Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Small Things Are What Make Life Worth Living

I am a detail person. I also believe that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole, so doesn't it follow that the parts hold greater weight or more significance than we usually give them?

When it comes to storytelling, I have a (bad) habit of getting lost in ensuring that my audience understands exactly what happened, when, where, what it looked and smelled like, who said what and how the breeze felt blowing on my skin... I just have a desire for people to understand and experience what I did. And I have a memory like a steel trap. In fact, my girlfriends jokingly (sometimes) defer their storytelling to me. "You do it better, Heather." Or when I jump in and say, "...and then you said (insert inane detail here), remember?" they say, "How do you remember all of this?" or, "You weren't even there - I told you the story once!" This is usually accompanied with a gentle eye roll. The details are important to me! Aren't they to everyone?!

Even though I remember - and am compelled to share - every detail I can, this doesn't make me a good storyteller. There's so much in the timing and delivery that I don't have. Maybe that's why I prefer to capture the story visually, with photography?

The next few SOAR photography exercises that I'll post are on sharpening my storytelling. The first is about defining details. I didn't exactly follow the assignment in its entirety, which by the way, was from back in March. But I still want to share with you what I did. Capturing something important to the subject at their stage in life is what I was able to do. I was supposed to have two subjects, one young and an older one, shoot as low an f-stop as I could and at about 50mm. This forces you to fill your frame. I like this type of work; it reminds me a bit of the macro egg and flower work my mom did with her 35mm camera when I was little.

I was really looking forward to my young subject being Otto, my friend's day-old son, who was born right after the assignment was posted. But life doesn't revolve around SOAR assignments, it turns out. As I was pulling up to the hospital to do the newborn session, running through the poses and settings I planned on using, I learned that he was being airlifted to San Antonio because of some complications with his intestines. Otto's mom, Devon, is one of my oldest friends, so I quickly switched into sister-friend mode, said a prayer for the AirLife team flying to New Braunfels, for baby Otto and for the family, and went upstairs to hug my friend's neck and do what I could to help. Otto spent a few weeks in the hospital in San Antonio, had a necessary surgery, and is doing great today! We have plans to do some 6-month pictures of him, and I'm really looking forward to that!

Instead, for the exercise, I used one of my favorite subjects: my 6-year old. He is fascinated with building things. Legos, Beyblades, these weird Lego people called Hero Factory (seen below). One evening, he was playing on the floor of our living room, lining up his Heros like trophies, or perhaps preparing them for battle. This is a detail of his life right now that I wanted to capture, and not just because of the exercise. So I got down on the floor with him, asked him to tell me about each one and what made them special to him. These are moments and details I'll be able to remember forever now, or as long as I have this picture. I love that this picture has so much warmth in it - it feels like I'm sitting in my living room.

27mm ISO 800 f/2.8 1/6 sec

For my older subject, I chose to do what was suggested and use my husband. He loves cooking and is lucky to have me to cook for (ha). Actually, he's lucky to have parents who gifted him some amazing Shun knives this past Christmas. So I captured this part of him, cutting up a Meyer lemon I grew. If you look closely, you can see the waves in the metal, caused by the folding of the steel during the blade sculpting process. (but maybe not, since the picture size Blogger lets me display isn't very large)

52mm ISO 1000 f/2.8 1/40 sec

I have a couple more posts in the works, so I'll see you again soon!
Thanks for reading.

Love, Heather

Friday, July 15, 2011

Teach Me To Number My Days, Part 1

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12 NIV

These words are what inspired Revive band to write the song, "Blink," that inspired the name of my blog, and inspired me to take a step of faith to do more with my passion for photography. If you haven't listened to the song yet, please scroll down to the bottom of my blog and listen!

I remember driving to work one morning last December, listening to this song for maybe the 20th time, and it was as if my brain was really hearing it for the first time. I was stressed about my short deadline for my SOAR application video, and I didn't have a firm plan for how it would go. I had my two kiddos in the car, taking them to day care, so that someone else could raise them for me. After dropping them off, I would go to my office to work for someone else's mission and vision for anywhere between 8 and 10 hours, go home and microwave some dinner, pretend to have quality time with my family, escape my reality by reading fiction, watch The Daily Show, pass out, then rinse and repeat.

As I let the words of the song wash over me that morning, I realized for the first time in a long time how unhappy I was.

Teach me to number my days
And count every moment
Before it slips away
Take in all the colors
Before they fade to gray

I don't want to miss
Even just a second
More of this

It happens in a blink, it happens in a flash
It happens in the time it took to look back
I try to hold on tight, but there's no stopping time
What is it I've done with my life?

It happens in a blink
It happens in a blink

When it's all said and done
No one remembers
How far we have run
The only thing that matters
Is how we have loved

It happens in a blink (x4)

Slow down
Slow down
Before today becomes our yesterday...

I was missing so much! Most of all, missing my children. There is no way to regain the time I've already lost with them. Cameron is 6, going on 10, and Spencer is now 4, but should still be 2. Here's one I took of of them from last fall, at the Markley Family Farm.

Where has the time gone?! And what in the world am I doing in my career? Do I even really have a career, or am I just working? How did I get to where I am right now? Am I happy? I don't know anymore. But I am generally a happy person! I firmly believe in waking up in the morning and choosing your attitude - a good attitude! And invoking grace in the face of others' bad behavior. You know, killing 'em with kindness. Maybe even trying out what my sister suggested, "faking 'til I feel it."

But there were so many things not going right, not feeling right. I've asked myself - is it just that the grass is greener elsewhere? Or is there something better out there for me? Is it worth the risk to find it? My answer was and is absolutely yes, there is something better out there, and yes, it is worth the risk. But how big of a risk? And at what ultimate cost? What is my vision for my life? For my children's lives?

