Chillin’ kittens working through their post-holiday blues before the tree gets packed away for another year…
Here’s to a fantastic 2017 for all!
Chillin’ kittens working through their post-holiday blues before the tree gets packed away for another year…
Here’s to a fantastic 2017 for all!
From my vast files of typed paper, I came upon another piece that seemed worth sharing- especially to any of my family and friends with younger children. Many years ago, well before my own children, I raced with a family who had a little boy named Drew. Drew actually did have a “Mooey”, and I was one of the few people he would allow to share his Mooey with him. This led to my first children’s story, and it may be the only one I’ve ever put to paper. This story was even used for story time in his mother’s classroom for several years! My children and I regularly made up stories, many of them about the “Yazbitz”, a little imp that caused trouble in all the stories, but they were ever-evolving, and I never wrote them down. We got the Yazbitz idea from my late Grandpa Mekinda- it was the nickname he lovingly gave my son when he was still a baby. After reading this again, maybe it’s time to bring the Yazbitz back to life!
THE ADVENTURES OF DREW AND HIS MAGICAL MOOEY
Somewhere, in this great big world of ours, is a little boy named Drew. He could be the little boy next door, or down your street, or he may live all the way on the other side of the earth from you. But he is out there, and very much like you or I.
Drew is a just an ordinary boy, with blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, and a smile -Drew loves to smile- that always makes his friends and family feel wonderful! Drew likes to play outside in the dirt, and hates to take baths when he is done, and sometimes he doesn’t eat all his dinner.
You see, Drew is very much like you and me!
Drew does have something that no one else may ever have, though (but if you ask him very nicely, he may share —Drew likes to share). Drew has a magical Mooey, a soft, warm blanket that allows his imagination to take him to faraway places. Maybe even to your neighborhood! Let us find Drew and see what he is doing today…
There he is! He is sitting on the soft, green grass in the yard behind his family’s house, watching the birds flying high in the blue sky above him. The sky and birds give Drew an idea, and he lays his Mooey on the grass beside him.
Stepping carefully onto his Mooey, Drew sits down and ties a length of the cloth around his waist to hold him in place. Then, very slowly, he and his Mooey rise high into the deep blue of the sky far above.
Drew is flying!
He waves to a beautiful black and yellow bird that is flying alongside of his Mooey, and the bird tweets a short happy, song back to Drew. The bird is welcoming Drew to his world, and asking him to play!
Follow the pretty bird” Drew says to the Mooey, see if we can keep up! As the bird takes off toward the clouds, Drew and his Mooey follow close behind.
Into the fluffy, white clouds they go, with the sun shining brightly above them.
Isn’t it beautiful?” Drew asks the Mooey, and the Mooey wiggles in reply. “The clouds are so white, and the cool mist feels very good on my face” says Drew, ” but I’m tired of spiraling and chasing, I want to go back toward the ground.”
Drew says goodbye to the pretty yellow and black bird, and aims his Mooey down, out of the sky. Soon they are coasting above the treetops, trying to find a place to land. “There, Mooey, a clearing in the middle of the forest” and Drew points to a hole in the treetops.
Down, down, down they go, circling slowly down into the clearing. There is no sound as they touch the ground, for the Mooey is very careful of Drew. As Drew steps off the Mooey, he looks around him at the dark and unfamiliar forest. A shiver runs down his spine, as the trees creak and groan in the wind.
“I don’t like this, Mooey” Drew says, and he grabs his Mooey from the ground. “It Is cold and wet and very dark in these woods.” The Mooey shivers in Drew’s arms. “And I don’t know which way to go!” says Drew, and he nearly starts to cry. But Drew is a very strong little boy, and he does not cry. Instead, he asks his Mooey to point for home, and holds the Mooey in front of him.
After a moment, the Mooey lifts a corner of its fabric and points for home. “Thank you, Mooey” says Drew, always remembering that his parents taught him to be polite, and he begins to walk in the direction the Mooey had pointed.
Suddenly, there is a loud roar in the woods, and Drew jumps back! “Who is there?” he asks, and no one answers. He holds his Mooey extra tightly and asks again; “Who is there?” Again, no answer. As he starts to speak again, the woods tear open and a horrible beast with purple skin and two heads crashes toward Drew and his Mooey! The beast has four fiery orange eyes, claws like the knives that Drew knows not to play with, and long pointed fangs that threaten to bite at any moment.
