Posts Tagged ‘learning’

Yesterday was my birthday – I am 27.  I figured it would be a good time to ponder a bit both about this past year as well as the one ahead of me.

This past year has been pretty incredible.

Sean and I have done some amazing stuff.


-We went to Hawaii with friends on the vacation of a lifetime – it’s not uncommon for us to turn to each other and say “man, we need to go to Hawaii”. I was always resistant to Hawaii vacations, as I am to anything that seems even vaguely cliche…but man, what a time it was.



-We completed our first Olympic-length triathlon.

It hurt, but was totally worth it.

santa cruz tri


-We went to Ethiopia on a medical missions trip. This trip was my first foray into Africa and way out of my comfort zone. It has brought up a lot of questions about who I am and what I want to do with my life. Questions I’m still wrestling with, and probably will be for many years to come.



-My sister Anya and I traveled to Chicago and St. Louis to visit friends over Thanksgiving – an intense weekend of much needed sister and friend time. My love for the midwest has not waned.

st. louis


-December and January found Sean and I in San Diego for Christmas and Las Vegas for New Years. The Las Vegas strip New Years experience was decidedly more pleasant than I was anticipating.



-Sean and I moved yet again, into an adorable duplex with lots of storage space. We’re still working on home-ifying it, but it’s slowly coming together.


-We visited Denver – a city I’d never been to before. Plus, we got to explore an abandoned mining town, which was a super cool experience.



-Spring marked the start of wedding season – I booked 10 weddings this year. A decent amount for only my second year of being a professional photographer.



-We made another dent in our plan to bike the entire west coast by biking from Monterey to San Luis Obispo. 140 miles over 4 days – best bike trip to date!



-In May Sean and I kicked butt at a sprint tri in Moragn Hill – I beat my previous time by a full half hour!



-Sean and I traveled to Houston to visit Anya and co., and even made a trip to New Orleans. I LOVED NOLA and hope to return there again some day.



-July found us gathering with my whole family in San Diego for my grandpa’s 87th birthday. It just now dawns on me that he’s almost exactly 60 years older than me.




Man, we did a lot of traveling –

I didn’t even realize how much it was until I wrote it out!

…So now what?

Well, here’s a bit of what I’m hoping for / planning on for this next year:

-Another full length tri: I want to beat my time on the Santa Cruz tri!

-Complete a half-marathon

-Visit Tahoe

-Visit Boise

-Book more weddings! (I’d love 20…)

-Bike San Luis Obispo to Mexico! 400 miles of glorious California coast :0)

-Complete a full-size stained glass window

-Start painting again!

-FINALLY visit Russia with my hubby :0)

-I really want to start volunteering in some capacity

….and I guess we’ll just see what lies in store!


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Everything I love to do is about beauty. I’m pretty sure that that’s something us humans inherited from our Father. I’ll bet He looked at all this emptiness and said to  Himself “lets see what beauty we can make out of this” (He did that, sometimes – referring to himself as “we”). I don’t have a whole lot of faith, and a good portion of the time I have a hard time getting out of bed and facing the world, with all it’s endless questions and complications and uncontrollable situations. But every once in a while I have this overwhelming, *absolutely overwhelming* desire to make something beautiful. And then I think, I must be His daughter after all.

you make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of dust.
you make beautiful things, you make beautiful things out of us.
you make me new, you are making me new.


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What I loved most about “the old place” were the windows. Huge windows which opened up unto views of rooftops and trees. Our street is lined with the big, leafy trees and adorable freshly-painted stucco houses built in the 20s. Every single one has some sort of gorgeous flowers growing in the front – a fluffy white arch of jasmine over the entry, a beautiful pink tulip tree bending under the weight of it’s enormous blooms, or even a carpet of wild lemon grass with its simple happy yellow. I loved our street. This particular day was the last day I could rightfully call it “our street”, as we tossed the last remaining dregs of “random uncategorizable stuff” into unlabeled boxes. The winter (otherwise known as “lots of rain” in these parts) had finally arrived and it was my favorite kind of weather: miserable and unpredictable and heavy. Of course, Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”  was blasting.

