A beautiful read

Gosh, I didn’t stick with my November commitment to blog every day. Not. Even. Close.

And December will be even busier. But it’s starting off well, because I’m writing and this is only the 1st. So think of this as a BEAUTIFUL start to my month.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs, those of entrepreneurs, businesspeople, thinkers, creators – people who took a risk and did something bold with their lives! You’ll find the word beautiful in a lot of these descriptions, because the artsy, creative sites are the ones I’ve been reading for several days.

These are a few of the sites I’ve found interesting, informative or inspiring, in no particular order:

  • James Altucher (don’t ask me how to pronounce it). Frankly, I don’t know how this guy has succeeded, but he’s got something that works. He’s a combination of bad attitude and hopeless optimist, it would seem. He has succeeded and failed and succeeded again at more ventures than you can count on both hands. For some reason I keep going back to his advice (taking some of it with a grain of salt). He has written several books, including the most recent bestseller, “Choose Yourself.”
  • A Beautiful Mess. These are creative types who found success in doing something they love. It’s “a lifestyle blog focused on creating a beautiful life.” Their website is quirky, funky and … well … beautiful. One of the things I love is that the co-founders, especially Elsie, seem to be so generous of spirit. They post lots of tips, such as ways to take better food pictures (much needed by me), how to start a blog and other helpful things. This site’s a keeper.
  • Arkansas Women Bloggers. I joined this group a few months ago and have barely scratched the surface of its awesomeness. It’s a community of – you know – women bloggers from Arkansas. Lots of tips, creativity and support. I am SO going to their retreat next year.
  • The Pioneer Woman. You’ve seen Ree Drummond cook on Food Network. Her blog is not new to me, but I’ve gained a new appreciation since I’ve been looking at ideas for making my blog more beautiful and improving my photography. Her photos are beautiful, and the tone of her writing is light and fun.
  • Michael McGaha’s Flickr page. I grew up with Michael (we called him Mike back then), and he has a lot of photography know-how (and equipment). He takes beautiful pictures. When I told him I wanted to upgrade my camera, he graciously offered to let me borrow one of his before I decided which model to shell out for. I’ve been drooling over his Flickr shots for a couple of weeks, staying up way too late one night just dreaming of how I could even come close to matching his skill.
  • Alison Chino. Alison’s was the first blog I read on a regular basis, starting in the mid-2000s. She’s the daughter of my former pastor, and she and her husband and four kids moved to Scotland recently so Taido could study for his PhD in theology at the University of Aberdeen. Alison has become quite the successful blogger/photographer, being published on sites that have readers all over the world, including The Huffington Post. Alison has an adventurous spirit. Example: the dreadlocks she has worn for five years. (That’s bold for a white girl.) She takes great photos and writes even better. I’m jealous.
  • Sarabeth Jones. Second blog I started reading regularly a few years ago, and I’ll never forget Sarabeth’s comment when I tentatively commented that I “thought” I was nearly ready to start my own blog. She said, simply, “You are SO ready.” Sarabeth and Alison are friends, and I met them both several years ago at Fellowship North. In fact, Sarabeth is the resident drama queen at FN (just kidding – she’s in charge of the drama and other artsiness that goes on there, and does a – shall I say – beautiful job). SB takes stunning photos and, being a “creative type,” writes beautifully. Again, jealous.

I owe a big thanks to Sarabeth for the encouragement, even after I took the first faltering steps at blogging. I’ve always had to fight against comparing myself to her or Alison because they’re such good writers. I know that I’m unique and have my own message and way of telling my stories. It’s just hard to remember that sometimes.

I’m striving to make my writing and photography better – and having more confidence in my abilities. Reading these blogs definitely has boosted my confidence level and my determination to grow and continue to learn new things.

Thanks, guys!

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Farewell, Barney Sellers

My family said goodbye to a dear friend on Friday.

Barney Sellers, faithful husband, father, grandfather – and friend – passed away on Jan. 2, 2012, at age 85. He and his wife, Betty, had just celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary on Jan. 1, and he died about three hours after midnight.

