Sunday, December 30, 2018


December has been...chaotic, for the most part snowless, frustrating and sometimes overwhelming. Yet in the quite moments there has also been great joy.

We brought Atticus home on December 2. He has added to the house some of that chaos, frustration, and also great joy. I haven't threatened to send him back to the breeder this week, so things must be looking up. Somebody we met recently summed it up best, "You are training a puppy, but you are also retraining yourselves."

The mostly snowless December has been great when you have to bring a puppy outside every 15 minutes to go to the bathroom. Not so great because the snow would cover up the acorns he gets distracted trying to eat and forgets to go to the bathroom. Then 15 minutes later we are back outside to do it all over again.

We didn't put our tree up until the Friday before Christmas due to a curious puppy, and it is down already, even though he did learn to leave it alone. The bows on the Christmas presents never lost their appeal though.

Atticus loves the beach! Hallelujah! I know I have the right dog. December has had a fair amount of 40 degree days and a little sunshine, perfect for digging in the sand and running up and down the little sand dunes. One sunny, 45 degree afternoon when we were there, there was a boat cruising the channel, the stereo system blasting Oh Holy Night and Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow. I felt like I was in some weird time warp.

Somehow I got everything done in time for Christmas; the presents bought and wrapped, the food bought and prepared, the house cleaned, the traditional sugar cookies cut out and decorated, the family party hosted and cleaned up. I'm glad it's over though.

I got an Instant Pot for Christmas, I am excited to try it out. Mallory surprised me with a month of unlimited yoga classes for both of us. I can't wait!

We had a mini-reunion of the boys from Atticus's litter along with their mom. The boys all live in the area so it will be fun to have play dates every now and again.

I committed to doing the online Summer Studio video lesson on Art Journaling for Dirty Footprints Studio.

I am looking forward with anticipation to 2019...

Watching Atticus grow up. Hard to believe he will be 12 weeks already on Monday.

I am entering 1-3 collaged postcards in a Postcard Salon exhibition at the Muskegon Museum of Art. Deadline is January 13. I have one almost done.

On January 2, I will begin the steps necessary to start my long dreamed of art business. I am applying for a LLC, setting up a bank account and getting a business credit card and all the other things that come with starting a business. I have a friend that will be doing a logo and branding for me. I need a head shot done for my website and for Dirty Footprints Studio, so I will be seeking somebody to do that. I plan to open an Etsy shop once I have some art ready to post. The art most likely will be a combination of collage and my photography, similar to the postcards I am making for the exhibition.

I have no idea where any of this is going to go, but I am buckling up for the ride and trusting the journey on the twisting road before me.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Stories We Tell Ourselves

Day 12

The story we often tell ourselves is that we aren't good at something. The honest truth though is that we have never even tried. How in the world can we be good without trying?

Day 17

A couple posts ago I wrote about my art journey this fall. At the end I shared a bit about wanting to learn to draw. I was convinced that I wasn't good at drawing, but in all honesty I hadn't tried since I was ten. Our vacation up north motivated me to try again, at the age 50. Once we were back home I had to find a way to keep trying, even without the inspiration of the place I love.

Day 15

I seem to do really well with 30 Day challenges. November conveniently had 30 days. I decided to do 30 Days of Drawing. I even went bold and posted my daily drawing on Instagram, hoping that a few of my friends would keep me accountable.

Day One

It was scary in the beginning to put myself and my lack of skill out there. But somebody has to be brave and show others that even if you don't start out good, you can come a long way in 30 days with a commitment to daily practice. It wasn't a big time commitment each day. On the average I probably spent about thirty minutes per drawing. Some days I had more time and some days I was lucky if I had ten minutes. But it was the showing up every day that mattered, not how much time I  had.

Day 19

With any project there is the dreaded middle. I would have a few really good days, and then it felt like I took three steps backwards. The above drawing was suppose to be a moody stone barn, but to me it feels like a slightly moody Caribbean stone house. Not what I was going for.

Day 14

I am someone who needs to have an image in front of me to draw. But I also have seven years in as a photographer, I am image driven. Besides my own photographs, which I drew from quite a bit, Pinterest is a fabulous source. Oh the rabbit holes you can fall into. I swore I would never draw people because I wasn't good at it. But...I had never tried.

Day 9

Some of my ladies have been drawn with the X and Y axis and reference points and some have been outlined with my Lightbox, I am completely fine with that. Seeing how far I have come in thirty days, I know I will get there with them too. We all have to start where we are and grow from there.

Day 27

I am also completely in love with charcoal.

Exciting News

Today, Sunday December 2, we bring Atticus home. Let the adventures begin.

