Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Theme Song

Okay, it happened again.
Work got in the way.
It has been extremely busy around here!

But I still have some questions to answer from Kiyotoe...

The first time I heard "Dream On" by Aerosmith it became kind of a theme song for me (it was like 5 years ago, I know, I'm late).....what song could best serve as a "Tammie Jean" theme song and why?

The great thing about music is that it can be interpreted in many different ways depending on who's listening to it, their life experiences, the effect the music has on them. A song can mean something to one listener and something else to another.

There are many, many songs that speak to me. I love music... all kinds.

A friend of mine asked me recently what would be on my personal soundtrack. Funny - Dream On was on my list. The emotion is his voice is amazing, and the message of “dream until your dreams come true”… Ah, gotta love it. It’s actually been a favorite of mine since I got Greatest Hits on vinyl…geez, I think I was like 10 or 11 at the time.

But my soundtrack also included Here Comes the Sun by George Harrison. Whether the song is about getting through hard times in life and seeing things through to a better day, or if the message is simply “here comes the sun and it's alright”... Either way, it’s a definite on my soundtrack.

Another must-have is Right Here Right Now by Jesus Jones, a song (to me) about savoring the moment, living everyday, and feeling alive.

And I’ve always loved the Soup Dragons remake of I'm Free. That was my mantra all through college. “I’m free to do what I want any ol’ time.” (Plus I love the reggae break in the middle.)

But if I had to pick one main theme song to define who I am, it would have to be Drive by Incubus. It's probably not my favorite song of all time, but the words fit me. “Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there, with open arms and open eyes.” To me, it’s an affirmation to be your own person, to take the wheel and drive yourself instead of letting your fear decide your direction. Live life on your own terms. Don't be afraid to head against the current or let your fear of what "the hive" will think influence your decisions.

I’ve always made sure I've had both hands firmly on the wheel in my life:
  • I had no money to go to college, but I worked out a payment plan with the Student Accounts office of a major university so I could pay my tuition on a monthly basis (by working three jobs).

  • Although I excelled all my academic subjects I chose to pursue art, for which I’ve always had not only talent but passion.
  • I had a child out of wedlock fully aware that I would be an “only parent”.

  • I moved 3,000 miles away from home in the name of love and then subsequently back in the name of family a year later.

  • I’ve road tripped alone with a highway map and no set plans, watched the sun set on a beach while sharing wine and cheese with strangers, and slept in the car when I couldn’t find a room. (Always travel with a pillow).

  • I opted not to date for 7 years while I raised my daughter so that I could focus my attention on her and my career without the distractions of a new relationship.

  • I traveled extensively, just my daughter and I, when I was absolutely broke, charging everything on the credit card in favor of making memories over practicality. (No, I’m no longer in debt, and I have photo albums full of the wonderful adventures I took during my “poor” years).

  • I said “no” to a marriage proposal that didn’t feel right, and I said “yes” to one that did after only 6 months of dating.

I’ve never looked back with regret.

I’ve always been the one in the driver’s seat. This song is my song. Carpe diem.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

S'more Questions

Today I'm going to start answering the questions crafted for me by my friend Kiyotoe...

What's one thing you learned from your parents that you hope to pass on to your daughter?
One word: determination. Both of my parents are hard workers, but my mother’s determination is unmatched.

My mother married my father, her high school sweetheart, and gave birth to my big brother when she was 19 years old. I came along 18 months later.

My parents had no money when I was growing up, but my mother worked hard to better herself (and her earning potential) every day.

When I was 5 she used to bring home vanilla milkshakes from her night shift job at McDonalds. She quickly moved up to working in a small restaurant, and then to a more upscale restaurant where she could earn better tips.

She worked many hours so that she could make some extra money to pay for classes at community college. Six years later she had her 2-year associate’s degree.

In the business world, she worked her way up from filing and data entry to a high-level executive assistant who can command an impressive salary.

But there were times that she would return to waitressing on the weekends to earn extra money, like when she wanted to send me to dance classes or summer camp. My mother has always been a hard worker with a can-do attitude, and she has been an amazing example of determination for me and my brothers.

I hope that I can be that example to my daughter as well. It's important to me that she realizes that with hard work and determination, no goals are beyond her reach.

Someone has given you the voicemail number for the little girl in We Should Have Been Friends (my favorite post to date). What is the message you leave for her?

Hello, my name is Tammie Jean. I’m sure this call seems out of the blue, but I remember you from when we were young children.
You may not recall that day we met on the playground while our fathers were playing softball, but I’ve never forgotten it. It was my first experience with the ugliness of prejudice and to my continuing disappointment, I bowed to it and decided not to play with you anymore.

