Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Made the switch...

Hi all,

Just a heads up that I've combined my two blogs into one. I've imported everything over to my new blog at www.melanieritchie.com. See you there! Thanks for reading :)

Thursday, December 06, 2012

So, it is Thursday night....

... and I still haven't scrapbooked. Why? Oh, a little thing called the flu. I promised my daughter we'd make cookies. I didn't feel like it. I really didn't feel like it and was thinking I'd try to convince her to wait until tomorrow. What changed my mind? I went to get her off the bus and the first words out of her mouth as she descended the bus stairs was "are we making cookies?".  So, we made cookies. We only made one batch of sugar cookies. Actually, we only made half of a batch. We rolled out the dough, cut out the shapes, and decorated two trays of cookies. They were so engrossed in their sprinkles, I realized they didn't really notice we still had enough dough left for two more trays. So I put the dough back into the fridge. Now, if you live near me and are reading this in a timely manner, don't go thinking you are getting some of these fine cookies. You won't. Although I made the kids wash their hands thoroughly before sitting at the table, my son coughed all over the cookies and wiped his nose with the back of his hand across his face. He's also had a tummy ache all day. We all have the flu or various degrees of some sort of illness. So, I think perhaps we'll eat these cookies ourselves. They were lovely though. Snowmen, stars, tree ornaments. All covered with loads and loads of sprinkles. Pink, red (LOTS of red courtesy of my son), orange, silver, and gold. At one point my daughter spontaneously burst into song about how glorious our cookies were. Ok, it was just a carol but I know her decorating inspired her. Then I put on a Christmas show for the kids while I cleaned up. My daughter complained of an ear ache. Uh oh! She was suddenly really not feeling well so she fell asleep on the couch. She doesn't nap unless she is ill. Not a good sign. Somehow day turned into evening and now I am trying to record at least a bit of the season. Hopefully soon I'll be snapping photos, journaling and scrapbooking all about the season. Oh, and did I mention on my lowest day of days, I got summoned for Jury Duty. That was a lovely panic attack I didn't expect. I feel a spa day coming on. Ok, just kidding... but wouldn't that be nice?

Monday, December 03, 2012

Hello December!

Oooh, I had a lot planned for this December. I splurged on Christmas classes, craft & scrapbook supplies. I don't actually have a lot of events planned for the month. I just want to enjoy family time with my kids and husband. The last few months have been stressful. I did a lot of reevaluating of my priorities. I was struggling with doing too many things, and doing none of them overly well. The stress was taking its toll on my mind and body. I had some "aha" moments and gained perspective on where I need to steer my life. So, I pared down my responsibilities and am focusing on what is most important to me. I think the word "most" is key. The other things I have to put on hold are very important to me. Yet, when it comes to my final days (hopefully long from now) I will not look back and regret putting my family first. So, I can happily and peacefully say I am putting my full attention back into my family.

I had a rule that  I wouldn't work on my design work during the day while I care for my children. Yet, what I noticed is that I was exhausted from staying up too late. I was stressed knowing if I worked too hard during the day I'd be too tired to work at night. If I took it too easy during the day, I'd be able to work at night but my "to do" list around the home would suffer greatly. During the day my thoughts would wander to the tasks I needed to accomplish at night. Instead of playing a game with my kids, I'd be distracted thinking of illustrations that needed to be imagined and created. This wonderful period in my kids' lives which I've always dreamed of experiencing is passing before my eyes and recently I haven't been fully present for it. It is worth way too much to me to waste. Managing everything was exhausting for me. For the past year or so I've been asking myself on a daily basis how other women do it. My answer is simply that they don't. Something has to give. If anyone says they are able to do it all, they are lying.

