Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Creating habits

I'm doing a photo-a-day thing over on Instagram. I love Instagram, and I'm having a lot of fun playing around with different photography apps and filters, and making my photos look interesting (at least to me). The person running the project picks four photos each day, and I don't know whether to say they're the "best," or her favorites, or what the criteria is. She says that's difficult, and I'm sure it is. I've looked at a few of the ones that were picked, and so many of them look like professional photos, with lightboxes and staged object and posed subjects. And there's absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I couldn't be less interested.

I love the little moments, the everyday things. I love seeing a blurry photo of someone's scruffy dog, or the flowers that they got for their anniversary, or their kids' Halloween costumes. My own photos tend to be what I see out the window at work, or Dinah lying in her chair, or one of the dogs at work acting goofy, or a fortune cookie fortune that tickled me. I try to make a nice composition, at least sometimes, but I usually don't give it a lot of thought. For me, the point is recoding something from my day, and making the commitment to look for something beautiful, or at least interesting, in that day. And to take the photo of that everyday object and play around with it and make it more interesting, or more beautiful.

Rachel Herron writes:

That part, the cataloguing, feels important to me. We’re so good at posting the pretty and the perfect. We like Pinterest for a reason. Pretty is attractive. We like the well lit, the well composed, the perfect. It’s good to open that up and post the real things, the attempts that don’t work as well as the ones that do.

She's talking about a sketch-a-day project that she's doing, but the sentiment is the same.

This month the project is alphabetical, i.e., the first day of the month was A, the second day B, and so on. I couldn't think of anything for yesterday (N) until I went to the cabinet for a snack and saw the container of mixed nuts. Aha! The picture isn't very well composed, or particularly interesting, but it's a slice of my life, and when I see it I will remember the process of creating it.

The benefits are two-fold. One, it's a commitment to do something every day, whether inspiration strikes or not. Because you can't wait for inspiration to strike, you have to forge ahead and keep your eyes open, and make it happen. Make it happen every day, make it into a habit, and it will be so much fun to look back on. I'm also doing two other "every day" projects right now. One is affirmations that I write every morning, and the other is a gratitude journal that I write every night. I put them in my iPhone reminders, and it is always a temptation to say, "oh well, it doesn't matter if I skip a day," but it does matter.

Two, it's creative. It may be a tiny bit of creativity, but it's creativity, and every little bit helps push me to the next level. It's like Anne Lamotte's concept of "shitty first drafts," or Barbara Bretton's "butt to chair." You just put it out there, and keep putting it out there, and even if the first iteration is terrible (and it almost always will be), it will just keep getting better as time goes on. You just have to keep doing it.

So, I just keep doing it. Today's letter is O . . . .

(I designed Barbara Bretton's website, and I'm pretty proud of it. I'm not even going to put any caveats or false modesty in there, because I know it's good. Once in awhile you just get it right.)

(Oh, and I'm doing NaNoWriMo this year, and it's not like I have nothing else to do. But the busier I am, the more plates in the air, the better.)

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Photo apps and magical thinking

I like the idea of having rituals that I do every day, but I'm not very good at sticking to them. But there are all kinds of iPhone apps that help me do it, and I did pretty well in September.

I've tried to the "photo-a-day" thing before, but I always kind of fizzle out. In September I did it every day. Part of it was having fun with a bunch of iPhone photography apps, and having a new iPhone with the space to install a bunch of them.

Aside: When the new iPhone 6 came out, the price on the previous models dropped dramatically. I had a 16GB iPhone 4, and the home button was starting to be unreliable. I was able to get the 32GB 5S for $149. Then the battery on Bob's cell phone stopped holding a charge. We were both out of contract, and he could have gotten a 5C for free, but he decided he would be happy with my old 3G, so he swapped out the SIM card from his old phone, I added a data plan, and he's back in business with a new (to him) iPhone for just a few dollars more a month. He's really enjoying it.

My current favorite photo apps:

Instagram, of course. It might be my favorite app of all.

Little Moments. This is the app built for the Fat Mum Slim Photo a Day project. It has a bunch of nice filters and doodles. This is the photo-a-day project that I did in September and will probably continue with.