Second: I was contacted this week by Dirty Footprints Studio about teaching a small segment of a summer on-line course for them. You can just image how dumbfounded I felt when I read the email. Me? Are you serious? The story I am telling myself is that I am not ready for this, I don't know how to shoot a tutorial video. But the truth is that I haven't tried yet, and until I try I don't have any right to say I can't.

The theme for this is Capturing Moments, which are to be brought to fruition in your art journal. I am looking for ideas from you, my friends, about what this theme would mean to you. I am kicking around an idea, but I would love to hear your thoughts.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Road to Atticus

On my desk sits a photograph of two golden boys in the prime of their lives. I recently found this photograph in the storage room as I was sorting and purging. My heart paused when I saw it. It was probably put there when it became too painful to look at.

It was October 2014 when we lost the first golden boy. He was 12, old but not too old. I have never been able to fully write about his loss. October 11 marked two years since the loss of the last golden boy. He was only a couple months shy of 14, but he had been slowly slipping away for the last year of his life.

We have lived the last two years with a part-time dog, the grand dog Findley. Findley is the funniest, quirkiest dog you will ever meet, but he is also a geniune joy and blessing.

It took us these two years to heal, to spend some time without a dog, travel, not be tied down. We did all those things. Eventually the heart heals, the wanderlust dies down a bit, and being without isn't fun anymore. Born on October 8, 2018 was a new beginning.

Our new beginning will be coming home at the beginning of December. At first I thought we were crazy to get a puppy going into winter. Potty training, cold and snow didn't seem like a logical mix. But the more I thought about it...when am I home the most? When do I have the most time to devote to potty and all around training? Winter of course.

Then I worried about socialization. The new ideal is for your puppy to have contact with at least one hundred different people before they are sixteen weeks old. Where am I going to find 100 people in the winter? Our downtown of course, with its heated sidewalks. What a great place to walk, get use to different sounds and a wide variety of people and dogs.  Who can resist talking to and petting a puppy?

The first two golden boys were only six months apart, and we took them on many adventures as a family, but two young dogs and me alone didn't go that well. After the loss of the first golden, I was able to take Scout on some day adventures with me, we had such great times. My one regret was that we didn't get to do more before it became too hard for his back legs to keep up. I have many adventures planned for our new boy, so he better like the car. We have places to go and things to explore.

We don't know yet which little golden boy will be ours, there are three boys in the litter. The breeder matches based on what we are looking for, and the personality of the puppy. She has been doing this a long time, so she knows what she is doing. Although...Mallory did ask for a gentle old soul...

Well...He may not be what she asked for, but he is exactly what she needed.

Still, it's hard not to have a favorite. Whoever our new beginning is, his name is Atticus.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Longing to Belong

"Maturity calls us to risk ourselves as much as immaturity, but for a bigger picture, a larger horizon; for a powerfully generous outward incarnation of our inward qualities and not for gains that make us smaller, even in winning."
                                                                              ~ David Whyte, Consolations 

There is an interesting trend going on amongst many of my on-line friends that I first met through photography classes and blogging, they are all turning to art. By art, I mean hand-created art: painting, drawing, fiber, collage. I have always wanted to belong in that world. I grew up doing rug-hooking and counted cross-stitch, but the only really good drawing I did was when I was ten. A pencil and crayon drawing of a Basenji dog. I wish I still had that drawing, or maybe it is better that it only lives in my memory.

Every summer, I have this itch to create with my hands, but this year the itch has turned into a longing. Mid-September, I began the practice of art journaling. I have (sort of) tried this before with minimal results. But here it is the end of October and I am still doing it. What I am finding most enjoyable is the playing, the trying, the failing and trying again. There is no rush, no pressure to get it right the first time.

Each spread pushes me a little further. To learn to embrace color, new techniques, and new materials. To learn to trust my intuition and not over-think.

This is the latest one I am working on. The first pages I did reawakened the longing to belong, it grew a little more with the second, and in this third one it came to fruition: the house/shed in the bottom left corner I drew myself.

I started a sketch book while we were on vacation. It was easy to pack and minimal supplies were needed. I didn't start out good, but I couldn't give up after only one attempt. I drew this from a photograph I took with my phone.

By the fifth day of practice, I was getting better. This was drawn from a photograph of a garden shed on Pinterest.

"If you don't love photography for the sheer act of trying to express yourself, and will only find joy in it when you finally get there, yours will be a disappointing journey. Not only will you likely never "get there" but you'll have missed how beautiful and exhilarating the journey itself is."
                                                                                  ~David duChemin, Within the Frame 

When I started to be serious about photography in 2012, I thought I had found my "art" camp. I wasn't good, but like the Ira Glass video on creativity, I knew what was good, and I knew with practice I could be good.  And I did get good, but what I soon discovered in some parts of the fine art photography camp is that they are only interested in the end result. What I loved was the journey. I needed photography to find my voice and tell my story.