So now, I am not accomplishing much creative work. I think I will ease back into when I have time and inspiration. I bought a bunch of supplies to do Christmas crafts with my kids and for myself. I did a few but lately I've been really tired and we've been plagued with colds. So, I'm trying to be zen about it and accept that some of the supplies can be shelved until next year. There's nothing wrong with that.
I also signed up for a photography course Your Holidays Captured Through The Lens by Katrina Kennedy at Captureyour365.com which starts tomorrow. I'm so excited about that! I'm taking Heart of the Holidays by Tiffany Tillman at ReneePearson.com and Journal Your Christmas by Shimelle Laine at Shimelle.com. I plan to do 12x12 digital layouts and hybrid project life pieces.
However, even though I'm all set up with supplies and class materials, I don't know how much I'll get done. I've been trying to get to bed earlier and I'm determined my energy will be put into playing games with the kids.

I spent November in a frenzy trying to organize and declutter the house. Now I have a tornado trail of boxes sitting in my hallway that might never get dealt with. I was stressing over it but now I've decided it just does not matter. I'll get to them. I will. Right now, it is more important to play playdoh and maybe bake some cookies.

Elf on the Shelf arrived at our door last week. My daughter did not like the idea of an elf reporting back to Santa on her right and wrong doings. His arrival was meant to be a fun tradition full of fancy. She normally embraces all things imaginative and fancy. She said this Elf was not real and was a doll. Just a doll and should go back to the North Pole. So, we sent him packing.  Again, I accepted that I need to go with the flow. It was a nice idea but it wasn't going to happen. In the end, I sighed with relief that I wouldn't have to help Elf find new hiding spots every night. Maybe next year Lauren will want him to return?

I had several plans for the first of December. A parade. A trip to a consignment shop to sell some Christmas themed clothes. Instead, we all came down with a cold & flu. So, with a general sense of malaise and grumpiness we stayed home and collectively whined, cried, and watched movies on TV. I wasn't too sad we missed the parade. I was a bit annoyed about the clothes as it will be too late to sell them if I wait any longer and I spent an hour ironing all of them. Oh well! Next year!

My daughter wanted to put the tree up a few days early. Normally we wait until the first weekend of December. On Thursday, I lugged everything out of the basement. I put up the tree and all its lights and garlands. I put out all the other decorations around the house. We surprised my husband when he got home. I'm amazed I accomplished so much. We had a picnic in front of the tree and planned to finish decorating the tree after supper. Nyal was too tired and my sciatica went crazy from all my lugging. So my daughter and husband spent some quality time partially decorating the tree. The next day I could barely move. Not even kidding. So, the tree stood half decorated. Then Saturday arrived and we were sick but thought we'd finish the tree. We were watching Handy Manny while I sipped my morning coffee when I couldn't see Handy Manny anymore. I closed my eyes and there it was. The little bright flame light jagged twitch in my right eye. A migraine! I took two liquid gel Advils and closed my eyes. The headache arrived 10 minutes later. Not as bad as it could be but not great. My husband told me to take Tylenol as well, to knock out the headache completely. So I did. I needed to lie down and slept for two hours. They finished the tree for me. I felt horrible the rest of the day.

Today, I felt quite a bit better but my husband felt horrible. Apparently, his cold/flu is a day behind mine. Our house was nearly barren of groceries so had a lunch of waffles, hash browns with a veggie sausage. We watched Up on TV and then some Christmas DVDs. The kids went to bed early as they are still feeling unwell.

So, things aren't what I expected, my supplies are still sitting unused, my craft projects are on hold, but I'm happy to have spent a weekend with my family. Even if we weren't at our best. Hopefully, the rest of the month will be less cold and more fun. I'll share my month and what I'm up to.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ebony meet Ivory

I love all colours of the rainbow and I have a hard time seeing in Black & White. Today, I challenged myself to take a few photos from my photo library and make them black and white. I like black and white photography a lot. I just don't usually see what the photo looked like before it was processed to lose all its colour. So, when I try it I usually want to revert my photos to their full-fledged colourful glory. Here are my finished photos. What do you think?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Photo Walkin'

I've heard about photo walks before but I never knew of one in my city. By accident, I heard of the 5th Annual Worldwide Photo Walk organized by Scott Kelby taking place on October 13th. I found one taking place only minutes away from where I live. So, I went.

