The Rusty Lens » Photography and Lifestyle Blog

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I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet per say, but I’m not here, at least not as here as I was in the past. For a long while, I was everywhere. I moderated groups, I taught classes, I mentored, I wrote ebooks, I did challenges, I moderated challenge pages, and I was always available. And then I had another baby, and remodelled a house, and moved, and remodelled another house, and got pregnant with another baby, and even more than all of that… the internet got shitty. So I quit! I quit moderating, I left groups, I unfriended hundreds of people, and I pretty much stopped posting and blogging.

Truth be told, I was never very good at this. I love taking photos, I learned a lot, I wanted to be able to share that, but I’m not a seller. I’m not great at marketing. I was never that IT GIRL. And that’s totally fine. I’m thankful that I was never one bothered by likes, followers, fans, comments. None of that. Sure it was nice. But I knew from the beginning that I could post my best photo and one of my best friends could post a photo of dog poop and she’d get 1000 likes. lol. It’s the nature of the beast. And I’m SO okay with that. And here’s why:

I’m living a life over here. I have an amazing family. And I shoot for me. I tell stories for me (and you know, for my family). And I am truly happy. And more than I am happy, I’m busy.

And as if I’m not busy enough, I picked up a new hobby. Well, new again? A revived hobby? I don’t know. But I’m scrapbooking, which I don’t feel is the right way to describe it. I’m documenting. In an even bigger better way than before. Now, I would call myself a storyteller.

Let me backtrack just slightly. A few years ago a story crossed my feed, a mother of five died and very suddenly. And it could have been me. If I died that day what would happen? I’m not even sure my husband knows our bank account number. What do I have to leave my young children? An epic amount of photos sure, but what record have I left? What would they remember? About me, about them. So many stories would be lost. And it really changed me.

I started by printing my photos. I was really behind. Years and years and thousands of photos behind. I needed a system because my old method of 1-3 photos per page wasn’t going to cut it. I would die of old age before making it to 2012.

Insert Project Life.

Which is kind of funny. This went in instalments. First, I purchased a kit. Then I let it sit for two years. Then I bought another kit. And still, it sat. Well, okay, in my defense I was working full time and had a house full of children, but whatever. I was intimidated. First, I needed to change my notion of what scrapbooking was. This was less about the creativity and “art” than before. I needed something more practical. And then I finally dug in.

And you can see the progression.

I started just printing the photos. I often used two sizes, a full 4×6 photo and then a 4×6 photo that contained 4-2×3 photos which could be used whole or cut into two of the 3×4 pockets. This was the “getterdone” phase. I was able to catch up on YEARS quickly. And the best part is if I want to go back and add some extra stories, I can insert a new page protector and add some details. It doesn’t bother me that these pages are so bare. OK, it kind of does, but one day at a time.DSC_8956z

Then, when I felt the need or had the time, I would add some decorative cards. They were premade and easy to work with. They helped break up the photos and make it feel like less of a photo album. DSC_8953z

Then, I started getting some details in there. It started with just doing a “month in review”. It’s an easy way to get some of the larger specifics out of the way!DSC_8955z

And somewhere around then is when I really got into this. I’m going to tell the stories. For Pippen’s birth page I took the birth story I wrote in the hospital and printed the whole thing. The answer to the question, “what if I died today” could be answered with these books. I have the stories here in print. I have a record of the life I lived. The things we did. What we like, don’t like. I’m still pretty sure my husband doesn’t know where our money is, but at least I will have something to pass on about this life to the children who won’t remember. They will have my words and voice telling them how much I really loved them. And that is so priceless to me.

DSC_8951-EditzDSC_8952zAnd that brings me to now. Now I’m just really having fun with it. I’m thinking of extra ways to capture our week and what I want to include. I keep a sticky note on my computer of the cute things the kids have said. Or I use the Day One app and write down things that happened that day.

