Thursday, August 25, 2016

Project 366: Some of my favourites

Last year for my birthday, my family gifted me with a Nikon D3200 camera, which was my biggest birthday wish ever.  My digital camera had died months before, and I was ready to upgrade.  At the time, my mom warned me that this camera was an investment and that I'd better darn well use it!  (I suppose she's seen me "desperately want" something more than a few times in my life that ends up collecting dust in a corner... lol)

She needn't have worried... I've always loved taking pictures, documenting the good times from behind the camera lens.  But just to be sure, I decided to take up a photography challenge, called Project 365, in which you take your camera out every single day to snap something.  I started the challenge several days after receiving the camera, on August 3rd, 2015. Because last year was a Leap Year, my challenge actually turned into a Project 366.

I had a love-hate relationship with this challenge.  Some days, I felt like there was absolutely nothing to photograph.  Many days I took pictures of food, or mundane items in my home.  But some days?  Some days I amazed myself.  And I was glad that the challenge forced me to take the camera out and use it every day for a whole year, even if it was only for a few minutes.  It encouraged me to play with settings, to google more about my camera, and to learn more about photography than I've ever learned before.

Here are a few of my favourites...

 This was one of the very first days - Day 3 maybe?  I don't think I've ever intentionally got this close to a bee before... the camera already forcing me out of my comfort zone! ;)
 This pic really isn't anything special - it didn't turn out how I wanted at all - but it drew a lot of attention on Facebook.  It was my first attempt at night shooting (something I never really did figure out), so the comments on it were filled with suggestions and tips from my photographer friends, which I greatly appreciated.  Who needs photography classes when Facebook provides such a great wealth of knowledge?!
 My sweet little cousin Grace on the beach in Sand Point last summer
 Shawville Fair 2015
 I loved how cozy this photo turned out.  It was a rainy September day, I made pumpkin spice cupcakes, and made my first pumpkin spice latte of the season.  Yum.
 One of my favourite photos of my trip to Nova Scotia last fall.  That trip provided amazing scenery for me to practice!
 Have I mentioned before how much I love fall?  This pic was one of my fall favourites.  Pumpkins and squash and gourds, oh my!
 Looking back, I regret "tweaking" this picture as much as I did.  I used a colour booster in editing to bring out the vibrancy of the fall colours, but that in turn also really boosted the blue of the water.  Anyone who knows the Ottawa River knows it isn't even close to that blue... Still, a pretty picture, if I do say so myself.
 I snapped a lot of shots around my place of employment - Mountainview has some great scenery! - but this was my absolutely favourite.  A misty morning sunrise over the irrigation pivot in the field next to the office.
 One of the first families to trust me with their family photo session... I had such fun taking pics for several of my friends last fall for their Christmas cards, and it was amazing practice for me!  Family photo sessions became one of my favourite things to do with the camera. Abby, Gracie, and Leah were so much fun to take pictures of :)
 I loved taking pictures around Halloween... this one turned out better than I ever could have hoped.
 This was definitely one of my faves from the Remembrance Day Ceremony in Quyon last November
 Danica was also ready and willing - and oftentimes DEMANDING - to be the photo of the day.  She was actually pouting here (surprise, surprise), but I thought it was such a pretty snap of her
 "Dance like nobody's watching!" Pretty sure my friends got sick of my and my camera over the year, because I dragged it every where with me, but it usually resulted in some fun photos... like this one ;)
