Wednesday, December 30, 2015

What to Read in 2016

Our family loves books, which is evident the moment you step through our front door and into our living room. As you turn your head slightly to the right, you are struck by the sight of four, floor to ceiling, every shelf full, mahogany-brown, wooden bookcases.

Generally though, you won't find me sitting at a desk in the middle of the living room, like a librarian waiting to check your books out. I took this self-portrait earlier in the year for one of Vivienne McMaster's self-portraiture classes, now I finally have a reason to use it.

The library bookcases were something we had long talked about investing in. Two years ago, when we updated the furniture and wall color, we made the commitment to purchase some aesthetically pleasing bookcases to house part of our vast collection of books.

The last few days I have been half-heartedly going through Susannah Conway's Unraveling the Year Ahead workbook, hoping as I answer the questions, I will find my direction for 2016. But after reading through the workbook,  I have not settled on a "word" to pin my hopes and dreams to for the year ahead. I always feel that somehow I let my word down every year, not living up the potential it saw in me. So I have bypassed those questions for the time being.

 A little farther into the questions about 2016, I came to one that had me scrambling around the house gathering books and quickly filling three pages of journaling in my Inspiration Journal...List three books that you want to read in 2016?

Only three? I had already gathered a stack of ten, and that didn't even include the books on my iPad waiting to be read, or the e-books I have stored in iBooks.

I love to read, and in 2015 I re-devoted time and energy to learning, most of all learning through reading. One reflection note from 2015, I have found I do best if I am reading one inspirational book and one just for fun book at the same time. I need the constant influx of inspiration in my life that reading creative related books provides, but I also need a just for fun book to read before bed. Each book I read tends to be a spring-board to another book that wasn't on my Goodreads "to-be-read" list, no wonder that list never gets any smaller.

Instead of choosing only three books, I made two piles of three books each. One pile for inspiration books and one pile for just-for-fun books. Here is what I have so far:

Inspiration books

Just for Fun books

I will start with these six and see where they lead me. Unfortunately there isn't any room on those  aesthetically pleasing, wooden bookshelves in the living room for these books when I finish them. Maybe we will have to start another library area downstairs in the family room. Oh wait there already are four, half bookcases down there, well...maybe the music room...

New Year's Bonus

Some fun facts about me and my reading habits

  • I prefer to lie down when reading, unfortunately more often than not, that leads to napping.
  • I have been keeping a list of all the books I have read since I was 20, in 27 years I have read 947 books. It really seems like it should be more.
  • I set a goal on Goodreads each year of how many books I want to read during that year. For 2015 my goal was 40 books. I will fall a couple of books short, but still not shabby. 
  • For 2016 I think I will set my Goodreads goal for 30, then I can read thicker books and not feel so bad.
  • I have a whole bookcase next to my side of the bed, filled with books I have not read yet... maybe I could open a library.
  • I am happy reading on my iPad or reading real, tangible books.
  • Real books photograph better though
  • I love bookstores, especially independent ones. 
  • Glen and I use to dream of owning an indie bookstore when we retired.
  • I always read when I am eating alone.
  • I must read before bed
  • The one advantage to throwing my back out is that I can lay on the couch for hours and read and not feel at all guilty. 
I would love to hear what you want to read in 2016. And if you are on Goodreads - let's be friends!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Year of the Project

At the start of 2015, I had great aspirations and high hopes for a year long photography/writing project. I spent the final months of 2014 plotting and planning it.

My project, A Year Beside the Water, was going to be a documentation of photographs and stories gained from a year of weekly explorations to various bodies of water around my area. I had a notebook filled with thoughts and ideas about the project. I even started a new blog on Squarespace to house this life changing project.

On January 1st it started, and it started out with great enthusiasm, as most new projects do. I wrote stories about my youth, and about growing up on a dead-end, gravel county road that ended at a peaceful, winding river. I spent many childhood days exploring along the edge of that river, this is probably where my love of water and exploring began.

