words are funny things…

Words are always there. But sometimes you can’t figure out how to use them. Every writer knows what this is like.

So, while my brain is so occupied with leaving my job and getting ready for a trip, the blog post that I want to write isn’t coming together. At least I know where I’m going with it. It’ll come.

But while I was NOT writing, I was going through some boxes, and found a notebook. I have a lot of those, most of which are empty. Or they have a few pages written, and then nothing else. I remembered this one, though.

I haven’t written fiction in a long time, so this was written several years ago. I had a random dream (no, I’m not Stephenie Meyer, so shut up), and it was so vivid that I tried to write it down, before I forgot it. Reading that notebook, I still haven’t forgotten that dream, or that story.

And for someone who loves fantasy and fairy tales, it’s the only decent piece of writing I’ve ever done, based on a fairy tale. Oh, I wanted to rewrite Snow White and the Huntsman, but that’s still in my head. This is on paper.

Am I going to tell you what story it was based on, and where I was going with it? No, I’m not. For me, writing fiction goes a lot deeper than my normal blogging does. That might not make sense, since I write about myself and what I do. But that is writing about what actually happened, as I saw it.

For me, writing fiction is digging deeply into myself for what I know about the world around me… and then putting what is inside of me onto paper. For all the world to see. It may look like fantasy, but it’s a part of me. From deep down, where I didn’t know I had it in me.

Like when I read that notebook.

And pardon my French, but all I could think was, “Damn, I’m a writer“. Followed immediately by, “Could I ever do that again?”

I sure hope so.

once upon a time…

Once upon a time, a young woman spent a wonderful year in Australia, working as a nanny and looking after five little girls. Before she went there, she considered the possibility of being able to travel for years and years, visiting several different countries, and taking care of children. She loved children, you see, and as she was still single (and therefore, childless), nannying seemed to be a wondrous idea. Unfortunately, she was past the cut-off age for work & holiday visas, in most countries, so Australia would be her only overseas gig.

Instead, when she returned home, she thought that she thought that she would soak up being with her family and friends again, and then find another nanny job in the United States. There were plenty of states that she still wanted to visit, and what better way to get to see them than moving there for a year at a time? During her first summer back in the U.S., she packed up her car and drove to Minnesota.

It wasn’t meant to be. She learned a lot from that trip, but two weeks later, she drove (the two day trip) home. Admittedly, she was a little down, after this “failure”. Why had it happened? Was she NOT supposed to go, or did the Lord want her to learn something from that short trip?

She began to apply for jobs again, but just like before she left for Australia, she wasn’t finding anything very high on the pay scale or any higher on the job “quality” ladder. Once, she had been a business owner  and house cleaner, and then a full-time manager of housekeeping for a camp. Now, she was ready to step up and work at the desk in a hotel (in business clothes, instead of scruffy t-shirts and shorts), or something that had nothing to do with cleaning. But with the problematic economy and a limited resume, she wasn’t finding anything.

Fortunately, she still had some good credit with a local company that she had worked with before, and was hired almost immediately. This took her to working as a cashier, at Clemson University. The pay wasn’t high, but the location was a definite improvement on her food service experience in the same company. Every week, she told herself that she would find something better, and this job would hold her over until then.

The weeks went by, and something strange happened. She began to find that she actually enjoyed her job. Not because of the job itself, because cashiering doesn’t call for too much skill, but because of the students and professors. Especially, the graduate students, who were closer to her age. As she also had a college professor for a father AND grandfather, and graduate students had practically lived in her home when she was growing up, she began to feel right at home with them.

But still, she knew that it wasn’t easy to make friends with people, in her position. When students only speak to you for a few minutes every day, they don’t really see you as a person, and potential friend. She wasn’t sure how to cross the line to becoming friends with them, either guys or girls. She didn’t have a lot of local friends, having lived away from Clemson for several years, so she was trying to figure out how to make some.

As she began to persist in learning the students’ names, they began to see her as a person worthy of friendship, and call her by name, in return. And as each friendship developed, she found herself less and less inclined to look for another job, though she knew she needed to. She needed to earn more, but this company was not the right place to do it. But abandoning her new acquaintances, before they really became friends… that was a hard choice to make.

Did I mention that she wrote a blog? I know, you’re stunned. At about this time, she was paying more attention to her photography skills, and began to take more pictures of flowers and buildings, instead of children (as when she was a nanny). Especially, buildings on the Clemson University campus.