“What do you want?” Drew asks, trying not to sound scared.
“Your Mooey. I eat Mooeys” replies the nasty beast, “and yours looks particularly delicious! ”
The Mooey in Drew’s arms began to shake like Jell-O. “Don’t worry,” whispers Drew “I won’t let him eat you.”
“You can It have my Mooey!” yells Drew in his deepest voice, but the beast just snarls an evil laugh. As the beast laughs, it roars “I am a giant Jabjabar, direct descendant of the famous Jabberwocky. You are just a little boy. How will you stop me?” And the Jabjabar lashes out and snatches the Mooey right from Drew’s arms! Drew watches helplessly as his Mooey struggles to free itself from the giant beast. He searches his mind for a way to help, but he can think of none. When all seems lost, Drew feels a slight breeze in his hair and looks up. Floating above him is a ball of orange fur that is no bigger than an apple. The ball opens a tiny mouth and says “Do not be afraid. I am Zerbert, and I can help you free your Mooey.” “Oh, please hurry” cries Drew, “before it is too late! ”
Zerbert speaks quickly to Drew, and now Drew knows what to do.
He yells to the Jabjabar, who slowly turns to face him. “LET MY MOOEY GO!” shouts Drew, and, as before, the beast simply laughs and turns away.
Drew takes a long, deep breath. . . and GROWLS at the Jabjabar the way Zerbert had told him! He growls until he has no more wind in him, and still he growls. The woods are still echoing Drew’s mighty roar when the very surprised Jabjabar drops the Mooey and runs back into the forest as quickly as he can.
Drew runs to his Mooey, with Zerbert floating right behind, and scoops it from the dirt. Drew hugs his Mooey tightly to him and says “Thank you Zerbert, you have saved my Mooey!”
Zerbert giggles “No Drew, you saved your beloved Mooey. I just helped you realize what you already knew.” Zerbert continues “There will be many times that you will find yourself wondering what you should do. Remember, do what you KNOW is right and you will always do what IS right.” With that, Zerbert simply disappears.
“I love you Mooey” says Drew as he waves to Zerbert, wherever he might be. “I think want to go home now.” Drew looks around and yawns “Maybe I’ll just rest a while first”, and his Mooey spreads itself at his feet.
Drew curls up on his Mooey and closes his eyes. A deep, grey, swirling fog rolls in and carries Drew off to sleep, and he silently floats back to the soft, green grass behind his family’s house. And that is where we will leave Drew until the next time he invites us to share an adventure with him and his magical Mooey.
Oh, look, there is Drew’s mother, carrying her exhausted little boy inside.
She can only wonder what Drew is smiling about now, but we know… Goodnight Drew.
I’m a photographer as one of my professions. I have a background in photography, education in photography, and am regularly paid for use of my photos. I have worked as an aerial photographer for an engineering firm, as a wedding photographer, as a photojournalist, and as a freelance photographer meeting photography needs of clients. I’ve been a photographer for nearly 40 years, from film to digital, and have processed my own B&W film and photos as well as having worked as a lab tech processing film for others. I may not be a great photographer, but enough find my work worthy of comment and compensation to validate my skill. I bring this up not to brag, but as point of fact to show my credentials. I am a professional photographer that loves photography nearly as much as I love writing, and I love to share the wonders of photography with others. Over the past few years, however, I’ve grown weary of listening to so many “experts” imparting vast “internet knowledge” upon those taking photos around them- especially when they were never asked in the first place. I bite my tongue as I listen to “advice” that is often unnecessary for the situation, and frequently flat-out incorrect. IF YOU ASK questions about photography, I will give answers that will likely not fit the expected pattern. I know my thoughts will send many photographers into a tizzy, but I’d like to think it will set many more free- call it permission to enjoy your camera again, if you will.
