Monday, January 28, 2013

Chasing Camera Bags, Capturing Couture and Finally, an Epiphanie

Finding a bag to carry my new camera in has proven more difficult than deciding which camera to buy. So many options to consider. 

Do I combine my purse and camera bag and carry one large bag? 

Do I keep them separate and carry two bags? 

Since camera bags are a little pricey, I thought I could buy a cute purse and use it as a camera bag. 

I discovered that the camera is surprisingly bulky and hard to carry safely so I decided I would need a bag designed specifically for cameras. 

But it had to look fashionable. I was looking for something chic.

My photographer friend Brittany accompanied me to one of Orlando’s oldest camera stores. I tried out the smallest women's bag they had and asked a salesman where a full-length mirror was located. 

“A mirror? I don’t think I’ve ever been asked that question before.” 

I found it hard to believe that this store had been around since the 1950s and nobody ever needed a mirror. 

“There might be a mirror in the ladies’ room,” he said. “But I can't say for sure since I’ve never been in the ladies’ room.” 

He was right. There was a mirror in there. I spent a long time staring at the bag from all angles but I just couldn't make up my mind. 

The salesman had a hard time understanding my issues. So I went back to searching the internet for a bag. 

After much deliberation, I decided on the Epiphanie Charlotte bag designed by professional photographer Maile Wilson. 

I held my breath, hoping I'd like it when it arrived in the big white box. I love it! 

It’s silver metallic on the outside with adjustable compartments in dove-gray fabric on the inside to fit my camera and lenses. It even has an adorable camera charm that hangs off the bag.

But I still felt that the camera needed a softer touch. 

Girls carrying a substantial camera always looked a little masculine to me and the black strap that said Nikon in neon gold that came with the camera didn’t help. 

So I found a girly camera strap at Capturing Couture

It's covered in hot pink fabric roses. When it arrived on my doorstep, it was even prettier than it looked online.

So. Now. Finally. I am ready to shoot amazing photos. 

I have my new very official-looking camera hanging around my neck on a roses-in-bloom haute couture camera strap. 

I have my fabulous silver camera bag slung over my shoulder. 

Now I’m just wondering how long it will take me to figure out what this camera can do. 

When I’ll remember what f-stop, aperture and white balance mean without consulting the instruction guide. If I’ll be plucky enough someday to turn the dial to “M” for manual to bravely set my own features instead of keeping the dial safely on “A” for auto. 

I want to take pictures worthy of filling the frame. I want to learn new photography techniques. I want to give this new venture my best shot. 

But I’m sure of one thing. 

At least I’ll feel fashionable trying.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Messy Cupcakes and a Tidy Sum of Blessings

My five-year-old niece Devon calls me from the phone she got for Christmas. 

It’s not an iPhone or any kind of phone that’s technologically smart. She got an old-fashioned rotary phone. 

The kind that could have sat on someone’s desk in the 1950s or 60s. A plain old brown one with a plastic rotary dial. 

Devon loves it. My brother-in-law activated the jack in her room and Devon thinks it’s hilarious to make calls from her very own phone. She giggles as she talks to me. 

She's coming over to bake cupcakes for my sister’s birthday. “I wanted to call and ask if I can spend the night with you after we make the cupcakes,” she says. 

I tell her yes and she says she has to hang up and pack her bags. I call her back. As she picks up in mid-ring, I hear the rotary jingle interrupted. “Don’t forget to bring your cupcake pajamas,” I tell her. “And pack your puppy apron.”

Usually when she helps me bake, I let her crack the eggs or throw butter into the mixing bowl, but tonight I’m going to give her a pastry bag and have her pipe polka dots on the cupcakes. 

“Yay,” she hops up and down. “I love to pipe! Piping is my favorite!” 

I get out the bowls and spoons and turn around to find Devon has stacked all 12 of my color pots into one tall leaning tower on my counter. I picture a rainbow of frosting dye that is terribly hard to get off surfaces splashed across my floor. But no harm done. She safely unstacks them.

