Just Start Somewhere

25-27

Cranes 25-27 of 1000 for 2016.

The coffee mug pictured is by Wyatt Waters, a Mississippi artist. The building depicted is a real building in Brookhaven, MS, and yes, it does have a giant coffee pot on top. That’s what I love about the South.

So it’s Day 8 now, and I’m still making cranes. I feel like I’ve accomplished something even though that’s only 8 of the 365 days needed to complete my project.

What I haven’t accomplished is to figure out how to fit exercise back into my post-holiday life. Today, however, I decided to go with the “just start somewhere” plan. My idea was that I would jog in place for five minutes at a time at least five times throughout the day today. I ended up jogging in place for three minutes at a time three times today. I’m counting it. That’s somewhere. That’s a start. Maybe tomorrow I will build up to four minutes at a time four times, or at least keep up the 3×3 attempt. Success is setting realistic expectations, after all.

Just start somewhere.

If that’s not enough for you, at least you get to look at my awesome coffee mug, so your trip to my blog is not entirely wasted.

Have a good one, my friends.

If at first you don’t succeed, try 110 more times.

People say we monkey around.

Today’s dog challenge was “too much is not enough.” I thought about photographing Lucy Peanut with her toys because she does have way too many. Then I got the idea of photographing her with my toys. I have a set of sock monkeys that I keep in a plastic container safely out of LP’s reach. They are the remains of a once and future photo project. Risky business, giving them to a puppy. I was afraid she would rip them to shreds before I could take a single shot. I knew that she was unlikely to sit still enough for a good shot, but I still lived in hope. I put the sock monkey’s on the couch, and Lucy Peanut followed. She was so excited. She went after first one and then another. I took 111 photos, and the one shown here is the closest I could get to something decent. She did not sit still for more than a fraction of a second at a time.

Yes, yes, I do know that I could have increased the shutter speed to try to capture her in action, but I didn’t want to do that because I was in a fairly low light situation, and I would have had to have kicked the ISO way up to increase the shutter speed, which would have meant grainy pictures, so I didn’t go with that option.

This is my example of why I am not a professional photographer. It is also my example of how I end up taking some nice shots anyway sometimes. I try and try and try. That’s the whole story.

Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes I change my whole plan and take a another 111 shots.

Today, I did not get what I wanted, but I decided I would have to make the most of it, and that’s okay too.

My other shots for today:

Alice is feeling forceful.

This was taken in my office. I used a sticky strip to make the light saber stand up, and I set Alice beside it. This shot serves no purpose except to amuse me, and I’ve decided that my own amusement is an important goal for my photography.

19-21

This was also taken in my office. I worked on school stuff until about 3:00, and then I used my office for a playroom. I folded my three paper cranes for the day and paired them with a little flamingo bobble-head. One should always keep bobble-heads in the office for just such an occasion.

Because I’ve just moved to a new office, my desk is clean. It is a big wooden desk that has a glass covering across the top. The glass created the reflection.

This is why I love photography. I don’t always know what I’m going to get until I start playing around with it. I didn’t see the reflection until I looked at the scene through the viewfinder. Once I did that, I knew that I was entering a little magical make-believe world that I had somehow created right there on my desk. These little magical worlds are everywhere, but we don’t see them until we start trying to capture them.

Lesson of the day:

If at first you don’t succeed, try 110 more times. Once you get it right, no one will know how many failures you left in your wake.

Rest for your soul

16-18

Cranes 16-18 of 1000 for 2016

Made from pages taken from a Bible verse calendar.

1. Psalm 91:1

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

2. 1 Timothy 1:14

“The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

3. Matthew 11:29

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

I have to admit that in my fifth day of folding paper cranes, a year of doing this sounds like a very long time. I can also say, though, that the cranes are doing what I hoped they would. They are helping me find and hold to my own emotional center. They are also compelling me to spend some time each day thinking about and voicing my prayers for the world around me–prayers for peace and harmony and well-being. My cranes may not change the world, but I believe they will change me, and possibly by extension, help me to make a difference.

Peace, friends.

May you all find rest for your souls.

She’ll have fun, fun, fun till her grading takes her free time away.

I went to work today, but I didn’t do any work because that hasn’t started yet. Instead, I packed up belongings from my office to move to a bigger office. I need a bigger office because life tends to pile up on me.

My day went like this:

–Went to the office around ten.
–Packed for a couple of hours while listening to an audiobook.
–Took a long lunch with friends.
–Packed for a couple of hours while listening to an audiobook.
–Came home and played with my camera, my dog, and my cat.
–Played around on the computer editing my pictures.
–Talked to a friend on the phone.
–Ate a salad.
–Decided to blog about how this is the job I want every day.

