Thursday, December 31, 2009

End of Year Chicken

Havi Brooks does this thing on her blog called the Friday Chicken, wherein every Friday she talks about the hard and the good aspects of her week. I think it’s a great exercise, so I thought I’d give it a try as an end of year review. Turns out she did the same thing in New Year’s: The Great 2009 Chicken. I was going to call it the Year End Chicken, but I think The Great 2009 Chicken has more flair. Anyhow, on with the list…

The Hard

This year started off with me still trying to move past a miscarriage from the end of 2008. This is probably the hardest thing I dealt with this year. I cried. A lot. I sunk into depression. I tried to focus on the good things, but it just didn’t help that I felt empty and lost.

Conception still hasn’t happened for us as of now, more than a year later, which makes things even harder. In October we started seeing an infertility specialist to check for any problems. All the tests have come up “everything is great/perfect/right where it should be.” Which leaves us where? So that’s hard.

Adjusting to stepmom life
Since my husband and I married in the summer of 2008, this is my first full year as a stepmom and dealing with all the feelings of overwhelm, fear, and jealousy that go with it. There are a lot of emotions that creep up when you become a stepmom. It can be disorienting. There were times I felt misunderstood and alone. I’m growing stronger at it, though.

In-laws moved in
My in-laws moved in with us temporarily. I feel bad listing this as a hard because it certainly must be harder on them having been displaced, but it’s a huge shift to go from a three person household to a five person household. There are four adults sharing a roof, not to mention parenting efforts of a 12 year old boy. Tensions can be high.

Financial stuff
My husband and I are both self-employed and while we were able to stay afloat, there were some months where things got really tight. Thank goodness we had savings. Depleting the savings, however, is not fun.

Oh, how I hate to admit there was bickering. Alas, there was. Between me and my husband, between me and my stepson, between my husband and my stepson. We are lessening that trend and I hope we continue to work things out without being so quick to take offense.

The Good

Learning about myself as a stepmom
Learning that my feelings of overwhelm, fear, and jealousy were perfectly normal among stepmoms. Yay! I’m not crazy. I’m not a horrible person. I’m completely fine. Thank you Wednesday Martin for writing Stepmonster (and thank you, Erin, for highly recommending it). That book has completely changed my perspective and given me lots of ideas for step-family health.

Unleashing my creative side
This summer I did three things to unleash my creativity. I took a photography class, I joined a bunch of other bloggers in wrecking a journal, and I took Deb Owen’s Creative Pathways class.

As a result of all three, I saw the world in a different way. I didn’t shy away from trying new things. The experience of letting myself go without worrying about creating something perfect was extraordinary.

New respect for summer
Not since my school days have I ever really looked forward to summer. Even in my school days, I was usually content to enter Fall. This year, however, I realized I have an excitement over summer and a sadness over its end. I’m not sure if that is due to this summer’s creative burst or simply the weather. I think I finally learned how to make the most of summer.

Launching Too Many Toasters
Too Many Toasters was an idea I started conceiving over the summer. I was afraid to rush in for fear of fizzling out on it. As time passed, I was more excited about it and finally decided to jump in after realizing I can do it on my terms. I don’t have to write every day even though “ideally” blogs should have frequent new posts. Who has time to read all that anyway?

Being invited to blog on Working Mother
As a by-product of launching Too Many Toasters, I was asked to blog about stepmotherhood on Working Mother. If I can help one person out there relax in her chair and think “so I’m not crazy and it’s not just me,” then I feel that it was worth it.

All in all it was a roller coaster of a year. I’m glad to have come out, perhaps better, on the other side.

Feel free to jump in with your own hard and good list in the comments. Here’s wishing for a 2010 improperly balanced with more good than hard!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cooking for How Many?

I know how to cook for two. I know how much food to take out if I want just enough or if I want there to be leftovers. When I got divorced, I had to learn how to cook for one, which is difficult because food tends not to come in single servings. It's also tough to be motivated to cook for one. I had a lot of cereal, soup, and pasta- things that could easily be portioned.

When I got remarried, I suddenly had to cook for three. I now know that 3/4 of a pound of pasta and one jar of sauce is just about right. If I kick up the sauce with extra ingredients and use the full pound of pasta, there will be leftovers.

Chicken tenderloins come seven to a package. That's three for my husband, two for me, and two for my stepson. One can of corn splits three ways perfectly. I can buy a two pack of steak, plus one individually wrapped steak to feed three. One head of broccoli steams a serving for each of us.

It took a lot of trial and error to get to this point. I made meals that left way too much in the end and meals that left us scrambling for snacks. But there is a balance and a rhythm I've come to.

That is, until my in-laws moved in. Suddenly all of my portions are null. To feed five people requires the extra large package of chicken breasts. (Did you know those cost more than $12?) That usually leaves one chicken breast left over- often a scrawny piece that certainly can't be turned into leftovers for five. If I chop it up to mix in a bowl of salad or rice, I can make lunch for two.

So I'm back at the beginning learning how to portion appropriately for four adults and a growing boy whose appetite is sometimes equal to my husband's and other times satiated by a mere three bites. While I'm decent in the kitchen, I wouldn't say I'm one of those people that can take last night's meatloaf and turn it into tonight's beef demi-glaze in a reduction sauce. (Heck, I don't even know if all those words go together.)

I'll keep trying. Eventually I'm sure I'll figure out how many pounds of ground beef and taco shells are needed. If anyone has suggestions for feeding five, I'd be appreciative. I'm thinking my crockpot could get some more use.

Blogging About Stepfamily Life

Early this fall, I started thinking more about my life as a stepmom, more about my relationships with my own stepparents and step-siblings, and I realized I needed an outlet for those types of discussions.

It's hard to admit, but sometimes I feel like I'm crazy. As in honest-to-goodness crazy. I get emotional, fearful, and have some really tough days. It wasn't until I read Stepmonster: A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel, and Act the Way We Do that I realized I wasn't crazy. In fact, everything that I have felt and thought over the last few years as I've entered in to stepmotherhood are things other stepmoms go through. It was such a relief.

Since then, I approach things with more gentleness (to myself and my family). I do my best not to take offense at things where no offense was intended. I try to be helpful to my husband and my stepson and I also try to recognize my own needs and desires.

It's things like this that made me think maybe other people out there have the same fears and worries. Maybe other people are scared they might be crazy, when really they are just fine. What if there is someone else out there who is a stepmom or is a grown-up stepchild and doesn't know anyone else in similar circumstances? Who do they talk to?