My reservations on going were many:
  1. I didn't know anyone going.
  2. I'm just a hobbyist photographer. 
  3. I don't really know how to use my camera fully. 
  4. I didn't know if I'd be with a group of people obsessed with their gadgetry and know-how, who expected me to be the same way. I'm not. I just like to take photos. I don't have a budget for a super high-end camera, several lenses, and I haven't taken classes.

I showed up despite my concerns. Yay for me and my shyness. Within minutes of starting our walk, I was encouraged by the walk leader to not use my display screen. I guess my obvious "chimping" was offensive to her. Chimping is when you look at your display after you take a photo. I personally do not care if people want to look at their photos as they take them. I can think of several things in this world I do have issues with and "chimping" is definitely not one of them. However, I did completely appreciate her tip on how to focus the viewfinder of my camera so that I could actually see out of it with my glasses. Brilliant, I had no idea I could do that. I would actually use my viewfinder more (mostly to save on battery life) but I hadn't been able to see out of it clearly. So, that little nugget of wisdom made the whole walk worthwhile for me. I kept my display off the whole walk. I figured I'd might well as embrace trying things differently and challenging myself. Plus, if I'm totally honest, I didn't feel like being judged. By the end of the walk, I was shooting everything in manual mode. It was a good feeling to know that I was figuring things out.

What I didn't enjoy were comments I overheard. To each his own, I suppose. I need thicker skin, I know. The one comment I heard was a criticism of Instagram. The people talking couldn't understand why people put their bad photos on Instagram and then think they're great. They didn't know why people would bother. I kept my thoughts to myself and if I had been bolder, maybe I should have shared my thoughts.

I am a big fan of Instagram. It really hadn't entered my thoughts that people would be offended by the quality of people's photos. 

What I should have told those ladies: I take photos to communicate. I take them to show my perspective on the world; my interests; my daily life; what makes me happy. I would love if every photo was perfect. That would be great. My goal as photographer is to document my life. To show what is meaningful to me. It is a visual reference of the content of my life. I want to share that with friends, and even with strangers. To me, photography is about sharing and communicating. I don't photograph to be judged and I don't go on Instagram to critique. I enjoy the aesthetics of a good photo but that is always a bonus. I encourage anyone who wants to share a bit of their lives in a creative way. I think it is kind of sad that people put so much energy into dismissing the creative works of others, or making rules about procedure and technique. I say, do what makes you happy and enjoy the process.

So, would I go on a photo walk again? Maybe not. I did meet a couple people who were nice. One woman I hope to run into again. I think I'd rather do more photo walks with my husband and kids as they get older. Or a photo walk with scrapbookers. That'd be good too.

I didn't take many photos that I liked. Here are some of what I took:

Tale of Two Ducks

Watson's Mill.  I have no idea what I did to my camera settings.

Canadian Geese, eh?

Dreamy Porch

Inukshuk on Main St.

Vintage Car
Have you been on a photo walk and blogged about it? Share a link to your blog so I can see!

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Doc Martens walking me down memory lane.

I realized just two days ago that I started college exactly half my life ago. A friend from my art program at college had posted happy birthday wishes on my Facebook wall. I turned 19 on the fourth day of school. To me, that moment is the bridge between my childhood and adult life. The number of days of my entire childhood equals the exact amount of time passed since that day. No wonder I feel tired. How much have I learned in those years?

Me at 19 (photo by Jenn from my art class)

I think about my childhood. I was lucky to grow up in a loving home. I was gratefully sheltered from things that other peers were not so lucky to escape. I only had an inkling of how good I had it. Like any child, we all grow up thinking what we experience is pretty much how it is for everyone else.

I stare down at my feet. For the most part, I wear them bare. I like my feet to be firmly planted on the ground. Especially outside. Unless I'm working/gardening near spiders or anything creepy crawly. Bare feet makes me feel connected to the world. Same reason I like open windows I think. When I'm closed off from nature, or fresh air, I feel isolated and start to ruminate. When I feel connected, a space opens in my chest where I can breathe more easily, and feel more at ease. I don't know if everyone else feels that way. It's how I am. It's how I need to be.

