Posted in creative tuesday, everyday musings

Creative Tuesday: Just take the photos already

So many people want to be a photographer but are stuck on the idea the photo has to be technically perfect. They want their child to sit just right or the light to hit just so or the moment to be simply perfect and if they can’t do that then forget it – the photo isn’t taken.

Maybe because I like to photograph moments more than poses, and had to focus on them when I worked for newspapers, the lack of perfection in a photo bothers me less than it does some photographers. When I look back at my photos over the years I sometimes mentally scold myself for a technical error, knowing my aperture was set wrong or my ISO could have been raised or lowered, but normally my attention is on the moment captured rather than the technical aspects.

I don’t want to look back at my memories from a special time in my life and pat myself on the back for nailing focus. I want to look back at those photos and remember how I felt, what was happening, who was there. I look at photography in a similar way to art – it’s about how the art makes me feel not how it was made.

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DSC_0290-2DSC_0008A local art teacher recently shared a photo of a painting by a student of his on Facebook. The painting was of a woman singing and I actually scrolled past it but then flung the cursor back up to take a better look at it. As I stared at it for a while I found it left me with a relaxed, easy going feeling, something I needed in the midst of a stressful week. I could hear the smooth jazz music and the velvet tones of the singer’s voice and imagined a cup of hot tea in front of me.

Someone else could have looked at it and said they saw technical errors (I doubt many would have) or that the singer wasn’t as “realistic looking” as some might think it should be, but none of that mattered to me because what was important to me was how the painting made me feel. What if that young painter had given up on her work because she decided, in her own mind, that her work wasn’t good enough? What if she had decided that because something didn’t look technically right, the painting could never touch anyone emotionally? She would have been wrong and if she hadn’t finished the painting she would have robbed me of those few moments of respite I was given that day by looking at the painting.

But because she picked up that paintbrush and painted what she felt, not only what she saw and knew, a soul, my soul was touched.

So pick up that camera.

Pick up that paintbrush.

Pick up that pen.

Put those fingers on the keyboard.

Just paint the painting, take the photos, write the words, create what you feel in your heart, not only what you know in your head.

You may not touch millions or thousands or hundreds or even fifty people but if you even touch one – isn’t that worth it?

For more inspiration to get out and create already check out YouTube entrepreneur and photographer Peter McKinnon talking about the power of an idea.

It's better to create something

To follow my work you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

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Posted in everyday musings

Oh my gosh! I’m alone for 20 minutes! Grab the remote, a cup of tea, a snack and run a bath! Hurry!

I wave to the husband and the kids and smile, sitting calmly in the chair, surprised by the sudden time alone.

They pull away from the house and still I sit, appearing to be calmly contemplating what to do with myself. But inside my mind is racing.

I jump up and race for the kitchen.

My thoughts are jumbled but determined.

Oh my gosh! I’m alone for 20 minutes! Grab the remote, a cup of tea, a snack and run a bath! Hurry!

They’ll be back before you know it and you’ll be back to fetching juice boxes and arguing over how many more math problems he has to do before he’s done with school for the week.

Tea. Tea. Tea.

Where are the tea bags? Where are they?! Oh! Here they are! Yes!

The dog is by the door. No. I don’t have any time for letting a dog out. I must hurry.

Ross Poldark is waiting for me.

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Let the dog out onto the porch, but her lede is stuck around the slide. Unhook the lede from the slide, hook her up, coax her out the door, run back inside, out of the biting cold wind that came with the temperature drop.

Put a cup of water with a tea bag in it in the microwave, put some peanut butter on some rice crackers, take the tea out and add some honey and then tip the entire cup full over, onto the counter and down to the floor.

Yell, “Damn and blast! Damn and blast!” in my best Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady voice. (Special note that I only approve of “swearing” if it can be said in one’s best Rex Harrison voice.)

Don’t be discouraged. Keep going.

Clean up the mess and put another cup of water with a tea bag in the microwave.

Once the mess is cleaned up and the tea is done rush to the living room and click play on Poldark, who is deep in brooding mode (yet again) while I copy photos to a flash drive and tap out the first draft of this blog post and then start the Sunday Salon post for Sunday about what books I’m reading.

Halfway into an over-dramatic scene between Ross and Elizabeth, the front door swings open and kids and bedraggled looking husband emerge. Total time alone: 20 stinking minutes, if that.

Trips to Walmart with two kids takes me an hour, maybe longer. For my husband? Twenty stupid minutes.

