Saturday, February 13, 2016

Photography - Winter

"If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."-Anne Bradstreet

I have been capturing winter through my lens...

I love when photographers share their editing tips, so thought I would share a few of mine.

I've had a hard time finding an action I like to edit winter pictures. I don't like them too bright, I don't like the snow to have any hint of yellow, I'm picky. But I recently found an action in Shutter Pulse that brings out the loveliness of winter. It's in their Vintage 2 package, called Cool Vintage. After you run the action, you can open it up and still make adjustments for brightness, contrast, levels, curves..etc.. (If you buy any actions from Shutter Pulse, sign up for their email newsletter first. They send you a coupon. And I LOVE their actions! Totally worth it!)

Then, I used this tutorial to add snow. I've used it successfully before, but for whatever reason, I don't really like how I did the snow on these pictures. I think I went too quickly through the tutorial and maybe needed to thin out the snow. But if you look at the snow pictures, squint your eyes and tilt your head a little, they kind of look like what I am going for, so I'm posting them anyway. Because sometimes DONE IS GOOD ENOUGH.

Adventurous boys and winter play. Sweet moments forever captured.

Friday, January 22, 2016

My Remodelaholic Guest Post - How to Create a Sliding Mirror Over a Bathroom Window

I’ve been following the Remodelaholic blog for forever. It’s full of beautiful inspiration; I want to do every single one of their ideas. (Or more accurately, just pin the ideas on Pinterest and feel incredibly accomplished and creative for only doing that.) So when they contacted me to see if I would be willing to write a post for their blog about our master bathroom remodel and specifically our sliding mirror over the window, I think I might of briefly stopped breathing. They wanted the post done in two weeks, but it took me more like six. I wrote, then rewrote, and took pictures, then retook pictures because I love their blog so much I wanted the post to be just right. I hope you have a chance to see my fun, surprise blogging opportunity on their page. And THAT is one of my favorite things about life: you never know what little pick-me-up is around the corner.

A glimpse of my guest blog post...

My name is Cheryl and I blog over at Since I Became a Mom. I mainly write about motherhood, everyday faith, and when I see the two intertwine like in this post. I also throw in a little photography and updates on remodeling our home. (Join me on Facebook to follow along.)
My husband and I always wanted to update a home DIY-style. So, when we found a priced-right-but-in-need-of-TLC house we liked, we grabbed it. It’s been a lot of fun (and a lot of work) to make things our own. Here’s what we’ve finished so far: kitchen (Including barnwood countertops and refacing our fireplace); master bedroom (We refinished the hardwood floors found under the carpet); the downstairs bathroom (We added character with a cute built in shelf); and screened-in porch. We’ve also finished our downstairs basement, but pictures are not posted yet. And we are almost done with our sons’ bedrooms.
Today, I get to share with you our master bathroom remodel, and specifically how we created a sliding mirror across the window.

I hope you will head over to Remodelaholic to see more pictures and details in my full guest blog post.

Monday, January 11, 2016

What Moment Will Today Bring?

Six days ago, it was when my friend taught me how to crochet a star ornament. Previously, I had crocheted a hat for my then baby that instead fit my head. Then, I tried to crochet myself slippers, except the opening nicely allowed only three of my toes in. But the fun little star ornament, it turned out great.
Five days ago, it was when I saw the reply text from a friend. “Cheryl, you’re hilarious!” (Laughing hysterically emojie faces.) My thoughts: No, I’m not that funny. Well...actually what I texted her was pretty funny. (I laugh thinking about what I said.) Okay, I AM a little funny. Maybe taking a compliment doesn’t ALWAYS have to be hard. I’m claiming this one.
Four days ago, it happened when I pulled into my driveway. From my car, I saw my son watching out the front window for me. I had just been thinking: This day has conquered me. I need a hot cup of tea, a hallmark show, and for sleep to find me right now. But then there was my sweet son waiting for me to come home. I walked through the door right into his embrace.
Three days ago, it was when I found out a student I spent much time tutoring did well on his test. And then my dear writer friend emailed that she officially has an agent to represent her book.
Two days ago, it was watching my two older sons’ basketball games. Solid dribbling, passing and shots GOING IN…wow, all the kiddos have improved since the beginning. And they’re having fun. So cool to watch.
Yesterday, it was when my husband got up early and cooked us a warm breakfast.