CCDays. I don't use this one so much for the photo-a-day challenge aspect as for the calendar view that automatically pulls in your Instagram photos and displays them.

Afterlight. A photo filter app with lots of nice, soft filters.

MagicHour. I love this one! It has tons of user-created filters, and new ones are added all the time. My favorite is the default "Magic Hour" filter.

Some more good ones:

DistressedFX. Lots of really nice distressed-looking filters, and you can add birds to your photos as well.

Aura. A nice group of good filters.

Instaplace. Adds overlays to your photos with location and other info.

Day of the Dead Me. Decorate your photos for the Day of the Dead!

I kind of got carried away with the iPhone photo apps, but there are a couple of other rituals that I am doing lately. One of them involves another iPhone app, this time, Gratitude Journal. I have it set to send me a reminder at 10:00 every night, and I open up the app and add at least 5 things that I'm grateful for. It's usually small things like getting a compliment, having something good for lunch, sleeping with the windows open, etc. And sometimes it's a stretch to think of five things, but it's a good exercise to go through every day, and I think it helps mood-wise.

I'm also doing affirmations first thing in the morning. I am going through a Daily Om course for the second (or maybe third) time, called "Make Yourself a Money Magnet." It's all about changing your mindset about money, and I have to admit mine is pretty bad. It's really hard for me to change my thought patterns, but I'm trying. It always seems to work to a certain degree, i.e., when I'm going through it I always start getting a bunch of little things, like finding coins in the street or getting my annual $1.87 dividend check from a former employer.

It's a form of magical thinking, of course, but I do think that if you can change your thought processes, you can sometimes make changes in your world. You just have to believe that change is possible.

Here's another photo app: Simplique - For making cool iPhone wallpaper from your photos.



Monday, September 29, 2014

I am so annoyed at Target

I used to love shopping at "my" Target store. It had everything I needed, I knew where everything was, and I just liked it. I almost never shopped anywhere else. I got all my groceries and drugstore items there, they had a great office supply department, household stuff, pretty much everything.

Then they remodeled. For the last few months it's been a mess, but I kept going, assuming they'd figure it all out and it would be the same, but better. That didn't happen. They finished, I guess, or at least it seems like it's finished, but it's kind of awful.

One of the reasons I liked it was because it was big, and spacious, and it was just kind of fun to wander around in. Now the aisles are VERY narrow, and REALLY long, it's almost claustrophobic. And they switched to those huge plastic carts that look children's toys, and you can barely get two of them down on of the newly narrow aisles. And of course, they've moved everything, which I expected, but I'm not really excited about doing a scavenger hunt every time I need something. I went there on Saturday, and I can't remember what it was, but there was something that I never did find. I just gave up.

Tonight I wanted to make soup when I got home, and I was thinking, well, Target has good produce, usually, I'll give it another shot. It's like the produce department is just for decoration now. I wanted celery, and they had a few packages of celery *hearts,* but no actual celery stalks. I like to use the tops in my soup, but nope, they didn't have any. They had baby carrots, but no whole ones. There was a lovely little display of peppers, though, like four of each color arranged very artistically.

It's like a boutique grocery store or something, like the one down at the lake that drives me nuts because they have one brand of pickles and one brand of jelly or whatever . . .

My dad complains that all the stores now want to be all things to all people, like how they're all adding gas stations and coffee shops so they can get all your money. I'm not sure what the aim here is, but I think at some point stores need to realize that they can't be all things to all people. I actually did enjoy going to Target as kind of a destination, but it was just because I could get what I wanted there, and it was a pleasant shopping experience.

I actually couldn't believe that they didn't have celery stalks. They had some organic celery for about twice what I was willing to pay. So I bailed and went to the Price Chopper across the street. Bye bye Target, it was nice knowing you.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

New site for Barbara Bretton

I designed a new site this weekend for my first client, author Barbara Bretton, to highlight the October re-release of two of her books set in the 40's and 50's.

Friday, September 12, 2014

How I set up my day planner

I've been enjoying my paper planner so much lately that I decided to write about it again. I know this is one of those "what is in my purse / what did I have for lunch" topics that not everyone is interested in, but it's the kind of post I love, so, so be it.