This caused her to take an interest in Clemson that she had never had before, not even when her dad taught there, or when she had attended one semester there. Just like when you get a new house (or car), clean it, and place your things just so, making it your own… her wandering photography tours of Clemson were making their mark. Clemson (the city) was already home, and now the University was getting there.

She would tell you that it’s the blog’s fault, really. On some days, she would think about random topics, trying to think about what else to write about. And one day… she had a blog post idea. But she never wrote it. It would have been a fascinating post, I’m sure, but the reality was so much better. I’ll tell you about it, in a few minutes.

With the beginning of the New Year, some of her acquaintances truly became friends. And during one online conversation, she discovered that Clemson University was hiring for a job. A job that was in the same department as most of her friends. If she had never made friends at her workplace, with the students, she never would have heard about it. Because when it was finally listed online, the listing was only there for a week, and you had to be ready for it.

Her friend had thought she would be interested in this job, for herself. As thrilled as she was by this placing of confidence, she knew that she couldn’t take it. Are you wondering why? I’m still coming to that aforementioned, non-existent blog post. Instead, she told her mother about this job opening, and encouraged her to apply for it. Her mother was so much more qualified, and it was about time she worked for a place that would appreciate her that much more!

When her mother applied for it, she was certain that her mom would get the job, though no one else was certain. And then… she did get it! Why had she been so certain? It didn’t really make sense, did it?

But then again… she (the daughter, not the mother) had gone through a long process of not finding employment, after coming home from Australia, and then developing an interest in an uninteresting job. An occupation that was made interesting because of the people. And if she had never gotten to know those students, she never would have helped her mom find her new position. She marveled at how the Lord must have had that plan in place, when she returned from Australia, but of course, she didn’t know about it!

Many people were excited for her mother, after she was hired for the new position, and encouraged her daughter that “they’d find one for her, too!”. She didn’t say anything about how she could have applied for that same opportunity, but that she knew it wasn’t the right one. The Lord had other plans for her, and she’d known it for a long time.

You see, once upon a time, she thought about how much she liked to read, and especially how she read a lot of history books. And because she was always working or taking photographs on the Clemson campus, she began to think about (for a blog post), what she would major in, if she ever decided to go back to college. She had hated college, the first time, and hadn’t had any subject that she enjoyed enough to keep her there. And she knew that you did NOT need a degree to succeed in life.

But while she was thinking about this imaginary blog post… it finally hit her. If she wanted to, she COULD go back to college. She loved to read non-fiction, everything from the subject of the Founding Fathers, the writing of the Constitution, and the forming of the United States, to the Civil War and the Cold War. She spent most of her spare time reading these subjects, for fun… why wouldn’t she enjoy getting a degree in history?

She did her research on getting a history major, and what jobs can result from that type of degree. She applied to Clemson, and was accepted. She jumped through every hoop they held out for her, and they moved those hoops around a LOT, for returning students! She wrote appeals letters for several committees, and scrambled to find out what information they had forgotten to tell her. And at the moment, she is still in the final stages of getting financial aid, and waiting to register for classes (because returning students can’t register until late July).

Think about it. Over a year ago, the Lord knew that she would NOT get a job outside of Clemson, but stay there, making friends. He knew that she would begin to like the campus and the people, and that her friendships would help her mother find new employment. He knew that her reading, blogging, and photography would eventually lead her to reconsider school.

He knew this, while she was crying over her “failure” in Minnesota. Was it a failure, though, if the Lord had His hand on the situation? He knew this while she was worn out by mono, and unable to even think about finding another job. He knew it, when she was unable to afford to travel anywhere, but slowly was becoming accustomed to staying in Clemson. He always KNEW where she would go, and what He had planned for her!

~

And now that you know, I might as well switch tenses to finish the tale. Barring any problems with financial aid, I will be starting undergraduate classes, in about six weeks. I may still be a little worried about the issue of funds, but I sincerely believe that the Lord’s been leading me this whole way, all this time. So, if that is true, then money should not be a worry. He has it under control.

I would appreciate your thoughts and prayers, as I am quite nervous about starting school. I don’t have fond memories of my lone semester at Clemson, and even if it was because I was immature and overwhelmed, the memories can spring up and swamp me, at times. Also, I was serious when I said that I had to jump through hoops, as a returning student. Every time I turn around, I’ve missed some important information, or they forgot to tell me that I need to sign another paper, or write another letter to someone.