Pretty good day, I’d say. That’s the way it goes, though. It’s all fun and games for the teachers until the students show up. The tricky part is to keep having fun after I have to start grading the stuff I assign. I’ll get back to you on that in a couple of weeks.

So here’s a little roundup of my afternoon photography binge:

13-15

These are cranes 13, 14, and 15 out of a planned 1000 for the year.

Cat Tower

I could not have planned for Jack Cat to climb this tree, and if I had thought of it and hoped he would climb it, he would have been nowhere to be found. I put the paper cranes in this tree to photograph them, though, and Jack Cat followed me. He gave me the perfect opportunity to photograph something for today’s prompt of “towering.” Jack Cat considers all trees to be his own personal cat towers.

Did someone say treat?

Today’s dog challenge was “angular.” I wanted to take a photo of Lucy Peanut from a low angle. I thought I could put her on the table and sit on the floor to take a picture of her looking over the edge of the table at me. That scared her so much she just hunkered down in the middle of the table and shivered, so I had to cuddle her for a while and give up. Luckily, she cocked her ear back a little later, and I realized that she had come up with her own plan for an angular shot.

I see a lot of images of pets on Flickr and Instagram where it is clear the shots are posed and taken in a studio setting. I admire the people and the dogs who manage to pull that off. That’s just not the way me and Lucy Peanut roll, though. LP does her own thing her own way at all times, and I just follow along and clean up the poop. That’s what I’m here for.

Drinking straight from the bottle.

Alice of Mississippi is hitting the sauce, and she is hot.

I don’t know why it amuses me so much to take pictures of a jewelry mannequin named Alice, but it is one of my very favorite activities in this world.

Let Go, #2

Memes were one of my happiness projects from a couple of years ago. They lasted for a few weeks, but I’d like to take up a longer term relationship with happiness, so I’m going to get back to the basics of adding motivational quotes to my photos.

Living Vacuum

This photo is actually one I took yesterday, but I’m posting it again today because it made Explore on Flickr. Explore is some sort of mysterious process by which Flickr chooses the images that go into the public pool that people see when they log in or when they do searches for specific cameras and lenses and so forth. I’m not sure that it means anything much to be in Explore. It mostly just means that more people see it. But I still feel like it is a prize, and finding out I had a photo in Explore gave me a nice little boost today.

So there you go. I have photographed all the things. I was able to do that because I didn’t do any actual work today. It was such a good day.

A little of this and a little of that

In the spirit of embracing my own hummingbird nature of flitting from one thing to another, I have updated several Facebook pages this week and joined a new photo challenge group on Flickr.

I’m trying to keep my expectations realistic. My impulse is also to go after projects full speed ahead and then crash and burn a few weeks in. I know I will crash and burn. I have a full-time job, a family, friends, pets, and a lifelong relationship with sheer laziness to assure that keeping up any one project on a day-to-day basis for an entire year will be a real challenge. I obviously cannot keep up six or seven simultaneous projects on a day-to-day basis. I can, however, do a little something toward one or the other on a day-to-day basis, thus managing over time to make progress on all. Or so I tell myself…

These are the Facebook pages I plan to keep up this year:

Lucy Peanut and Friends

Happiness vs. Me

Alice in Mississippi

Paper Cranes for Peace (FB Group)

Did I mention I have a job, and this is not what I do full time?

As noted, I’m not promising to update everything every day. I intend, instead, to update something most days and everything at reasonably frequent intervals. The exception is that I do hope to make paper cranes and photograph them most days because I am trying to get to 1000 by the end of the year.

To that end, I joined a Daily Dog Challenge group on Flickr today. That should help make Lucy Peanut’s page more interesting.

My first two challenge shots for the group:

 
Living Vacuum

Serious Sweetness

I’d like to say I’m responsible for the staging on these, but Lucy Peanut and Jack Cat did most of the work to that end. I just recognized opportunity when I saw it. That’s basically why I’m doing this. I tend to live so far inside my own head that I have to trick myself into noticing things that are happening outside of my head. Pets and photography are two of my favorite ways to do so.

Note: The photo prop for the cupcake thief shot above did not survive for very many seconds after this image was snapped.
Note: Just in case you are judging me, I do not generally give my dog sweets.
Note: I believe Lucy Peanut can and would take me down for a sweet after eating the cupcake today.

The Year of the Hummingbird and Maybe the Paper Crane

I have to admit that I embarrass myself more often than not. I’m a person who jumps into projects wholeheartedly, and I have a lot to show for that. I just don’t have a lot of what I would consider socially acceptable accomplishments to show. Published books after 25 years as a writer? One. Incomplete manuscripts? Dozens.

