Tag Archives: photography

a new set of paint brushes…

My light painting endeavors have stepped up a notch.  I made a new set of paint brushes.  No, I didn’t pull out chunks of my hair and attach it to wooden sticks, I’m talking about light painting brushes.  Never heard of light painting?  Here’s how it works…

If you have an SLR (digital or film), place it on a tripod and set the camera on manual.  Set the aperture on F8 (works well for most simple light painting, although you might have to adjust) and the shutter on the ‘bulb’ setting.  If you can get a cable release for you camera, most of them have a lock feature that will keep the shutter open until you close it, that way you don’t need to be at the camera holding the button down the whole time.  Hold the shutter button down and have people ‘paint’ with the flashlights.  Oh, and this process must be done in the dark or in extreme low light.  Anything that has light on it will show up in your photo.

Now that you have the details on the camera end, let me tell you about the art tools.  Your flashlights are your brushes and color gels are your paint.  You can do this without the color gels, but I like using them, well, because I love color.  This photo is of my new set.  I had a set of color gels leftover from my pre-photoshop days.  These are the same as theater light gels.  Cokin makes the photography set and a company called Roscolux makes some as well.  For the new flashlights, which I made to take down to Casa Hogar Elim for the kids to play with, I used duct tape to attach the gels and color coded them with the duct tape.

The black cards on the left have a set of colors I made from gels and photo mat boards.  They have velcro on the back so I can attach them to a flashlight easily.  And no, you don’t have to get that fancy with it.  You can just hold a gel over the light.  Simple.  I do a lot of this so I have an entire suitcase of flashlights, from pen lights all the way up to my Cyclops.

Cyclops is a very large flashlight… 15 million candlepower.  The light bulb in it is a car headlamp, if that gives you a reference point.  I have some color gels that fit over Cyclops.  This ‘brush’ comes in handy for light painting buildings or any really large spaces.  Cyclops is rechargeable and cost about $40 at Costco.  You can also get some nice 1-2 million candlepower lights at any retail store.

Some other types of lights that work well are pen lights for drawing, LED lights are good, but make sure to get the very bright ones.  I prefer the warm light color of the incandescent type bulbs versus the new LED’s.  Not as energy efficient, but if you’re picky about the warm tones…

Okay, let me show you some examples of light painting.  I did a series for an art gallery showing a while back.  The show was called ‘excessable’.  It was photos of how we have so much excess in our culture and the entire series was light painted.

These were all painted with several different types of flashlights, each exposure lasting anywhere between 3 and 10 minutes.

Here’s a photo from light painting with the kids at Casa Hogar.
You can also do light painting using black and white.  This is from a film camera, my Nikon 6006 with Illford B&W film.  You can also get the ghost images with the light painting by painting a person or object, then moving it and painting the space where it was.

This is one of those art things you have to experiment with a lot to get a feel for what your final images will look like.  It is a lot of fun though!


the book is DONE!

Here’s a preview…


Christmas -4 days.

Christmas is done for the year.  We took our tree down, hauled it up to the attic and all the evidence of Christmas is gone, as if it never happened.  We each left an ornament out to remember the changes we want to make this Christmas and throughout the next year, but in our house, that’s not really out of the ordinary.

What is out of the ordinary?  Choosing to help others and live differently in a way that changes life as we know it.  My kids really didn’t seem all that bothered by the lack of gifts they got from me.   They still received the mandatory 27+ gifts from my mother, gifts they will never give a second thought to once they are put away.  They were both on board with the plan of donating money to their favorite charities, but I just wasn’t so sure come Christmas, they would still feel that way.  I was pleasantly surprised.  Christmas evening, after the kids came home, we rented a few movies and enjoyed some time together.  After all, I had not seen them for almost a week.

Yesterday we ventured into the stores, only for the purpose of grocery shopping and finding a small rug for my closet floor.  No store was exempt from the typical long return lines and post-holiday sale events.  Seriously, I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

I decided yesterday to clean out my closet and get rid of the mountain of unused linens.  Why do I feel the need to hang on to stuff that I will never use again?  I made the compulsory closet purge, filled up the Infiniti sleigh and headed for the thrift store.

After unloading our surplus of worldly possessions, we went treasure hunting.  No, not shopping, treasure hunting.  Shopping is buying overpriced new ‘goods’ at large chain stores.  Treasure hunting is finding something special, previously owned by someone else at a price that doesn’t break the bank.  My kids quickly made their way to the toy section, disappointed that it was mostly baby toys.  I headed for the crowded book area, my kids not far behind.

I found a Man Ray photography book for 50 cents, which in the bookstore, was probably closer to $50.  Man Ray is one of my photography inspirations, mostly for photograms.  My photogram ‘Coffee Addict’ is one of my favorites… not that I have coffee issues or anything like that.

Cole found a Star Wars picture book, which he kept directly in front of his face in the entire time we were there, miraculously not walking into anyone or anything.

