Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Picture is Worth a 1000 Words

In my last post I shared my minor obsession with being connected by technology. Whether it’s by text, e-mail, or social media, I like communicating with people or being able to read about the news going on in the world around me. For social media I mainly use Facebook. It’s been fun connecting with people I haven’t seen since childhood or high school, but also just with people I see on a regular basis. I go on Pinterest occasionally, but it’s not something I do everyday. Twitter is also one I only view once in awhile. I actually just signed up for Twitter a few months ago so I could see what it was all about since it seemed everyone from politicians to celebrities tweeted. From time to time I’ll scroll through and do a quick read, but I haven’t found the thrill of it. I’ve never actually sent my own tweet. Yet, since so many people use Twitter, I feel like I must be missing something.

My most recent find and latest interest--Instagram. Last fall I signed on to Instagram just to see what it was. I saw you could take pictures and use a few enhancements. No big deal. I basically just ignored that app and really never thought about it again. Well, a couple months ago, the topic of Instagram came up with my friend Lisa. I think I had tried Instagram again and posted the picture on Facebook. Lisa often posts some of her Instagram pics, so she told me a bit about it, and it piqued my interest. I didn’t know there was this little Instagram world going on! It was much more than I realized.

I have actually had an interest in photography for awhile. I’m always amazed by the wonderful pictures some people take. They have just the right angle and colors. A couple of years ago, Jason bought me a “real” camera; however, I never really learned how to use it appropriately. I basically keep it on AUTO rather than use all of the options it has available. Jason suggested I read a photography book or the manual, but I really didn’t have time for that. I also got my iPhone a few years ago and found myself using that camera a lot simply because of the convenience of it. It certainly doesn’t have the same quality or the ability to zoom the same way, but it does the job most of the time.

My forgotten Instagram account was private and I assumed that’s how I’d want it, just as I do with Facebook. After Lisa shared how she uses Instagram, however, I made my account public and started viewing other people’s work and then even attempted some of my own photos. There are forums on Instagram where you can submit your photos and moderators of these sites will choose certain pictures to be featured. Some of these forums are for pictures of flowers, doors, children, or just random images, to name a few. At first I had a lot of questions about how it all worked. I was sending regular texts to Lisa asking questions. At one point I told her she could send me a bill for all of her tutorial time. Lisa has an excellent photo gallery (@lisaeinme) and is also the co-founder of Wicked Good Shots, which is a forum devoted to photos taken of New England.

Once I posted my first couple of pictures and hashtagged them into a particular forum, I started getting likes and comments from people all over the world. And then, when I got my first picture featured, it kind of hooked me. In the last couple months since being part of Instagram, I’ve had multiple pictures selected. So along with the feedback from others and the positive reinforcement from having pictures chosen, it makes me want to keep submitting pictures. Instagram is quite unique in the fact that everyone is so supportive and polite. People write kind comments and send congratulations for a photo well-done or for a picture that has been chosen for a feature.

Like writing, I think I enjoy Instagram because it lets me use the creative side of my brain. While I’m not terribly creative, it is different from my regular job which has me doing paperwork, meeting state and federally regulated deadlines, and doing evaluations and writing reports. No creativity needed there. I think the right side of my brain is a little happier now that it’s getting exercised a little.

I feel like everywhere I go now, I look around me and wonder if something would make a good picture. I certainly don’t have the talent and editing skills that many of the photographers do, but it’s still quite fun. If anything, it’s making me take notice of life around me. I notice sunsets, flowers, and interesting architecture. Rather than rushing through life, I’m actually taking time to smell the roses (and photograph them!).

Visit me on Instagram: @khuchel

Friday, June 21, 2013

My Name is Kim...

They say admitting it is the first step. Well, envision me sitting in a circle, surrounded by others holding cell phones and tablets, madly typing away. It’s my turn to speak. I nervously confess, “My name is Kim and I am a smartphone, technology, social media loving-aholic.”

After reluctantly joining the world of social media almost 5 years ago, I have become, well, a little addicted to it. First it was Facebook, then Pinterest, then Twitter (which I still don’t really see the point of), and most recently Instagram. I don't really think that I am addicted--I could quit if I had to (I think...maybe...I’m not sure). However, it could be worse. I’ve seen some people on TLC’s show My Strange Addiction and those people eat ashes from their deceased spouse’s urn, toilet paper, or human blood. Some are addicted to inflatable animals, licking their cat, or bathing in urine. See, social media not so bad, huh?

Since writing can be like therapy, let’s delve into my childhood to see where this all stems from. For whatever reason, I loved getting mail as a kid. I couldn’t wait for the mailman (or woman) to arrive at my mailbox. I would rush down the driveway and hope for a letter. Back then, I really did get actual snail mail letters because we didn’t have the technology of today. It would usually be from my grandparents or a pen pal. I had over 100 pen pals and I did my best to keep up with all of them, but at some point I really just focused on my few favorites. And believe it or not, I recently found all those letters that I’ve had stored in boxes in our eaves.