 Another fall family photo session, this time for Shannon, Casey & Rylie.  Rylie became one of my favourite "subjects" during the year.  So willing to smile for the camera!  What a cutie!
 I love the glow of the Christmas lights through my front door... I didn't know if I could capture it by camera, but it worked!
My nephew, the hockey player :)
 One of my favourite moments on Christmas Eve... Alle getting friendly with Kara lol!
 I took a lot of sunrise and sunset photos throughout the year... this sunrise on the 5th Concession in January sticks out as one of the nicest I captured.
 My friend Sara was the very first one to let me take her family photos for her last fall... and her kids were more of my favourite subjects!  I ended up with some great ones of Charlotte, Daniel & Hannah throughout the year, but this one from a visit to my place last winter was one of my very faves.
Happy 30th Birthday, Sue! 
 A fun photo from Maddy's 9th Birthday Party
 I sucked at taking pictures of the moon (trust me, I tried many times, and they just didn't work).  I had to edit the shit out of this one, but it drew some nice comments and likes on Facebook.  People seemed to enjoy it.
 A blessing if I ever did see one... Welcome Baby Isaac :)
 My friend Lindsay was another one who trusted me with taking pics of her family on several occasions,... including Sam's 2nd birthday!
 And my friend Sharon was another!  Her little guy Hayden was always so good to mug for the camera, especially at this book club meeting.  
My friend Stacy's kiddos, Maddy & Tanner, were also always willing to smile and pose... later on in the year, Tanner really got into the posing! haha! I used a blue enhancer on this photo, and I love how it turned out.
Ah yes.  The night I made Lindsay stop on the side of a busy highway so I could snap this shot.  It might have been crazy, but I'm glad I did.
 Caryl's daughter Leah never fails to do something amazing for the camera... lol!
 This might not be the best photo ever... it's blurry, and I was once again having trouble with night schooting... but I unintentionally capture my friends Sharon & Wayne in sync playing Texas Horseshoes at their 10th anniversary party... it was just perfect in my eyes!
 An MVT hoedown at Mickey Creek :)
 One day on my lunch hour, I went for a walk with my camera with the intention of taking a picture of a butterfly.  And it worked!!!  I had to crawl in a frigging ditch, but it worked!!!
 I snapped this photo of my cousin Patti and her grand-daughter Annabelle at Randy's 50th birthday party.  I love the way Nana is looking adoringly at her girl.  Pure love right there!
 My cousin's husband  Jory told me very early on in their Canada Day visit that he had a personal goal of making it in my Project 366.  I just had to make it happen for him. ;)
 A family gathering on Canada Day, a bunch of very hyper children, a very hung over feeling Jill... I was grateful to my sister for providing some "quiet time"... and it made for a cute pic, too!
 So glad we have an ice cream parlour in Quyon now!  It's been a highlight of the summer! YUM!
 Another photo of that church steeple... The sky on this night was stunning, and I was happy with the capture.
 The return of the Quyon Tractor & Truck Pull was one of my favourite days of the summer.  This is my cousin's husband Ellard during his awesome pull on Blue Bye U.  It was an awesome moment, and I so enjoyed taking pictures at this event!!
 Going to the Camp every summer has become a family tradition, and taking sunset pictures on the dock has become another tradition.  This year, I caught something a little different, and it became one of my very faves.  I was so proud of how this turned out.
 A quiet moment on the beach between my Aunt Marion & her grandson Dillon. I ADORE this one!
The very last photo... I had lost track of the days, and didn't even realize this was the last day of the challenge.  But somehow, this picture just seemed to fit perfectly. The past 366 days - and 366 photos - in that rear view mirror!!  Cheers to that!!