For that reason I decided to start a new blog, separate from this one, dedicated to living a stepfamily life: Too Many Toasters.

I wasn't going to mention it here. I was afraid people might think my new endeavor was weird or unnecessary. I worried people might think me weak or mean. Then I remembered how kind the people are who stop by this blog. How silly of me to be afraid of you! I've made some good friends here.

So I'm mentioning it.

If it's not your thing, no worries. If you know someone who might get it, by all means, please send them a link. As of now, I am writing there on Tuesdays.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Photos

Before Christmas is a long lost memory, here are some of my favorite photographs from the holidays. May we hold tight to Christmas spirit all year long.

Christmas ornament

Josie under the Christmas tree

Twinkling Christmas tree

The Night Before Christmas ornament with stockings in background

Red jingle bells

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Today I am an artist

I love this time of year because it fills me with a feeling that anything is possible.

For the past few days, I have been off work and I won't be returning until after the New Year. I spent those first few days cooking and doing some last minute shopping in preparation for Christmas.

Today begins a week without work or holidays to prepare for. I've already begun to let loose and do whatever strikes my fancy, no matter how silly. This morning, that meant dusting off my vision journal and ripping up magazines for a little collage work.

I started by cutting out pictures that resonated with me to create a vision board. I'm still deciphering the message, but I see lots of soft rounded shapes and rich earth tones.

Then I morphed an idea from Keri Smith's Living Out Loud. She talks about creating a finder by cutting a one-inch square out of a small piece of paper. By looking through the hole, you notice textures and details in the world around you, rather than only seeing the whole.

Since I was drawn to rounded shapes in my vision board, I chose to use a circular paper punch to cut through multiple pages in my magazines. I spread out the dots, chose my favorites, and glued them in my journal.

Today I am an artist. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Working Mother Wednesday: Christmas Traditions

In keeping with yesterday's post about The Night Before Christmas reading we do in our family every Christmas Eve, I continued the discussion of Christmas traditions on the Working Mother Mom Blogs today.

What Christmas traditions do you have with your family?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The little book: a Christmas tradition

“It’s only two days ‘til Christmas,” my 12-year-old stepson keeps saying. It has now been “two days ‘til Christmas” since last Friday. Wishful thinking?

I can’t help but share his enthusiasm. I love Christmas. I love the lights, the bustle of people, shopping for the perfect gift, and wrapping gifts in cheerful paper. It really is a wonderful time of year for me.

The other day my stepson asked what we were doing in the coming days. When we got to Christmas Eve I said that we would be visiting our friends for the Feast of Seven Fishes, just like we had last year. (He loved the Feast last year. Any day he can have shrimp is a good day.) I continued that we would get home late, go to bed, and wake up for our usual Christmas morning routine.

“But when are we going to read the little book?” he asked, almost whining. My heart filled with joy in that moment.

You see, “the little book” is one of my Christmas ornaments. It is a 2x2” red leather bound copy of The Night Before Christmas. It has crisp aged white pages with gold edges and an inscription in my mother’s perfect cursive: “To Sherri: With love from Mommy & Daddy. Dec. 1979.” I was two years old when my parents gave that to me and it has hung on the Christmas tree every year since.

The first Christmas I spent with my husband (then boyfriend) and stepson, I suggested we read it before going to bed on Christmas Eve. We all piled together under a blanket and took turns reading. We have continued to read it before bed on Christmas Eve for all three of our Christmases together so far.

Though I planned on carrying through on the reading again this year, I hadn’t mentioned it to my stepson while speaking of the Christmas activities. He picked right up on its omission and sounded truly worried that I had overlooked it.

As stepmoms we want to know that we are making a difference. There are times that it feels like we are in the way or ignored. In that one moment, I felt like I made a difference. A little activity that I started three Christmases ago, became a tradition that would be missed if we didn’t do it. Christmas really does bring people together.

Happy holidays to you and yours! May you cherish your family traditions, big and small.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Working Mother Wednesday

For some reason it seems like I don't meet a lot of stepmoms. So when I started talking about this blog, I was surprised to to hear that Working Mother was seeing increased interest in blended families.

It makes sense. With divorce rates as high as they are, there must be a fair number of stepfamilies out there. Where are they hiding? I'll have to do a little research on that.

I was even more surprised to be asked to write on the Mom Blogs at What an honor!

Every Wednesday I will be writing Stepmom Diaries at the Mom Blogs. My first post launched yesterday. (A day early- oops!) I hope that through Stepmom Diaries and here at Too Many Toasters we can get a dialogue going about stepfamily life.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How Many Toasters Can One House Hold?

Through a series of unfortunate events, my in-laws recently had to move in with us. Of all the things that could happen a year and four months into marriage, this is not one I expected.

I was just beginning to feel there was a rhythm to the new life my husband, my stepson, and I were creating. Routines were starting to fall into place and relationships were settling in. I even have the frozen setting on the toaster figured out.

My in-laws used to live five minutes from us and have been an active part of our family. Nana, in particular, spent several days a week with my stepson after school, which was extremely helpful while my husband and I were at work.

My new family is much tighter on a day-to-day basis than what I was used to with my own family. My father lives close to 200 miles away and my mother is well over 2,000 miles away.

Now, however, my in-laws are 5 seconds away – just across the hall in the guest bedroom. (I know the math is wrong but I think to get from 5 minutes to five seconds you somehow have to multiply by infinity.)

This is a huge difference and we will all either become closer than we already were or we will bicker like crazy. Let’s hope it’s that first one.

When people are moving in, there are things you expect and things you don’t. In case this happens to you, here are some things you might not see coming.

Day 1 – My in-laws arrived with fast food leftovers and a few trash bags filled with their clothing and personal items. Not so bad.

Day 2 – While I was at work, they filled my refrigerator to the hilt with extra staples like ketchup, butter, and magically three jars of mayo. (Yes, I said three.) I’m also a little perplexed at the individual cup of mini-pickles. That night they brought their ridiculously large cat who I am certain does not eat mini-pickles or mayonnaise.

Day 3 – I found a box of dry kitchen food items on the chair and a case of Cheerios on the floor. (Yes, I said case.) Unsure of where to put everything, I left it there.

Day 5 – My husband notified me that the go-cart had been brought over. The driveway now has 5 cars (plus the go-cart). All basketball related activity is suspended until further notice.

Day 6 – Minor internal freaking out on everyone’s part.

Day 7 – Having mustered up the courage, I tackled the dry kitchen food and stuffed my cabinets with 7 packages of rice, 16 boxes of potatoes, and 13 boxes of Cheerios. I threw out a bottle of bread dipping oil that expired in 2004. We have tons of food, yet no meals.