As we were making our way toward the front of the store, I stopped to see if there were any jeans or sweatshirts for the boys.  I guess everyone has been doing their Christmas purge, as the racks had three times the amount they usually do.  I found this t-shirt that pretty much sums up what society is teaching our kids.  “WARNING: allergic to lame gifts.”  I wanted to buy the shirt just so I could destroy it and take it out of the clothing circulation.  I would have saved the small candy cane skull icon though, as it seems appropriate to use as a symbol of our cultural Christmas consumerism.

As we neared the front of the store, Joe didn’t seem to bothered that he didn’t find anything.  That is, until he turned the corner to find a kid-sized guitar, complete with stand and strings.  His little face lit up and I knew that guitar would be coming home with us before he even asked.  I don’t know much about musical instruments, but just the stand alone probably would have cost $19.99, which was the price for both.

We stood in the very short line at the checkout, quickly making it to the register.  The lady at the counter was very nice, talking to all three of us as we were paying for our purchases.  The last item rung up was Joe’s guitar.  The lady asked who it was for and I pointed to Joe.  I explained to her that he has been wanting to learn how to play, but the full size guitar I bought a while back, still has no strings and was really too big for him.  She told me, with a very sad face, that this guitar belonged to her son… her son that had passed away six years ago, and she finally had the courage to part with some of his things.  I promised her that it was going to a home where it would be appreciated and loved.

As we were leaving the store, Joe asked me if the guitar belonged to another kid, as he overheard part of our conversation.  A little uncomfortable with his completely appropriate question, I tried to shuffle him out of the store so I could explain about the previous owner.  The lady heard him and said, “It belonged to my son and he’s in heaven now.”  What does anyone say to that?  There are no words that could have lessened her pain or brought him back.

As we climbed in the car, there was grief-stricken silence.  A silence broken only by discussion of the young boy that we never knew, yet felt so attached to at that moment.  Both kids had many questions about the boy, “How did he die?  Are you sure he really died?  How old was he?  What happened to him?  Why did his mom still have his guitar?”  They were asking questions I would never have answers to, and questions I’m not sure they thought would be answered.  I had the same questions in my head, but speechlessly saying a small prayer that the lady would have some peace around her son’s death, a situation where I cannot comprehend a peace could possibility exist.

We tend to surround ourselves with things we like, stuff that entertains us or makes us happy.  Material things are not evil, that is, unless we order our lives around them instead of people and relationships.  I don’t see a problem with a bound portfolio for artistic inspiration, a book for imagination and fantasy or a guitar to learn self-expression through music.  Inanimate objects are visual triggers for remembrance, things that pull memories from deep within our minds, surfacing them as current thoughts for enjoyment, reflection and sometimes necessary action.

Are all of my non-essential possessions useful or meaningful?  Not entirely, but I can honestly say that most of them have some meaning or story behind them.  I don’t do new year resolutions, but I will challenge myself to be more aware of my attachment to belongings.  I guess belongings is a good word for this, as it is broken down to ‘be longing’.


2 days until Christmas…

There’s not much time left until Christmas.  It will go by very quickly though.  Looking at the Facebook news feed, I get the distinct feeling people are ready for this to be over.  People are either extremely tired or they are frantically shopping.  Well, maybe they’re just tired of shopping.

It reminds me of what it’s like to take a road trip, the busyness of preparing for the trip, running around making sure you didn’t forget anything.  Is everything packed?  Did I give the key to the neighbor?  Are all of the important items checked off my to do list?  (it’s not even possible to complete all of them)  Should I check my email one more time?  Is the iron off?  Oh yeah, I don’t have an iron.  Okay, I think it’s time to get in the car.

Pulling out of the driveway, I’m going over the mental list in high speed, before I’ve driven too far to go back and get whatever it is I’ve forgotten.  Once I’m on the road for a little while, this restful peace sets in.  Ah, the blissful haven between life’s pandemonium and the inescapable reality of a final destination.

As I dream of the adventures, the gentle rocking motion of the Infiniti sleigh is soothing to me and I’m trying to adjust the volume of the radio.  Turn, turn, turn… to no avail.  Eventually I’ll replace the shocks and get the volume knob fixed… or maybe not.  The sleigh has character and it makes me smile.  Not because it’s been paid off for 8 years, because it’s my happy place.  The sleigh takes me to wonderful places and the unexplored universe of reckless abandon, a place once called home to someone.

I will be in the car for many hours.  I have my journal and camera ready for action.  What great adventures will I find?  On a trip to Austin with Amy and my boys a few months ago, whenever we saw something interesting, we wrote down the exit number, then stopped at all of them on the way back home.  The trip home took 3 times longer and was 100 times more fun.  What did we see?

I think back to the many road trips I have taken over the past several years.  The tiring anticipation of an arrival.  Will it be the ‘getaway’ I expected and needed?  As I wonder if it was worth going at all, the moment finally comes.  Arrival.

