Sea shell weed IMG_5141     I’ve been thinking for the last few days about how I feel regarding the mass shooting in Orlando. And I’m heartsick. I am heartsick that this guy who had been interviewed twice by the FBI and had been on the terrorist watch list, was able to go into a gun store and easily buy an AR-15. I’m heartsick that this man thinks it’s okay to go into a bar and execute 49 people and wound another 53 more because of his warped sense of God. I honestly don’t want to bring God into this because God had nothing to do with it. This person took it upon himself to bring judgment down on innocent people because he disapproved of their lifestyle. Period. And I’m angry.
I have many friends. And they run the gamut between straight, gay, and transgender. I refuse to discriminate against any of them, for any reason, what-so-ever. Each and everyone of them bring me joy in one way or another. And I like to think I do the same for them. Each and everyone of them have drawn me into their lives in a moment of time that has been good, really good. I’ve learned from them… laughed, cried, shared anger and have just been plain happy. My LGBTQ friends have always treated me with love and respect. And when the chips were down and I was having a tough time, they were there for me. And I am eternally grateful.
I don’t care who my friends love. I only care that they love and ARE loved, they are respected, and cared for.
Someone once said to me that I shouldn’t hang out with gay people, that I should only befriend straight people. I think that person was worried that I would somehow become gay and they worried about my soul. Here’s what that person doesn’t understand, no one becomes gay simply by hanging out with someone who is. No one is transgender simply because they wake up one day and decide they don’t like being male or female anymore. You are either born LGBTQ or you’re not. And for those born LGBTQ, their choice to come out or change their anatomy is incredibly hard, gut wrenching and damn difficult. Because doing so is dangerous and can get you killed. In my opinion, that sucks! And I think LGBTQ folk are incredibly brave… braver than most straights or cisgender.
Being your authentic self and living your truth should never, ever be a choice between life and death.
I believe God put each of us on this planet to love and be loved, and to learn from each other. It is impossible for us to really know what someone else’s path is because we are too busy walking our own. The path that is right for me, most likely will not be right for you. And unless we are willing to stop and listen to one another with an open heart, a little compassion and empathy, we will never be able to understand each other. Now, instead of judging each other, let’s try and have a little understanding.

    Sun filter redwoods DSC05158For the better part of my adult life, I have lived in places people would consider tourist destinations. I like living in places people want to visit. I like meeting new people and don’t mind giving directions when people are lost. Besides it’s kind of fun.

I’ve learned a lot. Tourist can be interesting and quaint or sometimes totally mindless, completely unaware of their environment and generally disrespectful to the people who have the privilege of living there year round. I’m often torn between wanting tourists to be safe and wondering if I really give a damn. It all depends on their attitude and how they treat the rest of us.

Now don’t get me wrong, I mostly don’t mind tourists. And I have nothing against airbnb and vrbo. I’ve used their services and most likely will continue to do so.

That being said, I want to share a few helpful tips for people who are vacation renters to help you get along better with the community you are renting a home in. Wherever that may be…

1. Be respectful of our community. If we say hi, smile or wave show some respect and do the same. It’s called being friendly. You’re not in a resort where some may feel it’s appropriate to be rude. If you were, you’d be paying a lot more money with bell hops, room service and in-house gourmet restaurants.

2. Please walk your dog on a leash at all times and pick up after your furry friend. If we politely ask you to put a leash on that pup and hold it in your hand, don’t give us a dirty look. Leash the pup and say thank you for caring. You don’t know what the dogs are like who live here and not all dogs play well with others. If your dog were to run up to greet another, the other dog may take that as an attack instead a friendly invitation to play. I’m only attempting to look out for the well-being of your pet and mine.

3. Pick up your trash, including your dogs poop. You weren’t raised in a barn were you? Do you think leaving trash and poop around your own neighborhood is a good idea? Don’t leave it in mine or my yard, put it in it’s proper place… the trash can.

4. If you build a fire on the beach or anywhere else, be aware of the fire danger. Sparks fly and can create forest fires. Also, please use firewood and not wood with nails or put glass bottles in the fire. We really don’t like cleaning up the mess you’ve made. And it makes our lovely beach dangerous for everyone else. Stepping on glass or a rusty nail is no fun and it’s bad manners on your part. Better yet, don’t build the fire.

