaged in Halloween tricks.

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Today Halloween in the United States remains a rather sedate, capitalistic endeavor centered on costumes, parties and children knocking on doors for candy and other sweet delights.

I myself, dressed up as the Corpse Bride and went to a Halloween party where we ate, drank and danced to 80’s music! There were no demons to hide from, unless you count the paper demons hanging from the ceiling, and not much mischief either, unless you count one too many drinks and bad dance moves!

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And the picture, I chose for the Challenge…well what else? A pumpkin, of course! This photo was taken with a Nikon 7200, and filters were used using a standard computer photo edit program.

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Have a safe, sedated HAPPY HALLOWEEN! And please feel free to share any thoughts you have on this very dated celebration!

 

My Stomping Grounds

This challenge fell under the umbrella of telling a story asking the challenger to capture an image of something in their backyard, giving the viewer a glimpse into their daily life.

Since this challenge called for me to take a shot of my actual stomping grounds, I will use this blog space to share a little bit about my personal world. And because I am not all that great about talking about myself, I will just use one of those cheesy templates with ready-made questions. So, here we go.

Please feel free to answer these same questions about yourself in the comment section. I would love to hear other people’s answers!

***FAIR WARNING*** I will attempt 100% honesty but will settle for 90% honesty, so be fair warned, 10% of the answers may be pure BS because an honest answer would be too embarrassing. Or, I’ll just skip the question. Now, here we go.

  1. What are your nicknames?

My name is Tiffany so I get called “Tiff” a lot. By some, I get called “Tiff, Tiff.” I think it’s cute because people who know me best call me this, and it sorta reminds me of those special connections we make with people along the way—special enough that they can get away with abbreviating your name and going in your fridge without asking.

  1. What books on your shelf are begging to be read?

Hmmm…Several. I buy books that I want to read and then I watch TV or indulge my addiction to Facebook instead so there are a few unread books…or maybe more than a few. One I really have a strong intention to finish is RADICAL ACCEPTANCE by Tara Brach. Great book, I think. I’ll let you know when I finish it!

  1. What do you do if you can’t sleep at night? Do you count sheep? Toss and Turn? Try to get up and do something productive?

I try to play like thunderstorm sounds off YouTube. If that doesn’t work, I get angry and Google random things on the internet that usually make me feel bad about the state of the world such as Trump news. Ghezz.

  1. How many days could you last in solitary confinement? How would you do it?

Whew…not sure…Not long.  Maybe a day or so. And I believe solitary confinement should be banned. It is a cruel, unnecessary practice. Very cruel.

  1. Do you save old greeting cards and letters? Throw them away?

I move too much to save anything. And I am too poor to afford a big space for the little bit of stuff I do have. I usually just toss it and kept a reminder in my heart.

  1. How many times a day do you look at yourself in the mirror?

It is rare. I had a series of closely linked insults regarding my physical appearance and now just avoid mirrors so as not to instigate a day’s worth of verbal degradation (self-talk) regarding my image.

  1. What is the strangest thing you believed as a child?

I really, truly and sincerely believed aliens would abduct me because I prayed for them too. Bastards never showed up.

ET

  1. What is one guilty pleasure you enjoy too much to give up?

Instead of lying on this, I’ll just skip this question. I am ashamed of what I have trouble not indulging in.

  1. Who performs the most random acts of kindness out of everyone you know?

Hmmm…My ex- Boyfriend Jamison Medler. He really is one of those people who would give the shirt off his back, and the socks off his feet.

  1. Which animals scare you most? Why?

Humans. We are destroying our own planet.

  1. Are you more likely to avoid conflict or engage it head-on?

I’m a fighter. I will call your ass out, LOL.

  1. What was the most recent compliment you’ve received and savored?

My boyfriend told me I was amazing. I thought that was pretty sweet.

  1. What is something about yourself that you hope will change, but probably never will?

I want to be patient and calm. I have tried to attain these characteristics and have via Xanax but then the Xanax wears off, Goddamitt!

  1. Are you a creature of habit? Explain.

Aren’t we all? But yes, Mostly, I am.

  1. Are you high maintenance? Explain.

No, I was once homeless, and even once lived in a Lincoln for awhile–one that was missing a left window. Needless to say,  I’ve been down some hard roads and can endure just about anything. The simple things make me happy.

