Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Daily Prompt: Twilight Zone – Somewhere I Shouldn’t Be

Today’s Daily Prompt

Who hasn’t been lost at some point and time?  Who can’t relate to the feeling of helplessness when you are surrounded by unfamiliar places, people, smells, and sights?  One such experience made me acutely aware how easily and innocently I could end up somewhere completely out of my comfort zone.  On one sunny day in September a few years back, I looked in my rearview mirror and saw the familiar terrain of downtown Dallas behind me.  Ahead, I could see I was travelling somewhere I shouldn’t be.

            I had come to Dallas the night before for a conference for work.  Since I processed payroll for a living, a refresher course in state and local income taxes was very important to ensure that I kept my multi-state employer compliant with applicable laws.  At the end of the conference on that mid-September Friday, as I exited the Hilton Anatole hotel, I could see I-35 traffic was backed up for quite a ways.  There were no breaks in the waves of bumper-to-bumper cars.  “Ugh,” I cringed.  “How long will I be sitting in that?”  I decided there had to be a better way to get back home than drudging through miles of turtle-paced traffic.

            Unable to pull up the navigation system on my phone, I called my husband.  “Hey, I just left the conference.  I’m sitting here looking at rush-hour traffic on I-35 and it looks like I will be stuck for quite a while. Any chance you could find me a detour around it?”  After giving me a hard time about my inability to operate my navigation system on my own phone, the “I-D-10-T” problem he called it, he began directing me on a new route through downtown Dallas.  “No problem,” I thought.  “I’ve driven these one-way streets a number of times before, and it’s got to be quicker than sitting indefinitely stuck on the freeway with the other suckers trying to escape the city.”

            Driving under the freeway and down streets snuggly surrounded by skyscrapers that were filled with banks, offices, and residences, I was happily unaware of what I was in for next.  On the other end of the phone, my husband was giving me turn-by-turn directions through the city.  Casually driving down the one-way streets of downtown Dallas, past the convention center, I noticed the streets became eerily quiet.  It was as though someone inside the convention center flipped a switch as I passed by.  Suddenly, radio silence on my cell phone.

            It was not until I saw before me a sight only previously represented as fiction on TV that I became worried.  Aware I was hopelessly lost and not a signal to be had on my phone, fear seized me from my core.  I was not only lost, but cut off from communicating with the world I knew.  I was all of a sudden surrounded by the stench of poverty, in a seemingly foreign land, a clear line drawn between two diverse ethnicities.  The road down which my little Malibu puttered was a distinct, natural line drawn between the dwellings of these two cultures, a physical line.  Usually only symbolically and culturally drawn, this line was physical and unlike anything I could have imagined if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes.  Shanty’s on both sides of this little side road housed the poorest of the poor, short of the homeless.  These dwellings were only a mere step up from a cardboard box.  Had I been transported to a third-world country?  As I looked up from my phone, despondently aware there was still no signal, I see traffic has stopped in front of me.  More traffic slowing down behind me, we are all trapped because of a passing train on the tracks ahead.  On either side, the people that are always stuck in this slow-motion poverty are sitting outside their shanty’s, watching the world go by, or walking from one to another for purposes only they know.  Liquor stores, BBQ joints, and Mexican groceries are mixed in between the homes, but there are no post office, no bank, and no gas stations.  I began to wonder if the loss of cell signal was some sort of conspiracy.  Was I about to get caught up in some sort of action-thriller-shoot-out-carjacking-kidnap?  I was ready to speed up and race out of this god-forsaken place.  “I shouldn’t be here.  I shouldn’t have come this way.  My husband has no idea what he’s done to me, and won’t if they never find my body.”  Was I being silly?  Was I allowing my imagination to control my thoughts?  My growing fear began to pray, “Please deliver me, Lord.”

            I was rescued by the raising of the train crossing arm after what felt like two years, but was more likely about 30 seconds.  The train had passed and traffic moved on again.  In single file fashion, we drove on toward our destinations.  “Thank you, Jesus,” I prayed.  I sighed with relief.  The third-world country was now just an ant-sized sight in my rearview mirror.  I was never so happy to merge onto eastbound I-20; homeward bound, I was headed back to my life, with a new appreciation for my world.

Guest post: Infrared photography in Yellowstone National Park

I just had to share these stunning photos of Yellowstone in the wintertime. It really is a magical place…these photos emphasize that.

The Fujifilm Blog

By Simon Weir

Yellowstone_SW_XEIR1209-Edit

I started 2014 leading a workshop in Yellowstone National Park for Chris Weston‘s safari company “Magic Is” – I am now working regularly with them as a group leader and instructor.

Yellowstone in winter turned out to be an IR photographers paradise and my IR modified X-E1 with the 14mm did great service as the images below show. This camera blows me away every time I use it and there was a great deal of interest from the 12 photographers in the group – so much so that I ended up doing a full presentation on Infrared photography one evening while we were there.  My X-Pro1 and the XF55-200 also did good service as shown in the two bison shots at the bottom of this post.

Also pleased to report that both Fuji cameras worked faultlessly down to temperatures as low as -30C –…

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Difference Between Winning and Losing

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I once worked for a boss who always looked for new ways of doing things, from policies to processes.  Change can be great when it makes you better and more efficient, so I was usually eager to oblige. If it made life simpler, then all the better. However, occasionally she would get so excited to make these changes that the proper preparation was overlooked. Communication lacked, training didn’t take place, bugs in technical systems, etc. This lack of preparation usually resulted in confusion, disorganization and ultimately frustration for many people affected. We lost efficiency.  A little more time devoted to preparing everyone for the upcoming change could have made a big difference.