And this is where you can find me. It has changed how I shoot. How I spend my time on social media. It changed everything for me. I don’t CARE about the perfect photo. Because my kids won’t. I care about the moments. The stories. I care about being authentic. I wish I lived in a nice bright clean house. I wish I didn’t have laundry in every room at the moment. I wish my remodel would magically be finished. But THIS IS REAL LIFE. And it’s perfect. So it discarded any notions I had about making sure the light was great, or the composition, or hell, even the focus. I just want to capture every stage and phase before it evaporates. I want to write down the details that I will be sure to forget whether it’s in a day, a week, a year, or ten years–

 About Project Life

I’ve been asked a TON of questions about this. I have some basic information on a previous Project Life Post.

First, I use a system called Project Life. It was created by Becky Higgins. The concept is to take the “work” out of scrapbooking. You buy special pocket page protectors that have several variations, but for the most part come with two size pockets: 4×6 and 3×4. And then there are decorative cards to go with it.

For people who have the photos printed already, it’s easy to just slide them in, or trim them to fit the smaller size. But the system is also designed with premade cards to slide in for those sizes that either has designs or room to write the stories down. So it could be as simple as sliding in your photos, grabbing a few cards, sliding them in, and then writing down the memory and being done.

And this is where I recommend most people start because you’ll get a good idea real quick of what you like and don’t like. On the Becky Higgins website, you can buy what they call a core kit and bundle and save extra money. You buy an album, the protectors, and a kit. This is ALL you need to get started.

I use these Project Life items the most:

Black and White Album

Type A Protectors (but I would recommend a variety pack so you can see different ones and depending on how you shoot you may need different orientations)

Everyday Core Kit

But, let me enable you further because I like having options.

I subscribe to The Lily Pad’s monthly kit. It gives me cards and details that go with that month or season and since they are digital I can just print what I need without cluttering up my super small house.

I have really poor handwriting so I tend to print my journaling out, but I do like the subscription to Elles Studio, again it’s affordable and has monthly goodies each month including some accent and doodads to go with it.

And lastly, there is Ali Edwards. She has a mix of both digital and physical items. And I signed up for her story kit because I really took on this storytelling challenge head-on. And it’s nice to have some extra physical product to play with. Her kits usually have chipboard, or stickers, just some extras that add dimension to the stories and pages. Her blog is extremely helpful, she shares tons of videos. She also has digital kits.

And lastly, there is printing

I use Lightroom to organize and edit all my photos. When I’m going through the week or month looking for photos I use the star system to determine what will get printed and how large I want it to be.

I use the Lightroom Print module to size my photos ready to print. I have several templates that I’ve created based on what works best for me. Here’s an idea of some of them:

4×6 full photo

4×6 with thick white border (for extra white space)

4×6 with 2- 3×4 photos

4×6 with 4 2×3 photos which can be used for 2- 3×4 slots

and a million others, 6×8, 6×12, etc. I have several grids of 2×2 inch photos that I use when printing my Instagram photos.

You get the idea… I can add text later before printing so I just look and select what I want. No matter what, I use the templates to load those photos in.

I use Photoshop to send my photos to the printer. I do this for a few reasons. One, I can make an action that has the printer selected with the border or borderless option and press the button once and print a set of 10 or so photos. Two, I can add text before the print process. And I’m sure there are more reasons, but this is just how I’ve been doing it. I open all the saved photos from Lightroom and send them off to my printer.

I print at home. It’s convenient and it allows me to make changes or try different things. And my printer has done a really great job. I have used a few printers over the years, but the one I’m using and loving is the Canon Pixma 7720. It has two trays so I can keep 4×6 photo paper in one tray and then regular paper or photo paper in the large tray.

I use Costco’s Kirkland photo paper. It’s cheaper and it works like a charm. I have it in several sizes: 4×6, 8.5×11, and 11×14. I trim the 11×14 down to 8.5×12 and I’m able to print 6×12 photos when I want which add a cool look to my book and allow me to showcase a photo or write a longer story.