  1. When was the last time you really pushed yourself to your physical limits?

Yesterday when I was doing deadlifts. Man, those are hard.

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  1. Do you have a whole lot of acquaintances or just a few very close friends? Why?

I like real friends who are close. Acquaintances are just a bunch of people who ask ‘How’s the weather.” I don’t need all that small-talk in my life. I like creating a small circle of authentic friends who know me and I know them. Besides, the weather? Well, it’s hot and getting hotter with climate change.

  1. What’s a strange occurrence you’ve experienced but have never (or rarely) shared with anyone?

I tell people strange things all the time…even strange things that are untrue. They make great conversational pieces.

  1. What do you think about more than anything else?

Myself. Don’t we all. I’m hungry, I’m horney, I’m tired, ghezz…ME, ME, ME!

  1. What’s something that amazes you?

Life: Nature. It takes my breath away. Also the capacity of people to do good.

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  1. Do you prefer that people shoot straight with you or temper their words? Why?

Just say it. Why? I’m impatient, remember, so I have zero tolerance for beating around the bush.

  1. Where’s your favorite place to take an out-of-town guest?

I don’t have out-of-town guest. This requires friends, and money to take friends. I have neither, LOL. But for fantasy sake, I suppose I  would take them where they wanted to go.

  1. What’s one thing you’d rather pay someone to do than do yourself? Why?

DRIVE MY ASS AROUND. I hate driving. Hate it. Hate it. HATE it.

Do you have a catchphrase?

Everything has a price whether you are the one paying it or not. #truthism

  1. What’s your reaction towards people who are outspoken about their beliefs? What conditions cause you to dislike or, conversely, enjoy talking with them?

I like people who are upfront about their beliefs and I like people of all beliefs. People are stories packaged in flesh and I love stories.

  1. What position do you sleep in?

Side.

  1. What are the top three qualities that draw you to someone new?

1) Kindness, 2) warmth, 3). Authenticity: if Only I could embody these traits….

  1. How has your birth order/characteristics of siblings affected you?

I was first born and this is perhaps why  I am so damn loud-mouthed and bossy, sorta aggressive and passionate. Who knows?

  1. If you could eliminate one weakness or limitation in your life, what would it be?

Chronic pain.

  1. If you could restore one broken relationship, which would it be?

Not answering this. Just the question alone about made me want to cry.

  1. Do you believe ignorance is bliss? Why or why not?

Yes and no. The ignorant are blissful while the non-ignorant are dealing with the harsh realities of the ignorant’s bliss…does that make sense?

  1. What do you consider unforgivable?

Nothing is unforgivable. I think we are all doing the best we can. Forgive and move on.

  1. Have you forgiven yourself for past personal failures? Why or why not?

Yes, I have done the best I could. And I know that.

44.Do you hold any convictions that you would be willing to die for?

Yes. Many. I am a very passionate—and extreme person on many issues such as animal welfare and animal rights.

  1. To what extent do you trust people? Explain.

Not the most trusting person.

  1. In what area of your life are you immature?

We are all immature. We just get better at disguising it as we get older so as to appear mature.

  1. What was the best news you ever received?

The pregnancy test was a false positive. (Wheww…avoided the Maury show with that one!)

  1. How difficult is it for you to be honest, even when your words may be hurtful or unpopular?

Difficult. I am working on that.

  1. When do you find yourself singing?

A lot and I really suck at it but do it anyways. Like a boss:p

adelesinging

And finally, the challenge photo: My photo for the challenge was taken with a SAMSUNG GALAXY 7, and filters were used. The photo is of a large spinning star that sits in the parking lot of a liquor store (Joe’s Liquor) off Poplar Ave, in my birthplace and hometown of Memphis, TN. I chose this odd structure as the subject for my photo because Poplar Ave is a major street in the Memphis area, and at night this spinning star lighted in several colors is actually sorta beautiful. Funny, after all these years living in Memphis and seeing that giant spinning star, I have only been inside Joe’s Liquor store once–and that was to get some boxes for moving. I am just not much of a drinker.

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Here is a shot zoomed out for context:

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Again, feel free to answer any of these questions or all in the comment section, and THANK you for sharing this photo journey with me.

