Birthdays Are My Favourite Days

Of all the days worthy of an occasion, birthdays are my favourite. The love and joy I have because I know you is amplified on your birthday. You were born, you’re still alive and I know you & want to celebrate with you. Sometimes birthdays afford me the chance to have my camera in hand & capture some of those birthday moments, such as in the two photos above. Neither of these photos scream birthday – there’s no cake or presents in sight – yet for me they encapsulate the birthday of my nephew Eli. Hats worn to protect delicate skin from the harsh Australian sun & inquisitive looks on faces.
On my own birthday I like to celebrate by eating my favourite foods & embarking on a photography session of some sort. Ideally the people I love would be involved somehow during the day. After all, I cannot possibly eat an entire birthday cake on my own 😉

Yes, I Celebrate My Dogs Birthdays

Zena, as captured on her birthday

Yesterday was Zena’s 11th birthday. Zena is the eldest of my two dogs. It almost feels impossible that she is already 11 years old. I remember vividly the day we met her, as if it happened only moments ago. Even then as a small eight week old puppy she was full of sass. We took with us our dog Zeus to meet her because we wanted to make sure that the two of them would get along. Meeting a fully grown adult male Rottweilor did not phase Zena. She ran to him at full pace, her chest out and tail up, daring him not to be impressed by her tiny presence. There was no fear; instead she was curious and determined to follow him everywhere. She was already aware of her place in the world & expected everyone – animal or human – to be impressed by her.

In the ensuring years Zena has become a crucial part of my life. In recent years she has become incredibly in tune with my mental state; it was because of her actions that I realised I needed to seek help for my anxiety. I became aware that Zena was anxious every time I was anxious; or actually she would become anxious before my anxiety hit. She was aware that I was becoming anxious before I was & at the time I wasn’t aware that she was trying to calm me but I wasn’t recognising her cues. As she became more anxious as my daily anxiety grew I decided I had to do something about my mental health, in the hope that improving my mental health would improve hers. Thankfully as my anxiety treatments began to work my improvements were reflected in Zena. She hasn’t lost her ability to recognise an anxiety or panic attack before I do however now I recognise her cues and act on them. I allow her to calm me if needed or simply to shadow me as she makes sure that I’m going to be ok.

Despite the positive impact Zena has in my life (and also Cadel, my second, younger dog) I have always felt uncomfortable publicly recognising the importance of my dogs. I’ve often felt ashamed that I am the owner of dogs, or to put it in popular parlance, a dog mum. Almost everyone I know, particularly those of my age or older, are mothers or fathers of children. You know, humans. They’ve done what society expects and what people have done for millennia which, at its core is to reproduce in order to maintain the existence of humans on Earth. For reasons I’m not yet ready to share here, having children was not and is not for me. But having pets, especially dogs? Well of course I had to. My life would be bereft without them.

So now, I’m willing to own my reality. I am a dog owner. No I’m not going to call myself a dog mother. I honestly hate the description although I’m happy for others to refer to themselves as that if it truely makes them happy. And in that owning of reality I will happily confess to celebrating my dogs birthdays. I haven’t actually made a birthday cake or cupcake for either Zena or Cadel yet, but its on my to do list for a future birthday. Instead I give them some kind of food treat (which they both get because you can’t spoil one dog without spoiling the other!). For Zena’s birthday I shared my souvlaki with them. I wasn’t hungry enough to eat it all so Zena & Cadel got to enjoy my leftovers. They were thrilled to eat something different and tasty and I was thrilled not to throw away food.

So this is me, stating to the world that I’m a proud dog owner and I’m never going to not bring it up. Its a major part of my life and I’m happy with this fact.

Oh, one more thing. I’m also a dog owner who runs an Instagram account for her dogs. Yep, I’m one of those! If you’d like to check it out search zenacadel on Instagram. Hopefully you’ll enjoy their page.

