self-portrait day, and a load of monday-morning pseudo-inspirational rambling

project 52, week 40
week 40

I struggled with how to write this post because it felt entirely too narcissistic and self-absorbed, and although I realize that may sound like a no-brainer, considering how I'm the middle of taking a self-portrait a week, that's not my goal at all.
However, I've ranted and raved and shared enough of my ridiculous life that if you've stuck with me this far, this all might just make sense.
So I've had more than one person mention to me in recent history that I'm always upbeat, enthusiastic, etc. And my first response is usually to laugh on the inside because HELLO OBVIOUSLY YOU'VE NEVER MET THE CRAZY THAT IS THE INSIDE OF MY HEAD. But I know that is how I come across to a lot of people, a lot of the time, and it's not because I naturally have a bubbly personality, although I might. It's also not because I drink massive amounts of caffeine, because I don't, although no one believes me when I say that EVER. (No really, I talk fast all the time.)
Ok, first of all, I was homeschooled for most of my life. I went to public school in the second grade, and that's it. I loved homeschooling. No, I was never allowed to "go to school in my pajamas." Instead, a good portion of my schooling involved being at the family-owned restaurant at 5 in the morning, cooking, and later in the day doing the books for said business. At 15. (My sisters and I would alternate days at the restaurant and do normal school at home on our off days.) It was awesome, I loved it, and I still use that recipe for meatloaf.
However, when my family was 12 we enrolled in an international homeschool group that I now consider a cult. This is the part that's hard to write, because, well, to some people it was just a really conservative Christian group. In addition, I learned a lot there, I made some amazing friends there, I met my husband there. So there was much good, but that doesn't erase the fact that there were incredible amounts of control and legalism. (Example: if we were really Godly we would make all our own bread from flour we ground ourselves.)
The slogan of this group was "giving the world a new approach to life" and we believed that with our whole hearts. Anything that was remotely...normal...was worldly, and would distract us from our main purpose changing the world! For God! With our good character! Dating, "rock" music, pants, normal jobs...these things had no part in my life between ages 12 and 21. Even education: we were told, quite seriously, that if we had good character, employers would hire us over people with college degrees. Instead of going to colleges where we would "wash out" spiritually, we were to serve selflessly (preferably this group) and when we were ready, to, you know, start lives, then the employment opportunities would just be there. Because we would have good character and a portfolio of all this amazing unpaid work we did.
Reading that now I realize how ludicrous it sounds, but at the time I was 15, I was swept up in the social group, and I wanted to Change! The! World!
I still want to change the world.
So that was all to give you some background and I can explain two huge parts of my life philosophy that were shaped there.
One major standard by which we were evaluated was "Energy Giver/Waster/Taker." Everyone, we were told, is one of those things, and we get to choose which we want to be. I found the handy chart online, but if you don't feel like clicking on a pdf, let me share only the first line: an energy giver greets EVERYONE with a smile, a waster smiles only at their friends, and a taker does not smile and draws attention to themselves with their sadness. It gets better from there. To this day, I unconsciously evaluate wether or not I'm being an energy giver. It's not a bad thing, exactly, but it's taken me a while to learn that it's ok to not always be "on." However, the times when I do let myself go and just vent, I typically regret it later.
The second concept that won't let me go is the idea that "the good is the enemy of the best." The idea is that it's not BAD things that lure us away from wise choices, it's actually really good things that aren't the BEST things. I lived my teenage years in fear of missing the best because I had been distracted by the good, with the consequence of saying no to a lot because it probably wasn't the best thing.
So how does this relate to me now, nearly 10 years after I walked away from all that? Well, I still smile at almost everyone, I will find a punchline in the most horrifying story (that happens to me) and I'm still convinced that I want to change the world.
But here's the amazing thing of which I've become convinced: changing the world does not happen because I have a cause or a purpose, it doesn't happen because of legislation or art or a cause. Changing the world happens every day, around each of us. I'm completely convinced that we daily change the world for each other, simply by being there. It's our choice, therefore, wether it will be change for the better or worse. I fail at this far more often than I'd like to admit; I'm a terribly snarky person and I can be hideously critical. I'm trying to stop, really I am.
So that? That's why I smile every day: because if I run into you tomorrow, I want to change your world, just a little bit, for the better.
Is this ridiculously idealistic? Absolutely. But that doesn't mean its invalid.
So since you're going to change the world anyway, you might was well make it for the better today, k? I dare you.



