Monday, November 19, 2012

Caring for Life's Golf Balls

Confused by the title of this blog post? I understand. I would be perplexed by its meaning as well. I'm hoping that after reading the following story, you will understand its meaning.

A friend on Facebook shared this story today and it's worth passing along to others here. While I tried to track down the source, I was unsuccessful so it will just be cited to Anonymous for now.
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous "yes."
The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided. "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions -- and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff.
"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued. "There is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

"If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

"Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

"Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."

One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the beer represented. The professor smiled and said, "I'm glad you asked. The beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend."
This photo was taken during one of my favorite days this year, the day I spent exploring Laguna Beach with parents and sister. It's a reminder that we all need to stop focusing on the sand and pebbles in our lives and make space and time for life's golf balls.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Saintly Giving

In St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, there is a shrine to the first American-born saint, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Born in 1774 in New York City, Seton's family was Episcopalian. After the early death of her husband, Seton converted to Catholicism and founded the first Catholic school in the United States, located in Emmitsburg, Maryland, to support herself and her five children. Later, she established the first congregation of religious sisters in the United States called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph.

Inspired by the works of St. Louise de Marillac and St. Vincent de Paul, Mother Seton as she became known tasked her religious community to the education and care of the children of the poor. Her canonization, or sainthood, is based on three miracles attributed to Seton's intercession healing three people with terminal illnesses.

After watching hours of footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey this week, I can't help but think of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Like her, we must care for those less fortunate, such as our East Coast neighbors who have lost their homes and businesses due to this destructive hurricane.

During tonight's telethon on the NBC network, singer Mary J. Blige moved me with her performance of the song, "The Living Proof." Let's help those struggling right now recover and rebuild. To help those impacted by Hurricane Sandy, visit this great resource page by NBC News for support and donation opportunities.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Presidential Gardening Wisdom

Among the vegetable plants and bushes of the White House kitchen garden, this plaque resides featuring a gardening pearl of wisdom from one of our nation's most innovative gardeners and President of the United States -- Thomas Jefferson.
...the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another; and instead of one harvest, a continued one throughout the year.
Here's another presidential garden-related pearl of wisdom from our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln:
We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.
Got to keep looking for the roses in the thorn bushes, instead of focusing on the rose's thorns.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Red and Blue South Lawn Fountain

Did you know that the President of the United States lives in a National Park?

The White House grounds and surrounding parkland are designated as a National Park and maintained by the U.S. National Park Service. That's why you'll often see uniformed park rangers milling with Secret Service agents throughout the White House and Ellipse areas.

It is also the reason why the landscaping is so beautiful around the White House. Each season, the gardens and plants are refreshed with colorful plants like these flowers surrounding the South Lawn fountain. The red flowers are a perfect contrast to the bright blue water of the fountain.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Real Oval Office

Besides being a photography fan, I'm also a political junkie. While I don't enjoy the barbs and ugliness of political discourse these days in the United States, I am a lover of the theory of the democratic process and the practice of American politics done well.

As such, some of my favorite books, films and television shows are set in the world of politics. "The West Wing" is my favorite TV show of all time, which is saying a lot since I'm a avid television watcher and have collected several favorite shows over the years.

My love of "The West Wing" is due to two reasons:

  1. I'm a devotee of its creator and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and his commitment to forcing his characters to "walk-and-talk" smart, thought-provoking dialogue; and
  2. I wish Martin Sheen's character on the program, President Josiah Bartlet, was a real U.S. president, so I could vote for him.
(NOTE: A close third reason is that I wish Josh Lyman was also real person, because I would date him, but that's another story for another blog post.)

After watching (and re-watching) seven seasons of "The West Wing," I feel very familiar with the President's Oval Office. The show actually created a replica of the real Oval Office in a sound stage in Los Angeles as a set.

During those "The West Wing" marathons, I never imagined that I would one day be standing this close to the real Oval Office. You can see the exterior of the Oval Office in today's photograph. Just down this path and to the left is the door the President uses to enter and leave his executive office. From this position, you can see the curvature of the room that makes its oval shape.

While President Obama was at Camp David during my visit, a co-worker who visited the day before just missed seeing him enter the Oval Office during her White House garden tour. To be only steps away from such an important room is very humbling and awe-inspiring.

Once home following the White House garden tour, I felt compelled to watch another "The West Wing" episode and hear that soaring theme song one more time.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monumental View from White House South Portico

Ever wondered what the First Family sees when they step out on the balcony of the South Portico? Just a few national monuments. No big deal.

Taken with my back towards the White House back door, this photograph captures what the U.S. President and his or her family would see every day -- the Washington Monument on the left, the Jefferson Memorial in the distance and the South Lawn fountain in the center.