I’m here, the red push pin and the pulsing blue dot have finally come together.  For a brief moment, the purple cloud of excitement is overwhelming.  As quickly as it came, the cloud dissipates and reality sets it.   My chaotic life has just moved to a new location.  Plug in the computer, check email, unpack and get out the time-away to do list.  Did I turn off the iron?  No, because I don’t have one.  Maybe I should get one so I can check to see if it’s turned off.

Why does a road trip remind me of Christmas?  People are scurrying around trying to accomplish all of the last minute details to create their perfect Christmas experience.  What did they forget?  Before they know it, Christmas day is here.  Did they find any moments of tranquility or fulfillment?  Did they find their happy place?

I knew Christmas was coming and at some point, I did find a place of contentment and joy.  Now it’s so close, I’m apprehensive and too busy to enjoy it.  What will Christmas day bring?  Happiness?  Loneliness?  Joy?  Sadness?  I don’t know the answer to that question.

I have learned something about Christmas this year though, it’s about the journey, not the destination.  The fantasies and lofty expectations of Christmas are an unavoidable let down.  I plan to enjoy the journey when I can and embrace the Christmas chaos when I have to.  I will not get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, as it creates a false sense of pleasure, and in end producing a massive plunge into a materialistic despair.

I love the true meaning of Christmas and I hope to experience the joy of the day, but honestly?  I’m ready for it to be over.


4 days until Christmas…

A friend of mine had a very interesting question for me yesterday.  He asked, “Would you still be blogging everyday if you were married?”  My reaction at that moment was yes, probably, but the process might look a little different.  I might just be blogging random stories, and would not have made the 25 day Christmas commitment.  I walked away and didn’t think much about it.

Yesterday was busy, at work in the morning, then a photo shoot scheduled for the afternoon and more work in the evening.  My Sunday afternoon photo shoots usually consist of driving to small towns and looking for abandoned houses with a group of people.  Yesterday, I photographed a band called Moving Colors.  They rock the house everywhere they play and I really enjoyed doing the shoot.  We did some silhouettes behind the big screen, what a blast!

After I left the shoot, I had to run to the bookstore to find some Luke 2 images for a video.  As I was on my way there, having a small amount of time for personal reflection, I couldn’t help thinking about the question again.  Why did he ask that?  Curiosity got the best of me, I had to email him and find out.  I typed it at a stoplight, not while driving… just for the record.

I went to dinner with a friend, one whom needed a break as badly as I did, and had some nice ‘down time’.  Through the course of our conversation, it was apparent to me that nobody gets enough personal time or down time, especially during the Christmas season.  I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but certainly there has to be some holiday balance.  Where?  I have no idea.

I’m intrigued by the name Moving Colors.  I forgot to ask how they came up with the name.  As I look at it, it’s very descriptive of the way I see things in my world.  Life moves so quickly, it sometimes looks like a blur of colors in a time-lapse video.  The name is obviously based on their incredible talent and I’m quite sure, has nothing to do with a fast paced life.

I received a reply to my email, “…when you are married one tends to process life issues out loud with their spouse.  Since you don’t have one right now you seem to be processing life in your blogs.”  I had never really thought about it that way.  Hmm.  More food for thought.

Trying to live this Christmas more outside myself has been an extraordinary experience.  Spending time doing things for others, not for myself, is just an awe-inspiring way to spend time.  I plan to do this well into next year, not stopping after the Christmas season.  As Jim Johnson said in his message yesterday about living upside-down, we tend to forget the changes we have made to live differently and go back to the same daily grind.  Next year at this time, we’ll start the whole process over again.  Jim suggested we leave a Christmas item out of storage this year to remind us of our promised change.  Being the weird artist type that I am, I already do that, so I’ll have to choose something different that my usual Christmas lights.  Maybe an ornament.  One for me and one for each of my kids.

To answer the blogging question, honestly, I really don’t know what would be different.  I don’t really have a definite answer.  I might be blogging, I might not.  Blogging might be a substitute for adult conversation and relationships.  It might be a daily cure for loneliness.  It might be just for fun.  It might be my down time.  It might be a place for me to express my humorous and complex viewpoints on life.  Whatever it is, God is involved in it.  Maybe I don’t need to leave anything out of the Christmas box.  My blog might be the thing I need to remember the changes I have made.  I suppose I should read my blog every so often throughout the year so the tinselectomy changes don’t fade away.


7 days until Christmas…

I was sad yesterday afternoon as I watched the large group of people leaving for Mexico.  I so very much wanted to go with them.  They are bringing Christmas gifts to the children at Casa Hogar Elim, an annual thing started last year by Jeff Harrell.  We collect shoe boxes, fill them up with small age-appropriate toys and sugar-free candy, then wrap them up.  Now these gifts aren’t just for a boy, age 6, or a girl, age 10, there’s a package for each individual child with their name on it.  We can’t put bows on these boxes, as they would be crushed under the weight of all the supplies in the cars and vans.