I may have mentioned last week that I'm working on organizing my life? Well, one of the major parts of THAT project is going through and winnowing down my fabric collection. I'm giving some of it to my sisters, some to my grandparents, some to my friends. But some, dear readers, I'm giving to you. I picked out some pretty unique pieces of vintage fabric that I know I'm just not going to use any time soon, and you can have them for the asking.
So here's the deal. All I need you to do is 1) post on your blog about the giveaway (so other people can join if they want!) and 2) comment here letting me know that you've done so. In your comment let me know which set of fabric you're MOST interested in. I'm going to draw names, and hopefully it will work out from there. I'm going to leave it up for a week, and draw names next thursday night.
1. These are my two favorite pieces, I think. The grey is a cotton curtain, so maybe a yard and a half. The green and gold is a synthetic, slightly stiff, at least three yards worth.

2. The brown/blue/gold on the left is a synthetic, slightly shiny, maybe 2.5 yards? On the right, it's a golf print, about three yards, cotton, lightweight.

3. Ok, the green florals on the left? Actually a set of six all-cotton napkins with a serged edge. The stripes on the right, also all cotton, are printed onto a lightweight twill, about a yard and a half.

4. This is a pretty crazy hot pink printed corduroy, cotton, a solid four yards. There is a bit of moth damaged about 18 inches from one end; should be fairly easy to cut around.

5. These two are synthetic jerseys, and they're gorgeous, and I should really make a dress for my redheaded sister out of them. They're darker than they appear in the photo, btw. The one on the left is dark mallard, the one on the right intense peacock green. At least two yards of each.

And that's it. Fire away!


wednesday wonderfulness

BAP. I just feel the need to say that, and you'll understand it if you read hyperbole and a half. If you don't, well, get over there and laugh your face off.
I know, not much this week. I promise I have a giveaway coming soon, as well as a tutorial, if I can just get myself in gear...


the self portrait project continues

project 52, week 39
project 52, week 39

I should have an impressive essay for this, I know. But I don't. Suffice it to say: sometimes you end up practicing lighting techniques on yourself. And said lighting techniques are no match for a halfway-adept makeup job.


in case you're wondering where I've been

It's over here. On pinterist. I've been rummaging about and finding beautiful things and repinning them to the walls of my brain. If you want an invite, I've five to give away, so just comment.
I've also been over here: I just started stringing for the local newspaper, and some of my photos were printed on Tuesday. If you flip through the "Flash Jr" gallery, you'll see a few of them. Nothing earth-shattering, I assure you. But it's getting my name out there. (Tonight I photographed a pole-dancing class. THAT was fun and now I kinda sorta want to try it.)
I'll try to catch up soon, I promise.


wednesday wonderfulness

not a ton this week, lovelies. But you should laugh once or twice.