Hope that helps! Happy documenting! XOXO

DSC_8173z Before we take a look back, can we take a moment to come to terms with the fact that it is December already! Holy moly! I’ll admit there were times I thought this year would never end. There were times when it was 100% survival mode. But now my jaw is on the floor realizing that 2017 has come and gone. I can’t even wrap my head around saying 2018. Mind blown.

2017 was tough. And to put this in perspective, we’ve done tough. We’ve done me working 60-80 hour weeks with Michael as a full-time (20 credits) college student. We’ve done the army. We’ve worked through pain before. There is pain, and then there is selling a 3600 sq ft house with six children ALL BY YOURSELF. I would welcome any army training times two before I do that again.

The year started with us wrapping up the sale of our Texas home, contracting some horrific survivable version of the ebola virus, and packing our whole home in two days. I do regret not taking a photo at the time, but Michael has a small tolerance for my invasions of his privacy to begin with. To sum up how our year started let’s throwback to the closing on our home. Michael had to bring a puke bucket to closing. Thankfully he made it through, but when he got down to the downtown streets of Austin all bets were off and he was on all fours heaving on the sidewalk. It was one tiny part hilarious, but only because I had survived my turn while waking every hour to take care of the musical chairs of vomiting children all by myself. But, I knew better than to photograph this event.

Now, on one hand, this is a horrible way to start a year. But on the other, starting a year like this means it can only get better. Or at least if you overlook the God-awful horrid experience we had with our movers who charged us 7,000$ over our quote AND managed to destroy 1/3 of our shipment.

But we made it. By the skin of our teeth, exhausted, and still nauseated, but we made it. And even though we left the house at dusk, we were determined to get the hell away from Austin. But then something magical happened. We began healing. We began recovering. The worst was over and we were on our way to something new.

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And we embraced the adventure. We explored new places. And we soaked up seven days of family time inside a small SUV with six children and a dog. And when we got to our final destination still homeless, we upped the ante and took the adventure to Alaska. This allowed us to breathe comfortably while we tried to find a new home. And honest to God there is something so magical about being there.

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And even though it felt like it would last a lifetime, we made it. We bought a house and we were on our way back to really officially kick off our new adventure this time, in our new state of California–The land of the overpriced housing and asshole drivers.

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And we moved into our tiny fixer-upper. And we spent the next four months in a chapter titled, “and we remodelled”. We tore down an expansive hideous lava rock wall. We tore down a dividing wall from our kitchen/dining room, we ripped out cabinets and ancient built-ins, installed new cabinets, ran new electrical, painted, ripped out old carpet, installed new built-ins, and sadly we are nowhere close to complete with any of it, but it’s a work in progress and we’re slowly chipping away at the list and making it our little den for our growing family.

And while it’s nowhere near complete and it feels like we are so far from the finish line, it’s so helpful to take a look back. We are soaking it up. We are making memories and trying to remember our goals and intentions we set for ourselves. We wanted to slow down. So, we took a break from the projects and just started living. We signed up for new experiences. The girls started riding horses once a week. We tried to discover someplace new every month. We watched as many football games as we could. We played. We saw elephant seals for the first time. I started documenting our lives better, I started printing our photos. I started taking better care of myself and started a workout routine. And we baked, oh gosh we baked– cookies, bread, cake, you name it, we baked. But most of all we tried our best to find balance.

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And we also tried to celebrate imperfections. We let go of excuses and tried to indulge. We made new traditions. And I hope that’s a tradition we can keep up with! This has been a WILD 2017…. but it’s been a good one. From my tribe to yours, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Bring it on 2018!

 

Motherhood Is… trying to be the best person you can be for your children and so you can effectively raise your children.

DSC_7411zI finally had to take a break from facebook. Even after deleting hundreds of people I couldn’t control the negativity. The way I see it is this. If you are looking for reasons to be unhappy you will find them, in spades. And if you’re looking for reasons to be happy you will find them, in spades. It’s your choice. I choose the latter. And I choose people who choose the latter.