I love to blog, and I’ve been doing it since 2005, so you would think I’d have a lot to show, and I do, but of what nature? My life in the blogs looks a lot like my office and my bedroom and my car–random stuff slung everywhere. I did a blog-a-day project a few years ago. I think I went for a year-and-a-half without missing a day of posting to this blog, and I loved it and also felt extraordinarily self-conscious about it. I felt like I was proving to my frenemies that I indeed did not have my life together.

I want to blog again, but I’m not sure I’m up for it. I’m not sure I want to show off more of my inadequacies. I’m also not sure I will be able to see it through. Last year, I started a fiction-writing blog project, and abandoned it after one post because life went topsy-turvy for a while. Life has not promised me not to go topsy-turvy. I do not know what lies ahead or what I can promise to myself and others. I will not make resolutions today.

I will, however, set a few intentions and give myself permission to try and fail and try again. That’s the best most of us can do.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with motivational writers. You know? Those people who think they have it figured out? I’ve always wanted to be one of those people, but at the same time I’ve always known that I did not have it figured out, would probably never have it figured out, and wasn’t sure it was even possible for anyone to truly have it figured out.

I ran across the video posted above recently, though, and I found it inspiring. I recognized myself immediately as a hummingbird, and I decided that’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s okay to be a hummingbird. It’s okay to flit from one thing to another. The only thing it’s not okay to be is a hummingbird who lets the jackhammers of the world convince her not to fly.

You can see the entire talk by Elizabeth Gilbert about creativity and passion and hummingbirds and jackhammers here.

Meanwhile, allow me to share a few of my intentions for 2016:

  • Post a photo-a-day on Flickr
  • Blog more often
  • Revisit old projects
  • Keep up some of the Facebook pages I’ve started in the past
  • Fold 1000 paper cranes
  • Be nicer to myself and others
  • Be as fit and active as I can be without driving myself insane
  • Eat healthy most of the time
  • Create spaces of peace for myself (and those around me) during times of turmoil
  • Embrace my inner hummingbird
  • Play with my puppy
  • Hang out with my cats
  • Hang out with my friends and family
  • Learn to bake bread
  • Write
  • Laugh
  • Show up where I am needed most
  • Get out and about enough to see the beauty in the world around me
  • Read poetry
  • Never let the jackhammers get me down

Here’s a start:
1-3

These are my first three cranes of a planned 1000 for the 2016. To reach my goal of 1000 and to make it last most of the year, I plan to average 3 per day. I’m going to photograph them in sets most of the time to keep the project as simple as possible.

The cranes to me represent little prayers for peace and healing and goodwill during tumultuous times. In an election year, it seems to me that daily reminders of peace and goodwill may be necessary.

And that, ultimately, is my primary intention for the year–offer as much peace and harmony and hope and love and goodness as I am able to the world while managing somehow to be as okay with myself as possible.

Newt Knight and the Free State of Movie Mania

There’s been a lot of excitement around Jones County and South Mississippi lately because Gary Ross of Hunger Games fame (just for a start) is gearing up to shoot a film about a local Civil War Era legend by the name of Newt Knight.

If you want to know more about Newt, Google is your friend, and I am in too much of a hurry right now to say much more. But I want to make a contribution to the movie mania anyway, so here’s a poem that I wrote about Newt Knight. It’s one of a series.

The Murderer

Your one job is to pull that trigger.

Make the barrel appear
as if from nowhere,
dark against darkness.

Aim. Crook your finger.
Say a prayer to your God.
In the bang of creation,
in the deafening crack
that brings death to life,
allow yourself to be swallowed
whole by the night.

The rest of the job is ours.

You will not be found.
You will not be brought
to justice on this night
by anything other than
the sheer luck or good
talent of failing
to leave a trail.

This will not stop us from naming you.
This will not stop us from casting you
in our own image:
Good and Evil,
the epitome of both,
the double nature of us all.

On the floor in a house
that will be haunted
from this night forward,
a Confederate officer lies dead,
the only clues the death itself,
and the broken window
from which it came.

Of you we sing.

You are one man,
containing the multitudes of us,
everything we love and hate
about the South,
everything we love and hate
about ourselves.

Did you do it?
Of course you did, if only
because we have told it
as gospel truth for so long.

Of course you did not, if only
because we have nothing more
than legend to place you at the scene.

You are the eternally unobserved.
You are both true and untrue
in equal portions, both there
and not there, both guilty and innocent,
both hero and villain.

You need nothing more than us
to make it so, nothing more than
our telling and retelling
of you as we see ourselves,
nothing more than
our insatiable hunger
to believe in one true version
of any legend ever handed down.