In between the fountain and the South Portico is a large lawn area where the First Family hosts events like the annual Easter Egg Roll and the location where the President's helicopter, Marine One, takes off and lands.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

View from Inside the Fence

See all the people standing in front of the South Portico? Yeah, all of those people -- my fellow tour attendees -- made my White House garden tour a challenging photo excursion.

People were everywhere. Just to take this photograph, I had to muscle in between visitors who had stopped to take a photo of themselves with the White House in the background. It was the most common photo set-up of the tour -- lots photos taken of people with the White House.

I, on the other hand, didn't even take one image of myself with the White House. I wasn't interested.

All of my photos focused only on the building, gardens and fountains a part of the South Lawn. This postcard composition of the White House is the only one I took that included people just because there was no way to avoid them. Sigh.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Touring the White House Gardens

Today's photo is not of any ordinary white house. This is an up-close and personal photo of "the" White House -- the official residence and office of the President of the United States and the President's family. This is the residence at which all U.S. presidents since our 2nd President of the United States John Adams lived.

How did I get this close to the White House you ask?

Twice a year, the White House South Lawn is opened to the public for free self-guided tours of its gardens during the autumn and spring seasons. Luckily, I was able to secure a ticket today for the last day of the fall season tours.

So, I spent this Saturday morning walking around (and photographing) the South Lawn and seeing the famous Rose Garden, Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the White House Kitchen Garden and much more in person for the first time.

Being so close to the South Portico or  the"back door" of this infamous house was such a thrill. It was also a bit surreal as well. In the coming days, I'll share more of what I saw and learned during my South Lawn stroll.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Honoring Latin American Leaders in Central Park

At the Artists' Gate entrance to Central Park located near 59th Street and Avenue of the Americas, there is a series of bronze equestrian sculptures of great Latin-American leaders. The trio join the more than 50 fountains, monuments and sculptures honoring notable historic and literary figures from around the world.

This image captures the sculpture of Jose de San Martin, an Argentine general, who helped Argentina, Chile and Peru gain independence from Spain. It is a smaller-scale replica of the original monument located in Buenos Aires, Argentina depicting the Argentine general leading his armed forces into battle.

Like many of the public artwork on display throughout Central Park, this statue was a gift from the City of Buenos Aires to the City of New York.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Roots and Wings

If I could design a logo to represent children, I would design an image of a bird sitting on a tree branch. It would remind us of one of my favorite quotations regarding the best gifts we should give children:
There are two gifts we should give our children: one is roots and the other is wings.
Like birds living in trees, we must help children build a home and life to dwell and grow. At the same time, we need to teach them how to fly like birds, to be bold, fearless dreamers who are not limited by life's conventions or even the Earth's gravity.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Angel of the Waters

The Angel of the Waters sits on top of one of the most photographed and filmed fountains in the world -- the Bethesda Fountain located in Central Park's Bethesda Terrace.

Frequently seen in movies and television shows filmed in Central Park, the angelic figure was designed by Emma Stebbins, the first woman to receive a public commission for a major work of art in NYC. The fountain's sculpture beneath the angel was designed by other Central Park architects.

Each time I visit Central Park, I'm drawn back to Bethesda Terrace and this magnificent fountain. I love how the bronze angel appears as if she is just landing where the water sprouts on top of the fountain. She seems as if she's just hovering, barely touching the water.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Creating a Childhood Wonderland

One of the most common stories I heard at the mental health consumer conference I attended this week was the story of childhood trauma. After suffering many years of mental illness and/or addition to cope with these unfortunate experiences, these brave people are working daily to face their past and continue on the path of long-term recovery. Every day, they work to be people who break the cycle of trauma in their families and communities.

While no one's childhood can be blemish-free -- a perfect childhood just isn't possible -- every adult, whether they have children of their own or not, should strive to create communities where children can live safely without fear of abuse and trauma.

Childhood is just so precious. We adults too often forget that truth and instead litter children's development years with the garbage of neglect, abuse and other preventable traumas. We owe it to the children in our lives to be more aware of our actions and words and save them the heartache and self-abuse that follows childhood trauma into adulthood.

If we too are victims of trauma, we must commit to take the steps necessary to recover from our own past traumatic experiences in order to be better parents and role models and break the cycle of trauma in our families and communities. This is not an easy or pain-free journey, but perhaps we all should be as self-reflective as the amazing people I met this week and confront the past in order to bring ourselves and children in our lives into a happier, healthier future.

I hope that the young girl in today's photograph sitting with a statue of Alice in Wonderland in Central Park is living a childhood filled with love and support and that trauma is missing from her life experiences so far. If this isn't the case, then I hope there is some adult in her life who observes the signs of trauma, mental health and substance use challenges early and provides her the recovery support and resources she needs to start healing before adulthood.

