What You Don’t See


When someone is kind enough to stop you before you head out to shoot.

They mention the skies and how they might affect your images.

They mention there might be a need to make adjustments.

And I hear them.

And I thank them.

And off I go.

Somehow I get caught up in the enormity of Storm King, which really can’t be described, and I begin thinking about scale.  And composition. And conveying interest. Then somehow every time I view the play back I’m pleased.  I looked at what I captured but I never really looked at what was missing.

Even after I was “cautioned” in the gentlest way.

By someone who knows.

The sky was blown out of nearly every image and I never even noticed.  Not until I sat with my images and prepared to edit. Which got me thinking, was this the only place I was missing what I couldn’t see? How often have I been concerned with the scale, or composition or interest of situations or things but not the light?

Hindsight and the benefit of editing don’t always make themselves available. My post-production mentality might not always work to repair what reveals itself in hindsight.  However, there are times when what you don’t see initially provides a happy surprise.  Some of it will require much editing and afterthought, while some of what you don’t see simply turns out to be a blessing.

Learning to look beyond the scale, composition and interest for the light may be the bigger blessing. This was indeed about light, too much light and not paying attention to it.   They say that living in the light equals enlightenment.

What does not seeing it at all mean? Only that there is more awareness required and a balance of the seen and unseen. After all the light is always changing why shouldn’t I.

To see more of this photo walk click here!


I Know Like I Know 2013

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If I had to choose one word to describe 2013 it would be milestone.  Blink your eyes and five years of writing about all the ordinary things that will make up a life’s legacy have passed. Time is funny that way, as Gretchen Rubin would say, the days are long but the years are short. It’s a wonderful life here on Stowe Ln with all the things that bread, salt and wine can bring a home.  Joy and prosperity are truly reigning over this household and it is quickly becoming that place where more and more of life’s little celebrations are being held so we try never to run out of wine.

The Jersey Girls are happy and healthy and we continue to do our work and thank God each day for the generosity of those who got us here.  Life would not have been this wonderful if it weren’t for Shawn Stewart and his kindness and pragmatism. I can still remember asking him; on a scale of 1 – 10 just how bad are the girls, how aggressive.  His answer with a smile; a 1 and 1/2.  Fine.

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As many times as I say I know like I know, this has been the year that I’ve tried to come from that place of “I don’t know what I don’t know”.  I’ve shifted my perspective a bit, learned how to be “clenched” and tried some new things.  Photo treasure hunts and seminars with cool people like Seth Castile to force my camera back into my hands and consequently my heart.  Yes I’ve become a nuisance but the end result is a style, a viewpoint, a continuing illustration of the ordinary.  Technical? No. Cool? Sometimes.  I’ve begun to capture moments in time as I see them and it’s not like you don’t know how I feel about moments in time.

I’ve had the courage to stop coloring my hair.  I’ve gone grey and the end result is so much better than I could have imagined.  I have the glintys as I call them.  Not quite grey, headed toward salt and pepper and worry free.  Hours spent at the salon are a thing of the past and the money saved is a huge bonus.  We have abundance here in so many ways.  Once you shift your perspective you are no longer looking for abundance in one place, it comes from everywhere and from everyone.

I’ve met some wonderful new old friends this year.  We share a common point of view and a love of all things ordinary and special.  What a joy to have them in my life.  Sadly some people I thought were friends have gone. Either they or I had gotten what was the best of the relationship and moved on.  A fact of life I’m afraid, I’ve learned that people will come and go.  The important people stay for a very long time and I continue to be grateful for each one of them even if I don’t see them as often as I’d like.

My family and extended family are flourishing. We had many a celebration this year together for little things and big things.  I am still reeling from the wedding of my dear Muriel and Martina.  I had the honor of capturing their day in photos and selfishly that meant I could be with them through it all.  God knows they’ve been with me through it all.

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Luckily Muriel was with me to assist our neighbor into rehab through an intervention.  Five years later it never occurred to me that I might have to put that hat on again.  I’ve been known to say I resent what I know about addiction, but the fact is it might have helped save a life.  It does all come back to you, the script, the facilities, the beseeching from the intended.  Not easy but I was better at it this time, I was removed from the situation and I let it go after it was over.  For the most part anyway, the jury is still out on the successfulness of it.  Like Bob Seger says, “wish I didn’t know now, what I didn’t know then.”  It was a hard life.