I, of course, keep a lot of information in my cell phone, and that's great, and I periodically try to just go with that, i.e., be electronic-only, but I haven't found a good enough notetaking alternative, and also, you know, when the zombie apocalypse comes, I'm going to be glad that I have all this stuff written down and not in my phone exclusively.

All kidding aside, there are a few things that I don't want to rely on my phone for, and two of them are phone numbers and medical records. A few years ago I read a book about a natural disaster that cut off the electricity, and once everyone's cell phones died, no one knew anyone else's phone numbers, because they didn't need to since they were in their phone. So I made up a little card that has my family's and friends' phone numbers on it, and I made one for Bob, too.

I also have a card in my wallet that lists the medications I'm currently taking, and the ones that Bob takes. Because that's something that's pretty important, and I can't always remember everything off the top of my head. If my phone is stolen, or lost, or dead, then I still have a record that I can refer to.

So, the binder.

My binder is a big, squishy Franklin Covey leather one in a light beige with a very subtle shimmer to it. I'm not sure what that's all about. I don't remember when I bought it, but it was a long time ago, and I'm sure it was on sale. It it the Classic size--5" x 8" -- with seven rings, and has a zipper all the way around, which I love; it keeps stuff from falling out, and keeps everything in much better shape than it would be in an open binder.

Some of the inserts are Franklin Planner and some are DayTimer, and a few are just random things that I have picked up in office supply stores. Oh, and I was SO disappointed to find that all of the Franklin Covey brick-and-mortar stores have closed, except for one in Minnesota or somewhere. I do understand that paper planners are sort of dinosaur-like given the current electronic climate, but I always enjoyed going into the stores and browsing. It's not possible now, everything has to be ordered over the internet.

From the front, the binder contains:

Plastic one-sheet hole punch, useful for punching random pieces of paper so they fit in the binder and don't get lost

Front inside zipper pocket: A few 3x5 cards and a small Post-It pad

Front inside card slots: Business cards (mine) and a credit card-sized calculator

Page lifter (one in the front and one in the back, this keeps the pages from getting messed up when I close the binder)

Vinyl zip pocket: Post-It flags and tabs

Business card holder - Business cards and reminder cards

Page protector containing the binder flyleaf with my contact information

Page protector containing a couple of photos of Bob and me

Plastic pocket divider page with return address labels and miscellaneous loose papers

Dividers - I couldn't find what I wanted, so I created these myself by cutting down some clear plastic dividers I already had. The tabs are:

Phone - Emergency phone numbers and other numbers I refer to frequently

Calendars - Planning calendars that came with the planner insert, from 2014 to 2022!

Work - Information that I need to have easily accessible for work

Personal - Current medications, medical history, Christmas list, other miscellaneous personal information

Book Notes - I'm working on a new book, so this section holds notes, research, lists, scenes, brainstorming, etc., related to the book project

After the tabs are some lined blank paper, then

Two page per month calendar tabs for a year (July 2014 to June 2015)

One month of DayTimer Classic Size (5x8) two-page-per-day daily pages. When the month is finished I go through all of the daily pages for that month and put any important information on the monthly diary record on that month's tab page, then remove the month's pages and add the next month. I leave the calendar page dividers there so I can refer back to them. I wish I had room for more months, ideally three -- the previous month, the current month, and the next month -- but I just don't. It makes the binder too full and hard to close. I just have to be diligent in making notes on the calendar pages that I can transfer to the daily pages when I put them in.

I've tried different brands and different sizes and layouts, and I always come back to this one. Franklin Planner has a comparable design, but I like DayTimer's better. The paper is wonderful, smooth and thick, and I like the layout. The left-hand page has a "To be done" section, an appointment section with times from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., a "Phone calls" section, and an Expense and Reimbursement Record section.

The right-hand page is called Diary and Work Record, and it's a completely blank, lined page, and that's my favorite part. I use it for meeting notes, journaling, and lately, affirmations. If I run out of room, I just go get one of the blank pages and stick it in there and keep on writing.

And two pens in the pen loops, a black one and a pink one for making things stand out -- both are Pilot G-2 07 roller balls, my current favorite pens.

Over the years I've gotten tired of carrying a big binder around and tried smaller ones, but for me, they just aren't as useful or satisfying, so for now, this is it.