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Preparation makes the difference between winners and losers. A runner would certainly not win a race without training and conditioning himself beforehand. Proper nutrition and training is the key.  Preparation is more than a discipline, it is a way of life. Preparation itself takes practice. I often involve myself in my local community theatre. It’s one of my passions, theatre that is. When I accept an opportunity to direct a play, my job doesn’t start the night of auditions. No, I go through months of preparation way before audition night. Long before actors step foot on the stage with scripts in their hands, I’ve labored with research, blocking, characterization, music and set and lighting ideas…the list could go on. Once the actors take stage, I’m ready to help them with the best performance possible. Preparation makes all the difference to me in alleviating unnecessary stress, keeping things running smoothly, and keeping you from looking like an idiot.

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Small Flower in A Big World

I may be a small flower in a big world, but my how I can blossom in the soil where God plants me.  He does indeed put us where He can use us best, according to our gifts.  Sometimes, He even stretches us beyond our natural gifts.  Take Moses for example.  God chose Moses out of all the Israelite babies born in Egypt to be the one raised by Pharaoh’s daughter.  He chose Moses out of all Israelite men to be the one to speak on behalf of all. Moses, the in-eloquent one.  The man who stuttered was chosen to speak directly to God, to all of God’s chosen people and represent them to Pharaoh and all of Egypt’s leaders.  That just goes to show that God chooses how He can use us, when, and where.

I thought my writing career was over several years ago.  I no longer had any inspiration, motivation, or creativity.  I felt like all my leads and outlets were exhausted when I could no longer easily produce.  My life went through a huge upheaval, which affected more than just my writing.  To gain control and order back in my life, writing wasn’t even important anymore.  My family, health, and job were my priorities.  But, to my surprise, when I felt like my life came back under God’s promises again, writing still wasn’t there.  I journaled…I wrote letters…I wrote college essays…even Facebooked, but nothing seemed to jog my writer’s block.  I wanted to write prose, poetry, and stage plays again!  I wanted to write human interest pieces and maybe even devotionals.

Resigned to live a life without writing again, I filled my journals with jabber about what I was doing, what I was eating (calorie counting), scriptures I had read, and what my kids said to me.  (Not unlike many blogs out there, including some of mine).  Little did I know, God did have other plans for me.  Plans to prosper me…to give me hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11)  My life is in another transition…this time between careers.  As doors have closed and new ones have opened, writing was hiding behind one of these new doors.  God is good and will never lead us down a path that leaves all that we love and cherish behind.  Our plans and goals may not always fit His design, but He does design us to be able to glorify Him.  Sometimes He takes us through seasons that bring us to change our goals and desires to better conform to His.  He may take us through seasons that are devastating, confusing, and seemingly hopeless, but He restores us and uses these times to build us up in strength, character, and wisdom.  I am thankful for these times, as they have brought me to a place so much better than I ever used to dream to be.

I have read many blogs about blogging and I don’t wish to linger too long on the subject myself; however, blogging has made a huge impact on my life.  While I have been provided outlets to write again, blogging has been instrumental in helping me get started.  It has boosted my confidence, as I have a very public place to write and write and write and write.  Since my very recent blogging debut, I have been able to write A LOT!  And I appreciate all who read my blogs!  I encourage those of you who are struggling writers to not give up on writing.  If you are facing major writer’s block, or the challenges of getting published, or just feeling burned out…keep at it.  Keep jotting, keep typing, and keep blogging.  Get your words down and eventually, they’ll get to the readers you are writing to.

Any other writers out there who have found blessings in blogging?  Or, curses?  Please share your experiences with me.

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33 Must Be My Magic Number

33 is my magic number, and I don’t mean my sleep number.  I’ve never had a major problem with my weight or health.  My weight may fluctuate, but I’d always stayed within 10 pounds either way.  About 28, I had a stubborn 10 pounds that I really wanted off and I couldn’t seem to lose until I discovered Jillian Michaels and problem solved.  Within a month, I was in the best shape I’d been in yet.  A couple of years later,  I had a similar problem and P90X was my miracle.  I was in the best shape ever!  Within a couple of months, I was one sexy beach mama!  I am proud of those bikini pics!  I never considered it extremely hard to lose weight and get in shape if I really wanted to do so.  My wedding in 2012 was another motivator for which I got toned and tanned, and it was actually pretty easy.  But, at age 33, I seemed to hit a wall.  I was shocked to see 150 for the very first time on the scale.  Standing at 5’3″ on a good day, that’s a big chunk of weight!  A year later, the scale hadn’t budged much, so initiated an extremely grueling workout routine and diet.  Since crossing that threshold at 33, I have found that I must work at least twice as hard as I did previously before I see results.  I am 34 now and still have some weight to lose (for me, before my Vegas trip in March), but I have figured out what is working for me – more or less a combination of P90X and Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred.  Not that I’m being paid to endorse anyone, just saying they have helped me stay focused.  The extra water and boosted nutrition is also helping my skin keep its youth, as well.  I notice a difference on weeks that I cheat.  I suppose I should consider myself lucky – my youth has extended longer than some I know, and if I don’t let my guard down again, I can keep myself young for a while.  I do still occasionally get the “You don’t look old enough to have a 15 year old!  You look like sisters, not mother and daughter.”  I always love that.  But, I think now people are just trying to be nice. 

Excellence – A John Maxwell Moment

Always be prepared.  Preparation makes the difference between winners and losers.  It is more than a discipline.  It is an attitude, a way of life.  “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might.”  Ecclesiastes 9:10.  In other words, always offer your best.  In all you do, in all you have, for all you meet.  Always offer excellence.  Not perfection (that’s another story, which I’ve covered in another post), but your best.  When others see you do this, it really makes an impact on them.

Inspired by John Maxwell’s “25 Ways to Win with People.”