As a long-time photographer, family and friends regularly asked for advice about cameras, techniques, gear- you name it. IF YOU ASK, I’m always happy to talk photography, and will gladly talk with you about all aspects of Photography. What I will not do, is talk down to you. I was a long time Nikon snob, shooting with some phenomenal Nikon gear back in my film days. “Of course you use an FM, because manual is the only way to go- right?” “An FE2 (still a great camera) has a terrific Aperture Priority mode- you should own one”. “F3 is the only way to go for outdoor work”. Yep, that was me- then I found a lightweight Minolta that was easier to haul around, and I found I grabbed that camera way more often- and my photos did not suffer at all. The cameras available today, from cell phones to inexpensive point-and-shoots to full-frame DSLRs are all amazing tools that will take terrific photos. Obviously the pocket-sized point-and-shoot will not take art museum-sized enlargements that will match a full-frame Canon DSLR- but thousands spent on the DSLR to post vacation photos on Facebook is complete overkill. IF YOU ASK, I will tell you to find a camera that fits what you’ll do with it. A camera that fits in your hand the way you like it to. A camera you’ll be happy taking with you often, and that takes photos nice enough for what you intend to do with them. The best camera in the world won’t make you a better photographer- the one you like shooting lots of pictures with, will. So, this is permission (should you need it) to buy the camera you like and just shoot beautiful pictures to your heart’s content!
IF YOU ASK, I will tell you what I like about your photos, but I will not tell you what is “wrong” with them (unless you ask very specific questions). I will soften my criticisms and tell you how you might make a photo vibrant, NOT what is “bad” in the picture. That photo may be saying exactly what you meant to say, and I’m just not wrapping my head around your meaning- so it’s not my place to be critical of the subject, though I may be able to provide pointers about camera settings or composition. Only you see the world through your eyes, so all I can really offer is help with the hardware you use to collect your vision through the lens. So, this is permission (should you need it) to snap shots of the world as you see it and just shoot beautiful pictures to your heart’s content!
IF YOU ASK, I will not chastise you for shooting in any of the automatic settings your camera has available. Capturing the photo you want is worth far more than losing the moment by setting the camera horribly wrong. Camera manufacturers devote a lot of resources to the programming and algorithms that allow the best photo with the least amount of effort. Ever wonder the most expensive Pro cameras still have the same Auto settings as consumer cameras? Can a professional take a better photo wresting control from the camera’s internal elves? Probably- though if they’re honest, many will admit it’s getting closer all the time. Can you take a better photo handling things manually? Maybe- if you use the same camera all the time, and know it’s idiosyncrasies and when your input will have a positive impact. It is true that some older or less expensive cameras have issues with exposure values, or metering, but you can usually make minor tweaks to improve the output. The market is so competitive to have “The Best Camera” that we’re in an era of “fine-tuning” as opposed to fixing camera firmware. This means the internal camera elves do a wonderful job of turning your vision into art. So, this is permission (should you need it) to leave it in “Auto” and just shoot beautiful pictures to your heart’s content!
IF YOU ASK, I will not chastise you for not shooting RAW. I stopped shooting RAW a few years ago, almost as an act of rebellion. My publishing clients all require JPEGs, so my need for RAW is nearly non-existent, and I’ve grown tired of constantly hearing “MUST SHOOT RAW”. Is RAW the best way to shoot fine-art or commercial photography? Yes. Is it true it may “save” a photo you blew out highlights or lost shadows in? Yes. Can RAW be processed fairly easily with the right software? Yes, but it still adds time. Does everyone want to spend time at a computer processing photos? I’d say for the vast majority, myself included, that answer is NO. When I shot film professionally, particularly weddings/ portraits, I had a specific lab I sent all my film to for processing. They were professionals who were much better than me at turning my work into printed art. When did we decide everyone should be processing their own digital images? Yes, the software is available and it’s moderately priced (or even free), but few people have large, properly calibrated monitors to work with. Few people have the time and wherewithal to spend hours after shooting to tweak each and every photo- and even fewer have the desire. I use Adobe Lightroom, and I have a few presets I use while importing, but I use it primarily because it’s a fantastic piece of software for archiving and organizing my photos. Occasionally I have a photo I might like enough to “improve”, and Lightroom is more than capable, but I try to get my photos “right” when I take the picture. Yeah, I know tweaking JPEGs leads to image degradation (use copies!)- yet I’ve tweaked JPEGs that have still been high enough quality to be used as magazine covers- so I’m not sold on the “horrors” of manipulating JPEGs. While I agree RAW may be best, and I’m not saying not to shoot RAW if that’s what you’d like to do. I am saying that shooting RAW is somewhat analogous to shooting film and needing time to process it in your basement lab- albeit with fewer toxic chemicals. So, this is permission (should you need it) to stick to the JPEGs your camera hands you and just shoot beautiful pictures to your heart’s content!