Why did I like getting mail so much? I’m not really sure. It was fun and exciting to hear from people. I liked reading about their lives and I liked writing to them about my life. This really translates to the technology of today. Emails, texts, and Facebook allow me to keep in touch with people. I’m no longer waiting for letters in the mail, but I hear the ding on my phone or the little red flag indicating some type of correspondence and I quickly see who it is. I all too frequently find myself picking up my phone, iPad, or laptop to check and see what is going on in the world around me. Today’s electronic communication also provides that instant gratification I didn’t have when I was waiting for letters to come in the mail. If a letter didn’t come one day, I never had to check the mailbox the rest of the day because mail only comes once a day. Now communication can come 24 hours a day. Is that too much?? Are we overdoing it? Are our brains becoming too saturated with “stuff”? There are times I feel like I have ADHD with my technology. I go from Facebook, to clicking on Pinterest, to clicking on Instagram, to checking my texts, and then e-mails. Why do I do it? I have no idea. Even as I sat here writing this, I paused to read Facebook and then I had to go check the texts that I heard chime in on my phone. It’s distracting and time consuming, yet I keep doing it. It also makes me wonder what will come next in our lives. As a kid while I was handwriting a letter on pretty stationery, I never imagined that one day there would be some other way to write to others. I guess only time will tell what the next 20 years will bring.

And, if you ever feel like writing a letter or sending a card, I still get excited when something other than a bill arrives in my mailbox.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Full By 40

Ever have one of those moments when you say, “What was I thinking?” Well, I recently had one of those moments. And now, I must spend the next few months dealing with this momentary lapse of judgment.

I’ve had this crazy idea nagging at me for awhile now. It’s something that I’d love to accomplish, yet the whole idea of it is quite scary. Since the idea has lingered with me for so long, I decided it was time to just go for it. I needed to cross this thing off my bucket list. I was going to run a marathon before I turned forty.

This milestone birthday is about seven months away, so I didn’t have much time to put this challenge off any longer. I went online and signed up for the Maine Marathon in October. I hit the submit button, verification came back that I was officially registered, and I almost threw up. Panic set in. What was I thinking?

The long road ahead...

I was never a runner, per se. I played sports all through school, so running was involved, but I never ran long distances. I could never imagine how people ran cross country. I mean, why would anyone want to run a few miles unless they were being chased? Well, fast forward to my mid-30s. I was happily married, had my first child, and found myself a few pounds heavier than I wanted to be. In the process of trying to lose weight, I started walking which then led to running. The first time I ran a mile, it was as if I had run a marathon. It was really an accomplishment. Soon after, I set a goal of running a 5K. I don’t even remember what made me decide to do it, but I signed up for the Seadogs Mother’s Day 5K. I prepared for it and on Mother’s Day of 2008, I successfully completed my first race. I was hooked.

Since that first race in 2008, I have run ten 5Ks, a 4-miler, two 10Ks, two 10-milers, and a half marathon. I currently have another 10K (Beach 2 Beacon) on the docket and now a full marathon. I’m using an 18 week training plan to prepare for this race. I have just finished week two. So far it’s not bad because this weekend’s long run was only 7 miles. That’s still in my range. Once I start having to run more than 13 miles, it’ll be more than I’ve ever done, so I’m more nervous about that. It won’t be until the end of July that those distances start coming, so I’m safe for a little longer.

I suckered, I mean, encouraged my friend Johanna to do it with me. She is also turning 40 on her next birthday (3 months before me!). I figured it would be better to have someone else to die with, I mean, to have as a support when running those God awful distances. I fear I’ll be delirious by mile 22, so having someone with me (especially a nurse) to talk me through it or pick me up off the ground will be helpful.  

I’m sure by the time October 6th rolls around, there will be many times in my training that I’ll ask myself what the heck I was thinking. But, being goal-oriented, I will also be thrilled when I cross that finish line and can check off this bucket list item. Even if I have to walk a little and it takes me 7 hours, it will be an accomplishment. And sometimes that’s worth all the torture getting there.

Until my mother reminded me, I had forgotten that my running career really began in 1983. I had entered a 1-mile race in Rumford and won for my age group! I think after that I decided to retire from running so I could end on a high note. Why mess with first place? Well, my running hiatus of 25 years ended and I’ve never come in first place again and likely never will. There are just some darn fast runners out there.

My first race shirt and ribbon. I'm the girl on the left (in case you couldn't tell). 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Another Man's Trash...

I’ll admit it. I’m not a fan of second-hand things. I don’t go to yard sales, flea markets, and I’ve never bought a used car. I’m not tricked into thinking that something old is cool just because it’s called vintage. In my opinion, one man’s trash is usually another man’s trash. I kind of like things fresh and clean, so the idea of clothes shopping at a second-hand store would never occur to me. However, I have a co-worker who dresses well and she told me she gets a lot of her clothes at Goodwill. She encouraged me to give it a try. Another friend recently shared that she found a dress at Goodwill as well. So, I decided that I’d venture into our nearby Goodwill store.