And I tell you what. You walk away, you take the good people with you, and all of a sudden you feel lighter, more productive, like you can see clearly again.

I have a to-do list that actually haunts me. Seriously, I have nightmares about it. We have a lot of clocks ticking. My husband is working on a major project at work and when combined with the clock ticking in my stomach and all the remodel projects left, we have a lot to do. And I don’t have any emotional or physical energy left to spare. So, I don’t. I just “let it go”.

I still have some ebbs and flows, but I have been able to exercise consistently for about two and a half months. I’ve added more fresh foods into our diet. I still battle with carbs and I’m sure I’ll end up with a gigantic 20-pound baby again (ok, fine 10 lbs). Homeschooling is going great. Some weeks we are ahead, some weeks we’ve had to play catch up a bit. I’m starting to take more photos, but I have removed myself from a lot of photo projects. I’ve prioritized printing and documenting our lives, adding words to the photos. I’m always 5 loads behind on laundry…

But meh, I’m okay with trying, and I’m ok with that balance. I’m more than okay with everything I need to be the best person I can be, day in and day out. No one else in that internet world is worth sacrificing that.

Motherhood Is… is a blog project celebrating motherhood through rambling and photographs. Please click on the link and check out lots of posts about motherhood here.

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Oh homeschool plans! Does anyone love these as much as I do?

Last year was our first year homeschooling. I’m still new, but I have a better feeling for what does and does not work. I’ve learned that my high schooler does not do well with a loose setup, she needs structure and actual assignments and a calendar. I’ve also learned I do not want a super intensive pre-school/pre-k program for my littles. It burns me out. So we alternate a little of a more intense one with a lighter worksheet one and lots and lots of books. I also feel like I’ve sampled enough products to know what I plan on using. Last year the biggest struggle was history, I tried Story of the World and I just couldn’t do it. I think it’s great, I loved reading all the chapters, but the rest… just didn’t get done and the kids weren’t remembering much of the details.

I’ve also embraced a year round homeschool year. We do six-week sessions with a week off between and then extended breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas and Spring. And this year I’m doing a “half day Friday” so that I can squeeze in me time and get my tasks accomplished each week and clear them off before our weekend.

So alas, the great big homeschool plan.

11th Grade Homeschool Plan

Our big goal for our high schoolers is to prepare them for college. And for that we want them to work independently and think critically.

  • Geometry: Teaching Textbooks
  • Physics: Thinkwell
  • US Government: Thinkwell
  • English: Essays. She’ll cover 8 essay styles. She’ll write two essays per style, getting one free write and one corresponding to a chapter of her history.
  • English Lit: 5 classic novels (she chooses)
  • Medieval History: Well Trained Mind
  • Electives
    • SAT/ACT PREP
    • Driver’s Ed (God Help us ALLLLLL)
    • Latin 1: Rosetta Stone
    • Keyboarding: typing.com
    • Poetry: Varied books and online sources
    • Art (watercolor classes, pottery classes, artist studies, etc)
    • Music: Viola Lessons
    • Horse Riding Lessons

6th Grade Homeschool Plan

  • Math 6: Teaching Textbooks
  • Language Arts:
    • Spelling: All about Spelling
    • Grammar: Writing Rhetoric. This is my first time trying this series, but I wanted something a little more formal and structured. I feel this is one of the weakest areas of public education so I would like to put emphasis on it. I’ve purchased the first unit as well as the fifth one so we can work in more fundamentals if needed, or she can see if she can keep pace with a more grade level unit.
    • The Good and the Beautiful: We’re trying this out for something more comprehensive, but I have some reservations as we already have a program for geography and art.
    • Reading. She’ll get a lot through her programs above, but she will also be finishing the Harry Potter and then starting one some older classics.
  • History, Science, Art, and Geography: Layers of Learning We switched to this over the summer and it really worked for me. Each lesson has a bunch of library books I can check out. It’s a wonderful mix of independent learning and reading as well hands on things we read and do together. She can notebook on several of the topics, do map work, it’s a win for us.
  • Electives:
    • Keyboarding: typing.com
    • Latin 1: Rosetta Stone
    • Poetry: Varied books and online sources
    • Music: Ukulele Lessons
    • Art: (watercolor classes, pottery classes, artist studies, etc)
    • Horse riding