She chooses blue and purple for the polka dots and we mix up the frosting. 

She pipes dots and a heart and a bunch of lines she calls the Eiffel Tower. 

She wants to use the rotating cake turntable. I set up her workstation with two platters of cupcakes, two piping bags and cupcake toppings. 

She starts decorating and twirls the turntable and before I know it, I have white and chocolate sprinkles and blue glitter flying across my kitchen. 

I tell her to hold on so I can get a handle on the clean-up. She tries to help and picks up my throw rugs to shake them out, sending even more showers of sprinkles careening across the floor. 

With frosting bowls and cupcake pans stacked in the sink and icing and cupcake toppings everywhere, Devon says, “Looks like a cupcake explosion in here.” 

And I wonder how long it’s going to take me to clean up this mess. 

Then she stops, looks at me and grins as a song starts to play on the radio. “It’s our favorite song!” she says and turns it up. 

It’s “Blessings” by Laura Story. We often listen to it when we’re in the car. Devon sings along. She knows every word.

We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family
Protection while we sleep . . . 
But what if your blessings come through raindrops
What if your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know you're near
And what if the trials of this life
Are your mercies in disguise

Blessings. I do have a lot of them. 

The kind that come through raindrops and the kind that come with sunshine. 

Blessings that are cloaked in raindrops might be the hardest to recognize but if I look closer, I catch a glimpse. 

To see that they offer the deepest significance. The wildest growth. The chance to see God at work in my life. 

But blessings that stream in with the sunshine are far easier to capture my attention. 

A phone call from my niece. Who wears cupcake pajamas and a puppy apron. Who thinks spending a Friday night with her auntie is the best kind of fun. 

That a messy kitchen means cupcakes and chocolate sprinkles and blue bits of glitter. 

That the music of a song called "Blessings" gets her singing that every promise from God is enough. And reminds her that when we're together we are blessed indeed.

Monday, January 14, 2013

An Invitation to Share

I sometimes feel as if I’m on the outside looking in. 

I can see a festive spot waiting for people who will sweep in and fill the chairs and space with chatter and smiles and laughter. 

They're busy with each other and don't have time or energy or grace to include someone else. I feel this way whenever I’m new to a group. 

Or invited to a party where I don’t know many of the guests. 

Or the last to arrive at a meeting and most of the seats are already taken. And when I’m looking in from the outer fringes, I’m not sure I belong or even why I’m there.

I remember feeling like this when I moved to Florida with my family. I was the new girl in town, without friends and without a job. 

But then I met Marissa. She was a social butterfly, vivacious and outgoing. She could assemble a gathering of friends at a moment’s notice. (A most impressive skill before the advent of texting.) 

She introduced me to the church singles group. She invited me to her aerobics class. Since both of us were just out of college, she drove us all over town as we applied for the same jobs. I was soon busy every night of the week as she included me in her busy social life. We spent several weeks as house-sitters and made plans to rent an apartment together. 

Then just as quickly as she entered my life, she was gone. She was offered a job in Nashville and moved away to start her career. 

I’ve come to realize that some friendships are meant to be lifelong, but others are in my life only for a season. 

But it’s the friends who seem to rush into my life and then flutter away who are the most miraculous. Almost as if they are sent on a divine sort of quest. 

As if God points them in my direction and gives them a little nudge with a whispered, “She needs some encouragement today.” When I think back to that time when I was new to the community, I'm so grateful Marissa offered me her friendship and connected me with others who turned out to play integral roles in my life.

If you've been thinking about the possibility of new friendships, an opportunity to connect is here. 

Because I was a guest blogger last year with (in)courage, they’ve invited me to join them today in a mass-blog to launch the registration of their event (in)RL 2013. On April 26-27, women in cities all over the world will meet up to connect with women in their area. Registration starts today over at More details are below!