Not really being that big a fan of risk-taking without allowing myself an out, and definitely being an over-achiever, I set out in January to find my happiness and define my new vision while still holding down the fort (full-time job, mom of the year, serving in two ministry teams at my church, being the friend to others that I want and need to have myself, multiple Bible studies and small groups). What I think I've worked myself into is a new shade of crazy, with matching earrings. I'm sure as my friends and family, you've seen several shades of crazy on me, but this one... it's special. You would think I learned after ending up in the hospital last October, not to burn my candle at both ends, but I guess it's hard to break old habits. Anyway, I'm not sure that this crazy is a bad crazy - only time will tell.

And time is what I've been given. Lots of time. Four weeks ago, my father-in-law came to me and gave me the offer of a lifetime (so far, at least): take 6 months off, on him. Enjoy the boys, rest, relax, figure out what my next step is. He told me several things that I'd like to remember.

"Life is both too short and too long to be unhappy. And if you're staying in a job that makes you unhappy because of money, I'd like to help you with that. I'm not a rich man, but I'm a blessed man. You're my family, and we take care of our family. This will be your inheritance anyway one day, and I'd rather be able to see you enjoy it while I'm alive! Figure out what your next step is! If it's photography, and you need a financial backer, you know who to come ask. If you need more time, let me know. Honor me, and accept this."

Would you say no? I didn't. I took that ball and ran it into the end zone, did my happy dance, pointed up to heaven and thanked the Lord for blessing me. Even though I love what I do at work, love working with the vast majority of my 500+ co-workers and LOVE serving my community, I was unhappy at work. Let's just call it personality issues. So, the next week, I turned in my two-weeks' notice with an option for more time to wrap up projects. We agreed to five weeks. I have two weeks left. It is such a bittersweet parting. There are so many people who I've spent the past 6 years and I'll miss living my life with.

But I am very excited to see what is next for me, and to get to spend more time with my awesome children. I'll be keeping Spencer at home with me and walking Cameron to and from school every day. I'll be able to spend time with friends during the day, take a class or two, build my photography business (maybe?), finish projects I've started, start new projects, and find what makes me happy.

I'm not sure that what I'm planning on doing is really slowing down - as the song instructs - but I think it's a step in the right direction.

I plan to write more on learning to number my days, later on, hence the "Part 1" of the title. I plan to post the results of an overdue photography exercise this weekend. Thanks for reading.

Love, Heather

Monday, July 4, 2011

Thinking is an Action, Right?

Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. ~ Henry Ford

I saw this quote recently and it got me thinking (shocker). I must be a really hard worker; I am a constant thinker. I never "check out" or take a break. Even in the middle of the night, I wake up, unable to turn my mind off. If you stand close enough to me during the day, you might be able to smell the smoke and see the heat waves coming off of my brain. Those cranial gears are constantly working, moving, analyzing, formulating. Sometimes, my brain moves so fast that I don't stay on a single thought for more than a fraction of a second. Problem there: sometimes my mouth relays that partial thought and gets me in trouble. And, people tire of my tangental conversations...

But the bigger problem is that I can very easily get wrapped up in my head, and I just think. I don't do as much as I'd like. I want so badly to DO. Don't get me wrong, I get stuff done! But my thinking:doing ratio is maybe off a little.

I didn't have the opportunity to ever meet Mr. Ford, but I'm going to guess that he was a do-er. His success speaks of thought AND action. Perhaps he's right, thinking through things is harder than just acting rashly. But I've found that for me, following through on the thoughts I have is harder than just thinking. There's a lot of excuses I can come up with for not doing, but if I'm perfectly honest, it's because I'm a perfectionist. I want to make sure that what I do meets my personal standards. But I've been doing some thinking lately (...I really crack myself up!), and I'm tired of being crippled by this.

So, I've made the decision to DO. And I've been pretty busy. Here are a few projects I've worked on lately.

Tyler's Senior Portraits - My friend Stacey asked me to do her son's senior portraits in May. He was a fun subject and a good sport! We played around in Gruene a bit and got some good shots.

Scott Family Easter/Spring Portraits - My friends have some cute kids... Don't you think?

Civic Center and City Attorney Portraits for websites

Civic Center Event Coordinator Mary Ann Labowski

Civic Center Manager Mandi Scott

Interim City Attorney Paul Isham

New City Council members sworn in - May 23rd

Council member Bryan Miranda

Council member Steven Digges

Mayor Gayle Pospisil
I love my job. Really, I do. And I love that I've been able to give the City the benefit of my dabbling in photography.

New Braunfels Puppy Playland Doggy Dash - a friend asked me to help her take pictures at this first time fundraiser, benefitting New Braunfels' future off-leash dog park! I was, of course, happy to help. And I made a few new four-legged friends...

The rest of the Doggy Dash pictures are on my SmugMug site.

CommUnity Resale (CIS) Fashion Show - this is such a great event put on by our local resale shop. Kat, the store manager, designs outfits that are "frugally fashionable" for about 20 local kids who have been identified as needing a little something extra. After they get a mini-makeover and model the outfits on a runway for their adoring fans, the kids get to keep the outfits! I got some really great pictures of the kids, but I did not get model releases signed (CIS did, and can use the pics that I've given them). So instead, here's a couple of pictures of the two great women who made it happen, Kat and Amanda!

*Note: I wrote this months ago! Reason for not posting? Loading pictures from my office computer through our wireless network, onto my iPad and into a blog post is extremely time consuming. So... And my priorities have been elsewhere... Something else I'd like to share with you is from James 1:22-27. This is a call to action, if I've ever heard one!

Thanks so much for still reading.

Love, Heather