five things, november 25 gratitude edition

Turkeycollage 1. I am grateful that I that I have this space to come to every day. And I am grateful for each and every one of you who come here too.
2. I am grateful for my family.
3. I am grateful for my friends, longtime and new, far away and near.
4. I am grateful for my camera.
5. I am grateful for yesterday. I am grateful for today. I am grateful for these days.

I have been filled with blessings this year, my friends. I hope that you have been too.

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1111_flower_table1 Here are some of the things I have to do this week:

  1. Last minute food shopping
  2. Last minute goodie shopping
  3. Grandparent Day parent preview
  4. Grandparent Day performance
  5. Make sure Callum has a clean white shirt and khakis for Grandparent's Day
  6. Finish the blog redesign... We're almost there, baby!
  7. Edit photos
  8. Take photos
  9. Charge batteries
  10. Figure out new laptop
  11. Work!
  12. Last minute booze shopping
  13. Pack me
  14. Pack Neel
  15. Pack Callum
  16. Not take Callum to Taco Bell
  17. Coffee...I'm not missing coffee...
  18. Check in on all my bloggy peeps
  19. A wee bit o' Christmas shopping (I know, I know)
  20. Figure out what to wear to Grandparents Day and the Grandparents Day preview
  21. Send about a gazillion emails
  22. Clean the car
  23. Laundry
  24. Move the rug
  25. Write Friday's blog post
  26. Take pictures for Friday's blog post
  27. Buy file folders (I know, random)
  28. Clean off my desk in the office
  29. Decide if I'm going to bring something pumpkin-y for Thanksgiving
  30. Can I fit in a pedicure?

I'm sure there's more. I know there is. I just can't think of it right now. As if this isn't enough to finish by first thing Wednesday morning. Dear friends, I'm signing off for the week. Check back in for Five Things, the Gratitude Edition on Friday, and unless something goes terribly amiss, the new and improved still + life will launch next Monday! I can't wait to show it to you.

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five things, november 18 edition

1. I think it's time that you, dear readers have the floor. I've been reading lots of blogs as I work to revamp SPL, and one thing I'm going to add is an "About Me" page. I've heard that some of you are, ahem, afraid to comment here, but now's your chance to pull out all the stops. I can't lay claim to need for a "Frequently Asked Questions" section, but I sure can answer some random questions, if only you'll lay them on me. What do you want to know? What kind of camera I use? What kind of camera I want? What do I like to take photos of? What kind of dogs we have? What my favorite color is? How Neel and I met? Leave your questions in the comments, and see if the answers pop up in the new blog!
2. I think I'm very excited to take some pictures of some beautiful jewelry this weekend.
3. I think I need to get crack-a-lackin' on my Christmas shopping.
4. I think that I'm very excited about Thanksgiving this year. Something new for us!
5. I think these are some of the things I'm grateful for this week:
    a. that when a door closed a tiny window opened
    b. that little Violet seems to be managing her new condition (no seizures yesterday, and she was giddy with delight that so many people asked after her!)
    c. one-dish dinners!
    d. my mom and my aunt hooking me up with a hotel room!
    e. all my dear, dear friends who have taken the time to offer me such sweet words of encouragement the last few days, both here and in person and on the phone. I've been going at it hard, both at work and on the blog re-design, so I haven't had the time I wanted to respond to all of your comments. Each and every one of them has meant the world to me. More than I can say.

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she who hesitates

I just love this fortune that Neel got in his cookie Friday night! How wonderful is that?

Unfortunately, on Saturday, that fortune felt like it was meant for me. Last week I came across an opportunity to take a photography workshop with two women whose work I very much admire. It was a dream-come-true kind of thing, really.

But a lot of money. Especially to spend on something that doesn't generate any real income for our family.

Neel was incredibly supportive, and I had friends and other family who were too. Everyone I told about the workshop said that it was a chance I should reach for with both hands. I could feel myself getting excited, but I wanted to sit with the idea for just a bit. While an incredible deal and an incredible, indescribable opportunity, for our family, it was still a lot of money. I needed to think about it.