The hand-created art camp feels different. They encourage your journey. They love watching you learn, grow and get better. They are just as excited about a finished piece as they are about the first pencil strokes you put on paper. They all know how hard it is to put yourself and your work out there. This is the camp where I have always longed to be, but I don't think I ever would have had the courage to be here, if I hadn't set up my tent in the photography camp first.


Here are some of the inspiring sites and classes I have found this year:

Jeanne Oliver - Great selection of courses

Laly Mille - Excellent teacher. This where my art journaling inspiration came from.

Toni Burt - Down to earth teacher

Ivy Newport 

Life Book 2019 - There was a free two week Summit for Life Book 2019 in October. While not all the teachers are my style, there were many who were.

Wanderlust 2019 - Looking forward to this.

If you have any art classes you have enjoyed, I would love to hear.

Sunday, October 21, 2018


Coming home from a great vacation is always hard. You just don't understand how on vacation you were content with three pairs of pants and five tops that you mixed and matched throughout the week. But when you get home and see your closet full of clothes you feel overwhelmed, and that you have nothing to wear. You long for that small pine armoire at the rental house that wasn't even a third full with your clothes. Or, at least that's what I long for.

I always come home from vacations, specifically, vacations from northern Michigan with a resolve to declutter and only keep things that bring me joy. Yes, I have read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy by Marie Kondo a few times.

Usually though, by the end of the first week home from vacation, that resolve has flown out the window. There are too many things on the daily to-do list and not enough time to do even half of them. With winter just around the corner here in Michigan, time seems shorter than ever. There is yard work to be completed before the snow flies, and some other big projects that need to be finished by the beginning of December.

Still, I am going to try to do some decluttering. One of the big projects is painting and organizing my soon-to-be reclaimed studio aka small spare bedroom. It has been apple green and lilac purple for 14 years, it needs to be simply white. Then, maybe I will use the room for more than storage.  Also, we are making Mallory's old bedroom into a guest room, so when she and Fin sleep over they don't have to sleep on a mattress on the floor. The good thing is, with both of these rooms, decluttering will happen because it has to.

Enough about the drudgery of being home. I will take you on a quick tour of the perfect autumn in Northern Michigan.

The weather certainly ran the gamut while we were there. We had temperatures in the upper 70's to daytime temps. of only 39 degrees. We had bright sun, fog, moody gray skies, and even some white snow/rain stuff.

We spent our mornings hiking. We revisited some favorite trails, and took a chance on a couple new-to-us ones. One of which has become my new favorite.

Usually lunch was at quaint local places.

Afternoons were spent at a couple wineries savoring a glass of wine and enjoying the view.

We only shot with the big cameras one morning because hiking in the woods is much easier with a pocket-size camera. Plus, Glen loves Instagram.  He has complete control when he shoots with his phone. Although, I end up in way more photos and stories that I would like.

It is so hard to leave this place. Maybe a pine armoire with three pairs of pants and five tops is a pretty good life.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Six Windows

I struggled to pick up my camera in September. After 365 days of daily photos, what could I possibly photograph that I hadn't already?

There is nothing wrong with taking a break when you feel burned out, but I also didn't want to let a year of hard work slip away for too long either. Thankfully at the eleventh hour a challenge came my way via David duChemin and The Compelling Frame course that I started last year.

The challenge was:

  • Choose one idea, theme or subject.
  • Choose some constraints.
  • Make photographs in September
  • Chose the six best at the end of the month and post them in the group.

I loved the idea, but struggled to find the subject. I just spent a year shooting whatever I fancied. The only constraint the Lensbaby Velvet 56. I decided to look back at my 365 project as a whole and see what subjects jumped out at me. There were a few different ones, but two that kept reoccurring were windows and reflections.

I needed to talk through the challenge with a friend. So in one of our weekly Skype sessions I hashed through it with my friend Lee. She said she had once done a window project for an on-line course, as did a mutual friend of ours. She sent me the link to the blog post she did on windows, as well as the link to our friend's blog post. Both of them encouraged me. I decided to do windows.

I started out strong with a photo walk in my downtown. So many great buildings and windows. But then that ugly "middle" came. I couldn't find any more good windows. I only had three so far, and those weren't even taken with the constraint I had chosen - my 60mm macro lens, a once favorite lens.