I would like to tell you that I am truly sorry for the way I acted that day. I allowed my fear of what others might think to influence the way I treated you, behavior that is not only uncharacteristic to the way I am now, but even to the person that I was back then at 5 years old. I immediately regretted it and have ever since.
I’m hoping that you’ll allow me to take you out to lunch so we can sit and chat, and so I can apologize to you in person. Besides, I’ve always thought that we should have been friends, and I’m hoping that you’ll give me a second chance.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Making a list and checking it twice...

Today I'm going to finish up on CSL's interview questions...

So, how many of the things on your "checklist of good ideas" from the end of last year have you kept?

Ooh… what a good reminder! I haven’t checked in on that list in quite a while. As I look it over, though, I realize I haven’t been doing as poorly with my intentions for this year as I’d thought.

I have been spending more time with family and friends. Sean and I have been inviting people to dinner here and there, and we’ve been meeting friends out on the weekends pretty consistently. I haven’t seen my cousin’s band lately, though. Maybe I’ll give him a call.

I’ve also been sending real emails to my friends over the past few months. I haven’t been calling my relatives on Saturday mornings, though. Something else to do now…

I’ve been taking my lunchtime walks, and I’ve been walking around the lake on the weekends, so I can check off exercising. I don’t have time to be any more serious than that.

Hmm… I haven’t been keeping the brain sharp like I intended. No Spanish, no crossword puzzles, no reading lately. Darn. No belly dancing either. I need more hours in my days.

I haven’t started putting my photos into albums. But I have been cooking quite a bit. So that one gets a “check”.

Yeesh. I haven’t been creative every week. Did I really think that every week was feasible? More like every once in a while. I like to mess around with an altered book here and there.

It feels less serious than “I’m going to make a painting” or something like that. Plus, it kind of supplies its own ideas sometimes, depending on the words on the page.

I liked the words on this dog page...

I should really get back to drawing though…

I haven’t been typing the war letters in either. I have so much more to catalog, too. In addition to the letters, there are newspapers from 1945 declaring the end of the war, and lots of crazy postcards...

But I have been taking pictures every day and aggressively pursuing photography. Checkmark that one. Hopefully I can make it a full-time gig and quit the 9 to 5 like I planned.

Thanks for making me look over my list! I’d better get going on some more of these…

Do friends and family members read your blog, and if they do – does that shape what you choose to write about?

No, no one reads my blog. I wanted to start out with it just being my own, personal, secret place to log my thoughts and memories. I didn’t want the thought of an audience to influence what I write. I will probably let my husband in on it, though. There’s always more that we can learn about each other, so it might be a excellent catalyst for future discussions.

I asked someone else this too, and am ceaselessly curious about it as a phenomenon of the blog world: What is it that draws you to another person's blog and keeps you visiting?

Well I think there are several things that draw me in, as well as a few that keep me away. I generally stay away from the big debates, like politics, religion, abortion rights, gun laws. I’m usually on here while I’m at work, and I’m not seeking a break from the daily drudgery only to end up in a “heated exchange of ideas” (read: argument). I also usually stay away from some of the pop culture posts. I have no interest in what Britney Spears is doing this week.

I think the blogs I frequent represent people I could see being my friends “on the outside”, people that I can relate to in some way. They may have nothing at all in common with each other – one might make me laugh, while another makes me think, and another makes me say “I would have done the same thing” or “I’ve thought about that too.” My friends in the real world aren’t carbon-copies of each other, and they aren’t in the blog world either.

Sometimes it’s just one sentence or post that interests me initially, and that prompts my return for a few more posts or to read back through some earlier ones to get a “feel” for the blogger and what they’re about. I enjoy getting to know the people on here, and I enjoy honest exchanges of thoughts, ideas, and personal stories.

Thanks so much for the fantastic questions CSL! If anyone would like me to interview them, let me know in the comments :)

Next, on the the interview questions from The Dragon :)

Friday, May 4, 2007

My Favorite Subjects

Well, let's lighten up a bit today, okay?

Question number two in CSL's interview: You occasionally post some really beautiful nature photos, although not enough of them to my way of thinking. What is your favorite sort of thing to photograph.

As I look over the subfolders within “My Pictures”, the largest are probably those labeled:

Flowers (yes, even dandelions)

and Critters

(and there are many, many subfolders in each of those).

Nature is what inspires me to drop my fork (or my book, or my toothbrush…), grab the camera and run outside. Maybe it’s because the light is coming through the trees and illuminating the daffodils just so, maybe it’s the call of the pileated woodpecker that likes to come and land on the rotting tree stump in the back yard, or maybe it’s a planned event, like “I’m going to go look for spiders in the garden.”

I love that I don’t have to venture very far to take great photos; there are opportunities everywhere, right outside my back door.