On Saturday afternoon, I got word that the workshop sold out. In 36 hours. It was a bitter blow.

I was devastated. She who hesitates is lost.

In some ways, I don't have regrets. I am not a professional photographer, so I can't regret taking some time to think about spending money like that on myself. We are not in a position to shell some major coin on a whim. But I had the support of my husband, both emotional and financial. I had the support of family and friends and the knowledge that I could earn the money for the workshop. The devastating truth is that part of my hesitation, while it had its roots in dollars and cents, was also born of doubt of my own self worth here. Do I deserve to go? Am I good enough to go? So yeah, the biggest part of my hesitation was fear.

I am so not happy about that. I'm not happy about a lot of things right now, but I know that I never want to be in this place again. I never want to miss an opportunity like this because I think I'm not good enough or I don't deserve it. Because I'm afraid to take the leap.

Other chances will come along (although Neel, to his chagrin has learned that that is not what I want to hear just yet!), and we've talked about how important it's become to me to hone this craft of mine. Not just here, but to travel and to mingle with new people and to be out in the world on my own. Next time, I can only hope that when the chance comes along, my arms and heart are open wide to grab it.

In the meantime, there are some exciting changes behind the scenes here at still+life. I'm busy. For the rest of the week, I'll just be posting a photo a day, but my hope is to have us up and running again near Thanksgiving. Either before or after. Depending on how things go. Changes are afoot! I'll be back for reals on Friday with my Five Things. Thanks for stopping by.

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five things, november 11 edition

IMG_9394For Mark, SPOILER ALERT: The tortoise wins the race!

1. I think, as much as I loved Callum's play, I am SO GLAD to be done with our late night play practices.
2. I think I might be the only person in the world who likes the end of Daylight Savings!
3. I think I've learned a lot about myself in the last four weeks.
4. I think I'm sad that baseball is coming to an end. Double header tomorrow!
5. I think these are the five things I'm feeling grateful for this week:
    a. Really feeling part of my city and taking part of the political process.
    b. A lovely talk on the phone with my mom and a lovely visit with my dad.
    c. That our sweet pup Violet seems to be doing okay after her scary seizure.
    d. All of my new Blogging Your Way friends. I look forward to staying in
    e. Each and every one of you who takes the time to stop by this space. Whether
    you comment or not, and I do love your comments, just knowing that you
    come by means the world to me.

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Blogging My Way

IMG_9161I have mentioned several times over the past month that I have been taking an E-course called Blogging Your Way. While I have a little catching up to do and the forums are still open for a bit longer, the official part of the class came to a close on Monday.

Bittersweet day. Bitter because it's ending. Sweet because our time together has been so, so good.

As someone who writes everyday of her life, both personally and professionally, I'm actually struggling to find the words to express what a meaningful, nearly life-changing experience this class has been for me. A perfect mix of the technical and philosophical aspects of blogging, the class offered lessons from tapping into social media to finding your niche to tips for taking better photographs for blog posts. Each lesson was thoughtfully prepared and stunningly presented. (It should be no surprise that Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring have some good taste, people.) I learned so much! I was so busy learning that I haven't had time to start implementing! Not much at least. You may have seen some changes to the photos, maybe. But boy, have I been doing a lot of thinking. Leslie and Holly ask such wonderful thought-provoking questions about why we blog and more. I've learned a ton about blogging but a ton about myself in the process as well.

I have always been a somewhat private trespasser in the internets. Yeah, I have a blog, but I rarely comment on other blogs. (Not very nice, I know.) I lurked. I, oddly, figured that no one really wanted to hear what I had to say. Somewhat ironic, yes? A wonderful, wonderful bonus of this class has been the amazing other bloggers I've discovered along the way. Meeting them through their blogs. Commenting there and having them visit here has meant the world to me. There are some pretty amazing people writing and sharing out there...I'll start sharing some of these finds with you next week.

I expected to be inspired, and I was. I expected to learn some great tricks to assist in my blogging, and I did. I expected to maybe feel my way along this path a bit better, and I have. I did not expect to so completely fall back in love with my blog the way I did. I did not expect to open my heart to this genre and own my love of this blog the way I have. Blogging Your Way was so much more than a class. It was an incredible gift. My heart is full.

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and so it goes

Northam_tableWe went to a victory party last night!

1111_northam_party2Oh joy! Neel and I have always been passively political (and don't worry – especially you, Mark – I won't get all ranty here). We care, we vote, sometimes we give money. We've never been active beyond that. Well beyond yelling at the TV during debates, maybe. This time was different. I won't go into all the reasons why. Politics are as personal as religion, and while I believe in things passionately, I don't necessarily feel those beliefs belong here in this space. Make sense?

What I'll talk about instead is how compelling and gratifying it was to be so much more engaged in the process than we ever have been before. I think voting is both a duty and a privilege, but this time we did more. We showed up at events. We volunteered our time, we were way more "out there" in our beliefs than we ever had been. We wanted Callum to see how important it was to participate in the process. He loved it.

I spent most of the day yesterday at the polls. Saw a lot of neighbors and friends come to cast their vote. Thank goodness it didn't rain! The other guy was there too. Not just his staff, but the candidate himself. I have to admire that, even though I cringed at some of his tactics. (Our guy showed up too, but not until after my shift, of course!)

Macaroon_cupcakeSenator Northam is from the Eastern Shore of Virginia...aren't the crabs on the cupcakes awesome? Still I had to go for the macaroons!

When we were invited to the Victory Party, we told Callum that if he finished his homework we'd go. My good kid worked hard at school yesterday. When he finished a quiz, he pulled out his social studies to work on. When he finished some make-up work, he grabbed his English to finish up. Two chapters of And Then There Were None when we got home, off to the polls to vote with Neel, and then we headed to the party!

1111_northam_party3Rebecca's husband Evans was a precinct captain, and he texted her the results from our district. In our neighborhood, we won!

The room slowly filled up.

1111_northam_party12The news was there!

Close to nine, a local delegate and our sheriff got up to speak. The room felt alive with excitement and anticipation as everyone gathered around the speakers. Precinct by precinct the news coming in seemed good. Suddenly we could hear some cheers from a back room, and Senator Northam's campaign manager darted in, giving the local delegate with the microphone a thumbs up, saying, "It's done!"

1111_northam_party9 We all cheered wildly as Senator Northam walked in. It was a great moment, and I was so proud to be part of it. So moved. Before he took the microphone, Senator Northam caught sight of Callum and gave him a special wave (did I mention that he's a pediatrician?). I can't believe I got a photo of that!

Northam_hugThe hug he gave his wife was really, really nice.

His thank yous were particularly moving, I felt, and at the end he said the thing I found to be the most compelling. He said that when he decided to run for re-election, he told his team and the consultants that he would only run a positive campaign. When told it would be risky, he said he didn't care. And he did. His campaign was aboveboard and positive and never once dipped into the mud. With a pretty near landslide win, Senator Northam proves that it can be done. He wants his campaign to be a model for other campaigns, and I for one, hope others from every party take note.

Well done, Senator. I'm proud to have you working for us for the next four years.



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five things, november 4 edition

1011_anniversary flower1 1. I think I have been very tardy in saying thank you to all the wonderful new blogging friends I've made who have taken the time to stop by still+life and say hello. The Blogging Your Way E-Course is coming to an end soon, and it's been such a wealth of inspiring (overwhelming!) head and heart are both full. The total side bonus has been all the amazing blogs I've been introduced to along the way. Who knew?! I'm filled with gratitude to be part of this community.
2. I think it's been a crazy hectic week, but we survived it. Bonus for Callum: Alfie surprised him by coming up a day early.
3. I think I'm really looking forward to seeing Callum in his school play tonight and on the ballfield (56 degrees for the high and windy...yikes!) tomorrow. Two sides of the same coin.
4. I think I have a lot of changes to make in two short months.
5. I think, as we enter the month of gratitude, that I have a lot to be grateful for. Like Kate! Spade! Wedges!

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bunch of dips

1011_dip_night3We've made a committment to gather more often, these women who populate my life. I can't express what that means to me. I sound like the dippy one. But when we can't go out, like your average mom, we improvise. Gathering around the kitchen island with dips and Chick-fil-A nuggets (I just can't believe they don't have them in Australia!).

1011_dip_night5We laugh a lot, of course. And don't even talk about anything that important. Except it is. All of it is important when you're surrounded by friends.

1011_dip_night7There are dips and there are dips, and these are my dips.

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lightroom fun for Halloween

Halloween_spencerI got a few shots of some of my favorite kids on Halloween. And played some with some new Lightroom presets in the process. I've been learning SO much new photography stuff in my Blogging Your Way e-course, I simply hate to see it end. Right now there don't seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done that I want to try to do. No changes were made to the above photo, but hello? How darn cute is that? Homemade costumes, people! Spencer Rocks!

1011_Halloween14-1 Nurse Rebecca, and her gorgeous angel girl, Margaret.

1011_Halloween14-1-2 Seen again with the preset Gavin's Old Polariod, found here. The change is subtle, but moody. I like it.

Halloween_angel2The original is on the left, and it's pretty cool looking itself, if I do say so! On the right, we have WIW Dust, found here.

Halloween_angel1And finally we're back to Gavin Seim, with his color fantasies, found here, this one called Lemondrops.

Best part of all of these is that they're FREE.  I think one has to be careful not to go crazy with these things, and I have seen the preset fun overdone, but seriously, folks, I could have downloaded presets all day. I'm feeling pretty sure they'll pop up on my photos every so often.

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hallow's eve

1011_Halloween15 Halloween is a Big Deal around these parts. We generally do a neighborhood gathering in someone's front yard with chili and beer and combine forces to pass out candy. Neel always takes Callum on the trick-or-treating rounds and I hang here with the other left-behinds to await the kiddos. Tradition.

Yesterday afternoon was a nightmare. I'm fighting a little cold, and I had a mini-freakout over my debit card (everything is fine). It took forever to get off campus after school. F O R E V E R. Callum needed a hair cut, and by the time we finally got home it was already five o'clock. I felt frazzled. We never got a pumpkin. It's been a weird fall.

Somewhere during all the driving in miserable, stuffy-nosed traffic I did yesterday, I had the thought that it would be nice to do the neighborhood walk with Callum and Neel this time. Could I do that? I don't feel great; could I leave the block behind and head out with my men? I decided to think about it, and before I could say anything to anyone Neel came home and said, "You should go out with us this year."

I'm so glad I did.

1011_Halloween2 Callum started making his own costume last year. This year he decided to be a Klondike Bar. From scary to sweet. Or scary to diets, perhaps.

Halloween_klondikeHe was a huge hit. Grown-ups eat that stuff up, and I do too...who doesn't love a homemade costume? At house after house, he was told that it was the best costume, the most original, and again and again he was offered extra candy for making his own.

Trick-or-Treating, this year? A good walk: not ruined. The rain held of until just as we got home. And he gave me the Whoppers.

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five things, 16th wedding anniversary edition

Hands (1 of 1)photo credit to Callum

1. I think I still love it that Neel's laugh is the first contact I ever had with him. He makes me laugh every day.
2. I think that despite the fact that I need a picture of me (that makes me look stunningly beautiful and thin) for the blog and we need some family photos, I'd really like to have some more photos of just the two of us. I'm looking at you, Dafna.
3. I think it's very interesting that Neel got to pick where we're eating for our anniversary AGAIN. (See #1d.)
4. I think I feel very grateful for a marriage that can survive the times when raising our child or caring for our home or any of the other myriad of things that get in the way of really tending to it.
5. I think October 28, 1995 was one of the best days of my life, seconded only by Callum's birth (duh) and the day I first heard that laugh. I carry your heart in my heart. We'll be spending the evening at the ballpark. Chicken and waffles for dinner. Maybe there will be champagne.

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shop love

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos2 When this week's homework for the Blogging Your Way E-course included suggestions for blog posts, how could I not jump at Idea #1: Shop Around? I'll use any excuse to invite you back into this delightful place.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos3 It's been almost a year since Meg, Marianne and April took over ownership of Simply Selma's (new website coming soon), and the place feels alight with all of their great energy while still capturing the spirit of Kathy Axelrod, the founder and original owner.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos67 It's a good place to be.

IMG_8472 These are the lovelies who take care of you when you come to Selma's. Each and every one of them can make you feel like you've stepped into their home...but unlike when you come to my house - and I haven't swept up the dog hair - they're glad to have you!

Selmas stuff The merchandise in the store is a crazy delightful mix of stuff from gorgeous jewelry to serving pieces to picture frames. I can't even begin to tap into all the things they offer.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos51 You know the kinds of things I'm talking about...all the stuff you never knew you wanted, but once you see it you absolutely have to have.

Selmas teaIt's my go-to for any kind of gift I have to buy.  Birthday, housewarming, baby, hostess. You name it. I can always count on finding something classy, tasteful and quirky.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos73 What I need to do is shop more for myself there. Right Neel?


1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos26 When I was last in taking photos for these guys, Christmas was just the merest hint about the place. Since then they've pulled their annual all-nighter+ and be-dazzled the store in the best of ways. I haven't seen it yet, but I can't wait to swing in and take in the Christmas glory. They make it a show-stopper every year.

1011_Selmas_Stock_Photos11 I've been starting some exciting collaborations with these guys over the past weeks, and I hope we can continue them. It's not just the work I do with the Selma's gals that makes me feel good; it's how I feel when I'm in there too. Welcomed. Part of things. But it's not just me. They're that way with everyone. I can walk in with my gi-normous camera bag and tripod and find that they're talking with a customer about shoes while helping her find the perfect wedding gift. Or telling another that her favorite jewelry vendor is coming out with a new line. They're good at taking care of things. People too.

If you have any interest in shopping local, this is an awesome and easy way to do it. It's half and hour door to door for me to get there, and the distance is nothing when such a warm welcome is waiting. I'd go every day if I could.

On my last stop in I took photos of all the gals...look for those shots on the blog next week!

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slow and steady

IMG_8696 Once again, Callum falls prey to my capricious whim. It's not all that capricious, really. But I should have paid better heed to his resistance.

IMG_8698 This weekend was the preview of "Aesop's Fabulous Fable Factory," the fall play that his school's theater program puts on. It's a sweet show, featuring four or so different fables. Callum is, can you tell? The tortoise in "The Tortoise and the Hare."

He never came out and said point-blank that he didn't want to do it, but all the signs were there. Silence when I brought it up. Lack of unbridled enthusiasm.

I kinda made him anyway.

When we broke it down, he had two specific fears: that he'd be the only 6th grade boy, and that it would be hard to manage the homework on practice days. "Oh, come on!" I reassured him. You can see where this is going. He was right on both counts.

It's such a tricky thing as your children get older, to know when it's right to push and when to give way. So many times in his young life, he wouldn't be doing something if Neel and I hadn't been behind him, giving him a nudge (walking comes to mind). Since starting, he hasn't complained much at all (for our boy, that's pretty good!), but I can tell his heart isn't in it. It's his last chance to take part in the program, and I so wanted it to work out.

But I have to remember that it's not about my own desires for him, but more about what he really needs. I don't regret it necessarily, but I've learned a lesson here. Pay better attention. Listen more.

IMG_8699 Still, can you fault this mama for wanting to see her boy on the stage (a place he's long loved) one last time?

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