I was standing there, looking out the window as the clouds shifted to cover an unexpected ray of sun and it once again began to pour, and I had one of those poignant moments. You know what I’m talking about. The kind of moment you think “man, I really have to write this down” (if you happen to be of the writing sort) but you don’t know what to say about it.  So I was looking out the window, and of course the song “time” started to play. The one about how life goes so fast, and we’re all just sleeping and walking when we should be running like hell. And then, icing on the cake, Sean came up to me and hugged me, and we were both just standing there looking out the window. For the grand finale, the song reached its crescendo: it started to hail, I started to cry.

I was just thinking that the life Seany and I are making….well, it’s not perfect, but its a pretty good start. It’s that combination of recognizing that things, for that moment, for you, are really quite good, and the terror that one day it might NOT be good and it would be too late to change anything. I’ve lived with this fear for as long as I can remember – the fear of the roads untraveled, the races un-run, the mistakes made and the ones that weren’t, the overwhelming amount of what-ifs and what-thens.  I live my life half asleep because I can’t bear it, and then I have these moments of being completely alert and awake and thinking of all the time I’ve wasted. But what was crazy about this particular moment, was that I didn’t think I had wasted a whole lot of it. I thought “by the grace of God, we’ve done alright so far. I have no regrets. ”

And so, we moved, and life goes on. I like moving, because of the poignant moments and the fresh starts. Hopefully, it will just keep getting better, and maybe one day I can be fully awake all the time, and it won’t be so terrifying and overwhelming. Maybe I’ll figure out how to balance it.

rainy rooftops

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Well, on Sunday it had been decided, rather suddenly, that on Tuesday I should go to Chacha to photograph cows.

Let me back up a minute. I’m not going to get into all of the details, because there isn’t a whole lot that I understand or that has really been figured out, and it stressed me out to think about it. BUT, suffice it to say that somehow it came about that I would be working with another team member on a long-term project: making a photobook about Project Mercy. Or…well, something like that. One of the myriad of off-shoot projects that Project Mercy is working on is a ranch in a town called Chacha. Chacha is a farming community on the other side of Addis Ababa – about a 4-5 hour drive from Project Mercy. There, they are attempting to breed hardy, disease-resistant Ethiopian cows with American cows. American cows (Jersey cows, I think) produce almost 10x as much milk as these Ethiopian cows. The goal here is to produce a hearty cow which is both resistant to Ethiopia diseases and produces more milk.  If successful, this project could help many families improve their nutritional intake.

At any ate, this would be a great thing for me to photograph for any potential book (which may or may not happen…?) so it was decided that I would go with Sean, Bete and David to Chacha on Tuesday. What this meant, then, is that Monday would be my last day to capture the goings-on with our group and Project Mercy. So I spent the first part of the day at the school clinic (in a new location for the new week) and the latter portion driving around with Marta and Deme, taking pictures of what they felt were significant parts of Project Mercy.

It was great to spend some time with Marta and Deme and hear their stories. The end of the day was sad for me as I was thinking about leaving. Leaving this beautiful place, and the new connections I had made – leaving the new way I felt about my place in the world. But all good things must end, and I was (and am) pretty sure that I will come back to Project Mercy.


I’m trying something new with the images – click on the first image to see the gallery.




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Saturday was a special day.

A couple of the docs in our group felt called to teach a course to the local midwives, nurses, and other birth attendants on basic life support for babies and mothers during childbirth. It was an all day course on Saturday, and I had the honor of photographing during it. I spent a lot of time there, listening, photographing and editing. It was a very relaxing and moving day. I would like to tell you more about it, but Sarah, one of the doctors who organized the whole thing, wrote a comprehensive and down-right tear-jerking entry on the class for our group blog. You can read it here.