Preschool/Pre-K Homeschool Plan:

I struggle following allow with longer series. And Campbell is a free spirit that does really well for short bursts, but frankly, she has not been interested in structured learning yet. She is still four years old so we are going to work on making it fun, lots of reading, and hopefully identifying the letters and sounds throughout the year. I struggle with this as our standard for her age is to GET HER READING. But when I read about education systems that are more successful the focus is on a deep imaginative play. The beauty of homeschool is that we get to do this on our terms. Her three-year-old brother is just along for the ride. My goal for him is just to be able to sit and focus on short read aloud stories.

We will be pulling from all sorts of resources in a really loose unstructured format as their attention holds.

 

How about a Friday Introduction?telling the story

Whenever anyone asked for an introduction I always laugh and say, “I’m Courtney, I’m a Taurus. I love holding hands and long walks in the rain”. Then I go to to say I’m a wife and mother. But what does that really tell anyone. I’m a wife to Michael. Ok. I’m married. Is it supposed to mean I have enough social skills or hygiene to attract a mate? And really, what does saying I have six children tell you other than my laundry pile is gigantic?

I’m married. I’m married to the love of not just this life, but all eternity. This man completes me. He is truly my better half. He is grounded. Incredibly smart, genius even. And he makes me so twitterpated… I know I know, hence the six kids right?

The first time we met it was a real Romeo and Juliet moment. No, seriously, I had to go out on the balcony and holler down to him because he couldn’t figure out how to get into my building. He may have been under the influence, lol. The second I let my guard down I was madly and fiercely in love with this man.

I’m a mama. I’m a mama bear to enough children to yield an infield for a baseball game, or so the checkout clerk at Costco recently told me. It means that I haven’t slept through the night in years. I am always behind on laundry. My volume of dishes is enough to make most grown adults cry. Oh, and I haven’t had a clean house since like 2005. I’ll try and clean it up before people come over for the first time, you know, to try and pretend this isn’t my real life, but after that first visit, if you pass the “no judgment” test, you’re welcome back and get to see life as it really happens. When I say, “Oh gosh, it doesn’t normally look like this, I’m so sorry” it really means, “holy shit, we cleaned it up good!” hahaha.

I became a mama at 20. I had no clue what I was doing. I wasn’t good with kids. Hell, I wasn’t good with people. I raised her and she raised me. 16 months later her brother came along and we became a team. Throw a few miscarriages in there and number three came along. She was a demon child. Didn’t sleep, fussy, mean as hell to her siblings, but oh she had a flair for all things sparkly, colorful, and gaudy. Another few miscarriages, an engineering degree, and a few months in the army later I found out I was pregnant with number four. When people say they have “no clue how it happened” and you laugh because you know exactly HOW it happened… yeah, that was number four. Only seriously, no clue how that happened. I was set to go back to army training in a few weeks and had to tell my command I was pregnant. Whoopsies. But it ends up the second best thing that ever happened to me. I stayed in for another year and a half, but I never finished my officer training and had to get out or become enlisted, I opted out. We threw caution to the wind and decided to transfer to Texas so Michael could add a physics degree to his engineering path. My work allowed me to be remote and fly back often, only we had another “how the heck did that happen” moment. The fun part of that was that it was so unexpected I had the job of breaking it to my husband. I made sure I took him out to a great restaurant, ordered him a bottle of wine, yes, bottle, and started with a speech about all the great things that had happened to us that we hadn’t exactly planned… and ended with number five. Number six, okay, we own that one, that was planned. Number seven… haha. Maybe! We’re not ruling out a 2018 baby.