Please pray that all the necessary paperwork will come together. That even if I’m nervous, I won’t be overly worried and/or terrified. Panic attacks are NOT welcome. And please, please pray that I’m not having a mono relapse (or that I will get over it soon), because I really want to have the energy to pay attention and even enjoy what I’m doing and learning.

~

I will be very busy, over the next four years, so my blog posts may become much more infrequent, and the subject matter of both word and photo may change (again). But please hang in there, because I truly enjoy blogging, and do not intend to give it up. Perhaps you will even come to enjoy my rambling about life as a 30-something college student. At least, I hope you will!  : )

country by country, what draws you in?

On Friday, I gave a geography lesson. I haven’t done any review of the geography of Africa in quite some time, but when asked, I think I did pretty well. A co-worker was asking me if Libya was in the Middle East. Rather than laugh, I remembered that I was always better at geography than most of my classmates. There’s a certain grad student who’s from Libya, and comes by the cafe regularly, so this is why my fellow employee was curious.

Before I got my Kindle out to double-check, I was able to tell him that Libya was in northern Africa, either the country next to Egypt, or one more over. I couldn’t quite remember. I was pleased to find I was just about right, Libya being on the western side Egypt (while it’s Algeria and Tunisia that are to the west of Libya) . I was also asked about the location of Lebanon, but I knew exactly where that was, right next to Israel. Apparently, another student had been talking to him, and he found out they were from Lebanon, but wasn’t sure where that was.

From there, he wanted to know a little more about Libya, and I didn’t know much. And then I remembered that Benghazi is there. He was aware of what happened in Benghazi, to our ambassador, so this gave him some information he could really connect with. Again, I find it interesting that several of my co-workers will come to me for news and information, whether it’s local or international. They seem to be aware that I keep up with current events, and I do my best to fill them in on anything they want to know.

The day after the Boston Marathon bombing, as soon as I got to work, I used my Kindle to get back online, and continued to check updates. I was not expecting to be immediately surrounded by my co-workers, wanting to know what was the latest news. Sure, one news channel was on the tv, but it seemed to be looping the same stuff, and was no help. But without even realizing that I was reading the news, as they spoke to me, they knew I would be able to tell them all I could. At the time, the first bits of information were coming in about the Tsarnaev brothers and the Boston manhunt.

I was actually thinking about this, while looking at my blog stats page. In one day, it is so fascinating to find that I received views from not only the U.S., Canada, and Australia, but also Slovenia, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Singapore, Algeria, the U.K, and South Africa. What is it that draws people, from country after country? Of course, it could be only one person, per country, who looked up a picture, and never read the post. But doesn’t it make you curious who they are, what they’re interested in, and why they come to you for stories and information?

Of course, when you’re checking your stats page, you can get an idea of what blog posts people are looking at, and you become even more curious over who’s reading the Australia posts and who’s checking out the ones you wrote in the last month. Is it the kitten pictures? The travel photos and explanations? Or maybe you just write things a little more clearly, and interestingly, for someone who has never been to the U.S. or Australia.

I managed to connect these slight threads of thought, because as I wonder why my co-workers look to me for information, or what it is about me that draws them in, the same relates to my writing. You want to think you’re just utterly fascinating, but that’s being a little too… well, less than humble. You want to think that you can tell them things that no one else will. Or that you have a perspective that no one else ever looks at.

To think about it from the other side, what draws you to other people or other bloggers? What makes you want to talk to them or ask them questions? What do they know or how do they speak, that draws you to them? Is it their personality or just their fascinating array of knowledge? I don’t have answer, as I’m just rambling over a few ideas here. But I thought I would go ahead and share, anyway.

Even if you pretend no one’s listening, people still see you and hear you. Are you saying anything worthwhile? What will you be remembered for?

life is a logic puzzle…

If asked, my close friends would probably describe me as “oblivious”. In a way, they’re right. If I am out and about, I don’t really like meeting strangers or making introductions, so I tend to avoid eye contact and pay more attention to the objects around me. Don’t get me wrong, if someone friendly starts talking to ME, while I’m in line to get coffee, I will respond. But I’m not usually the initiator. Unless that person has children. Little kids are a totally different ballgame than grownups.