At the end of the day Marta, our venerable host, told us all a story which expressed how close this issue is to her heart. Many years ago, a woman had been brought to them in a round box carried by thirty men. She had been in labor for 7 days (!). Marta drove her to the nearest town at the time, but they weren’t able to help her. They found a way to get her to the next furthest town, and when they got there – the gynecologist wasn’t there. Needless to say, the woman didn’t make it. Marta’s heart was broken – the hurt felt particularly close as her daughter was in the States, pregnant and about to give birth. She was glad that her daughter would have the best care, but deeply saddened that there was such a lacking of this type of care in Ethiopia. Fast forward to this past Saturday. She was so thrilled that our doctors were teaching this course at Project Mercy. She reached out and contacted the midwives and other birthing helpers in the vicinity and told them about the course. They came in from many miles away, by cart and bus and taxi. Well, actually, I have no idea how they arrived – I think the PM bus came to get some of them. At any rate, the attendees to this class represented 70,000 people in the surrounding region. Those men and women will come back to their respective villages and spread the news. They will teach about how to help mothers and babies during childbirth, and hopefully, the knowledge will sink in. It will spread. Lives will be saved.

What an amazing blessing it was to be associated with the group of people who could play a role in this. Even if all I did was document the process :0)

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I should have written 20 entries by now – detailing the first day we started thinking about the trip, all the praying and hemming and hawing, the day we made the final decision. I should have talked about my inner conflict, the awkwardness of fundraising, the difficulty of planning a trip like this around all sorts of other mayhem. But because of the other mayhem, writing has fallen by the wayside as it always does, and now I find myself 3 days before my first trip to Ethiopia having done no written reflection and not knowing where to start.

Sean and I have always talked about going to Africa. For me it was (just to be embarrassingly candid) this mystical place in need of help where maybe – just maybe – I could be of some use. Being of the artistic, fluffy, humanities type, I never felt like I was particularly necessary for the benefit of anything in this world. I’m not being dramatic, really – I know paintings are nice to have around, and maybe I’ll write a book some day, or maybe I could be a good friend to someone who needs a friend – and I don’t mean to under appreciate those gifts. But I guess I was always skeptical about how meaningful any of these things are on a wider scale. I don’t know, maybe it’s a pride thing – wanting to be useful on a wider scale. It probably is. But at any rate, I never felt like I was. So when the possibility of going on a trip with a bunch of doctors to Ethiopia came up – I was torn. On the one hand, it had been my dream to go on a trip such as this – for the sake of experience, adventure, building relationships, growing as a person and, yes, perhaps even being useful. But on the other hand – these folks are doctors. They contribute something very tangible to the world. They are going to bring medical care, and medical knowledge, to a place that hungers for it. And what am I? What can I do?

Now, I know the answer to that question. I know that, as mother Theresa said, “we can do no great things – only small things with great love”. But believing it – really believing that that is good enough – has been a struggle for me. At some point, I have to realize that while wanting to “change the world” perhaps is noble, it is also prideful. We think of productivity and usefulness in terms of numbers. How many people can I impact? How many lives can we save? How many patients can we visit? But as far as I am starting to understand – those are not God’s mathematics. The God who leaves the flock to look for the one lost sheep does not count our usefulness in His kingdom based on numbers. But, I believe, He values our willingness to go, and our willingness to learn how to love like He does.

He told me “go, and I’ll find something for you to do”. So, I am going.

As for what I am doing – I’m documenting. I’m taking photos and videos which will hopefully help further the on-going projects and future plans of those involved.

That isn’t really the point, though. The point is that God doesn’t measure our value based on our usefulness – he doesn’t measure our value at all. We are always of the same value to Him, no matter what. But if we are willing to go where He leads, we might just get the chance to be a part of something amazing.

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Oh man, day two was crazy.