Barney was an award-winning photographer, known for capturing on film everything from civil-rights marches to celebrities to heads of state, including at least two kings: Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll (happy birthday, Elvis), and “Martin Luther the King Jr.,” as the hospice chaplain who spoke at his memorial service jokingly told the gathering.

But I knew him as a gentle man devoted to family and friends first and to taking pictures second.

When Barney retired to Batesville after 36 years as a staff “photog” (as he called it) at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, he and Betty Sue moved across the street from my parents in 1988, while I was in college at ASU. Barney and I had that in common: We both earned journalism degrees at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro, not too far from Barney and Betty’s old stompin’ grounds in Walnut Ridge.

While he and my dad became fast friends (they both loved to tell stories, and lots of them), I looked to him as a source of teaching. As a student journalist, I, too, was interested in photography. Beyond technical skills, however, the tips I picked up from him had more to do with composition than f-stops and shutter speeds.

Dad and Morgan at Barney’s

Barney wasn’t one to photograph people – although one of my favorites is a black-and-white picture he took of my dad and niece sitting together on a bench in Barney’s front yard when Morgan was about 3. And, as a favor, he took my wedding pictures (and wouldn’t accept payment). In fact, it was on my 14th wedding anniversary last week that my mother told me of his passing. (If you subscribe to The Batesville Daily Guard, take note of Page 1 of the Jan. 3 edition, which features not only a photo of Barney accompanying the article but a shot he took of downtown Batesville under a huge full moon.)

My house and my mother’s house are adorned with pictures Barney took, and I can’t recall being allowed to pay him for a single one of them. I would be at his house, admire a picture among the dozens (or sometimes hundreds) he showed me on a particular visit, and the next thing I knew the photo was double or triple matted (by Barney) and given to me or my family as a gift. Mom was responsible for taking them to the frame shop, although the birthday gift he gave me one year (an aerial shot of the White River dam in Batesville), a wedding gift (of a huge full moon above a barn) and my favorite gift from Barney – a photo of double streaks of lightning in the night sky above the Memphis bridge – came complete with frame. He was very generous with his artwork.

Barney’s newspaper years were successful and spanned decades, but, after his official retirement, he was better able to indulge his passion for rural scenes. His “business” was called Barney’s Barns and Rural Scenes, but he was more teacher than businessman. He held photography workshops, taking eager students around scenic Arkansas and elsewhere, teaching them how to see the beauty in a simple dirt road, falling-down barn or old rusty plow.

His son Stanley – or “Chobee,” as I’ve always known him – told me Friday that probably 80-90 percent of Barney’s work centered on his beloved Ozarks.

Yes, Barney saw things that no one should have to see – he photographed civil unrest in the Memphis of the mid-20th century, he went to war (serving two stints in the Navy) and he was there the day singer Jerry Lee Lewis lost his 3-year-old son to drowning in 1962. But despite that – or perhaps because of it – he was able to see the beauty in God’s creation that many of us are too busy to notice.

I remember the time he was visiting my dad at the shop Dad had built in our back yard, and Barney saw a spider web hanging from a corner of the building. Barney said, “Don’t touch that,” or some such admonition to leave the web alone. He trudged back up the hill to his house, returned with a squirt bottle, misted the spider web and shot a typically stunning picture of it, water droplets sparkling in the moonlight.

If not for Barney, I probably wouldn’t have had the “eye,” or the presence of mind, to snap a picture of the spider-web-covered jade plant in Morro Bay, Calif., when Mom and I visited in 2006. In fact, I’m sure that my affinity for photographing “plant life” over “real life” had something to do with Barney. When I spent a summer in Guatemala after college graduation, I took lots of shots of hillsides, mountains, rivers, lakes and volcanoes, and when I returned home and proudly showed my parents all my wonderful pictures, Mom said, “Where are the people?” (She is more of the “line people up like statues” school of photographic thought, whereas Barney wasn’t so much into that.)

Barney liked to tease my mom; he had a wonderful sense of humor – sometimes mischievous, sometimes dry like mine. He loved to laugh, and he loved people.