Unlike in Alice's fictional Wonderland, we don't have magic pills or cake to fix all of our problems. Instead, we must band together as a community consciously raise the next generation of young people to be loving, happy and resilient by being an example.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Thinking Shakespeare

More and more cities are placing public art displays through out downtown and business areas to draw visitors and beautify neighborhoods. People, especially tourists love photographing them.

When photographing sculptures, don't just focus on the front of the statue. Instead, walk around the piece while looking through your camera's lens and/or viewfinder  to discover new and interesting compositions. Those perspectives may be from behind, to the side or even from below the piece.

Creative positioning of your camera can result in unique views of a familiar sculpture, such as this statue of William Shakespeare in Central Park in NYC. Taking this photograph from behind the sculpture emphasizes the artist's depiction of Shakespeare in deep contemplation.

Perhaps Shakespeare is thinking of the next play he will write, or just wondering how he was going to settle his debts and support his family in Stratford-upon-Avon. I don't know. It's a mystery.

Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm Hans Christian Andersen

I've always been a lover of fairy tales. I inhaled them as a child, and now as an adult, I'm drawn to television shows and films based on those familiar stories. While the Grimm Brothers fairy tales were king in many households including mine, we also loved Hans Christian Andersen, a Danish author of such tales as "The Little Mermaid," "The Snow Queen," and my favorite of his tales, "The Ugly Duckling."

To be honest, my love of Anderson's stories is due to my love of another person -- the actor, singer, dancer and comedian Danny Kaye. My sister and I watched any movie starring Danny Kaye. We just loved his silliness and effervescence. Watching him perform always made us feel happier and more joyful.

Kaye starred with Bing Crosby in our Christmas favorite, "White Christmas," but it was his turn as Hans Christian Anderson in the 1952 fairy tale musical of Andersen's stories that stayed with me. Whenever I think of Andersen's story of "The Ugly Duckling," I always hear Kaye singing the song of that story from the film in my head. Decades later, I can still here the melody, lyrics and Kaye's voice in my memory. It's remarkable.

So when my sister and I came across this sculpture of Andersen and the Ugly Duckling in Central Park,  I needed to stop. As I photographed the statue, I reminisced about the author and his imaginative tales, but also replayed my childhood friend, Danny Kaye, singing that beloved song to a self-conscious little boy. "There once was an ugly duckling ..."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Learning A New Language

This week, I've been immersed in a new language and it's riveting. I'm not talking about a foreign language like Spanish or French, but a cultural language of shared experience.

For the past few days, I've met and learned from the most fascinating people -- persons with lived experience with mental health and substance use challenges.

They are not only consumers: they are also advocates who have revolutionized the way the world perceives -- and how health professionals treat -- people with these challenges.

Like any other fighters for civil rights, they have fought for their right to direct their own care and be a decision-maker regarding their treatment and recovery.

These inspirational people have taught me many lessons so far, as well as a new concept -- sustainable hope. Their stories and resilience reminded me that we should not just strive for flashes of hope, but make choices that sustains hope to make it last longer in our lives.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What Are You Looking At?

During photo excursions, I take a lot of photographs. And when photo trips take place during busy periods in my life, I rarely find the time to review and edit photos. As a result, I frequently forget what I've taken.

When looking through my May NYC trip photographs, I was delighted when I rediscovered this gem.

I've blogged in the past about how challenging wildlife photography can be, so when I discover that I've taken a cool portrait of an animal in the wild -- or in this case Central Park -- I was thrilled!

This "What you talkin' 'bout Willis?" look this NYC squirrel gave to the camera in this moment was priceless.   I'm happy to find it and share it with you. While it may not be award worthy, it's definitely a sign I'm making progress on learning how to time when to push the shutter button and capture animals in the wild.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Always Rediscovering NYC

When planning new trips, one can't help but reminisce about past trips. Earlier this year, I returned to one of my favorite cities -- New York City. What made this trip special was that I was able to introduce NYC to my sister for the first time.

Getting the opportunity to experience the City through her fresh eyes was such a joy. And New York is so sprawling that it is difficult to visit the same spot twice. As a tourist there, you're always discovering new sights and sounds.

On my sister's NYC bucket list was visiting American artist Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I had seen the LOVE sculpture in Free Love Park near the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but did not know that its original resides in New York.

Even though I've visited MoMA before on past trips, somehow I missed this bold and colorful sculpture standing at a corner in mid-town Manhattan. I'm pleased that this time we didn't miss it.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Conflicted Seasons

A little bit of this and a little bit of that. Here's a little bit of summer and a little bit of autumn all in the same frame.