And so it is that making life easier has become a mission. You know, like buying a new sewing machine.  It’s cool, it’s light and it does just what I need it to do, I’m not making clothing any more I’m just nipping and tucking.  I must say the one feature that I was so smug about, the needle threader broke.  I’m not surprised, the reason for it was all wrong.  It was just to spite my Aunt Millie who laughed at me a hundred years ago when she handed me a needle to thread for her and I just poked it right through with an eye roll. “I was like you she said”, sent me some karma, and now I’m like her looking for the magnifying glass.

All in all there has been little to bitch about, there was the Aunt Rant and the poopy bag incident, the Match.com fiasco, the cast iron bra epiphany and the crazy colleague who surely would have been the death of me if he hadn’t been reassigned recently.  Thank you karma, I certainly will learn to let you take care of things from now on.

I’ve learned that I never really was a “Jersey Girl” even though I was born here, that’s my sister’s department.  I’ve learned that I no longer have anything to prove, my only inclination at this point is to add value.  I’ve learned that I’m cool, no kidding, it’s true and that what I’m doing with Ordinary Legacy has meaning to some people.

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I’m going to summon up my courage again this year and develop an e-course based on Ordinary Legacy, that should be an adventure. Talk about being clenched. And finally I’m going to continue to add to my body of work.  Can you imagine?  I’ve got a body of work.  I know like I know that my wildest dreams aren’t really all that wild anymore and that makes this ordinary woman soar, finally.

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I hope you’ll take a look back at this year’s posts and see if they plant a seed for your own extraordinary legacy.

Happy New Year.

The Art of Selective Celebration

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Once upon a time a long time ago I lived in the land of obligation, see and be seen and just show your face.  Mercifully, I don’t live there anymore and can practice the art of selective celebration.

Begin with a catchup with dear Franny, then a funny, loving, and confirming dinner with my beloved Cookie Club, on to lunch the next day with the Rileys where we proceeded to leave our joyful mark on Davey’s.  Sunday with my friend Linda to celebrate food, friendship, and I let her lament for a minute. Oy, just for a minute and she’s back to her funny, warm and grounded self.

The best way to celebrate on your own terms is to throw a party, enter the 2nd Annual Car Hag Lunch. Car Hag; a term of endearment originating from a man in the car business who was generous with his knowledge, respectful of the strong women he worked with and supportive of their fight for equal ground.

These are not the politically savvy women but those women behind the scenes that know how to get it done.  They are part of the underground network of women who know like they know, the ones who, too, can slap you so hard you think you got a kiss, who tell it straight up, no frills or fuss, the ones you’ll always ask first.  Car Hag is not derogatory, if you don’t like the name you probably aren’t one.

What a delight to have them on Stowe Lane.  Oh the stories they could tell, and tell they did but like Vegas, what happens on Stowe Lane stays on Stowe Lane.  We will do this again and again, though we’ll need better scheduling next time bearing in mind, forecasts, days off, month end, and on and on in the land of automotive.

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Christmas Eve with my best friend, Sandra, and her family.  I am honored to be with them each year, to watch them grow, to share in the food prep, to ground her from the inevitable mother daughter button pushing, to exhale and know that I am completely loved and exactly where I’m supposed to be.

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Christmas morning with my Mother and Sister and the traditions that go with the many years of sharing Christmas morning together.  Breakfast, gifts, coffee, all tweaked a bit over the years but still basically intact.

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On to my adopted sister, Evi, and her family for a visit and to drop off Walter’s fruit cake…stop it, this one is good, and I made it.  It’s not your usual fruit cake but light and fresh and delicious.  He eats it all himself.  Fabulous.  Catch up with the kids, unavoidably leaving with some of their germy germs, which I am unable to fight off.  I don’t have any kid immunity but oh how I love them to bits.

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Next stop Cookie’s for kisses and a flyby drop off of the Italian cookies and back to Stowe Lane I go.

