Tag Archives: photography

17 days until Christmas…

It was clear to me this morning at 5:30am what I needed to write about, a new and unexpected Christmas cheer.  Yesterday’s schedule was filled with ‘tinselectomy‘ opportunities and I had an expectation of how each of them would play out.  I was so off base, but it made me understand how I and other people are experiencing a transformation to humble altruism.

Amy had a wonderful idea, to feed the guys in downtown Frisco, the men that are desperately looking for any available work to feed their families.  They stand outside the Exxon, rain or shine, and I know that because it was raining yesterday.  Amy posted this lunch idea on Facebook last week.  Nancy saw it, and loved the idea so much, she planned to do this.  It ended up that all three of us got together and prepared 30 lunches to take to these guys.

Our everyday beaten paths lead us down Main street regularly, enough to know that we would have enough lunches, but not enough to know if these guys would be outside in the very cold rain.   As we approached, they were there, all of them, scanning the passing cars with a hopeful look that someone would have a paid task for them.  As I drove into the parking lot, I didn’t even come to a stop before there were at least 12 men swarming around the car.  We had to wait for them to step away from the doors so we could get out to give them the lunch bags we had prepared.

As we passed out the lunch sacks, all of them were very polite and said “gracias”, Amy and I responded with “de nada”, one of the ten Spanish words we know.  Then Nancy starts having a conversation with them in Spanish.  Who knew?  Oh, she is SO going to Casa Hogar Elim soon!  Nancy was asking if they had any friends that were out on jobs or if anyone was inside, because we would leave lunches for them.  They were so happy to get the lunches and so polite, we had to persuade them to take extras or take some for their friends.  Most of them were well into their sandwiches before we drove out of the parking lot.

As it turns out, we had 5 lunch bags left over.  We drove over to the laundromat to see if there were any people over there that needed lunch.  We gave away a couple more, and as we walking out the door, we ran into another lady.  Nancy asked her if she would like a lunch.  She asked “¿Cuánto dinero?”  Of course, Nancy said it was free and explained what we were doing.  The conversation slowly transitioned from Spanish to English.  We only spoke with her briefly, but we got a chance to talk about church.  She is another one of those people I would have loved to have sat down and talked with.  I think at some point I’m going to go to the laundromat and do my laundry so I will have that opportunity.

Another Facebook thing, Jody (not me), who posted on the PTCC wall that she wanted to donate her hair to Pantene, a place making free wigs for women going through cancer treatments, got her hair cut yesterday.  Since I had done Locks of Love a while back, I wanted to go with her for support.  She was looking for other people to do this with her, and I would do this again, but my hair will have to grow for a long time before I have enough.  I was there while she got her hair cut.  She had the same look on her face that I did.  the ‘oh, crap, I’m really doing this’ look, with the undertone of ‘this is a great cause and so worth it’ look.  This is such an awesome thing to do.  If you’re interested in donating your hair, I will come support you too!  Steve Hodges is our resident expert on hair donation if you need someone to do it.

Finally, I had a photo shoot in downtown Dallas last night.  My expectation?  It’s downtown Dallas and surely I will run into some impoverished or homeless people.  I went down there with some envelopes with money in them, inside the envelopes, a message that God loves them.  I typically don’t like to give cash, because if they do have a drug problem or something like that, I don’t want to enable them.  I realized I have changed my view on that a little bit.  Even though I still believe the statement I just made, I also don’t want to be judgmental.  The cash might help someone get a much needed meal or get them closer to a shelter.  It’s been on my heart to start a program in Dallas, much like the Chicago Shares program, a voucher-based way to give, redeemable only for food and toiletries.

As it turns out, we ran into no impoverished or homeless people, but it did turn out to be a fun evening of photography and hanging out with some of my crazy friends.  If you think this picture is weird, then you probably don’t want to join our photography group.  If you like it, we do go out and play with our cameras on a regular basis.

My reality?  I was somewhat disappointed that I didn’t run into anyone I could help.  The disappointment was based on the knowledge that there are so many people that need help and I had a way to help, but no opportunity to do so.