On that day I started college, I was wearing 8 hole Cherry Doc Martens. Scuffed and worn. They were tied so tight I had indents in my legs above the ankles where the shoes ended. I loved those boots. They were very trendy but I was always proud to say I got mine before the trend exploded. You know you're the trend setter if people insult you. I remember in high school, a boy told me I looked like a wrestler. I got a lot of weird stares from the in crowd. Then the trend arrived at our school, and I still got weird looks from the in crowd but now they meant "hey, you poser, you're trying to look cool, like one of us" as they'd forgotten I had them before they did.

I was not popular in high school. I certainly didn't make it easier for myself by blending into the background. No, I always had a bit of flair and enough pride to stand out just enough to make more trouble for myself.  Wearing mismatched socks and standing up in auditoriums to speak my mind on various issues was probably not helping the situation. I'm guessing I prided myself on being an outsider even though it tormented me to not be one of "them". Whoever "them" is.

When I think of my childhood, I remember the sights, impressions, and smells. I mostly remember my close ties with family. Then there is school and friends. That is a more painful experience for me. I was a very cute little girl. Very timid and naive. When I was little, maybe 7 or 8, I was teased. Normal for everyone. Most kids have enough sense to recognize teasing for what it is. Not me. So when some girls told me I was ugly, I believed them. To the core. Not to be forgotten. To affect me forever. I think when you let yourself believe something like that, it sets the course for how you let people continue to treat you. It is a snowball effect. Things do not get easier. I think bullies sense this weakness.

On the first day of school in Grade Four, I was so excited that I was on the "senior" side of the playground. The school had their playgrounds separated into primary (grades 1-3) and senior (grades 4-6). A girl, new to my school, came up to me, hovering over me by at least a head or two and nastily told me that I wasn't allowed on the senior side and to get back over there. She said other things too I'm sure but I just remember wondering who the heck she was to rain on my parade. She didn't let up on the bullying for another 6 years. It only ended because she transferred high schools in grade 10. It is amazing to see how much my life improved when three of my bullies transferred that year. I tell myself now that those girls were not happy. They were not from loving families. They were not sheltered and their souls were damaged. I try to focus on compassion but even now sometimes I get angry remembering.

I had a best friend during those years. We walked to and from school. Spent all our free time together. Sleepovers and even some vacations. Went to summer camp together. She had this rule that we weren't allowed to associate when we were at school. I didn't like it but I never questioned it. It only occurred to me yesterday that this was probably an indirect result of my being bullied. I always thought it was just the bullies that really disliked me and that it only affected me directly. I thought I wasn't overly popular because I was flawed or because the other girls were snobs. During my "Aha moment" yesterday, I realized that maybe, just maybe the bullies had really marked me as someone to not befriend. I wonder....

My best friend always loved to tell me that she was smarter than me, and that everything I could do, she could do better. If she said it, it must be true, right? I guess I was able to mostly tune it out and focus on how much fun we had. Or maybe part of me was just glad to have a friend. I took friendships very seriously. I was loyal. On my 12th birthday, I started Junior High. On our walk to school, my best friend announced that we were no longer friends and would not associate with one another again. Luckily, I'd celebrated my birthday party the weekend before. That was a crushing blow. Extremely crushing. My first real heartbreak. The ultimate betrayal. To top it off, when she saw me in the hallways at school, she'd ribbit like a frog. She got her whole class to do it. One by one, they'd file past me "ribbiting". I think it had something to do with a sweatshirt I had with dancing frogs on it. I can't think of anything else it could be. In Grade nine, she tried to get her new classmates at our high school to continue the ribbiting but I'd had enough. I told her she was lame and to knock it off. She did. She even tried to be friendly with me once in Grade 13, getting nostalgic about our earlier years. I was so stunned, I just nodded and politely excused myself. She acted as if nothing bad had ever happened.

