When pulling an all nighter is not what it use to be

I love my creative side. Sometimes my creative side and my type-A personality obsessive planner side get together a couple times a month when I have scheduled photography days out to create new content for my photography business. I never really thought of this as a thing until I did an internet quiz to find what type of photographer I should be. It was spot on. Just incase it was generic BS I read the other types. They were so not me at all. I hate admitting it, but the internet quiz was right.

I plan my days out. I scout for a place with a purpose in mind. I choose particular times of year or times of the day. I actually have a notebook with brainstorm ideas of locations/subjects with notes. I have folders with information, books I have read in research, and links saved in folders on my laptop. It’s what I do.

If things don’t work out as I planned to get the shots I want I’ll regroup and try again until I get it. I brave bad weather, long travel days, early mornings and late nights. I get insect bites, bee stings, sunburns, scratches, scrapes and sprains. To most people it seems insane. But when I get that perfect shot…I know it was all worth it.

I’m not a photoshop photographer. I believe in taking the shot not faking the shot. I’ll crop, change the tone and adjust the color to brighten or soften the shot. But it’s always the same shot. I think people do amazing things in photoshop, but it just isn’t for me. I think it’s because I learned on film and back then we didn’t have the option to take a crappy shot and fix it later. You had to take a good shot to begin with.

Either way, everyone needs an outlet. It may be sports, binging tv, gardening, woodworking, cooking or something entirely different. Especially now as we creep our way out of the pandemic. If you have not found your peace keep trying new things. You never know when something will stick.

Traveling Again!

That’s right. The time has come and Working Mom, Travel Dreams is traveling again! I’m traveling with my husband to Mexico for our 10th wedding anniversary. Our plan was to enjoy a week in the UK but with the travel restrictions that was not possible. So we regrouped, switched gears and now we are off to Cabo San Lucas. We are leaving the kids at home for our first kid free vacation together in 9 years. our last vacation together was our 1st wedding anniversary where I was big and pregnant and we had to book our travel to make sure we made it back before my “unable to travel internationally” date 2 days later. Yeah, there’s nothing like cutting it close. Traveling while that pregnant was not easy.

I have been to Cabo oodles of times since it’s a quick getaway from California. You can usually find long weekend package deals for $500 or less pretty easy so it’s the alternative to Vegas for many of us Californians who are not into gambling but still want to enjoy some fun in the sun. With all the restrictions in California I find people are flocking to Mexico just to get away from it all and enjoy a little bit of freedom again. I have 1 coworker and a friend who are in Cabo right now and know several people that have gone in the last month.

The airports are pretty empty still. They only had one shuttle running at SFO and the long term parking was maybe 1/4 full. It’s really different than my last trip where SFO was packed in Sept 2019. The flights were sure full despite the empty parking. Snacks and beverages were distributed a little different with everyone getting a small snack bag. I actually preferred it that way for this short flight but a bagged lunch meal for dinner could be annoying on a longer international flight.

At the resort nearly everyone we met was vaccinated. The ones who were not vaccinated had covid around the holidays and it’s still too soon for them to get vaccinated. Pretty much everyone hated the masking and wore them as little as possible. There was a lot of annoyance on things like the rule that you have to wear a mask while walking around the resort…except in the pool area. So I don’t have to wear a mask in the pool area but if I go to the snack bar, bathroom or non-swim up bar I need a mask. Swim up bar no mask. Someone brings my drink to me at the table, no mask. I take 5 steps to the bar to get a drink, I need a mask. (FYI all the bars are outdoors).

We followed the rules, no matter how crazy. It was still a lot less restrictive than California and it was FANTASTIC to see people’s faces and socialize. We got our covid tests to return home and they were negative. Even though we were fully vaccinated AND had negative covid tests our kids therapy sessions were canceled for 2 weeks when we returned because we left the country. If we stayed in the country it would have been fine. California paranoia at its best here. CDC says vaccinated people can live normal lives. But here in California we are still on house arrest and shamed for attempting normal.

Self help and exercise

On my morning walks I have started listening to self improvement books. I feel that way I can work on my body and my mind at the same time. Pretty efficient huh. Yeah, I thought so too. My current book (The Creative’s Curse by Todd Brison) inspired this post.