According to my friends, the Capital Weather Gang, my neighborhood should be in peak autumn color by the end of October. I'm thinking it might be a little sooner than that, so I'm going to be keeping my camera close at hand.

When the foliage flares into color, I'm going to be ready.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Autumn is Here

Autumn is here, and the trees in Northern Virginia are changing color already. See today's image as evidence.

Good grief, autumn is here? Where has the year gone? Wasn't it just autumn?

While I'm looking forward to saying farewell to 2012, I didn't expect the year to pass so quickly. Soon enough autumn will be over and we will be greeting the holidays and the arrival of winter.

And chances are good that I'll be saying, "Good grief!" again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Around Every Corner

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, it feels like around every corner there's a national monument.

Even from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, you can still see the Washington Monument which is located in the District a good distance from the Potomac River.

It's a nice view for those resting at Arlington, and a special perspective for visitors stopping by to pay their respects.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Monuments Everywhere You Look

One of the best parts of living near the District of Columbia is that everywhere you look, you might see a historic landmark or national monument.

Whether you're driving in a car or walking around the District, at least one monument is often visible in eye-lines. As you can see in today's photograph taken at Arlington National Cemetery, I could see the United States Air Force Memorial. What you can't see here is that over other shoulder, the Washington Monument was also visible.

For landscape photographers, this is a dream scenario. In this dream, every corner could offer opportunities to frame pr position a frequently photographed monument in a new way.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Constancy of Light

I've been trying to write this post all day today. Each time I would get a moment to add a few words, I would be interrupted and I would need to place the post on hold. This evening, I received some sad news and realized that the reason this post has been in hold all day was that it needed to wait until now.

One of the joyful things about the arrival of autumn is the vibrant palette of colors that are introduced into our environment. Brilliant, warm colors like red, orange and yellow are added to our landscape, bringing light into our lives.

In truth, there isn't a season that doesn't offer us light:

  • Winter's snow reflects light;
  • Spring's bright colors manifests light; 
  • Summer's sun brightens our neighborhoods with light; and
  • Autumn's changing creates light as well.

As the seasons change through the year, the days may get longer or shorter but light -- in some format -- is always present. Light's constancy is our reminder that no matter how dark the day may seem, there will always be light. Somehow, someway, light will exist in spite of cloudy skies or dark days.

Even when you feel alone and lost, just look around you. Once you adjust your vision to see the light present in nature, then you'll find it easier to see light present in other locations, such as people and situations.

Light is all around you, so please hold on if you are in despair. With a little practice, you will learn to see it again. Eventually, your vision shift to allow you to see more light than darkness and inspire inner courage to face the new day.

But until then, let the people around you who do see light in you and in your surroundings be your mirror. We'll show you the light until you start seeing it yourself.

Like light, love is constant too.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Different Final Resting Place

Not everyone is actually buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Until I went to visit my neighbor Frank at his final resting place, I had never visited the Columbarium there. It's located behind Section 60 at the cemetery and a place where many of our veterans and their family members' cremated remains are placed instead of buried on the grounds with tombstones.

Some might find mausoleums like this one cold and compacted unlike the more open, sprawling feeling of a more traditional burial field. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Whether due to its location or design, walking among the walls of the Columbarium was so peaceful and private. It was as solemn an experience as walking through and pausing at Arlington's famous marble tombstones.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pampas Grass in Sunlight

The outdoors is not my friend right now.

When I step outside, I'm assaulted by ragweed, pollen and other evil elements that cause me to sneeze and feel miserable. It's hard to see nature's beauty when your eyes are swollen and teary.

Thankfully, I take lots of photographs when I am outside, ensuring several days of blog posts while I stay indoors during this horrendous allergy season.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Blue and Light

No color alteration was needed to be create this image. It's all natural.

Playing with the shadows and light generated by this Sunday sunrise, I captured Lincoln's visage in shadow and sunlight.

Onlookers might see this final composition as a symbol of the light and dark surrounded Lincoln's life. Perhaps that's what sculptor Daniel Chester French had in mind when positioning the seated statue facing the rising sun.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wondering What's Going to Happen

Today's thought is courtesy of one of my favorite childhood authors and the creator of Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne:

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"
"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"
"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.”

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Register and Rock the Vote

Abraham Lincoln wants you to vote. Ok, he didn't tell me that personally. However, we all know that he worked very hard -- and at great cost -- to preserve our nation's union. I think he would appreciate citizens executing their duty and vote to maintain and preserve our democracy.

Today is National Voter Registration Day. Each election year, millions of eligible voters do not vote because they are not registered. As result, millions of voices are not heard at election time because they can't cast their voter ballot.