What does that really mean? It means my heart, hands, and house are full of love, messes, clothes, and lots and lots of noise. It means that I have to multitask. It means that I can’t be at your beck and call. It means you may have to be patient with me. It means if I don’t write it down you can bet your ass it won’t happen. It means I am intolerant to drama and bullshit.

But if you can deal with the bits and pieces, and my half functioning brain, I’m incredibly loyal and giving. I make myself as available as I can be. And I always mean well. I always try and leave the world a little better than I found it.

So that’s my introduction… you can follow along on The Rusty Lens FB Page or over on IG.

Introduce yourself why dontcha?

Telling the Story | a blog series about the characters and stories captured in the wild by The Rusty Lens

  • September 17, 2017 - 4:48 am

    Gretchen Willis - I am lucky to know you. you’re awesome!ReplyCancel

If I were to tell you I had any serenity in the last month, it would be a blantant lie. We’ve been neck deep in remodeling, now currently without a functional kitchen sink. My teenagers are fighting like cats and dogs, and enough with the nipple twisting, my God! We finally had it. We had to play hooky from life. We ventured to the coast. It wasn’t exactly a serene trip, it never is when we shove 8 people in a car. But, since you can’t hear the noise, the bickering, and the constant threat of vomit. I bring you some serene photos.

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The Serenity Circle is a collaborative blog project sharing our serene photographs with you each month. Please continue on the journey and visit the next blog to complete the circle.

Click HERE and check out the fabulous Nadeen Flynn and see what she found this month.

  • July 19, 2017 - 10:01 am

    Serenity Project - July 2017 - Iris Nelson Photography - […] the circle to see what my wonderful and talented photography friend, Courtney Rust at “The Rusty Lens” is sharing this […]ReplyCancel

  • July 19, 2017 - 1:53 pm

    Wendy - Beautiful light in each of these images. Love them all, and the story behind the post this month too!ReplyCancel

  • August 7, 2017 - 1:50 pm

    maibritt - LOL! on the lack of serenity on roadtrips… I have 4 kids, so I can relate… I think, when you have more than 2 kids, you get your own version of serenity though… ;o)
    The images are so beautiful! Way to find peace and quiet in the midst of chaos.
    I LOVE the second to last image!!! WOW!ReplyCancel

  • August 8, 2017 - 5:33 pm

    Mabel - I love this place and you captured it so well. Going on trips with kids is never serene!ReplyCancel

  • August 9, 2017 - 1:58 pm

    Katie - I love all these pictures, but I really need to be in that next to last photo. Such a wonderful tree tunnel. : )ReplyCancel

point reyesWe have been remodeling for weeks. This weekend we had to take a pause for my husband to finish an assignment for his master’s class, but we were just so burnt out. We are constantly jumping from the frying pan to the fryer. And we just couldn’t shake the funk. I have had a backlog of places I want to visit so I picked one and off we went.

We had literally no idea what we were going to other than Point Reyes has a lighthouse and it’s on the coast. It also never occurred to us that it could be 35+ degrees cooler just one hour away. We knew something was wrong when we pulled into the parking lot and everyone was decked out in Patagonia jackets. And of course, this was the one time we cleaned our car before heading out so it was slim pickings which made for some good laughs. Thankfully, I never made it into any of the photographs, but there were people staring.

We popped into the visitor center to check in and see what we were in for. Something that I have gotten into a habit of as an adult is asking people what is there favorite thing. I do it with the wait staff at restaurants, I do it when we are visiting hotels, and I asked the Point Reyes Park Ranger what his favorite part of the park was. I asked what would be the best things to attempt with several small children who wouldn’t last too long on their feet. And of course, one mention of “elephant seals” and I was in! He said they were thinning out and wouldn’t be there much longer and then they wouldn’t return until next season.

So off we went armed with sheer will power, a healthy dose of suck it up, a pinch of “we’re from Alaska”, and a shark towel.

