Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stepping Out Of Comfort And Into Growth

There are a few things that am terrified to do. I am not a fan of public speaking, heights or needles. Of course I have to experience all of these things in my lifetime. I don't want to to it, but I do. If I do it enough times, it gets easier and the anxiety around it tends to soften. I'm not going to say that I look forward to it, but it gets easier each time.

I mentioned the PBS series I was watching, "This Emotional Life" in a blog a while back. One of the episodes deals specifically about facing your fears. Once you face them over and over, they are no longer your fears. I suppose it's the same with dreams. Once you realize your dream, it is no longer your dream.

There have been a few specific moments in my life where I had to face something I wasn't looking forward to doing. At seventeen, I embarked on a month long Outward Bound class where I camped with a group of 10 other lost people trying to collectively find a way through the mountains. It was one of the most physically and mentally challenging experiences of my life. I remember freezing on a rock when I was climbing and couldn't move. Of course I had to trust the person belaying me who just took a 10 minute course in, "this is how you prevent someone from falling." I eventually made it up the rock, but I tell you was not what I considered to be fun at the time.

We were sent off alone in the wilderness for 3 days without food or water (we could get water at a nearby stream) which was a welcome event after being around strangers nonstop for 3 weeks. It was a chance for my blisters to heal a bit and to be quiet. When it was time to leave the isolation after 3 days, I lost my voice. Once the guides hiked over to greet me, I think "uhhaaa" came out of my mouth.

Years went by and I graduated college, found a job and started working in a corporate environment. I would take vacations here and there and camp on some weekends but nothing challenged me the way Outward Bound did in my teenage years. Since I played basketball in college, I missed the camaraderie of a group of women coming together for a common goal. I searched on the Internet for something new to wake me out of my working life coma that would be challenging yet fun and included a group of people looking to do the same thing.

At the time, my weekends were filled with the excitement of flipping through adventure travel magazines and catalogs. I flipped through one sportswear catalog and found an ad for an all women's adult surf camp, Los Olas Surf ( That was it! I was always sick of people assuming that I surfed since I was born and raised in Southern California. I loved to swim, but I never tried to surf. It was time to do something about it! I thought about it for a second and signed up. I decided to share a room with a complete stranger and spend all days with other complete strangers. For some, that might seem like a daunting task. I didn't care, I needed a change.

It's hard to describe the feeling of standing up on a surfboard for the first time. Surreal could be it. There I was...knees banged up from kneeling and falling numerous times. But for one brief second, I was up! I was standing and moving forward! It was like a drug...I had to do it over and over again. Of course, it's never the same but you want it to be once you get up, move forward and for one moment...euphoria.

Of course the instructors Julie, Kristy and Nicole can get up on the board in their sleep and ride it lie, I witnessed it with my own eyes. I don't know if I would have stuck it out without their support. It can be a bit ego bruising once you try and try and can't seem to stand up for the life of you. They would give you a thumbs up for even getting out in the water to try. Paddling was cheered with a "right on! Paddle, paddle, paddle!" You really couldn't help but smile.

After returning home, this trip left me with a feeling of anything is possible. Within the year, I quit my job and decided to embark on the open road with my dog to explore something new each day. This will be my 3rd year of doing so. Of course I will document it here every step of the way. I would encourage you to do something that makes you feel uneasy. Do something that you always wanted to do but were afraid to do it. I can almost guarantee that you won't regret it.

Surfing again is on my list of 39 goals for my 39th year. I look forward to the challenge.

If you are interested to step out of your comfort place and sign up for an amazing adventure, check out:
Outward Bound (all ages, Men and Women)
Los Olas: Surf Safaris for Women
(photo credit = Cat Slatinsky)

What have you done that inspired you to change direction in your life?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Today Was A Good Day

You know the days where everything seems to go right? I had a pretty good day today. I went for a walk on the beach as the sun was setting, took Max to the dog park, met a dear friend of mine to chat for a while and met with a business owner to agree on a date in February to showcase my work for my first art show opening! More details to come on that, but isn't it great when you get to enjoy so many nice things in one day?

Some of the smallest things I love the most. You know the feeling you have over something, however small, can bring out the best in you? That you find hope in the world over the tiniest of details? Ok..."maybe hope in the world" is a little much, but you get what I mean.

To celebrate my exciting day, I took myself out to eat without a phone or a friend and I just watched everything that surrounded me at that moment. I ate at a sushi bar where I could watch the chefs prepare meals and I was at such an angle that I could see some of what was going on in the kitchen. One thing stood out for me. I watched the dishwasher in the back as he very carefully took out the small ceramic plates out of the drying rack and slowly and precisely, stacked them together and turned to put them on the counter shelf...ever so gently. Have you ever been at a restaurant and all you hear are banging plates in the kitchen or clearing the table? Without him knowing it, I greatly appreciated his conscious plate stacking.

Also, my paper white flowers in the backyard are coming back. I am excited about seeing that. Even though I hate the mornings, I look forward to waking Max up and greeting the day with him. Each night, the sunset is a little different and each time is an experience. All of these things I appreciate. These are a few pictures from my walk on the beach last night. Yes, I love birds. I walked up slowly to them...stood there, got my shot ready, then ran towards them. I don't think they appreciated it too much, but I had fun. To see more, click HERE

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Walk On The Beach

Ahhhh, there is nothing like being next to the ocean, especially on a crisp sunny day. I took a long walk (camera in tow) on Huntington Beach yesterday stopping to take a few pictures of what I saw that looked interesting.

At one moment, I did exactly what this man was doing (well, ALMOST exactly) and laid down on the sand to feel the sunshine on my face and listen to the waves crash. I think that could be one of my favorite things to do. All of your cares seem to slip away in one moment as you lay still to feel what's around you.

Not many beaches allow dogs, but there is a section here in Huntington Beach that is dedicated to let dogs be themselves. This is the part I took a walk on. I love how excited and happy the dogs look as they get to run around and do whatever they want.

They take time to play.

There are times that we forget what it's like to go out and just play. I remember each school day and how I looked forward to just running out during recess to jump around and swing on the bars or kick a ball around.

Sometimes I pass by a school during recess and think back to those times and then get envious that those kids can wake up and play all day in the same clothes. If only we adults could do that. Wouldn't it be nice to get up, go to work, play, go out and wear the same outfit the entire time?

For me, I find the most peace being in nature. If I am having a rough time I know that all I have to do is get outside and walk in an open field, the beach, or the mountains and any worry I might have had just seems to disappear. It's the same feeling I get watching dogs at play on the beach.

Get outside.

Here are more dogs I've photographed throughout my travels. Click HERE to view.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Does Size Matter? (Canon PowerShot 1200 IS vs. Canon PowerShot s90)

I spent all day yesterday printing a few pictures from my travels. I am not the best at organizing my photos so it took a while to go through and sort out a few that I liked. I still have more to go through, but I chose a few to put up for sale on my Etsy site. You can see the pictures I put up on the right of the blog.

As you might know, I dropped and killed 2 Canon Powershot cameras during my travels. Recently, I purchased a new camera after I received a gift certificate from Amazon.

Buying a new camera is not an easy task since there are so many makes and models to choose from. Then you have to read the reviews and think about what is best for you. I decided to buy a Canon Powershot s90 camera. It's still a point and click and since I prefer the Canon brand, I chose this one. I am pleased so far with the results.

Most of my pictures I've taken on the road are with my Canon Powershot SD 1200 IS. After printing some of the images, it really is a good camera. I didn't have any complaints with it, besides it slipping from my hands a few times(of course that's the Camera's fault). I still have it and will continue to use it. However, I do love shooting with my s90 now.

Last week I went to a free photography group meeting to listen to a professional speak about their business. I thought, "why not? It's free and I will be able to meet like minded people who also share the same passion for photography." The group organizer asked everyone to introduce themselves and say what their first camera was and what their "dream" camera is. I listened as everyone rattled off numbers and names with the crowd smiling and nodding their heads knowing full well the cost, model, and performance of the camera that they were describing. To me, it was just a number. I mean...I know they are beautiful quality cameras but since I don't have a SLR, I couldn't relate.

It came to my turn to talk. I introduced myself...said that I quit my job to travel across the country with my dog in a tent. A lot of people in the group smiled at me with some applause in the room. Then I said I used a point and click and that I didn't really have a "dream" camera since I was pretty happy with what I had. The smiles I had at the beginning turned to confusion and for second, I could hear crickets chirping in the room. It's as if I lost all credibility at that moment. I then stopped talking and looked at the person next to me to continue the introductions (as I sunk lower in my chair). Once again, the camera model numbers came flowing with a collective sigh of relief amongst the group that there were more of "them" in the room.

Don't get me wrong, I would love the opportunity to push a button with a very large and expensive camera, but I don't have one and I think that anyone can take an amazing photo with what they have. After all, it's just a tool to capture what you are looking at in that point in time. However, I am not opposed to owning one in the future if the opportunity presents itself.

I feel that I almost have to apologize for the size of the camera I have. When people see large cameras, I think the automatic assumption is, "wow, they must be an excellent photographer!" When I see those cameras I automatically think that the photos must have amazing clarity but then my mind thinks: "wow, they have to lug that around with them the entire day...I wonder if their shoulder hurts. I wonder if they bang it on walls walking into a room or what would happen if they dropped it." Most likely, that would be my experience.

I was going to do a side by side comparison of my two cameras but I thought I would show you some of the pictures I have taken with each. If you are thinking of purchasing a Canon s90, I found this review helpful...including pictures. CLICK HERE for review.

Here are some pictures I took with both "point and clicks." Which one do you think I took with my less expensive 1200 and which one with my new s90?

Can you tell a difference? The first 5 images (excluding the camera photos) are from my lesser expensive Canon Powershot 1200IS and the last 4 pictures are from the new Canon s90. In my opinion, it's the picture you take that's the best photo. Don't let the equipment intimidate you or discourage you from taking a picture you love. The one you take that you cherish forever is the most important shot, no matter what camera you have.

UPDATE: As of May, I traded my wine collection for a Canon 5D Mark ii.  I am still getting used to it and learning (I consider myself a work in progress), but I have to say that this is a good camera too. :)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Long Beach Neighborhood Breakfast

Once again, "We Love Long Beach" organized a free community breakfast for neighbors to come together and get to know each other. This time is was in the community of Wrigley in Long Beach.

As WLLB says, "We want to give you the opportunity, in a safe and friendly environment, to get to know your neighbors better. (There will be free pancakes, sausage, eggs, fruit, vegan delights, orange juice, and coffee.) Also face painting for kids and a live DJ to set the mood. Remember LB, community is the home that WE build together, valuing our differences and the common good, to make Long Beach a great place to live."

What a concept. Getting to know your neighbors. I am close with the neighbors on one side of my home but I don't know most of the people who live on my block. We all come and go but never get the chance to really know each other. This organization plans these events so you get out of your house and talk to the people who live in on your street or around the corner. Just think if all communities did this. Wouldn't it be great if we all came out of our houses and met the people that decided to live in the same area as us?

I was invited to photograph the event and it was a pleasure to do so. It was heartwarming to see everyone coming out together for a common get to know each other. If you live in Long Beach, please visit their site and become part of the community. I would also suggest you reach out to other organizations in your area that brings neighborhoods together.

Thank you "We Love Long Beach" for all of the hard work you do! This city is lucky to have you.

Here are some pictures I took of the event. To see more, click HERE

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lasting Memories

The past few days in Southern California has brought on some record rain, if you haven't heard. It found its way into my driveway and into my garage. I was gone during the day for the first big storm wave and I came home to inches of water in my garage.

Since I live on the road several months out of the year, there are only a few things in my home in case I need to pack up quickly to get on the road. For the most part, I live like I am still living out of my car...but in my home. Most of my belongings are stored in my garage. Some things are in plastic bins (smart choice) however there are a lot of items in cardboard boxes (not so smart choice). All of the boxes on the ground were soaked along with the contents inside of the box.

I wasn't really concerned when I came home, but I looked in the morning and didn't realize how many cardboard storage boxes were on the ground. A lot of them had old family photos in them. I also had framed pictures resting on the ground that are now soaked along with clothes, furniture, and other miscellaneous items. Although it was a bit sad to find, I wasn't that upset about it.

Because I have lived out of my car for so long, material possessions don't mean as much to me as they did in my 20's. I was never one to spend a lot of clothes and things. I think the "treasures" that mean the most are trinkets from places visited and pictures from those trips. Some of the damage leaked into albums of my grandparents. This picture I scanned a while back is one of my favorites of them.

Losing my father and grandparents was extremely painful, but all of the memories I have in my head will never be damaged by a flood. I am thankful that I had the time with them. I am fortunate for that. I can't complain. I am fortunate to have a roof over my head, food and love ones to turn to.

For all of that, I am forever grateful.

During the time the water was creeping up in my garage, I was out snapping these pictures.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seeing Things In A Different Light

Sometimes we might take for granted all that surrounds us. We see the same thing over and over in our routine to work, to the store, going to the park, etc.

Is it the same?

I tend to go to the same places to see new and different things. I might see something I didn't the other 10 times I went to visit. Or, I might see something in a different light to give me a fresh perspective on something. Sometimes if I enjoy looking at something, I visit it several times to look at it again. Even something that stays in the same place like a tree, a lifeguard tower, or a house. Depending on the time of day, weather conditions or your can be different each time.

For the month of September, I would visit the same house on a bluff at the beach in Cape Cod each day to look at it and take a picture.

There wasn't a pattern to my visits. I would go at a different time each day...sometimes twice a day. In the sunshine, rain, wind, sunsets, or at night. I walked out to the ocean and looked back at the house until I couldn't see the right side. I would then snap the same picture of it sitting in the bottom left hand corner of the shot with a small strip of grass.

Even at home, there are things I see more than twice a week that look different each time. I took a picture of this tower while standing in a different spot on different days. It's the same tower but with a different feel each time. Not better or worse, just different.

Perhaps I look at certain things in too much detail. I never used to do this, but it's exciting when you know that even when you visit the same spot you've been to many times will never be the same.

I like that.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Long Beach Skate Park Opening

I was asked yesterday by "We Love Long Beach" to photograph the opening of the Michael K. Green Skate Park. It was a wonderful event! It was great to see all of the kids come together for a great cause in the community.

We Love Long Beach (WLLB) is a non-profit (501c3) community organization founded by Scott and Robin Jones in 2008. As fourth generation residents of the City of Long Beach, the sibling pair started the organization after extending a breakfast invitation to fifty of their neighbors. It was a free breakfast in the park with no other agenda than for neighbors to have the chance to get to know one another.

I've been taking a lot of Long Beach pictures and Scott and Robin reached out to me to photograph their participation in this event. I am so glad they did! I will continue this partnership with them so they can share images with each community in Long Beach with the goal of bringing all communities of the city together.

For the most part, I usually wander around and take pictures of things I find interesting. Like fences, birds, trees, open fields, the road, bird feet, etc. The shots I've taken of people are usually candid and they don't know I am taking their picture. I just capture a moment in time without them knowing.

This is the first time I set out to take action shots of kids and some posing for the camera. The energy at the event was so positive so it was easy for me to snap away, observing the kids anxiously awaiting the opening of the park. I hope I captured that with these photographs.

Thanks to "We Love Long Beach" for including me in the opening. I look forward to more events soon. Here are some pictures from the day. For more, click HERE

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Mornings And The Sunrise

I am not a morning person. I admit it. I am not one to jump out of bed, sing a song, welcome the day and whistle while a bird sings along with me on my shoulder.

I wish I were. Well..I would like to be.

I have never been.

I have always been a heavy sleeper and a night person. My mother was the one singing songs to welcome the day, ripping off the covers so I would freeze and turn the light switch on and off over and over until she woke the dead (me). Even when I was a child, the waking up part was hell. Then it was even worse when I had to sit next to my father for breakfast and he would eat grape nuts. I don't think there is a reason to eat that cereal unless you want to annoy the person sitting next to you with all of the crunching going on. In fact, I don't think you are able to hear anything when you eat that cereal. Maybe that was the point. There is nothing like two "morning haters" sitting next to each other annoyed by everything while my mother would sing away, skipping around the house.

Things haven't changed much. Well, my mother isn't around to turn the lights on and off, but people close to me know to wait until I have been up for a while to speak to me...ok, that sounds horrible. I am not painting a good picture here. I am not THAT bad, really.

My former boss and I had a deal that he wasn't allowed to call me before 8am (for his own sake, really). I would get a phone call most mornings at 8am on the dot. Maybe it's a problem when I have to tell my boss not to call me before a certain time.

It's not that I can't do it. I did a fitness bootcamp class at 5:30am for six months before work each morning. I don't really know how I accomplished that, but I did. I think I was tired of the voices in my head debating on weather or not I was going to work out that night all day during work, or if I would be too tired...or fill in the blank for another good reason. At least when I worked out in the morning, I didn't have to think about it all day.

I've been telling myself lately that I need to get up to see the sunrise. I suppose my mind told my body that it was about time for me to get out of bed and get out of the house to see it this morning. After the head debate...I went out. It was beautiful. Peaceful. I walked along the shore and took pictures of the birds, the pier and then took a stroll to the dog beach to watch the pups play in the ocean for a while.

I am glad I did.


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