Why aren't they registered? Perhaps they moved since the last election and didn't register for their new residence. Maybe they are a student going away to college and haven't registered in their college state or didn't request absentee voter status in their home state. Some many even be naturalized citizens or recently turned 18 and not yet registered.

Regardless of your situation, if you're an eligible voter, you need to register and add your voice in November.

Think of elections as shareholder meetings for a publicly-traded company. At those meetings, shareholders tell the company what they want them to do. That's what voters do during elections; we give our direction for the country when we cast our ballot. Voting is our way of influencing policymakers and federal, state and local policy. Want things to be different? Register before the voter registration deadline and then rock the vote in November.

While I won't advocate here who you should vote for in the 2012 presidential election, I will advocate for you to vote. We may disagree on what is the best direction for this country, but I hope that we agree on the importance of casting our ballots and sharing our voice in November.

UPDATE 9/25/12 9:57 AM: Don't know the voter registration and absentee ballot request deadlines are for your state. Check out this great resource page from the U.S. Vote Foundation which lists out all of the election voting deadlines for each state.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Front Row Seat for Sunrise

Every morning, President Abraham Lincoln (or at least his statue) gets a front row seat for watching the sun rise over the Reflecting Pool. From his vantage point, it is quite a view.

Lincoln's position at the base of the National Mall also provides photographers with an opportunity to watch the sunrise light wash over the seated Lincoln as well.

While strange to turn your back to the rising sun, photographing Lincoln during this moment is totally worth it. The natural light softens Lincoln's white marble, making him look more life-like and human.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Rising with the Sun at the Lincoln Memorial

During the work week, I often arrive at the office early to get a jump start on my email inbox and cross a few items off my daily task list. I don't enjoy rising early for work, and grumbling usually follows my alarm clock alert.

However, something different happens when the alarm goes off in the wee hours of the morning for sunrise photo trips. Waking up before the sun -- even on a Sunday morning -- to photograph the sunrise never feels like a chore or even hardship.

As a photographer, the light that time of day is so inspiring that I can't resist the opportunity to visit new or familiar places as the sun rises. Plus, there's is nothing more energizing than being present and watching a new day begin.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Strange Sisterhood

Today's thought comes courtesy of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo from her personal diary:

I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you.
Thanks Frida. It's nice to know we're not alone in our "strangeness" or uniqueness.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Into Honest Ground

Billy Joel once sang:
Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
Living in a swing state during campaign season, like the song says, "Honesty is hardly ever heard." Between receiving robo calls from both political parties plus all of the television commercials, all I hear and see is one exaggerated campaign message after another.

I just want political candidates to be honest. Perhaps, I'm not the average American voter. The plain, honest truth can be as persuasive as a hyped-up or completely inaccurate truth.

Talking heads with their 24/7 analysis and commentary rarely factor into my voting decision making process. I seek out facts rather than fiction, and then use my best judgment to pick my candidate or pick positions on ballot initiatives.

Why can't political discourse be as simple as this moment on Iwo Jima during World War II? The Marines had an objective to advance and secure Mount Suribachi on Iwo Jima and once secured, set an American flag at the top. Granted this famous moment was actually the second time the flag was placed on Mount Suribachi, but their action was simple and precise -- just place the flag in the ground.

Political ads should be as honest, simple and precise as this flag-raising. But, I won't hold my breath. I doubt my dream campaign season will be happening any time soon.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Sunrise for Wellness

Happy National Wellness Week! Celebrated every third week of September, SAMHSA's National Wellness Week encourages individuals, families, and communities across the country to improve their health behaviors, while also exploring their talents, skills, interests, social connections, and environment to incorporate other dimensions of wellness.

Today, people around the country are contributing personal art and written compositions for the Artistic Expression for Wellness activity to express their own journey to wellness and the hope and promise of recovery.

Photography has always been a therapeutic and healing activity for me. Its pursuit forces me outdoors to explore new places and experiences. Looking through my camera's viewfinder offers new perspectives and another method to "get out of my own head" and see situations and the world differently. The photographic process calms and centers me. It is a great outlet during very stressful periods in my life.

Today, in honor of National Wellness Week, I traveled to the Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington and photographed Wednesday's sunrise. In spite of cloudy skies and surprisingly cold temperatures, I captured some really picturesque moments as the sun rose behind the monument. Today's image could almost be mistaken for a painting.

Being at the memorial at sunrise with my camera was a healthy, creative way to start my day. We should all take steps each day to consider all of our dimensions of health and work harder to live healthier, well lives. If we do, we can live longer and happier.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Eerie Lincoln Memorial

What do you do when you're waiting at a long traffic light in the nation's capital? Take a photograph using your iPhone of your surroundings, of course!

I promise I don't talk or text on my phone while driving (and you shouldn't either), but occasionally when the car isn't moving, I do grab my cell phone and snap a quick picture of life happening around me.