Happiness. Joy. Moments that make me think: I am so glad I am right here, right now to experience THIS.
Every day we have them. Maybe only a few or perhaps too many to count, but every day there is SOMETHING to make us smile.
So right now, as I sit here in the early hours of my morning me-time, I am wondering: What joy will this day bring?
Today, I'm going to look for it. And when the moment of joy comes I am going to slow my racing mind, ignore my daily to-do list and just LEAN IN AND BE THERE.
Wanna join me?
I took this picture at a beautiful California beach.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday Busts and the Christmas Message

Sometimes, the most annoying-not-as-we-planned-it moments in the holiday season best tell the true meaning of Christmas.
Here’s what got me thinking about this. I was editing these photos thinking: These are lovely. I love Christmas.
I almost forgot about the kiddos juggling ornaments, breaking ornaments, and the sobbing because for whatever the reason, our dare-devil son got scared when his dad lifted him up to put the angel on the tree. (That picture didn’t turn out as planned.) Usually decorating is one of our favorite things to do. But this year, we were off. Grumpy, off. Not much fun, off.
But, do you know what? Even though I can get in my head how perfectly I want our holiday, memory-making moments to play out, this holiday bust didn’t bother me.
Lately, I haven’t minded all of life’s everyday bumps and imperfections. Maybe because I've noticed that no matter how many lists, conversations, or prepping we do, most things don’t ever go fully as planned. Flawlessness is illusive. Impossible. It can’t be accomplished. There might be a message in that. Perhaps that’s our everyday proof that God means what He says:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”  Ephesians 2:8-9
All of the everyday, unavoidable bumps remind us that perfection is not God’s message. Instead, we are held in the palm of His hand because of His grace. When we stand in front of Jesus and say: Please God, I need you. Walk this life with me. He always says: yes. We are loved by Him simply because He created us. Oh, sweet grace.
So, bring on the photo worthy moments of Christmas. But also, bring on the holiday busts. The moments that remind us grace is needed abundantly on this earth. Because those moments too can remind us of the kind of grace we already have. Free. Bountiful. Gifted to us through a baby in a manager by a God who deeply loves us.
May you have a wonderful Christmas. I hope you really enjoy it. Every single bumpy and wonderful moment of it.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Fairy Tale Hope

Fairy Tale Hope. 
A phrase I just made up so let me define it for you. I told my boys to put the last of the dinner plates and cups in the dishwasher while I finished getting ready. We all needed to leave. I’m upstairs for just a few minutes when I hear laughing and screaming and running and chasing. I’m sure the scene downstairs is not of angelic boys completing a chore, but of a frenzied scramble to find a Nerf gun, a pillow from the couch, a sword, a shield or something to dominate each other. I hear the thump of a take down, the cry of victory, the call of revenge…. And yet, there is a part of me that really truly thinks they did obey. Maybe they are just having a lot of fun lining the dishes in neat rows. I am sure pillows aren’t strewn about and no one is tangled in a wrestling move. The dishes are not teetering awkwardly on each other facing the wrong direction from being hastily thrown in.
No, that is not happening.
Okay, so it probably is happening. The downstairs has erupted into a den of untamed lions and the dishwasher probably won’t close because of the ridiculousness.
And yet...
...the hope is still there. A little part of me still thinks - really thinks - they just might be doing what they are supposed to be doing. And if they are not and I stall for a few more minutes before going downstairs maybe - just maybe - they will pull it together and get the chore done correctly.
Fairy Tale Hope. Have you been there too? #momproblems

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Rediscover Your Everyday Miracle

Every day you and I get to be a part of a miracle.

But I don't always see it. (Do you?)

It's undeniable when we see a beginning. A sweet newborn: we celebrate, we cuddle, we photograph. The miracle of life captures our attention and we pause to marvel at it.

But then our vision blurs. (My vision blurs.)

My schedule becomes hectic, and I find myself yelling like a madwoman for my family to hurry up, find their shoes - any shoes, matching is overrated - so we can get out the door and be almost on time somewhere. (Why can even the ordinary be stressful?) A phone call tells me my beloved grandma is in the hospital. (Oh, my heart. Why do people have to get sick? Why does pain exist?) My elementary age son is upset because a classmate pushed his lunch bag off the table to the floor and told him that was his seat. (Why do kids face stuff like that? How should I best handle this?) I get frustrated and tired....

...and I can't see the miracle.

But then, there are moments that stir my heart and remind me the wonder is still there...
In the middle of the night, our youngest son makes his way into our bed and fits his little body into the curve of mine. His lips pucker into steadfast breathing; I wrap my arms around him and cherish his smallness. Or I hear our three boys playing. They battle their toys with great animation and the sound captivates me. So much everyday love, I am lucky to be a mom.

With fingers laced around a warm drink, I look out the window and see the golden hues of the sunrise.
Man, it's beautiful. I linger. I feel the hope and fresh start a brand new day brings. And God gives us that gift every morning. Mind blowing.

My phone buzzes and I smile. It's a quick hello text from my mom and picture of my little niece wearing a paper bunny mask she proudly made. She's calling herself, "Carrots." Those pretty eyes and big grin, she is charming. People enrich my everyday life. Amazing, wonderful people. So blessed.

Yet, what do we do when we can't see the miracle? How do we mentally shift our focus from worry, pain, doubt, discouragement and fear to see the miracle of life and all the joy, love, hope and peace it holds?

Each morning, I fumble around for my glasses near my bed and I don't think about what makes me able to see - the lens that bends the light so it hits my eyes just right and the frames that holds the lens in place. I also don't always think about what sharpens my perspective on life. 


God breathes a holy quality into it. Because the more I stop focusing on life's messiness and start focusing on my blessings, the better I see.

Everyday busyness can be stressful, but there are so many great activities to be involved in. Life is full. (And we can always say no if it all becomes too much.)

, my grandma was in the hospital, but I still got to hear her sweet voice on the phone. She is one of the most incredible people I know and I get to be her granddaughter. Blessed, again.

I want to guard my kids from all challenges, but that is not how they grow. And parenting is hard, but I get to be a parent. What an awesome privilege.

With each positive thought, I can find another thing to be thankful for. You guys, it’s working. I can feel the light bending and hitting my eyes, my heart, just right. I continue to list: the good I saw come from the bad, the obvious things to be thankful for, and the blessings I take for granted. Discouragement is fading and I am wrestling back my perspective. My focus sharpens until I am only looking through the lens of gratitude. Then I can see – really see – where I am.

Where we all are…

…in the middle of the beautiful, breathtaking miracle of everyday life.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Coolest Operation Christmas Child Video

We filled Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes the other day. After we packed markers, notebooks, toothbrushes, toys…etc…each box had a little room left. I got all excited and was like, “Yay, boys – how fun would it be to fit a few more things into these boxes! Let’s dig through your excessive amount of toys and pick out some that are done playing with but are still nice!” (Cue let down music.) Apparently, they still play with all of their toys at all times and couldn’t part with any of them. Even the neglected ones. (Boys 1, Mom 0)
Then, I came across this video. That reaction? Wow. Just, wow. Someone hand me a kleenex. 
So, I showed this to my boys. It moved them too. They immediately went downstairs and came up with an impressive amount of toys to top off the boxes. 
God, thank you for stirring my boys’ hearts on this one. (Boys 0, God 1)