  • About: (in)RL was born out of two years spent listening to women in the comments at (in)courage craving local, real life community. Derived from the social media acronym “IRL” or “in real life,” (in)RL is an invitation to share what we’ve learned about community and encourage women with stories and suggestions for connecting deeper in real life.
  • Think of it as a FREE girl’s weekend away that doesn’t require packing or plane tickets, where women can kick off any expectation of perfect, set aside their fears, their shyness, their worry that they’re not good enough, and find some of Jesus’ words of rest woven into every video shared here.
  • When: The (in)RL webcast kicks off on Friday, April 26 and (in)RL meetups follow on Saturday, April 27.
  • What: We're taking a closer look at what it takes to stay rooted in community when sometimes just walking away would be so much easier and tons more convenient. Women share stories of how they've chosen to stay through hard marriages, challenging parenting, worthwhile friendships. How choosing to stay has freed them more fully and unexpectedly than if they'd cut and run.
Hop on over to (in)courage's website to read more!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Open Wide the Shutters of a New Year

I didn’t expect my desire to aspire to get off to such an invigorating start. 

I put my focus word for 2013, aspire, into action just a few days into the new year. The dictionary says aspire means “to desire with eagerness.” 

And I’m eager to learn more about taking photos this year. To prove it, the camera parts are scattered all over my couch. 

Battery, two lenses, lens caps, strap, cords and of course, the camera. This week I decided to buy a real camera. 

To graduate from the lean, sleek, silver little point-and-shoot Nikon I’ve been using, I’ve purchased its much more sophisticated big city cousin. The somber, all-black, worldly-wise, ultra-serious Nikon D3200. With a 55-200 and an 18-55-vibration-reduction lens. 

I actually have no idea what that means.

Over the holidays I saw some amazing photos on blogs. Blurred backgrounds and razor-sharp focused subjects. Tiny items shot up close with total clarity. 

I fell in love with the photos. So I showed them to my super-talented photographer friend Brittany and asked her how I could learn to take beautiful photos like that. “First of all you need a better camera," she said. "With a separate lens.”

Oh. It sounded expensive. I was disappointed for a few days, then I asked her the most economical way I could attempt to imitate the photos I so admired. 

She found me a beginner transition camera with an after-holiday sale price with an extra-big discount on a second lens. As I thought about buying the camera, I also thought about what I might aspire to. Take aim and shoot for. And the possibility for my artistic self to blossom filled my heart. 

So I took a deep breath and bought it.

Now I had camera parts and a manual filled with acronyms and initials that mean nothing to me, sitting on my couch. 

I thought I’d dive right in and follow the instructions on the first page of the manual. 

Three steps with diagrams on the proper way to attach the straps to either side of the camera. I figured this couldn’t be too difficult since it didn’t involve anything electronic. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

I tried to attach the first strap but it got twisted. I couldn't get both ends of the folded-over strap through the tiny loop. I attached it incorrectly and had to start over. Three times. 

Thirty minutes later, I finally had both straps attached. I was already exhausted and hadn’t even turned the camera on.

I managed to charge the battery since it was very similar to my point-and-shoot camera, inserted the memory card and turned on the camera. 

Up popped the first screen to set the date, time and time zone. I did it! 

I even went a step further and formatted the memory card. Then I attached the lens and the directions said I would hear a clicking sound to indicate it was properly attached. 

I didn’t hear anything so I got worried and thought I better put the camera down. I decided I’d had enough for one night and would wait for my expert-friend Brittany to arrive.

My afternoon of photography lessons were hard work, with Brittany posing scenarios for me to slow down shutter speed, let more light in, zoom in or out. 

I fumbled my way through, clicking wrong buttons and feeling quite lost, but I’m excited. 

It's always this way in the beginning of anything new. This newborn year is full of possibilities. 

And I wonder what it may hold for me. 

But for now, first things first. I need a sassy camera bag. 

Those canvas, stodgy, black bags aren’t for me. I haven’t quite found what I’m looking for, but I’ve been scouring websites for a sophisticated, elegant, cosmopolitan camera tote. 

I'm thinking maybe something in red?