5. Again, be respectful of the neighborhood. Loud parties after 10 are frowned upon, period. Unless of course you invite all the neighbors. Otherwise, we will most definitely call the person you are renting from and/or the police. You are renting a house, not the community.

Basically, just be a decent human being, that’s all we ask. You’ll have a much better time and the rest of us will be greatly appreciative.

Now one last thing, and this one is for the people who are buying homes in neighborhoods specifically for renting out as vacation rentals. This one is really important… Get to know the people who live in your new neighborhood year round. Make friends with them and listen to their concerns. Exchange phone numbers and emails. Be friendly and supportive. And be conscious of the amount of parking you have available in front of your home. My parking area is not your parking area. I can not stress any of these enough. The year rounders are the ones who will notice if your house is broken into, a window has been left open that can be seen from the street or will call the fire department if your house is on fire. We will contact you if there is a pipe that has burst and is spewing water all over the place. Your ownership of a vacation rental is not a license to be disrespectful to your neighbors.

Remember, you are changing this beautiful and bucolic neighborhood by renting your home out every week and/or weekend to strangers. And it’s not always easy for us to deal with your guests, especially when you or they are rude and disrespectful. Remind them it’s appropriate to have good manners and to be considerate with their dogs. Our neighborhood and it’s beauty are the reason you bought here in the first place and the reason your guests want to visit.

 

Beauty Parlor-08077“We need to go get my hair fixed tomorrow, call the lady in Virgilina and see if she’s got an appointment,” my mother said to me.

It was Thursday, Friday is the day Momma usually gets her hair fixed. I picked up the phone and dialed the number, made the appointment. When Friday came around, it was a nice day, sunny, bright and deliciously beautiful. I helped Momma with her bath, got us both ready to go and off we went.

Virgilina is a tiny little town that sits right smack dab on the border of North Carolina and Virginia. At one point in time, it was a copper mining town and had the worst tasting water you would ever drink. Virgilina was officially incorporated in February 1900, even had it’s on bank called The Bank of Virgilina! The current population is more or less 157 people now.

We get to the beauty parlor, I help momma in and get her settled. The lady says to me, “Hey, did you bring your cameras?” She knows I like to shoot pictures. I laughed and said, “Yep, I sure did. Was looking forward to goin’ to a Tobacca-08065different part of town today”. Another lady in curlers said, “OH… You have got to go down to my house! Across the street there’s the most beautiful field of t’bacca with sunflowers growing b’tween the rows. Why I like to eat my breakfast in the morning looking out on that field. It’s so beautiful!”

My mother said she’d be fine, to go ahead and go. I kissed her on the forehead and ran out the door, started the car, rolled down the windows and drove down the road. I was heading out to see the t’bacca.

As I drove, I was remembering my childhood. Coming to this same beauty parlor all those years ago, running barefoot down the street, going to the corner store to see James and get a coke with peanuts. Behind the store is the old firehouse my Uncle used to volunteer in, they’ve got a new one now. My cousin lived and still does a couple blocks away.

Somebody bought the old elementary school, they’re fixin’ it up and livin’ there now. And just a little further down the road is the t’bacca field I’ve been lookin’ for. I’ve never seen sunflowers growing with t’bacca. It was beautiful! It was some of the prettiest t’bacca I’d ever seen and the sunflowers just seemed to highlight the field and make it pop.

Sunflower bee-08060I got out of the car and walked between the rows, weaving in and out. Sunflowers were blooming everywhere, a few of the t’bacca plants hadn’t been suckered yet (the flowers were still on ’em). Bees were flying around, drunk on sunflower nectar. That made my heart sing. I shot pictures and allowed myself to feel the joy of just standing in that field. I know it sounds crazy but, I found that t’bacca field just as beautiful as the lady in curlers. Now I understood why she sent me there.

front yard-06353I know  when most people see a picture like this, they see a pretty landscape or nice yard. When I see the same picture, I think of getting down on my hands and knees with my camera to discover the world that lives within. To see what actually makes that beautiful landscape. After all, as my father said to me on my this last trip… “Those are just weeds. But, I suppose you could see them as pretty flowers”. In that moment, my dad said a mouthful!

For me, macro photography is visceral. It hits me deep inside, unsettles my nervous system and makes me feel as if I’m falling into a world of unseen beauty. A world that is so tiny and elegant we take it for granted, never taking the time to see what creates it. And yet, when we were little, those same minute details held so much wonder.