IF YOU ASK, I will not chastise you for posting a blurred action photo, or a grainy low-light photo of a compelling scene. I know you have a slow, inexpensive lens, and you needed to shoot a high ISO to capture the action under poor lighting. It’s still a cool picture, and I’m glad you shared. Your eye for the scene was spot-on, and I can’t look away from the image, the content. That’s what photography is about- capturing the moment, and that’s exactly what you did. Could you have done better with a better gear? Absolutely- the photo shows your skills. Did you give us a great image? Again, absolutely. When did we decide photos must be technically perfect? Some of the greatest photos in history are grainy and shadowy, and that’s part of what makes them compelling. A different camera may have helped, but ignore technical perfection if you must to give us a compelling picture. No one ever told a brilliant artist “hey, you used the wrong pencils/ chalk/ paints/ material/ whatever to create that masterpiece”, so your camera, flaws and all, is just fine. Lomo (look it up!), anyone? So, this is permission (should you need it) to use any old camera and just shoot beautiful pictures to your heart’s content!
IF YOU ASK, I will not chastise you for using your cell phone as your primary camera. Despite what Apple wants you to believe, there is a bit of post-processing necessary to make building-sized photos from your iPhone- but the photos posted on Instagram or websites are incredible. This is the age of the cell phone, and we always carry one. There’s a reason cell phone makers now compete to make the “Best Camera Phone”- because we all want one! A beautifully composed picture is still a pleasure, no matter what it was taken with. Yes, there are limitations to the tiny sensor in a cell phone, and the “lenses” leave much to be desired. But we’ve reached a point of diminishing returns in cell phone technology, and manufacturers still need some reason to convince us to upgrade- so they’re competing on the photo tech, a big win for photographers! So, this is permission (should you need it) to use your cell phone and just shoot beautiful pictures to your heart’s content!
IF YOU ASK, this was not meant as a definitive how-to about being a photographer. It’s not even particularly instructive. It’s merely a topic that’s been troubling me for too long, and one I feel needs to be addressed more often. Most folks will never hang a photo on the wall of a museum, yet many take gorgeous photos that deserve to be shared. There is no reason for the process to be painful or overly complex, or for a photographer to feel their work is, somehow, less worthy. Photography can be merely collecting and archiving a moment or event, and it’s a great medium for doing so. Photography is also art, and art is from the heart. If the art for you is time spent manipulating photos digitally, that’s fantastic- you have a skill and sensibility I am often jealous of, and I find those photos fascinating. For those who find their art is in the composition and collection of images through the lense and into flash memory, keep taking pictures, keep honing your skill, keep feeling those snapshots in time. Collect those snapshots by whatever means works best for you, and revel in their perfect imperfections. Borrowing words from Neil Gaiman, “Make interesting amazing glorious fantastic mistakes. Make good art”. His words, like mine, give you permission (should you need it) to just shoot beautiful pictures to your heart’s content!
Always remember to find, and share, the joy in your photography- and thanks for reading!
I’m not sure if it’s more difficult to watch one’s child struggle and be able to do little to help, or to watch the same and know it’s the correct time NOT to help. Conversely, however, there is little in life more gratifying to a parent than watching said struggle lead to success- and seeing wings unfurl as the soaring begins!
“Yes, I understand that every life must end, uh-huh
As we sit alone, I know someday we must go, uh-huh
Oh I’m a lucky man, to count on both hands the ones I love
Some folks just have one, yeah, others, they’ve got none”
-Pearl Jam “Just Breathe”
I’ve been losing a lot of people lately. I don’t mean misplacing, or losing touch, I mean they’ve “shuffled off this mortal coil”, and (hopefully) moved to whatever place they hoped for on the other side. Most of these people have been older, a few younger, and many close to my own age. The older folks are missed, but the pragmatist in me understands; this is the natural outcome to the unsigned contract that allowed us our place on this beautiful planet. Those younger than I were cut from the game way too early, before even becoming old enough to understand their place in the greater picture. But it’s those close to my age that I find, selfishly, I know, alarming. It’s those among my peers that leave me with the realization this is NOT the indefinite future I saw in my teens and 20s, and the alarm on my clock may be much closer to sounding than I’d ever imagined.