When Words Don’t Come

This post was meant to be about something other than what I’m writing here. I’ve been trying to write it for a couple of days; words are failing me right now. I can’t quantify my thoughts. Each time I write something it feels wrong, like the words I’m using aren’t good enough. I don’t know why this is. It may be because my anxiety has been high during the last week. Maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe I really don’t have anything to say.

So instead of fighting myself in my mind about my inadequacies as a writer, I’m giving up on that post. I’ve saved it in drafts, in case I feel one day like I can find the right words.

Instead, here’s a photo from my recent holiday in St Kilda. I hope you like it because I do.

St Kilda pier

Gratitude For 2019

I’m a big lover of podcasts. I have 25 subscribed podcasts in my feed, most of which update weekly & I pretty much listen to them all each week. Last week I listened to two podcasts, back to back, that made me pause and think about my 2019. The first, Photography Radio, was a discussion from the host about why he picks his favourite 10 photos at the end of each year. He finds the task a good way to see where his photography is taking him and to note changes to his style that he may not have seen whilst actually taking photos.

In the second podcast, called The First Time podcast – the two hosts reflected on their 2019. Their career successes as authors but also books & podcasts they loved reading & listening to in 2019.

Inspired by these podcasts I decided to reflect on my own 2019. I feel like I tend to remember negative things that have happened more frequently than positive things so I thought it would be a great idea to take the time to think about good things from 2019. I’m also attempting to pick my favourite photos from the year, although that’s proving to be difficult. I’d have finished this post on Friday (it’s now Sunday) save for the fact that I’m having trouble picking favourite photos! I’m surprised at how many of the photos I really like. I’m also really happy to see how my photography has improved throughout the year. I can see where I’ve gone wrong, but most importantly I can see my growth.

Sometime during 2019 I became aware that what I want from my photography is to capture moments of everyday beauty. I was already doing this every week, when I was taking photos of my friends at my local Pole Fitness studio or during the times when I’d grab my phone to take some backyard sunset photos. However I wanted more. I felt if I took the time to look, I’d see there were moments of beauty all around.

Instead of writing a paragraph with each photo I’ve written a few words below them. I’d love to know what you think of them but more importantly, do you reflect on your year when it ends? Why or why not?

This is my favourite dog photo taken in 2019. I feel I have captured Zena’s personality perfectly
This photo of Paige was, I think, the first time I felt my quest to photograph my pole friends was starting to come together. It captures the beauty that I see in every class I attend
I spied this dog on Degraves Street in Melbourne, patiently waiting & watching as his owner ate lunch
I took this photo in Melbourne, it evokes the mood of the weather that day

I got to thinking about my highlights from 2019. Moving into our house at years end was the biggest thing to happen all year. It’s been a long process to get to this point & I’m grateful we finally made it.

Reinvigorating this blog is another highlight. I enjoy writing however I’ve long had trouble giving myself permission to write. Part of the work I did with my mentor Naomi Bulger during the year (another highlight for the year) was to work out what I wanted to do with my creativity. I came to the conclusion that writing weekly here was something I wanted to do. It’s great writing practice & I’m surprised how often I think of something that I’d like to share here. I’ve mostly kept to my weekly posting schedule & I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s especially great when someone leaves lovely comments on a post, it makes my day 🙂

I continued interviewing people for the Art Supply Posse podcast. I spoke to a wide range of artists throughout the year, learning a lot about what they do & bringing their story to our listeners. I’ve made friends with a couple of those people & it’s been great getting to know them better & watching their artistic progress.

2019 was also a year of short breaks – weekend trips to Melbourne & to Adelaide, with friends or on my own. I enjoyed the opportunity to move out of my daily routine & do something a little different. These moments were brief but impacted me positively, inspiring bouts of creativity & propelling me further into the year.

I took this with my iPhone, on a weekend trip to Melbourne with Paige. The light was stunning as we walked along St Kilda Pier. I couldn’t resist taking photos

I hope 2020 continues to bring creative inspiration, both for me & also for you.

Another pole fit photo taken during 2019

Accepting My Multi-creativity

This spot is pretty much my favourite local location to take photos, especially at sunset.

