Posted in creative tuesday, everyday musings

Creative Tuesday: The loss of time to be bored may be killing our creative buzz

My kid flops on the couch on his stomach, face smashed into the cushions and lets out an exasperated sigh.

He turns his face toward me, eyelids heavy and his words are full of whine:

“I’m sooooooo booooooored.”

While I once thought filling my children’s days with various activities was the key to keeping them out of trouble, and their mind engaged, I’ve started to embrace what I’ve heard others talk about – the importance of allowing ourselves to be bored, especially if we are a creative person.

That’s right – actually having nothing to do can be a blessing to us, not a curse.

When we are bored we stop, look around us, and find inspiration. When we are bored our brains wander and when our brains wander, they often stumble on creative, interesting ideas.

It’s no surprise that some of the greatest innovations of our time came during a time in life when things moved slower and there were fewer distractions from technology.

Technology is a double-edged sword for creativity. It benefits us by connecting us to so many, getting our creations seen by others, and by adding a different dynamic to how we create. But technology also hampers us by filling our brains with so much information and distraction that we rarely slow down to simply listen to our own hearts and visions. And if we are too wrapped up in technology it will actually completely suffocate our creative voice.

Many of us are guilty of being addicted to social media. As easily as we can find ourselves trapped in a Youtube spiral (where we jump from video to video until we are bleary-eyed) we can find ourselves falling down the rabbit hole of comparison when we follow several artists in our particular medium. Even if we are not comparing when we are on social media, we are easily distracted on sites like Facebook and Instagram, so much so that we may find ourselves wasting most of our day on our phone or sitting at our computer and that is time we could have been using to create and truly experience life.

I recently downloaded a book into my Kindle by Manoush Zomorodi, a journalist who found herself face-to-face with boredom in 2007 when her first child was born and never wanted to sleep. The iPhone had just started to become popular (can you believe it’s only been about 10 or 11 years since the iPhone/smartphone started taking over our world?!) and she found herself walking several miles a day to help the baby sleep. As she walked her mind wandered and she began to dream of what she would do when she could sleep and work again. She came up with ideas of how she could work at home while also being a mother and all went well until she started using the smartphone everyone else was using; to help make her life and work easier.

She found that every “down moment” she had was filled with wasting time on the phone and that left little time for imagining or thinking about new ideas. So when it came time to create for the podcast she had conceived while at home with her baby, her brain was empty. She realized that one reason she didn’t have any more new ideas was that she was never bored. She never gave her brain any time to rest.

After talking to neuroscientists about what happens when we are bored, she learned it is during those down times that our brains create new neural connections. When our brains are quiet they look back at our lives, create a personal narrative, and make plans for our future and for future projects, she was told.

The problem is that many of us never give ourselves time to be quiet and let our brain decompress, Zomorodi points out. We keep our brains busy constantly. We don’t simply watch a television show anymore. We watch a show while doing reports on our computer or listening to a podcast and scrolling through Facebook. Not only is this detrimental to us from a mental standpoint, but it’s also detrimental to us physically, for a variety of reasons, which Zomorodi details in her book and in her TED Talk.

When it comes to creativity we need those moments of boredom even more. We need periods of boredom to think, to imagine and to hear our inner, creative voice.

Many of us, myself included, equate boredom to laziness. This could not be further from the truth, as Zomorodi learned and many researchers are learning. And beyond what “experts” are learning, you can learn it yourself.

You’re not being lazy when you’re contemplating, working out creative ideas or thinking about what you hope for your future.

You’re letting your brain have the space it needs to open doors to creativity.

To hear more about Zomorodi’s findings, you can see her TED talk below or find her book, “Bored and Brilliant: How Spacing Out Can Unlock Your Most Productive and Creative Self.”

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Posted in everyday musings, honest stuff, keeping it real

The teachable moments of parenting fails

DSC_1871“I’m hungry.”

It’s not WHAT she said that drove me crazy, it’s WHEN she said it.

It was midnight.

Bedtime had been stretched out insanely long for months now, something I hoped to remedy soon, and my last straw was being asked to get a snack at midnight.

By a 3-year old.

By my 3-year old.

Right then I acted like a very mature, 40-year old woman and flounced out of the room and told her if she wanted a snack she could go get one BY HERSELF!!!

I was done with dealing with hungry toddlers whining at me in the middle of the night. I was done with 11-year olds staying awake way past when they were supposed to be and being grumpy the next morning. And for that moment I was done with never seeming to have a break and dare I say it? With being Mom.

I shut the bathroom door and pouted in the dark for maybe two minutes before she opened the door and I remembered we still hadn’t got a lock for that blasted door.

She was whimpering at me in the dark and looking pitiful and of course I felt even more guilty about it all so I led her to my room where I knew there was one of those applesauce squeezable packs, tucked away in my purse for those days we are out somewhere and she says she’s hungry (this child is always hungry). I gave it to her, reminding myself she’s just a little girl and she can’t help it if she gets hungry at midnight. Even I get hungry at midnight sometimes.

It also wasn’t her fault that her mom hadn’t stopped her and her brother’s playing and told them it was time for bed much earlier in the evening than I had.

I took her to bed, telling her I loved her, and then I laid in the dark after she was asleep and felt guilty for yelling at her and her brother right at bedtime. I kissed her head so many times I’m surprised I didn’t wake her.

5a4c8-dsc_5772Then I tiptoed into my son’s room, where he had already fallen asleep, and kissed his head. Suddenly, in that darkened room, a sliver of light from the street leaking in, he wasn’t 11 anymore in my eyes. He was still five and innocent and little and all I wanted to do was scoop him up and hold him against me.

But he’s too long now and I knew if I attempted to scoop him up I’d fall over backwards and drop him and I on the floor, cut open his head and we would have to call an ambulance. That’s how the brain of a mom works – we take a simple idea and blow it into the most scary outcome we can imagine.