In the "middle", I played many games with myself to get through it. What if I set the timer on my phone and stopped every five minutes to take a detail shot of something? That worked for one morning, again yielding three decent photos. I didn't feel like playing the game again.

The windows still called to my soul.

Then, an unexpected trip to my personal heaven - northern Michigan. My husband had to go for work for three whole days, which meant I had three days to photograph windows in all the places I love.

Bravely, I posted the six finalists in The Compelling Frame FB group. The windows were well received. One comment especially stirred me. Cynthia said, "Great glimpses into what feels like looking into other worlds, both moving forward and looking back."

In the waining days of September, I found all the windows I needed and so much more.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Listening Without Judgement

I spent three days up north this last week. My husband had to go for work, and he invited me along. Of course, then he grumbles about how he has to work, while I get to drive to all my favorite places, photograph my favorite buildings, and drink wine by the lake on a beautiful early fall afternoon.

While up north, I planned to do the second of five Listening exercises:

"Seek out a public or urban environment - a local coffee shop, a busy street corner, your rooftop. Again, for 10 minutes listen to the sounds around you. Try to take it all in, with equal value, without judgement. What do you notice?"

I planned to do this at the coffee shop where I wrote the very last Coffee Shop Chronicle in the series, way back in April of 2015. Surely, one of the mornings it would rain while I was up north, it was in the forecast.

The mornings generally started cloudy with a hint of the promised rain, but usually by nine o'clock the sun started to peek through. Then the rural farmsteads of Leelanau Peninsula called much louder than sitting in a coffee shop.

As luck would have it though, I had to meet my husband on the last day at a coffee shop in downtown Manistee. His sales rep. was dropping him off and I would pick him up to begin our two hour drive home. I arrived early, exhausted from my morning of photographing farm buildings and wandering cold, windy beaches. Since this coffee shop also serves sandwiches and soup, I figured I would eat lunch there and complete the listening exercise at the same time.

When I use to write the Coffee Shop Chronicles, I engaged in two creative skills - observation and eavesdropping. So I guess listening has been a bigger part of my writing life than I thought.

The hard part of this exercise is the No Judgement, that's all the Coffee Shop Chronicles were was judgement, yes funny judgement, but judgement all the same. And as I sat down with my bowl of Pasta Fagioli soup, two ladies at the other end of the shot-gun style cafe did nothing to help me let go of it. They were sitting next to each other at a small round table each talking animatedly on their phones to other people.

I really wanted a table in the window, but both were full. So I sat as close as I could hoping that eventually one of the gentleman would leave. As I was eating my soup, one of them got up, but he was just going to get a refill on his coffee. What I noticed about him was his camouflage shorts and his camouflage Crocs.

Just as I was finishing my soup, the quiet guy directly behind me at the other window table got up and left. I quickly gathered my purse, phone, tiny notebook, empty soup bowl and scooted over to his relatively clean, empty table. I wanted to make sure to beat the two ladies sitting at the table next to me, in case they had the same idea.

I brought my empty soup bowl to the dirty dishes pan, returned to my table and readied myself for ten minutes of judgement free listening.

I set the timer on my phone, cradled my bent head in one of my hands, and closed my eyes. These are the things I heard:

  • The radio - I did not recognize the song. 
  • The two ladies just below me talking to each other.
  • The buzz of the cooler holding bottles of pop for sale that was right behind the two ladies.
  • Ice being scooped into plastic glasses.
  • The voices of the two girls working behind the counter.
  • Camo Croc guy behind me snapping his 3-ring binder shut.
  • Clink of the dirty dishes being taken out of the bin.
  • One of the ladies below me telling a story about somebody knocking on her screen door and she demonstrated by knocking on the wood table.
  • Pans banging behind the counter.
  • My pen tapping on the table as I was getting anxious for the ten minutes to be done.
  • The whoosh of the front door opening and closing. 
  • The building of steam for the latte machine.
  • Me chewing a potato chip.
  • Chair legs scraping across the wood floor.
  • The two ladies getting up and leaving - I could hear much better once they left. 
  • The ding of my timer going off. 
The ten minutes really went faster than I expected. I did feel a little weird trying to sit there with my eyes closed, although I kept my head bent most of the time.

I was surprised at all the sounds I could pick out, given that the ladies' conversation seemed to be the predominant noise. The only sound I was wrong about was Camo Crocs guy's 3-ring binder. It was really a three-hole punch.

Up next is Exercise Number Three:

Find a natural/green space within your town or city - a public park or garden or a tree in your yard. Close your eyes and listen for 15 minutes this time. How is the quality of sound different in this location compared to the location in exercise #2?

And I thought ten minutes was kind of long...but...I do have a place in mind.