If you have been reading my blog for a while now you know I think of myself as just a mom. I’m a regular person. I’m not rich or famous or glamorous. I work hard and try to make the most out of my life. I didn’t have any special privileges growing up. In fact I grew up in a poor neighborhood and went to the “bad” schools. I have had to work hard for everything I have.

I’m also old…well when it comes to blogging, social media, websites and technology I’m a dinosaur. I have no clue what I’m doing and find myself googling terminology because I don’t know what people are talking about. Because of this, through listening to the books and doing webinars I have learned that I’m accidentally doing things right. My website is “branded” not because I had a clue what that was before I took the class but because I thought it looked better. I post a new photo on my Instagram every day. Not because I’m trying to raise my engagement and grow my audience but because I take a lot of photos and it drives me crazy when half my social media feed is all from the same person so I post one photo a day. I try to post one blog post a week. Also not for engagement but because it forces me to write something once a week. When I’m busy with large photography projects or home life I don’t work on my book. The blog keeps me writing.

You may wonder what any of that has to do with anything, well frankly I have no idea what I’m doing. All this stuff is where youngsters excel. I have found myself talking social media with these whipper-snappers as they try to explain to me how social media works like I’m 105. I had one youngster try to explain it to me using her Instagram as she carefully crafted a post for her 800 loyal fans. Saying how she has so many followers he should teach a class for people like me. After she made her post she wanted me to make one so she could help me. So I pull out my phone and start to craft a post for my 7,000+ fans. She looked at how many followers I had and asked me who’s account that was. I said mine.

In the book I’m listening to he is talking about his social media following (it’s lower than mine). In my last book by a different author he talks about his success and what strategies got him there. He also has less than I do. So the question on my mind is how can people who have not achieved the level I’m at teach me to do better? I’m already doing better than they are. I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m apparently doing it right. I just post stuff I like at a frequency that doesn’t overwhelm or annoy me.

I’m not delusional. My ego is not inflated. I understand I’m just a mom. I work a full time job. Play with my kids. Do laundry. I have a photography business. It in no way replaces the income from my day job that supports us. I have this blog that I write to get things out there and force me to stay writing. (I started this blog after reading Single Wide Female) I honestly did not think anyone would ever read it. When I got my first follower I called my friend because surely it was a fluke. I’m still shocked when I get new a new follower every few days. I appreciate you guys. You keep me going.

So here I am. Just a mom. Walking at the crack of cock a doodle dark to try to loose weight because she does not have any other time to exercise. Listening to audiobooks because it’s the only way things get done is multitasking. While keeping up with the kids, my job and my side hustle photography business…and a few writing and charity projects tossed in the mix for fun. And I wonder why I’m so tired…

Traveling again!

A couple months ago everything was closed in California. With our 10th wedding anniversary approaching this weekend we didn’t want to spend it eating a frozen pizza like last year. In California you can’t make plans farther out than a few days. Our Governor changes the rules constantly keeping us as the most restricted state in the country. So to avoid spending another anniversary with a frozen pizza with our plans get canceled the day before we opted to not only leave the state, but leave the country. You know what’s open? Mexico.

We dusted off our passports and booked an all inclusive resort in Cabo San Lucas for 5 days. Yes, we understand there is a pandemic. But we are both fully vaccinated. There are also masking mandates in the enclosed areas of the resort and things are spread out more to allow for social distancing. Our resort has free covid tests prior to your departure and if you fail it you stay at the resort for free with room service to quarantine for 2 weeks. Not a bad deal.

At some point life needs to go back to normal. Living in the most restricted state for the last year has really taken its toll on all of us. There is a reason people and businesses are fleeing California to other states that are more open. I’m not saying to go lick sick people or purposely cough in others faces. But we all need to make decisions for ourselves. Everything comes with risk. It is up to us to decide what risks we are willing to take and what safety measures we want to use.

In our case, we need a break. I’m all work and no play and my husband has been locked inside in distance learning hell for a year. We are totally burnt out by the pandemic. We looked at moving to another state but it just didn’t make sense for us financially so we are sticking it out for a little while longer. Who knows…maybe if we stay locked down for another year it will be enough to take the financial hit for freedom.