There are so many people from our church that want to go to Casa Hogar, they don’t even need to advertise the trips.  If you’ve been there, you’re a walking billboard for CHE.  The Thanksgiving trip even had a waiting list this year.  The ‘regulars’ have gone so many times, they can’t even tell you how many trips they’ve made.  We love these kids, and for those of us whom visit often, these kids are our extended family.

You know the old saying, ‘you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family?’    I beg to differ.  I was thinking last night about family and friends, and all of the funny ways God placed them in my life.  God clearly has a sense of humor!

I moved into my house three years ago, although my kids didn’t start attending the local school until two years ago.  We live at the end of the street, walking distance from the elementary school.  I noticed a house that had some fun yard decor, more specifically, ‘little skeleton girl’.  She was out for Halloween, dressed in her hippie costume, but she stayed out for other holidays.  What!?  Could this be?  Could I really have a soul sister on my street?

I was intrigued.  Why did I think this was my soul sister?  I have a full size mannequin named Darla.  You can learn more about her on Facebook at facebook.com/luvplasticpeople.  Anyway, I wanted to meet little skeleton girl’s mom.  I did, and her name is Patty.

Patty loves to volunteer her time for great causes, so we cross paths quite a bit, not only walking down the street, but many other places.  Patty was at Victoria Gardens with me when I met Flo, the ghost of Christmas future.  I can’t wait to go to Casa Hogar with Patty!  I live in a great neighborhood, as it’s filled with fun, caring people like Patty.

As I said in yesterday’s post, I was an only child until my teen years.  I really don’t remember ever bugging my parents about wanting a baby brother or sister.  I don’t know if that’s because I didn’t want one or because I knew it was a horrible idea for my parents to have anymore children.  I guess God knew I needed some siblings, but decided to bring them in under different circumstances.  At the age of 14, I got a step brother, two step sisters, and soon after, a half brother.

The funny thing about this is my sister Jo.  We are not blood related at all, yet we are just alike.  Our beliefs, our personalities, our creativity… and the list goes on.  The more perplexing thing here is our kids.  My son Joe and her son Isaac, again, no genetic relation, not only look alike, but act alike.  Jo lives in Wisconsin, so we don’t get to see each other too often.  We were on vacation in Florida several years ago, Joe and Isaac both ‘sitting’ on their heads on the sofa watching TV.  Jo says, “Look, Isaac taught Joe to do that.”  I replied, “What?  Joe’s been doing that for months.”  Both kids had been doing this separately for months.  And just for the record, they look alike right-side up too.

This next one isn’t as much humor funny as it is implausible funny.  Let me just start by saying it’s an extremely rare occasion when I can find anything good to say about my ex-husband.  The aftermath of an interaction with him frequently results in misery and relational mass destruction.

Dawn and Genna live near Kansas City, so we don’t get to see them very often.  Genna is my step-daughter and Dawn is her mother.  The boys and I took our family vacation up there this past summer and we had a blast!  Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  You probably think it’s odd that we’re friends, so this next statement will really throw you.  We consider ourselves family.  Yes, family.  You may not be able to choose your genetic family, but through love and friendship, you do choose your ‘preferred’ family.  One of the definitions of family is “a group of people who are generally not blood relations but who share common attitudes, interests, or goals…”   Yes, that’s us.  I’ve realized one thing this Christmas, one very big positive thing to say about the boys dad.  Without him, I would not have my boys, nor would I have Dawn and Genna.  As you can tell by the photo, they are obviously ‘related’, as they are a bunch of little camera junkies!  Genna is a very talented photographer and is doing an internship right now.  The boys like to make funny YouTube videos, a couple that have gone small-time viral.

God has brought many other people into my life in unexpected ways, from church and Facebook to a lady at church who accidentally door dinged my beat-up car.  I’ll take 100 of those kind of door dings!  Oh, wait, I have 100 door dings, but only one has a great story behind it.

So what does all of this have to do with Christmas?  This is the time of year when many people experience strong feelings of loneliness, seemingly endless despair and high levels of stress.  I’m no different, but as these feelings arise, I have this faint awareness of hope.  I appreciate my friends and family, realizing I don’t tell them that nearly enough.  I also appreciate you for taking the time to read my 25 days of Christmas blog.  🙂


8 days until Christmas…

I want to talk about ghosts, those scary, shadowy phantoms that haunt all of us.  The dictionary definition of a ghost is a dead person’s soul, imagined as a vague, shadowy figure.  My definition is a bit different.  Now maybe I watched too much Casper when I was young, but I think ghosts are typically friendly and they’re usually trying to teach humans a lesson.  Aren’t ghosts just people spirits in 32% transparent bodies with a 78% vivid light outer glow?   Yeah, okay, I spend too much time with Photoshop.  I do believe ghosts can be dead or alive.  Whether it’s the dead ones that are completely invisible or the live ones that are in plain sight, their presence is known.  Yesterday I visited one ghost, and two ghosts visited me.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

