My Non-Vacation

My hammock

My hammock

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.

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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!

Pink Fountain Gaura in my yard

Pink Fountain Gaura in my yard

Nikon D40x
ISO 400
f/5.6
Shutter 1/1000

Wreck This Journal: Week 4

Cut through multiple pages to make fringe

Cut through multiple pages to make fringe

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. Writing with a dirty stick

    Writing with a dirty stick

  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. Folded a paper airplane

    Folded a paper airplane

  11. Completely colored a page wherein I allowed myself to be okay with my art skills be elementary
  12. Completely colored a page

    Completely colored a page

  13. Dripped nail polish and smooshed the book to make a pattern
  14. Smooshed nail polish

    Smooshed nail polish

Happy wrecking!

Curious about what other wreckage transpired?

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: http://www.stcsig.org/usability/newsletter/index.html.

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

My bulletin board after the clean-up

My bulletin board after the clean-up

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 6×8′ 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.

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.

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.

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