For the majority of my adult life I’ve struggled with the reality of my creative output. All around me are stories of people who specialise in something. From photographers that make their name from a genre they excel in, to water colourists whose exquisite work is world renown to writers whose books bring accolades from readers & critics alike, all I could see were people who found a particular type of art that compelled them to focus on it exclusively.

I am not that sort of person but boy have I tried to become one. As a child I fell in love with writing. I wanted to be an author & would write constantly. Not to long after that I discovered photography & felt compelled to photograph everything the caught my eye. For a while I thought perhaps I could be a photographic journalist, writing about important world changing things whilst also photographing them (given the awful trajectory journalism has taken I’m glad I didn’t pursue that avenue). I enjoyed drawing so in high school I took art elective classes with the thought they might help me find an artistic style I could be exclusively drawn to.

As I entered adulthood I became aware that to become ‘successful’ as an artist (a topic that I should bookmark for a future post) I needed to focus on one thing. No matter how hard I tried I just couldn’t. Taking photos only was enjoyable but didn’t sustain me. By this time shame about my desire to be a writer had taken hold in my mind so I had abandoned the idea to be an author (again something else I should return to in a future post). For a number of years I almost exclusively hand made teddy bears, with the vague idea of becoming a bear artist. Eventually I gave that up, which was around the time that I pretty much gave up on creativity. If I couldn’t narrow my focus to one thing then giving up on the creative life seemed the right way to live.

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Fast forward a few years when a couple of traumatic events in my life found me returning to photography. I don’t remember my initial outlay but it was the most id ever spent on photography (until last week when I ordered a new camera!), buying a Fujifilm X-Pro1 & 18mm lens. As soon as I held the camera I knew outlaying the money was the best decision I’d made in a long time. I began photographing things that caught my eye, but this time with the purpose of growing my skills. I read & watched & listened to anything I felt would help me get better as a photographer.

I may have ordered a new X-Pro3 but my X-Pro1 will always have a place in my heart. It rekindled my love affair with photography so will become my spare camera body.

Yet this wasn’t enough to sustain me creativity. I needed other outlets. I began writing, first stream of conscious journalling then tentatively playing with the idea of writing children’s stories. 2019 saw me step that desire up a notch or two, engaging a mentor, having a private session with a well known children’s author & beginning to submit to publishers. As yet I’m still working on that goal, I hope one day I’ll be able to call myself a children’s author.

I also began drawing again, inspired by the artists I was interviewing for the Art Supply Posse podcast. I’ve enrolled in & completed a couple of online art courses to get better at drawing.

Yet despite all this, I felt like I should be narrowing my focus to one thing. I still thought that it would be the best thing for me to do. Yet deep down I knew I couldn’t do it, I’d never be happy focussing on one thing. Eventually I started to think that it’s ok to spread my creativity over a number of areas. I came across people who are successful in more than one field, such as Austin Kleon. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you who he is, but when I read his byline ‘a writer who draws’ I finally accepted that being a multi-creative is ok. That for some of us being multi-creative is the best expression of ourselves. Conforming to one creative outlet doesn’t work for us. And that’s ok.

Now that I’ve accepted my reality I feel a lot more comfortable working on my art. Sure, there are days when I hate everything I create -show me an artist who doesn’t feel that & I’ll call out their lies- but knowing that what I’m creating makes me happy is the most important thing to me. Theres no point making something if it doesn’t bring you some level of joy.

How do you feel about being a multi-creative? Does it align with your creative life or are you focussed on one type of art? Comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Unexpectedly Delighted

Eli enjoying river views

Does it sound weird when I confess to being surprised with how much I love being an Aunty? I hadn’t put any thought into it; I mean who would, right? You become an Aunty with no effort on your part. All I knew was that I wanted to be the best Aunty I could be. However the more time I spend in the company of my nephews the more I realise how great it is to be an Aunty.