Peace

“Live life so well that, even if you die, the empty seats behind you will tell the story that, “yea, this soul did what God sent him/her to do”. Give life and hope into your family, village, community, country, continent and the world at large. You can do it!” -I. Ayivor

 

The Color Purple

This week’s challenge fell under the artistic category asking the challenger to capture the color purple; the color of royalty, magic, and mystery.

This is definitely the challenge for me because my favorite of all favorite colors is purple. One of my all-time favorite songs is “Purple Rain,” by Prince, and also one of my very favorite films (also a book) is “The Color Purple,” by Alice Walker.

Purple is a rare color. It’s just not one you see in abundance in the natural nor the artificial world. But when you see it, doesn’t it charm you?

Here are some Google Images of  people and things Pretty in Purple:

birdandpurple

purpleprince

purplergirl

“I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it. People think pleasing God is all God cares about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.” – From Alice Walker’s book and film, “The Color Purple.”

For the challenge, this image was taken with a Samsung Galaxy 7. The photo was edited using the standard android photo editor. I captured this photo of a few small flowers at a park near my home that I enjoy taking my two dogs to for walks and dips in the lake.

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Thank You for sharing this photo challenge with me and Peace on your Journey!

The Cat’s Meow

This week’s challenge fell under the technical umbrella asking the challenger to take a portrait of an individual using loop lighting or some other creative way of lighting up your subject. In order to use loop lighting, you need special equipment that I do not have, so I decided to just get creative with lighting.

But, for those so inclined to become master photographers, here is a link on how to ace loop lighting along with a description of the equipment needed:

http://westcottu.com/loop-lighting-tips

(Google Image; example portrait using loop lighting)

looplight

This challenge required that I search out a willing subject–after all this is a portrait. And I found one–a subject that is. As for willing, that is all a matter of debate. I think the attitude was more one of resignation than a wagging puppy-tailed willingness, but alas, you take what you can get, right? The photo was taken with a NIKON D7200, and it was further edited using a computer-based editing program.

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The portrait is of my cat Peanut; a cat that I dearly love. Today he is close to 16 years old, but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him since he was a small, awkward, long-legged kitten. Peanut is an extremely good-natured loving cat, but not too-affectionate and quite the independent fella. Early on, he refused to be an “indoor” cat and has spent, and still spends, most of his time outside climbing trees, roaming yards, and other cat-related things–even refusing to use a litter box. For several years in his prime, he refused cat food and hunted his own meals. Now that he is older, he eats cat food. I imagine hunting is just not as easy as it once was. After all, 16 is pretty old for a cat. At night, he sleeps tucked under my arm, under the covers, as he has done for several years. I turn my face to his fur and find sleep to his rumbling purrs. No kitty is perfect though, and neither is Peanut. He is a very stubborn cat, who will stop at nothing to get his way. If he wants something and is not getting it, he will meow incessantly, take to climbing walls, knock over drinks, and even chew books until he gets what he wants whether it is to be let outside, more water, wet food, or just attention. We all come with quirks!

(Google Image of a Black Cat)

black-cat-4

Some Fun Facts About Cats:

*Cats sleep 70% of their lives.

*Cats cannot taste sweetness.

*Cats have a lower social IQ than dogs but can solve more difficult cognitive problems (so they are more logic based thinkers).

*Abraham Lincoln loved cats and kept four of them in the White House.

*Cats have been taught to detect human breast cancer.

*Ancient Egyptians worshiped cats because cats served as a natural protector in the home, keeping it free of poisonous vermin and germ carrying rodents.

(Google Image of the Egyptian Cat God Bastet)

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My cat Sylvester who passed away several years ago. In this picture, he was helping me study for a class. Just look at him hard at work, LOL. He was one of the sweetest cats I had ever met, and I miss him, a lot.

slyvester

I’ll end this blog with a poem I especially love that uses a cat to explain mysticism. Could you imagine a dog explaining such a concept?

Landlocked in Fur; written by Turkaram

I was meditating with my cat the other day 
and all of a sudden she shouted,
“What happened?!”

I knew exactly what she meant, but encouraged 
her to say more – feeling that if she got it all out on the table 
she would sleep better that night.

So I responded, “Tell me more, dear,” 
and she soulfully meowed:

“Well, I was mingled with the sky. I was comets
whizzing here and there. I was suns in heat, hell-I was
galaxies. But now look-I am
landlocked in fur.”

To this I said, ”I know exactly what 
you mean.”

What to say about conversation between 
mystics?

My favorite Picture of Peanut and I:

meandpeanut

Here are a few shots of some kittens born to a stray that I used to feed when I lived in the country. The mother allowed me to share the nurturing duties and I used some of that time to do kitten photo shoots!

babykitteninsun

kitteninsunshine

The kitty cats-and other animals–we share our lives with truly become some of our greatest companions. Please feel free to share the animal friends in your life, past or present, below. I would love to hear about them:)

“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are God. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are Gods.” – C. Hitchens

Peace, and Wellness on your journey!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunflower Row

This week the challenge fell under the umbrella of telling a story using Leading Lines; the challenge specifically stated that one could not use railroad tracks, either. Leading lines in photography is defined as a technique of composition where the viewer of your photos attention is drawn to lines that lead to the main subject of the image.

Here is an example I found on Google that I found to be beautiful. Here the leading line is a road leading to a full moon:) This image is just amazing and it very much energized me to get out there and start catching my own images!

leadinglinestosun

Everything that has the chance to come of being in this universe dies to be reborn as something else entirely or just another of the thing it once was.

My chosen photo for the challenge below is a field of dying sunflowers, taken with a Nikon D3200. The photo was edited using a computer based photo edit program. If you follow the line of dead sunflowers, you are taken to the same blue skies that the flowers depended on in their living months.

Every morning as the sun rose, the sunflowers rose, too, their heavy heads to the sky, soaking in the sun’s rays or the cloud’s rains and at night they would bow to the moon–one bow everlasting.

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For reference, here are a few shots of these same sunflowers taken in the early summer months.

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All of these photos were taken at a large sunflower patch in my home city of Memphis, TN. You can easily get lost in this large stretch of flowers when they are in full bloom. Every year, Memphians watch as these sunflowers bloom along side a major road in the city. It is a desired attraction for many to come and take pictures–even family portraits, and also, simply to soak in the beauty of all those beaming faces. When in the midst of those giant flowers bursting in yellows and greens, towering (roughly 5-12 feet), it is VERY difficult not to feel the joy life can yield. The patch of sunflowers is not just a siren call for those weary from desk-jobs and too many rounds of Netflix either, but also a hub for lots of  buzzing and busy incests, and later, large flocks of birds eager to feast on the  flavorful sunflower seeds the plants produce once they reach maturity, roughly 80-120 days after planting.

(Google Image)

birdeatingsunflower

After a long season, the flowers begin to wilt. It is at this time that the bloom hangs its head down for the final time, and any seeds that have not been harvested by wildlife or hungry humans will fall to the ground. The seeds that fall will ultimately regrow into more sunflowers! At the time of my photos, the sunflowers had already reached this final life stage several days before I arrived. There were many black birds at the scene, though, canvassing the area for any seeds forgotten. And thus the cycle: Sun gives the flower energy, the seed of the flower gives the bird energy, and, etc.

Standing in the midst of these now stiff necked blooms, bent down–no longer seeking the sun, with tangled leaves twisted like sand papered origamis, it is hard not to feel the weight of death, though.

But, just as these sunflowers–in life–rose their large yellow faces to a rising sun, and bent under the night skies, following the cycles of seasons, so too will the dead sunflowers eventually give way to a new patch of rising faces in a similar cycle–the cycle of life.

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“Life gives way to new life.”

In the end, no matter the wording, or your worldview or beliefs, our time under Earth’s sun is temporary and even how much of that time we get is largely a mystery, making the moments we are afforded extremely precious.

I’ll end this blog with the words of a palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, who took the time to record the top regrets of her patients, as they lay dying, over the course of several years. After she retired, she took the information she had gathered and created the influential book, “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying (outlined below).”

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

When your face bends for its final slumber, what regrets do you hope to avoid? What can you do to make the time you have here more worthwhile? How much more can you give back? Please feel free to share below in comments or with a private message.