Barney’s “uniform,” as I recall it, was a pair of khaki pants, a chambray shirt, a bandanna, sometimes a vest, thick eyeglasses and – more often than not – two cameras hanging from his neck. And when he would amble down the hill to our house – whether on foot or in his Jeep on the way to photograph some dilapidated thing down some dirt road (Chaplain Brent said he was told that Barney “knew where every barn was in the state of Arkansas”) – he frequently carried a can of Coke supplemented with Metamucil. “He’d nurse that thing all day, it seemed like,” my mother recalled Friday as we reminisced on the way home from the service. To me, the Coke and Metamucil were simply part of the Barney package.

Barney was old school and had his own way of doing things (hence the recording of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” at the memorial service). According to his family, he took “thousands and thousands and thousands” of photos in his lifetime, all of them with a film camera. His daughter, Susie, had tried to convert him to digital photography but didn’t succeed. Chobee told me about all the prints and negatives in the house, in the garage, in a 10-by-16-foot storage building. Chobee had tried to get his dad to let him sort and catalog them but, again, didn’t succeed.

“He had his own way of cataloguing them, and none of us knew what that way was.” Chobee tried to reason with his dad: Someday we’ll need to know your system. Barney promised to teach him the system, but that day never came.

Barney’s health hadn’t been good in several years. His children had been trying to persuade their parents to leave the split-level house in Batesville – where Barney didn’t do well on the stairs “and kept scaring the daylights out of all of us,” according to his son Richard. They wanted their parents to move back to Memphis, where Barney’s cardiologist and other doctors were. So, even though “his heart was in Arkansas,” according to Chobee, he and Betty Sue finally left their home state and in 2007 moved back to the Memphis area, where Barney died.

There are a few things I regret in life – not getting my Nanny or my Aunt Jo to teach me how to quilt (I paid for classes at a store after both of them had passed on), not getting my Grandma Tressie to really teach me how to sew garments, not spending more time with Dad underneath all those cars he worked on, so I’d know how to change my own oil … and not spending more time at Barney’s elbow, soaking up his knowledge of photography and his love for all things rural. Now it’s too late for all of that.

But if there is anything Barney taught me, it is to keep doing what you love – and to love your family and friends while you’re doing it. I’m determined to keep working on that lesson.

We will miss you, Barney.

It’s appropriate that Barney’s family had his remains deposited in a vintage camera case. On a date to be announced, his ashes will be scattered at his favorite spot in the Ozarks.

I took a small portion of information for this post from The Batesville Daily Guard and The Commercial Appeal. To view some of his work, please visit both newspapers’ websites (links above). The Commercial Appeal‘s site includes a gallery of Barney’s news and feature photos.

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185 pounds

I forgot to tell you in the last post that my weight was 186 (that’s 8 pounds gained since my knee surgery and subsequent down-hill slide into indulgence).

Since I wrote that post Wednesday night (I had weighed that morning), I’ve lost a pound. Friday is my official weigh-in day, so I’ll try to remember to post each Friday. My blog-every-day plan kind of hit the skids when school started in September. It was a loooong semester.

Now that I have an iPhone (a birthday present in late November), I’m looking for a good calorie-counting app. I’m trying one out but not sure I like it. If any of you can suggest a good one, please leave a comment.

Today will be a bit of a challenge, because we’ll probably be eating at a restaurant in Memphis and I’ll have less control over the food prep. Bruce, Mom and I will be going to Southaven, Miss., for the memorial service of a dear friend, Barney Sellers, who died Monday. He was featured on the front page of Tuesday’s Batesville Guard, but you have to have a paid subscription to view more than a few paragraphs online. Here’s a link to the article in the Memphis paper, The Commercial Appeal, which is free (you have to register only if you want to post a comment).

I will write more about Barney in a future post. He was one of a kind.

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Random comings and goings

Previously I have posted “random thoughts” when I just wanted to ramble, but tonight I just want to get some activities off my mind that I have been wanting to post about.