Five months with the Fitbit

I bought a Fitbit in July of this year. I know it was July, not because I keep up with dates very well, but because I was teaching summer school at the time. My first day with the Fitbit at work I put in 16,000 steps in a day, and I was really happy because I thought that was the way it was going to work out all the time. Easy, I thought. Piece of cake.

I was just a little off in that assumption. I started out setting a daily goal of 12,000 steps and dropped down the 10,000 steps because I got tired of feeling like a failure all the time. The app tells you when you’ve met your goal, and I like to meet my daily goals a little more often than once a week.

I have three friends on the Fitbit network. The app lists us in order of the number of steps taken for the week. I am almost always at the bottom of the list. I’ve been busy. Life in general has been hard to keep up with. Steps are not as easy to take as one might hope.

This week, however, I reached a sort of milestone. I got an email notification from Fitbit saying that I had lost ten pounds. This was news to me. I didn’t notice losing them. This might be the first time in my life anything like that has happened. Even when I have the stomach bug, I’m pretty much trying my best to get all of the weight loss out of it I can. Pounds gained, on the other hand, tend to sneak up on me unawares on a fairly regular basis.

The reason Fitbit knows that I lost ten pounds is that a week or so after I bought the Fitbit Flex to wear on my wrist, I went back and bought the Fitbit Aria scale. Aria and I have an agreement. I don’t speak to her more than once every two or three weeks. I use another scale for more regular checkins, but Aria logs all sorts of information about me on my phone app, and I’d rather not see her graphs bouncing up and down day after day. I just want to see trends over time. More specifically, I want Aria to assure me that I am not gaining weight without realizing it.

It turns out I’m not at the moment. Instead I was losing weight without realizing it.

During these five months in which Flex and Aria have been tracking my progress, I have basically done nothing right. I have broken my own “no junk food” rule so many times I’m just grateful I don’t have the data on this. I have broken my “no snacking at work” rule. I have eaten the donuts in the break room. I have been busy and overwhelmed and eating without paying attention to myself just like all of the other times when I accidentally packed on a few extra.

I have also been a bad girl about my exercise goals. I was doing Couch-to-5k for part of this time, but I quit. I was going to an exercise class at the school fitness center, but I quit. I paid for ten weeks of yoga classes and went to about four sessions. No matter how good my intentions I just couldn’t seem to keep on track with anything.

The only thing I managed to stick with was wearing that Fitbit Flex every day. I have worn it around the clock day after day. The only time I ever take it off is when I am in the shower. That’s when I put it on the charger. That few minutes a day of charging is all it takes to keep the Flex fully powered. And that’s a good thing because I can barely remember to charge my phone at night. If I had to remember something else, I’d probably forget the phone.

Like I said, I have not excelled at this 10,000 steps per day thing. I have only moderately stuck to the plan, which is to say “inconsistently at best.” The difference it has made is just to keep me aware of the need for more movement in my day. It has made me see that even a few steps at a time will add up. Because I am wearing the Fitbit, and I can see how many steps I have so far on my phone each day, I do get up and walk around more often at work. I also go out to walk around the neighborhood even when I know I don’t have the time or energy to do more than just a few short laps up and down and around the street. I know for a fact that I go out walking more days than I otherwise would because I have a goal I am trying to meet, and I want to get as close to it as I can even if I know I might not make it to the finish line.

The biggest difference the Fitbit has made in my daily habits, though, is that I pace more. I don’t have a treadmill at home, and I haven’t been able to talk myself into using the gym at school very much. In the past, those circumstances would have meant that I just gave up. With the Fitbit app reminding me that I still need 6,000 steps for the day after I get home from work, though, sometimes I get all 6,000 just pacing around. I will turn on the TV and walk in place or jog in place while watching a show. I will walk back and forth across the living room while listening to an audiobook or while talking on the phone. These days I almost always pace while talking on the phone.

These might be small differences, and ten pounds over five months might not seem like much weight loss. I would think it was awfully slow and frustrating if I had been actively dieting. I wasn’t dieting, though. I was just pacing. And slow though it might be, if this rate of weight loss continued for a year, that would be 24 pounds lost in a year. That might seem slow to a dieter, but 24 pounds in one year would be considered rapid weight gain to someone who got surprised by a newsflash from the bathroom scales. I’d like to lose 20 pounds in the next five months, but if I lose half that, I’ll take it. If I just don’t start gaining again, I’ll take it.

I’m calling my first five months with the Fitbit a big success. All it has done is to give me some numbers to track throughout the day and to keep me mindful of what I already know about what I need to do for myself–keep in motion. As it turns out, that’s all I need it to do. Simple, but effective.

I’m not always good at following up, but I will try to let you know how the next five months go. If I’m buying new clothes in a size smaller than I’ve seen in quite a few years, I will most certainly let you know. I might even call you to go shopping with me.