I have to say, I didn’t want to see this ghost anymore than Scrooge did, but I reluctantly, yet intentionally decided to visit him.  This particular ghost is one that I usually don’t go searching for, but I thought it might shed some light on my Christmas beliefs and struggles with our existing Christmas culture.  This particular ghost is a vintage Poloroid camera, as the ghost of Christmas past has presented himself in photographs.  The person behind the camera?  My grandpa.  He passed away many years ago and I miss him terribly.  My grandpa was a shutterbug and also the designated family photographer.

My first exploration took me to a large box in the garage, filled with old photos that belonged to my grandparents.  I enjoy looking at the past, captured through my grandpa’s eyes, on these little black and white squares.  I love visiting this box, but you couldn’t tell that from the amount of dust on it.  I searched though the box, looking for any Christmas photos I could find.  I found Christmas photos of my dad, aunt and cousins.

The second part of the search took me to my own childhood albums.  These albums were meticulously organized by my mother, every photo page referencing my age in years and months.  I can only imagine what these albums would look like had they known scrapbooking back then.  Not only do these albums contain photographs, but every birthday card I ever received as a child.  There must be hundreds of them, and I would venture to say, there are as many cards as photos.  I guess that explains why I don’t like cards.  All those cards are symbolic of how many superficial contacts my parents had, it was the number that meant something, not the depth of the friendships.  Christmas was no different, there were hundreds of cards taped on the wall, creating an oversized map of  numerical acquaintanceships.  It looked to me like the US, and if anyone looked closely enough, I expect they would have seen tiny little cars driving aimlessly all over it, looking for an unknown destination.

I was an only child until the age of 13, and I was the poster child for ‘spoiled brat’.  The photos I found depict the excess of gifts, boxes in such large quantities they spilled out into the room from under the tree.

I remember getting so many gifts, my mom always shuffling me toward the things she liked best, asking me how much I liked this and how much I liked that.  She was buzzing around the gifts, all the while, reminding me how lucky I was to get all this stuff.  As a child, I remember it being fun getting so many presents, but the moment it was over, the emptiness set in.  I saw my friends and neighbors celebrating Christmas and I could tell, even at that young age, that they were experiencing something I wasn’t.  It looked nice, felt warm and seemed surreal, yet I had no idea what ‘it’ was.

The ghost of Christmas past brings a melancholy gloom, but visiting with this ghost gives me hope.  A hope that I might be able to find ‘it’.

The Ghost of Christmas Present

Get it?  Christmas ‘present’?  I crack myself up!  The really funny thing?  This crazy ghost manifested herself in the form of a present, and yes, she led me into the abyss of retail madness.  The human ghost behind the present is Candy.

Remember me telling you a few days ago that I needed to buy one more gift?  Yesterday, I set out to find a pair of mismatched shoes for Candy.  No, you couldn’t pay me enough to go to a mall to shop this time of year, although you could pay me to go there and people watch.

I made my usual discount store rounds, looking for a specific ‘Converse’ style pair of shoes, but in two different colors and patterns.  Now I haven’t been shopping in a long time, but when did all of the shoes turn brown and black?  What happened to all of the fun colors and styles?  Boring!  I received some strange looks as I asked for help, and as I’m guessing, nobody actually goes to the store to purposely purchase a pair of mismatched shoes.

I have to say, I was very excited to find a pair of Sketchers for $16.99.  Yeah!  All I have to do is find another inexpensive pair in the same style, now how hard can that be?  Let me just say that I never intentionally bought a pair of mismatched shoes.  My favorite pair?  One came from Kelly Tuggey, the other from a thrift store.  I really needed to get back to work.  Where should I go to find another pair to stylistically match?

Running out of time to find a deal, I had to settle for a higher priced place.  I finally found a pair of orange Ed Hardy shoes.  Yes Geoff, I paid $49.96 for these puppies!  I know I will never hear the end of this.  That was about half of what they would cost at the mall, but it’s way more than I would ever consider spending for a pair of shoes.  And don’t get me started on the statement part of this!  Ed Hardy… phssshhh.

So what did I learn from this ghost?  I learned that sometimes it’s good to do things you wouldn’t normally do.  The cost, whether financial, emotional or otherwise, is very worth it.  Even though I won’t be there to see Candy open her gift, I know that she will love the shoes.  I’m going to write her a note and have it translated, telling her that she is special and loved not only by me, but everyone.  Yes, Candy is a very special ghost.

The Ghost of Christmas Future

I met the ghost of Christmas future last night and her name is Flo.  She was at the nursing home where our church was hosting a Christmas party for the residents.  This is a photo of Flo talking to one of the kids at the party.  The little girl was asking what her name was and Flo replied, “My name is Flo.  Pretty crappy name, hey?”  She had my full attention now.