In no particular order, but starting with today:

  • This morning, Bruce and I had a good time bowling in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of North Central Arkansas fundraiser Bowl for Kids’ Sake. Our friend Betsy asked us to be on her team, and since we love to bowl and hadn’t done it in a long time, we decided we could spare the time for such a worthy cause. Betsy is on the board of the local chapter of BBBS. She was sick and didn’t get any sleep last night, so we persuaded her to stay home and rest. Her husband, Tommy, their son, Shane, and Tommy’s boss, Dave, formed the rest of our team. When I find my camera bag that contains the disk reader, I’ll post pictures. (This was my second or third event to photograph since I’ve misplaced the camera bag. I think I may have left it at UACCB, where I took pictures a couple of weeks ago. That’s the last place I remember taking the camera out of the bag. It also contains the battery charger and our extra set of rechargeable batteries. Rats!)
  • Bowling, Part 2: I bought a bowling ball 10 years ago, for two reasons: I am a wimp, and I have big hands (thanks, Dad). Previously when I went to a bowling alley I’d go for the lightest ball possible, but those very light ones are drilled for … children. Oh, that I had skinny little fingers that would fit those kid-size holes! Today, Tommy and I shared my 8-pound ball, which hasn’t had much use in the past few years (when Bruce’s most recent Crohn’s flare-up started, and even when he was in remission, he just didn’t have the endurance to bowl. And busy schedules prevailed). I mention the lack of use of the ball because that is the reason I’m sticking to – after reading all the messages boards about it – for why chunks began falling off my ball today as Tommy and I took turns using it. (Here is the message board where I got the most satisfactory answer.) By the end of our two games, there were not only several chunks missing but several cracks in my pretty little bowling ball (took pictures of that, too). Never expected that in my wildest bowling dreams!
  • I have managed to finish reading Chapter 12 for my Intro to Business class at UACCB, but I haven’t even started Chapter 13, which I’m supposed to have read by Monday night. The chapters are long (but interesting), and I’m a slow reader – at least if I actually want to retain the info. I’m enjoying the class, but it involves a lot of work. Our semester project involves building an imaginary business. I never thought I would have so much fun creating a gourmet bakery from scratch! I’m making up stuff right and left, such as my children Cookie and Chip (who will help run the business and someday inherit it, along with their half-brother, Courtney) and the fact that I won’t have to ask the bank for any loans. 🙂 It has been a good experience, although – again – time consuming.
  • I had a nap this afternoon. Naps are gooood.
  • Here’s something I was supposed to do today but didn’t: I skipped the first Saturday session of the Women Can Run clinic. I think I was bitten by the so-what bug, which kind of makes me mad at myself. I applaud the clinic leaders for committing their time to us, but when they said Thursday night that they would not be there Saturday morning if it was “pouring down rain,” I lost a little of my enthusiasm (this was not the first time they had disappointed me). So when I got to thinking about my busy day ahead, even though I was up and at ’em in plenty of time, and even though it was not “pouring down rain” at clinic time, I didn’t go. My plan was to run later in the day, but I got to studying, napping, reading ahead on my Connect+Scripture chapters (because our pastor’s wife lost her grandmother this week and they are supposed to write Monday and Tuesday’s posts – and until a few minutes ago I thought I might have to write them both) and maybe watching a little HGTV (“Designed to Sell,” which is going to help us sell our North Little Rock house by osmosis), so I sorta blew off the afternoon run, too. Do I feel guilty? Yes. But what’s done is done (or not done, in this case). Tomorrow is another day.
  • Tomorrow: We have missionaries to Albania speaking not only in our Sunday morning service but at our community group in the evening. Can’t wait to hear their testimonies. I always love hearing what God’s people are doing around the nation and the world, sacrificing their lives in service to Him. And I don’t know a whole lot about Albania, so it should be enlightening.
