Author Archives: ljexplores

My Dad


I said that Inspiration was my word for the year.  There are many people who inspire me to live a better life.  One of those people is not surprisingly my father.  My Dad is almost 92 years old.  He was born in 1920.  He lived through the depression and World War II.  He is one of the few WWII vets still alive.  He amazes me with his gusto for life.  Even now he still gets out into the world, goes out for lunch with friends, is an active member of various clubs in his community and in general is not only maintaining his quality of life but also contributing to the quality of life of others.  My Dad has been an inspiration to me in many ways but probably one of the greatest gifts he gave me is my love of photography.  My Dad gave me my first camera when I was 13 years old.  An old range finder camera he had from earlier days.  My Dad loved photography all of his life and practiced his passion during WWII on the island of Okinawa.  He had a darkroom there under very precarious circumstances and provided his fellow soldiers with snapshots of themselves that they were able to send home to family members in order to let them know and see that they were alive and o.k.  The story behind those darkroom images is unbelievable.  Anyone that know s about developing film and printing can imagine how difficult it must have been to pull that task off.  But my Dad has always been a ” get it done” kind of guy, something that has followed him even to these late years of his life. 

As I was saying, he gave me my first camera when I was 13.  As a result taking pictures has been a part of my life ever since.  I would say that it is one of the things that has defined me.  My life has been full of movement.  I have seen many places in the world.  Wanting to hold onto those places has caused me to record them with my camera.  Looking though the viewfinder has taught me from an early age to look at the world from many perspectives.  To focus on the details of life and to live that one moment, that one place or that one person in an up-close and personal way.  I would have to say that living life with a camera attached to my hand has also taught me a lot about letting go.  With all the moving around that I have done, it is hard to have lots of personal possessions.  Sure I see things in the world that I wish I could have forever but I began taking pictures of those things, places, people and learned that I didn’t really need the things themselves, I just needed to be able to record them so that in the future I could go back to them and re-live the original pleasure they gave me.  Fewer possessions in life means more freedom.  Looking through the lens has taught me to see events and people from all angles.  Above, below, from the side, straight on.  I like to think that this aspect of viewing things from many angles has allowed me to become a more tolerant and compassionate person.

Recently my father has been going through his things and in some way preparing for the inevitable.  I assume that when a person reaches the ripe old age of 92, they in some way realize that their time is limited.  My father, among many other pursuits in life, was a clock collector.  He had an amazing collection of antique clocks.  All kinds, wall clocks, mantle clocks, grandfather clocks, Coo coo  clocks, statuary clocks, pocket watches, etc…   My mother had used them as the central decorating theme in our home and when they were both younger and able to keep the clocks wound, mid-night or noon hour at my home was a thing to behold.  Clocks would be chiming, chirping and bonging from every corner of the house.  Well, recently my father and mother came to the conclusion that it was time to let the clocks go.  They didn’t want us, their children, to have to struggle to know the value and sell each of the clocks.  While my father was preparing the clocks for auction he came across something he had forgotten about….an old photographer’s light meter.  “Wynne’s Infallable Photographic Exposure Meter ”  from 1904.  He set it aside.  It would not be going to auction.  He gave it to me.    In recent years I have had to let go of many things.  Possessions, old life styles, my home and even some friendships.   But my Father has seen me through it all.  Stood by me.  Now as a last gesture he has given me something to remember that it was he who first put a camera in my hand and taught me to see the world.   So many lessons I have learned as a result of that passion passed down from father to daughter.  Last night my father asked me if I believed in the power of prayer.  He said he had been praying for God to let him live just a little longer.  He wants to see me through my challenges and difficulties.  I told him that I most definitely believed in the power of prayer.  But I also believe in all that he has already given me.  I know that no matter what, his lessons will see me through whatever comes my way.

Inspiration: My Word For The Year


I have been absent from my blog for a while.  I guess I hit a creative and emotional block and just needed some time to work through the kinks.  Halloween came and went as did Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.  Now with 2012 up and running full steam, I will try to get myself back on track.  In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I have given this year a word to live by, that word is Inspiration.  After a prolonged period of sadness, mourning and learning to let go, I have determined that this is the next step, the way I want this year to be for me and all who are a part of my life.