Damn and blast, indeed, Rex.

Posted in everyday musings

Quieting the creative voices of others so you can hear your own

I fell into one of those Youtube spirals the other night (like one does) and I caught an interview from last year with Ellen and Bradley Cooper. Ellen asks Bradley if he is on social media at all, although she admits she already knows he isn’t. When he says “No, I’m not.” she feigns shock and says “Oh my gosh. What do you even do with yourself?”
He laughs, shrugs and mumbles something about being able to waste a lot of time on the internet without social media. But really, a better answer, since he was there to talk about a movie he was filming, would have been, “I create.”
“A Star is Born” comes out this week and Bradley both stars in it and directed it. If he had been sitting around wasting his life on social media, getting distracted by the drama and ridiculousness that can be found on it, he might never have made the movie or made the music for it along with Lady Gaga and Luke Nelson.
Lady-Gaga-and-Bradley-Cooper-in-A-Star-is-Born-2018-670x335Imagine all the books and paintings and songs we would never have heard if social media had existed earlier than it had. Yes, there are good things about social media for a creative. We can share our creations and our art to a wider audience and immediately. But what we lose in that immediate interaction is taking the time to really develop and plan our craft before we throw it to the world. What we lose is the time to actually create because we are distracted by looking at either the work of others or the drama of others.
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We are squelching our inner voice because we can’t hear it over the shouts and creations of others. We are comparing and contrasting and then going back to our creative work, thinking we can’t create as well as the others we’ve seen. Or maybe we think can do the same, but end up disappointing because we never give ourselves time to really develop the skills we need to create, as well as, or better than, those we admire.
Bradley Cooper worked with a voice coach, musicians and others for almost a year and a half,l before creating what many are calling a masterpiece. He had a vision and he put the work in to complete and present that vision.
If he had wasted his time on the distraction that comes with social media, he may have never reached his goal of creating something he is extremely proud of.
Though I don’t know what Bradley Cooper’s personal reasons for not being on social media are I do think abstaining from it strengthens his creative voice. It’s something other creative people, or anyone with a goal they want to reach, should try as well.
Posted in 10 on 10, everyday musings

What I’ve been shooting (10 on 10 for October)

The month of September was the proverbial bad word that I won’t say here because I’m a good Christian girl. I tossed a lot of things I usually care about aside simply to survive the month and all the bizarre little things that kept going wrong. One of the things I gave up was worrying about whether or not I could make money with my photography. Another thing I had to let go of was trying to create images that would get me hired in my area. I just want to create images I like and if other people don’t want them hanging on their walls, that’s fine with me. I think sometimes we have to create to set our own souls free and if we set some others free at the same time that’s simply an added bonus.

This post is part of a blog circle where a group of photographers, artists and creators share ten images from the previous month, taken either on one day or throughout the month. You can find the link to the next person in the circle at the end of the post. This month I decided to share some of the images I’ve been creating just for me. I’d love to see the images, art, or words you’ve been creating. Feel free to add a link to them in the comment section even if you’re not part of the 10 on 10 Lifestyle Group (on Facebook)

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DSC_4995.jpgDSC_4850-2DSC_5142DSC_3759-2DSC_3381-2DSC_4807-3DSC_5153DSC_2144DSC_5277DSC_5636To continue to find other artists sharing today in the 10 on 10 blog circle, click over to see the beautiful images of Shea Kundler.

To follow my work you can catch me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/lisahoweler or at my photography site at www.lisahowelerphotography.com or on facebook at www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

Posted in everyday musings, Tell me More about

Tell Me More About . . . D’Vine Vineyard

When Dave Page found himself interested in growing a vineyard on his property in Columbia Crossroads, Pa., he had no idea the plot of land that he’d set aside for growing grapes would become a sought-after wedding destination for brides and grooms.

When you step outside the front door of Dave and Denise Page’s home there is a four-acre field lined with 1,800 grapevines of eight different varietals of grapes. Off to one side of what Dave calls “D’Vine Vineyard” (incorporating he and Denise’s names) is a handmade wooden pergola with a swing where brides and grooms pause to have their photos taken on their wedding day. Across the road from the vineyard is a rustic barn, sprawling cornfields, and a mini orchard of apple, peach and plum trees. Behind the barn is a pond that looks like a painting and an empty field perfect for setting up tents and tables for wedding receptions or other celebrations.

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DSC_2557Dave owns a total of 120 acres, part of which he rents out to a neighboring farmer to grow corn.

