Gratitude and an Instagram-Perfect Life

A couple of days ago I was walking across the lawn in my front yard, and noticing the pretty purple Jacaranda blossoms that litter the sidewalk this time of year. My feet were bare, the grass was soft and damp, the sky was brilliant blue, and the sun was warm. And I was filled with such gratitude.

My life may not be perfect, but I have so much of what I always wanted! I may not own the little old house I live in, but hey it’s a Victorian from 1910, and that’s been my dream home since I was a little girl, so I’m happy. I have a convertible again – a cute one! I am healing and feeling better, and I got through my first year of law school. It’s true that I have a less-than-stellar grade point average–C+ Baby!–but I’m not in danger of getting kicked out, and I’ve now proven I can handle it, so I’m happy with that as well. Things are good! Life is good!

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So when I left the house a short time later, I pulled out my iPhone and shot a couple of photos of the house and the jacaranda tree, and posted them on Instagram, which then fed them through to Facebook. I was feeling grateful, and so I shot some happy shiny pretty images and uploaded them, and went on my way. Both images generated a few comments and the photo of the house got over 40 Likes on Facebook. And I had to admit that it looked pretty good on my iPhone! But later it hit me that I hadn’t mentioned that I was only renting half the house – the left half – the half without the great front porch. And then today, looking at the image again, I realized that it actually looked a little better than reality. And that bothered me.

I shoot beautiful things all the time, and I’m always attracted toward the beauty in everything. Obviously I’m going to shoot from the best angle possible, and try to make whatever it is look as attractive as possible – even if it’s just a cell phone photo, meant to show where I live.

But this felt different. If felt like I had accidentally deceived everyone who clicked Like. Would they have still clicked Like and left such nice comments if they saw the house in person? Or if I had thought to mention that it was divided into two apartments in the 1950s, and I’m only renting the left half?

Instagram-Perfect Life

So I decided to shoot the house again today. Instead of an iPhone, I used my new little Canon that I bought to shoot video – just because I wanted to play with it. I tried to shoot the house, as it really is, and not disguise the not-so-great parts. Where the Instagram version sort of hid the satellite dish in the tree branches, this time I didn’t try to disguise it. Where the Instagram version deemphasized the junk on the front porch and the multiple mailboxes, this time all that clutter is more visible. Where on Instagram the yard looked large, with a big lawn, today’s version shows just how small the front yard is – which is typical for downtown Riverside, and nothing to be ashamed of, but it is different than the impression the other image gave… The biggest change is that the Instagram version was shot in the middle of the day, so the sky is bright blue and everything looks lush and verdant – and the image today was shot at sunset, so it’s got a much softer feel.

Oh, and the neighborhood cats decided to pose for me today, so that was an added bonus!

I don’t think either image makes the house look unattractive. And I like them both. And the Instagram version is not a lie – that’s how the house actually looked at that moment in time, in that light. But even so, it gave the impression that the house was just a bit grander than it really is, and by association, that my life was maybe a little grander than it actually is. But guess what? My life is grand to me! The house I live in may not belong to me, I may only be renting half, and it may be a little less than Instagram-perfect – but it’s my favorite kind of house, and I love it. I may not have the great front porch, but I have ten-foot tall ceilings and vintage woodwork – I’m happy!

Jacaranda blossomsfriendly neighborhood cat

big orange male catVW Convertible

I also love my cute little convertible with one missing hubcap, and and the scruffy neighborhood cats that follow me around the yard, and beg for love and affection.

My life may not be Instagram-perfect, but I am very grateful for everything that I have!

On Twitter | May 2014

Abstract in Acrylic, #2

It’s the strangest thing, the most popular post on my whole blog, thanks to Pinterest, is a violet and orange abstract painting I did in 2004. Not a photograph, a painting. So when I found another painting in storage, that’s similar in style, I figured it would be fun to post it as well, and see what happens.

Violet, Purple, and Orange Abstract in Acrylic

Click to View Full Size

Is the violet and orange painting popular because of the colors? Is it just a fluke? Or will the blue and yellow painting find a few fans as well?