I began this year crocheting a prayer shawl for myself.  Usually I make these for other people but this shawl is for me, a rainbow of inspiration full of vivid & lively colors.  As I work on it I think of all the things that inspire me;  the dreams I have that still need to be realized, the people who support me in those dreams & all my hopes and desires for living a meaningful life.  I remind myself that fear, anger and hurt are depleting emotions.  They paralyze you and keep you from truly living.  Inspiration is just the opposite, no one who feels inspired can be paralyzed, it simply isn’t possible.  Inspired people are people in motion.  Their excitement for what they are doing drives them forward as they make their heart’s desires happen.  This is my year to attempt to live in this way.  My shawl will help me remember this when and if the paralyzing emotions try to take hold of me.

As it happens serendipity crossed my path recently with the sole intention of reaffirming this plan of action of mine.  This past weekend I was visiting a dear friend from college who I had lost with the passage of time.  She and I have found that we have just as much common ground now, if not more, than what we had way back in college.  She lives in Chicago and we decided to go to the city for a day of art, photography and food.  we happened upon a store that sold beautiful creations from rocks, geodes, fossils and semi-precious stones.  I just had to go into that shop !  The colors and the pieces displayed in the windows called to me.  As we were looking around we both asked questions about different pieces displayed.  We were just about to leave when a necklace caught my eye.  It was transparent but within it held wisps of color…some of my favorites…Purple/amethyst and  turquoise green/blue.   These colors swam in the transparency of the stone like water plants swaying with the tide.  I had to ask about this piece and of course as all stones do, this one too had its meaning, its significance.  The shop keeper explained that this stone represented spirituality, health and Inspiration.    SOLD !!!!

I had just been telling my friend about my shawl and in fact had promised to teach her and her daughter to crochet.  I was feeling inspired just reconnecting with my dear friend.  I had to have this necklace not only because it represented the particular journey I want to follow this year but also to symbolize friendship and the incredible inspiration that a friend can be.  Thank You Marita.

I would have to say that with this one small step, I have begun my New Year.

Hello 47


Happy Birthday to me,  Happy Birthday to Me,  Happy Birthday dear Meeeee,  Happy Birthday to ME!

Well here is my post to welcome my new year.     I googled the meaning of the number 47 and there was some pretty far out stuff but I was looking for the opptomistic side of this new beginning year and what I found that pleased me was:

The first book of the Bible, Genesis, begins with these words…In the beginning….   It then goes on to narrating the beginning of the world as we know it.

Verse Number 47 says simply this:  ” And God saw that it was good ”

I am hoping that this will be a good omen to the beginning of my 47th year…that it will be an expression of this new chapter of my life and that when God looks at my progress he will be able to say ”  It was good ”

For the moment I will begin this new year with a practice I have been following since I began this Self Portrait….

Here it is..produced by pummelvision:    Hello 47

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words


We have all heard this expression before and it is more than true.  However, no picture speaks the same thousand words to everyone.  We all bring to viewing anything and everything something of the person we ourselves are.  As we stand or sit before any picture, we see our own feelings, experience our own intuition, see a reflection of ourselves or we project our own experiences and beliefs onto the subject.

This is a picture of me.  I will say no more.  I am wondering what you see when you look at it ???

Playing With Squirrels


Yesterday I found myself yet another day at dreamland lake.  I had a lot of stuff to think about and dreamland lake is one of my local Meccas for thinking.  The temperatures have cooled quite a bit in recent days but with the sun shining it was a beautiful day to be outside.  I laid my thinking blanket on the ground and layed down to look up into the trees.  This reminds me how small I really am, how big the world really is and how transient life is.  It certainly helps to put problems in perspective.  The beauty of nature just kind of seeps into your mind while you watch the branches sway, it lulls you into a peaceful place, frees your mind a little of the pressures of daily life and if that doesn’t allow for space for solutions to problems to creep in, than at least it allows your mind a parenthesis, a pause from the pressure of worry.  While I layed there watching the trees and the sky, the sun broke through a small gap and I raised my hand as if to capture it and hold it for a while. The act of trying to hold light in my grasp, an impossible task, helped me to realize how many things in life just cannot be controlled, held or owned.  I studied my hand there in the light for a while and thought of all the things I use my hands for and how grateful I was to have hands to be able to do all the things I love to do.  Being thankful for the small things we take for granted also helps us to achieve perspective over the many things in life that are simply out of our control.  It was good to remember these simple truths.