Shortly into the month of January the snow began to fall, which was not a surprise since I live in Michigan. I used my project to propel me out of the house to photograph landscapes of white, and ice instead of water.  My project kept me from becoming housebound during the winter months.

Spring came, I documented the melting of the snow and ice, and the return of color to the landscape.

The project was going smoothly until the middle of April, roughly 100 days into it. I was preparing for a trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to celebrate our daughter's graduation from college, and then we were packing her up and moving her back home. I continued to take pictures of water, but the ability to pen words to go with those pictures seemed to have gotten lost in the hustle and bustle of life.

Following closely on the heels of graduation, and the move home, was our first family vacation in a few years, a week long trip to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. The only water there was waterfalls with tourists crawling all over them, not very inspiring to write about and impossible to photograph.

In June, home and settled for the summer, I picked the project back up again. I decided to make weekly visits to our local state park which is on the shores of Lake Michigan, and about a five minute drive from my house. I spent early mornings watching the sun rise, and wandering the pier where the fishermen set up camp for the morning (I am not convinced they came to catch fish, I think most of them came for the fellowship of other fisher people). I strolled along the sandy edge of the beach, empty of sun-worshippers at that time of the morning.

The project continued for a short while once these weekly visits began. Eventually though the words dried up all together, but my love for photography grew by leaps and bounds. I was soon making multiple trips to the beach each week, just to wander with my camera. By the end of June I had stopped documenting on the Squarespace blog altogether, I never returned to it.

I thought I had started the project because I wanted to document a year's worth of change to the landscape and to myself. But looking back now, I started the project because I needed a reason to get out shooting again, I needed to fall in love with photography again. And it worked.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Setting Boundaries

I have been thinking a lot about boundaries lately, especially as the new year approaches. I know some things that I want to do and some changes that I need to make.

As a self-proclaimed explorer I am always drawn to boundaries, precious things lie within man-made boundaries and that is why signs are posted to protect them.

So, if I know that precious things that need to be protected lie within boundaries, why do I have such a hard time creating boundaries to protect myself and my work?

"How can we expect people to put value on our work when we don't value ourselves enough to set and hold uncomfortable boundaries?"                                                                        
                                                                                            ~Brene Brown, Rising Strong

Most of my struggles with boundaries are related to protecting my time. Most people naturally assume that because I don't work I have lots of time on my hands, and that I would be delighted to help them with their projects, because I most certainly must be bored, and they are doing me a favor by giving me something to do. I, in turn, feel guilty because I don't have to work, and I should have the time to help them with their projects. Some truly are worthy projects, and I am delighted to help, making use of the photography and writing skills that God has given me. Other times though, helping out suddenly turns into me being in charge of the project, and way more time consuming than I signed up for. 

Once again my work, which I don't paid for, so it isn't really work - it's just a hobby, gets pushed to the far back burner. Once again I have let someone take advantage of my time. 

I have tried setting designated work days for myself in the past, and I usually hold to them for a month or two. Until there is a doctor's appointment that needs to be made, and their first available opening is on my work day, if I don't take that one how long will I have to wait for the next one. Or I set a date for lunch with a friend and the only day she can make it the whole month is on one of my work days. These little hiccups in the schedule seem innocent enough, but over time they keep adding up, and pretty soon I am not holding myself to any work days at all. 

Well, beginning January 5, 2016 this is all going to change. I am setting boundaries. I am going to have two designated work days per week, Tuesdays and Thursdays. No more appointments, no more lunches with friends on those days. Whether those days are spent writing, out on an adventure photographing, or processing photos from those adventures, that doesn't matter. What matters is that I am finally taking myself and my work seriously.

I am setting the necessary boundaries so that I can open the Etsy shop I have always talked about opening, so that I can start and finish writing pieces that I want to submit to various publications, so that I can process the hundreds of photos on my computer, and even get some printed to hang on my walls. 

Maybe someday I will get paid for my work, but then again maybe I won't, that doesn't make my work any less important than anybody else's work. If what I write or what I photograph makes a difference in even one person's life, I consider myself paid and paid richly.