One of the best ways I know to celebrate is with my camera.  Clicking my way through the season so that once I’m back on Stowe Lane I can savor each moment.  And that’s my gift to me.  I call myself an accidental photographer firmly believing that if you shoot enough and make yourself just short of a nuisance you can capture the moments that make celebrations special.  Those ordinary moments that can be relished for years to come.  My technical ability would certainly be called into question by any self-respecting photographer but I no longer care about technical excellence.  I care about the moments and the memories and the surprises that come out of my camera each time I download, things even I didn’t realize I captured come to life in front of me.  Let’s see, ordinary moments in time captured with loving surprises included.  Yeah, that’s my idea of selective end to end action and a wonderful celebration.


Capture Life

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Photo credit: Maureen Nichols, Cottage 960

Is it that you don’t know how things work for me?  Picture this (pun intended)…I’ve got a great camera, Nikon, I’ve got perspective, someone once told me, and I’m not using it.  Why the hell not?  Who the hell knows?  I believe, no, I know like I know that it’s the getting started that’s got me.  So….I put it out there and it’s just amazing what happens.

Maureen at Cottage960 (www.cottage960.com ) puts a really cool new pendant on her FB page of a woman in a beautiful 1940’s era suit, that alone was right up my alley, snapping a picture with her brownie camera.  On the back it says, “Capture Life”.  You know I own it now, right?  When I take the girls to get groomed the cashier says to me, “So when you capture life, what are you going to do with it?”  Here I am back at who the hell knows.

Then I get an email from a blog I follow called Super Hero Life (www.superherolife.com )   Subject:  Sad bananas and finding our joy again.  Ok, I’m listening.  Andrea Scher, creative force behind Super Hero Life is sponsoring a Treasure Hunt course starting May 1st.  For a small fee (from the email):

  • A creative photo prompt each day in your inbox
  • Photo tips + creative musings to inspire your work
  • A warm, encouraging community space on Flickr to share your work and support your fellow treasure seekers!

Come on that’s perfect and I am in.  I’m all about sparking creative juices.  So I’m signed up and looking forward to getting back into my camera and my perspective.

Then, I’m reading something on Upworthy.com and there’s a tiny little glimpse of an ad for this movement, seminar, thing called One Picture Saves a Life.  You can sign up for a seminar at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Complex (www.sthuberts.org ) to learn how you can become a volunteer to photograph shelter dogs to bring them closer to adoption.  Send an email and if there’s room, first come first served, you’re in…for free…being taught by Seth Casteel (www.littlefriendsphoto.com ) of Underwater Dogs fame.  You know I sent the email, you know I got invited.

So Saturday morning I take a ride to Madison NJ to St. Hubert’s and participate in this seminar that blew me away.  Go to www.onepicturesaves.com to get the full story.  Suffice to say Seth Casteel is an awesome dude, and all of you know I never use the word dude. Generous with his knowledge, he (along with Petfinder, Greater Good, the Animal Rescue Site, and John Paul Pet) put this program together down to the last detail.  He even tells you what lens you need, camera settings, best backgrounds, shelters looking for volunteers.  I tell you I am stoked about this….who better than me, one part of Two Aunts and a Chevy fame to take this on.  It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning, learning with like-minded people, about how to help shelter dogs when you’re condo association says you can only have a minimum of two dogs.  I hope the other half of the Two Aunts and a Chevy is listening…just saying Toots you hated Chevy’s picture too.  But I digress.

The thing is I don’t have the lens, 50mm straight, and you know I looked on line and they cost a small fortune.  So I think let me go down to Bergen County Camera ( www.bergencountycamera.com ) and just look,  yeah right.  Do you know what downtown Westwood, NJ is like on a Saturday afternoon? It’s sunny and perfect for a day in one of the best downtowns around so it’s jammin.  Oh come on, you know I got a parking space, you know there was an hour left on the meter and you know like you know that BCC had a used 50mm for $79.00.  Of course they did, my sister is saying as she reads this.

My two most willing (not really) subjects (victims) Toto and Lina are being snapped a frame a second. They are giving me the Moooooooom look.  They are taking themselves to bed and having no more of it.  Not to worry I will find other willing (maybe) subjects to snap.  I know like I know that as Karma would have it anything animal related, carried out for their greater good, will only serve to increase your personal Karmic equity.  I will be golden my friends…