Quickly snapping a picture through a wet car window can result in a great photographic moment, like this one of an eerie Lincoln Memorial during a rainy twilight.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Neptune Fountain at Walt Disney World

After walking around Epcot Center and touring the countries of the World Showcase, my traveling feet began to feel itchy.

I've yet to travel across the Atlantic to explore Europe. It's one of the things on my bucket list. I'm hoping that before the end of 2013, I'll be able to scratch at least one of the European countries off my list.

Until then, I will just enjoy our domestic tributes to European treasures like this ode at Epcot to the Trevi Fountain in Rome. While this Neptune Fountain is no where close to the Trevi Fountain, it's still beautiful and will do for now.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Not Waiting for the Big Show

Saint Francis of Assisi once said:
Start by doing what is necessary, then what is possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
This insightful statement could be in the running for my mantra for 2013.

When passing by the outdoor America Gardens Theatre at the Walt Disney Resort last weekend, this lone bird perched on one of the empty seats caught my eye and camera. It seemed as if the bird was just waiting for the performance to begin.

It's a great reminder of how we can't just sit by and wait for things to happen. We could just wait and wait forever before anything ever happens. We create action.

Thus, no sitting and waiting for us. As Saint Francis suggests, we must take initiative and start doing the necessary, so eventually we will be making the impossible happen.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Launching into Something Great

Not sure who said this quote, but when you are standing on the top of the world -- or Rockefeller Center in New York City -- it is a thought worth contemplating.
An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Looking Lovely

Yesterday, September 13 was Roald Dahl Day. It's held every year to celebrate the birthday of the bestselling children's book author.

As a young reader, Dahl books weren't my favorites.

From Charlie and the Chocolate FactoryJames and the Giant Peach and Matilda, I enjoyed reading Dahl's imaginative tales and characters, and yet shied away from the darkness and at times, pessimism that lurked in the corners of his books. I would usually read his novels once; they never made the "read once a year" book pile.

While I don't expect young adult readers to be light and airy, I think they should express some hopefulness and optimism for the future. Dahl books often failed to strike the right balance between light and dark for me.

In spite of this fact, Dahl was an exceptional writer and imparted great kernels of wisdom in his stories. Here's one of my favorites from his book, The Twits:

If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it. 
A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Being Truly Artistic

As you gaze at this lovely white koi fish swimming in a pond outside of a restaurant I visited in Orlando, ponder this also lovely thought by the great Vincent Van Gogh:
I feel that there is nothing more truly artistic than to love people. 
Well said, Vincent.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dealing with Life's Dilemmas

Life seems to be one big long series of dilemmas and it's exhausting.

Decisions need to be made all the time. What do I eat for lunch? How frequently should we meet for that work project? When is the best time to travel for the holidays?

Some dilemmas are minor and others much larger. There are dilemmas that take only minutes to resolve and other dilemmas that take weeks, months or even years to determine a resolution.

Looking out at the horizon or at a sunset like the one in today's photograph creates the false illusion that the world is simple and easy. Perhaps the "illusion" is really the truth. It's possible that the "complicated world" story is what we tell ourselves to feel better about our habit of making life more difficult than it needs to be.

Maybe we should just quiet our minds by thinking of a peaceful ocean to resolve dilemmas quickly and easily and find solutions when there seems to be none.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Anniversary Sensitivity

Eleven years ago today, an unspeakable tragedy occurred in New York City, Washington, DC, and a field in Pennsylvania. The shock and sadness of that day still reverberates from those communities to the rest of the country and around the world.

For people who have experienced trauma, anniversaries can be difficult days. Often, the marking of the anniversary of a tragic event in a person's life can trigger uncontrollable feelings and emotional reactions to seemly "normal" moments and situations.

September 11th is an anniversary that we who experienced that day and the challenging months and years that followed all share. We should speak softly and calmly about this day with others to avoid triggering difficult issues for family, friends and colleagues who may not have addressed or recovered from this public traumatic experience.

Beyond 9/11, we should always try to be sensitive to others every day. We don't know everyone's history and what traumatic experiences they may carry. Paying attention to verbal and nonverbal cues during conversations and interactions can help you navigate the waters of lived experience and avoid those triggers that can be so painful for trauma survivors.

What better way can we honor those who perished on this day eleven years ago than by being better, more sensitive people and helping others work through their trauma to become better, more whole people as well.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Yes, This is Good

What do you get when you watch the sun setting, clouds forming interestingly, and the wind whipping up the river water? A great photo moment.

Even though the dolphin-manatee cruise boat was moving briskly, I was still able to steady my camera to take this photograph of the sunset on the Indian River in Orlando, Florida.