Until then the countdown to Mexico is on!

Photography in the pandemic (long)

As many of you know I am a photographer. As a photographer I capture moments in time. Once I click the shutter that moment is gone. We will never get that moment back. I mention this because I recently got in an argument with another photographer on a photography forum online. The issue: she was hired to shoot a wedding last year and paid in full. The wedding is in a month and the pandemic isn’t over yet. She is on the fence about canceling or shooting it and wanted advice. I gave my advice.

The wedding was booked and paid for a year ago and is in a month. She knew it was coming up so if she was going to cancel the time to do it was 5+ months ago when the pandemic didn’t end and the lockdowns continued. At this point the couple is thankful that they still have a photographer because venues and catering are probably a nightmare for them. If the wedding gets canceled that is one thing, but they were hired to do a job and accepted payment in full for the job. They should do the job. It isn’t like things were in the beginning. We have social distancing, masking and if you get sick we now have treatments. On top of that more and more people are getting vaccinated every day. This isn’t the same situation we had in the beginning when we didn’t have any of that.

Well, apparently some people got mad about that and feel everyone should stay home and everything should be canceled until the virus is gone from our planet. Ok, look moron. It’s a virus. It will never be completely gone from the planet. Also, everything in life has risks. It’s our job to learn those risks as we grow up and learn to do things as safe as possible knowing the risks and should we end up sick or injured we know where to go for help if we need it. Staying locked in your home in fear is not living…it’s existing. There is a reason why we have prisons for criminals and put little kids in time out. Taking away freedom to live your life as you wish is punishment.

Back to photography… I’m not a fan of shooting portraits. It’s boring. I like landscapes, nature and travel. But I am good at it even if I don’t like it. In this pandemic I have found myself shooting more portraits than I ever have before. Why is this when there are so many portrait photographers out there? Well, it’s because they are terrified and believe everyone should stay in isolation. I don’t feel that way. I feel that life is still happening and once those moments are gone we will never get them back. Photographers are here to capture those moments.

I have a friend who has had 7 miscarriages and finally carried her pregnancy to term with #8 in this pandemic. She wanted to do a maternity photo shoot to capture the joy of this time especially since she does not know if they will ever be able to have another one. The problem… she can’t find a photographer in the lockdown so she contacted me. I agreed to do her photos for her. I don’t know how people can turn down someone who has been through so much sadness and wants to capture the joy of this moment. It isn’t like she can go back and do them later. We did them in a low risk way outdoors I stayed socially distanced from them except when I gave her a gift for the baby. I later took family photos after the birth for their daughters 1st Christmas.

My brother is getting married in September. I did his engagement photos and I’m terrified that their wedding photographer will cancel at the last minute and I’ll end up shooting his wedding rather than enjoying the celebration with my family. Why would I do that? Well, because I’m not going to bail on my brother when he needs me.

I’m just so tired of people using covid as an excuse. So you have sat on your butt for a year and don’t want to go back to work? Is it because you are terrified of covid? Nope. You are still living your life visiting with friends and family and going to the store and whatever else is open at the moment. Just be honest. Don’t say it isn’t safe for you to go back to work. Just say you don’t want to go back to work. It’s ok. You can NOT want to go. I don’t want to go every day but I have a family to support so I put on my shoes and go. Would I like to stay home and enjoy the 50 hours a week of free time with my family? Hell yes! I get it. I don’t want to go to work either. But I’m sure as hell not going to use covid as an excuse and say I can’t go to work because it isn’t safe while I go on about living my life outside my home. Just be honest about it. Just say you got lazy and don’t want to go back to work. Saying it isn’t safe for YOU to go to work while you expect everyone else to go to work is just saying that you are more important than everyone else out there. You are more important than all the essential workers who have kept everything running back when it really was not safe. If you accept a job and got paid for the job then you should do that job. If you want to back out you should refund your fee AND pay the difference for the last minute replacement for the job you were suppose to do if they incur additional costs due to you backing out at the last minute.