Flo and I have the same hair philosophy, wash it, go to bed, and whatever you wake up with is the new style of the day.  Capturing Flo in a photo was a difficult task, as she was working the room at an unbelievably rapid pace.  Her walker, with tennis ball feet, must be jet propelled.

During one of the Christmas songs, she was dancing.  I later told Flo that I captured her dancing on video.  She asked, “Is this the New Year’s party?  You got me dancing?  I don’t remember doing that.  I’m not leaving this party until I see myself on TV.”

Flo is cute and spunky, and in her day, I bet she was a blast to hang out with and had many friends.  Flo disappeared from the party early, I’m assuming to get ready for bed.

A while later, a large group of us went caroling down the halls.  There were four wings, and I so desperately wanted to find Flo again.  Toward the end of the last hall, there it was, Flo’s room.  She and her roommate were sleeping.  I see Flo as the ghost of Christmas future because that will probably be me in 40 years.  We were not allowed to take photos in the rooms, you know, all that HIPPA junk, but when I saw the painting hanging over her bed, it took my breath away.  I had to secretly snap a photo.

In the nursing home filled with small traces of personal artifacts, arranged into the same basic, beige shell, this colorful painting spoke loudly about Flo.  I knew the moment I saw it hanging over Flo’s bed, that she loved color… and loved life.  I so terribly want to know her story, but Flo’s memories have been stolen from her.  Sadly, Alzheimers, or whatever she has, might have taken her memories, but it made me happy that it did not rob her of her wonderful personality.

I told my kids about Flo last night during our prayer time.  Joe prayed for her not to die before he had a chance to meet her.  She might be his ghost as well.

We can all learn from our ghosts, and whether you go seeking them or they come to haunt you.  Don’t be frightened.  Also, don’t ignore them.  Remember these are friendly ghosts, and they want to show you something in your life through their own human experience.  The Christmas spirit?  Yep, it’s a ghost, and I think I’m a little closer to it now.


10 days until Christmas…

Yesterday I was pondering my favorite Bible verse, Romans 12:2.  It’s so applicable to the Christmas consumerism and might just be another clue in finding the Christmas spirit.  Here is the verse in two popular translations.

NIVDon’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

The MessageDon’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

This one short verse floods my mind with vivid images, many of them exist as photo light paintings in a collection I’ve entitled “excessable”.  I was also inspired to paint this abstract rendition of Romans 12:2 earlier this year.

The details on this canvas were painted with cookie cutters and guitar strings.  I always start painting with brushes, but end up painting with my hands and three dimensional objects.  I guess I do that because I like the feel of the paint and the energy that goes into the painting by touching it.  I also like finding objects that produce intriguing impressions, creating a visual adventure on the canvas.  You can often find the ‘hidden’ eye candy in my art pieces if you look long enough.

The cookie cutters symbolize our current culture and represents the expectation placed on us to conform to our society.  The guitar strings could represent the ‘strings attached’ to us, but truth be told, I just love painting with them.  This painting was auctioned off last month to raise money for the Sons of Lwala benefit.

I’m thinking about Romans 12:2 lately because I desperately want Christmas to be different this year.  Does anyone realize that we’ve all been sucked into this vortex of materialism, buying things because we feel we have to, not because we want to?  If it’s the thought that counts, what does this say about how we feel and what we think of people?

The more I take notice of my surroundings, the more I see a contrast of rich and poor.  Also of good and evil.  However, I also see that people are slowly coming over from the dark side, doing random acts of kindness and serving mankind in very creative ways.

We have the ‘tinselectomy’ thing going on at the church and they’ve asked people to blog stories of helping others or stories of something nice that was done for them.  The problem is, this can’t be done anonymously, so most choose not to share their experiences.  They don’t want to be boastful or prideful about it, but we need to find a way to get their stories out there as an inspiration for others.

In talking to people and simply paying attention in my day to day activities, I’m witnessing so many stories!  People are doing wonderful things for their friends and for people they don’t even know.  I’m going to share some of these stories without using names.  There are so many, and I’ve tried to update my journal frequently to record all of them, but I know I’ve missed some.  I’ll just share a few of them.

The most recent story happened yesterday.  My friend called me to see if I needed anything, as I had a sick child at home.  I needed some Sprite and crackers for him, but I did not want to take him out of the house.  She brought everything he needed and also something for me.  All of my neighbor’s, together, picked up my other child from school and brought him home.

This friend that brought the supplies, whom has been out of work for several months, has a job interview in a couple of days.  To understand this situation a little better, her husband has also been unemployed.  She mentioned her coat being in hock at the dry cleaners.  She needed to get it out, but didn’t really have the money to do so.  Another friend overheard this, went to the dry cleaners, picked up her coat and brought it to her.