Sorry, I’m getting off track. Whereas some people like to watch people, I don’t watch people… because then they’ll think I’m watching them, and I’ll be embarrassed. So, I don’t notice when guys walk by, talking louder and acting macho, for my benefit (but my friend does). I don’t notice the woman that is trying to get my attention, unless she says something. I don’t realize that the elderly lady in the grocery aisle is upset or joyful… but if she asks me to reach something for her, I’ll be happy to do so.

I’ve decided that my obliviousness is partly natural (because I’m naturally shy around people I don’t know well) and partly ingrained habit. But the whole ballgame changes, if I’m paying attention. And when I’m paying attention, I notice all sorts of details, and have no trouble remembering them. How did I know how old you are? You told me, six months ago. How did you know my name? I read it on your student ID, every day, and paid enough attention to remember it. How did you know that? I was paying attention.

My job as a cashier has allowed me to create a comfort zone of sorts, where I know what is expected of me, and it doesn’t require enough brain power to distract me from thinking. I do a lot of thinking and observing, while I work. And like I said, when I’m paying attention, I remember what I see and what I hear. Of course, writing a blog helps, because you learn to observe and remember the details, because somehow, you’ll always find a story to tell. I don’t mean to tell tales on people, but sometimes there’s a story inside of what you see, told by a large group of people, not just one person.

When you see a person regularly, you can’t help but observe what they’re like. Ten months ago, I may not have noticed a thing about them. Now, I can recognize them at a glance, even at a distance, and from the front or back. And when you talk to fifty “regulars”, every day, but only have a minute (or less) to speak with them, you catalog away in your head what you said to them today, yesterday, and last week.

Part of the problem is, as a girl, everything relates to everything. So, already, this little thing reminds me of that little thing, which leads to this big thing, and did you know about such-and-such? I make connections, in my mind, on all sorts of subjects… and when you’re talking to people a lot, you look for the connections, so you can think of something to say for 30 seconds, on the following day. Because, again, I hate small talk, and the less I know a person, the worse I am at it. But the more I know a person, the more I can think of to say to them (and the less “smallness” there is about it). And then, I might just startle them by continuing a conversation I began three weeks ago, which they’ve long forgotten.

I hope I’m not already confusing you with my rambling, slightly disjointed post. Remember, everything relates to everything.  : )

Where do logic puzzles come into this? I love logic puzzles, though I never reach the most difficult levels, because I do so much better with the information provided. Meaning, I don’t do so well when I have to lapse into supposition. Did that make sense? The easier levels of logic puzzles require you to guess at why Johnny was 2nd in line, but Lizzy was not last in line. Using the information provided, you cross off the wrong names, and eventually discover the right one. All based on fact and information that you KNOW.

The higher levels of logic puzzles ask you to find the answers, based on the guess that maybe Freddy was second to last…. or maybe Bobby was second to last. How does either option affect the rest? If you’re like me, it screws up all your other answers, making you forget what was reality, and what wasn’t. You can only solve them by guessing at one answer, in order to get the rest to fall in line (like in a Sudoku puzzle, but with words, instead of numbers). I like to deal with what I know. And yes, I can guess… but I’d rather not.

So, with plenty of brain space left for thinking and observing, even while conversing with students and counting out their change, I store away every bit of information that comes my way, especially from the people that I know the best. Please don’t misunderstand, I don’t try and remember things to be nosy or to make mischief. I do it because it helps me understand and know people better… and possibly, I might make a friend, eventually. Another co-worker doesn’t always remember what a regular customer said to her, two minutes after they said it. I want to know, how could she forget?

This information may never do me any good, but I’ll still have remembered it, and practiced my observation skills. Maybe I’ll be able to use it to write a fictional character, someday. Who knows? And sometimes, I can solve a mental puzzle that no one else cares about, but which satisfies me. And boy, do I need some mental exercise, when I’m at work.

For example, a professor said to me, “As they say in Germany…”, which led a co-worker to believe that he was German. Nope, he isn’t, I insisted. Why? Well, firstly, I’m pretty sure whatever he said in German was bad German, which means he isn’t fluent. No, I don’t speak German, but my dad does and my dad’s side of the family is Pennsylvania Dutch (you know, Pennsylvania Deutsch). So, I might not speak it, but I know what the accent sounds like, know what the names look like, know quite a few of the word spellings (word person, remember?), and recognize it when spoken. This professor has a name that is NOT German, used an atrocious German accent, and I don’t trust anything he says, anyway, so it probably wasn’t even a German saying.