Day 9 – My mother-in-law set up her coffee maker. We didn’t have one of those yet, so….

Day 10 – I visited friends in another state for the night. My husband sent me a text saying he was watching a re-run of the PBS marathon fundraiser.

We are now 13 days in to this living arrangement. The bickering has been kept to a minimum as we learn how to co-exist. We have all kept our routines as best as possible. I know that these adjustments are nothing compared to the displacement and confusion they are going through. This is what family is all about- step, in-law or otherwise. Wish us luck.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Scheduling Around the Stepson

Adjusting to life with a pre-teen child is unusual. For me it was especially unusual because I "joined a family already in progress," as the lovely Erin of Stepchicks so perfectly describes it.

I had no children of my own coming in to my marriage. My stepson was nearly 9 years old when I met him. In no time flat, my life went from being mostly about me to being much more about my stepson. There was homework to help with, sporting events to attend, and after school arrangements to be made. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the family time, but I didn’t want to lose the “me” I was for the “us” I was becoming.

My husband coaches baseball and soccer, so even when my stepson didn't have a game, my husband's time was swallowed up quickly with phone calls to parents, field preparation, or scheduling umpires and referees. I would suggest an outing to a park or a store to find out that "we have practice from 1:00 to 4:00, but maybe after that."

Learning that my schedule was tied so intricately to my stepson's was a shock to my system. To get my “me” time back I had to make this work. I put the practice and game schedules in my calendar so I wouldn’t be caught of guard.

I continued to attend the games (and now I even understand what's going on most of the time). I do my best to make every game and the boys know that I love them and that I’m interested in what they are doing.

Practice time, however, became my time. During practices I catch up on things I want to do whether it is watching a "girly" television show, reading in a perfectly quiet house, writing in my journal, or wandering a store at my own pace (not the pace of someone worried about boring her beloved boys).

Then when the boys come home, I'm refreshed and content rather than anxious and irritable. By changing my perspective and learning to take advantage of the schedule, I have saved my own sanity.

The funny thing is the boys never really needed me at the practices. That is their “me” time. Time to be boys and play hard.

How do you get your “me” time in?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

DRAFT: Meeting a child

A lot of people must feel they have jumped head first into parenting.  To go from being a couple to being a full-fledged family in nine short months must be a great, yet terrifying, experience.

My family didn't come about that way.  My child was nearing 9 when I first met him.  He was already a thinking, functioning human being with a routine, friends, likes and dislikes, favorite foods, and a fiercely protective Nana.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Too Many Toasters

I am part of a stepfamily. Technically I guess I'm part of three stepfamilies. Whatever the case, merging families is a complex task involving the "blending" of three P's: people, personalities, and possessions.

When my husband and I took the gigantic step of moving in together, it was I that moved in to his home.  My one bedroom apartment wasn't going to fit all three P's and his house was two minutes from his 9-year-old son's school. Instant household.

We spent the following weeks taking inventory of our possessions. The extra bedroom set became guest room furniture. The extra glassware made for a well-rounded collection. The toasters, well, there were two and how many toasters does one house really need?

As I pulled my toaster from the box my (now) husband said, "I guess we can get rid of that."

What? Get rid of my toaster?

There's nothing like merging households to make you really sentimental about a toaster.  After all, it was the toaster I bought following my previous divorce.  It was the kitchen appliance staple that I picked out all by myself for my own place.  It wasn't fancy.  In fact, it's most endearing quality was it's low price tag.  But it was mine and it symbolized my ability to take care of myself.

My husband also loved his toaster.  It was stainless steel and, therefore, matched all his other appliances unlike my stark white model.  It had a special button for frozen items to properly toast them.  Even I had to admit it looked sleeker and was more functional.

After many gentle reassurances (my husband to me and I to my toaster) I decided it was time to donate my toaster and let someone else love it's thrifty simplicity.  It was an unexpectedly monumental step in our relationship.

Some time later, while visiting my dad, I realized a toaster oven adorned his counter.  I've never known my dad to own a toaster oven.  I couldn't help but wonder if there had been a similar debate between him and my stepmother about which toaster to keep.

By now you probably noticed I am both a stepmom and a stepchild.  Here's a quick run-down.  My family consists of a husband, a stepson, a father, a stepmother, a mother who was adopted, a stepfather, and two (or is it five?) step-siblings.

Thus begins Too Many Toasters, a blog to share my experiences with non-traditional families and, hopefully, hear about your experiences as well.  I plan on writing here once a week (or more if I have time), so please stay tuned.

You are invited and encouraged to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments.  Do you have a confusing family?  How do you navigate the stepfamilyhood?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Photo Friday: Cypress Trees

For the past 20 years or so, every time I visit my uncle in Florida, he takes me out on his boat. We go to Lake Santa Fe which is comprised of a big lake adjoining a little lake (aptly named Little Lake Santa Fe), a bay, and an old, overgrown canal.

Being out on that lake, I feel like I am far away from everything. It is one of the few places that always feels carefree.

Lake Santa Fe is ringed by what I used to call "creepy trees" when I was younger. They look drippy, dark, and ominous, yet I always felt safe within their confines. They are Cypress trees and every last one of them is adorned in Spanish moss. I think they're wonderful.

I took this photo just as we were about to enter the big lake from the entrance passageway. It shows off the creepy trees beautifully. As luck would have it, I managed to capture one of the many fisherman who frequent Lake Santa Fe on his way in from what I hope was a fruitful outing. You can see him in the small break in the trees, which will give you an idea as to how tall the Cypresses really are.

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_1006" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Cypress trees with Spanish moss"]Cypress trees with Spanish moss[/caption]

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Erma Bombeck's Advice on Loss of Identity

I'm reading Forever, Erma, a collection of Erma Bombeck's columns from throughout her career. One in particular caught my eye.

"Lost Identity" originally published September 18, 1965 in response to women asking Erma her opinion on how to find their lost identity. In the column she light-heartedly explains her own view of personal identity and how easy it is to feel question it when you are commonly referred to as so-and-so's wife or mother.

Erma discusses the difficulty housewives (remember, this was 1965) have in taking time for themselves to be their own person.

Her approach to resolving this for herself one day was this:

What I represent to other people isn't half as important as what I represent to myself. One day as I stood studying my reflection in the skillet lid, I plopped it down, went back to the bedroom, put my hair up in curlers and changed my dress. I put a dab of perfume behind each ear and returned to the kitchen. When asked where I was going, I snapped, "I'm going out to the garbage can all by myself!" No one understood. But I felt better.