I was relieved when my Project 366 came to a close, but I have to admit, I kind of miss it some days.  Some days I go to grab the camera because I think I "have to", and then remind myself the challenge is over.  I'm contemplating starting another one on New Year's Day - do a complete calendar year this time.  My blog pal Nicole  made a suggestion at one point to pick a theme, or do all black & white photos, just to add a twist.  I kind of like that idea.  We shall see.

My Project 366 did exactly what I hoped it would - forced me to use my camera every day, taught me many things about it, and resulted in some pretty awesome shots that I'm proud of.  I am so grateful to my fam for the camera... I definitely think I've put it to good use, Mom! ;)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Living in the moment

1. It's National Waffle Day (August 24th)...what decision are you currently 'waffling over'? (or share one you've recently 'waffled over'?)
Oh, I'm a waffler.  Once I make a decision, I stick by it, but it can take me a long time to get there.  Weighing pros & cons, thinking it over and over, worrying about every little detail... Yeah, there's something I'm waffling over a lot these days, but I'll just keep that one to myself for now...

2. It's the middle of August, but I'm already seeing lots of autumn-related posts. Do you think we rush the seasons? If so, does that bother you? I saw (here) an end of summer bucket list that included-

make s'mores, read a new (or favorite) book in the park, eat something delicious and bad for you at a state fair, have a pot luck picnic, book a last minute sumemr getaway, relax by or in the pool, take a hike to watch the sunset, have a day on the lake, try a new summer recipe

Which activities on the list might you squeeze in before summer officially comes to a close?
Yes, we rush the seasons.  And while I'm all for fall, I also try really hard to live in the moment and enjoy today, so it does bother me that others rush it.  We've got a few good solid weeks of summer left, so let's enjoy them, shall we?

As for the list of activities, I will definitely be getting something delicious and bad for me at our local fair next weekend (probably more than one thing, truth be told), and if I could make it happen, I'd like to relax by or in a pool, or have a day at the lake... those activities, however, hinge on other people inviting me to their pool or lake, so... we'll see. ;)

3. Your favorite summertime 'art' found in nature?
Well, judging by the number of sunset photos I've taken this summer, I definitely think a beautiful summer sunset is my favourite "art" found in nature.  Just something about their beauty that catches my eye.  I'd like to have one blown up and framed to hang in my house.

4. Stephen R. Covey is quoted as saying, 'We judge ourselves by our intentions, and others by their actions.' Agree or no? Do you define yourself based on your intentions, your actions, or something else?
Hmmm...Interesting.  I suppose it's true.  Although I do think I judge myself pretty harshly on my actions as well as my intentions.  And I try not to judge others too harshly, no matter what.  I define myself based on a collection of both, I think.  I try to keep a level head, good intentions, and wise actions.  I don't like feeling disappointed in myself, so I try to make sure that doesn't happen.

5. Are you useful in a crisis? Elaborate.
Ha!  I can think of a few people who would say no.  I tend to panic, get flustered, melt down... but I'd like to think in a real crisis, I'd be able to handle it.  Stay calm, take smart action, and be brave.  However, if it involves puke or blood, I'm probably out. ;)

6. What's been your go-to dish this summer? Is it something you'll continue making as the seasons change?
I was trying to think of what it was, struggling to come up with an answer, when it hit me... nachos.  I have made nachos a lot this summer.  It's quick and easy and I usually just heat them up in the microwave.  It's been a hot summer, so anything that hasn't needed the stove is my go-to.

7. Adult coloring books are a thing now. Have you jumped on the bandwagon? If not is this something you think you might enjoy?
Yep, I've got an adult colouring book!  I got it for Christmas last year, and while I haven't used it as much as I thought I would, I have enjoyed the few times I've taken it out.  I imagine I'll use it more in the winter when the pace of life is slower and I have more time. I have always loved colouring!

8.  Insert your own random thought here.
Yesterday, I wrote my tribute to Gord Downie and The Hip, and I swore that would be the end of my dwelling on it, but I really can't stop thinking about how amazing those few days of celebration and sorrow were.  I keep thinking of things I forgot to write about; things I'd like to go back and add.  Like how cool it was after the show to discover that my main man, Jimmy Fallon, tweeted: "#thankyoutragicallyhip respect" ... or that Eddie Vedder made such a sweet shout out to Gordie at the Pearl Jam show in Chicago Saturday night... or that Blue Rodeo played "Bobcaygeon" and also sent well wishes to their fellow Canadian band performing the show of their lives that same night.  It's taking everything in my power not to write more; not to share more links on Facebook; not to order everything Tragically Hip related that I can find on the Internet; not to watch the concert again every night.  I guess I'm just not ready to let it all go yet...

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Courage (for Gord Downie)

I'm having a hard time with this one, folks.  I'm struggling to come up with the right words to express exactly how I've felt as a fan of The Tragically Hip this past week.

Bittersweet.  That seems to be the word that's getting tossed around the most.  And I think it may be the only word in the English language that even comes close to capturing the way Hip fans have felt during this Man Machine Poem tour; this roller coaster ride of emotions that our beloved and favourite Canadian band has taken us on this summer.

But that word bittersweet... it isn't really enough.  It doesn't say it all, not by a long shot.  It doesn't explain the complex tangle of magical and melancholy; it doesn't really give light to the highs and lows, the pain and the pleasure, the joy and the infinite sadness that have taken hold of a nation of music lovers.