Denise says it was their niece who unwittingly started the now thriving wedding venue business in 2014 by telling the Pages she thought their rustic barn and the former working farm would be the perfect location for her wedding.

Though puzzled by the interest in the barn, built in 1907 by Dave’s great-grandfather, Fred, the Pages agreed to the request and began to prepare the space for wedding guests. The barn hadn’t been a working barn since Dave sold the cows off in the 1980s and was only being used to store equipment and hay. The Pages would soon learn that vintage, rustic, old-fashioned, or whichever term you might want to use, were becoming popular themes among young, and even older, couples as they looked for wedding venues.

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Their nieces’ wedding was photographed by Danielle Barden, a well-known wedding photographer from Tioga County, Pa., who shared the photos on social media, Denise says. The photos went semi-viral and more requests for the location began to flow in. The vineyard, located about 40 miles South of the New York Finger Lakes region, has booked close to 50 weddings and events since that first wedding in 2014.

DSC_2562The Pages were pleasantly surprised by the attention but didn’t make plans to quit their day jobs to start a full-time venue or event location.

Instead, Dave still works as a classifier for the American Holstein Association and Denise is a full-time nurse. A full-time event venue and winery may come someday, but not until they both retire, says Denise. For now, the pair books weddings or other events for the weekends, in a space where the renters do most of the work, including setting up and tearing down. Their children Brandon and Denee and daughter-in-law Cheryl help the Page’s run the business.

Denise and Dave never expected their site to become such an attraction, they say. The land began as a dairy farm more than 100 years ago and is one of only a few century farms in Bradford County. Five generations of Dave’s family farmed the land.

The farm was passed to Dave in the 1970s by his grandparents, Max and Louise VanVeghten. The barn is all the original wood, having only a new roof put on a couple of times over the years and some of the floorboards have been replaced. An addition was added around the time Dave took over. Dave has now turned the bottom of the barn, and part of the addition, into an area to press and ferment the wine, as well as a small bar area to be used to serve guests refreshments. The wine press is locked off from guests during events, per state law.

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Last year Dave also turned one of the old stalls into a changing room for the bride and her bridal party, complete with full-length mirrors, outlets for hairdryers and curling irons and even an old barber chair where hair stylists can prepare the bridal party members’ hair.

Dave added the deck to the back of the barn around the time of the first wedding.

Until he retires, Dave spends any free time he has testing wines, experimenting and sharing the results with a select few. He’s happy to show friends and family the wine bladder presses, the bulk milk tanks that he’s transformed to hold the wine, and the barrels where the wine ages, he says.

But for now he’s only making what he calls practice wine.

“We have a license in holding but we don’t bottle,” according to Denise. “We make wine for our own use. In the future probably we will do festivals.”

To learn more about booking D’Vine Vineyard visit their website at https://dvinevineyardandwinery.com/ or follow them on Facebook.

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Posted in authentic, everyday musings

On the eve of her fourth birthday

And there she was, drifting off to sleep on the eve of her fourth birthday. There was pink in her hair and I wondered what it was since we’d just washed our hair together tonight in the tub. Then I remembered she’d got paint in it a week before and apparently I hadn’t got all of it out in the bath that night. I thought about how much I loved noticing those little details of her childhood.

The day before she’d been sitting on the hill, in the grass and fallen leaves, outside her grandparents’ house, wearing a shirt on backward, since she still hasn’t mastered how to put them on the right way, with rainbow pants and chocolate smudged on the corner right above her upper lip, left over from the brownie cake her grandma and grandpa had made. After her bath, the day before her birthday, she put on an adorable, felt looking pink dress, as if she was preparing to wake up the next morning ready to celebrate her official birthday, one I couldn’t believe was already here.

She was the baby we never expected and the one we never knew we needed.

She delights us, surprises us, aggravates us and most of all she completes us.

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Posted in everyday musings, motherhood, Motherhood in Action

Frank. And only Frank. Thanks, Kid. I’m now sick of Frank.

Every night and every nap for the last two years my daughter has had to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album while she’s falling asleep.

I’ve tried to change the music without her knowing but as young as two she would look at me and say “no. I want frank.” In the beginning she called him “Frank Satra,” but as she grew she knew how to pronounce his name clearly and she let me know no one else would do – no Nat King Cole or Diana Krall or even a different album by Frank.