Some things can be figured out by the process of elimination. If you know where a last name is NOT from, you can narrow down where it MIGHT be from. The prof isn’t the first person I’ve done that with. And again, if you think about it, when you definitely know something is NOT something… it’s still something you know. Therefore, I’m still working from what I know (please tell me someone understood that convoluted statement).

Another example… two grad students disappear from the cafe for a week. It’s two weeks until spring break, so they can’t be on vacation. If one were sick, the other would still come in, and it isn’t likely that they’re both sick enough to stay home. They aren’t related, so if something terrible had called one home to their family, the other would still come in to school. Therefore, since they work together, they must be away on a business trip. Who cares, you say? I do. It was satisfying to come to a conclusion, and even more satisfying to find I was right, when they got back.

Today, a certain teacher came in and informed us that there had been a party for their department… and after the party, his car had been towed. Of course, he had to tell me about it in detail, but when he finally left, I couldn’t stop laughing. I’m sorry, maybe you’ll think that’s mean, but he’s the only person that would make me think that was funny. He gives us such grief, at times, I thought this was downright hilarious. The best part is, he knew why he’d lost his coffee card… because he had to write down the information of the towing company on it. That had me in a really good mood for the rest of the day, as you can imagine. But remember… there was a party.

Running with that piece of information, several grad students came in for lunch. They never come in at lunchtime, why today? I asked two of them, and both told me it was because of the party. Oh, I knew about that party. But what does that have to do with coming in at lunchtime? I finally went back to those grad students and tried again. Turns out, because they were out late at the party, they were up past their bedtime, and they hadn’t made lunches to bring with them today. So they walked across the street, at an unusual time, to have lunch. Now, the dots are connected in my mind, because that’s a perfectly reasonable explanation. And I’ve heard more about the party, by then.

Next grad student arrives, and I ask him where the party was at, because if asking about a party isn’t a splendid conversational gambit, I don’t know what is. He answered me, and followed it up with the response I mentioned earlier, “How did you know about that?”. Well, people talk to me, I respond in kind, and I listen, observe, and learn.

Who’s oblivious, now?

words before photos…

You’ve heard this complaint before, but my photos sometimes get in my way. I am a writer first, and a photographer… somewhere about fifth. Ok, maybe it’s third or fourth, by now. My photos have come a long way since I was a teenager. And then, they’ve probably come just as far, in the last two years alone.

But like I said, I’m a writer first. If I’ve never written a book, how was I a writer, before I started this blog? Well, I’m not even talking about the stories I’ve started, over the years, and never finished. I’m talking about the art of letter-writing. Have you heard of it?

The internet only arrived at our house when I was about fifteen (1995), and my older brother started college. We somehow wired his school e-mail to come to our house, and then I was able to write short e-mails to my one cousin who also had e-mail. It was the DOS screen type, black screen and white letters, and you could only write a letter as long as the screen, no scrolling down. If you had more to write, you had to start a new letter, and heaven forbid anyone pick up the telephone. If they picked up the phone, you lost your e-mail, unable to copy and paste it again. Had to start over, completely. Oh, the wails that ensued, when someone touched that phone.

I’m talking about even further back, though, when I actually wrote letters to my friends. You see, even though I had friends in school, my closest friends were always my cousins, who lived in faraway states like Michigan and Massachusetts. Long-distance telephone calls were expensive and nearly unheard of for kids my age, so letters were the only option. And didn’t we keep the mailman busy!

In high school, I learned how to type, and for only getting half a semester in the subject, I learned quickly. The class ended before I could get very good with numbers, but aside from that, I’ve always been able to type almost 100 wpm. In fact, that’s almost as fast as I can think.

When you’re maintaining close friendships through letters and long e-mails, you don’t have someone there with you, telling you when to stop. You go through their letters, make sure you address every topic, in detail, because who knows when they will have time to reply, and you want them to respond in kind. I lived for my letters, over the years.

