Life Update and Hopeful Goals

Monday, October 16, 2017

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I haven't given a lot of details of what life is like, or what dramatic changes there have been over the past five to six months. I share pieces of life, and I share pieces of feeling, but I think some things should go unsaid, and I think some things should be private. As distance adds up between certain events, I feel I can speak of them, or the current situation, a little more freely.

Last week was a lot, it was stressful, and I struggled. But I had a wonderful weekend, and I got to kind of recharge a little, and this week things don't look so bleak.

Marion and I have been adjusting to a new life since May. And that has been really hard. Change is so difficult for me, not only as a person, but also as someone with Bipolar Disorder. When my schedule, my routine, or even just what I think may happen in a day or with a situation go differently or gets disrupted, it's a huge deal. Huge. To the extent it's sometimes incredibly difficult to function at all and I want to stay inside in my room and do nothing. So in May, our schedule changed, our routine changed, the way we had to do almost everything changed. And sometimes I feel like I should have been able to get on track within a couple of months, but here I am, almost six months later, and I'm still kind of struggling with it, but it is getting better. I keep having to tell myself it's okay, it's okay, I'll get there, we'll get there, but some days it really gets to me.

This week, I accomplished my goal of completing all the housework in one day! Ideally I'd like to always do this. I used to have a pretty strict cleaning schedule, but I used to split it up across four days. Now that I'm working, I prefer getting it all done at once so that when I'm not working I can just spend time with Marion and do a little straightening up as needed. My cooking though...I need to work on that... I've gotten...lazy. As far as other routines, other things I need to be doing (like drinking enough, I'm terrible about dehydrating myself) I haven't done so well on. But I think those will come as other things start to work themselves out.

I've been working since July, but honestly, it has been a huge source of anxiety. The job was not explained to me well when I accepted, and it turned into something I had to basically be on call for all the time. I was making myself available for over 80 hours a week in an effort to get even six hours of work. Not only that, I had to continually check my schedule during those available periods, and I was constantly worrying about if something had been added and I didn't see it, or if it was added last minute and I missed the e-mail. It was just not good for me. Then, a few weeks ago, my supervisor asked if I would be interested in a set schedule! Like, yes! So for a few weeks I've had a fairly assured amount of hours, with set times, and it has helped so much!

We have a fairly regular grocery day routine and I'm coming to really love it and depend on it. I tried to add in a playground, too, but it got to be too much. By the time we did a couple of errands and played for an hour or two, Marion was tired and it was close to nap time and grocery shopping felt like too much for me, and definitely for her. So the past couple of weeks I got rid of that and it's been so much better.

One thing I need to put more effort into is getting somewhere to walk and run. The nearest place I've found that is suitable for the stroller is just under ten miles away. I know, it's not much, but considering I have to put Marion in a carseat, get her out and put her in a stroller, and then she gets out and goes back into the carseat... You can see how that isn't entirely fun for a two year old. I really think if I do it enough she will get used to it and it won't be so bad, and she might even get to the point where she'll sleep the whole time again. I can't see how I can manage this more than about twice a week, but it's better than not at all, right? It's just another challenge, another thing I can figure out.

I'm going to go off on a tangent a bit here...

Getting into the mountains, getting out in nature, exploring places...it's one of the things that helps keep me centered (I'm mostly referring to this in a Bipolar sense, but it applies otherwise as well). I was never able to go super regularly when I was in Colorado, for various reasons, but there were so many places close by, it was an option. It has now been over six months since I have been anywhere out except the backyard...and I don't like how that feels. It's like a really important part of me has gone dormant, or maybe even died, and I feel trapped, or caged, and like my spirit is...tied down. So I have decided that Marion and I are going to go an adventure once a month. I'll research, I'll find places that look toddler-friendly, I'm trying to come up with some ideas of activities we can do during the hike, or at the final destination. I'm trying to come up with strategies for making the car ride bearable. I thought for a while I would just wait till she was older, because hiking is miserable for her if she has to ride in a carseat there, go in the carrier for the hike, and maybe not have the opportunity to get out, because it may not be safe for a toddler, or there may not be sufficient space to let her play in for a while, a plethora of things. But I was talking to a friend about it, and she encouraged me to go for it, to get out, to get Marion out, and thinks it will be a wonderful bonding time for us. I also stumbled upon Morgan Brechler's Instagram account, and it was encouraging. So we're going to go for it. I've talked to her about it a little and she says she wants to go to a waterfall and collect sticks and take photos. Sounds perfect to me!

So there is life lately. A picture of adjusting, desperately trying to make home, and a few hopes for the immediate future. We'll see how things go!

Colorado Sunsets and Wildflowers and Thoughts On Home

Thursday, October 5, 2017

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In September we travelled to Colorado for Marion to visit with her dad. It was a shorter trip than expected because of logistics and finances, but at least he got to spend a few days with her. In the future, hopefully we can plan the trips a little better and things will go a bit smoother.

I had a lot to do, so exploring wasn't on the agenda, but one of the days I saw sunset approaching and I decided to grab my Nikon and walk to the little lake just down the road and get a glimpse of the always beautiful sunsets I used to watch almost daily. Of course, it didn't disappoint, though I did end up taking more photos of the flowers than the sunset. But how beautiful is that in the background? I personally think it's more beautiful like this than with the sunset in focus.

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Leaving Colorado has been incredibly difficult for me. I remember after being in Denver for about a year I was talking to my best friend and telling him that Denver didn't feel like home. I loved the mountains, I loved a lot of the aspects, but it didn't feel like me, I didn't feel like I fit, and I kind of wanted to move on to somewhere new. A few years later and it feels more like home than Alabama ever did, and it felt like a piece of my heart was ripped out leaving. There were positives and negatives to staying in Colorado or returning to Alabama, and despite how my heart longs to be in that beautiful state, I also know I made the best overall decision. That doesn't mean it's easy, and I think it will always feel like home there.

I'll be back at least once a year, possibly twice, so I'm trying to take comfort in that, and hoping that eventually I can make these trips longer and Marion and I can go have adventures.

First Try Exposing Sprockets

Thursday, September 28, 2017

About a month ago I really got the itch to shoot with my Holga, but I didn't have any 120mm film and there was nowhere nearby I could purchase any (I can barely get 35mm!), so I decided to put a roll of 35mm in and since I didn't have my masks either--sprockets!

Now at this point I had not had a successful roll developed from my Holga (honestly, I think the lab I used screwed my first ones), so I had no idea what to expect. I was just hoping for lots of light leaks and other oddities.

I stuck a bunch of bubble wrap inside until the film was sitting tight. Technical, right? I also placed tape over the red window, even though it should have been okay, but I left the rest untaped.

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I love this double exposure. I guess it's a little awkward, but I love it so much and I'm so thrilled about this one. I've taken a few (see a couple below), but this is definitely the best one, and my favourite!
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Oops, I forgot to adjust the focus...
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I followed what I read on the internet, that 34 clicks was a good rule of thumb for winding, but I can tell that was too much, and I've done some more reading on that and found 25 to be better, or to either count 12 sprockets through the red window while winding. I haven't decided which one I'm going to try next time.

I'm quite curious about the various yellow hues in these photos. There are strips across the top that are very consistent, and there are lines in a few. I have no idea how old this film was either. I think it may have actually been from school in 2010 and it's possible it's been exposed to heat, so that could play in factor in some of this.

Overall, I love the look I achieved, even if I did keep forgetting to change the focus and the winding was off. I started another roll before I got these back, and now that I've seen the results, I can't wait to try again. There may be a Sprocket Rocket in my future...because I kind of love this.

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Camera: Holga 120N, Sunset Boulevard
Film: Kodak Gold 400
Developed By: The Darkroom

Marion at Two and a Half: Part Two

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

As promised, here is the second set of Marion's photos.

For these, we went to Roanoke, Alabama. I really wanted some nice golden light and huge trees and a little tall grass (that sounds really cliche, but oh well), but...there are things like chiggers here, and we are not going to risk that. So maybe late fall or winter we can try.

My mom came along to assist. Since I knew we would be near the road I wanted someone to come along so I wouldn't feel as limited getting photos and could get further away without worrying about her getting to the road and just to help me keep her at least a little contained. I don't go for posed photos really, I enjoy chasing her and getting shots of her in action, because that's who she is, but it can be nerve-wracking in some areas.

I was planning to do some just around the brick walls and walkways, but oh my goodness, I saw this alley with paint in all kinds of colors, and charred places, and boards everywhere, and I couldn't resist! Broken down is one of my things, so, obviously, photos.

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I just love her hair... At first I was frustrated she kept turning around, but it came out so beautifully and now these are some of my favourite shots.

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First thought, "Ugh, this is all grainy and out of focus."

An hour later, "I don't care, I like it anyways."

I'm starting to really love photos that are not focused quite right, or the way I think it should be. Maybe it will become part of my style, something seen more often in my work. Time will tell.

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It's hard to call favourites, but...I really love this one. I am not sure if Grandma started or if she came up with it herself, but apparently there were monkeys leaping around and she was pointing at them, saying, "Monkey there!" She comes up with some hilarious stuff, so there's no telling...

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I love watching her explore and take in everything around her.

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"Can we be done, ma?" I'm sure that's what she was thinking. It was getting hot, and a two year old can only take so many photos...

We decided to walk across the street to a large grassy area, and I took a couple along the way.

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This is her, "I'm over this, but I guess I'll kind of cooperate" face.
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We didn't get many photos at the mural, because she was just done, but that's okay. She got to run around in the grass for a while and she was quite happy about it.

I love these photos. So much.

Also, my camera is staying on the "M" setting for the rest of time.

It's Okay To Fall Apart

Saturday, September 23, 2017

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Life is a lot right now.

I feel like it has all been a series of stumbles and falls, for as long as I can remember. It has always felt just...so hard. It's rare, the moments when I don't feel a literal weight crushing down on my chest. I've always felt ridiculously lost when it came to making a decision, and I always knew I was going to fail, I always knew whatever I chose was going to be wrong. So I just chose, and stumbled, and fell, and before I could get back up again, I just fell right back down. That's what it's felt like my entire life.

Today I had some errands to run, and Marion was pretty whiny. She didn't want to sit in the carseat (she wanted to sit in the passenger seat, which is an obvious no), she wanted to sit on the floor and pout in the places we went, she wanted to pull all over my clothes wanting me to pick her up when I couldn't. It was also miserably hot. So hot that I decided against the playground trip I had planned. After our errand, I just wanted to go home. It wasn't even that awful, not as simple as I had thought, but not terrible. And Marion wasn't even being bad, but I found myself just wanting to sit in the car and cry. Instead, we opted for ice cream, because Marion still has a fortune in free ice cream from Dairy Queen from the summer reading program at the library.

We had ice cream, we sang the ABC song way too loudly, and she was cooperative and good and sweet during the grocery shopping. We had a great time, even if we spent more time gazing at the inflatable dragon in the Halloween section than doing our shopping, and it gave me a moment. But on the way home, she fell asleep, as she often does, so I rode around extra, as I often do, to extend her nap.

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As I drove around, I just felt like a failure. I felt like a disgrace to my family. They're good people, and I don't fit. My life has been a series of mistakes. Yet in feeling that, that place of almost regret, I wouldn't change anything. Anything at all. Because if the least little thing changed, I might not have Marion. And I think, "Well, I wouldn't know I didn't have Marion, so it would be okay." And maybe that's a correct thought. But I do know about Marion, and I do know the change she brought to my life, and I would make every single mistake again, I would feel like a failure for 29 years (or however many since I understood failure, because I can't remember not feeling that way) again to have her. And it's strange and feels conflicted, that I hate the awful decisions I made, yet I'm also so thankful and I wouldn't take them back. And I'm still stuck in a place where I think I carry shame with me, in a  noticeable way, yet I recognise the joy I have as a result of the mistakes I feel ashamed over.

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I left the car door open, and I could hear the music streaming out, and I sat in the grass, I sat on the pavement, and the earth felt so good on my hands and on my legs. And being by the lake, there was a breeze, just enough to swirl my hair, and I let myself cry and feel the things I was feeling, because I've learned to do that. I've learned I hold things in and push them away until I decay from the inside out. So I allow myself to fall apart sometimes, when I'm alone, to relive the pressure, to still everything so I can breathe.

I don't want to need to fall apart. I don't want to need a lot of things. But I've finally accepted it is part of my process. It's the way I do things, it's the way I clear my head, recenter myself. And I've accepted that it is okay. It is okay to say life is hard, and allow myself to fall apart. Every time I do is an opportunity to rebuild myself stronger.

"It's alright, cause there's beauty in the breakdown." - Frou Frou

Marion at Two and a Half: Part One

Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's taken me long enough to get started on posting these... I've actually had them all edited for a few weeks (some for longer!), but I kept forgetting to post them... And I just realized I haven't even uploaded them all to Flickr... Oh well. Life has been a bit stressful and filled with anxiety, with work schedules scattered all throughout the day and basically being on call all the time, and when I do have a few moments to myself, blogging hasn't been on my mind.

That said, here is part one of three. I decided to split it up since it was three different "shoots." A few of these can be found at the end of my previous post.

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I was actually just out playing with my cameras, but I really loved these photos of her! What better way to capture her spirit than when she's outside playing? I'm sure I'll get more like this throughout the fall (thank goodness it's almost here!), but right now we're both drenched in sweat with hair plastered to our faces within five minutes. Does not make for nice photos...

All of the above shots were captured with my Canon EOS 70D, which will not be in my arsenal much longer. I feel it would be better for me to swap it out for a Nikon so I can interchange lenses with my existing Nikon. Though honestly, I may not replace it. My D80 may be outdated, but I'm a firm believer a good photographer can make beautiful photos with whatever camera he or she is given, and my D80 is still running! These were also all shot in manual, and the only editing I did (to just a few) was converting to grayscale, or adjusting the brightness and contrast just slightly. I thought I was out of practice using manual settings, but these aren't too bad.

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This shot...is so dreamy. I love the hazy light. This was shot with my Nikon.

If you're interested in further photo specs, you can find them on my Flickr page or by clicking on the photos in this post.

Maybe it won't take me a whole month to get the rest of these up, but who knows...