As I entered the door with the ringing bell at the top, letting all the other shoppers know that I was there, I had Macklemore’s song “Thrift Shop” going through my head....”I’m gonna pop some twenty dollars in my pocket...” I scanned the overhead signs for the women’s department. I decided to start in the pants section because I did want some new capris. Much to my surprise, I did find a nice pair of Eddie Bauer capris. I looked them over carefully and saw nothing wrong with them. Then I saw the jeans. A pair of GAP ones that I like that normally cost $70. And then, the big find - a pair of Joe’s Jeans just hanging there in my size. Normally this pair would cost $165, which I’d never pay. I should have stated in my first paragraph that I like new things, but I’m sort of a tightwad in that I hate paying a lot. I do love a bargain and saving money. Anyway, I tried them on and they all fit. I was still feeling a little odd about wearing someone else’s pants, but I figured what the heck. I made my purchase and got change from that twenty dollars in my pocket...$4.28 to be exact.

Last night I washed my “new” clothes and this morning I wore my Joe’s Jeans. It was like they were meant for me - just the right length (many of my pants are too long due to my less than grand stature), I didn’t need a belt, and they were comfy. I was thrilled with my find! Maybe second-hand shopping wasn’t so bad after all.

At school I showed my Joe’s Jeans wearing friend the bargain I got on mine while she got ripped off paying full price for her brand new, unworn pair that she actually had to break in. Then I showed my Goodwill shopping colleague and she was thrilled that I had found as much joy at Goodwill as she did. I was practically becoming a spokesperson for Goodwill.

Fast forward to after school. I was on the couch reading my local paper, “The Sentry,” to catch up on the South Portland scoop and also the “Rumford Falls Times” to keep up with my hometown scoop. As I shifted positions, I felt a cool draft on my leg. I looked down and my beloved Joe’s Jeans had a tear in the inner thigh! What was I to do? I loved these things! I found the sewing kit, some denim-like material, and some iron-on adhesive tape. I’ll be darned if I’m going to let a little rip stop me! I’m going to get the most out of my $4.99 jeans!  In no time the pants were mended and I was back into my comfy Joe’s.

Sadly, I guess it’s true what they get what you pay for. I really wanted to fall in love with this Goodwill shopping. Who wouldn’t want to buy 3 pairs of pants for $15? Instead, I barely had time to bask in the glory of the ultimate find. I was betrayed by the bargain.

That may be my last adventure “from that thrift shop down the road...”

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What's In a Name?

Once I decided that I was going to write a blog, coming up with the name was the next step. And what a process that was. I think it was easier deciding on names for my kids. I just didn’t know where to begin. I tried coming up with something cutesy or creative. I browsed the web for names of other blogs to get inspiration. I thought and thought, but nothing grabbed me. I periodically jotted ideas down and I would even wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it. After much agonizing, I eventually had a list of 15 options. I tried to get my husband to give me his opinion, but he wasn’t really too interested. It’s like when I’m going for a hair appointment and for the few days leading up to it, I’ll ask him, “What should I do to my hair? Should I get it cut short?” He usually doesn’t answer or says he doesn’t care what I do to my hair. I’m not sure if he truly doesn’t care or if he chooses not to say anything because if I do what he suggests and I hate it, I’d likely blame him.

Finally though, after days of nagging (not that I ever do that), he did tell me his top three from my list. Of course, he could have closed his eyes and pointed randomly at three just to get me off his back, but it did work. Well played, Jason, well played.

One of the challenges of coming up with the name is that the blog isn’t specific--it’s not a parenting blog, a running blog, or a baking blog. It’s a random blog about whatever comes to mind or about things going on in my life. Therefore, something like “Busy Running Mama” (not really an option on my list) wasn’t going to work because it is too topic specific. In the end, “A Whole Lot of Nothing” came out on top because essentially, that’s what I’ll be writing about. A whole lot of nothing.

This leads me to ask, if there was a blog about your life, what would it be called?

Monday, June 3, 2013

And so it begins...

During the past few years of being part of the Facebook world, I've had numerous people tell me that they look forward to my posts because they make them laugh. (If they don't make you laugh, you may want to stop reading now.) I've been told I should write a book, create a sitcom, or write a blog. Well, I don't think I'm quite ready to write a sitcom (or the glamour of Hollywood), so starting a blog seems like the most reasonable choice! Being a published author is actually a dream of mine, so this could be a way for me to get some writing done. While I know Facebook status updates are a far cry from writing a best selling novel, they do allow me to share my voice with an audience. Hopefully this blog will get my creative juices flowing and let me share some of the random events and thoughts of my life.

And who knows? Maybe I'll be the first person to win the Pulitzer Prize for a blog. A girl can dream, right?