Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Waiting Game

When I was younger I prayed and waited for the really important things to happen. I waited for a boy to notice me, a different boy to ask me to prom. I never got a note or wink, never got asked to the dance, so eventually I learned to take a deep breath, fake confidence, and try my best to make things happen. For the most part being bold and “confident” has worked out for me. I’ve initiated relationships, played different sports, and joined several clubs. I’m grateful for nearly every experience. I have submitted poems and pictures to magazines, entered poems and pictures in contests and have had a fairly good success rate with that as well over the past eight years. Since I have always sought approval and acceptance certificates and ribbons keep me happy. Being a part of an exhibit at an international airport and a full page spread in a well-known magazine keeps me especially motivated to continue and push for more.

I won $500 and a full page spread!

photo Sammy's mom took when he found his picture

Similarly, I have applied to numerous jobs in the school corporation (and went on countless interviews) since becoming a paraprofessional five years ago. Be patient and persistence pays off, I repeated to myself every time I went through the hassle of online applications and updating my resume. I also reminded me that on at least two occasions I was told I was close, very close, like second. That gave me a boost, a little more real confidence, and the drive to keep me going. Success doesn’t happen overnight and waiting is never easy. Maybe that’s why I always have a lot in the fire. Maybe what I wanted wasn’t meant to be now - but there is always later, always next time. Stay positive.

So here I am. In August I started a new job (with better benefits) and in September I found out one of my children’s poems finally has a publication date. (I had been hoping and waiting for that news for over 2 years). Next month I’ll hear about a few more things I’ve been working on. Rejections suck but I’m ok with them because at least it means I tried. I won't have to look back with regret because I was too self-conscious or scared of failure.

To sum it up: I’m excited for the future and endless possibilities. Good things are always worth the hard work and always worth the wait.

Ike's graduation announcement with the photos I took.

Binder I made for his graduation party

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Wrapping It Up

Christmas has come and gone and today is the last day of the year. I kept busy this past fall with photo shoots and editing. I currently have two nature photos in the Indianapolis Airport until March. I am anxious to drive down and see them and the rest of the exhibit. And I'm beyond excited to report I won first place in a magazine portrait contest. In a few weeks, after I get my prize money and copies, I will be able to share the details! I also have poems and photos in two new anthologies.

My kids have been doing well in school, work is ok; good news all around in that regard. The last few days of the year were a little tough for me though. I was asked to take pictures of the Spencer house as it was being torn down. (Tom was a well known poet and close friend. He regularly welcomed fellow writers and their families into his home and put out quite a spread. We always enjoyed the picnics, Labor Day parades, and Christmas parties he hosted.) Tom passed away over a year ago and his historical house, which was once a bed and breakfast, didn’t find new owners. His daughter couldn’t be there during the demolition so I took some pictures and videos for her then grabbed a few things from the rubble. It was a poetic ending but another difficult goodbye.

I’ve been having a hard time coming up with material to write about but overall it was a productive year and I’m looking forward to 2017. I hope to learn how edit and illustrate on my new Wacom tablet and am eager to try out my son’s GoPro among other things. New adventures await!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Finding My (Re)purpose

It wasn’t planned but my art route took a detour. In the spring I began collecting discarded beer caps, tabs, and sharp glass for a photography exhibit on beer because I didn't have any other ideas. I glued the glass on the frames to add impact and interest. My three submissions were on display for months at the Wildrose Brewery, then they came home. No sales, no one thought them remarkable or thought provoking. No one had to have these conversation pieces or talk extensively with me about my innovative and creative displays. Still, I was not discouraged or embarrassed. It's ok to be a garbage picker if it's for art's sake, right? If it serves a good purpose?  ABSOLUTELY!

The rest of my summer visits to the lake brought sadness to me too. I kept finding kid friendly things that were left by the young beach goers and their parents, friends, family. Shovels, buckets, popped balloons, cups, ribbons, plastic ware, etc. Beach party after beach party - celebrations where no one wants to do the dirty work or take any kind of responsibility at all. So I picked up the garbage, then arranged it, photographed it, and eventually made a poster for the Dunes Environmental Center in Gary, IN. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Repurpose …Love Your Lakeshore. This theme goes along with my poems that will be published this year which both praise our environment and curse the inhabitants.

Does anyone get it? What we are doing? You are going to the beach WHY? Hiking in parks WHY? To be with nature or to trash it?

Tomorrow our school custodian is retiring. Unable to sleep early early this morning I wrote a poem and devised a plan. After scouting the halls, classrooms, drawers, and cabinets all day at school and then at home I came up with an abundance of materials. A work of art like no other eventually evolved. This 8x10 framed poem is overflowing with admiration and appreciation. It's sad, how much we have, discard, waste but this shows someone understands and respects the hard work he did, the dedication he had. Hope he can take just one more mess. Thanks John and happy (garbage free) trails!

A quick detour or new direction entirely? Not sure, but at least I have a purpose right now. It’s an interesting, fun, and creative way to spread the message. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, replant, restore, ...

Monday, June 6, 2016

First Things First

I have lots to report since I have not posted in over six months. I’m happy to say amazing things are still happening…

December:  Mapping the Muse got published. This book celebrates Indiana’s 200th birthday and my poem “All Washed Up” was chosen to represent Lake County. (This is the first of many special events planned for our state).

January:  This was the first time I entered photos in the Porter County Gardening Show and they all placed! I got a 1st for Foliage, 3rd for Fungus in the Garden, and an Honorable Mention for Insect in the Garden. It really is a nice event and I wish I had more time to look around and shop. After the show the winning prints were on display for a month at a framing shop in Chesterton.

February:  I got to get to a Michigan beach in winter – first frosting photos!!! No, it was not ideal. The big lighthouse was not frosted over but the little one had some. The railings were ridiculous though – icy blue and white spikes everywhere.  Shelf-ice, icebergs, frosted steps:  Well worth freezing for!

March:  For the first time I had a photo accepted in the Cancer Resource Center’s photo contest. I had submitted four years in a row and finally was chosen to participate in their fundraising campaign. Butterfly notecards were handed out at the gala in April and are now on sale in local gift shops. Mine is the Monarch on Goldenrod. A few other Calumet Region Photo friends also got to participate.

Each month the Chicago Area Camera Club Association has a special category digital competition. I have received a few good scores and awards but finally got the best score. The category was “triptychs.” I had to look up the meaning but once I did I realized I had already made a few through my portrait work. I entered two different series of children and worked hard perfecting a frozen lighthouse scene. In the end my “Hugs and Kisses” caught their eye. It originally was a Christmas present to my sister-in-law and all my niece’s idea J.

Other nature photos did great in the Calumet Region Photo competitions this spring. I got three awards and of those, two got Print of the Month.  …And since we didn’t go anywhere for spring break I participated in some painting events.  I plan to do more this summer.

April:  I found out a different lighthouse picture I submitted in a cover contest will be used for the latest Encore edition. Encore is an anthology containing the prize-winning poems of the fifty contests held in the spring NFSPS contest (National Federation of State Poetry Societies). Valarie has been the editor of Encore for the past 12 years. We exchanged several emails and I hope to meet her someday. Each conference attendee gets a copy and they are also available to other members and the public. I cannot wait to get my copy. The conference is in Minnesota this year so I think they will appreciate the shelf ice surrounding the lighthouse and the long catwalk - especially since it is a wrap-around cover.

I submitted photos and poems about the environment (good: the dunes and other nature experiences, and bad: the way we are trashing the planet) to both The Edge of the Prairie and the next Hoosier publication. I had tried to step away from Prairie Writers last year because I was so busy, but they are such a great group I was drawn back in. Both publications should be out in the late fall.

Finally, May:  I saw a “Call for Art” about beer while out gambling with my mom and sister in Michigan City. I had no idea of what to submit until I took a walk on the beach. I was looking for beach glass but was saddened when I saw all the garbage. I ended up picking up rusted beer caps and tabs, along with shards of glass in various colors. A few more trips to other neglected beaches gave me plenty more material. The finds made nice photographic collages and hopefully will make a statement. I attended the artist reception a few weeks ago and did reconnect with an old friend – might have made a new friend too. Maybe not that ironically, the Memorial Day celebrations on Chicago beaches made the news a few days ago because of all the garbage people left. Of course I had to voice my opinion on one of the FB posts and share a photo of my own.

Summer is just around the corner but summer break has already started!!! I have a few small trips planned and also will be participating in a few obstacle races. Maybe I can slow down and not take on anything extra??? Now THAT would be a first for sure.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Falling Into Place

This fall was busy with football and photo shoots. Both my Little and Big Tigers went 6-0 for the season then won their Super Bowl games. It was amazing! I took lots of pictures and video with my new camera. While all this was going on somehow balanced work and photo shoots. I had six in October. The weather was warm and the colors were spectacular. I got to take engagement, family, party, and senior pics. They turned out beautifully!

I won ribbons at the Lake County Fair again this year but the big surprise was being awarded a Sweepstakes and Best of Show ribbon for a black and white portrait I took. I have been taking Nevaeh’s pictures for the last few years and I entered one of my favorites from last fall. I’m so happy it did so well. I never got either one of those awards before so to get both at once was quite an achievement.

I have been selling a few photo note cards and small prints recently as well. I will be taking some to the Write-On Hoosiers banquet later this week. I haven’t had any time to attend their meetings this year but hope to after the first of the year.

A few good things happened in regards to my writing. I got an honorable mention in the Indiana State Federation Poetry Club for my September at the Dunes poem. In addition, three of my fellow Magic Hour Writers read and presented mini workshops at Paul Henry’s Art Gallery with me. Purdue Calumet gave us a small stipend so that was a neat and rewarding experience. MHW also published a Christmas book with help from Flying Turtle Publishing. I contributed a poem, short story, pictures, and a recipe. This is the first time I had a children’s story illustrated by a professional. I was thrilled with how it turned out. I can’t describe how I felt when I saw my characters come to life. I hope to work with Courtney again. The books are available through FTP and Amazon in hardcover, softcover, and e-book format.

Finally, we got a puppy in July. Stella is very energetic and loving. So now we have 2 dogs, 2 cockatoos, a bearded dragon, leopard gecko, and a tarantula. Lots of photo ops for sure; hopefully a pic will place in one of the Chicago area club competitions this winter.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


I wanted to add a post some time ago but things were kind of disappointing for a while. No committee selected my photos for their note cards, I didn’t make it into the Earth Day Book, I didn’t place in some contests, I didn’t get a grant, and I didn't get a library job I had applied for.

I kept a positive attitude though, kept at it, and focused on the positives.

The good...

1:  I enjoyed being in the Chesterton Photo exhibit and got to spend more time with my sister because of it.
2:  I wrote up the Tom Spencer interview for the POPP poetry book and even got quoted in the newspaper in the article about him. The assembly was successful as was the poetry reading at the library a few days later. I took pics and they came out pretty well.
3:  Our writers group gained new members and enjoyed productive meetings.
4:  An unexpected check came in the mail for some "volunteer" work I had done months earlier.
5:  Several people contacted me about taking pictures - for prom, senior photos, pregnancy pics, newborn baby, etc.

Better than good…

6:  Some advice and information I shared helped a young girl place first in the Indiana State Federation of Poetry Clubs Manningham Junior Division Poetry Contest. Earlier this week I officially met Emily, her mother, and brother and had lunch with them. They were very appreciative but I explained a few things. I belong to several writing groups and a photography club. Everyone I have encountered has been helpful and inspiring so I feel obligated to pass on what I learn and also be encouraging. But it’s not just obligation that motivates me – I honestly want others to succeed and be happy. I was thrilled that I made a difference in a young writer’s life and that I can continue to help her reach her goals. I know this is only the beginning for her and I’m excited to see what lies ahead.

Then something even more incredible happened!

7:  Highlights for Children bought one of my poems. I have been submitting to them for over 5 years. In fact, 3 poems were rejected along with the one they finally accepted for publication. A contract followed and then a check. This was on my bucket list so I am definitely celebrating and bragging!

More news today…

8.  On June 6th four Charter Members for the Ladies Auxiliary VFW Post 717 were honored at a luncheon for their 61 years of service. The article I wrote and pictures I took were published in the local paper. I also sent the information to the Ladies Auxiliary VFW Magazine. It would be nice if I can share their story across the country.

Summer is in full swing and I am swamped, figuratively and literally. I couldn’t be busier and ten days of heavy rains has also been challenging. I'm a happy camper though.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Best Shot

I've probably said it 1,000 times but that is my favorite quote. These last two months have been crazy. 2015 has been full of opportunities and I'm trying my best to do it all, squeeze everything in.

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards asked me and other Magic Hour Writers Members to be a writing judge. I was very honored to judge poems written by children in middle school at a national level; what an opportunity! The judging took place in January and was conducted online. They receive thousands of entries every year and the Northeast Indiana Northwest Ohio region had one of the most national award winners in the country last year. How wonderful to read the work of these talented young writers and be a part of it all.

I also helped judge the entries for this year's POPP (Power of Poetry Project) contest for local 4th and 5th graders. Katherine recently notified the winners and Judy is working on the publication. The awards celebration is scheduled for April 9th. Just today I interviewed my friend about his passion for poetry and thoughts about being the inspiration for the Tom Spencer Award. Tom has been writing poems for over 50 years and has been an important figure in the state and national poetry societies as well as regionally. He challenges and inspires his colleagues at every gathering.

Last week I received yet another rejection letter. I suppose I was disappointed that they didn't like my adorable poem (about a destructive little puppy) but not too discouraged. I keep submitting, keep putting myself out there and opening myself up to criticism or denial. We all have to remember art is subjective, we all have our own opinions about what is good or noteworthy, what is outstanding and unforgettable and unfortunately, what is just plain bad.

Recently I sent in digital photos to two charities for greeting card contests and sent in several more for my camera club contests. I didn't receive great scores in the latest competitions but I guess it just makes me want to get better. I'm still waiting on news about the cards (and on the Indiana poem for the bicentennial). On a happy note, I did get accepted into another photo exhibit. The opening reception is this upcoming Sunday. Two of my nature prints will be on exhibit though the end of March at the Chesterton Art Center. It would be nice to be able to sell one or both.

Right now I'm editing a poem for the Earth Day Poetry Contest entitled "Enough Already" which is about how we have exploited our planet. I have until the end of the month. And I just finished a huge project in which I had to really take a look at the things I have accomplished and determine what my future plans and goals are. I suppose I had to sell myself; convince others that I'm serious and determined to succeed in whatever it is I'm trying to do. I'm not sure if I'll qualify for any award but if you look at everything as a learning experience you never really loose.

Speaking of learning, there is just so much I still need to figure out. I just attended another one day photo clinic and have a weekend writer's conference down state in a few weeks. I need to get a portfolio together (print a few photos, paint some more pictures) and also finish edits on a recent photo shoot. I need to learn more about e-books and self-publishing.

Often I think I'm doing too much and I try to put limits on the things I commit too but I can't stop thinking of stories or poems and I can't put down the camera. Nothing worthwhile is easy but it would be nice to be able to take it easy once in a while. That being said, I need to pick and choose carefully so that I can give everything I commit to my best. It's great to keep taking chances and trying different things but it doesn't make sense to overwhelm yourself or take on too much.