I've definitely had days where I dressed up a bit to alter my own mood. It does wonders for the ego, I think. When you feel good about how you look, you walk taller, feel more confident, and generally can relax and be yourself.

Erma later says that she likes to think identity "isn't lost at all--just buried temporarily under a stack of ironing, a book that needs covering or a basket of mending."

All I could think after reading her column was "oh my goodness, I never covered stepson's math book!" Maybe I should read it again.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

August Usability Newsletter is Live

Since this happened while I was traveling, I forgot to post a link here for anyone interested. The August edition of Usability Interface is live at

Read my editorial to see how the Wreck This Journal book blogging experience helped me realize the importance of visual cues in web design. Who knew I'd get that out of fabulous, frivolous destruction!

There are also book reviews of Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior, Designing the User Interface: Strategies for Effective Human-Computer Interaction (5th Edition) and Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories.

You can read about how to alleviate friction between software developers and users through user-friendly documentation and how to create strong navigation on a web site.

If usability or web design are your thing, check it out.

A Summer of Firsts

I didn't really get a chance to talk about it, so I'm taking the opportunity now. The summer of 2009 was a summer of firsts for me. Before it becomes too distant a memory, I thought I'd share some of my firsts:

Wrecked a journal- I'm sure you know that story by now. It was all part of Jamie Ridler's book blogging adventure. There were also many firsts within this single exercise like making online videos, rubbing a book in the dirt, or setting things on fire… on purpose.

Climbed and repelled- A brick wall, no less. Not even a goofy looking rock with handles that look like they were made from Play-doh. Granted the brick wall had bricks that stuck out especially for this purpose, but whatever- I climbed a brick wall.

Wrote a children's story- After my best friend mentioned that her daughter loves checking the mail to see if she got anything (usually the answer is no), I got the idea to write her a story and mail it out in parts.

Drew with pastels- It's pretty good, too! I haven't taken any art classes (aside from the required classes in elementary and middle school). Over the past few months, I've watched some of Connie's videos over at Dirty Footprints and absorbed some tips- thanks, Chica!

[caption id="attachment_991" align="aligncenter" width="476" caption="My first pastels piece"]My first pastels piece[/caption]

Painted with watercolors- Ok, this one did not produce a masterpiece and I don't think I enjoyed this as much as the pastels. The point is I tried it. I may even try it again sometime.

Drove a SeaDoo- I've never even been on a jet ski, let alone drive one. I'll admit I was scared and lagged behind the rest of the group most of the time. By the end of the tour, I got the hang of it. The whole experience was great fun.

Took a photography class- I finally learned how to set the exposure settings on my DSLR to capture the pictures I want how I want them.

Took a class over the phone- Every week I met with a great group of people via phone to work through Deb Owen's Creative Pathways course. I learned, I explored, I grew. I'm still growing.

Grew squash- I didn't even know I liked squash until about a year ago. This summer I decided I liked it enough to try growing it in my garden. It started as a piddly little four leaf plant plastered flat against the ground. I thought for sure it wouldn't make it. Within a few weeks, it grew two feet tall and four feet wide and produced a bounty of perfect yellow squash.

I joined Flickr. I was elected to be a member of my township's youth baseball board. I rode water slides at Atlantis. I touched a starfish.

Through all of these accomplishments, I learned it is exhilarating to try something new. I learned that I am more capable than I give myself credit for. I learned that play equals life experience. In addition, I've met some wonderful people in real life and online. I've listened to stories, told stories, and created stories.

Isn't that what life is all about?

Did you try anything new this summer?

Friday, September 11, 2009

Photo Friday: Sky Over Ocean

Last week hubby, stepson, and I whisked ourselves off on a last minute vacation. Booked only two weeks earlier, we spent part of our time away aboard a cruise to the Bahamas.

As luck would have it, we snagged the very last room with a balcony at a discounted last-minute rate. The view was spectacular. Between the three of us, we spent many hours out on the balcony.

Being out on the open water like that, you get the new perspective of an unspoiled view as far as you can see in any direction. There is absolutely nothing to disrupt the horizon. Imagine… a 180 degree view of nothing but ocean and sky.

One evening we were able to watch (and stay dry thanks to an overhang) as we approached, navigated through, then left a rain storm in our wake. It was fun to see the front half of the ship begin to bob atop a speckled, dancing ocean surface while we in the back of the ship continued smooth sailing on a glassy surface.

At other times, the sky gave quite a show of its own, marking clearly light vs. dark, like in this photo. Glorious!

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_986" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Unobstructed view of light and dark"]Unobstructed view of light and dark[/caption]

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Lot Can Happen in a Week

I left for a week and the world changed. You may be thinking "preposterous," but it's true. A lot of it has to do with the end of summer timing, I'm sure.

You see, summer was drawing to a close. My husband and I had planned on taking our kid on a family vacation this year and, as I'm sure is true for many people, life, finances, everything really made a vacation feel intangible.

A few weeks ago, we said, "Screw it! We're going on vacation." You only live once and my stepson won't be a kid forever. We booked a last minute vacation involving Universal Orlando, a cruise to the Bahamas, and a visit to my grandparents. We left about two weeks ago and came back on Labor Day weekend.

The sun was brutal when we left and certainly strong in Florida and the Caribbean. Upon our return, as we stepped out of the airport, however, it was brisk. Chilly even. I fished in my bag for a sweatshirt to protect myself against the gray skies and ominous wind.

Today I wore a jacket to work and still shivered on my way home. It never got out of the 60s. It's only early September. I fear what this temperature drop means for the coming Winter. Yikes.

On the home front, school started this week for my stepson. We came back just in time to plunge into homework, sports, covering books, and signing teachers' letters to prove that yes, I did read what they sent home. (And I found all those typos, too. Was that a quiz or should I be concerned?)

Since we are now post-Labor Day, my work has been quite demanding this week as we prepare to wrap up the year and plan for 2010. There have been meetings, fires to put out, more meetings, and new projects surfacing.

In other random events: the tomatoes in my garden ripened, I report to new boss, Ellen Degeneres was named the new judge on American Idol, Deb Owen is planning all sorts of new stuff, and the intersection near my house has been overhauled with new pie-shaped medians and freshly painted lines.

It makes me wonder, how long was I really gone?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Photo Friday: Picnic table at a vineyard

There is a beautiful vineyard in Hopewell, New Jersey with amazing wine, nice people, and beautiful views. In fact, it was that vineyard where my husband, stepson, and I celebrated our family union with our friends and family last year.