And we will be back again. We will so be back again. We will have lunch in the cutest little town. We will stop at a dairy farm. We will climb the hills and find the elk herd. We will picnic on the beach.  We will hike in the forests. Clearly, we loved Point Reyes National Park. And lucky for us it’s only an hour away. Before Bay Area traffic. Hah!

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After the Elephant Seal overlook we ventured over to the Point Reyes lifeboat station. Their motto, ye have to go out, ye don’t have to come in. This bay is beautiful, but with that intense fog it is not hard to see how many lives could be lost here.
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We were hoping for sea lions, but nada. There was one otter playing in the surf, but that was it. DSC_6291z

I told him under absolutely no condition could he smile.
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I kick myself for not taking a video of this, or taking the time to slow the shutter down. But we left all the kids in the car and ran the .4 miles to the lighthouse (which was closed) and I knew the clock was ticking before the littles would get upset in their carseats and the teens would let them loose. But the fog was coming through so fast it was both beautiful and haunting.
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So bummed I didn’t get to walk the 30 stories down (and up) to the lighthouse. lol.

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This beach totally had me until the shark bit. DSC_6396z-2
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Then we stepped into the city for a quick Chinese food supper. Everytime we see that Golden Gate it’s a little magical. DSC_6417z

DSC_6438zAnd then fog started rolling in for the evening.
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meal planThe Meal Plan and Exercise Plan.

I’m in love with Real Plans and their recipes, it has changed how I meal plan forever. If you are a member you can search these by title in the program. You can read more about how this site works here. Because it generates my meals and shopping list I don’t have the excuse, “I don’t know what to make for dinner”. And I know everything it generates will be on my approved foods list.

My goals have been to make healthier meals and exercise regularly. I’m not perfect, I had a half a bite of a cookie that was left out on the counter this morning. I even dipped it in my coffee. But I’m trying. And I’m seeing results.

Here is my meal plan for the week. Note: The rest of family are not pescatarians, so I will go and add their meat meals on days where I know they won’t like what I’ve made. My husband, for instance, will not eat crab or fishy fish and there may have been a phase in my life a few years ago where I over did the sweet potatoes and coconut oil so he won’t touch those either. *eyeroll* Also. I am in a huge seaweed roll up phase right now. I ADORE sushi so this makes me feel like I’m eating it, minus the rice.

meal plan

My exercise routine has been to “run” three days a week using the Couch to 5K app. I’m in Week 2 right now so it’s still a run/walk routine. I have also implemented my old college workout that I got from The Big Book of Exercises. Aside from the Army, it was the fittest I have ever been and it was after having three children so I feel confident it works.

The best part is I’m only a few weeks in and I am seeing results already. I didn’t set out to drop thirty pounds my first month. And since I’m weight lifting I’m going to be looking less to weight and more to inches.

On my Plate is a series documenting my food and exercise journey to get healthy. This isn’t the journey to be a perfect size; this is a journey to be healthy and fit to enjoy more out of life. Sometimes it’s photos. Sometimes it’s a journal. Sometimes it’s meal planning and trying to get healthy food on the table for 8.

lost the fireI think it’s safe to say we’ve all seen it. You’re watching a photographer and they are just on fire. Their photos are amazing and you are sucked in totally inspired. And then there comes a point where you turn your head sideways and wonder what the hell happened. Okay, hmm. They must have had a bad week. Ok, they are going through a style change. Ok, they may have been drinking wine and editing. Omg I need to unfollow this photographer, this is awful.

And then you get to the point where you are wondering what the hell happened to this beloved photographer of yours. They are truly in a rut. And it’s visible from miles away.

And okay, sometimes that photographer is not exactly your best friend. Maybe even your frienemy. And sometimes you give a little snicker. Totally human. But how does this happen?

A few things happen. One. As you are finding yourself attracted to new photographer crushes you are probably working hard and you’re improving. So you’re closing the gap to begin with. Two. It is so hard to be “on” all the time. A little burnout is normal. Three. There comes a time when the choice is just to keep pushing through or quit and hide. And most of us aren’t quitters. So content gets posted even though it’s less than stellar.