Jensen enjoying a slide & having his Aunty Kimmy watch him

We have heaps of fun doing all the usual kids activities like trampoline jumping, playing with blocks or toys, chasing each other, visiting the library, making art or baking. I find these latter two things bring me more joy than I ever could have imagined. Art & baking with my nephews mean a lot to me because they are important things in my life. To have Jensen ask ‘Aunty Kimmy can we make cupcakes?’ makes me smile inside & out. There really is no other feeling like it.

There are times when life isn’t all fun & games. Sometimes serious lessons are had about how to behave in the world but even that stuff I enjoy, although its often not until later that I realise it. Surely it’s better for the important lessons to be learnt in the loving home environment that somewhere else?

I’m finding I enjoy the experience of helping to guide a couple of small people to find their way in the world. I want to show them all the wonderful things the world offers & how best to navigate that world using the important guiding principles of empathy kindness & respect. Maybe one day sometime in the future I’ll report back here on how well that has done 🙂 I know they will be good humans in this world & I know I’ll continue to enjoy sharing the world with them.

Daily Dog Walking

Zena sitting in the hallway enjoying the morning sun

A little over a year ago I decided to start walking my dogs Zena & Cadel every day. I had been walking them about three times a week even though I knew they would benefit from daily walks. So propelled by the fact that I’d stepped away from the workforce I decided to begin daily walks. It’s safe to say Zena & Cadel adjusted to this new routine a lot quicker than I! Whilst I had always enjoyed walking my dogs I don’t experience the same exercise highs I get from riding my bike. There is always a moment when I’m riding my bike that I realise my mind is empty of all thoughts. There is no anxiety, no stress, not even happiness. Just simply a mind hearing my feet push pedals & the sound of bike tyres on the road. That emptiness does not come with dog walking. And daily dog walking meant I had little spare time or energy to ride my bike.

Despite this I pushed on with our new routine. I’d fall out of bed, barely awake as I dressed then I’d walk outside, dogs shadowing my every step to make sure I didn’t forget them. As if I would! They were the only reason I was bleary eyed & walking. Gradually I came to appreciate our walks. Expending energy first thing in the morning left Zena & Cadel happy & settled for the rest of the day. I’ve come to the realisation that the saying shouldn’t be ‘happy wife happy life’ but instead ‘happy dogs happy life!’ Sure it doesn’t have the same ring to it but it’s certainly true.

Twelve months on & I’ve returned to the workforce. With this has come a lot of adjustments for me as well as Zena & Cadel. I found myself unable to walk them daily; my body had fallen out of the rhythm of being at work. After a few weeks of this I’ve realised that I can’t continue not walking them daily. It’s become a much loved routine that has benefits for the three of us. I might not get the empty mind that comes from bike riding but I have benefitted from a mind that wanders. Suddenly a problem is solved without my conscious mind thinking about it. Or a photographic or writing idea will come to me.

I’ve missed not having these moments. So I’m happy to report we’re back at it. I’m again falling out of bed, finding some clothes to wear & getting the dogs. Then the three of us are off, walking, strengthening our bond & enjoying each others company.

If you could ask them in that moment both Zena & Cadel would say everything is right in their world. I’d agree with them. Things are certainly better when we’re walking together.

A foggy winters morning in 2019

Following Those Who Chased The Steam

Early this past Sunday morning I stumbled out of bed at a time of day I rarely see & did my best to wake up. When my sister-in-law Ashton asked me to be her photographer for an inaugural charity event that saw runners on land race her family paddle steamer the PS Melbourne I was quick to agree. I like to help her whenever I can & I thought this would be a relatively easy way to help out. If I’d have known that I’d be setting an alarm for 6:30am I might well have reconsidered! Anyway as I ate my breakfast I hoped that the early start would be worth it.

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Pulling my car in to find a park I felt a jolt of excitement when I saw lots of participants milling about the starting area. I was sure this would surely mean the event would be a success. Making my way onto the boat I kept an eye on the runners trying to determine how many of them were serious about arriving at the end point before we on the boat docked. To my untrained eye most of them looked keen to give it their best shot.