"The moment one gives close attention to anything, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself." (Henry Miller)

I've always taken photos just for fun, and sometimes to preserve a vision to later draw or paint from, but it's never been for profit. However, because I’ve been desperate to get out of the drudgery of my 9-5 and the hellacious daily commute that goes with it, I’d been trying to think of an angle…

Well, I think I’ve found it. And I love it. And, believe it or not, it’s been keeping me busy every single weekend, and during the week too, at night after work. So maybe someday soon I will be able to leave Corporate America and just be a Photographer. I’m working on it.

So here’s how it started: I took some photos of myself to give to my husband. Nothing raunchy, but definitely flirtatious - artistic with a dash of enticement. Little surprises for him to open with his email when he got home from work.
He loved them.

I told Steffy, a friend of mine, what I had done. She thought the idea was brilliant. Could I take her photo too? Absolutely!

Her husband loved them.

But what was immensely rewarding to me was Steffy’s reaction to her own photos. She used to be extremely overweight, she told me. She had always been exceedingly self conscious of her body. She has stretch marks; she’s self conscious of this and hates that.

“That’s what Photoshop is for,” I told her. "And creative lighting. We'll only highlight the parts you like."

When she saw the final results, she said it was the first time she had ever felt sexy in her entire life. Steffy is 49 years old.

Around the same time, another friend of mine had some boudoir photos taken professionally by a local photographer. The poses were nice, the outfits were alluring, and the pictures were horrible. Her face was blown out by too much flash while the rest of her was obscured by shadow. She paid good money for them, and they were mere snapshots from my perspective.

If I had doubted my photographic abilities up to that point, I had just given a boost of confidence. Not just from the fact that this guy made money from taking these crappy pictures. What really pushed me over the edge was that my friend loved the photos. She was overjoyed with them.

And I could do so much better…

So I’ve invested in some local advertising, and it’s becoming clear very quickly that I’ve found my niche.

And I love it. I love choosing the best shots, and perfecting each one into its own little masterpiece of light and shadow and human form. I love that I can make people (men and women) feel comfortable in my presence and relaxed enough to let their guards down. I love that I can give them a boost of confidence and make them feel good about themselves.

And I love when they see their final photos. Their eyes open wide and their mouths hang agape as they exclaim, "I look gorgeous!"

So in answer to your question, I guess it’s a tie.

To my husband’s continual dismay, I will always be the lunatic out in the yard, prostrate in the mud, photographing a frog, or a beetle, or a mushroom.

But I’ve discovered a new love for photographing the human form and lovely soft-lit portraits. Everyone has something beautiful about them, and I enjoy proving that to people who may have their doubts about their own beauty.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

My Friends Butch and Scruffy

“We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults.
Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment.”
(George Elliot)

The current theme over at The Round Robin Photo Challenges is friendship. My best friends in the whole world are my amazing 15 year old daughter Mandy and my wonderful husband Sean. But I don’t generally post photos of them here.

Hmm… so who’s next in line? My adorable sons, Butchie and Scruffy.
They don’t mind the posting so much. They are undeniably exhibitionists, given the things they do in public.

And they are undeniably my friends.
  • They are always happy to see me.
  • When I get home from work at night, they run in circles and wag their entire bodies.
  • When I am sad, they know it, and they’ll simply cuddle up next to me quietly and keep me company.
  • They expect very little from me, other than daily food and water.
  • But they delight in my company – my presence alone will make their ears stick out, their eyes brighten, and their steps bouncy.
Their unconditional love is a gift.

But it’s not so easy to snap a photo of either one of my boys.

Scruffy needs to be under my feet at all times. When I try to back away from him to frame up a shot, he comes running. Try to snap a candid of him sniffing around the yard and he does the same thing the moment he notices me. And if he’s not directly next to me, he is seated with his back to me, guarding me from anyone who dares to approach. Not that he would know what to do with advancing enemies, but he’s always got his eye on them just the same.

So my only option for getting a photo of him this week was to be in the shot with him. Although he’s 15 years old, he’s constantly moving, so I set up the tripod, set the timer for 20 shots - one every 5 seconds, and crossed my fingers. Most were blurry, but two came out pretty decent…

Butchie, on the other hand, is downright camera-shy. Or is it camera-weary? He used to tolerate my picture taking, but now he’s just plain fed up with me. If he had the ability, I believe he would stick his fingers in his mouth and stretch out his cheeks like an annoying 8-year-old just to mess up my shots. He’s tried sticking out his tongue at me, but alas, I am undeterred. When he sees the camera come out, even before I’ve turned it on and raised it up to my eye, he’s gotten up and walked away. Seriously.

So the only way to snap a shot of him is when he’s half-asleep on the couch and too lazy to get up…

Or as he's rubbing he head on my knees in an attempt to persuade me to rub his ears...

The most I can do for my friend is simply to be his friend.

I have no wealth to bestow on him.
If he knows that I am happy in loving him, he will want no other reward.
Is not friendship divine in this?
(Henry David Thoreau)