It's just another image that reaffirms for me that there must be a higher power. It's hard to believe that all of this beauty was created and orchestrated by just natural order. At some point, some entity -- and I'll leave you to name it -- put this nature canvas together, stood back and said, "Yes, this is good."

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sailed into the Mystic

Not sure why, but this photograph reminds me of Van Morrison's song "Into the Mystic." I took it yesterday of my friend's dad looking at the sunset during a dolphin-manatee cruise of Orlando's Indian River.

I'll let you decide. Here's the first verse of "Into the Mystic":

We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won as we sailed into the mystic
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic.
Doesn't it fit perfectly? Here he was looking so peaceful as we sailed toward the setting sun.

Perhaps Morrison intended a different translation for this song, but that's what the song means to me. Being out on the water with good friends making special memories.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Loving Robert Wyland

You may not know Robert Wyland's name, but I'm sure you've seen his work. Wyland is best known for painting at least 100 large-scale murals of marine life on buildings all around the world. If you've visited the Long Beach Convention Center in California, you have already appreciated one of his largest mural masterpieces.

During the family weekend trip to Laguna Beach in August, we stopped in his gallery there. Before we walked through the doors, I always believed that Wyland, who began this work as a conservationist protecting marine wildlife, was only a painter of large-scale murals and art prints.

What we learned is that Wyland is also an accomplished sculptor, photographer and illustrator of wildlife as well. His gallery was filled with his original pieces depicting the beauty and preciousness of wildlife in our oceans and jungles. This fountain of an adult dolphin and its baby swimming in the waves was sculpted by Wyland and welcomes visitors at the entrance of his gallery. In person, the playful dolphins look so real, you wouldn't be surprised if they started talking to you.

Exploring Wyland's art leaves you with this feeling of urgency to do more to protect and conserve our precious wildlife. Wyland is more than just a master artist; he is also a masterful social change communicator as well.

What I admire most about him is that he turned his talent and passion into a career that creates change. He identified and cultivated his greatest ability -- being an artist -- and turned it into a profitable career that  supports his love of marine life and commitment to protect it for future generations. Don't we all wish we could do that too?

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Real Goofy

Meet my dad, Peter. If you ever loved the Disney character Goofy, you would really love my father.

Like Goofy, my father is incredibly silly. However, please don't mistake this for lack of intelligence. I think  people mistake silly people to be stupid people, which is hardly ever accurate.

To be truly silly, you must be very sharp-witted and have great intellect. Being silly is like playing chess; you always need to be thinking three or four steps ahead, visualizing where this act or gag will go and assessing how far you can go as well. It's that foresight and strategic thinking that makes that "Goofy" in your life -- and we all have at least one -- hilarious and brilliant at the same time.

Today's photograph of the Borde family's Goofy was taken during a day trip to Laguna Beach to celebrate my Dad's birthday. I stopped to take photographs of the bougainvillea growing on this wall when my father stopped me and said, "Wait. Take this picture instead. Me in the bougainvillea. Now, THAT'S a great shot!" Then he proceeded to make several funny faces as he stood among the blossoms. This one was the most natural of the group.

It was a ridiculous moment, but beautifully sums up one of the many characteristics I love about my Dad. He is a person of great commitment and integrity and has a strong work ethic, but is also someone who has a contagious laugh and knows when to use it.

It's my greatest wish that in the coming years, he'll get to use that silly muscle more often than the responsible grownup one he has needed to use more often. If he doesn't, I'm not sure how the next generation of Bordes ever be able to learn how to be the next family Goofy. It's definitely tradition that must be passed on.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Staring at the Waves

There is not a time I look out at the ocean and not wonder about the meaning of life. I'm fairly confident that as kid at the beach I only focused on swimming in the waves and playing in the sand. As an adult, I have a different appreciation for the ocean.

When visiting friends who lived near the beach in Monterrey, California earlier this year, I could barely sleep because the sound of the waves crashing was so loud. Eventually, I adjusted and let the waves crashing lull me to sleep. What dreams I dreamed those nights! Fantastical stories in which I was the heroine. I don't remember the details, but when I awoke, I felt energized and ready for the day's adventures.

Time spent at the seaside is time well spent. Not only do you get a fabulous view with courtesy sun rays from the heavens, you get a lovely spot to contemplate the universe's biggest questions while evolving your soul. Too intense? Never fear. You could just sit in the sand and catch some sun while watching the tide roll away.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Loving Instagram

When digital cameras arrived on the scene, I balked and said I would be sticking with film cameras. Then, I got a digital camera in my hand and said "sayonara" to 35mm film.

When people started taking photos with their cell phones, I said, "That's ridiculous!" I kept taking pictures with my digital camera until I became an iPhone user and fell in love with always having a decent camera in my pocket.