I took this photograph at Hopewell Valley Vineyard when I visited recently. I thought this picnic table looked like the most delightful place to relax with some food and wine. Don't you agree?

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_976" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Hopewell Valley Vineyard"]Hopewell Valley Vineyard[/caption]

Friday, August 14, 2009

Photo Friday: Ducks

Ducks. I really don't know if it's possible not to smile around ducks.

I remember feeding the ducks at a nearby lake with my parents when I was little. The simple act of tossing a few bread crumbs and watching the ducks flock over was pure joy.

Back in April I began to realize how many people had ducks- when my husband was little he had a pet duck named Football, Havi has Selma, David Copperfield had Webster. Then, of course, there was trucker Joe with his sidekick (sideduck?) Frank.

Today's photograph comes from a recent jaunt to New Hope, Pennsylvania where ducks were happily skimming the surface of a creek. This particular photo makes me think maybe they were racing.

A duck race. Now, that sounds like fun!

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_971" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Duck race?"]Duck race?[/caption]

Friday, July 31, 2009

Photo Friday: Hot Air Balloon

Last weekend I ventured up to Readington, New Jersey for the Balloon Festival. Over 100 hot air balloons were launched in to the gray sky starting at 6:30 p.m.

Here is a photograph of one of the balloons in the final stages of being filled just before take off. I've posted some of my other photos from the Balloon Festival on Flickr if you're interested.

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_966" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Almost ready to launch"]Almost ready to launch[/caption]

Monday, July 27, 2009

Finally Back at the Gym

I did it. I went back to the gym.

Over the past year, I've been going very sporadically. An abs class here, a pilates class there. I even ran a nice pilates streak for a few weeks around mid-Spring. I had not, however, gone back to Power Flex (weights) or Kickboxing class in a long, long time.

You know how it is. Life gets hectic, the gym feels hard, and you think "not tonight, I'll start up again next week." Like that ever happens.

After being away from those classes for so long I was scared of not being able to keep up. I was scared of shaky legs like in the last Power Flex class I went to. I was scared of facing the regulars lest they scoff me for not being there.

Over the last few weeks I kept saying to myself "this is the week." And then I didn't go. The following week, I'd say the same thing. I even printed up the class calendar and highlighted the classes I thought would fit my schedule. And I didn't go.

Tonight I went. Despite it being Monday. Despite the busy days I've had lately. And even though there was the beckoning safety of a pilates class, I went to Power Flex. Because I'm tired of being tired. I'm tired of feeling weak when I lift heavy things.

I went to Power Flex. And I rocked it. Ok, maybe I wasn't using 10 lb. weights like some of the regulars. And maybe I even put my 5 lb. weights down on the second set of lunges. But I did all the sets and I kept pace with the rest of the class. In fact, I think I did quite well with the upper body sets.

I came home feeling energetic. More importantly, I'm proud of myself for going back. Maybe this will boost my creative energy as well. And maybe it won't be as hard to go to the next class.

What have you done for yourself lately?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Photo Friday: Rome Wedding

One year ago yesterday, my (now) husband and I exchanged vows in Rome. It was just the two of us, an officiant, the coordinator, and a couple we met on the trip to whom we handed our camera. It was quite simply perfect.

Today's Photo Friday is from that glorious evening in the Borghese Gardens.

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_955" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="A perfect day in Rome"]A perfect day in Rome[/caption]

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wreck This Journal: Week 8

A lot of people in this Wreck This Journal book blogging group tackled the burning page early on. Since I waited, it felt almost a little boring so I just kept ignoring that page.

With the help of my husband and stepson, last night I ceremoniously burned the page. We even made another video. I have to give my husband loads of credit for his ideas on how to burn the page as well as his film directorship. I hope you like it.

Happy wrecking!

If you're confused as to what this Wreck This Journal stuff is all about or curious to see what other wrecking has transpired, here are some links to bring you up to speed.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Photo Friday: Sunset

For this week's Photo Friday entry, I thought I'd share this amazing sunset from July 4th. This is another instance where I am happy to finally be capturing with my camera the color that I actually see in this world (no, there is no photo editing here).

What an amazing world we live in.

[caption id="attachment_942" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Sunset on the 4th of July"]Sunset on the 4th of July[/caption]

Happy Friday!

Wreck This Journal: Week 7

Two glorious forms of wrecking occurred this week in my journal. Both involved tearing pages out and putting pages in.

First, I laundered a page. I ripped it out, folded it up and tucked it in the pocket of a pair of shorts. One wash cycle and 45 minutes of dryer time later, I let my hubby recover the balled up (but clean) page.
[caption id="attachment_924" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Pulling the washed page out of a pocket"]Pulling the washed page out of a pocket[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_925" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Carefully opening the washed page"]Carefully opening the washed page[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_926" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The beautiful end result"]The beautiful end result[/caption]

Second, and even more glorious, I swapped pages with the delightful LaWendula in Germany. That's right, our pages crossed a good portion of the globe in just a few short days. Her page came to me on Monday, the same day that I put my page in the mail to her. She let me know yesterday that she had received it already.

I was so excited to see that envelope in the mailbox! She had used several pretty stamps on a bright pink envelope. So cheerful!

[caption id="attachment_927" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Stamps from LaWendula\'s letter to me"]Stamps from LaWendula's letter to me[/caption]

The page she sent could not have been more perfect. She glued in a page from Kate Chopin's The Awakening.

[caption id="attachment_928" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="LaWendula\'s The Awakening page"]LaWendula's <em>The Awakening</em> page[/caption]

What LaWendula didn't realize is that Kate Chopin is my favorite classic author. I read The Awakening and a number of Chopin's short stories as an English major in college. Her "The Story of an Hour" is one of my favorites.

A few months ago I purchased a copy of The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction so I could read it all over again. That book is next on my "to read" list (after I finish The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger).

[caption id="attachment_929" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The Awakening at the top of my own \"to read\" stack"]<em>The Awakening</em> at the top of my own "to read" stack[/caption]\

So to LaWendula: Thank you very much for sending me this beautiful page! I have given it a new home in a "clean" portion of my Wreck This Journal. I will think of you when I read The Awakening. I'm pleased to have you as a new friend.

To all of my fellow wreckers, Happy Wrecking!

If you're confused as to what this Wreck This Journal stuff is all about or curious to see what other wrecking has transpired, here are some links to bring you up to speed.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Slow Down - Why So Rushed?