She didn’t get the coat right away, because she and several others were out serving lunches they had made for the day laborers, the guys standing in the cold, waiting for any paying job they can get their hands on.  These men sometimes don’t eat for a couple of days at a time.  We plan to make this an ongoing ministry once the Christmas season passes.

Knowing these men are standing in the cold, another guy I know, but not very well, bought a bunch of coats to give to homeless or impoverished people.  We have experienced some incredibly cold temperatures and I’m sure those coats are going to be much appreciated.

Many of these men have families they are trying to support.  Our church sponsored a party for the kids last week giving them some toys and an opportunity to talk to Santa.  Another friend, knowing many of these families don’t have cars, not only tried to arrange transportation, but she gave rides to anyone needing it.

I could go on writing stories all day, spanning from friends collecting money to buy a shower chair for a special needs orphan to paying for a person in line behind them at a restaurant.  Although these people have chosen to remain anonymous, their hearts are in the right place.  Are they experiencing the Christmas spirit?

Do you want to participate?  There are plenty of ideas available on the internet, or just try this simple exercise.  Look closely around you, through the lens of kindness and mercy, and you will see things you’ve never seen before.  Your mind will be transformed, as will your heart.

Also, if I peaked your curiosity earlier on the ‘excessable’ collection, here are some of the images.  Not really Christmas related… or are they?


12 days until Christmas…

I’m at the hospital this morning.  My friend Elizabeth is having her final surgery this morning.  E has been battling breast cancer, and is fully expected to beat it.  I’m at Medical City Hospital, and this is one crazy place.  The cute little old man at the information booth sent me to the wrong floor.  After visiting a few restricted areas, I talked to a friend that gave me the correct info.  I found her and got to spend some time with her before her surgery prep.

Last night was the Chateau Cinema showing of It’s a Wonderful Life.  Block parties in my neighborhood are always a blast!  We had to wait for some warmer weather to do this one, so it was a last minute thing.  I borrowed the extra projector from work, yes, the one that says ‘replace bulb’ which always makes me nervous that it will choose to die when I have 20+ people watching it.

I like getting together like this, however organizing events is not my gift.  I have to do things spontaneously, not planned.  Jay has the best plan, just do something and invite people on your Facebook status.  Now that’s my kind of inviting people!  I did print small invites for everyone on the street and the boys and I taped them on every door.

Every neighborhood has a creepy house that everyone avoids and ours is no exception.  The boys were taking turns going from house to house, and we were quickly nearing the dark angel house.  I had every intention of skipping this house and thought if I distract my kids, we could walk past it without them knowing.  As I tried to execute my plan, Cole noticed we were skipping a house, and as he proceeded to the door, he made no secret that he was irritated about me even considering the possibility of excluding someone.

They just rolled E down the hall.  She’s ready for surgery, well, as ready as anyone can be.  We lined up on both sides of the hall and did the sporting event hand slaps as they rolled her toward the restricted area.  We love you E and we’ll see you in a few hours!

Everything was set up in the front yard for the outdoor theater.  Movie screen, check.  Projector and speakers, check.  Patio furniture and fire pit, check.  Inflatable Santa, check.  No, not really, but my next door neighbor has one.  Yes, we’re ready for sunset and an awesome time with friends, drinking hot chocolate and toasting the giant pillow-sized marshmallows I brought back from Mexico.

We started the movie and many people showed up, not only from our street, but from the Facebook invite.  The kids had fun playing while the adults watched the movie.  Toward the end of the movie, the temperature dropped significantly, then the kids came to snuggle with their parents.

The hospital just moved us to the pediatric waiting room, although I’m not sure why.  Maybe because E, like me, is a kid at heart.  Or maybe it’s because all of us, her friends, act like children in the waiting room and they don’t want us disturbing the grown-ups.  Well, either one makes sense.  We’re going to go downstairs and grab a bite to eat before heading to our new location.

The movie ended and everyone helped me do a quick clean up, then they headed home.  I went inside to my warm, cozy house and was immediately overcome with sadness.  I thought about all the homeless people that endure this bitter cold every single night.  I want to help them.  I don’t know what that means yet, but it’s on my heart.  Maybe I need to start the ‘shares‘ program here like they have in Chicago.  Maybe I need to go downtown and experience the homeless situation in my own area, meaning Frisco and Dallas.  This feeling won’t go away, maybe it’s part of that Christmas spirit I’m so desperate to find, although it’s not what I expected.

I’ve had this feeling for a long time, but it’s been getting stronger lately.  I was hoping to cross paths with some homeless or impoverished people on my trip to downtown Dallas last week, and as I said in an earlier blog post, I was ready to help.  I’m glad I didn’t see any of them, as it was very cold that night and I was hoping they all found warm shelters somewhere.  But more than that, I wanted an education that night.  I want to know their stories and how they got there.  This photo is staged, but makes me think this might be a likely scenario one night when we are at home in our suburban palaces.