I finally slipped in some Dean Martin from his “Sleep Warm” album, skipping over the slightly faster songs thrown in the middle of the more gentle and melodic tunes, and she accepted it.

Last night I decided to try some Sarah Vaughn, who I’ve never actually listened to that much, but we only got two songs in before I heard an exasperated sigh in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping to God she did not ask me for the snack she’d tried to tell me she needed a few moments earlier, even though it was way past her bedtime.

“It’s the music,” she said with exasperation dripping off each word. “It’s just not working.”

Now it was my turn for a sigh. I switched the Apple Music on my phone to the playlist of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

She relaxed in the darkness, obviously content, and in less than five minutes she was fast asleep to the smooth, soothing baritone of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Someday we’ll find another artist who lulls her into a state of pure relaxation but for now Dean and Frank remain our close and repetitive friends.

Posted in everyday musings, honest stuff, keeping it real, personal musings

The love that didn’t last

Looking at her young face staring back at me from the vintage, monochrome photograph it suddenly struck me how young she had been when her world fell apart. Her story was family folklore, passed down as one of those subjects discussed in hushed tones and only around certain family members.

Here she was, though, appearing to me younger than I had ever imagined her when I had heard the stories as a child, a teen and even as an adult. I saw in her eyes a bit of fear, maybe trepidation, but also a lot of grit mixed with the slightest hint of humor.

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When she’d met the man she would one day married she was head over heels in love. He was handsome and charming, and loud and boisterous. Some, though, especially her family, called him trouble.

She wrote love letters to him and told him she couldn’t wait until they could be alone again, married and on their own.

The details are hazy, the story one fractured by memories not as strong as they once were, possible family biases, maybe a bit of resentment and a whole lot of “he said, she said.” What is known is they married, he did something that hurt her deeply, her family chased him off with a shotgun and she came home with a 2-month old baby and soon to be divorced, something not often heard of at that time.

The baby was born with the last name of Hakes, but a line was struck through that name and it was eliminated, one might say. When the divorce was final the baby’s last name became Robinson, his mother’s maiden name, and stayed that way, even when she became an Allen through a new marriage, years later. Family lore, accurate or not, says her family wouldn’t allow the little boy to have his father’s last name. So, the baby, my grandfather, was Hakes by blood but not by name.

Raising a son alone, so young, with a broken heart and maybe added shame, must have been close to impossible, even with the help of her family. I often wonder how those events shaped her inner being, how it maybe led her to throw up walls that it took years to let down, if she ever did.

It seems when we get older we are told new stories about family members, or more of the story or maybe we just listen better and find out what we had always thought was the full story really wasn’t.

More pieces to the puzzle of the story of my great aunt, taken away from her family to live in a mental hospital and then a nursing home were recently given to me, correcting my belief that she was placed in the home at a young age. Instead, she was apparently closer to 30 when her parents had her committed and one reason was the fear she would harm my dad, who was about three or four at the time.

And she wasn’t really abandoned there, as I had previously thought. Instead, she withdrew into herself after years of odd behavior and her parents felt she was safer in the hospital. They also had limited income and only one vehicle to visit her with or bring her home.

So while I heard new information about my great aunt’s story recently, the story that remains a mystery for most of our family is what really led to my great-grandmother Blanche leaving Howard Hakes. It’s not really a topic you bring up when meeting distant relations only at family funerals every few years.

“Hey, so whatever happened with that whole divorce thing with Blanch and Howard anyhow?” you can’t simply ask. Or, “Was that Howard a real jerk or what’s the real story?”

It wouldn’t exactly be polite dinner (or funeral) conversation.

There are the family “rumors”, of course. He liked his parties, women, and alcohol, was the one rumor. Blanche, had finally had enough, some say, and she left Waverly, NY, considered the “big city” back then in the early 1900s and returned to her family’s farm with her young son, Walter, who happens to be my grandfather.

It’s always a bit awkward to write about family drama when some of those family members who might know more are still alive so I will admit that I know very little about what led to the end of the marriage. Not too mention, because it was so long ago and I never met Blanche and was only about 2 when my grandfather died, I don’t have a “dog in this fight” so to speak. I don’t see either party as an enemy or at fault, simply because I wasn’t there, therefore I truly have no idea.

What I do have is a wonder about how Blanche felt about it all, and even how Howard felt. And when you get right down to it, what did Walter feel about it?I wish he was around for me to ask.