I am a fast walker. In fact I rush a lot of the time.

I think it started when I was a little girl trying to keep pace with my dad. I practically had to run to keep up with his fast walking. It didn't help that he was 6' 4" tall and took long strides.

In high school I remember my friends asking me more than once why I was walking so fast as I zipped in and out of the mob to make it to my next class.

Recently it has been my husband and stepson that ask. My husband asked once, "why did you leave me? Can we walk together?"

On days when I work in New York I have to walk about 15 minutes from the train station to my office. I always speed walk there too, passing everyone in front of me.

Ditto for restroom breaks and going to pick up lunch. Why?

It's not just walking either. It's also eating fast, rushing through my mornings, anxiously shaking my leg while sitting still, ripping through my RSS reader.

Yesterday morning a song popped in to my head. It's an old Alabama song that says:
I'm in a hurry to get things done
I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die,
but I'm in a hurry and don't know why.

So yesterday in the many (many, many) times I found myself rushing, I made a conscious effort to slow down.

When I realized I rushed through the first block of my walk, I let up a bit for the last three. Rather than devouring my lunch, I took time to taste the flavors that made up my salad. When I left my desk, I walked at a more "normal" pace.

Midday a bunch of emails came in to my inbox while I was still replying to one. Rather than rushing through them all at once, I took care of a few then switched to another task before returning to take care of a few more.

This fast pace must be deeply ingrained in me because I had to remind myself to act more consciously a lot throughout the day.

I feel that if I can make this shift in behavior I may feel calmer all around.

Does anyone else have this problem? Feel free to share in the comments. I'm curious how you remind yourself to slow down.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Photo Friday: Fireworks

I hope everyone in the states had a wonderful 4th of July weekend. Armed with some photography notes from my teacher, I headed to my local fireworks show. I'm happy with how they turned out. Much better than the dotted, smoky messes of years past.

Here is one of my fireworks photos. You can see some of the others in my 4th of July photos on Flickr if you are interested.

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_911" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="4th of July fireworks"]4th of July fireworks[/caption]

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wreck This Journal: Week 6

This week for Wreck This Journal, I overcame a fear. I made a video.

Lots of fellow wreckers paved the way for me by making videos that looked fun and not terribly scary. I generally don't like video cameras and find it hard to be myself around them, so this was a huge step.

This was completely spontaneous. One minute I was weeding my garden, the next I was scurrying through my house to gather up my computer and journal in the last few minutes of daylight.

I had a lot of fun making this video and I didn't even chicken out in posting it. Here it is. Enjoy!

Happy wrecking!

If you're confused as to what this Wreck This Journal stuff is all about or curious to see what other wrecking has transpired, here are some links to bring you up to speed.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Photo Friday: Sunset After Storm

The weather has been crazy over the past month on the east coast. Lots and lots of rain. Nearly everyday in fact.

Earlier this week a huge thunderstorm came through. Our power went out every few minutes, usually being restored within a minute or two each time. We lit candles. The animals hid. My husband, stepson, and I stayed close to one another.

The storm ended, but the ominous gray remained. When the sun broke through in time to set, the sky looked like it was on fire. Brilliant orange amidst billowing dark clouds.

I, of course, decided it was a swell time to practice my manual photography skills. Here is the view through our window.

Happy Friday! May your skies not look like this for the holiday weekend.

[caption id="attachment_897" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Sunset after a heavy thunderstorm"]Sunset after a heavy thunderstorm[/caption]

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wreck This Journal: Week 5

Another journal wrecking week is coming to a close. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, see the links at the end of this post.)

As I'm sure my fellow wreckers can attest, some weeks are more inspired than others. Last week, not so much. This week, inspired!

My stepson has been playing with a box of balloons this week. Those long, skinny balloons that are meant for being shaped into animals or hats.

My husband, being a giant kid himself, had the idea to make a water balloon with one. It was meant to be some kind of fancy water cannon with which he could inflict torture on my stepson (or possibly me).

Fortunately for us his idea evolved. While standing at the sink alternately filling a balloon and twisting, he asked if he could smash his water balloon in my journal.

My reply? "Heck yeah! I'll get the camera."

We flipped the book open to "scrub this page" and let loose.

I ended up with 67 photographs from what was probably two minutes of wreckage. Here are some of the highlights:

[caption id="attachment_885" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Let the wrecking begin!"]Let the wrecking begin![/caption]

[caption id="attachment_886" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="The journal proves to be a formidable opponent"]The journal proves to be a formidable opponent[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_887" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Time to get serious"]Time to get serious[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_888" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Why swing one balloon when you can wield nunchucks..."]Why swing one balloon when you can wield nunchucks...[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_889" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Squeezing out the last few drips for good measure"]Squeezing out the last few drips for good measure[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_890" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Consider this journal scrubbed clean"]Consider this journal scrubbed clean[/caption]

Yes, I and the camera both got wet.

Happy wrecking!

Curious about what other wreckage transpired?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Happy Joy Rebel Day!

Today is the very first Joy Rebel Day. Joy Rebel Day is being started by Ms. Joy Rebel herself, the lovely Brandi Reynolds. (Read her early announcement post to see what it's all about.)

[caption id="attachment_876" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A message of joy for passersby"]A message of joy for passersby[/caption]

I adore Brandi. She embodies true joy, finding it in places others might overlook.

One of the simple joys Brandi reminded me about is sidewalk chalk. So a few nights ago, when I spotted the bucket of sidewalk chalk sitting dusty in the garage, I knew my family was about to partake in a mini-adventure of sorts.

To start things off, I wrote a birthday greeting for my stepson who turned 12 on Monday.

[caption id="attachment_873" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="A birthday wish in sidewalk chalk"]A birthday wish in sidewalk chalk[/caption]

Then I called him out to the driveway and things went crazy.

[caption id="attachment_874" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Happiness is... sidewalk chalk"]Happiness is... sidewalk chalk[/caption]

We drew pictures and played hopscotch. We wrote messages by the sidewalk for people who pass by. It was a blast.

Where can you find simple joys? Let that inner child out to play.

Happy Joy Rebel Day!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

My Non-Vacation

[caption id="attachment_868" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="My hammock"]My hammock[/caption]

A strange thing happened to me on Saturday. I found myself on vacation.

I wasn't on a tropical island. I hadn't flown anywhere. No long drives. No crowds.

It all started when my husband and stepson left for baseball practice Saturday morning. With the house all to myself and the first sunshiny day in about three weeks, I planned out my morning. First weed the garden. Then work on my Week 2 exercises for Deb's Creative Pathways course.