glitter in the air

I spent a solid 15 minutes outside in the cold today, trying and failing to get an image that I loved where the sun was reflecting off the glitter. I got some fantastic bokeh, but that's it. But I'm not counting things as a loss. I pulled my camera out. I used it. When all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch with a cup of hot tea and a good book, buffered against the cold, I didn't. I put on a coat and combed my hair and took a danged picture for my danged project 52. I added a few more to the piles of RAW files sitting on my harddrive, but more importantly: I did something. The texture of fur and glitter are now filed away in my head, waiting to be used at another, more important photo shoot.
If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know I have a tattoo on my left shoulder that says "be thou diligent." The story behind it is kinda long, but basically it's my reminder to do one thing every day to pursue my goals.
Last week I finished and posted my "best of 2010" slideshow, and for the first time I shared some of the personal photos I took during the year. It's the first year I've had personal photos that I loved enough to share, honestly. And as I sit there and watch eight minutes of photos flashing by, covering twelve months and literally thousands of photos, my mind is blown. Not by my work (I've so much to learn, you guys), but by the number of incredible people I've met, places I've been, laughs I've shared. I have this incredibly amazing life, that isn't perfect, but it's one I've been working toward, and it's coming together. Slowly.
And I'm sitting on the precipice of 2011, watching things happen, taking deep breaths, and gathering the courage to make things happen, and it terrifies me, but at the same time, I feel incredibly exhilarated. Our lives are the sum of our choices, and knowing what we want, sticking by it, and living our convictions will bring us these amazing, fulfilling lives.
People, I'm so blessed. You've no idea. I'll probably explain more in another post, but this is getting long, so I'll leave you with two thoughts, based on the same fact. Here's the fact: last year, I took 87,000 photos, give or take a couple of hundred.
Thought number one: that averages out to 238 images a day. No, I didn't pick up the camera every single day. That is an average. But every time I clicked that shutter I was thinking hard, framing, composing. I wasn't just pointing and shooting. (I save that for the mobile phone.) Each of those clicks was building my skill, building my business, building my life. Letting myself slack for just one shot would be building with poor materials. I can't do that. Sitting here, looking forward to an amazing year, is the cumulative total of those thousands of images that were acquired just by picking up the camera almost every day. (And trust me: a LOT of days I didn't feel like it.)
Thought number two: I have friends who've bought nice cameras and are trying to build their photography skills, and they come to me and are frustrated because their images don't look like mine. Um, 87,000 images. Get back to me after the counter in your camera has reset just ONCE, and we'll talk about lack of progress then. Don't be so hard on yourself: it's practice, I swear it is.
Its called working every single day. That's it.


project 52, week 38

project 52, week 38

It's a long-running joke to me (and perhaps it's only funny in my head, but that's ok) that apparently I look like an immigrant. Which makes sense, I suppose. I mean, all of our families were, at SOME point. But I seriously have gotten compliments on how well I speak English. Which, you know, makes sense, since that's all I speak.
I've had people ask if I was Irish (nope), Italian (no), and Middle Eastern (wtf??? I'M PALE). By far the most popular question, though, is if I'm Russian. Perfect strangers walk up to me and ask me this, interrupting conversations. One of my favorite stories, which may not translate well into writing, happened on the subway in New York. I was riding along with a good (male) friend of mine, talking and laughing, when suddenly the man across the aisle asked me "Are you Russian?" I responded really nicely "No, I'm not" and turned back to my friend, who looked at me with exaggerated shock. "You're not Russian???" I again reassured him, "No, I'm not" and swiftly added on "I guess I should have told you that before you paid for my ticket over..." We both died laughing, the guy across the aisle looked very, very confused.
Fact: on my dad's side, my grandparents were raised Amish. So I'm Swiss/German on that side, French/English on my mom's. Basically very European, you know? The Mennonite heritage seems to intrigue people, especially since that's how my father was raised and that's how I was trained to cook. Growing up, the running joke was that I had a "mennonite face." Sadly, no one exactly knows what a mennonite face is. I think it's healthy, sturdy, and round? I am decidedly all of those things. Perhaps clean-scrubbed? I've grown out of that one, thankfully.
Despite the raised eyebrows, I'm pretty grateful for my mennonite heritage. The guys in this story? Great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. The story was handed down to me as an example of a man who lived what he believed (pacifism) at the expense of everything, even the lives of his family members. But my favorite story, and one that's perhaps an urban legend that I have no way of fact checking.
My maiden name is Slabaugh, originally spelled Schlabach. (My grandfather americanized the spelling somewhat.) It means "running water." Apparently my ancestors were millers and anabaptists, which means they were against the established church and practice of infant baptism. When the church came and wanted to baptize them and their children into the faith, these millers refused, and were hung for it, in their mill, over the running water that powered their livelihood.
I was raised being told this story of my name. Laura means "victorious." Gabrielle means "woman of God." And Slabaugh? Apparently it means "hardheaded little creatures who will stick by their opinions TO THE DEATH." Yes, that sounds about right.
But those are my people: I come from a group who stubbornly stands by what they believe despite personal cost. How can I expect any less of myself?