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Whatever led to the failed marriage, it came and my grandfather was raised without knowing his father. It wasn’t until Blanche died, well after my grandfather was an adult with two adult daughters and one young son, that Howard showed back up. My dad remembers he was about 13, returning from a Boy Scout camp out,  when a man approached him in town and told him, “I’m your grandfather.”

Later that day, sitting with my grandfather on the porch of my dad’s house, now remarried and a father of other children, Howard tried to make peace with his firstborn, asking him, “Well, your first born is always your favorite, aren’t they?”

“I don’t play favorites,” my dad remembers my grandfather saying in a deep, stern voice.

My dad was the baby of the family, his sister Eleanor was the oldest and sister Doris the middle. And no, Walter wasn’t going to play favorites.

Maybe Grandpa was telling Howard he wasn’t about to accept an attempt to suggest one child should be loved over another as any type of apology for being an absent father.

Even if my grandfather couldn’t accept the failed attempt of an apology that day, some sort of peace was made. Visits were had, half-sisters were met and Howard’s funeral was even attended many years later.

Two, faded and short, letters are tucked away in a jewelry box in my parent’s room and my parents aren’t even sure where they came from. It’s clear they were written by Blanche to Howard and start with “My Love.”

“They are heartbreaking,” my mom told me one day. “She really loved him.”

And she did. Telling Howard she hoped his new job was going well and that she couldn’t wait “until you are here in my bedroom with me again.”

Gasp! In her bedroom?

Scandalous stuff for 1900.

Maybe so scandalous some in my family might not think I should air the family’s “dirty laundry.”

But, if we are honest, every family has their own dirty laundry and some of that dirty laundry isn’t really dirty, but just heartbreak caused by broken people.

Posted in everyday musings

I was ‘that mom.’ September 10 on 10

This is part of a monthly 10 on 10 series where a group of photographers share ten photos from either the previous month or one day on the tenth day of the month. Please see the bottom of the post for the link to the next blogger in the circle.

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I was “that mom” at our local library one day at the beginning of August. I was at the library for a bench dedication that my newspaper editor husband had asked me to take photos of because he couldn’t attend.

The sky had opened up and was releasing a deluge of water, pooling it in the front yard of the library, next to the sidewalk when we got there.

My daughter had put on her rain boots before we left and I knew she’d absolutely love jumping in that puddle on our way back out. She is a puddle jumping junkie. When we came out of the library I told her she could jump in the puddle, envisioning quick leaps in place and stomping feet. But this is my child we are talking about and her older brother was there so I should have known better.

Before I knew it I had two kids soaked almost head to toe, partially from the rain and partially from puddle jumping.

A few people walked by as the pair of them jumped and there were brief grins, one stoic glance and at least two expressions from mothers that I can only describe as a mix of pity and disbelief.

I saw the strained smile on the face of one mother as she walked by and she could have been thinking a hundred different things but I chuckled thinking she might be the mom I sometimes feel guilty I’m not – the one who winces at the sight of disorder and mess, the organized mother, the one who likes her children like her vehicle -clean and efficient.

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“Good luck with that mess. I’d never let my kids do that,” I imagined her thinking to herself.

Of course, she might have been thinking “I should have let my kids do that when they asked.” Or “I wish I had been able to have children so I could watch them jump like that.” Or something not even related to my puddle splashing children.

I’ll never know what that mom was thinking but this mom was thinking how happy she was that her kids were being kids and didn’t need electricity to do it.

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The children who walked by were putting their heads down and dutifully followed their parents or grandparents, walking briskly past all the fun to get to their cars. I bet they were secretly wishing their parents would let them jump in mud puddles.

Hey, at least those children who were walking were walking out of a library, carrying a book, experiencing life beyond a computer screen.

DSC_8992DSC_8999Maybe that’s what’s missing these days – the chance to jump in some mud puddles. I mean – come on – it’s fun, Mom and Dad! Let them jump! They can wash their clothes later. And the inside of the car? Eh, find a coat to sit them on for the drive home after they have fallen in the puddle, twice, like my kid did.

Perhaps I should have been more concerned about the interior of my van, but, well, my kids were having fun. Their faces had lit up. They were giggling and smiling and quite frankly we needed it that day, after a long, sometimes emotional weekend full of family losses and challenges.

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And, as usual, I took photos to remind me that, yes, kids can and should have fun by fully immersing themselves in the simple moments of life but also to remember that sometimes we have to push through the mess to find the joy.

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To continue the blog circle for this months 10 on 10 and to see some wonderful images, click over to Jennifer’s blog