Bridges Burnt

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Have you ever taken stock of your life and laid out all of your bridges? You know, your relationships, goals, dreams and priorities and then set fire to them all? Sadly, I can say that there was a time in my life when I did almost exactly that. I took what should have been a promising future and drowned it in my own self pity. Too often I would look in the mirror and think, this is not who I was suppose to be. This was not how my life was suppose to go. At the age of 24 I would find myself unmarried and pregnant. The birth of my daughter would be a gift that I did not see coming.

An unexpected surprise, her strong-will and stubborn attitude was exactly what this passive, pathetic girl needed. Just keeping up with her was an exercise in tenacity! More than that, she helped me discover that life was so much bigger than my problems. Her all-or-nothing spirit gave me courage and her unconditional love gave me confidence. Over the years her polar opposite personality would continually challenge me and in time I would finally learn, hopefully not too late, that it was not my place to try and contain her and mold her into a mini me, it was my job to protect her, yes, but also to teach her how to love and appreciate the amazing person that she is.

My daughter is an adult now and she still barrels through life at warp speed. She still rolls her eyes at me from time to time and we still disagree more often than not but she has also helped me to see that sometimes I need to listen to my own advice.

I recently read a quote by Plato and at the time I found it harsh and cold but upon closer inspection, maybe I just misunderstood.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Plato

Listen to Your Heart

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I simply adore old barns. I found this little charmer just outside of New Virginia.  I cannot tell you when or how my love affair with these large wooden beauties began, I only know that any time I happen to see one I feel a pull at my heart strings, especially those that are simply rotting where they stand. It’s just sad to watch pieces of history slowly decay. Maybe my struggle is with the reminder that life is short and that time is passing by and I’ve spent way to much of my life observing instead of living.

I also know that barns have been a consistent pull for me when it comes to photography. I enjoy capturing photos in all different settings but nothing steals my heart like coming across a wonderful barn, no matter what condition. I wish I could spend more time, get to know some of the history, touch the withered wood and wonder about the people who built it. However, I am a cautious girl and I’m not in the habit of trespassing so I am limited to day dreaming from afar.

These days I’m following the advice that I have often given to my children but rarely employed in my own life. Listen to the things; the people and places that capture your soul. Whether it’s people who inspire you and make you want to be a better person, work that challenges you and allows you make a difference, or just an old barn that takes your breath away and brings your imagination to life, whatever those may be…seek them out, cherish them. These are your passions. When you focus your energy on those things all of the other silly stuff becomes, well, just silly stuff.

 

Start at the Beginning

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I don’t know who said it or exactly in what context it was said but I’ve heard the best place to start is always at the beginning. So, as I begin to embrace my fears and pursue this dream of photography I thought I would do just that. Instead of posting a new picture that I took today (and I did capture a few today), I went back through my entire library until I found what I wanted.

This picture was taken June 26, 2009, along with about 60 others, while I was home for my class reunion. The idea was to capture some of the places from my past, mainly my childhood. An avid scrapbooker at the time, I had intended to create a layout using the photos. Instead I discovered a strange little twisted road to what would become this crazy passion of mine.

Standing there on that sidewalk I was caught completely off guard by the sudden emotion I felt for that place. This spot, Mayers, is home to some my oldest and best memories. If you were to follow that sidewalk to the stop sign and then proceed down the hill, you would come to a t-intersection. On the far side of that intersection is an empty lot but it use to be one of my favorite childhood homes. I logged a ridiculous amount of miles on my bike in this neighborhood keeping up with my brother and his friends. Only stopping when the street lights came on signaling that it was time to get home. On Fridays, our $5 allowance in hand, we would head downtown to the 5 and Dime for a shake and fries. If we had any money left, Mayers was always a favorite stop on the way home because they had Penny candy.

Strangely enough, I would become reacquainted with this neighborhood many years later when we started attending Faith Assembly of God only a few blocks in the other direction of this shot. And again, when one of my projects for an English assignment would bring me to this very spot to capture almost the exact same picture. I remember then that feeling I got, camera in hand, feeling so connected yet somehow able to tune out everything but what I saw in front of me.

This shot, while an improvement I’m sure over the one I took in high school, is not my best but it will forever be a reminder of how elusive our dreams can be and how precious and short time is and how new beginnings can sometimes mean taking a step back into our past.

 

Mize en Place

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I am not a cook. At least not a very good one. However, in my hope to live more mindfully I’m embracing it. Truth is, I really don’t mind cooking, I just do not have the best luck at it and I really don’t enjoy the cleanup afterwards.

What I do enjoy about it are moments like this one. Cooking is colorful. It awakens the senses and there’s an element of art to it. And art, is something I can get excited about. I recently began watching Worst Cooks in America. Ironic, I know! I absolutely love it because I feel a kindred spirit with many of them. Anyway, my favorite thing that I’ve learned so far is the phrase “mize en place”, pronounced…mi za plas. Being a French term, I love how it rolls off the tongue and I do appreciate how much easier and more enjoyable cooking is for me when I take the time to prepare.

What really speaks to me though, is the definition; putting in place. It’s the work that comes before the work. The planning and prepping. The foundation. Just like cooking, living a life with purpose requires mize en place. As I work to put the pieces in place, as I make it a point to put my camera in my hand every single day and I practice, I’m discovering so much more than just what I see through the lens.

Oh, in case you were wondering…tonight we had boneless chicken breast, baby red potatoes and asparagus all roasted in the same pan with garlic, salt and pepper, butter and lemon juice. Mmmm…it was so good!!

Balance

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As I continue to work out just what I want from this year and this blog I decided tonight I would start at the beginning and work on keeping things simple. This is my visual of the things that I need and matter most to me. These are the things that I need to focus on to achieve balance. All the other stuff…is just stuff. The jerk that cut me off in traffic, the job that I didn’t get, my inability to do math or text as fast as my daughter…that’s the small stuff.

This is the good stuff! My family and friends who inspire me continuously and make me want to be a better person; our home that offers comfort and protection and apparently a safe haven for mice when it’s cold; my husband who brings me joy, teaches me to compromise and reminds me daily to not take myself so seriously; my children who surprise me, challenge me, humble me and help me to know that I am more than the sum of my mistakes; my health without which I could not appreciate most of these things; my love of photography that brightens dull days, gives me a sense of peace and allows me to share our little corner of the world through my eyes; my job that, while tedious, gives me structure, teaches me patience and allows me to afford what I need and occasionally what I want; technology that brings me closer to my dreams and allows me learn, grow and know what everyone ate for dinner; money that teaches me responsibility and in many cases what not to do in life; and all resting on my faith, my belief that God has given me all these wonderful gifts and is alive and with me in all my struggles and disappointments, as well as my victories and achievements.  It in his wisdom and council that I can find hope and strength to gain the balance that I need to live a life of purpose.

Focus

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Another Sunday…another weekend almost over…another two days spent eeking out every ounce of time that I can, doing the things that bring me joy. Another 48 hours trying to ignore the inevitable week of drudgery ahead.

Two years ago we were in the process of relocating our family back to Iowa after living in Missouri for 7 years. During our time in Missouri my husband had been a truck driver, hauling cattle from sale barns to either ranches or, sadly, their final destination. I know that it was a job he enjoyed but eventually the long miles and weeks away from home began to take a toll on all of us. So when he was offered a new job that would allow him to be home every night we decided that it was more than worth any sacrifices we were making by uprooting and moving.

As it turns out, the move has been even more difficult than I had anticipated. The surprise is that while I was concerned it would be hard for the kids, I had not really imagined how difficult it might and would be for me. I sit here tonight sincerely struggling to focus on all the wonderful things being back in Iowa has brought to my life. I know those things mean far more to me than the challenges I’m facing but right here, in this moment, I simply cannot ignore the overwhelming heartbreak that I feel. While the move has given us our lives back, there has also been something in this change that has brought me to what I can only describe as a fork in the road and I honestly have no idea which way to go.

Recently, one of our friends brought up the question of why people cannot have a job doing what they love. As we went around the room and shared what that would be, it all seemed so very simple and a part of me seriously wondered “why?” Why, when it seems so simple, is it so complicated? I left that night feeling completely at a loss and for days I just ran the question through my head. “Why can I not do what I love?”

Just before New Years Eve as I flipped though the pages of my beautiful, new  2016 calendar, completely blank and full of possibilities, the question came back to me and suddenly my mind was flooded with what seemed a hundred different memories that began to play like a slide show. Each one a moment in my life when I was given an opportunity that would have changed my life and each one with an immediate reminder of how I selfishly walked away or quit. I don’t know why everyone cannot do what they love but I know that I don’t do what I love because I’ve been selfish and simply have not tried.

I posted the picture above, not because I think it’s really great, it’s not, but while I was working on getting the shot I became increasingly frustrated because I could not get it to focus in right. It is ridiculously cold here so instead of going outside and working from our front porch I was taking it through our living room window. Just when I was ready to give it up and go find something else my husband offered to remove the screen from the window. It was crazy how much clearer everything was.

So, I am metaphorically taking the screen off my window. I’m going to rely on my faith and not my own understanding and believe that by not focusing on all that is wrong in my life that I will be able to appreciate what really matters and see my dreams more clearly.

 

 

Gods Mysterious Ways

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I locked my keys in my Jeep today. Fortunately it was a balmy 29 degrees instead of the whopping 5 above we had yesterday. Unfortunately, we live on a gravel road and with the recent rains and snow the jeep is badly in need of a bath. My black dress pants did not fair well as I broke into my own vehicle while parked, of course, in a busy Quik Trip parking lot.

These days I look most forward to my drives home and evenings spent hanging out with my family. Tonight I was especially looking forward getting home but found myself taking some back roads and soon I was engrossed in an eagle that kept flying around the fields I was passing. Just as I lost sight of the eagle I was transfixed by the scene in the picture above. Only, imagine about 7 large deer running at full gate, one right after the other in front of these cribs. Since safety comes before photography but mostly because the gentleman behind me seemed less than thrilled at my speed choice, I decided it would be in my best interest to find the nearest spot to pull off the road. Alas, the deer were not up for selfies today. Once I was back on a major road I overheard the traffic report talking about several accidents and stalled vehicles that littered almost all my other paths home.

My lesson for today…well, I guess I would start by not locking my keys in my car but honestly, it was just a reminder that if we take the time to look around, we can find amazing and beautiful places (and people) all around us that help us forget the trivial problems that invade our daily lives.

 

Grace For Today

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“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” Martin Buber

Have you ever looked in the mirror and wished that the person looking back would just look away. As I work through this journey of improvement and change I’m finding that it requires a great deal of grace and forgiveness. For others, yes, but for myself as well. Today I had to give myself a little grace and remember that mistakes happen, even when we have the best of intentions. An appointment that I was really excited and prepared for took an unfortunate turn when I allowed my insecurities to get the best of me. While it was not a complete failure I still knew that I had let myself down.

As I drove home feeling sorry for myself I remembered that I had not taken my picture for today. Fortunately, I drive by a state park every day and was getting close. As I glanced in the direction of the park I caught a glimpse of sunshine darting in and out of the trees and I noticed an instant lift in my spirit and could not wait to get the entrance of the park. I barely made it inside the park when I saw my shot. Forgetting my desire to wallow in self pity, I took several pictures, drove all the way though the park (took me all of five minutes), turned around and came back to this spot.

Surrounded by beautiful silence and the dazzling sun, I reminded myself that a journey is not about the destination. It’s the steps we take along the way. Slowly but surely, one baby step at a time, I’m finding my way.

 

Bravo!

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We hear it all the time, I’ve even said it myself. These young people have no respect, they are entitled and they just have no idea how good they have it. Recently I witnessed a moment that gave me a renewed hope in our younger generations.

My son plays basketball. He has only played one other time on a Park league so his skill level is simply not up to par with many of the other players. However, basketball seems to be doing double duty for him (and for me, if I’m being honest). This past year we finally bought a home out in the country. The location meant that he would have to change schools. A much smaller school than he or I were use to, as it turns out. To say that it has been an adjustment is an understatement. I have many concerns and based on comments that my son has made and the drastic change in his grades and attitude, I was becoming even more worried that we might be needing to rethink this whole thing.

Along came basketball season. Now, before you think this is one of those…his grades improved and he became an overnight star…I will stop and tell you that is not the case at all. His grades are still not at all what they should or could be but his attitude has done a complete 180 and that means a lot to a concerned mother. He seems much happier and definitely more excited about going to school and despite his lack of motivation for the classroom itself, basketball has given him a little push because, as he has learned the hard way, he has to maintain the grades in order to play.

The real moment, however, came during a recent game that I attended. His team is quite good and his coach seems very conscientious about making sure that everyone gets to play. (A rarity, based on my observations.) As I watched I was very impressed with the improvements that my boy seemed to be making but I was even more impressed by the other players and their overall good sportsmanship. I noticed one of the players, who is especially good, talking to my son on the bench. The next time they were rotated in, the boy made a special effort to get the ball to my son on two different occasions. On the ride home I asked about the conversation on the bench and was told that the other boy explained a couple of plays and said, “when I pass you the ball, turn around and shoot.” And that’s exactly what happened. While he did not make either shot, having played myself, I know the importance of getting past the nerves and taking the shot. You do it enough, you eventually make it!

So kudos to my son for putting himself out there and a giant high five to the young man who is mature beyond his years and took the time to share his talents to help another. Bravo!!

Home

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Baby it’s cold outside! Woke up this morning to below freezing temperatures and a cold water faucet that would not run. I walked out into our garage and the cold air stole my breathe away. My first thought is the same every year at this time…Why do I live here?

Of course living in Iowa is more than just cold winters. Like a lot of people I don’t think I ever truly appreciated this place I call home until I left it. As a kid I dreamed of moving away to places that had anything but corn fields, gravel roads and small towns. I have since lived in Minneapolis, Phoenix, Chicago and Kansas City. All great places but funny enough, they all had their own short-comings. Minneapolis is beautiful but man is it cold there! Phoenix is definitely warmer but I’m really not a fan of year round sand. Chicago…I adore Chicago and I miss it from time to time but it’s just as cold as Iowa and it’s big, maybe too big for me. Kansas City was another great city but just never felt like home.

There are many other places I would love to see and would consider living but I know now that this will always be home to me. This is where I grew up. This is where I enjoyed the freedom of playing with neighborhood friends until the street lights came on. Where I fell in love for the first time and where I experienced my first broken heart. This is where my babies were born and it’s a place I would recommend for any growing family.  So for now, I look forward to these winter days when I can stay in my pajamas and slippers and enjoy this place I call home.