What does this have to do with being a writer? Well, here on my blog, my aim is usually to tell a story, whether I use pictures or words. What are you doing, when you write letters to close friends, if not telling them the daily story of your life? You’re trying to make them see, hear, and almost touch what you are living through. And when it’s between close friends, you are being honest, and not even avoiding the harsh details of your life.

Eventually, my letter-writing translated into e-mail and Facebook form. When I went to Indonesia in 1999 (or somewhere around there), I wrote e-mails to my mom (and forwarded to several other people), every day, so she would know what my time there was like. Those letters were also forwarded to my own e-mail, so I still have the descriptions from that month, full of as much detail as I could squeeze in. I also took a large number of photos, and they’re in a box somewhere, waiting to be transferred to CD. Someday.

When I went to Ireland, for a two-week mission trip, in 1999, I didn’t have computer access. So, I used the method that I continue to use when I can’t write regular e-mails, I keep an old-fashioned journal. Nowadays, I write them in shorthand, but then, I wrote them in detail. Every night, I documented our day, so that I would be able to type it up and immortalize it, afterwards. And since I was afraid my camera might get stolen, I took a handful of disposable cameras with me, to capture what Ireland and London (we were there for a day) looked like. Those pictures are in a box somewhere, too.

Some of these journals were typed up, afterwards, and sent to people in letter form. Others were posted in Notes, on Facebook. This was long before my blog ever existed, but I still wanted my friends and family to know what these places were really like, and what adventures I had.

The most recent version of the journal-to-blog posts would be from my cruise to the Bahamas, and my week in Sydney. After writing a shorthand version of my days on the cruise ship, I condensed it into a short blog post, some time after I began my blog. Probably when I was feeling jealous of my Aussie friend’s cruise in the Pacific, to Vanuatu, and islands like that. My week in Sydney, of course, was journaled straight onto my computer, with my photos all pre-edited, just waiting for me to get back to Emerald, and an internet connection. It was basically blogging without access to a blog.

Every time I have written up a trip or an experience, you’ll find mentions of me using my camera, but that was never the most important thing. You can look at an album of photos and have no idea what you’re looking at, or what funny little incidences happened with each. I have always wanted to have people see the adventure from my WORDS, and then fill in the blanks with the pictures, afterwards.

Which brings me back to my original complaint, which I probably shouldn’t be complaining about. I still love to take photos, but occasionally, I take so many of them, that I feel required to catch up on posts full of photos, when I really want to do something that’s much more writing-oriented. It ends up feeling like the photos forced my hand, whereas I want the writing to force the photos. Or something like that.

But I’m trying to catch up. A friend wished me a happy weekend, and hoped that I would get out and take some photos. I said, “Noooo, I have too many of them, I need to catch up.”, which probably sounded slightly odd to her. But it makes sense to me. And with my latest post about Tillman Hall, I feel that I’m finally catching up with some of my previous pictures, with my post on Sirrine Hall to follow, soon after.

When that’s done, I can go back to letting the words take me where they will… and the photos will follow, as a side dish. A more pleasing side dish than they ever were, when I was a teenager, but still, not the main course for this blog.

two whole years…

Yes, you heard that right. It’s been two entire years.

In the two years since I started this blog, I’ve been to Australia and back again. I went there all by myself, the first time I’ve ever flown halfway around the world on my own (I’ve flown halfway around the world with my dad and cousins, before). I’ve driven to Minnesota and back, and some of you know how that went. And now I’m back in my hometown of Clemson, for the time being.

IMG_6538

April ’11, before I left for AUS

IMG_6533-1

April ’11, before I left for AUS

My first few blog posts were about the joys and trials of packing for moving to the other side of the planet. I had just bought a new laptop computer, in order to keep in contact with my family more easily, to update my blog, and to Skype anyone who wanted to talk with me. It is still my go-to “vehicle” for all my blogging and communication needs. Even the headphones, which used to be for Skype, are used to block out the background noise of the household, and allow me to write.

DSC_0041

One of my first pics in Australia

DSC_1111

Yeppoon, QLD, Australia

I had just bought a new camera, a Nikon D3100, which allowed me to take beautiful photos of Australia, as well as the occasional video. With it, I was able to visually show everyone what I was seeing, while I did my best to describe it in words. In those two years, using my camera has become much more natural than it ever had before, and I’ve been using cameras since I became a teenager. I have always said that I like to take pictures, but only now do I consider myself a photographer. My DSLR taught me how to do more than just point-and-shoot… though I still love my Canon PowerShot for certain things.