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From the water I knew there wouldn’t be many points where I’d be able to see the runners once the event was underway. It occurred to me that the best place to photograph the runners & somehow tie that back to the boat itself would be when they crossed over the Murray Bridge. Making my way to the front of the boat (excuse my ignorance of the correct boat terms. I don’t claim to know anything about boats & don’t see the need to go looking for the right terms because this website is not about the boating life!) I looked for something that I could potentially frame the runners with. I took a photo with the backs of people who were relaxing on the boat but knew immediately that it wasn’t the right way to go about framing. As we got closer to the bridge I realised sections of wood on the boat would frame a photo in an interesting way. I crouched down & took a couple of photos. The one above worked out exactly how I hoped. The lines from the boat intersect nicely with the lines from the bridge. The woman running may only just be visible but I think that she provides enough impact. There are more photos from the morning that I’m happy with but none in the same way as I am with this one. To me it feels like a representation of what I’ve been trying to do with my photography this year. That is to capture the everyday beauty that surrounds me, if I look close enough for it. This particular photo – or any of the others that I make on this personal quest of mine – might not represent ‘typical’ beauty but I don’t give a damn about that. I’m trying to photograph beauty as I see it. Hopefully others will recognise that beauty too but it’s ok with me if they don’t.

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The event was a success. There were some pretty serious & fast runners, who arrived at the finish line before the boat arrived. We arrived somewhere in the middle of the pack although it feels kinda weird viewing it that way considering we travelled on water! Prizes were given out, breakfast rolls & coffee were consumed & kids ran around enjoying the sun. The trip back to the wharf was a lively affair with many participants celebrating with an alcoholic beverage or two & several more dancing to the tunes pumped out by a live radio broadcast taking place onboard. I suspect the dollar value raised during the event was high enough that it will go ahead again next year. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to observe & photograph the goings on second time round.

The Anxious Life

Practicing Elbow Ayesha

I’ve been berating myself for days because this blog post is late. When I decided to blog regularly I made a promise to myself that I would write weekly. Weekly posts felt manageable & for the most part I’ve managed to keep to the schedule. This past week has seen me return to working outside of my home. I’d forgotten how difficult it can be to work full time hours & have some kind of existence outside of work life. I’ve only used my camera once this past week, my breakfast art has taken a hit as has my daily dog walking. So far my anxiety has mostly remained under control with only a few small moments where I thought it might become out of control.

I’m taking that as a win, regardless of how small that win is. Aside from medication & regular GP & psychologist visits I’ve learnt what works for me to keep my mental health stable. Of course i cant control everything so sometimes I have an unexpected anxiety attack.
A week ago I had a mentally tough day. I hoped that attending a couple of pole fit classes would pull me out of the anxiety attack that I’d spent the day fighting off. Turns out I was wrong. I felt uncomfortable & out of my comfort zone & despite trying to shut off the voice that was telling me have terrible I was. Eventually it won & not for the first time I left a class mid way, unable to control the anxiety that was taking over.
I hate when this happens. I feel like a freak & have an overwhelming sense of self hatred. I wish that i could disappear off this planet, erase my entire being & cease to exist. As I write that now I realise that it might sound extreme particularly if you’ve never experienced anxiety yourself. But that’s how I feel after an anxiety attack. Thankfully with therapy, time & medication those feelings go away a lot quicker than they used to. But I write of them because I believe the more we as a society talk about mental illness the more likely it is that the stigma around it is reduced. Perhaps one day it might even disappear. If you’ve read this post & it resonates with you, know that you aren’t alone. There are people you can reach out to for help. Look around you, find who those people are & engage with them. It’s ok to ask for help.
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To end this post on a lighter note my pole fitness classes this week went a lot better than last. I was exhausted from work but happy to be among friends. I was again pushed out of my comfort zone but this time took to it with relish. I laughed at my fails & felt joy at my successes. The above photo shows me in one of the moves we learnt, where I actually managed to succeed. I know not all days can be like this when anxiety is part of my reality but I’m thankful there’s more good days than bad.