The unexpected Christmas cheer, or we’ll call it another piece of the Christmas spirit, is encouragement.  I feel like God is leading me to get outside myself.  That’s not the easiest thing for me to do, or for anyone to do.  Well, maybe Mama Lupita, and we can all learn a lot from her.  I could blog all day long about this, but I have to go to work.  I do have one closing thought.  As I was walking home from taking my kids to school this morning, in the 24 degrees of bitter cold, I couldn’t help but think of all the homeless people that are out in this awful cold, all the people I didn’t run into last night.  I can’t even comprehend not having a warm house to go to or not having any other options than to be out in the piercing arctic cold.  I take my house for granted, but I walked into it this morning with a whole new appreciation.  How do I find these people in need and how can I help them?  I hope to answer that within my 25 days of Christmas blogging.


20 days until Christmas…

I have to say, committing to write everyday until Christmas is taking a lot of time and energy, but I’m enjoying it. This blogging idea started out as a fun way to share my funny photo finds of crazy Christmas yard decor, but turned into more than that, I wanted to document the process of what an upside-down Christmas looks like for me and my family.  These blogs are a bit more wordy than I had anticipated, but it they do tell the story, and in great detail.

The idea to write everyday was inspired by several people.  Hank Stuever, for the way he can write about something controversial, yet word it to not be offensive, while painting a picture of the truth.  The book Tinsel really has to make a person evaluate how they do Christmas.  My assesment?  If this book doesn’t give you some food for thought, then you need to find something that does.  Allison Harrell, for her amazing writing skills.  I will never type as fast as her (she has a letter jacket for typing), but I want to enhance my communication skills.  Writing is not an easy thing for me like it is for her, or easy like photography, graphic design or altered art, but I do enjoy it with a sick kind of love / hate relationship.  Another person is Jackson Robinson.  He has committed to doing a painting everyday and he blogs it.  These tiny masterpieces are painted by him every morning and look like they should be hanging in a gallery.  Unbelieveable detail!  And Robert Leahey, who took on a challenge to write a novel in one month, and successfully accomplished his mission.

Words are my friend.  I feel better after journaling pages of handwritten words, I love doing typography art and my opinionated side loves to share my views with words.  Even with all of those positive word attributes, words are also my enemy.  I struggle to find them, I have a difficult time articulating them and my brain thinks in pictures, not words.

Turning Christmas upside-down has been a wonderful experience so far, but it came with some unexpected returns, deep feelings and a better understanding of my life and the way I live it.  An experience of which I hope to put into words.  Besides taking the money I would have spent on gifts for people and giving it to great causes, I still want to give something meaningful to my family and friends for Christmas.  Something that is an expression of how I feel about them and something that inspires their creativity.  I came up with the perfect thing, but I’m still in the creation process.  It’s my little Christmas secret.  I guess you’ll have to keep coming back and reading to find out what it is, or wait until you get one.

I guess I must really love words because I’m a book junkie.  I have five bookcases in my house filled with books, an no, I didn’t pay full price for any of them.  Over the years I have made several trips to Gladewater and there’s a small mom and pop type bookstore I’ve always wanted to visit.  Most of the time I was there on Sunday and the bookstore was closed.  Friday, it was open.  I like buying books that have had previous owners, not only to save money, but for the chance of finding a book with a personal note in it, handwritten sentiments to someone I don’t even know.  It’s like getting two stories in one, the story in the book and the found mysterious story.  I love creating the rest of their story and incorporating it into my own.

As I was shopping in there for gifts for some of my close friends, I realized the books didn’t have any prices on them.  I brought a stack to the front and asked where I could find the prices.  The man at the counter said, “I’ll look them up, tell you the prices, then you can argue with me.”  I immediately took a liking to him.  I shopped a little longer, taking in the pleasing scent of old books, then finally made my way to the counter to argue with Pete.  Pete and I talked for a long time about books, photography, art, Bible translations and people.  I was telling him I could never work there because I would want to take everything home.  He said I was too interesting to work there.  That made me smile, as I like the word interesting more than quirky or weird.

Toward the end of our conversation, Pete was looking up a few books for me.  I asked, “What did we ever do before Wikipedia and Google?”  He replied, “We argued.”  Now I’m really liking this guy.  Pete, being of a slightly older generation than myself, and from what I could tell, progressively embracing the electronics age, I had to ask.  “So, are you on Facebook?”  Unfortunately he is not there… yet.  He’s about to purchase a new digital camera and wanted some tips so I gave him my email address.  He said, “I’m going to contact you and ask you camera questions.  I guess you could just ignore my emails if you don’t want me bugging you.”  I replied, “Nah, you’re too interesting to ignore.”

I gathered my new-old books, and headed for the car.  Pete told me about an abandoned church right up the road, so of course, I had to stop there before heading home to Frisco.  Words… books… what does any of this have to do with deep feelings and understanding life?  I’ll tell you.

Shopping, or as I prefer to call it, treasure hunting for meaningful books made me think a lot more about the relationships in my life.  Not just my friends and family, but in a deeper sense, people that are close to me, people that are acquaintances and people that I don’t even know.  I’m not one of those crying, emotional types, as a matter of fact, I missed that line when God was passing out those genes.  My face leaks about once a year, just to clean out the cobwebs in my tear ducts.  I don’t express emotion through tears, I do it through art.  Words are an art form, one I am learning, just like learning to have more meaningful relationships in my life.  I have a deeper appreciation of the people I know, an admiration of their uniqueness and an understanding of what an important role that plays in all of our lives.

I don’t know if it was the death of my cousin or searching for meaningful gifts, or maybe it’s just the loneliness of the holiday season, but I have experienced some life change.  It’s a feeling I have never felt before and one that I cannot put into words.  I have a desire to live differently.  This isn’t a passing thing, I have acted on it and am reordering my life around it.

The icons of Christmas that started this writing adventure are not the plastic Santa statues or the many strands of mismatched colored lights.  The icons of Christmas are people, from the impoverished guy on the street corner with his ‘need help’ sign to my closest family and friends.  The most important Christmas icon of all is Jesus, and I don’t mean the plastic one.  The eight pound, six ounce baby Jesus that was born on December 25th.

Words to sum this up?  If you are planning on turning Christmas upside-down, you better put on your seatbelt.  It will turn your life upside-down.


22 days until Christmas…

God is awesome!  He arranged some ‘bonus’ family time.  I usually don’t have my boys on Thursdays, but he knew we needed some crazy, fun, out of the ordinary time together.  We ditched homework, house work and everything else we didn’t really want to do.

We went to the hospital to see a friend’s new baby, then to the store to buy candy for our Christmas boo bags.  (Christmas boo bags will be explained in a future post)  We also bought some hot chocolate and lots of marshmallows, now prepared to start our new family tradition… Santa shooting.  Again (from yesterday’s post), this is not with a gun, it’s with a camera.  We picked up a couple of the boys friends and took off in the car to look for quirky Christmas yard art and photograph it.  Oh, and we had our hot chocolate, each cup with enough marshmallows for six cups.

People in west Frisco don’t seem to enjoy the hazy plastic people yard art, unless it’s in the form of a nativity scene.  The west ‘Friskies’, as Hank Stuever calls them, are on the conservative side with yard decor, that is, everything with the exception of lights.  There were basically three types of lights.  First, the ‘hired’ lights.  These people spared no expense in purchasing lights and they were clearly hung by professional elves.

Second, the ‘I have lights on my house because it’s a Christmas expectation’.  These lights are sometimes required by the HOA, but probably more often a husband putting up the three strands of lights in an awkward manner to check it off his honey-do list.

Third, the ‘bountiful jumble’.  These houses have as many strands of lights as they can possibly place on the outside electrical system without blowing a fuse.  These random sets of non-matching lights have strands added every year.  Half of the yard is traditional lights, the new strands are the bright LED’s.  Basically, they have replicated the WalMart sample light display into their yard.  After these people put their lights up, they most likely look up and down the street to be sure they have clearly won the “I have the most lights” contest.