We just got word via a small scalpel icon on the large FamilyVue plasma screen that they’ve started E’s surgery.  A little impersonal, but it’s good to know what’s going on.  They have a little icon that looks like stitches when they start sewing people up too.  Again, this seems a little odd, but again it’s nice to know what’s happening.  I suppose that keeps people from pacing and wearing out the carpet like they did in the olden days.

I miss doing photo shoots with E.  She and I are the ones that started the ‘photo safari’ group.  We’ve had some great times scoping out small towns, looking for abandoned houses or any other interesteing places we can trespass.  Just for the record, if “keep out” or “no trespassing” is posted, then we don’t go in.  But that doesn’t mean we stay out of trouble.

I keep thinking about these feelings I have, the ones of concern and love.  I’m aware of worrying about my close friend and also thinking about homeless people I don’t even know.  These feelings are very similar, although very different.  I realized today, whether it’s my closest friend or someone I don’t even know, all of these people mean a lot to me.  Life is the greatest gift and we should cherish it.  The Christmas spirit feels closer today.  It really is a wonderful life.


16 days until Christmas…

As we were driving home last, I thought about our house being one of the few without Christmas lights.  I had every intention of putting lights up, but we still haven’t.  I have a few strands of lights on the garage, however it would look like I had a few random strands unless I got really creative with them.  Last year I wanted to use flamingos as reindeer and a lawn chair for a sleigh.  I posted on Facebook that I was looking for flamingos.  Amy Nemeczky bought me a cool ceramic one, and we fondly named him Chris.  Thad also bought me a whole flock of plastic flamingos and two skelemingos.  Since they arrived right before Christmas, I never got a chance to carry out my plan, not that my neighbors would have thought anything out of the ordinary had I created this landscape scenerio after Christmas.  Oh, and the photo of Skelly is him on vacation with me and the boys.  That was a rabbit trail, hey?

I’m also one of the few houses in Frisco with mature trees.  When we had that crazy snow flurry about a week ago, all of the yards were covered with the untouched white snow, all but one, our house.  The enchanted forest in my front yard has a beautiful canopy of trees covering every square inch, protecting my yard from the portrayal of winter.  I did have the trees trimmed, so if we did add lights to the house, you would be able to see a lot of them.

So why haven’t I put lights up?  It just hasn’t been a top priority, or any priority for that matter.  Since starting the 25 days of Christmas blog, yesterday was the first day I had the feeling of being too busy.  My Christmas and work to do lists are long, but all of the items on them are very important.  Shopping is not on the list.  The tiny amount I had to do has been done for weeks.  At least this year busyness is an improved kind over last year.  It’s about helping others, letting our friends and family know that we appreciate them and not participating in the consumerism.

The lights may not be a priority, but carrying on a tradition my boys and I started last year was of great importance.  We did our annual ‘boo’ last night.  Now I know what you’re thinking.  If you live around here, you know that booing someone is a Halloween thing.  If you don’t live around here, Texas has a lot of things that don’t make any sense to people outside of this big star-shaped land mass.  We made our candy boo bags a week ago, finished assembling them last night and attached our mysterious Christmas gift  in a tiny envelope taped to the front.  Nope, I’m not telling you what that is yet.

We made our hot chocolate with more marshmallows than chocolate, loaded up our gear and took off in our very old Infiniti sleigh.  We spent two hours driving all over Frisco until we ran out of bags.  We’ll have to make a lot more of these next year.

I drove the sleigh, pulled up in front of the target house and turned off the lights.  Next, the boys took turns, dropping a bag by the front door, ringing the doorbell and running to the car quickly so we could drive off before being caught.  And those of you with babies, we knocked instead of using the doorbell, as to not wake them.  We aren’t as experienced as Santa, or we would have just come quietly down the chimney.

Now ‘boos’ are supposed to be anonymous, and last year we were, yet somehow people knew who it was.  Go figure.  This year these little bags have some mystery, but ultimately our friends can go online and see what we are up to, because we are always up to something.

This Christmas I am trying to plan things ahead of time and get things done early.  When my ADHD and OCD collide, that usually means that events happen spontaneously, but everything is more than prepared and ready for it.  Sometimes doing things last minute is the motivation I need, so it works for me.  It seems to stress other out to the point that they won’t make eye contact with me, in hopes that I won’t ask them to be involved.  The funny thing about it?  I apparently do this to others, as I did it yesterday in a staff meeting.  Just for the record, it didn’t work, I have to make a bunch of vinyl signs for Christmas Eve.

I suppose what I experienced yesterday is that busyness, no matter if it’s good or bad, takes away from the Christmas spirit.  Is slowing down to experience the joy of the season really possible?

Okay, it’s time to share a few more ‘Santa shoot’ photos.  See if you can recognize the light scenarios.


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