  • We are 99 percent finished painting all the dark rooms in our NLR house, as our real estate agent told us to do. We are 100 percent finished replacing the 1970s light fixtures – the other suggestion she made. We drove down there six weekends in a row to get those jobs finished, even though it killed us to do it, not only figuratively (beautiful rooms had to be painted blah-beige) but a tiny bit literally: The last time we were there, we were both sick and just couldn’t finish (although we worked on it 11 hours that day, not to mention the 180-mile round trip). As providence would have it, a couple of days later my cousin Matt got frustrated with his apartment search and asked us about renting the house. Voila! He moved in Sunday, and he said he would finish the last little bit of painting. We’re so grateful for that! I haven’t heard whether he has done the painting, but our agent is holding a Realtor open house Tuesday. So not only is Matt finishing the painting so we don’t have to spend the time and gas money to drive down and do it, he’s helping pay the mortgage with his rent money. Also, he said he’d water our nearly dead landscaping. Click here for the listing, in case you’re in the market for a 4-bedroom, 3-bathroom, 2,600-square-foot house that has had extensive updates in the past two years.
  • There are so many things I want to do right now but don’t have time for (such as housecleaning!). I’ve decided not to take a class this summer, and also by then the running clinic will be over, so those two things will free up three nights a week (and Saturday mornings) for me, not to mention the time I’ve had to spend studying and working on my semester project.
  • The church blog has been a blessing and a bit of a burden, although it’s a nice burden to have. Because the whole thing was my idea (to challenge the church to read the Bible in a year and then to get church members to blog about it five days a week), I was put in charge of it. Don’t get me wrong – every single thing about it is good except for the fact that it takes a lot of my time. There’s really no way around that, short of getting Bruce saved so he can be co-editor and one of the writers of the blog. 🙂 What I love about it: It unites church members in a common endeavor, it gets us to read the Bible daily (something I’m prone to put on the back burner unless I have a formal plan), it challenges those of us who are writing to really, really think and pray about what these Scriptures truly mean, and it gives different perspectives on God’s word. Iron sharpening iron.
  • In November I started exercising again, and in February I joined Weight Watchers Online, and I am struggling with the Weight Watchers part. For one thing (and this is most of it, but it is really just an excuse), they made major changes to the plan but quickly ran out of the electronic calculators to help count the daily points values of foods. The old system, which offered the option of an electronic calculator or a free slide-rule that came with the membership packet, eliminated, by necessity, the slide rule. I have been checking the website every day for weeks (I read that they were supposed to have more in stock by March 5 – today), but still no calculators. So, unless I’m near a computer, I can’t count my points. Again, that is an excuse, because I certainly could figure out the points at home at night or in the morning, then make sure I eat the corresponding foods during the day at work. I used to be able to decide to lose weight (or most anything) and just do it – now, God is telling me that was all an illusion. Without His help, I can do nothing. But I haven’t really been crying out to Him for help. That is my fatal flaw. Busyness is the enemy here; that’s one reason I’m taking the summer off from school – I’m neglecting so many things right now, including my family and my health (physical, mental and spiritual).
  • I have an appointment Wednesday with my cardiologist in NLR. It’s supposed to be my second “annual” checkup since my October 2008 diagnosis of mitral-valve prolapse, but apparently the doc’s staff doesn’t send reminders and it is up to me to schedule the appointment. I’m a big girl, but I didn’t schedule it last fall like I should have. Why? Because I’m a big girl. Last time I saw him, he gently told me I need to lose “a few pounds,” and I haven’t. I’m embarrassed to see him when I’m nearly as heavy as I was last time. It is not for lack of trying, but I just haven’t succeeded. (See previous item for explanation/excuse.)
  • John Mark just e-mailed me his Connect+Scripture post, so it’s time to stop rambling.