The businesses and people that are going to survive this pandemic are going to be the ones who didn’t use it as an excuse to be lazy. They are going to be the ones that paid off debt, saved up to purchase their first home, wrote that book, used the time to get fit, eat healthier, forge a better relationship with their spouse and children. There are 1000 ways to come out of the pandemic better than you went into it.

There are several truths about the past year no matter what your beliefs are on the way the pandemic is being handled where you are from.

Life is moving on.

Relationships are starting and ending.

People are getting married and divorced.

Children are being born and growing up.

People still die.

How do you feel about gatherings? Should we never celebrate again? If you are married how would you feel to have that option taken away from you? How about your children? Do you reflect back on that crying photo with Santa and smile? What if that was taken away from you? Remember the first day of kindergarten? What if that was taken away? High school or college graduation (yours or or child’s)? How about funerals? Should those go away and we no longer get to mourn? Should we visit the sick and dying or let them die alone? How about birthdays? Do we celebrate only the 1st birthday, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 50th, 75th, 100th? Only some? None at all? How about if you beat cancer and didn’t think you would see another birthday but here it is! Do you celebrate?

Do we celebrate life or let let it just go because someone might get sick? What about food poisoning? Someone might get sick. Maybe we should not eat anymore.

Leap of faith…

Sometimes I look back and I’m amazed at how much my life has changed in the last few years. It isn’t just Covid closures, but the goals I have achieved along the way. You see I have this old friend that has moved away that I talk to and we have the most insane conversations. We can always count on each other to tell it like it is.

A conversation with this friend brought me to start this blog. I had never thought of doing a blog before and I never thought anyone would be interested in what I have to say, after all I’m just a Mom. She convinced me that I have something to say and I should give it a try. I still remember when the first person read it. I was amazed! When I got my first follower I called her on the way home from work. I called her when I hit double digits and I’ll call her when I hit 100, 1000 and every time I add another zero to the total.

Another conversation with this same friend gave me the push to start my photography business. I went to a craft fair with another friend and there was a guy selling photo prints at a booth and making a lot of money. My friend and I were looking through his work when she leaned over to me and told me that I should sell my photos. They are better than this guys photos. I laughed it off. After all, I’m just a Mom. I told my old friend about this craft fair conversation and she agreed. I should take my photography to the next level. I was not convinced. So she started to send me links to online photo contests. I entered some to humor her and I was shocked as I actually started to place. How in the world I could place in a contest with tens or hundreds of thousands of entries was mind blowing to me. I looked at the winning shots and did not feel worthy to be among such great photographers. But there I was and not just once, but in several of the contests I entered. I finally believed her and opened an online store and started submitting to galleries.

This is important to me because starting tomorrow I’ll have a photo on display in a gallery in New York City. It isn’t the MOMA but it is in New York City and I’m very excited! If you are in the area check out the show at the Agora Gallery. My photo on display is the featured image on this post. Not bad for “just a Mom”.

I’m far from rich, famous and quitting my day job. But it is nice to see hard work paying off. It feels good to be able to do something I love, taking that leap of faith and actually doing better than I ever expected. Someday I’ll be in the MOMA. Just not today and that is OK. I can work my way up to that level. When I get there, (I don’t care if all I have in is a little 8×10) I am going to the opening reception and I’m going to wear an amazing multi color dress. Of course I can only see the dress in my head, but I’ll design and sew it myself if I have to. It will not be the first time and it will probably not be the last.

To my readers: I thank you for your support. I hope I can inspire at least one of you to reach for the stars, take a leap of faith, try something you felt was impossible and achieve greatness.

What the hell was I thinking?

Yeah, I ask myself that a lot. I would love to be one of those people who can just chill and be happy exactly as they are and never aspire for more. It could be anything… more knowledge, more experiences or just overall a better life. Ok, I’m sure pretty much everyone on the planet wishes they had more of something. But how many people actually hustle to make it happen? The answer is different in different cultures but here I see people hustle until they get a good job then they just stop and get stuck.

I want more. I have traveled to more places than 99% of the people I know but I still want to see more.