So I set to work in my garden, pulling weeds, tilling dirt, and watering the plants. It started to get hot outside, but I wasn't ready to go in yet. I considered carrying one of the stiff chairs from my deck down to beneath the deck for a shady spot to rest. Then it dawned on me. We have a hammock.

I went to the basement, found the rolled-up hammock, carried it out, and hooked it up to two trees in my backyard. I brought out a tote of books, a notebook, and writing utensils and swayed in the breeze while answering the Week 2 questions. When I was done with that, I pulled out the novel I'm currently reading and sunk deliciously into its plot.

My neighbors were floating in their new pool while music played on their deck. I was far enough away from them to feel alone, yet near enough to enjoy the music and feel a sense of community. I listened to the sounds of splashing, felt the breeze mix with the heat, watched a few birds come and go.

That's when I realized I felt like I was at a resort, far removed from the worries of daily chores. My hammock in the shade was like a poolside cabana. If only someone had come around to take my drink and snack order.

I spent several glorious hours on that non-vacation. In fact, the rest of my weekend was happier and more relaxed than it might otherwise have been.

Mental note: take more non-vacations. I wonder what other opportunities might present themselves.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Photo Friday: Pink Fountain Gaura

As you may be aware by now, I have been taking a photography class to finally learn exactly what to do with all those settings on my DSLR camera. Between the exposure lecture and the next week's lab I wanted to practice.

As you may also be aware, it has rained a lot in the past month. That means I have a plethora of gray photographs. One day the sun peaked out for about 10 minutes so I dropped what I was doing and went to practice what I learned in my yard.

This week's Photo Friday shot is one of those practice shots. I photographed this Pink Fountain Gaura in the fully manual mode. The richness of the color and depth of field were exactly as I had hoped. (See it on Flickr for better quality.)

Happy Friday!

[caption id="attachment_861" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Pink Fountain Gaura in my yard"]Pink Fountain Gaura in my yard[/caption]

Nikon D40x
ISO 400
Shutter 1/1000

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wreck This Journal: Week 4

[caption id="attachment_852" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Cut through multiple pages to make fringe"]Cut through multiple pages to make fringe[/caption]

After playing baseball with Wreck This Journal last Friday night, I have to admit I was at a loss for what to do next.

I was so proud of the idea and ecstatic that I got a great photo of it on my phone. It was a perfect act of joyous spontaneity. After all my piddly little wrecking exercises, I'd raised my personal bar quite high. I was no longer following the rules of destruction. I was actually wrecking.

Since I can't force spontaneity, this week I simply returned to the suggestions within the book. I'm sure another impromptu joyful wrecking will occur. At least I proved to myself that I could do it.

The next best thing seemed to be rising to Jamie's challenge of doing the thing we fear most. For me that's the food page. To ease myself in, I bit a grape in half and smeared it on the page. It's not exactly messy like, say, spaghetti sauce might be. But it's a start.

Here are the tragedies my journal endured this week:

  1. Rubbed in infield dirt and gravel at the baseball field

  2. Ripped out and crumpled up a page. Cat batted it around the living room.

  3. Hubby wrote in it with a dirty stick. Since the stick is no longer pressed in the book, that probably means it's loose in my purse. I should probably go look for that.

  4. [caption id="attachment_851" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Writing with a dirty stick"]Writing with a dirty stick[/caption]
  5. Grape smearing

  6. Cut through multiple pages. For some reason, this was extremely gratifying.

  7. Holes poked with a pencil (not inside the dotted lines)

  8. Drawing thick and thin lines with a pencil

  9. Made a paper airplane (still in tact in book)

  10. [caption id="attachment_853" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="Folded a paper airplane"]Folded a paper airplane[/caption]
  11. Completely colored a page wherein I allowed myself to be okay with my art skills be elementary

  12. [caption id="attachment_854" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Completely colored a page"]Completely colored a page[/caption]
  13. Dripped nail polish and smooshed the book to make a pattern

  14. [caption id="attachment_855" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Smooshed nail polish"]Smooshed nail polish[/caption]

Happy wrecking!

Curious about what other wreckage transpired?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Latest Edition of Usability Interface is Live

The latest edition of Usability Interface is published at long last! As editor, I haven't yet hit the right rhythm of timing. What a learning process this has been!

With this being my third issue I think I now have an idea of how long on average each step takes. Perhaps that will help me with assembling a new timeline moving forward.

Anyhow, this issue talks to usability professionals about the value of words, gives an excerpt from the newly published 5th edition of Designing the User Interface, and explains why I leave my floss on the counter.

If any of this interests you, you can read the latest issue here:

Reclaiming My Space (the space that is mine, not the social networking site)

[caption id="attachment_824" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="My bulletin board after the clean-up"]My bulletin board after the clean-up[/caption]

My recent efforts to reclaim my time have also become activities in reclaiming my space.

Over the past two weeks I have reclaimed my deck, a path through the garage, and my bulletin board. Little things really. Each one, however, gave my soul a little boost.

My deck felt ugly and cramped. In a roughly 6x8' space, there were four chairs, an animal hideout, and a flower pot half-filled with soil growing weeds. It was cramped and made me think "ugh" every time I walked by the sliding glass door.

In one evening, I pushed all the chairs into an orderly fashion against the deck rails (cornering in the animal house to conceal it a bit) planted flowers in the pot, and added 5 more flower pots.

Now I walk by and think "pretty." It's on it's way to becoming a deck I love. It's still too small for both a table AND chairs which I would love to have. Instead I think I may one day replace the stiff chairs with a small outdoor loveseat. What a great space that would be!

The garage is filled with various boxes of things, construction supplies, tools, and other odds and ends.

Tackling the garage is a big project, though. Every time I thought about cleaning it, I decided I didn't have the time or the energy. So I started by just breaking down the empty boxes and taking them out for recycling. There were a lot. (Let's just say the boxes at the top of the stack were from Christmas.)

Now there is a path through the garage. Room to move without twisting and tip-toeing. It's a good start.

My desk in my home office was feeling cluttered and I couldn't figure out why. I had recently organized it, but I still felt stressed whenever I sat there.

Then I realized how overburdened my magnetic bulletin board was. There were various schedules, phone numbers, and a collection of things that individually made me happy (magnetic poetry, cards, pictures, etc.). As a group it was overwhelming.

I took everything off and put back only the things I wanted to look at right now. Everything else went somewhere else. The whole desk area is now more appealing because of the small bulletin board clean-up.