As time went by and I was just meditating in the shade, pondering all these things I am saying here when Nature decided, I guess, that I was getting a little too deep and took it upon herself to lighten the mood.  She sent me a friend to remind me about the importance of play in life.   Out of the corner of my eye I saw my new friend skitter by and I looked up to see him trying to engage my attention.  He was not running away from me, although he kept a watchful eye, but rather doing all that he could to make me take notice.   He was running up the trunks of trees and skittering across the branches that were above my head and yes, he was even chattering at me, almost in a scolding tone if you can believe it !   I almost felt like he was saying  ” what are you doing laying there deep in thought when the sun is shining and the weather is perfect ???  ”   ” Come and play with me ! ”

At first he was skittish.  Staying at a safe distance while chattering away non-stop.

But as I snapped picture after picture of him, he got used to me being there and he got bolder.  He held still and I moved in closer.

We played like this for quite a while going round and around the trees of Dreamland lake, he chattering away and me obediently following and snapping pictures.   I don’t know what he was saying to me..but he definitely did not want me to be laying there deep in thought instead of appreciating the beauty of the day and the opportunity to play.

Then……..He got bored or tired of the game, I don’t know which.   I guess there is a time for everything.  A time to play and a time to rest.

So I left him to relax on the tree branch and thought how unfair it was that he pulled me out of my state of meditation only to then bail on our game.  🙂  But with a renewed sense of purpose and energy I walked back into real life and went to photograph the ducks.   They had been squawking at me all afternoon anyway so I decided to give them the attention they had been seeking.

When I left I remembered trying to hold the sun in my hand.  That was impossible but equally impossible was holding onto melancholy while surrounded by so much beauty and life.  I learned this from my friend the squirrel.

Spotlight: Alex in Wanderland


I woke up this morning to be reminded of another friend that is following her passions in a very exciting way.  Her name is Alex and she recently graduated from college.  With that done and behind her she set off to make her dreams come true.  She combines her skills of Diving, Travel and Photography to see the world both land and sea from her own very unique perspective.  She funds her work by teaching diving classes all over the world and getting freelance underwater photo jobs.  She also has her own travel blog that I am sure appeals to other young travelers looking to see the world on a shoe string budget.  She is living the dream.  Her dream.   I Love it !

Spotlight: Vinnie and Feed The Homeless Block Party


A little bit ago I was talking about opportunities that come our way and often go unnoticed.  I have made it my passion to not allow this to happen to me and I am LOVING it !  There is a man named Vinnie here in town, he and his wife own a BBQ restaurant, for 10 years now they have made it their goal to sponsor a block party to feed the homeless.  Vinnie works hard to get the funding for this event by also sponsoring a Father’s day car show where all the proceeds go to the block party.  He also has gotten local people to come and offer their hearts, hands and services to help make it all happen.  My friend David Lee offers his DJ services for music and audio for the performers that come to entertain and through his involvement is how I learned of the event.   My contribution is actually very minimal, I just go full of enthusiasm and support for the event.  I help where and when I can and if nothing else I am a smiling participant in all the days events.  I feel happy and fortunate to be able to be a part of it all.  This is Vinnie:

The Block Party took place on a beautiful August day , the weather could not have been more pleasant.  I sat down in the middle of everything and got my camera out to record all the smiles that were absolutely everywhere.  The event ended with many people receiving blessings from the different groups of young people that came to provide their own unique kind of ministry.  They blessed me too and I truely felt blessed.  I didn’t know any of these people and I don’t know how well they may or may not have known one another but the fellowship that was being experienced there that day was Amazing.  It reaffirmed my conviction to not let opportunities pass me by where I can see humanity at its absolute best.

100 Pictures:  Here are a bunch of the pictures that I took that day.  There are many, as they scroll by you may not want to see them all but pause your busy lives for just a few images and see what I saw that day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Follow Your Passions


Life presents us with many opportunities.  The problem is we often don’t have our eyes open and they slip by unnoticed.  I said that this blog was going to be about living life fully and I have come to the conclusion that the people that are living their lives fully are the ones that are following their passions.  It isn’t always easy to follow your passions, sometimes people think that that kind of life is very self-centered, or sometimes they don’t respect the things that impassion you.  It takes courage to stay the path and be true to yourself.  I have many passions in life, I have loved journaling and reading and history and I have had a Camera in my hands since I was 13 and my Dad first started teaching me about taking pictures with a 35mm range finder…all manual nothing automatic, not even a light meter.  But my most recent passion is learning about the world I live in and the people that share this time and space with me.  I love to hear people’s stories the joyful and the sorrowful.  I love to observe and be a part of the lives of people that are doing what they love.  I respect the ones that stand tall, walk their talk and live life.