IMG_7057-1

June ’11, one month after arriving in AUS

Also new to me was my Kindle, one of the older black-and-white versions, which allowed me to take a large number of books with me. It was an excellent supplement to my local library visits, and as much as I love real books, I like having the e-books handy, as well. I was NOT thrilled that it go broken, on the return trip to the U.S., but at least that allowed me to upgrade to a Kindle Fire.

DSC_1240

My bub, 11 mths old, June ’11

When I returned from Australia, I left behind all the friends and loved ones that I had made in the previous year. How had the year gone by so quickly? How had these friendships become so strong? The Lord truly blessed me with the friendships I made, and now, when I eventually return to visit all of them, I’ll be putting in some serious travel. Because instead of staying in Emerald, many of them have moved away! My friends are scattered from Queensland to Tasmania, and I have to see them all again, someday. I look forward to that trip.

DSC_0225-001

April ’12, right before leaving AUS

During my time back in the United States, I had to learn how to blog again. I didn’t really need to reinvent my blog, so much as reinvent how I looked at the everyday things, in my home country and my hometown. You can become blind to the things that surround you, the things that you take for granted. Now, I wanted to share the adventure of home with my friends in Australia, as well as remembering that life is interesting, you just have to know where to look.

DSC_0364

April ’12, right before leaving AUS. My bub’s almost 2 years old.

I have become fascinated by taking photos of everything from buildings to flowers. I have explored the town of Clemson and the Clemson University campus, and I’m still not finished yet. I look closely at the budding flowers and look straight up at the tops of the trees, looking for the interesting shapes of the branches. I want to see what will look good in black and white, and what only needs a touch of color to come to life in a photo.

DSC_0742

Botanical Gardens, Clemson, SC May ’12

Just thinking about my writing, photography, and life experiences, I’ve come a long way in two years. But if you’d told me back in the summer of 2012 that I would end up working on Clemson’s campus and actually enjoy being around the students, I would have thought you were on something. College students have always intimidated me, but I’ve come to enjoy them (ok, some of them), and actually like the campus. And when you take the time to get to know a place, looking through a camera lens, you’ll find you like it even better.

DSC_0141

Riggs Hall, Clemson University March ’13

Some of you have stood by as I tried to straighten out how to write about my work on campus and my life here in Clemson. Thanks for putting up with me, because I think I’m back on track. Again, the search for the interesting, the fascinating, and the adventures will continue. And when you’re looking for something, you often find it.

DSC_0004

GWH, March ’13

Yes, this blog and I have come a long way. Here’s to many more years of writing and photography, with a few road (and plane and cruise) trips scattered in between!

DSC_0945

Mom and I
Easter Sunday, March 31, 2013

P.S. I just realized that this is my 444th blog post! So, I’ve averaged 222 posts a year, though I know I blogged more when I was in Australia.

to read or to blog, that is the question…

Two weeks ago, I was ahead of the game on my blogging, and my reading was getting neglected. Then, I ran out of stuff to write about and was trying to catch up on my reading, before this short month ends. And when my books were done, I was too tired to write. Or unable to think enough to write. With only a short number of hours to work with, when I arrive home, I just can’t do both at the same time. I can’t multi-task THAT much.

If my goal is to read 100 books this year, then I have to read at least 8 books every month, with more than that for a few months of the year. Normally, I read a good bit of fiction, with some non-fiction mixed in, so this isn’t hard. But I’m still on my non-fiction binge, and I’m actually finding it difficult to find any fiction that I want to read… or finish any that I’ve started. With the end of the month looming, I forged my way through The Politically Incorrect Guide to U.S. History (Thomas E. Woods) AND The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and An Unnecessary War. All in one weekend.

As soon as the Lincoln book was done, I knew I didn’t have the time or the brain power to finish anything else but fiction, and I still couldn’t make myself finish several books that I’ve started on my Kindle. Why? I don’t know. My latest Star Wars books just aren’t thrilling me, and the finale to Jane Lindskold’s Firekeeper series isn’t holding my interest. Or maybe fiction just isn’t where it’s at, right now. My final solution was to re-read A Wrinkle in Time and a Christian fiction book that I picked up from Amazon, for free. I haven’t read anything by Madeleine L’Engle, not for several years, so I had fun trying to picture Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which, once more.