In 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there I am reclaiming my space, one little nook at a time. It's amazing what a big effect such small tasks can have on my serenity.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Finding My Creativity

I'm taking part in Deb Owen's Creative Pathways course. We just started a week ago and will be going for a total of 12 weeks to work on unleashing our creativity for whatever that means to each of us on this journey.

For me it means letting my creativity come out and play, to see what transpires. It's something that I have stifled over the years since working in web where I'm "supposed" to be a technical person.

It's a scary thing to call myself creative. Yes I graduated with an English degree. Yes I liked writing stories when I was younger. Yes I admire artists. But I tend not to think of myself as creative. I think of other people as creative. I think, "sure I do little semi-creative things here and there, but she's a real artist/writer/photographer/(fill in the blank)."

I have no problem looking at others as the real deal. Me, however, I'm just me. I guess it's true what they say about you being your own worst critic.

In Deb's course, we are working through The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. One of the basic tools she presents is writing three pages every morning. Simple stream of consciousness- what's on your mind, what you have to do that day, how tired you are, whatever. I have been writing my morning pages for a week now after a month long hiatus.

I'm finding the process leaves me feeling more calm throughout my day. By writing in a safe space whatever is in my head no matter how wild, stupid, trivial, or boring it may seem, I am setting my intention for the day. The simple act of writing in the morning encourages more writing later in the day. It helps me see the stories in my daily life. It helps me understand what I may not be clear enough about.

I don't know yet where all of this will lead. I don't have any grand goal for the process. I simply want to foster creativity and let the path unfold before me.

This begins week two.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Taylor Swift Raps with T-Pain as T-Swizzle

On the CMT awards the other night the opening sequence was a discussion between Bill Engvall (one of my favorite comedians) and Taylor Swift (one of my favorite singers) about her dreams.

She dreamed of being in the new Star Trek movie so they showed a clip of her patched in to a scene. She dreamed of being an NFL player so they cut to a clip showing her in the Tennessee Titans locker room geared up getting into game mode with one of the players.

Then she said she wanted to be in a rap video with T-Pain. The result was this...

You can see the video in higher quality on CMT if you prefer. Wordpress won't let me embed that version.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wreck This Journal: Week 3 (part 2)

Because this was too good to hold until next week... Wreck This Journal baseball style. That's my husband at bat. Talk about cracking the spine! It's mangled good now. And then I rubbed it in the infield dirt. Overcame the fear of getting it dirty. Woohoo!

[caption id="attachment_837" align="aligncenter" width="476" caption="Wreck This Journal baseball style"]Wreck This Journal baseball style[/caption]

Read Wreck This Journal: Week 3 (the first part- where the I mailed the journal)

Photo Friday: From the Park and Marina

This was my fourth week of photography class and our second lab. We ventured off campus this time to shoot at a nearby park with a marina.

I'm finally learning how to manually work with the exposure settings. It's still kind of a slow thought process followed by some trial and error, but it's a vast improvement over the first lab.

It was another overcast foreboding evening. Fortunately the rain held off until after the photo shoot. Still, it made for more gray photos. I played with composition to work in color, played with distance and close-ups.

The final count was around 210 photographs that I shot in those two hours. I'm even happy with how many of them came out. (Plus, no all black photos this time!)

Here are a few of my favorites:

[caption id="attachment_812" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Bench by the lake"]Bench by the lake[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_813" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="Rope on a mast"]Rope on a mast[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_814" align="aligncenter" width="477" caption="Grate around a tree"]Grate around a tree[/caption]

On a related note, I am now on Flickr, so if you'd like to see some of my other photos venture on over to (There is also a link in the left sidebar of this blog.)

Happy Friday!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wreck This Journal: Week 3

First I want to thank all of the people who visited and commented my earlier WTJ posts! It is incredible to be in the company of so many amazing, witty, funny, wonderful people. Thank you so much for dropping by. Wreck on!

We are now entering week 3 of Wreck This Journal. The first two weeks have been a blast, as well as a learning process.

The first thing I did this week was mail my journal to myself. I took it to my office last Thursday with a heap of stamps. I taped it closed reveling in how glorious the track of destruction would be when I ripped it back off. I addressed it with a borrowed blue Sharpie then adhered a return address label.

[caption id="attachment_793" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="All taped up"]All taped up[/caption]

I asked the guy in the mail room to weigh the book and tell me how much the postage would be. He paused. I'm not sure if it was because I handed him a book that was taped shut or if it was because he noticed the From and To address were identical. No matter. The cost to mail would be $2.24.

Two sunflowers and four Edgar Allan Poe stamps later, I reluctantly dropped my journal in the mail bin. In NY. A whole state away from my house in NJ.

[caption id="attachment_792" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Stamps after the tape ripped them off"]Stamps after the tape ripped them off[/caption]

Then the withdrawal set in. I wondered how long it would be before I held my journal again. I despaired over thinking it might get lost in the mail.

Over the weekend I lived vicariously through all of my fellow wreckers, reading their posts, looking at their photos, watching their videos. Each one spurred brilliant new ideas. Alas, there was no journal for me to wreck.

So I waited.

My journal made it home on Monday. I felt relief. I felt excitement. I felt fear over taking on some of the more difficult pages.

[caption id="attachment_794" align="aligncenter" width="200" caption="The journal back home safe in my mailbox"]The journal back home safe in my mailbox[/caption]

I yanked off the tape. The cover was remarkably resilient, but I managed to pull off the black layer in some places.

[caption id="attachment_795" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="After ripping the tape off"]After ripping the tape off[/caption]

Ahhh, that's better.

Here are the tragedies my journal endured this week:

  1. Mailing (as aforementioned)

  2. Crumpling the instruction page

  3. Covering a page with white things

  4. [caption id="attachment_791" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Cover this page with white things"]Cover this page with white things[/caption]

  5. Scratching with a metal ruler

  6. Writing on the sides of the pages

  7. [caption id="attachment_796" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="My husband\'s not-so-secret message"]My husband's not-so-secret message[/caption] [caption id="attachment_797" align="aligncenter" width="150" caption="My new clean curse phrase"]My new clean curse phrase[/caption]

Keeping it in decent condition to mail it was my previous excuse for keeping the wreckage mild. Now that mailing is done, I need to step it up. (Cue Jaws theme music.)

Will I be able to do it? Time will tell. Check back next week.

Happy wrecking!

Update 6/20/09: Read Wreck This Journal: Week 3 part 2 (where my husband and I play baseball with the journal)

Curious about what other wreckage transpired?