I have a cousin that has collected comic books for his entire life ( he is 50+ now ).  He has remained strong in his passion about comic books even in the face of people who made it clear that they felt comic books were a lesser form of writing.  My cousin has amassed a collection that I am sure is worth its weight in gold not to mention the historical value.  He is an artist in his own right and has through his passion collected and preserved a piece of our history.  We often take for granted the little bits and pieces that make up the fiber of our Superman, Spiderman, The Fantastic Four…The battle of good against evil.  The immortal and the mortals fighting the good fight.   The lack of tolerance and understanding that our superheroes have often had to live with.   I have another friend that has collected for many years of his life, Coca-cola memorabilia.  Again he is a person that has amassed and preserved a part of our history.  Coca-cola is a huge industry that has always been on the cutting edge and because of the creative talent in the company they have often shaped our lives in ways we may not even recognize.   Their advertising campaigns through the decades have shaped the way we have fun.  The present image that we all take for granted of Santa Claus was developed and promoted by Coca-cola.  Their logo and beverage has traveled around the world and taken our culture to the farthest corners of our planet. This friend has put together a piece of history and is now looking for a way to make it available to others and share the fun of looking at our lives through one piece of our pop-culture..pop as in Popular 🙂  I have a nephew that has worked hard following his passion and has recently achieved his Doctorate in Medieval Spanish Literature.  He preserves a portion of history through his study and teaching, helping others to see how much and how little we humans have changed over the centuries.   In the time that I have been here in my home town, I have found people that are following their passions.  It seems sometimes that they are everywhere!  I know someone that is my age and has joined the local women’s Roller Derby Team.  I know someone else who loves to collect and restore old cars.  My father has collected antique clocks over his lifetime and he is a virtual fountain of information regarding the history of ” Time”  he also happens to be one of the few remaining WWII veterans and has found that their seems to be renewed interest coming from people who are anxious to hear Veteran’s stories before they have all left our presence.  I have a sister that is passionate about horses.  She always was from the earliest years of her childhood but it wasn’t until the second half of her life that she had the opportunity to build upon that dream.  What happened ?  She built a horse farm that is beautiful and charming and a joy to go to..because she is there and because she is so fulfilled by this passion that she shares it freely with all around her.  We have all benefitted from her following her dream.   Each person’s passion is different.  But when they follow it, it seems to filter down to the rest of us and we all benefit.

When our passions are not popular and we feel the need to defend them from people who try to diminish them, we have to remember that we are not alone.  Many before us have had to defend what they love.  The impressionists that have come to be so beloved and popular to recent generations, were at their time terribly disrespected.  Their art was considered  ” low ” art  in contrast to ” high” art.  High art followed the elements of design and composition and had acceptable themes, like Religion, Mythology and Politics and State.  Art that chose subject themes like nature, still lifes, and quiet moments of life such as the impressionists chose, not to mention their tendency to push limits regarding light, color and composition was considered of lesser value both in money and artistic talent…but thanks to these passionate artists we moved from having art that was completely contracted to having art that was created through inspiration and personal experience.   Today we create freely because others were passionate and defended their passion.

People that follow their passions are happier and healthier.  They don’t wonder why their lives are missing something because they aren’t missing anything.  They are being true to themselves.  These are the people that others want to be around because their enthusiasm for life is contageous.  So my hope for myself and anyone and everyone is that we all find that which makes us feel passionate and follow it with every fiber of our beings, this will lead to us all feeling happier and more generous in our dealings with others.