I finished reading my Amazon freebie about half an hour ago, and finally felt energetic enough to write on my blog. Or my brain felt energetic, at least. I can sit here and look at my blog and upload pictures, but if my head is tired… nothing. It’s an interesting process, trying to find things to write about, some with pictures and some not, and then find the time to write them. Of course, it’s easier when my book deadlines aren’t getting in my way.

So, I’m finally getting around to a blog I should have written a few days ago, and one that will be ready for my time away, this weekend. Because, if you remember, I’m headed on a road trip north, and Friday can’t come fast enough.

P.S. Yes, I did mess up my blog post title, originally. Those who subscribe by email might still see my mistake. Silly me. Think one thing, type another.

i think i like to write…

I made myself read another chapter or two of The Book of Three, before coming downstairs and getting on the computer. I slogged my way through, and perhaps the story is starting to grow on me, especially after Gurgi showed up. But then I find him to remind me a lot of Gollum, so I’m waiting for more of the differentiating characteristics. Yes, I know he’s hairy, like a wolfhound, but he started off by trying to strangle Taran, talks in a very strange manner, and does a lot of whining about the cruelty of the masters. I do know, of course, that he’s a lot nicer than Gollum, so I’m waiting for the whole story to improve, too.

You see, I’m getting more addicted to my blogging and writing, and it’s affecting my reading goals for the year. Dreadful, isn’t it? I’m three books behind schedule on Goodreads, which is unheard of, for me. Do you realize, it took me two weeks to read Ben Shapiro’s Bullies, despite it being a completely fascinating and awesome read? That’s how into my writing I’ve been getting, that I write and write, or edit and edit some more, and then I’m too tired to read. I think my usual program of getting all the fiction in at the beginning of the month was a good plan. Now, if I could just find some fiction that I want to read!

Going to the gym has cut into my free time, as well, but I don’t consider that a bad thing.  : )  My original goal for the year was to get hooked on going to the gym, and it’s working. I still have no specific weight-loss goals, but I can see the difference in my clothes, and enjoy it when the scale decides to change with them, too. It’s a nice feeling when I can see improvements in my endurance and strength on the track, as well as the other machines. My foot continues to act up, as if it’s annoyed with me for giving it a regular pounding, but even that is getting better, when I run.

At work, I’ve been working on the… well, I suppose it’s actually “small talk”, right? Blast it, I hate small talk. I like to have interesting conversations with people, not just the bubbly, frothy stuff. But when you only have a minute or two with every customer, you have to either stick with the run-of-the-mill “How’s it going?” and “Have a good one!”, or for the regulars, you come up with different things to ask them. Try and show some interest in what they’re doing, or ask them an interesting question that gets (or startles) a response out of them.

It’s tricky, because I’m used to being able to have longer conversations with people, and this short stuff frustrates me. I manage it with a few of them, though, because I know a little bit about some of their projects, or know when they’re exhausted from grading a million papers, before being able to work on their own research. Some of them never seem to stop, even to sleep, while some occasionally get their weekends off. I suppose if I knew what they actually did in those labs of theirs, I’d have even more fun, but short, conversations with them.

But if I’m looking for a good conversation, I should be getting it soon! I have a road trip scheduled for the beginning of March, so I get to start work early, leave early…. and drive to Pennsylvania! Ok, I know that most of you wouldn’t be thrilled by that kind of schedule, but I just love the fact that I’m going. And that it’s a road trip. I love road trips! Even if I have to get up for work at 5am, in order to not have to take the work day off. I’ll arrive at my destination by midnight, get to enjoy the remaining 36 hours of my conference, and then drive back on Sunday. Could it be any more awesome?

No, I’m actually not being sarcastic. I enjoy long road trips, getting to listen to music, and just enjoying the freedom of the road, with no responsibilities, aside from not getting in an accident (or getting pulled over). If I get to spend 1.5 days, or more, with my best friends, see other friends that I haven’t seen in months (I used to live there, remember), and hear some wonderful messages from the Word of God, then the weekend is a total win for me. I know plenty of people that would only see the terrible amount of driving involved, and that would ruin it for them.

I think I’ll stop now, as I have a few blog posts coming up with subjects I don’t want to teeter over into. I can be a danger to myself, (or maybe just to my blog) when I get to rambling!