Learn Something New Every Day

9 Jan

The new year started at work and it’s this frustrating time with lots of opportunity and a huge challenge. In December, it felt like all these little bothers accumulated, in part to not setting up better systems from the start. So I hope to start every January with a smarter Excel spreadsheet, cleaned out inbox, clear intentions. Yet, January has its own task list. There should be a month between December and January for preparing for the new year.

I used to have this thing where I tried to learn something new every Wednesday: a new word, trivia, anything. The photo above is the first to include a person. You can read about it here, where it’s explained that it was a long exposure (10 minutes) that caught the still figure of a man getting his shoes shined, but none of the detail of a busy street. It’s an example of motion blur in photography.

I learned about this in an all-day DSLR photography class on Saturday.

It’s pretty astounding what information a camera will save, mostly depending on the amount of light we let in. Tiny packets of time, as my teacher repeated.

I feel this photograph deeply right now. All this traffic, and yet all these still moments. Before the year ended, I decided I wanted a lighter year in 2012, one with open windows, less clutter so light could hit the corners of the room, a lighter relationship with everyone. Lighter paint on my walls, lighter layers on my back.

Going back to learning something new constantly reminded me how empowering it is. I feel like fear or stagnancy are usually based in assumptions. In my class, we learned how to control the settings of the camera so we can stay away from the automatic settings. And once I started looking for opportunities to learn something new, I felt like I was challenging assumptions all over the place. Sitting in a classroom again, with a really interesting subject I wanted to know, not just felt I should, was great.

It shed light in a lot of the dark corners: I’ll never be a better photographer; I just can’t figure out technical things; I don’t have time to be away from the baby for a full day; My solo work style has made it impossible for me to participate in a class or group work… All that positive effect from seven hours in the city.

A few fun places I’ve recently tried out, or my husband has, for learning something new:

Chicago Photography Academy

I Wish Lessons (Rob took a Scotch tasting class!)

Lynda.com (I learned about this so I could go to the next level in Excel, but also noticed it has WordPress and Photography assistance.)

Happy 2012. I hope you are enjoying the year already and looking forward to more!

5 Dec

We choose this over and over.

This crazy, busy life we live is a choice. I wrote last time about how my husband’s on the road a lot. I struggle with certain aspects of it. One of us has always traveled. First, it was me. Then we had maybe a year where neither of us traveled much. Then he started travelling all the time. And I still travel a bit.

On Friday, a case of cabin fever sent me to the local cafe to work after noon. I needed to pound through a really tedious task where there was free wireless and a different set of four walls. After about an hour, when he was done with conference calls, Rob drove out to meet me. I sat across from my husband, working, in a coffee shop with music, on a Friday afternoon. When he is at home working, we are able to connect often, just to catch up or vent. When he is not on the road, he is almost always able to stop working when I come home from daycare with our daughter and one of us can cook, the other play with her. He can go to almost all her checkups, drop her off at daycare, let me sleep in the mornings while he dresses her. When he’s home on the weekend, Rob is an equal parent and has never tried to get out of a diaper change because he’s tired from being on the road.

The life we have because we have home offices instead of commutes is so valuable to us. For me to have a home office and do what I do is normal. For Rob to have the freedom he does have is not as common in his field.

On top of our professional lives, I feel driven to give our family a rich personal life. Time together, with others, around our town and into Chicago, in a cozy home, are all important. We had a busy weekend and I know this is what December looks like for a lot of people: decorating, parties, cooking, family travel, plays and music. I’m glad we tried so hard to get out of the house on Saturday for our town’s Cookie Walk. It’s a nice memory. At the same time, I took two naps myself this weekend, too, because taking care of my health is necessary for us to be able to do all the rest. I worked in time to read and write a bit. We did something we never do: because I miss long family walks, we bundled Romy up at her bedtime in her jammies, in her stroller and took a long family walk after dark in an unseasonably warm December evening. (Do I need to tell you she didn’t sleep?)

So what do I want my daughter to learn from this choice her parents have made, to separate our family from time to time for work, for both her parents to work, for us to be involved in our community and each have creative, solo pursuits?

Yes, we are stronger and fonder because of this. But that’s just a tiny thing, really, and it’s not a point in favor of the crazy. We’d be strong and fond of each other if we spent all our time together, I’m sure.

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She knows Daddy always comes back for her. She’s learning trust. She’s developing self-confidence. She and I are developing a special relationship. She is learning that a daddy can cook, but also that a daddy should turn off his phone at the dinner table when he is home with his family. She is learning  a mama can shovel the sidewalk and call the locksmith.

I want her to know we won’t settle, personally or professionally. It’s a good example that Rob is setting with some of the things he is doing at work now, trying to create something. She knows that we are more than our jobs, but she needs to know that our jobs need to fulfill us, so we push for the right fit. She sees us seeking perfection and excitement.

Our families live far away; it’s good that she understands far-away family can be in your heart all the time.

She’ll know that being married means tending to each other in every way possible, to lift each other up. She knows that we are united and have the same rules. Our house is home base and a sanctuary that we fill with peace and refill ourselves. She is learning that even the busy times at work shouldn’t ruin your will to have fun when you are not at work, that you have to push to get out of the house on Saturday mornings sometimes. She sees that we need nourishment and despite the crazy, we sleep all the hours we need and eat all the best food we can.

We choose this crazy over and over, deliberately, for different reasons than are possible to address here.

Like I said, we’d be fine without it. But what it offers in flexibility in our work-home life, interestingness at work, and more, are helping us be stronger anyway.