When friends started using an iPhone app and social photo network called Instagram, I insisted that it's a fluke. Why use a phone app to take photographs when your phone can take great pictures and post them directly to more popular social networks like Facebook and Twitter? Then, I started using it and was converted.

I'll admit I'm a slow tech adopter, but when I commit, I commit. The reason for my conversion? Being able to add automatic filters to my photographs with a touch of one button.

I've always loved adding sepia tone to photographs and with the early rise filter on Instragram, I can alter the color of iPhone photographs quickly and easily. Also, how cool are square-shaped images? With white borders? Love it. I even just printed one of my Instagram photos on canvas.

Today's image of my friend's dog, Agave, is one of my favorite Instagram photographs I've taken so far. It looks like a photograph taken with an older 35mm camera with fancy lighting and light shapers. So, what did I use to take this picture? Just the Instagram app on my iPhone. Awesome.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Both Light and Dark

Today, I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from J.K. Rowling's brilliant Harry Potter series. The following quote was said by Sirius Black, Harry's godfather as he tried to ease Harry's concerns about his growing dark magic ability.
"We have all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the power we choose to act on. That's who we really are."
It's a simple idea, yet one that we humans struggle with. It is hard for us to accept that we are each capable of both great goodness and great evil. It would be easier to believe that we are born either one or the other. But the coupling of goodness and darkness is essential to our evolution.

As George Lucas suggested in the Star Wars series, we can choose to embrace the light or dark forces as both reside within us. Once we make the choice, it can define us but it is not definitive; we can still switch sides.

We don't have to look to only pop culture to understand this viewpoint. Most of the world's religions have similar explanations for mankind's dual nature. Since then, modern storytellers like Rowling and Lucas are weaving the same tale.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Celebrating Hard Work and Respites

Across America today, people are observing Labor Day, a federal holiday celebrating the economic and social contributions of workers in the United States. Wikipedia states that it is a day celebrating American workers, but since we are a nation built on the backs of American and non-American workers alike, broadening it to all workers in this country is more appropriate.

So how do we celebrate this day on the first Monday of September each year? We give workers the day off, of course, and encourage them to attend parades, parties and special events. It's a day for hard workers to relax and stop and smell the flowers.

After more than ten years of working, I relish federal holidays and bonus days off. In the hustle and bustle of busy work schedules, it's hard to find the time to enjoy life's moments and fully appreciate the beauty around us.

I came across these flowers on my way to work one spring morning. I debated whether it was worth stopping to photograph the blossoms with my iPhone camera and be a few minutes late for work. I hesitated for a moment and then decided to walk away. After walking a few minutes, I returned to the flowers with my iPhone camera in hand. For some reason, these flowers haunted me and I knew that if I didn't take the picture I would regret it.

That's the importance of taking breaks, respites and holidays. Taking time off allows us to lessen our regrets for not taking moments which will haunt us later. Whether we spend time with our family or friends, or relax indoors, or even visit someplace new on Labor Day, taking that respite will improve our wellness and reduce that weighty burden of missed opportunities.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gray Clouds After the Rain

Don't you wish rain storms were as romantic in real life as they are in the movies? I can think of hundreds of films that have a scene when the rain falls and the characters caught in the storm either laugh, cry, shout in anger, fall in love or even dance. And while those scenes make for great movie moments, they aren't very realistic.

We rarely witness rain-filled film scenes depicting how people really behave when it rains. In a summer full of thunderstorms, I've witnessed people in the rain rushing about with their umbrellas, grumbling and complaining about the weather. They drive too fast in their cars. While there are a few who feel joy as the drops fall, abandoning themselves and their umbrellas in the downpour, I've never witnessed dancing during rain showers like Gene Kelly in "Singing in the Rain."

I belong to the group who huddle under umbrellas and avoid stepping in puddles during a storm. But, when the sky begins to clear and it's spotted with gray clouds and blue sky, I do find myself whistling. I'll even admit to skipping a little bit on my way once the rain stops falling.

After the storm passes, everything seems lighter. Then, laughing, singing, dancing and the like seem as natural a reaction as it does in our favorite movies.

Saturday, September 1, 2012


Yesterday, I bemoaned how challenging it was to capture Ms. Brigitta on camera. Well, today's photograph proves how patience is definitely a virtue.

Also a virtue? Being very, very quiet. Silence fools your photo subject into thinking that you are no longer interested in taking their photograph. Assured they are safe from cameras, they will leave their hiding space face first and hopefully walk right towards your waiting camera lens.

Brigitta, you are very crafty. But, I am very patient. I knew you and my camera (or at the very least my iPhone) would come face to face eventually. And what a very adorable face it is. It was totally worth the wait.