Thanks for listening! Post a comment and let me know what’s happening in your life.

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White River Photographers Club minutes – Dec. 9, 2010


I tried to upload the minutes of last week’s White River Photographers Club to Facebook tonight as a PDF, but apparently that’s not possible. Here are the minutes, and I will be linking to this post from Facebook until we figure out a more elegant way to do it.

White River Photographers Club
Meeting Minutes
Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010

The Batesville Camera Club, subsequently renamed the White River Photographers Club, convened at 6:30 p.m., with club co-founder Michael McGaha presiding and Suzy Oakley taking notes.

The main topic was the upcoming photo scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt’s dual purpose is to create interest in club membership and to promote Batesville businesses.

Details: The contest will run Jan. 13-20. Club members will judge the entries Jan. 20 for first, second and third prize.

Michael McGaha and Suzy Oakley will visit Batesville merchants to offer them the opportunity to participate. Participation can involve simply promoting the contest if the merchant prefers not to give a prize or have a clue inside the business.

A merchant who wants to participate actively will offer a prize and be willing to have an item at the business that will be photographed for the contest. An item does not have to be inside the business; it can be a fixture or a permanent object outside, or even a part of nature. We’re looking for unique features around town.

Club co-founder Clayton Cavaness will make fliers that can be posted in merchants’ windows or handed out. Merchants who post fliers will have contest clues on hand to give to contestants. A contestant also may get the clues from the club by e-mailing Michael.

Contest entries must be submitted by Jan. 20. Contestants should bring their photos to the meeting on a flash drive, a CD or some other removable medium.

Suzy will contact Eye On Independence magazine to see about submitting an article about the contest, and Michael will contact the Batesville Guard to promote it.

Club members will have a special meeting Jan. 6 to compile clues for the scavenger hunt.

The club voted to change its name from Batesville Camera Club to White River Photographers Club so that photography enthusiasts outside Batesville would feel welcome. (Immediately after the meeting, Clayton created a Facebook page with the new name.)

Club members showed some of the photos they had taken, and the group discussed techniques and tips.

The meeting adjourned. The next regular meeting is Jan. 20, when contest entries will be judged.

– Submitted by Suzy Oakley

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Batesville Camera Club

To my friends without Facebook pages (or, really, to my friends with FB pages, too):

Michael McGaha and Clayton Cavaness, two very talented local photographers, have corralled a few people and started a camera club (we’re working on a more-inclusive name than Batesville Camera Club, but for now that’s what it’s called).

If you have any ideas for a club name that will let everyone know that this is open to anyone, regardless of ZIP code, please suggest them in the comment section of this post or on the Batesville Camera Club Facebook page. Note that when we do decide on a name, we’ll have to establish a new FB page and I don’t believe the posts will transfer. So either search for such terms as “White River Camera Club” (one of the suggested names) or come here to post a comment – or e-mail me if you have my address.

We meet at 6:30 p.m. the second Thursday of each month (next meeting Dec. 9) and will start having a field trip once a month, too. The meetings are in the Batesville Municipal Building.

Here are the main points from the 11/11/10 meeting:

1.  Each club member showed pictures we have taken that we like or wanted  advice on. There are some really talented people in our group, and I  learned a thing or two. For instance, Michael took some really pretty  night shots of flowers; he said he uses a wireless flash that he holds  several inches away from his camera.

2. We’d like to decide on a name by the next meeting because …

3.  We’re going to do a photo scavenger hunt and involve the Main Street merchants. We talked about doing it before Christmas, when the merchants  would be eager to have people in their shops, but we decided we don’t  have enough time to get that accomplished by the Dec. 9 meeting (because  we’ll have to select the items from the stores and then write clues for  them, after giving the merchants time to let us know if they’d like to  participate). We also discussed that people might get cameras for  Christmas and be eager to use them after Christmas (also, this will get  people in the stores for post-Christmas sales). We’ll get the Batesville  Guard to post an announcement and let people have one week to submit  the photos of the scavenged items they find in the stores. The merchants  won’t be allowed to give hints, and if someone takes a photo of the  wrong item, the merchant just has to let them do it. (If there’s not  room in the Guard to post the list, we’ll post it on FB; if someone  doesn’t have an FB page, Michael can e-mail it or they can drop by his  office or the Guard to get a printout.)

4. We’d like to have a  photography theme for each meeting. Next up: “Things I’m Thankful For.” To participate, bring a thumb drive (or CD) with 5-10 photos of  things you are thankful for and be prepared to share a bit about the photography: how you set up the shot, any technical or creative aspects of the shot, etc.

You do not have to be a professional photographer, or even really good at taking pictures, to be a part of the club. I certainly am a complete amateur; I simply love taking pictures. If that describes you, come join us at our next meeting or visit our Facebook page.

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