There is also a little of four. That photographer truly doesn’t care anymore. They get such a following they could literally photograph poo and people would flock. Clearly this is a more rare case and I’ve never actually experienced anything like this myself. But I know it’s out there. Another variation is the photographer who worked hard and got the following early on and has been blinded by their own success, but the people stayed. And if you get a good following of good people, it doesn’t really matter what phase you’re in. Again, I can’t really relate, when I am sucking people are in “peace out” mode.

And then there are a few cases of five where the photographer really wasn’t on fire and you had your goggles on. But regardless. It happens.

I’ve watched several photographers go through this. And I’ve sat, in judgment, shaking my head saying, “damnnnn”. And now here I sit. I don’t pick up my camera. My work is so half-assed I think my 3 year old could “pray and spray” and hit more quality shots. And I’ve lost all my give a damn. It’s hot. I’m without power to half my house including my AC while we do some major electrical overhauling. I’m now without a sink from what I thought would be a few hour cabinet swap to a horror scene of mold and rotted floors that would take days to clear.

I am in the suck. And I am totally finding empathy for those that have gone before me.

And this isn’t my first rut. I’ve suffered through many ebbs and flows. And I find they tend to strike in the dead of summer because my body shuts down when it goes above 95 degrees. But this may be a more serious condition. I think this is a case of photography related IDGAF syndrome.

If you’re down and out, here is a reliable go to list of ways I try and kick the funk.

  • Shut down the negativity. Too much drama or watching people who are on fire will depress me and sink me further into the hole.
  • Shoot at golden hour. This is a pretty fool proof way to get at least one decent photo
  • Visit pretty places, cross ones off the bucket list
  • Revisit the easy go to shots.
  • Throw on a macro and find some pretty gardens
  • Find the light. It’s there. Even in my shit hole dark cave fixer upper sinkless house, there are still pockets of light that can be found. Window light is always friendly.
  • Look for lines. It’s a great way to get the eye back into looking for composition
  • Shoot film. Film makes me slow down and think. I’m a fairly frugal (read: cheap-ass) individual so I make sure those 1$ a frame shots are worth it.
  • Make an inspiration list. Things I want to shoot. Things to look for.
  • Try something different. Anything, take a risk. Take a shot that I almost didn’t take.
  • Put down the camera and enjoy something else. Maybe it’s a good movie or a good book. Maybe it’s a new craft and getting some projects knocked out.
  • Enjoy life. My family and my family’s happiness is my number one inspiration and motivator in life.

If you’re in the trenches, good luck! Here was my recent trip to the watershed to shake the funk.

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slow zebraI have always been a poor runner. I can sprint short distances, but even the 110-meter hurdles I ran in high school felt like a long distance. And then there was that time I joined the army and man do they love to run. Me? Yeah, I tried. I tried hard. But that was never worth anything when it came to our runs. My CO used to come up behind me and I could hear him, I knew it was coming. I would roll my eyes and there it was, “I’m a lion. I’m a lion and I’m after the slow zebra. Gonna get me a slow zebra. Slow zebras get eaten.”

While that may be true for a zebra on the Sahara, on a running track doing loop after loop the only thing that I was going to be eaten by were the fire ants in the stretching areas.

But nonetheless, it was annoying. It was even more annoying because he had the opportunity to do. Because I was slower than the best. I could improve. I made huge improvements. I went from not even being able to run a mile to running several in less than ten weeks. And then I was able to run faster and faster. But no matter what, my fastest was never even close to best, and frankly, it never will be. Because I am just average. I am average at just about everything.

But what does being average mean? It means I’m probably not going to win awards. It means I’m not going to win medals. But it doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. And it damn sure doesn’t mean I can’t do it, enjoy it, and make improvements. It just means that I have to work a little harder to arrive at the same place. And folks, that’s what builds my character, lol.

Okay fine, most days. On occasion, I will bitch about this to high heaven.

But really, I only know one way to work and that is to hustle.