It was early spring when I arrived at my parents. The flowers were blooming, the newness of life was evident everywhere I looked, fresh and alive. Life was opening up, seeds were popping, and pollen was beginning to float. I witnessed amazing daffodils of all kinds, tiny little butter cups looking tall and elegant through my lens, and those little Christmas tree shaped bushes covered in blue orchid-like flowers that seem to proliferate in the grass of my parents yard. It’s truly amazing. And to be able to take pictures before it was all mowed made my heart go pitter patter. That was amazing!

As I was looking through the pictures, it made me reflect on what else gets taken for granted. What else is out there we don’t take the time to see? There is so much that comprises our small, individual universe, yet we never take time to just look, feel the wonder and breath in the beauty that surrounds us in our everyday life. Maybe, just maybe it’s time to do that.

Just for fun, here are a few of the pictures that helped open my eyes.

happiness  | ˈhapēnis | noun – good fortune; pleasure; contentment; joy.

attitude-gratitude-8054

On December 21st, my friend Dawn had a party in celebration of the Mayan calendar. There were lots of “end of the world” parties around town, but Dawn wanted to create a different sort of party. She wanted to celebrate the possibilities of new beginnings in each of our lives. I’m glad she did.

Dawn gave us all a plastic container she had decorated and asked each of us to write something we were grateful for or felt joy about each night before going to bed, then put it in the plastic tub. Well, I wasn’t groovin’ to the tub but, I had a beautiful tin box my friend Nancy had given me one year for my birthday that was made by a local tinsmith. This seemed to be the perfect receptacle for gratitude and joy.

Each night since, with the exception of a couple here and there, I have written my daily gratitude or joy, folded the paper and dropped it in my box. I am noticing that I feel happier, more joyful and laughing a lot more. I see more of the beauty that surrounds me and I feel more positive and content about life. Little things that would bother me or drive me crazy now seem less important. Life has become a joyful flow of creativity and wonder. For this, I am eternally grateful.

So, here’s my question to you. What makes you happy? What small thing do you do each day to bring more joy, gratitude and purpose into your life? And please, feel free to share. You never know when something you are currently doing might help someone you have never met.

creativity |ˌkrē-āˈtivitē| noun –  1) the state or quality of being creative.  2) the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc; originality, progressiveness, or imagination.  3) the process by which one utilizes creative ability.

My joy-filled Nicho

My joy-filled Nicho

My husband often to tells me the way to see your soul is to stand on the threshold of the precipice and stick your neck out. Yesterday, I decided to do just that. I went to a class with Anado McLauchlin to learn how to make nichos. What a wonderful day it was!

First, let me say that I have never seen myself as particularly creative, even though I have a creative job. I thought everyone else was more creative than I. That anything I created could be done by anyone, I and my creativity were nothing special. This year, I am changing that. My resolution for this new year is to do something creative everyday, no matter what it is or looks like. It could be something as simple as making an amazing meal, making new business cards for my clients or shooting a cool picture, any and all things are up for grabs. I am changing the way I view creativity. And so far I’ve been doing pretty good.

When I read about Anado’s class, I instinctively knew I had to do it. I knew that being in his class, in his studio with all the amazingly creative people he attracts was the perfect thing I needed to kick-start this new year. I needed a creative injection so too speak and I was not disappointed. The joyful and fun energy of his class was incredibly contagious. I was energized, my creativity was flowing and I was happy. That’s the bottom line, I was happy. I experienced a completely different form of happiness in my creativity. I learned that creativity is fun and that’s a wonderful thing!

In my own studio, I’m always second guessing myself…thinking that my work looks like a “hot mess”. Even when people say they like what I am working on, I can’t see what they see. And it depresses me. Yesterday, I didn’t feel that way at all and when I was stuck, I didn’t go into that depressive way of being, I asked for help. I never thought to say to myself that everyone else is more creative than I. And that was amazing. I was able to step out of my box and see how joyful and wonderful my creativity can be when I let go of those crazy thoughts of second guessing myself or wishing I were more… well more everything positive that I think I’m not.

The reality is that we are all creative in one way or another even though we don’t think so. We all have different ways of being with our creativity that let our imaginations flow and that is key. A great way of doing that is taking a day to step out of our boxes we have put ourselves in and letting our creativity have a field day. Now THAT is way cool!