on being organized

So...while I've been looking at this slow time, I'm attempting to organize my house. Right now I just have too much stuff, and I need to get rid of it. (With any luck, you all will be beneficiaries.) So when a friend of mine started a challenge of one year to a more organized life, I decided to join. Our places in life are pretty different: she's a full-time stay at home mom with four children who's also trying to homeschool and run a small business. I work two jobs and have two pets and that's it. (HOW THE HECK DOES SHE DO IT???) But she's taking things in baby steps, and that's about all I can handle. I'm really bad about tackling too much at once and getting overwhelmed, but I know for a fact that I cannot handle the way things fall apart in the summer around here. I need to have things organized and categorized so that maintenance is a habit and I can waste less time playing catch up.
So. Here goes. This week's challenge: determine your bare minimum each day and DO IT.
My bare minimum is:
:: do all the dishes every day. Leave the kitchen clean each night. (I HATE doing dishes.)
:: do one load of laundry each day
:: keep my bedroom floor clean
:: keep my bathroom sink clean

That's all I'm trying to cover now. I'll add, maybe, as these things become habit.

wednesday wonderfulness, the BIG GIANT LINK PILE edition

I've been trying to do one of these posts since well before Christmas, as evidenced by the age of the some of the stuff I'm linking to. I'm sorry posts have been so sporadic. Ah, well. It's still good, and I'll use some of it next year, perhaps.
Wow. That was quite a pile. Enjoy!


beat the blues

Winter makes me cold and grumpy. And sometimes all I need to get over it is a good playlist. Enjoy.
Actual list includes:
creepin in :: norah jones/dolly parton
land of 1000 dances :: wilson pickett
if I was you :: far east movement
american slang :: gaslight anthem
tu vuo fa l'americano :: puppini sisters
i am in love with you :: imogen heap
f**k you :: cee lo green
i turn my camera on :: spoon
i owe :: living things
bad influence :: p!nk
bedroom bossa band :: lullatone
the time (dirty bit) :: black eyed peas


Behind the scenes!

The behind the scenes is now up from the photoshoot I did in October. I think Red did a fantastic job editing it. Favorite bit: at the very beginning you can hear me going "click. click. BEAUTIFUL." It's awkward, because that's so what I do at photoshoots. I don't stop talking, like, ever. Enjoy.


distraction by peanut butter

My husband is a peanut butter and chocolate fiend. (His sweet tooth is worse than mine, and that's quite terrible.) After much practice I've perfected deliciously gooey double peanut butter brownies, so now, without further ado, I present the recipe.

Perfect Double Peanut Butter Brownies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan.
Mix together: 1 cup peanut butter, 1/2 brown sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 egg. Set aside.
In large microwave proof bowl, melt 3/4 cup of shortening. Stir in 1 2/3 cups granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons water, 2 eggs, and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Add 1 1/3 cups flour, 3/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/4 teaspoon salt. Stir until smooth. (Mixture will be pretty thick.) Smoosh about 2/3 of it into the baking pan, spreading as smooth as possible. Spread peanut butter mixture on top. Dot remaining chocolate mixture on top of that. Sprinkle with half a bag of peanut butter chips.

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until set. Will still be gooey when they come out, but let them cool and they'll be perfect and moist.


the self-portrait project, way, way late

project 52, week 37
project 52, week 37
I've been sick all week. I don't get sick often, but when I do, it's brutal. This year was no exception. It started with sinuses, grew to include a fever and cold. Right now my face is so chapped that when I laugh my lip splits. But despite my whining, I have to be grateful: I get sick once a year. And despite the fact that it transforms me into a blubbering baby...for the most part, I'm so very, very fortunate.


in which I add another project

So I'm attempting to take one photo a day in 2011, and I dragged someone else into it. We're keeping it all on a separate blog named, quite simply, after our locations. Brilliant, right? Follow along as desired.


my main goal this year

Yes, I've been reading entirely too much Lara Casey. But that's what I want to do this year.