One thing I regret when it comes to friendship, is the best friend I made when I was 13. We had fun but sometimes I felt a bit stifled. She didn't always take subtlety well and I wasn't one to be brutally forthright. I became friendly with another clique of girls when I was 14. I was really only friends with a couple of the girls but they were a group... did everything as a whole. Gossiped, walked to school, ate lunch, listened to music, conspired... as a whole. One day, one of the girls I wasn't overly fond of told me to stop being friends with my best friend. I was already annoyed with my best friend and I went over to the dark side. I gave her the cold shoulder. I will always regret how I treated her. I got the payback though. The group of friends dropped me and added her to their clique. I think she is still close friends with all of them. I really didn't belong in that group. They adored the New Kids on the Block. Boy Band music made me cringe. Really, I had a negative physical response to hearing boys crooning while making cheesy side stepping dance moves. Even now as I type I'm started to feel nauseated. However, my regret at mistreating a friend remains.

I found a new group of friends. I was a camp counsellor. It took me a couple more years to make friends that really shared similar interests. Things improved and I managed to have a bit of fun in my last couple years of high school.

Those were some memories of childhood and how relating to people was difficult for me. I look back now on the second 19 years of my life and I can see the same struggles and patterns pop up again and again. Interesting. The themes that follow one through life. What do I want to do the same, and what can I change for the next 19 years?

I didn't plan for this blog post to cover some of these painful moments but I'm glad I talked about it. It is some of the stuff that weighs me down. It is on my mind right now as my sweet little daughter is entering school. I want her to be a stronger, more secure and confident person than I am. I want her to also be compassionate and understanding of herself and others. Thinking about how to help her achieve these tall orders has me thinking about my past. I am reading a book called "Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-Proof Girls in the Early Grades by Michelle Anthony" and I'm hoping it will provide some insight. Maybe it might even help me heal the little girl I once knew.

At some point, I'll write the second part of this blog post. It will be about the teachers in my life... for better or worse.

Monday, September 03, 2012

The return

Months have passed, haven't they? Seasons even. I have struggled with having two blogs... a personal one and a business one. When I get my act together (someday, someday) I will revamp my blog and merge it into one. In the meantime, I will pick and choose which posts get placed where. In order to do that, I must actually have something to say.

I have so much to write about over the past few months. I just don't have enough hours in the day. No one does. I envy those who are able to multitask so well.

I have lots to do and I get all freaked out when I am overwhelmed (consumed) with a deadline. Yet, do I focus solely on getting the task done? Of course not. I have noticed lately that when faced with a deadline I decide it is a great time to pick up a new hobby, or start a new project. I thought there was something very wrong with me until I started reading Austin Kleon's "Steal like an artist". He writes about being creative and productive. Every page is filled with genius/common sense but the part I want to mention here is his advice to have hobbies and side projects. He puts a whole new spin on procrastination that I'd never considered. Taking time away from the main project to explore other interests, or to attend to mundane tasks, frees your mind to come up with new brilliance. Ok, that's my take on what he said... whether that's what he meant or not, is an entirely different matter. Read the book and see what you think. I do think every artist would benefit from reading what he has to say. Even if some of what he says you possibly already knew, it serves as a good reminder.

Got a deadline, start up embroidery, tackle the art of Project Life-ing, take an online journaling class, decide to start up your blog again, and oh uh, maybe find time to get your work done. Oh the agony and ecstasy of procrastination.

Forget the shoulds. I should be cleaning the house; playing at the park with my husband and children; making lunch; doing a million things all worth doing. Yet I AM usually found doing these other things. Sometimes wishing I had just a moment to work on my art. When I have that moment, I fret the time away "shoulding" all the things I'm not doing.

My original point of blogging today was to say "hey, I'm back". I am hopeful I'll get back into the swing of things. I hope to update you on just exactly what I've been up to for the past half year or so. I have a list of things I want to write about. Stick with me, I might actually get it all out of my head.

For now, I'll share a photo from last night when my family celebrated my special day.