To see how Anado manifests his own wonderfully unique and joyful creativity, please visit his website at www.madebyanado.com or friend him on facebook.

All you need is love-02410 smI awoke this morning to the sounds of light drizzle in the air. Softness abounds. I thank the heavens for my life, for giving me this time of transition and for loving me so very much.

I have come to realize that the most important thing for me is to live in Love. To let fear fall to the wayside, to shed it like the second skin it has become. I don’t need this fear anymore…it doesn’t serve me and never has.

Love is the antidote…

I heard someone say once before…”Love is the antidote that leaves the cloak of fear behind.” Truth has never been spoken so reverently and loudly.

Today I state to God and everybody… Love is the truth, Love is the answer, Love is what will bring us through our most difficult times. And this is what I want in my life. Love.

To live a most fulfilling life of Love, what more is there?

For me, what is important to remember is that life is a circle. What do we want to perpetuate in our circle? The viciousness of fear or the warm embrace of Love? I choose Love.

Now is the time to let the cloak of fear fall from my shoulders and embrace the Love that surrounds us each and every day in every way.

The day started out sunny, very exciting, then turned cloudy and rainy. We weren’t quite sure what to do but, Den suggested we take a trip to Giverny to see Monet’s garden. Especially since it was one of my top 3 things I wanted to do while in Paris and our days here are dwindling down. We checked the train schedule, bought our tickets and headed out the door. We were getting out of town. Didn’t matter if it rained, we are empowered with umbrellas and raincoats. Besides, a day in the country would do us some good!

We made our way to Gare St. Lazare and boarded our train. We noticed right away how silent the train is, it was unbelievable. The cars were clean and beautiful, seats were comfortable and I even had a little foot rest. Cool! The trip itself was quick and easy, we spent most of the time looking at one of my ipad apps about Paris, trying to decide what to do with the precious few days we have left. Before we knew it, we were in Vernon. And so far, the weather was holding up. Cloudy but no rain, a good omen.

We grabbed a cab and set off for Giverny, it was only a few kilometers away and we wanted to get there as quickly as possible. You can, however, take a bus, a tour or walk. I’ve done the walk both ways before, and after a long day of shooting, you’re bone tired. There were vast fields of amazing yellow flowers, as far as the eye could see. Den asked the driver to stop and he got out to take pictures. I stayed in the car, I was a little worried about the memory cards I had. They have rapidly gotten full and I wanted to save the space for Monet. After Den’s picture excursion, we continued on.

All I can say is wow, Monet created a beautiful vision of loveliness. It’s one thing to see the house and gardens on the internet, it’s another thing entirely to see them in person. We toured his home first. He had such an amazing eye for color. Each room painted differently either in a single hue or combination, including the furniture The dining room was lemon yellow, the sitting room robins egg blue with darker blue details (even the grandfather clock!), Japanese wood blocks covered the walls. His studio was large, airy and divided into two parts with reproductions of his paintings covering the walls.  I thought it was interesting that Monet’s bedroom was large and airy, with 3 big windows to view the gardens while his wife’s room was smaller with a little window looking over the street side of the house.

Now the gardens! Even on a cloudy day with a little sun and drizzle, they were spectacular. Tulips, so many different varieties, so many colors, they leave me speechless! At this point, I think it’s best if I let the pictures speak for themselves. Please remember, none of these are color-corrected. That will happen when I get home. For now, just enjoy the slideshow.

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I never made it to Versailles. It was one of those days that unfolded itself and led me through the labyrinth of  surprises. First off, I just couldn’t get moving to save my life. So instead of pushing, I let go. Versailles is one of those places that requires a full day, not a half day. It’s huge, beautiful and grand, you don’t want to rush it. I decided to walk until I found a metro station.

cheesy deliciousnessOn my way, I passed the cheese shop, then the charcuterie…by this time my mouth was watering. All those beautiful meats, pâtés and cheeses. And weren’t we talking the other night about how we hadn’t had any of those yet? Well, that was going to change tonight! I mean come on, you can’t come to France without eating cheese and pâté, why it’s….uncivilized! I made a mental note of the locations so I could stop on the way home. Finally I came upon a metro station, checked the maps and decided today was going to be another cemetery day. We hadn’t really explored the whole of our neighborhood so, being the cemetery freak I am, I thought Montparnasse Cemetery it is.