As a child, time was merely a point of annoyance, being told it was “time to come in” or “time to leave”, or, the worst, “time for bed”. Yet all of those “timely moments” would quickly pass, and a new moment would always be there “in a while”. As a teen, time grew a bit more intense in the short-term, but “the future” still seemed infinite. School work needed to be completed “on time” to do well “for the future”. Then it was time to choose, college? Employment? Tech school? Again, “for the future”, somewhere down the road. Now “the future” was starting to have bearing. We couldn’t live at Mom and Dad’s forever, and the costs of childhood that were absorbed by our folks slowly became the financial burden of adulthood shifted to us. That was fine though living day-to-day “for a while” would be OK, because we still had “the future” to put it all together. Some of our childhood peers began to understand the finiteness of “the future” sooner than others, and put their plans in motion quickly. It may have seemed they had less fun, but success came quickly (as did the unfortunate early crash and burnout for some). The majority lived somewhere between “the moment” and “the future”, obtaining degrees or learning a skill or trade. We segued into adulthood reasonably prepared, and became moderately successful as contributing members of society. But we still believed “the future” was vast, and we had “plenty of time” to do whatever else we thought we could, or needed to do. On the fringes, a few never grasped the idea that “day to day” was not a great plan, and still spend most of their lives struggling to make ends meet. No less than others, they’re just travelers on a rockier path that still ends at the same place for every one of us.
Today I find myself weeks from turning 50, a place I hope is simply the mid-point on my path- but who can know? I now realize “the future” truly does have a defined end on the human horizon. I was one of those who took the middle path, floating between the “day to day” and “the future”. Thanks to the planning skills of Beautiful Wife, our paths began to meander more toward “the future”, relieving much of the stress and rough travel of the “day to day” path. This allows much more flexibility, and the ability to explore other paths along the route. But “the future” has begun to loom a bit more darkly in my skies, and though I’m (mostly) prepared, I’m realizing I’m not as content as I should be when “the future” and “the present” begin to merge. I have many successes in my life, not the least of which are two fantastic and brilliant children (they look like me, so I’m pretty sure I had a little to do with their creation though I’m unsure the origins of the brilliance. Must be from their mom!) and a marriage that has remained strong, though maybe not always smooth, for over a quarter-century. I’ve ridden, raced, flown, written, and photographed. I’ve been published, won awards and had a successful career. I’ve stayed close to family, and have many close friends. I’ve traveled, explored and I’ve shared. By all criteria, I’ve been successful to this point in my journey. Yet, as “the future” grows smaller and reminds me I could reach the horizon tomorrow or 50 years (more or less) from now, I realize I still haven’t changed the world. I’ve always felt that in that vast future, there would always be time for me to make a larger difference, to affect change in some positive way. As I close chapters with far too many people, I realize my opportunities may be dwindling, and things I haven’t done begin to overshadow those I have. Though I have always tried to live life with appreciation and without regret, this new comprehension of time is troubling.
I recently shared my concerns in conversation with a friend. While he understood, it was his contention that we don’t always make the changes we hope in the first person. Every great leader, explorer, inventor, scientist, etc. had parents, and, by helping to create and raise that person, did those parents not change the world as well? Perhaps it will be our children, or their children who will bring something astonishing to the world, and by lineage we, and all the family before us, will have played a small part in that accomplishment as well. He has a valid point, and I know I should find comfort in a job done well in the microcosm of my home- and I do, of course. I have tremendous pride in my family, and in the unique and talented human beings my children have become. I just have a difficult time claiming my accomplishment in their successes. I merely provide the cars and the racetrack, while they drive and win the races. Soon enough, they will be taking those skills to other tracks, and they will have “the future” to win and shape their worlds. I will always be proud of whatever they do with their future, but as they stand on their own, so too will I. Without their accomplishments to bolster and embellish my own, my shortcomings will be highlighted for me once again. I admit, there is comfort in my friend’s observation that I will still share in the contributions they make to the world. But unless I make my lasting contribution soon, it will be an effort to find peace knowing my input will be peripheral to what they accomplish. Hopefully, I’ll still have “plenty of time” to come to grips with this in “the future”.
“Nothing you would take
Everything you gave
Hold me til I die
Meet you on the other side…”
-Pearl Jam, “Just Breathe”
Thanks for reading,