I actually took a step I have dreamed about and I’m making my dream of actually making money as a photographer a reality. Now, I’m not quitting my day job any time soon but a couple hundred dollars a month is pretty good for a side gig that I have only been at for a year. (I have over 30 years experience as a photographer, but selling my photos is new). It’s work and it was hard to get going but getting surprise checks that something sold is exciting.

The other step I took is writing a book. I wrote a travel book but while it was with the editor covid hit, the world closed and now I pretty much need to redo most of the book. So, while I’m waiting for the world to open again to see where the dust settles on travel, I’m working on a couple other writing projects. I have a series of books that I have had in my mind for a while now that I’m writing the first book now. I am also talking to a friend about writing a book together and tossing ideas back and forth on that.

I have health and fitness goals. I have self care goals. I have goals for adding in meditation and yoga back into my life again.

I have dreams and an ever growing list of places I want to go. I want to find another dance group to be a part of again. I’m looking forward to being able to have a book club again. I look forward to someday taking my kids to Disneyland.

I have an insane amount of things I want to do. I have goals. I have a vision of my future self enjoying a glass of wine with my husband watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean from our balcony with a light coastal breeze bringing in the smell of the saltwater with it. I see a gallery of my own with half of it my photography and half of it artwork from those on the Autism spectrum and disabled artists. I see that gallery as a place for those on the spectrum to have a place to work as well as display their art. I see myself traveling with my family as I continue to write and take photos from all over the world enjoying the differences in other cultures and cuisines as I learn the languages and make new friends. I hope to someday be an inspiration to others in leading a positive life where all my hard work has paid off to the point that I am invited to speak to groups about things I am passionate about. I hope to teach photography workshops someday instead of the one on one sessions I do now. Someday I hope I inspire someone to do something amazing that changes the world for the better.

But until that day when it all falls into place… I’ll continue to slowly work on my goals and dreams until one day they have all come true.

Upgrade!

I have never had a professional level camera, ever. But I look at them and dream of the beauty and all that would be possible if I had gear that could actually handle all that my mind can think up. I have given tips and advice to people that have cameras I could only dream of being able to afford while I’m out shooting with my entry level crop sensor DSLR. I sigh. Their camera without the lens cost more than my camera with all the lenses and has so many more features.

It looks like 2020 will be the year. I have been saving up and putting aside all my sales and winnings from my photography and I’m roughly halfway to my new system. I’m going full frame and mirrorless. I know this probably doesn’t excite any of you, but I am very excited!

Research is going on now. I’m comparing all the options and narrowed it down to 3 very comparable cameras. I have my top choice and 2 alternates. Now I keep saving up and wait until Mike’s Camera does the demo day at the Sacramento Zoo in a few months. At the demo day you can check out items for an hour at a time and go around the zoo and try them out. I’m now sorting out lenses to see what would be best for me to start with since they can easily cost more than the camera. Of course I’m all my research I have realized that I can easily spend tens of thousands of dollars on new gear but, that is never going to happen unless I become a famous photographer for National Geographic. Let’s just say I’m not holding my breath waiting for that.

My goal… to have it in my hands before I go to Vegas to teach at the educational conference in November. If I can pull that off then watch out world! I’m going to have some awesome photos when I return because I’ll be out exploring when I’m not teaching!

Oh, and that long standing bucket list item of doing the sunset helicopter tour of the Grand Canyon then fly back over the Vegas strip at night is totally going to happen! I’m going to need strategic planning of my classes and a rental car.

The featured photo this time was taken in September on my UK trip. I may not have a new camera yet, but I can still look at all the places I have been and daydream while I wait.

Punk Rock!

20200110-DSC_0172Over the three day weekend I had a date day with my husband. Dates change a bit after you are married with kids. We went to see an “adult movie” (aka a movie that is not animated). The force was strong with us so we went to see Star Wars…at the 11 AM showing. Followed by a late lunch/early dinner and a few errands on the way home.

While we were on our way to the office supply store to pick up some address labels Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols came on the radio. We crank it up and sing along as we pull into the parking lot and score an awesome spot right in front. As we get out of the car a few people are staring at us as we walk in to get our address labels. I look at the two of us and could not feel less punk rock.

Once upon a time I had multi-color hair and enough piercings to set off the airport metal detector (yes, I actually set it off once flying home from Southern CA). I dated guys with real Mohawks in various colors, long hair, piercings and tattoos that were in bands. To those who knew me back then it’s no surprise that I married a musician. But he is a clean cut singer-songwriter with no piercings or tattoos. I’m the one with the tattoos and while I took out most of my piercings I kept a few.

Looking at the two of us I could not feel less punk rock rebellion as I’m wearing my denim jeans with no stains or holes, my deep red t-shirt top with button detailing and my comfy tennis shoes with my hair pulled back in a pony tail. I look at my hubby who is dressed similarly. We just got out of my plug in hybrid car. We live in a house in a nice neighborhood. What happened to our rebellious pasts back when we were, well I was cool?

We talked a lot on the way home with our address labels. We decided we are going to be crazy and rebel! We are NOT going to follow the GPS and will take the road less traveled (only to see it was a dead end and we had to go back over to where the GPS wanted us to go anyway). Maybe we should get his and hers Dr. Martins (I loved mine and wore them ever day when I backpacked through Europe). Maybe we should make it to a punk show this year. Maybe he should find some other special needs Dads that play instruments and they should a punk band…

In the end we went home. I made my labels and cursed at the printer that kept saying it wasn’t online while I could see it was clearly connected to the wifi. Then dropped off some more artwork at the gallery and found out another piece of mine sold. He stayed home and put on a movie for the kids.

So I may not be punk rock anymore. I may not be young. But I was cool once. I lived my life to the fullest and did lots of crazy and amazing things! While I am no longer the person I use to be, the person I am now isn’t so bad. I’m married to a great guy. I have two kids. I have a job that pays well. I have a creative outlet. My photography business is growing. I finished writing my first book…

Then again… Maybe I am still punk rock. After all, I’m not just existing and following typical societal rules. Sure I have the house, car, dog and 2 kids and a sensible wardrobe… but I married a significantly younger man. I’m a cougar. So what? I’m setting goals and achieving them. I’m going after my dreams. I’m breaking the rules and rediscovering myself in my 40’s. Im not just existing, I’m living! I’m creating art. I wrote a book. Who cares if I do it all in jeans and a t-shirt while wearing comfortable shoes and driving an ecologically conscious car? Damn it, I’m punk rock! (As long as I can be in bed by 10 PM)

Rock on people. Rock on.

(the photo was taken over the weekend at sunrise. I have been fascinated with the mist lately and braving the freezing temperatures to get some great photos as it rolls in at sunrise)

Holy QR code Batman!

Sometimes awesome upgrades cause me more work, although they are pretty awesome.

One of my new goals is to go to opening night at the gallery every time I have a piece in that show that is close enough for me to go to. Saturday was one of those nights for the Shades Of Red show at one of the local galleries and they have updated their art labeling system with QR code’s so people can just scan them and poof they get right to the artist’s website. Pretty cool stuff right? Yeah, I thought so too.

So, what’s the problem? Well, my website has taken a bit of a back burner while I have been working on my book. Now I need to do some major updates. As they were talking about the updates to the modern gallery I’m standing there wondering how I am going to update my website to feature the photos currently on display. I’m so focused on thinking about my website that I let out a very unprofessional “huh” when they call my name and ask me to talk a bit about one of my photos that is in the front room of the gallery and is creating creating quite a buzz just before passing me the microphone. Thankfully I regained my composure quickly and managed to NOT sound like a complete idiot.

Lessons learned…

1. Always pay attention to what is going on.

2. Keep your website updated (last update was in September just before I went to the UK).

3. Be prepared to talk about each piece when I’m the featured artist in April. Some have nice stories. Some not so much. Some are boring like I just cleaned my lens and went to take some photos in my yard to make sure I got all the spots off. Beautiful photos, boring story. No deep meanings here. But I can tell you how I was feeling and what I was thinking when I took every photo.

For your viewing pleasure here is the photo creating the buzz. It’s really gorgeous in person.

This photo is on the promotional flyer for the Shades of Red show (it’s mine too)

I also have a third piece in this show it’s an actual sunset when the Napa Valley was on fire. We were a few miles outside of the evacuation zone so we were ok, but the air was chunky.