Spotlight: The Journal Ladies Unexpected Surprises


Sometimes unexpected pleasures come along and the feeling they bring is one of inner joy.  I have been journaling for 25 years.  I love journals, pens, colored pencils, really anything that I find that I can have fun with in my journal.  I love to draw things and stick and paste.  This is an exercise that has helped me along in life for many years.  And as much as I love to work in my journal I also love finding new journals.  I love leather most of all and I love the moleskin style journal for its size, line spacing or blank page and the flexibility of its soft cover.  Besides a moleskin journal feels and looks like a journal should.  🙂   However, having said that, I do love to find unique journals of all kinds and varieties.  This past weekend was what is called here in Decatur, The Decatur Celebration.  It is a very large street fair event which brings a carnaval to town as well as many craft and art vendors.  They set up 6 or more large stage areas all around the downtown and have bands performing on all stages for 3 days straight.  I enjoyed this event for many reasons, the first is probably because I am back in my home town and enjoying becoming familiar with all the goings on here.  Secondly, Decatur like so many small cities/towns in the USA is trying very hard to promote it’s downtown and keep it alive.  The huge superstores while convenient in many ways, are taking their toll on the small businesses of small town America.  So I am happy to involve myself in the activities that make survival possible for all.    As I was wandering the downtown area, visiting the food vendors and listening to music and feeling one with the crowd, I began to wander down the streets where the crafts were displayed.  There were many things to see, some were more interesting than others but one stood out in my mind and heart.   The Journal Ladies.  When I stumbled upon this I almost walked by without looking but then my eyes spied all the vintage book coverings that they use for their journals.  The sentence that popped into my head was ”  What a GREAT idea !!! ”   The journal ladies are a mother and daughter team that work together, the daughter in Georgia and the mother here in Illinois, to create unique and beautiful books using recycled vitage books.  They use the cover and select some of the interesting pages and excerpts from the book and sprinkle in blank acid free pages for journaling.    Well I couldn’t praise them more.  How many journalers will enjoy looking at pictures or reading excerpts from well loved books, while they consider what to write that day?  Really the proverbial ” sky is the limit ” phrase hits my mind when I think of all the ways one could adapt and enjoy journals like these. 

I of course got 2.  The first one I picked out, hits home with the moment I am living.  It is an 81/2 x 11 size journal made from an old Time Life book on ”  The Age of Exploration ”  Really !!!  It is so perfect I am at a loss for words.  The text and picture plates these women left in the book inspire one to explore their world.  What more could a journaler ask for ?   Well I would like to promote the work that these women are doing and to give them my two thumbs up on the creative niche they have found.

Go take a look at their web site to see the beautiful work they do and to see where they will be selling their wares next.   And to all my fellow journalers, I guarentee you will love their books/journals.

Reach Out To The World


I love technology.  This is a true statement.  I use technology as the tool that it was meant to be.  I blog, I Facebook, I eBay, I surf.  And while all of this is true and I get a great deal of enjoyment from it…it is equally true that whenever something new comes into our lives the pendulum of balance swings hard and we find ourselves indulging in excess.  This goes on for a while until we feel the strain and imbalance of it all and then we try to even things out a bit.  I work in a museum and therefore I enjoy preserving the past.  There are all kinds of ways to preserve the past and the one I want to address here, is the fast dying habit of letter writing and post cards.  I just have to say that while technology beats the snail mail in terms of efficiency and speed, it cannot replace the fun experienced when you find something tangible and beautiful in your home mail box.  I hate to see the nations postal systems relegated to the service of fun only but every little bit counts.  I discovered a web site, actually through a book that I was reading, that is trying to preserve the age-old tradition of the postcard.  Many people collect both the post card and the stamps that usually accompany them.  What better way to reach out and touch the world then by sending and receiving beautiful and unique pictures.  The web site I am referring to is :  On this site you can register yourself and sign up to be part of a postcard swap lottery.  They provide you with addresses of participants all around the world and when you have sent off your post cards and the recipient has received them and enters your ID number to register the receipt of your card, then your name enters in the lottery to be a recipient.   I am new to this and have sent off 4 postcards and now I am waiting for my recipients to register them..I have sent postcards to Russia, Germany, California & Taiwan.   You can even do direct swaps with those that choose that option which allows you to enter into a more pen-pal type experience.  This is a choice not an obligation.  I can’t wait for my daughter to get back from her vacation in Spain, so I can sign her up and get her Reaching out to the World.  And as I sit here writing this I am struck at how technology is also helping to preserve the old ways.  After all we couldn’t have this same kind of postal swap without the internet and the web pages that help us get things going.   So there you go, internet holding hands with snail mail.  🙂  I like it !