Friday Thoughts

I had an epiphany Thursday morning while running. I seem to always have my best ideas while running, folding laundry or scrubbing the bathroom. Also, taking a shower and shaving my legs. I don’t know why that is, but I do. 

Back to my Eureka! moment. 

While I am enjoying (and learning a lot about myself) reading Rachel Hollis’ book, the thought occurred to me, that while there are a lot of good quality self-help/motivational books out on the market, they seem to be geared toward a younger crowd; the same can be said about photography sites that aim to teach you how to take beautiful photos of your young children. Don’t get me wrong, those books and those photography sites are jam packed with terrific content, but what about those of us who have older children or children who have already entered into adulthood?

I am 53 years old. When I turned 50, I was excited beyond belief. I was finally at my favorite number (I was exactly halfway through my life, having spent the first 25 years being a kid, a young married woman and a new mother. Now here I was ready to start on the second half of my life because I’m convinced that I’m going to live to be at least 100 years old. That was the pact I made with 4-year-old Joey, anyway); I had at least 25 years left to spend just as I liked and, like I said, I was excited beyond belief.

But now that I’m well established in my 50’s where do I go from here? You know, when you first set out being a parent, you’re filled with excitement and hope and the wonder of it all. But then the honeymoon period wears off, usually about the time the baby is cutting his fourth tooth and you’ve forgotten what an uninterrupted night’s sleep is. You do come out at the other end, however, still filled with the excitement, the hope and the wonder of it all, but at the fact that you survived raising your children and lived to write a blog post about it.

Only kidding.

But your kids have grown, don’t like having their pictures taken anymore, and now you have all this free time. You begin dreaming about all the adventures you’re going to take, the endless amount of free time you’ll have to spend as you want and that huge open road that’s spread before you now that your kids are grown, self-sufficient and living on their own, creating their own lives. It’s all great for the first year, but now that you’ve got a semi-routine down, you find yourself in a bit of a quandary: yes, you have free time, but there’s still laundry to do, groceries to be bought, errands to run . . . all the same old same old from when you were an Active Parent. Those dreams still float around in your head, but they’re harder to catch and make true.

I know so many women who have invested their lives in the raising of their kids, something I think we all do as parents: your children are first and foremost the the most important people to take care of; but now they’re beginning to leave the house and you have time once again for yourself.

I am eager to start a sports/portrait photography business. In ten years, I want to see myself sitting next to David as we go across the country photographing mountain bike races and the people that ride those bikes. I want to take sports portraits of athletes. I want to take all these pictures and write about our adventures. Just sell our house, load up the Subaru with our laptops, cameras and lenses, David’s mountain bike and my trail runners, the dog and a few clothes and hit the road.

To sum up:

In ten years, I want to be a well established sports photographer, traveling the country with David taking pictures and writing about our adventures.

It’s a great dream and something that David and I have talked about doing for years. But how do I go about doing that if I’m well into my 50’s and 60’s? What does Rachel Hollis and all those other self-help/motivational gurus have to say about that?

And . . . while we’re on the subject of dealing with an empty nest, how can you talk your adult children into posing for you so you can practice portraiture?

A lot of questions, a lot ideas to be solved, a lot of goals to achieve. Maybe I should write a book for women my age.

 
 
 

stepping forward while looking back

School began this week in Arkansas, the local news running photos of kids big and small on their first day back to school sent in by their proud parents. All the shiny new backpacks and lunchboxes and supplies proudly held up by first time kindergarteners, grinning from ear-to-ear coupled with high schoolers wearing those all too familiar, "Come on, Mom! Enough already!" looks on their faces.

I remember looking out our apartment window when Meghan was just a toddler and watching kids line up for the bus on their first day of school and thinking, "Wow! That seems so far away!"

Twenty years later and two grade schools, a middle school, a junior high, high school and Meghan a college graduate behind us, I find myself wondering what's next and where do I fit in in this new life that's ahead of me?

Joe is taking a gap year this year and spent the summer working at a national park just north of here, his last day being a week ago. He's volunteering for local mountain bike organizations this fall, helping them maintain the trails while he waits to begin a wilderness EMT course this January in Wyoming. He's also going to be helping me around the house, installing much needed new screens for our windows, hauling stuff to the dump and painting my office (well, I can dream). 

In general, he'll be looking for a job, volunteering and being our Man Friday until January.

But this is where I'm having trouble. For the past twenty years, I've been responsible for school breakfasts, packing lunches, taking the kids to and from school (Dave and I both agreed that we'd much rather drive the kids to and fro and have that extra car time with them. That was actually my favorite parts of the day and the kids and I had some of our best discussions during those rides.). I made sure I had all the housework and errands finished in time so I could score a prime spot in the after school pick up lines. I listened to the stories, took part in the field trips, served on the PTA, helped out in the classrooms, bought homecoming and prom dresses and attended school concerts and homecoming parades. I shot junior high sports when Joe was in junior high, and that was how I got into sports photography. My life revolved around getting the kids through school healthy, happy and in one piece.

Now that's all done with the coming of this new school year. While I was working my way through the trenches of the past school years, I dreamed of this day, the day that was free from routine and school nights, homework and early risings. Now that it's finally here, I feel myself at loose ends. I have too much freedom, too much time, too much "oh yeah, I don't have to be at the high school this afternoon by 3:45." I know, I could fill all those free hours taking pictures, working on lighting, working on getting Kate Austin Photography up and running and begin hustling for business (yes, I've decided to go into business finally!!), but I don't know quite how to begin. 

I feel as if I'm on the cusp of something big lately, bigger than me that will lead me to the next chapter, the next adventure, around the next corner of my life. I'm on the edge of it, my right foot up in the air ready to take that first step, but I don't know where my foot is going to land, and that scares me. I want to take that step, I want to pick up my feet and stride (shuffle) forward, but where will my feet take me? I'm excited, scared, nervous, anxious, willing, curious, exhausted, dreaming of what's ahead, but I also want to cling to the familiar life I just recently left behind, that life where I knew what to expect and what to do, the life that was governed by early morning showers and bedhead, breakfasts eaten before the sun came up and drives to school, sealed with kisses and "See you after school! I love you" 's. 

That life is over now, I know. All I need to do now is find the courage to complete that first step, to let my foot fall forward and see where it lands.

 
 
 

sometimes

Sometimes I wonder if I'm trying hard enough or if I'm just lazy. Lately I haven't really been feeling the urge to pick up my camera and take pictures or do anything photography related. I've been watching this class over on Creative Live, the same class, since early April (maybe late March?) and I still haven't completed it. Yeah, I've had Life interfere (but can Life really interfere when it's kinda what you want to do anyway?) with high school graduation and family obligations. But all that's over with for the most part, so I have free time to do whatever it is I want to do.

Which lately has been just sitting in the patio chair on our back porch and watching the birds or staring into the blue sky, not really thinking about anything.

But my thoughts do begin to wander to the why, why am I taking pictures, why do I have this urge to press a button on a black box that weighs roughly the same as a quart of milk (sometimes more depending on which lens I'm using and for how long I've been clicking that little round button). I look at other photographers on Instagram and Facebook and Flickr and wonder if they go out every day and take pictures, what sort of lives do they lead, what drives them, if they have a house keeping service and when do they get their groceries? Do they stay up until the wee hours to edit and post to their websites? How do they manage their time, especially if they have little ones? 

My thoughts also wander to "am I good enough?" I'm not comparing myself to others, I've worked really hard on that this year, not letting myself get sucked into the comparison trap, especially since I primarily shoot sports now and not so much nature, food or Random Moments, so of that little accomplishment I feel proud. Am I good enough to be published, am I good enough to be noticed? But then don't we all want to be noticed and be applauded? That's just human nature, no matter how much you tell yourself you don't want to be noticed, that you shoot only for yourself . . . there's a teeny-tiny, itty-bitty part of you that would love to be published in a magazine.

I know that teeny-tiny, itty-bitty part lives in me.

You know, it's never been about how many followers/likes/thumbs up/hearts or readers of my blog I have (it was only a couple months ago that I figured out how to read my blog stats analysis page here on Squarespace. My favorite part of my stats reader is the geography tab. I love seeing where all my readers hale from!). I've always found that writing is a way for me to work things out, to feel my way through the mess inside my head and to put it all in order. I suppose that's why I take pictures, too. It's always been easier to show (and to write) what I want people to see rather try to explain verbally what it is I'm trying to show. I enjoy sharing my life with others, I enjoy telling random stories about my childhood, showing pictures of people I meet, how I live my life. That's really the reason why I write and take pictures. 

Those are my thoughts on this rainy Friday afternoon. I know that I'll begin to pick up my camera on a daily basis again soon and begin to be excited once again to work at this more-than-a-hobby. I know that I will become brave enough to put out modeling calls later this summer on my FB page, I know that a sports portrait I have in my head will come to life next month. I know all that, but it is nice to have breather and a moment of quietude in the midst of creating.

This Is A Brutally Honest Post

On the way to Tulsa, OK. Saturday during a driving rain storm.

Why do I photograph? 

Why do I run? To make myself feel better, both physically and mentally.

Why do I bake? Because it's fun and therapeutic and I love seeing my family's face when they come in after school and work and smell what just came out of the oven.

So why do I photograph? It began as a way to practice my skills and master the never ending craft of photography. But then I discovered sharing my photos on Flickr, Facebook and finally Instagram and then, I think unconsciously, I slid into the mindset of taking photos for other people and forgot to take pictures for me, take pictures that speak to me. I began to take photos, and as much as this makes me uncomfortable to admit, for likes, comments and those little hearts that appear after you double tap an image. I began not posting the photos that I liked, but rather those photos that I thought others might like.

And guess what? Even though the likes, the comments and those little hearts began appearing, I began to feel disenchanted with the whole system and especially the need to feel validated for what started out as something fun for me to do to fill up those final days of my kids' childhoods. 

What started out as something I was doing for myself quickly morphed into doing something for other people, those virtual friends and acquaintances I had made over the Internet. 

Something had to give because I was getting further and further away from what had set out to be fun and motivating for me as I began drifting closer and closer to never putting my phone down/shutting off my computer/ignoring Real Life and paying attention instead to my on-line life more.

Over the weekend, I read a post by the wonderfully talented writer and photographer, Donna Hopkins, where she talked about breaking up from Instagram. It really resonated with me and I've since given a lot of thought as to why I think I need to be on these photo sharing platforms. What I keep coming back to, and again I'm ashamed to say this out loud, is that I was more concerned about what others thought of my work, not what I thought about my work.

I was sharing so that others could say (if they wanted) that I was good and that they thought my image was worth a like, comment or a little red heart. 

I was sharing to feel validated.

That seems pretty silly, doesn't it, and such a sign of an unconfident photographer!

This year seems to be shaping up as to be the year of being "Big & Brave" for me. I've been leaving my business card at local bakeries and eateries here in the the area, saying that if they ever needed a photographer, then I'm available. I'm learning to conquer my fear of driving in big city traffic and checking in and out of hotels (that was something I always left up to David to do). I took part in my first march for equality. I was uncustomarily assertive during the time of my mother's knee replacement surgery. In just a couple weeks time, I'm taking a class from one of my photography heroes who will be teaching in Oklahoma City and I'm hoping to ask to get a picture with him afterwards. I'm pushing myself slowly but surely out of my comfort zone, and my confidence levels are getting higher and higher with every business card I'm leaving and every time I learn to stand up for myself.

I'm feeling more and more steady on my feet.

I decided on yesterday's run that I'm going to take a week off from social media, get away from likes, comments and those little red hearts. The apps are already off my phone and my computer and I'm looking forward to getting back to "me".

I'm hoping to find the answer again as to why I photograph. 

And then to run with it.

 

 

 

Time To Dig

We've had so much rain this week, although right now the sun is out and the leftover raindrops are glistening like diamonds on the pine tree outside our bedroom French doors where I've camped out on our bed, nursing a cold/sinus infection/who-knows-but-I've-got-a-doctor's-appointment-in-30-minutes-to-find-out-what's-wrong, and feeling a little sorry for myself. David is working out of the house today and is taking care of me, there's BBQ chicken in the crockpot making the house smell like a BBQ joint and I can see squirrels and robins hopping about on the sunny patio outside.

Maybe it's the winding down of the winter season or seeing the first definite signs of spring blooming in cow pastures and a few front yards, but I feel this need to reach down further inside of me and pull out what I know is hidden, to dig deeper and see what I can create photographically. I know I have a lot more to show, a lot more to say, a lot more light to share. I'm taking a break from photographing food and start this new journey to the center of me, as deep and passionate as that sounds (and I'm not one really to write passionately or like, "Because I'm an Artist, damnit!" and for those of you that know me well, you will get that last statement and may even chuckle). 

I have learned a lot through shooting food, learned about how best to manipulate the light coming through my (dirty) windows and placement of props and food; I still want to continue my kitchen adventures, but I want to continue them for my benefit for the simple reason that I love to bake, I love seeing David close his eyes as he bites into a fresh chocolate chip cookie after he comes home from work and I absolutely love, love, love hearing Joey's big booming voice coming from the mud room after school as he calls out, "Are those muffins I smell?"

Gets. Me. Every. Single. Time.

So, yes, I will be keeping up with my baking and working my way through my dessert and bread cookbooks, but that journey will be for me (and the rest of my family). Creatively, I want to further my exploring of light and shadow, storytelling and sharing my views of my world. It's time to buckle down and do the work.

It's time to shut out the outside noise so I can hear the little whispers living deep inside of me.

********

Edited: The sun is gone and it's beginning to rain again. I'm back from the doctors and I'm not dying a slow death, rather it's my asthma warring with my lungs, so she prescribed steroids for the next five days. These next five days will be interesting, to say the least. 

 

 

 

 

 

Right Now

Right now, it's night time. Our bellies are full from home made chicken noodle soup and biscuits loaded with butter.

Right now, the dog is asleep on her freshly washed bed that she pushed and kneaded and wrangled back to the shape it was before I threw it in the washing machine earlier today. Her back turned towards me tells me that she thought her bed was just fine the way it was.

Right now, I'm sitting next to David on the couch as he writes his first query letter to a stranger behind an editing desk at a publishing house, hoping that he will read the prologue and the first three chapters of David's book and write him back, begging him for the publishing rights. We have our fingers crossed.

Right now, as I look back over my tumultuous day, I am relieved to think that it's almost over and I can crawl into our freshly sheeted bed and read about what it takes to be a combat photographer before getting up in the morning and beginning all over again.

Right now, I think about tomorrow, about the few errands I need to run, about the bread I plan on making this weekend, about the possibility of a "wintery mix" that may or may not happen Thursday (I hope it snows buckets). I think about wanting to look back and see that I've accomplished something in my life, that I lived without the "woulda/coulda/shoulda's" of the world. I think about family and how that is all that really and truly matters in this life.  I think about sorrow and laughter, about hurt and joy, about stopping and starting again. I think of moments gained and moments lost. I think about grief, and wonder at the amount of tears a body can produce. I think about laughter and how proud I am of my laugh wrinkles that surround my eyes. They are the reminders of the afternoons spent on my childhood home's back porch, giggling and belly laughing with my mom and my big sister. I think about joy and how much it surrounded me as I grew up: my grandaddy and his twinkly grin that began in his eyes and washed down his face like a waterfall, my grandmother laughing so hard that she'd have to run to the bathroom, my other grandpa slapping his leg and roaring with laughter when I accidentally backed up and ran over his mailbox when I was learning to drive. 

Right now, I think about family, about moments, about laughter and grief. 

Right now, I think about love and family and how phenomenally blessed I am to have both.

 
 
 

The Last Day of the Year

I wrote here almost this same time last year, wrote about how I didn't believe in resolutions or picking a special word to try to live by in the coming year. I wrote about the very first New Year's Eve that David and I spent as a newlywed couple and how much fun we had. I wrote about the owls calling to each other deep in the woods and about the flock of geese flying overhead, honking to each other, as Langley and I took our final walk of 2016 down her trail.

I still feel the way I did last year about resolutions and special words. I believe in having goals to work towards, something else I talked about last year. They make more sense to me. On our final walk of the year this morning, as Langley nosed along the trail and the birds huddled on the bare tree branches, I thought about resolutions and how easily they're broken. I think that the intent behind resolutions is a very good one, and maybe they do work for some people, but I think also that you don't need one special day of the year to make those resolutions; every day is a brand new day to wake up and start anew, to choose a new road, to make a new choice in your life.

I am excited about the new year rapidly approaching. I'm excited to continue with my photography and see where that will take me. I'm eager to get back to running again, something that I have truly missed after my body emotionally crashed and burned on me last July. I'm excited to cut back on the virtual world and get back to reading real words out of real books, meeting real people and hearing their stories. I'm excited to get back to my Momma Play Days and exploring new-to-me little towns around northwest Arkansas. I'm eager to finally get to meet a new friend (and her adorable little boys) that I met years ago on Flickr and who has recently moved to northwest Arkansas. I'm eager and excited to begin seriously learning how to bake pies and decorate cakes.

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I'm eager and excited to see not only what 2018 brings, but also where I'll be at this same time next year.

I want to thank you all for your wonderful support and friendship over the past year, for indulging me in my writing and the photos of my life. May you all have a beautiful, safe, happy, fun, contemplative, peaceful, exciting, wonderful 2018. 

And as I loved telling my mom and dad every New Year's Eve growing up, "See you next year!"

 
 
 

The Old Is The New Again

I scrubbed the house this morning, a long overdue scrubbing, and as I dusted and vacuumed and mopped, I thought long and hard about this space of mine on the World Wide Web. What did I want to do here? What did I want to write about? Do I even want to write here anymore, to share my thoughts, pictures, life?

As I thought about all this, I thought about what it was I was writing about, and I've been writing a lot about sadness lately because, quite frankly, that's what life has dealt me these past six months or so. Reading back in my old journal, the posts I'd written were full of life and joy and carefreeness. 

A simpler time and a happier time.

I stopped cleaning to resurrect the old blog that I had taken off my site, dusted off the cobwebs (I mean, I was cleaning today) and made it my primary blog once again. You can find my Project 365 up in the navigation bar at the top where I will keep posting my daily picture with maybe a few words here and there.

I'm tired of sadness haunting my days, tired of thinking about it and living with it. 

I'm going to focus on the happy times, the happy thoughts, the happy moments that make up my days. 

I want to just be, to just play and to just live.