This past week has been a celebration of a man's life.  It has been a sad farewell.  It has been all things in between.  And yet, still, I can't figure out how to tell you about it properly.

I know I've already written about a lot of this, but for purposes of this post, I guess I'll start at the beginning...

This past May, I - along with many across our great nation and beyond - was stunned and deeply sorry to hear the news that Gord Downie, 52-year-old frontman for the iconic Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip, had been diagnosed with Glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer for which there is no cure.  The band released a statement saying they were going to dig deep and go on tour, despite the diagnosis and tough road ahead for Gord.  While they've never said outright that it would be their last, everyone knew.  This would be it.  One last hurrah.  One last opportunity to see a national treasure live.  One last chance for Gord - our country's unofficial poet laureate, showman to the max - to strut his stuff for the fans who adore and revere him.

Tickets went on sale, and then disappeared in mere seconds.  All of the shows sold out in the blink of an eye.  Fans were upset.  I was one of them.  The Hip were the first band I became "obsessed" with; the first band I really fell in love with.  I bought all their CDs, they were my first concert, and it broke my heart that I wasn't going to get to see them one last time.

Then the CBC announced they would be broadcasting their last show from their hometown of Kingston, Ontario, live and uninterrupted.  I took solace in that.  At least I'd get to see them, even if it was just through a TV screen.

But fate had a special surprise in store for me.  Two weeks before the Ottawa show, my brother-in-law caught wind that more seats had been released for that August 18th concert.  He suggested I try, because what did I have to lose?  Sure enough, I was able to get 2 tickets.  They were rear view seats in the nosebleeds, but I didn't care.  I had tickets to The Hip's last show in Ottawa.  I thought my head was going to explode.  Seriously.

I will always hold the concert last Thursday in my heart as one of the most special days of my life.  I brought my friend Lindsay with me.  I was with her at her first Hip concert in Toronto years ago, and we also went to see them at Bluesfest a few summers back, so it only seemed fitting that we attend this last show together.  We left work early, had dinner at one of our favourite restaurants, and then made our way to the Canadian Tire Center.  The day had seemed to drag on painfully, but finally, the time had come.

Gord and the band stepped out on the stage a little past 8:30 to the wild roars of the crowd, and then they put on a show.  Man, what a show.  They started out in a tight grouping at center stage, a show of unity and brotherhood. I stood the moment they took the stage and did not sit down once.  I didn't take a bathroom break, a beer run... I didn't want to miss one second of that momentous occasion.  I didn't want to take my eyes off of him.

When they started with "Boots or Hearts", the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.  One of my faves, right off the bat.  Followed up with "Blow at High Dough", "Opiated", and "New Orleans is Sinking"... I could have gone home happy right there.  It was amazing.  Then they swung into a set of tunes from their new album, Man Machine Poem, and I was so thrilled I had bought that new album and immersed myself in it.  The music was familiar, and they played some of my favourite tracks, including "What Blue" and "Machine".

Then they had their first intermission, and I felt panicky.  Intermission already?  But we just got started.  This is going too fast... Way too fast...

I was already dreading the end, but trying to keep myself in the moment.  The night continued with blocks of songs from their biggest albums.  "Summer's Killing Us" seemed only appropriate. "Gus: The Polar Bear from Central Park", which had Gordie lumbering around the stage imitating a bear.  "It Can't Be Nashville Every Night." "Greasy Jungle."  "Nautical Disaster."

Then the tortured screams of "Grace Too".  I can't even begin to describe it.  The pain and the agony and the emotion that that man left on the stage...  it was an incredible moment.  A jarring moment.

It was the moment I realized this was all real.

I marveled at him, in his shiny flamboyant suits (we got green, silver, and gold), and his ridiculous hats with feathers that got bigger with each change.  He was dancing.  He was sweating like crazy.  He was working it for the crowd just like he always has.  Cracking little grins, putting on silly little performances, singing from his gut.  A true performer, right til the end.   He carried us through "Gift Shop" and "Springtime in Vienna", and then one of the most poignant moments of the night for me, "Ahead by a Century".

And disappointing you is getting me down... 