Another of the sunflowers in their final hour:

(Notice how the blooms are bent downward)

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I wish you Much Peace on this journey.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” – R. Dawkins

A few other shots from that day:

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Information about the book mentioned: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/feb/01/top-five-regrets-of-the-dying

Information on growing sunflowers: http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/flowers-and-plants/flowers/growing-sunflowers-when-to-plant-and-how-to-grow-sunflowers

Fire & Ice

This week’s challenge fell under the artistic category asking the challenger to capture the word HARD in an image. The challenge states: HARD is both an adjective and an adverb. Interpret this as you wish.

A few images came and went: Large rocks, cast iron skillets (I cook a lot, LOL), preparing for a race, writing, etc. but one image came and settled:

The hardness of a contracted body, of a contracted heart–a hardened heart.

So, let’s get mushy for a bit and talk about our feelings.

For starters, all emotions are valid (yes, even anger, jealousy, resentment, etc.) which is why I hesitate to classify emotions as either “negative” or “positive.” A more accurate description would be contracting versus non-contracting emotions (Don’t worry, I will clarify these definitions below!) Whatever the category, ALL of our emotions serve as important clues about the things around us, the people in our lives, our experiences, things we need to change, etc. For example, take a moment to think of some of your favorite activist for good in the world. These are usually passionate people who looked around and became angry at some injustice/s in the world and decided to turn that anger into real action. An action that would not have existed without the initial anger. The point is we can use our emotions, even the painful ones, for information gathering, and sometimes even profound change.

Anger can be a FORCE for Mass Destruction OR Mass Construction. You choose!

(Google Image)

activist

With that understood, let’s talk about how we experience different emotions:

When we experience emotions such as fear, anger, blame, frustration and other such related feelings, our bodies do, too. The mind and the body really are ONE. These kinds of emotions contract, tighten and tense our bodies–and our hearts. They leave us closed off, turning open hands into fists, quicken our breathing and covering or bucking our bodies to hide (protect) them. Think of the last time you were in a heated argument or the last time you were in a traffic jam. What posture and pose did your body assume? Was your jaw tight? Shoulders hunched? Compare that image to the last time you held someone close or found yourself in open-hearted conversation with a loved one. There is just a profound difference in how the body experiences joy, compassion, warmth versus how it experiences more painful emotions. Warmer emotions leave us open, release our hands to hold, reach, explore, our breathing slows and our bodies lean in. And Our hearts do the same.

Think of this: ICE turns to WATER to VAPOR. Imagine transforming from a hardened contracted state to one of freedom, softness, and warmth!

The photo chosen for the challenge was taken with a Nikon D 3200, using filters from a computer photo edit program. The image is cubes of cold ice on wood.

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When we allow ourselves to let go of contracting emotions our hearts are free to do what hearts do best–to love. And love we must!

Lastly, let’s talk about how to handle tough emotions:

When you find yourself under the weight of contracting emotions, 1). Allow them. They are a natural part of the human condition. They are OK. Experiencing certain emotions does not make one bad or weak. It makes you human. 2). Peel back the surface of what you are feeling, and answer this: What do I need/want that I do not have? What am I afraid of? Because every single contracting emotion is rooted in the fear of an unmet need. Every single one. So find the fear (fear of not being heard, feeling unsafe, fear of rejection, not having enough time, not having enough money, etc.) and stare it down! 3). Offer yourself self-compassion. Contracting emotions can be overwhelming because they cause suffering and pain, making self-care important. Seek out others, too, for comfort. And lastly, 4). Once explored, try to let it go when you can, allow your body to let go; release it, so that you may live open and warm-hearted.

Ice, Water, Vapor. 

The photo was taken of a small campfire made for roasting marsh mellows. The warmth from the fire raged as a group of us sat together, open to one another in conversation. It was a good night:)

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On a side note, this blog was written during the unfolding of events in Charlottesville. I will avoid politcal chit-chat in this blog, but I could not help but think of just how different things could be between our fractured groups if we choose to be open with one another, and not just open for conversation and debate but for real, genuine understanding. What would Charlottesville look like if everyone on both sides were willing to offer compassionate understanding to the other? Instead of a “us” versus “other/them,” could it be just a “we?”

(Google Image)

meercats

“If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate him/her. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved upon your heart; if you want to let go of something, if you want to forget, you cannot hate.”- C. Joybell