We woke up really early, at about 7…it’s three hours earlier here than back home, and the time difference works in our favor. Sean made breakfast, and we all just sat around eating eggs and drinking coffee and planning the day.


porch view

We decided on a drive down to the south point (the southernmost point on USA). One of the Codys (Cody G.) decided he wanted to rent a moped for the windy 50 mile drive. Jess and Sean went with him to get it while we waited. And waited. And waited. Then they came back without a moped. Turns out that while testing it out, Cody laid the bike down (and got some pretty nasty road rash)….so he decided against it. That was injury 1.

Finally at about noon, we piled into cars and headed out. We meandered, we got lost, we stopped to take pictures.



Our first destination was the Captain Cook Monument. We tried to find directions, but everything we found led us to a dead end. Finally, we came to this beautiful bay….only to be told that the only way to reach the monument was by swimming or kayaking.



Sean and I

So….we just climbed around for a bit and decided to can the monument idea. We could see it as a little white speck in the distance, and that was sufficient. This was a beautiful spot, with fun little tide pools in the volcanic rock…and shady, friendly folks trying to rent us a kayak and sell us some weed.

Next, we saw signs for “painted church”…and we thought “what’s so special about that?” so we decided to check it out.


the painted church

Turns out that not only is it a cute little chapel, but it is painted on the INSIDE, which is what makes it special.


the painted church


praying statue at the painted church

Our drive continued as the scenery began to change. From the typical lush green tropical forest it began to morph into endless fields of black volcanic rock with occasional new shoots of growth. This island is an active volcano, and you could tell this portion of it was new earth.



Apparently, it’s pretty common for it to rain almost every single day this time of year, but we drove through our daily rain and ended up on the other side. It didn’t catch up to us again until we were headed back.


the daily rain

Our next destination was a cliff diving spot, on the south point (or close to it) of the island. The terrain changed again, to vast empty fields of yellow grass (very california-like) with cows and sad, abandoned houses. Apparently, there used to be an airforce base there which is no longer operational, which I think explains the overall dis-repaired look of the place. These are the directions Sean was giving us to get to the cliff diving location:

Take highway 11 to the south.  On your map of Hawaii, there
is a yellow road that leads right down to the tip.  That’s what you’re
heading for.  There are signs for South Point on 11.   You take this
road past old windmills and farms until it turns into a poorly paved
road (the landscape begins to look like Ireland!).  Once on this road
there will be a few roads heading off to the right.  You want to take
the first road that looks as though it goes strait for a while and banks
left with the contour of the land before heading down a bit towards the
wharf!  Once on the side dirt road to the right you will hit the cliffs
and the fishermans’ ladders within a few minutes (this is a dead give
away that you’re in the right location). (if you stay on the initial
road you will hit some scam of a visitor’s center and a paid parking
area this is too far- turnaround and head back- although it is possible
to do the green sand beach hike from here- it does not allow for cliff
jumping!).  This road is in really bad condition which is why the drive
takes so long.  We did it in a minivan, but a jeep or suv is ideal.

Surprisingly, we found it.


the cliff jumping location




volcanic rock


the cliff jumping location

So my first thought upon seeing the drop (30?40?50 feet? it was hard to tell) was “Hell to the NO”. I mean, it was *high*….like, make-you-dizzy-and-nauseous-looking-down-high.


looking down

And there were these crazy fisherman ladders, rusted iron, leading up the side of the cliff. There were only a few people there, 5ish, and one crazy girl who jumped in right as we walked over. We all started mumbling to ourselves and each other, trying to see who was going to brave the insanity for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Cody G., I think, decided that he had defied death once already with the motorcycle, so he might as well just go for it. Just thinking about his road rash hitting the water makes me shudder.


Cody G. Jumps

Then the girl (who we later decided was high…) started egging everyone on, and the first person to give into her invitations (yelled gleefully from the water) was Cody W.


Cody W.Jumps

Well at that point, I guess the other guys started thinking it wasn’t that crazy, since we’d see people survive it and everything. Next went Sean…




Sean Emerges from the Water

And Eric….


eric jumps

And then us girls were left by ourselves, and we started thinking….Maybe we should jump too. We all said “I’ll do it if you do” to each other (in true kindergarten fashion :0) Jess was the first brave one. She said she would go first if I promised I would do it too. So I promised, and off she went:


Jess Jumps

And then I thought  “Shit. Now I have to do it, because I promised.” I was all brave, thinking “well, I’ll just walk up to the edge and do it quickly, no lingering and pondering”. Yeah, like that was gonna happen. I’ve never gone cliff jumping, so maybe a 50 foot cliff wasn’t the best way to start. But as soon as I walked up to that edge, the feeling of “HELL NO” came back with a vengeance. Everything in my body was telling me “back away slowly”. I mean, you’re really quite used to the notion of not walking up to the edge of cliffs, and certainly of not walking off the edge when you get to it. I have to admit, I was ABSOLUTELY terrified. My stomach churned, and I had that zinging adrenaline sensation (like when someone nearly hits you with a car, or you wake up in the middle of the night to a suspicious noise). For a moment I was absolutely certain I was not going to do it. Even with ten people watching me, egging me on. And then I remembered my promise. And I am nothing if not a girl of my word.


I Finally Go for it

That first step was the single most terrifying moment of my life, and I literally had to force myself to overcome every instinct that I had. The problem with being sure you’re about to die, and feeling like your stomach is somewhere in the vicinity of your lungs, is that you don’t really remember all for the instructions people gave you about how to jump properly. All I remembered to do was hold my nose. I thought I was falling straight, but somewhere between screaming at the top of my lungs and trying to somehow escape the approaching water, I must have moved my legs forward….


The Unfortunate Landing

…and I landed with a heart-wrenching, eye-ball-popping, excruciatingly painful splash….right on my tuckus. If you zoom in on the above picture (which I wouldn’t recommend doing), you can see my leg being warped by the impact. When I surfaced, the first words out of my mouth were “God, that HURTS”.  I couldn’t really move my legs for a while, but I swam around a bit nonetheless, hoping the pain would subside. I tell you honestly, absolutely NO PART of that was fun or enjoyable. Except perhaps the swimming, which I could have just as easily accomplished by climbing down the rocks or staircase. I’m glad I did it, though…if only to know that I’ve tried, and I know not to do it again. That same night I developed epic purple and magenta colored starburst bruises a foot long, stretching from my mid-bum down the sides of both legs. Suffice it to say that walking and sitting has not been a blast.


Well, after that, we all decided we’d had enough. We walked (or limped) back to cars and decided to move along to our next destination: the green sand beach. We squished into one car (with 4-wheel drive) and got as close as we could to the beach. Then we were promised a 2.5 mile easy hike to the beach. Well, like a silly person I had left my hiking shoes in the other car, and between that and the pain of moving my legs, I was inching along at an earthworm’s pace. Soon Sean and I were left behind, making our way through the increasingly bizarre but beautiful alien landscape.


Martian Landscape

Eventually we saw the guys coming back, as they decided they were too tired and it was getting too close to sunset to finish the walk. Cody G., however, had decided that he really wanted to see that durn sand, so he said he would run there and back and meet back up with everyone. Meanwhile, we came across a guy with a truck who said he’d give us a ride back to the parking lot (shuttling people around was a way for him to make some extra cash). First, though, he pointed us to a spot right where we were that also had a bit of the elusive green sand. So we got to see it after all.


Green Sand

Finally Cody met back up with us, and we all hitched a ride in the guy’s truck back to the parking lot.




Finally, it was time to head back on the hour long drive into town, where we would consume much, much food. Meanwhile, we stopped along the way to take more pictures of the beautiful sky and the awesome de-comissioned windmills.



Land and Sky



What an incredible day.

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