Being a parent is hard. Harder than I ever imagined. We all have tough days and boy do we blow it sometimes. Even when we blow it we love them and they love us. We all make mistakes and fall right on our faces in this parenting journey.

Maybe you feel you have failed as a parent too. We know we are not alone, yet we often feel we are alone because parents fear sharing their fails. We fill our social media feeds, and even our personal interactions, with images and tales of our children’s accomplishments and our successes. We rarely share about our blunders.

No one wants to admit when they have made a mistake and certainly not to other parents who we think have it all together. The truth is, no parent has it all together – no matter what their highlights may show. Maybe as parents we need to be a little more public with those moments we fail in, be brave and show other parents they aren’t alone in their struggle.

What makes us good parents is that we recognize we are not perfect, we apologize when we need to, and are not afraid to admit our mistakes. In fact, maybe not being afraid to make those mistakes makes us even better parents.

When our children know we can admit mistakes then they know that, yes, mistakes are always going to be made, but we can always learn how to improve from them.

And when we admit our mistakes to other parents we can learn from each other.

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Posted in Storytelling Photography

A little snow must fall. . .eventually | Athens, PA Photographer

You would have thought we had never seen snow before the way Jonathan and I quickly dressed ourselves and the baby and headed outside into the cold.

“Quick! Before it melts!” I called as I buttoned Grace’s new Christmas-styled coat.

With a winter that was featuring temperatures way above normal I knew the day could warm up fast and turn our yard into mud instead of a winter wonderland.

I also knew the forecasts were calling for record breaking warm temperatures for Christmas and we wouldn’t be having a white Christmas, so we’d better enjoy the snowy scene while we could.

I placed Grace in the slushy white snow in the side yard and watched her look down at it with a confused look on her face. She’d been too young last year to really notice the snow but this year I watched her poke her finger in it on the grass, my shoe, her brother’s shoe. She seemed to be genuinely puzzled by the cold substance on the ground.

I’m sure it will be another year before she really enjoys the snow the way her brother does, building snow forts and snow men (though we’ve never actually been able to make a real snow man).

As for when we will get any measurable snow again in Pennsylvania – your guess is as good as mine.

Posted in personal reflections, Storytelling Photography

Why documentary photography? | Athens, Pennsylvania photographer

Sometimes I want to give up on photography that speaks to my heart so I can make a quick buck with some quick poses but then I remember why I love lifestyle, or what I also call storytelling, photography.

It’s real.

It’s emotive.

It tells stories.

It’s memories frozen in time, not poses.

One of my favorite, newly found photographers is Lisa Tichane and she spoke at Click Away, a photographers’ conference, this Fall about why she incorporates movement in her family photography.

If I look at this image, (posed portrait photo) what does it tell me other than look how sweetly they were posing for the photographer? . . . this isn’t real. They are playing a role. As a photographer what story am I telling here except the photographer was there? . . As a family photographer this is not what I want to provide my clients. I want to create memories for them. Memories that wll remind them who they really are in 2015, not the fact that I was there.

She’s right. I have frames full of photos a family member used to give us every year for Christmas. It was the only gift she ever gave and it was her children looking uncomfortable and unnatural in posed portraits. I don’t want this to sound like a complaint, because the images were a kind gesture and we appreciated them each year. However, even though the lighting was lovely the only thing those photos tell me about her children is they know how to follow directions and be forced to smile.
I couldn’t tell from those photos that the youngest was full of crazy fun or the second oldest loved all things sparkly and shiny or that the oldest was a sports fanatic.
Eventually these portraits made me uncomfortable, partially because the family members no longer spoke to us and partially because the expression of the one girl was so full of discomfort I felt bad she’d been forced to pose.
I put those images in a closet and filled my walls with images of my children being children. There is one of my son standing in my parents driveway, wearing my dad’s fishing hat and another of him standing in a pool of light in a local creek.  
There are others of him smiling at the camera,but none of them were forced and I didn’t ask for the smile.

The photos on my wall tell a story for me of a boy who likes to explore the fields at his grandparents’ house. They tell a story of a family who isn’t always perfect, but is loved, is trying, is striving to be better.

I have images of smiling faces, but almost none of them were obtained by asking for them, they came naturally, they were gifts, given to me in naturally happy moments.

Most importantly, the images I treasure most tell a story and that story is what I want to remember as the years pass.

“What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.”
— Karl Lagerfeld

Posted in Storytelling Photography, Weekly Favorites

Favorite images for the week | Elmira NY Family Photography

It was a fairly typical week with some unusual adventures. I don’t have many photos of the unusual adventures for this week’s weekly favorites, but I do of the typical, everyday life.
This is my view much of the day and I like it. My daughter is often clinging to my leg, especially if it is close to nap or bedtime. I love looking down and seeing the top of her cute little head and her chubby fingers holding on to the leg of my pants.

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My son spends many afternoons in his Lego room, which used to be our second living room. Over the years it somehow became his room to build Lego creations. And the Legos keep adding up too. Now that he has a little sister he gates the room off and has made it his little haven. In addition to his Legos he also houses his art supplies, which is sister likes to throw around the room if she gets the chance._DSC0033

My son had a sleepover with his friend and while a trip to the doctor for his sister wasn’t in the plans, it was fun to explore downtown Elmira after the appointment.

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Grace likes to wait for her brother after school and her latest favorite place is in the front seat, grasping the steering wheel.

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Her first word might have been daddy, but I think “dog” was a close second. Here she is following ours. She loves this little, old dog. She hugs him and leans her head against him as he licks her face.

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I hope I can keep her as interested as she is now in vegetables. Here she is stealing lettuce out of the fridge.

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