Although I was disappointed not to see yards filled with Christmas weirdness, I can always find a photo opportunity.  This one was light painting.  Instead of trying to explain this, I’ll just post the photos.

The kids got to play, we learned some new photography skills, but most importantly, we all had some great family and friend fun time.  Living differently, a tinselectomy of sorts.  More tomorrow…


25 days until Christmas…

Only 24 more shopping days until Christmas!  Oh wait, maybe they’re actually going to open stores on Christmas now.  I feel awful for the retail workers.  Not only is this a crazy time of year for them, but they didn’t even get to enjoy Thanksgiving.  I know this, because I worked in retail for several years.  Doorbusters have been around for many years now, but as everything we do at Christmas, it has reached the point of ridiculousness.  If we can’t open earlier than the store down the street, than we’ll open the day before… Thanksgiving.

Let me just say I am all about getting a good deal.  Why can’t these stores just all give good prices and run some regular sales instead of creating mass chaos?  The stores are controlling people.  The stores decide when we shop, how we shop and what we buy.  And if Black Friday isn’t enough, we now have Cyber Monday.  UPS, get ready.

My 24 days left will be spent avoiding stores.  The few gifts I am buying were purchased at a local discount, hole-in-the-wall store.  Yes, they do still exist, but they aren’t easy to find.  I also made my one online purchase, the one gift my kids are getting besides their passports this year.  The gift was $19.95.  The rest of the money we would spend on Christmas?   It’s going to Casa Hogar Elim in Mexico, to the Sons of Lwala in Kenya and to some local compassion ministries in Frisco, Texas.  Have a tinselectomy!  I did.

Elizabeth and I found a new form of holiday entertainment, well, probably more like a hobby.  We went Santa shooting last weekend.  No, not with a gun silly, a camera.  We will be doing this throughout the ‘season’ and will share some photos with you!

This is our first find, and quite honestly, the most funny and somewhat disturbing.  I like to call ‘The Symmetrical Hazy Plastic People Nativity Scene with Flying Peanuts’.  Yes, because inflatables aren’t weird enough just sitting on the ground, let’s bungee it across the walkway so Charlie Brown and Snoopy can hoover over baby Jesus and hit people in the head if they come visit us.

If this is your house, and you’re reading my blog, just know that I also do some weird Christmas things, so don’t be offended.  We’re just having a little fun.  I use flamingos in my yard and I have a full size mannequin named Darla.

More Christmas fun tomorrow…


the storm

There were some really nice thunderstorms rolling into Nuevo
Laredo.  Yep, you guessed it, I had
to break out the camera.  I got
some great lightening shots.  God
put on an amazing show!

 

I had a few people ask, “How do you do that?”  It’s simple, really.  Place your camera on a tripod, place
the shutter in ‘bulb’ mode and be prepared to take a lot of photos.  You have to take into consideration the
light pollution that is in your area.
A one to two minute exposure is all I could do.  Then, just wait for God to shoot a lightening
bolt for you.  J

 

So to get the three photos below, I had to take about 20-25
photos.  The storms were pretty
active so I didn’t have to wait long.


light painting with the kids

I love it when I can share art with kids!  I am in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico at Casa Hogar Elim orphanage.  Last time I was here, we did photography light painting with the kids.  This time, I brought lots of flashlights for the kids to use, and with a supply of color gels to color the flashlights.

Not familiar with light painting?  Simple, and yet most cool process.  If you have an SLR, place it on a tripod and set the shutter on ‘bulb’.  Hold the shutter button down and have people ‘paint’ with the flashlights.  Anything that has light on it will show up in your photo.

The kids down here love to light paint.  When we break out the camera and flashlights, they know exactly what we’re doing.  They get so excited and like to see the photos right after we take them.  With that being said, I have to hold on tight to the camera because the stampede of children will come after every photo.  The excitement on their faces is awesome and it’s wonderful to watch them come up with creative ideas for the next shot.

Enough words.
Photos below.  J



clean

cleanThis is a light painted photograph that was part of my series called ‘excessable’. 


smokin’

smokin’This is a light painted photograph that was part of my series called ‘excessable’.  


%d bloggers like this: