Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reflecting on 2008

I wrote this before New Year Day, but wanted to let it "age" before posting to see if I had additional thoughts.

This is the time of the year when we look back on the year and consider the ups and the downs. I think it is human nature to give ourselves a mental "score" as to how our year went - how well we met our goals - or how poorly we followed though on our good intentions. Every year brings new opportunities - some of them we follow through on, others either don't live up to their expectations or our efforts on them may fall short of the mark. Sometimes it is our own inner weaknesses that prevent the greatness we hoped for. Other times it is external events that limit us.

I use Google Analytics as one way to "score" myself on my progress. I was looking at my blog entries at the end of last year and the beginning of this year. I was surprised to note that at the end of 2007, I had 4,024 visits, 5,798 page views from 2,090 visitors from 77 countries. At this point for 2008 I had 7,927 visits, 11.778 page views from 6,158 visitors from 102 countries. Interestingly enough, a lot of the new traffic to my blog occurred from my Hurricane Ike posts. Hummmmm . . . does this mean I need to find more newsworthy, natural events to photograph? That will be a challenge!

My photography has had its ups and downs. I'm still struggling in the marketing aspects of being a professional nature photographer. As a Christian, my inclination is to maintain a humble view of myself - promoting oneself seems "boastful." It is also easy to get discouraged when you attempt to put your work out at the stock photography sites and nothing sells. However, using Alamy's Measures, in 2007 I had 239 views and this year I had 519. I joined Digital Railroad, and did upload a number of images there, but I don't know whether there was more I could have done to get my images viewed better there. Sadly, Digital Railroad is now history. My guess is that I still need to get more images up on the stock sites, but I lack confidence that where my first love is in photography (nature) is not necessarily what sells at the stock sites. I did more portrait work this year, but I have not decided if that is a direction I want to spend more time pursuing. The best news is that I had two photos in Nature's Best Backyards contest make the magazine and I had photos exhibited in 2 different gallery settings. I have a third photo that has been selected for exhibition in 2009. And I've been contacted by another photographic agency to submit for a calendar for 2010.

We did not get to travel as much for my nature photography this year, but I did have some good opportunities. Colorado in June gave me some mountain goat shots that may do well for me. Hurricane Ike was amazing to photograph - although I learned some things I would do differently were I to try to cover another hurricane. I'm thinking about and have started putting together a book with the Ike photos. My fall foliage trip yielded some shots that I have great hopes for as well. I definitely need to do more photography closer to my home.

While know that I did not take advantage of every opportunity to submit my work (yes, that is the biggest thing I need to work on in 2009), 2008 had its own challenges. The world economy is affecting everyone's budgets right now. Henry's mom was in failing health and we have spent more time in Amarillo over the last few years trying to be helpful both to Henry's parents and to Henry's sister who lives near them. It has been sad to watch the struggles that are a natural part of the aging process. Plus, there is that nagging reality that it won't be that very long until we experience those same struggles. Already, our bodies are not as strong as they once were. Arthritis and stiff joints are a fact of life. Exercise helps, but sometimes it feels like an uphill battle to keep the body agile and active.

Hurricane Ike has been a big event as well. Because we have property in Galveston, we spend time there each year. A catastrophic event hits harder when it devastates an area you are familiar with and love. We went to Galveston and experienced one of God's most powerful natural events - a hurricane. I still read the Galveston paper online daily. I rejoice that so many business are back up and running. But I mourn for the people who lost everything they had and still have no permanent place to live. We live in a time when we expect instant gratification, we want everything back to normal NOW. But the reality for both Galveston and the New Orleans-Mississippi area hit by Katrina, it takes a long time to recover from all the problems caused by massive hurricanes. We expect too much too fast. We are impatient. I believe that Galveston will recover, but it will take years, not months.

The world's economic problems seem to be the worst in my life time. It is easy to get apprehensive and anxious when no one knows how long this economic downturn will last or how bad it will be. The news from around the globe has been mixed as well. While things seem to be getting better in Iraq, things are worse in Afghanistan. The strife in the Middle East and in Israel has heated up again. The terrorist attacks in India have created new tensions between India and Pakistan. Hearing about life in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe breaks your heart. While there is calm in Kenya after the violence at the end of 2007 and the beginning of 2008, there are still tensions that could still erupt into violence again. One article I read this week talked about tensions building in Bosnia.

Regardless on how one voted, I think it is a good thing for America to have elected the first African American president. I want the black community to have success and positive things. I think that Barack and his wife, Michelle, are very accomplished people who are worthy of my respect. Since I believe that God is ultimately the One who puts people into power, I have to believe that He has a purpose for Barack Obama's presidency. For many reasons, I hope and pray that Obama will be a strong, successful president who accomplishes great and wonderful things in his time in office. He is certainly taking office at a time when many difficult issues and conflicts need attention. May God give him wisdom, leadership, and success as he works through the difficult decisions he will have to make.

From my reading today in Alexandra Stoddard's Grace Notes:
"I regret nothing." Edith Piaf

I've learned a great deal this year. I feel it has been productive and also enjoyable day to day. What a wonderful thought to live our lives with as few regrets as possible.

What kind of year did you have? How would you rate it? No matter how many challenges you've had, no matter what pain you've endured, did you do your very best? Then have no regrets.

While I don't know what 2009 will actually bring, it is part of my nature to anticipate good things happening. I would rather look back at 2008 and concentrate on the positive things rather than dwell on the things that "might have been."

I wish for all my readers a wonderful, blessed, and prosperous 2009!

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Cold Front

Texas weather is always interesting - if you don't like it, wait a little and it will change . . . Saturday morning was mild, shirt sleeve weather. I took advantage of the warmer weather to go back out to my front porch for some "morning time." It was cloudy, but the temperature was in the 70's - great for sitting outside. I heard a few raindrops falling. My morning scripture for December 27 in my One Year Bible was from Zechariah 10:1 "Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime; it is the Lord who makes the storm clouds. He gives showers of rain to men and plants of the field to everyone." I thought it an appropriate scripture for many reasons. I was watching the clouds moving across the sky, when the weather began to change. The sky got darker, there was a sense of anticipation, and then, I could hear the mighty winds come through with an amazing powerful roar. Henry said later that when the front hit, the entire house shuddered.

As I saw the amazing clouds, I ran into the house and grabbed my camera.

I had to work fast, because the clouds were moving rapidly across the sky, changing patterns as I watched.

No rain yet, but it was not long before we had a nice solid shower - much needed - we are way behind in our rainfall totals over the last twelve months.

Within an hour or so, the blue sky followed behind the front. Amazing to watch God's handiwork in the weather.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Cards

One of my joys at Christmas time is the sending of Christmas cards. In today's world of Facebook, My Space, IChat, Instant Messenger, telephone texting, email, beautiful greeting cards like Jacquie Lawson's amazing animated cards, sending physical cards through the mail may seem quaint.
But I'm not ready to give it up. For one thing, not all of my friends have joined the Facebook crowd. Some I hear from only once a year. But I enjoy that moment of catching up with people from my past - people who have been important to me. I even like the Christmas newsletters, because they keep that sense of connection that I think is very important. I send cards to people I've known since I was very young, to people I met in my junior high school years, my high school years, my college years, my Girl Scout years, my Boy Scout years, and friend whose children grew up with mine. And, most important of all, I send cards to our family members who are scattered from the east coast to the west coast now. Some of my card recipients live far away . . . two live just up the road from me.
But it is my way of saying each year: "You are special, you are remembered, I hope all is well with you!"
By the way, occasionally, I get to see some of these folks in person. It is amazing how often we are able to pick up right where we left off - catching up on what our families are doing, what we're doing, etc.
Whether you send snail mail cards, or e-cards, or emails, or text messages, I hope you take time to remember those special people in your lives.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Namwianga's Children 2009 Calendar

When we visited Zambia last summer, I spent several days with orphaned toddlers at the Namwianga Mission near Kolomo. They were an amazing group of kids. Some were very independent, some were very clingy. Jason at two could already dribble a ball, he also appeared built like a football player. Cathy saw another little girl crying and brought her over to me.

When I was in California at a photography exhibit I talked with Karen Ande who had done a couple of calendars to benefit orphans in Kenya. I decided to create a calendar from the Namwianga children's photos to raise money for them.

You can see the year's photos here:

Each month has a scripture with God's words about children.

Cost is $15.00 plus $2.00 shipping and handling fee. All profits will go to benefit these precious children. To order:

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A new snake "hiding" place

I got ready to put in another load of laundry this morning. This is an automatic task - not requiring a lot of brain work, right??? You open the door throw in the clothes . . . but then . . . you realize that the washer is inhabited . . . a long slithery snake! I KNOW it was not there last night when I emptied the towels . . . And it is a BIG snake.

Now, outside, I enjoy watching snakes - they are part of nature, they are part of the food chain, and some of them eat rats and mice. But when wild things enter my house . . . that's another story. Plus my friend, Bettye had found two rattlesnakes by her barn recently, so whereas I did not give a blood curling scream, I certainly vocalized my displeasure over this occurrence.

Henry came and started the attempts to get the snake out of the washer - it didn't want to come. It opened its mouth very wide and began trying to strike at Henry . . . not a good sign.

I found Jonathan because I thought this was a site worth seeing - a once in a lifetime sight actually . . . Since the bar-b-que tongs were not working to remove the snake, Jonathan came up with the idea of using a loop of rope. Using an old closet dowel rod and a metal hook and some string, Henry caught the snake in the loop and with some difficulty dislodged the snake from the washer. Definitely a large snake - four foot - triangular head, had it not been poisonous we would have released it down by the pond. Safely releasing a venomous snake seemed more difficult as well as leaving a potential danger around our household, so . . . . with grief, we dispatched said snake.

Now . . . my adrenalin level is dropping. Henry is NOT going to show the photo of me standing on the chair while he worked on getting rid of the snake.

The mystery: how did the snake get into the washing machine? We think that while Jonathan was exercising on the treadmill that the noise scared the snake while it was inside the garage (we know we have snakes out there regularly because we find the snake skins). It must have scooted inside the door and then climbed up in the washer. I don't see how it could have come up through the water lines - too large.

You can bet I'll be checking the washing machine for snakes every time I open it now.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pioneer Farm

One of the things I really enjoy at Christmas is the Jourdan-BachmanPioneer Farm's Candelight Christmas. The country store is not only a great place to buy handcrafted Christmas gifts, there were Christmas carolers as well.

There were musicians at the 1886 James Bell Homestead.

I have to confess that I go to get photos for my Christmas cards.

From the 1871 Frederick Jourdan homestead:

From the 1867 Frederick Krueger homestead;

Finishing the evening by the warm outdoor fire at the Krueger homestead was wonderful. Crisp cold air . . . warm fireplace glow . . .

Pioneer Farms' Candlelight Christmas will continue December 12th and 13th. On Friday, December 19th the Biscuit Brothers will host a Christmas Concert at the Farm.