The blue and yellow abstract is actually much larger than the violet and orange painting – maybe four times larger. And when I put it aside in 2004, it felt “unfinished” to me, but I wasn’t sure what to do next with it. If you mess too long with a painting, you can completely spoil it, so I set it aside, and hoped that if I left it for a few days, I’d figure out what to do next. But I never did figure it out, and eventually I stuck it in storage, and now, ten years later when I look at it, I think maybe it was finished all along. I’m still not sure what else I would do to it, but more importantly, I think I like it the way it is. The violet and orange was my first painting, and I still like it best, and maybe that’s why I felt dissatisfied with this one? Because it was so different, and in my eyes, not as good. But now? Now I like it!

So what do you think? Finished or unfinished? Better or worse than the other? Is it worth hanging?

Eleven weeks old and adorable!

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Rafael and Sasha! Sasha just turned one year old, so he’s barely out of kittenhood himself, but he’s completely affectionate and loving with the babies. Even when they bite his tail and try to climb him like a tree… He’s a patient cat!

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Little Miss Calista, (with Rafael photobombing!) and her very tired mother, Maisie. Raising these babies is making Maisie more than a little tired. She’ll be glad when they find forever homes, and she can get back to napping at will again!

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Samantha has the greenest eyes of all the kittens – not as green as her mother, but very pretty!

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Sasha gives good baths! And my favorite cat of all, Roxie Pablo, is ready to take a real bath! Roxie is two-years-old now, and still my favorite. She was first, but it’s more than that; she’s just a very special cat.

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Calista gives good face. That little orange nose? Just perfection.

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Two shots of Vanessa! She’s actually my favorite of the kittens; probably because she loves me the most. It’s hard not to love a baby that looks at you adoringly, and follows you around, and only wants to be near you!

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And finally, one more of Calista, because she’s just so darn cute! She wins for best-looking!

On Twitter | March and April 2014

Cheryl

Baby Kittens! 13 Days Old!

baby kitten yawning

King of the kitten pile? Or just a yawn?

baby kitten sleeping

At this age all they do is sleep and eat, and then sleep and eat some more.

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Such a pretty little face…

13-day-old kittens

I’ve gotten a few questions about how these were shot… Was it a “normal” camera? And the answer is yes! Just a normal camera and a 50mm lens at f/1.2. If you’ve studied photography even just a little, you probably know that an aperture of f/1.2 will give you an extremely shallow depth of field – but then when you combine it with shooing this close, it makes the field of focus even more narrow. On some of these only the tiny little whiskers on their noses were in focus. I did crop all of them slightly – but no more that a quarter of the image was trimmed off. But did I do anything to them in PhotoShop? Not really. I color balanced and then sharpened them, but there was no selective blurring, or anything else tricky. These really are the way it looks when you shoot wide open, and really close up.

So why did I choose to shoot this way? There are several reasons. One, I think it’s pretty. Two, I really wanted to focus on the kitten’s tiny little toes and their noses and whiskers. The narrow focus serves to isolate those features from the background, and really showcase how sweet they are. And three, I like to push occasionally, and get something a little different. Shooting the same subject the same way, more than once, gets a little boring. Gotta shake it up!

Kittens! Year Three…

10-day-old kittens

Kiss, kiss!

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Ten-days-old…

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Little kitten faces

Little faces, ten-days-old…

When do kittens open their eyes?

This is the LAST generation of this particular cat family. The mother of these kittens is one of the kittens from last summer – in other words, she’s only nine-months old herself – but now that she’s letting me touch her, she’ll be on her was to the Vet to get fixed, as soon as these babies are weaned. Her brother has already visited the Vet, and she’s the last hold-out, so definitely the last branch of this particular cat family tree!

On Twitter | January and February 2014

  • Feb 27 · PBS’ Frontline profiled “Generation Like” tonight, and their social media-driven world. Gen X and the Millennials? Very different world!
  • Feb 25 · If you miss your exit, then you miss your exit. It’s not that big a deal. Just get off at the next one! #literallyandfiguratively
  • Jan 16 · I hate being away from home on days when there’s a big wildfire in a nearby town. Makes me a bit nervous…
  • Jan 11 · Ethan Morton, author of “Anything Goes,” a new book on the history of musical theatre, made the comment. #RuthEtting
  • Jan 11 · Audiences didn’t care – they were getting to see a star! Love to #PBS for getting it RIGHT!
  • Jan 11 · About how her numbers were rarely integrated into the plot of the Broadway show – but audiences didn’t care – they were getting to see a …
  • Jan 11 · Just heard a referance to Ruth Etting on PBS’ TheatreTalk! And it was spot on!