Pere Lechaise and Montparnasse are very different. Pere Lechaise is a riot of chaos, wild roots and decaying stones. It oozes and drips with history as it rushes up the hill, while leaving parts of itself down below. Montparnasse on the other hand is more along the lines of orderly modernity with a bit history mixed in. It’s flat with everything more or less in it’s place, a smattering of old and new neatly placed together. Now this doesn’t mean it’s easier to find who you’re looking for in Montparnasse, I spent the better part of 2 hours looking for Man Ray’s grave, I must have walked around or near it 20 times! Not until they began to ring the bell for people to leave did I find it. And to tell you the truth, I expected it to be more…”artsy” than it was, I was a little disappointed. There were other artists and non-artists, there that I found a lot more interesting, even vivacious and carefree, if you will.

My mom loves gizzards and through her, I learned to love them too. Imagine my surprise when I discovered a restaurant today that served an incredible green salad with gizzards and smoked duck, it was fabulous, I thought I had died and gone to heaven. I’ve never had gizzards like that, they were tender and succulent, melt in your mouth and with the added delight of duck, oh my! If only I can figure out how they cooked them. That was only the beginning of my food day! On the way home, I picked up a duck pâté, 4 different cheeses (a cow, a sheep, a goat and a blue), pots de crème (a coffee and a chocolate) and french bread. For dessert, we have lemon meringue tart and some bit of chocolate deliciousness. Yes, I’m going to need to diet when I get home. And I have to say right here and now, when I walked into the cheese shop, the aroma was overwhelmingly delicious, I hadn’t smelled those smells since I lived in New York. Wow, the choices were almost too much to bear!

So, I want to leave you with a little nugget. There were little signs in Montparnasse people left on some of the graves, they said regret. It kind of nailed home to me, we sometimes have regrets when loved ones die. And I realized, I want to die with as few of these as possible.

Yesterday was gorgeous, today not so much.

feeding birdsYesterday was May Day (Labor Day here) with beautiful sunny weather Everyone was out. There were demonstrations in some parts of the city with people here and about carrying flags. We took the subway to the oldest part of Paris to walk in Les Tuileries gardens. People were out in droves, and most everything was closed. We needed to eat and forgot we could eat in the gardens…that was a mistake. We ended up in one of those “trendy” restaurants, you know the kind where a coke costs the same as a glass of wine and the food is…well “eh”. Young girls were sitting outside smoking their little lungs out while families and older people sat inside to escape. We ate appetizers with only one being worth the money, the rest were forgettable at best. The gardens were beautiful with amazing statuary, flowers blooming and perfectly green grass surrounding the paths and walkways. We marveled at the detail in the sculptures and the amount of people in the gardens. Everywhere we looked there was eye candy in all forms amazing art, flowers, a young boy feeding birds from his fingers, families with their kids on tricycles and young lovers in the grass.

One of the coolest things about yesterday was stumbling upon Shakespeare and Co. This is the oldest English language bookstore in Paris and it’s quite a joy to wander in. Books and old photos line the walls, the floors are old and well worn hardwood, a little tile here and there. A step leading to the back read, Live for Humanity, I loved that! I could have easily spent several hours perusing the shelves and wished we had found it earlier. We bought a book while there called, “The Invention of Paris: A History of Footsteps” Éric Hazan and David Fernbach. I’m looking forward to diving in.

Today was cloudy with afternoon rain. I had lunch with my friend Carol who lives here and introduced her to the restaurant we had visited a few nights before. The food was just as good and she was impressed, that was fun.  We later took the subway back to Les Tuileries, I wanted to walk around parts I hadn’t seen yesterday. I enjoyed wandering in the rain with umbrella and camera, with eyes wide open. I walked, got lost and found myself again.

Stained glass in churchI discovered a church with beautiful stained glass windows, paintings of saints, statuary and carvings. Some of the vestibules had been painted long ago and were fading with time. It was dark with very little light and I was surprised there wasn’t a sign asking people not to shoot inside like there is at Notre Dame. I would occasionally see flashes of light as people shot their pictures. I chose to shoot hand held, no flash. Thankfully there were a few places I could steady my camera as I shot.

Tomorrow? Who knows, Chateau de Versailles?

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