No disappointment here, man.  Not one little bit.

Gord gave us a little good-bye speech then.  A thank you to the city for being their home away from home, to the people for always welcoming them to Ottawa, for letting them play here so many times over the years. He joked about the small crowds in the early days, and how he had to work hard personally to get the ladies to come out. My wish then was that I'd taken more of those opportunities to see them. Suddenly, seeing them only 4 times didn't seem like enough.

They played two encores.  The first included the anthem "Courage (for Hugh McLennan)", and then my all-time favourite Hip song, the one I hoped above all hopes that they would play: "Wheat Kings".  The arena went almost dark, but for a few lights on the stage, and we held up our cell phones, turning it into a modern-era starry night sky.  It was pure magic.  It was my moment.

They closed out that encore with "At the Hundredth Meridian", and then we got another farewell speech... this one a little less jokey, a little more serious.  I fought back tears as he thanked us again, and told us to take care of one another.

When they returned to the stage one final time, they hit us with their classic "Bobcaygeon", and closed it out on a high note with "Poets".  We stood and cheered, even after the lights went up, and we hoped that Gord and the boys felt our love; our deep appreciation for giving us this one last time.  It couldn't have been any better.

But the end of that show wasn't the end.  We still had The Tragically Hip Day coming up on Saturday, with the live broadcast on CBC from the last show in Kingston.  I was torn during the week as to how to handle this day.  I knew it would be another emotional one.  Should I rally the troops and surround myself with emotional support?  Or sit in my dark living room and cry alone?  I ended up recruiting a few good friends to join me, and I was glad I did.  We sat on the deck late afternoon and enjoyed beverages, snacks, and of course, some classic Hip tunes to get us geared up.

Just before 8:30, we moved inside and huddled around the TV in my living room.  I was so happy then to have a few people with me.  They kept things light.  We joked about Johnny's hair being grey, and about the scarf around Gord's neck actually being socks (and indeed they were socks, "to keep the voice warm", as he explained at one point), and my desperately trying to show the girls large  Rob's "package" (said in a French accent) really is.

The band churned out hit after hit after hit, but while I had marveled at Gord's energy and vibrancy on Thursday night, on this night I was noticing other things.  He kept looking down - later, I realized, to read the teleprompter.  He was forgetting the words to his own iconic songs.  He was noticeably missing lines, and grimacing at his forgetfulness.  And physically, he was looking more frail and stooped. Nobody cared, but suddenly, the toll his illness has taken on him became startlingly clear to me.

This is a man who is dying.  It's not a sick, sad joke.  He was gutting it out, gritting his teeth and digging deep to give his fans, his band, and his entire country, one last moment.

I am ever so grateful to him for that.

On this night, he acknowledged the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, in attendance.  He made a plea for our country to figure out the mess with the Indigenous people up North.  He again gave his thank you's, and his jokes.  He blew kisses and flashed the peace sign.  He mugged for the camera and danced and acted just like goofy ol' Gord.

He acted with pure and unabashed courage.

The precious moments were there too.  More so than ever.  He kissed his band mates on the lips.  He hugged them close and leaned on them.  At one time, he left the stage gripping Johnny's arm as if his life depended on him. When they came out for that unprecedented third encore, I thought, Dear God, please never let this end.  But it did.  It had to eventually. In the end, he stood arm in arm with his boys.  He saluted the crowd.  And he smiled.

It was a Canadian night like none other I have ever experienced before.  The coming together of a nation for a rock show, one that we shall hold deep in hearts forever.  They even paused the coverage of the Summer Olympics in Rio for this concert.  They let us watch it in its entirety, in viewing parties across the nation.  Our country stood still, held in this moment together, in a tribute to one man like nothing we have seen before.

I managed to keep it together for most of the show,  almost all 3 hours of it, but it was during "Scared" that my tears finally did fall.

Yes, Gord, you have made us scared.  I know you weren't prepared, but you had to.  And yes, you really had us going there for a minute or two.  You made us scared.  You did what you set out to do.

I've got to go, it's been a pleasure doing business with you...

The pleasure was ours, sir.

The pleasure was all ours.

To donate to the Gord Downie Fund at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, please visit: