Friday, December 7, 2007

Mental Margarita from December 7, 2007

When nature gives us something this stunning, I almost feel like making a picture of it isn't really fair, because it's so easy to create a beautiful image. I think maybe that's an old artist paradigm - you have to suffer, to wring it out of you, to make good art. Of course, the stuff I'm creating certainly isn't being ripped from the deepest parts of my darkness, or whatever it is that tortured artists do. I'm finding that my expression is to celebrate the beauty that's around us. Most of it so far is nature, which for me, can be very healing. I'm really just thinking this through as I write it out. Does meaningful art have to make us think? Or can it still be meaningful if it simply soothes us? Can it do both?

Hmmm, I think that may be all I have to say on the subject today. What are your thoughts?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

The Story of the Journey (so far)

Today I announced to the world that I am making the full transition from my professional organizing business, Organized for Success, to fotos! After twelve years, I'll be closing my doors so I can fully focus (HA!) on the photography.

Some of you on my mailing list were surprised to learn I was no longer in Phoenix and asked for the background, so here it is. And by the way, I kept that I was leaving largely under cover so that I could continue to generate business for the contractors who were working with my clients in my absence. So sorry to be sneaky, and now you know why you haven't been seeing my mug around NAWBO or WISK or NSA or any of those old stompin' grounds we used to share.

About two and half years ago, a friend invited us to live in San Miguel de Allende, a lovely colonial town in central Mexico. Raymond's career was at a transition point, and I was feeling the ten-year itch with my business. We had a wonderful life in Phoenix, but we decided to say YES to adventure and throw caution to the wind. We sold our home and most of our stuff, put a few things in storage, packed up our cat who was 17, and our dog who was 14, taught them some basic Spanish, and off we all went. We stayed in San Miguel for about half a year, and absolutely loved it. While there, I started playing with Raymond's digital camera, which soon became MY digital camera! I shared some of the pictures I took on a blog, and got requests from people to buy prints. The business was born. When it came time to leave, we realized we weren't ready to settle back down again. (I had spent my entire life in Phoenix, and once I pried myself loose, I wasn't ready to go right back again.) We spent almost a year in Southern Cal, which was great for me as I had never lived by water. We had about a 180 view of the Pacific and it was so good for my soul to look at that water, and breathe in that sea air. And that's when I got my web site up and running.

About a year ago, business brought us to the San Francisco area, and we've been exploring around here. It's so great here! Those of you who have lived here now what I am talking about. The climate is ideal, the culture and food is amazing, the diversity is gorgeous (we just got back from the best dim sum I've ever had), the scenery is lovely, and all of that is why it's so darn expensive! The cost of living, and the fact that sometimes the earth goes rapidly up and down and back and forth, are the only downsides of living here. Raymond has been working here at a job he'll be wrapping up in a few months, as he has made an artistic decision of his own. He is a writer, always has been, and he needs to work at something non-taxing so he can devote more off hours to his craft. He's deep at work on a screenplay, and has three others in formulation. So we're both making the transition to making our living from art, and we'll see where that takes us. In this digital age, I am really clear it's more possible than it's ever been.

So our next move is this: after the job wraps us, we're heading ever north to the Seattle area as we have dear friends and family in the area (most of the family in Canada, including Whistler, which does not suck for skiing). We'll likely be there for a couple years, then we're thinking about doing the ex-pat thing again. Mexico? Italy? Something soulful and lovely. But who knows? We're trusting our guides and our guidance. Not having kids helps. Oh, and our "kids" did fine in Mexico with us. Our sweet kitty and puppy both made it a couple more years and both passed at ripe old ages just this summer. They seemed to leave us when we were finally more stable than we'd been, as if to say, you guys are going to do fine, so we're checking out now. So we're petless for the first time in over 20 years but I'm sure that won't be our status for long.

I think that's the full update. There are a lot of lessons in this whole thing, and maybe a book someday, but I tell you, the organizing and de-cluttering were a major theme throughout! Letting go of our lives in Phoenix, our home, our communities, our stuff was HUGE for us, and truthfully, we're still grieving parts of it. And being organized to work remotely and stay focused through all the transition has been critical. It hasn't been easy but it's been absolutely worth it. I mean why not? It's just life, right? When you mess it up, which you will, you do your best to make it right or do it better next time. So there you go.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Mental Margarita from November 16, 2007

Wow, it's been a month since my last post. Shameful. I have an excellent excuse though... I upgraded my computer, my operating system, and my photo processing software. Too much at once, quite frankly. The technical issues were many. But I think I'm over the hump now. And God bless the fine people at Apple. I'm getting great support and training for all these changes.

So I gotta be honest and tell you these aren't my favorite pictures ever but it's good to keep moving things forward and sharing them with you all. And I really haven't been that inspired to take new pictures lately. But I did have an inspiration today. I remember someone telling me about doing The Artist's Way and that the coaching was to write every single day. And so I thought, why not take pictures every day, whether I feel like it or not? Who cares if they're not site worthy? I want to keep learning my new camera, and my new software. No better way to do that than to play with it, right?

So here's to a lot more great shots coming your way, disregardless (as Homer Simpson says) of how much I feel like taking pictures.

I'm sure I won't be sending anything else this month yet, so wishing you (yes, you specifically) a wonderful Thanksgiving. We're going to China Town for a completely traditional meal (well, it's traditional for someone, just not me). And I am grateful for the variety of people and food in our country, and of course for the sheer abundance of it all. I am grateful for my far-flung community. I am grateful that my heart pumps Kool-Aid.

Thanks for letting me be a part of your day. I'm grateful for it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Mental Margarita from October 16, 2007

Well, it's an overcast, sick day for the Usserys today. Raymond came home with a bug on Friday and still hasn't shaken it. I was so sure I wouldn't get it because I had it a month ago. Alas... It's not too bad for me though, I think since I just had it. I'm calling it "Virus Lite."

Anyway, it's giving me a chance to update you and the site and the Mental Margarita. I'm starting to get into a rhythm here of taking new pics, sending them to Kate to do the watermark (thanks, Kate!), uploading them to the site, writing and sending the MM, etc. Like any new venture, I'm not sure where this one will take me but I'm certainly enjoying the ride thus far. I am drawing on all the great stuff I learned being a Professional Organizer, at Landmark, at the National Speakers Association, at the National Association of Women Business Owners, and so on.

The biggest support for me in all this, is you. So far, I know every single person on my Mental Margarita list. You all represent those communities I just named, plus friends and family. Even though I now live in another town from most of you, I absolutely feel the connection with you, through reaching out to you this way. I love hearing back from individuals. And it's just in the knowing that that network of you is out there, that I am supported. So thank you!

And now the next stage begins - reaching out to those I don't yet know. I'm sure this blog will do that. I hope the Mental Marg will begin to spread. I am committed to keeping the personal tone and touch with this, regardless of how many I don't know. That's what's so amazing about the world now. Some people have suggested that I get on My Space and FaceBook, and yes, that will be next. But again, it is you that this is for. So thank you for appreciating my art and for staying in touch!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Mental Margarita from October 3, 2007

When I emailed this image out to my Mental Margarita list, I made a joke about how great it would be if this rose picture came with scratch-and-sniff technology. You have no idea how badly I want that right in this very moment. As I compose this blog, my 16 year-old Border Collie, Zeus, is lying by my desk. He has to be underfoot, but he has the WORST gas today. Oy. I have a scented candle (gardenia, not rose, as would be appropriate for this post) burning right under my nose, but it's no use. The boy is fragrant. Yarg.

Anyway, regarding art, photography, and life in general, I saw a quote today by Anais Nin I had seen before, and I was happy it fell into my lap again:

"We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are"

I think that's what I love about photography. It allows me to take something that "is" and show it to you the way I see it, or the way I am. If you were to shoot it, you'd show it to me the way you are. If I ever teach a photography class, I think this would be an interesting assignment: have all the students take a picture of the same thing, but give them no further instruction. It would be fascinating to see the many different expressions of themselves.

Oh, man, Zeus just let loose again. I have to sneak into another room for a while. Thank God for laptops. I hope he doesn't follow me in... and here he comes, tail a-wagging. Dogs.

Mental Margarita from August 2007

Just doing a little catch-up here. This is the first Mental Margarita - a treat for your eyes and a break for your brain - that I sent out to a small list.

This succulent was one of the very first images I took after picking up the camera again after almost 20 years...

We had moved to central Mexico, the city of San Miguel de Allende, and I finally had the space and the time to be creative again. It was almost accidental, but I'm grateful for the way everything conspired in my favor.

The house we rented was (unbeknownst to us at the time) just a five minute walk from the Jadin Botanico (Botanical Gardens) where the plant life, especially the cacti and succulents, begged me to take their pictures. I was happy to oblige them! This image is one of my favorite from that time, and you can also see it in color on the site.