Dec 27, 2016

Photography Exhibit

After a lot of hard work, I am pleased to announce that I will have a few photographs on display along with fellow classmates at The Museum of Art in Garrett beginning January 20, 2017.  Please come out and join us in celebrating our achievements! (my picture is on the bottom left)

Dec 11, 2016

Finding your Kin

It seems like I always get the genealogy bug around this time of year.  Maybe it is because we are held prisoners inside and want badly to be doing something worthwhile.  Summer is always busy running here and there, especially with my photography work and a full time job that requires chronic overtime. But in the back of my mind genealogy was always lurking in the shadows. 

Yesterday, I finished a book called Finding Family, My Search for Roots and the Secrets in my DNA by Richard Hill.  The book is about a search that lasted over 20 years for an adopted man who wanted to find his birth parents. From the moment that I started reading this memoir I had a hard time putting it down. 

The "secret" leaked out during a visit to a new doctor in 1964 for this recent high school graduate.  For years the family physician kept the secret about Richard Hill's adoption, but when the doctor retired, the new physician wasn't given any instructions regarding Richards adoption. Richard was clueless. He left the doctor's office in a daze. Maybe it was fate that Richard found out when he did.

I would have been as shocked as he was. (My family has a secret too!) But truth has a tongue and it speaks if we are only brave enough to listen.  Richard's quest for truth began. He traveled far and wide to try to put together the missing pieces of his family tree. 

If you are interested in using DNA as one of your search tools, like me, then I suggest that you read this book. The author took several DNA tests until he found his missing parents. The truth is in the DNA. 

"And many of us will not know peace until we know all the pieces."

Richard Hill

Nov 27, 2016

All that is expected of her life...

"All that is expected of her life is to be a wife and a mother," he said to me smugly.  I tried to defend her but the battle was already lost. The girl was taken out of school at the tender age of 13 to train to be a wife and mother. Her meager existence was planned. Dreams of being more than her chosen lot in life were floating into the air like a balloon, to never return. Education was the first area of girl's life to be chained and there is no key to unlock it. This is only the beginning. I felt rage like I've never felt before. Injustice. Narrow mindedness. Power. All enforced at her expense...And yet, we sit and watch as this tragedy unfolds.  Where is the hero to save her? The hero is within, but will have to come at a price. 

Nov 19, 2016

Allegiance to the Flag

From Youth's Campaign 1892
Whenever we would say the  pledge allegiance to the flag in elementary school we placed our right hand over our chest. I remember doing this when we lived in the south, but not up north. However, it was not too far in the distant past that the salute was different.  In 1942, the Hitler regime began using the same salute that we did for years prior to WWII.  It is called the Bellamy Salute.

Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, wrote the original "Pledge of Allegiance." Until 1892, there never was a Pledge of Allegiance. Daniel Sharp Ford, owner of the magazine "Youth's Companion" was on a mission to have a flag placed in every school in the States.  He asked Bellamy to write the pledge and it was published in the magazine.  It caught on like a wild fire and before you know it the pledge was being recited daily by children across the country. Not only was the Pledge of Allegiance being said at school but in other venues as well such as: public gatherings, campgrounds, and even congress.

So, what does one do with their hands while reciting this allegiance to the flag? You cannot let your hands dangle, they must have a part in this. It was decided that the participants hold up their right arm and it extend it towards the flag.  It looks rather odd to those of us who have never done this. 

By the 1930's when news reels came from Europe and "Heil Hitler" was being said with the same salute the stance fell out of favor with the American public. It was decided then to change the way we saluted our flag and we then began placing our right hand over our heart.  Isn't that where our hand should have been all along?  

Nov 13, 2016


Many of life's failures are people who did not realize 
how close they were to success when they gave up. 

                     Thomas Edison

Oct 23, 2016

Create your own luck

Reflection in a puddle
This is Your Life. Claim it. Find your Passion and live it. Corporate life is not an end all to the work experience. Life is more than paycheck to paycheck.  Seek success by your own definition. If you love art, music, or writing, then go for it. Don’t wait until you are near retirement to fulfill your dreams. Explore this planet on which we live.  You will be surprised by the many wonders that are out there. Make a list of what you want to do, see, or feel and plan to accomplish as many as possible before your journey in this life is over.  Love deepCry sometimes. Get up and start again. Stretch your mind beyond the boundaries of culture and religion.  Someone’s opinion of you is just that, don’t let it define or defeat you. Dream big. Create. Everything you do begets something else. Inspire others to do the same. Create your own luck.

Jeannie Smith


Oct 15, 2016

Look to the Sky

Sometimes we have to look beyond ourselves for answers.  Besides, if we knew everything then why would we search to know the mystery that is called life?

Don't be afraid to live and to do it passionately. Love deep. Cry sometimes. Be thankful. Don't get upset over small things. Sometimes God is in the strangest places.

Oct 2, 2016

Sensitivity: The Untold Story, A review

A few days ago I wrote a post about sensitivity, especially highly sensitive people.  I ordered a movie called:  Sensitive The Untold Story and it arrived on Friday.  I watched the movie that evening and was thankful that someone out there understands people like me. 

Elaine Aron is the author of the book, The Highly Sensitive person, which I have just begun to read. This movie helped me to see that I am not alone. Whether we believe it or not everyone falls into some kind of category regarding their personality. 

Growing up, I remember biting my nails until they bled because life made me a nervous wreck. My upbringing didn't help my nerves at all. Chaos at home would make me scurry to my room for peace and quiet because I felt emotionally drained and needed a recharge in order to face the world again. Then there were times I would explode because my feelings were very intense about a situation I was put in. Watching horror or gory movies was never my thing. Loud noise makes me crazy. Touching coarse fabrics or paper gives me the creeps. After reading this paragraph makes me appear like an odd ball, but this is how my life is. 

I always loved music, art, poetry, and writing my feelings down in a journal.  I, also, notice details in my surroundings that others just don't see. When I love, it is deeply. I feel with the same intensity. 

High school was a place that I could become invisible among the throng and I liked it that way.  Once I got out into the world things were a bit more tough.  I ended up in jobs that made me miserable or had to deal with a brute for a supervisor. For the sensitive person it was hell. I had a hard time fitting in anywhere. 

If you know someone who is sensitive please have them watch this clip from the movie,  Sensitive The Untold Story. The clip is in English, so don't worry about not being able to understand. ( I am not sure what language is written below) Better yet educate yourself about the sensitive person in your life.  They would greatly appreciate it.  

Sep 27, 2016

My take on copying a painting

Have you ever seen a painting that moved you?  I am finishing up a Fine Art class at the local college and it has been challenging to say the least.  One of the assignments is to emulate a painting that you like with a modern twist. Well, I didn't do that. I wanted to see if I could try and make my image look close to the original.  I used the painting by Albert Lynch called Elegante. 

The woman is soft, elegant, with very fine features. I liked how the golden light illuminated her hair from the the side which made her skin look like porcelain. My version is below. 

I think that it turned out well enough for the first try. I would like to try another one and see how it works.   

Sep 25, 2016


Has anyone ever told you that "You worry too much", "You shouldn't feel that way" or "You cannot save the world?" I have struggled with it all of my life. Sensitivity. It is also labelled hyper sensitive or HSP (highly sensitive people).  It is not something that I really thought about until just recently as I was having a conversation with my nephew.  He mentioned that he thinks about things a long after an incident, especially when he feels that he said something that he thinks was wrong. The words roll over and over in his mind wishing that they were never spoken.  I, too, am that way.  It can be torture and you feel trapped by your emotions. If you are not a highly sensitive person you will not understand where I am coming from.

I had a bout with one of my siblings recently and I cried for days afterwards, feeling it intensely. People have told me that I worry too much. I know that I do. But I haven't been able to get a handle on it. Or am I supposed to? Perhaps I am wired to be this way. Being sensitive is not that bad really; When things get to be a bit too much for me, that is when I tend to be emotional.

Here are some indications that you are HSP:

1. When you are expected to do a lot of things in a short amount of time it becomes overwhelming and you shut down. 

2. Crowds or places that have a lot of noise is uncomfortable and you have a hard time thinking. (Try eating in a place with metal walls, oh joy!) 

3.  Alone time is essential for recharging.  

4.  Are you in a bad mood because someone else is?

5. Do you try to avoid upsetting situations at all cost?

6. Constant change makes you rattled. 

7. Do bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics or sirens bother you?

8. Does music, poetry, or art move you deeply?

9. Do you notice details that others may miss?

10. Do you notice when someone is uncomfortable and try to make them feel at ease?

The list goes on and on. Did you know that about 15- 20% of the population is HSP?  I didn't know that either.  They are generally introverted, like the quiet, and tend to notice things that others seem to overlook. The really great thing is that a lot of the highly sensitive people are creative.  Van Gough and Michael Jackson, are just a couple of examples of highly sensitive people. Click here to take a test to see if you are highly sensitive. 

Sep 18, 2016

Falling Down: Rural America

It rained the entire 1 & 1/2 hour drive that took me to Weston, Ohio to photograph a little autistic girl in a horse show yesterday.  Instead of being able to photograph outside we were stuck inside under florescent lights, a photographers nightmare.

I was there to photograph the horse show last year at this time and I saw an old house that was vacant and crumbling down. The empty house must have been loved at one point. I was enamored with the fish scale tiles that were painted green but now were faded or nearly bare wood. There was signs of people having lived there in the not so distant past. A BBQ grill was placed by the front door with a mound of other things.  I wanted to take pictures of it then but I couldn't find it. So, this time, I made a mental note of the location so that I could photograph it when I headed back home.  But when I left it was pouring so hard that I couldn't safely leave the car without getting soaked. 

So, I parked the car and aimed the lens at the house as best I could without much rain getting inside. Well, I did get a lot of rain inside but you would never guess that it was raining from looking at the pictures. I tried a process on Photoshop called HDR toning. I moved the levels around until I found the look that I wanted.  I added a memories grunge to it that I found on line et voila this is the result.  I rather like it.  A friend of mine said it looks surreal.  I don't know about that, but I really am drawn to old crumbling down buildings. 


Sep 5, 2016

The Ballerina

She wore white, but it wasn't her wedding day.
The shoes were smooth and dainty. 
Around her tiny waist hung a tutu.
Hair was tightly coiled 
upon her head. 
Underneath a neck like that of a swan. 
On pointed toe, with arms spread like 
an eagle, the girl twirled. 

Jeannie Smith

Aug 28, 2016

Art in the Park weekend at the Old Fort

It was humid and hot today. But that did prevent the natives from getting out and enjoying the yearly Art in the Park two day display of fine art in the city. However, I spent most of my time at the Old Fort.  

Back in the 80's I used to go to The Fort and take pictures of all of the interpreters. This was the site of the original fort that was built in 1815.  I would fill albums with pictures from this place.  

Now it is only open on special occasions. I stood around a while and observed the interaction the interpreters had with each other. 

This took me back in memory of my trip earlier in the year to Colonial Williamsburg where the audience was actively involved in the presentation. I was ready to pack up and move by the time I left that day because I wanted to be around people that appreciate history.  

The Shawnee Indian tribe was represented  today. The interpreter traveled from Cincinnati, Ohio to participate this weekend. I made the mistake of asking him about his "costume" he grimaced and I had to change my word to "clothing". Then I was given an explanation of the skins that were used to cover his feet and legs and got a peak at his loin cloth. 

I, then, walked a few blocks to where the streets were lined with food vendors and those who were selling their creations.  Overall, I preferred the atmosphere of days gone past.  

Aug 21, 2016

In Search of my Southern Smith Connection

Downtown Morristown

My nephew and I drove for hours to reach a small city in Northeast Tennessee called Morristown located in the county of Hamblen. I was hoping to find where my great-great grandfather was buried in 1906 and any other information that I could find. His name was Pleasant Thomas Smith, a Civil War vet. 

Downtown Morristown

We traveled up and down hilly streets to reach the only library in town. I carried my two large binders inside that contained all of the information that I have on the Smiths. The library was small, so very small.  I asked if they had any newspapers on the microfiche from 1884 and beyond. There was some juicy information on a relative that involved a barn burning, jail, and a divorce that I wanted more information on. They placed me at a table in front of a reader and I began my search.  I looked through every date that I could muster but didn't come up with anything. It was then that one of the librarians suggested that I go to the archives at the courthouse.  I gathered my things and off we went. 

Morristown, upper level

The archives were located in the basement, which meant that I had to carry my binders down a flight of stairs and I was not looking forward to the descent. Once inside, I was greeted by two elderly women who were ready to research.  I was pelted with questions on dates, names, and locations. After a little while it was suggested that I go to the next county for research because we couldn't find anything on my ancestors.  Even though my great-great grandfather married his second wife in Hamblen County, they lived in Jefferson County before the county boundary changed. 

Morristown upper level with my nephew

Instead of going to Jefferson County that day we walked around downtown Morristown. Main Street was lined with flags and hanging flowers. There is an upper level with shops all along the top.  I have never seen anything like this before and I thought it was awesome. 

The next day we headed to Jefferson County to a little city called Dandridge (the second oldest city in Tennessee, Jonesboro is the first). I was here once before many years ago. There was a country restaurant in the heart of the city was all that I remembered. Today it is out of business. I did visit an old plantation house that was on a back road somewhere but was not feeling that adventurous on this trip. We repeated our steps from the previous day. But this time was more productive.


I met a man who has been researching the Smith line from the county and he was due to arrive early in the afternoon. Timing was perfect in this instance. His name was Ray, a soft spoken southerner with gray hair, smiling eyes, and a firm handshake ( I always judge a man's character based on his handshake). A retired professor who loves genealogy is someone that I was looking for. There was a large folder in the archives for the Smith's. I looked through the folder and found land records that I hadn't seen before. I was thrilled. At least I was going home with more than one piece of paper. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses.    

Barn in New Market, Tennessee

Sadly, Tennessee didn't begin recording deaths until 1914. I came home with some information that I didn't have before with hopes of eventually finding my great-great grandfathers grave.  I am determined to find him and say that I haven't forgotten you or your life.  Pleasant deserves at least that much from me. 

Aug 15, 2016

Zoo: A habitat for unhappy (maybe) animals.

Yesterday,  I went to the zoo with my nephew, a strapping 22 year old with intense blue eyes that stands over 6 foot tall. He is a gentle soul and I wonder why he wants to spend time with me.  Anyway, we toured the large complex. We went on an African safari, hiked through the Indonesian rain forest, and enjoyed an Australian outback adventure.  Over the years the inmates at the zoo has dwindled down in size.  Where once there was a large cage for birds where visitors could roam around freely is now no larger than 14 foot square with only a couple of birds. But, still, there are plenty of animals to see. 

I know that zoos are well intended places for people to come and see animals from all over the world. At least, that is what I want to believe. I wandered the zoo and observed the animals.  How can a being be happy in such a place? Bars are everywhere. The Komodo Dragon lay listlessly on the cool rocks during the hot and humid morning, while I was drenched in perspiration. 

I had never noticed how beautiful a tiger really is.  The intensity of his brown eyes and the stripes that lay meticulously on top of the golden fur was almost too much beauty to behold. This beautiful cat lay on top of the wooden bench while its partner paced their area of confinement.  

I didn't mention that a little farm was included in the things to see at the zoo. These animals we see on a regular basis if we live close to farms.

By the time the tour of the zoo was over, I felt very much like the pigs and wanted to snooze.  

I am nearly done with the photography certificate program and a few of my pictures (hoping a few more) have been chosen to be on display at the local art museum in January. This is exciting news for me and confirms I am going in the right direction. 

Jul 16, 2016

Train, tractors, and enjoying nature

I like rust. Isn't that an odd thing to say? I am attracted to old things from yesteryear, except old men. I do have my limits. 

The other day I was driving out into the country for a photo shoot.  It is mid July and the height of the summer season. Everything is blooming and we are surrounded by green. I love it!  It is amazing how peaceful it is away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Where quiet can be achieved without ear plugs. 

As I was driving along I would try to look at everything that came across my path to see if maybe I would like to try and find it again on my return trip home. Then I spotted a train, but not only a train a tractor was there too. 

The train and tractor were just off the highway. I turned into the small drive and parked the car.  Everything seemed to be strategically placed, but with the look of abandonment.   

The train car was packed with things but I didn't dare go up and try to look inside.  Who knows who or what would be lurking behind the windows. 

I stood there for a while and just looked at the train and tried to imagine the life it had. Where had it been and what were the people like who inhabited it while going on a journey.  I had only been on a train twice in my life so far. 

The first train ride was in Chattanooga, Tennessee when I lived there.  The train took the riders on a small tour of the city. I sat in the "colored" car, which was very nice, but it may not have been when those words were painted just above the seat. The wheels squeaked and the cars jerked as we rolled along the track.  The second ride was in Morocco.  We traveled to Tangier, my favorite city in the country. The train was packed with people and we were given sweet treats to eat by a fellow passenger.  Oh the journey's we take and the memories we have of them. 

Jul 7, 2016

Girl Gone

I haven't really disappeared but it seems like it.  The summer has been busy with photographing a wedding, part two is this Saturday. And the pressure of trying to get enough models to pose for my photography class assignments that is coming up in a few weeks has been stressful, besides working my full time job that I about worn out. I am no quitter. Trust me, I have thought about it a time or two though.  So, tonight I went out to photograph flowers.  I wish that I could say that they were all brilliant but that would be lying.  The cone flower is the best one out of the bunch and the last one that I took.  

The thing about being a photographer is that I see wonderful pictures of things as I drive by and sadly my camera is not always with me.  The other day, I saw two monks chatting while sitting in front of a church.  I looked over and thought what a great picture it was. I could have run home and got the camera but the moment was lost.  That is exactly what photography is. Capturing moments.  

Please bear with me while I work on some fine art photography over the next few weeks and will be posting more regular then. 

May 28, 2016

Nostalgia & Small Towns

This past weekend I went to a horse show in a small city close by and photographed one of the contestants. I walked around the stalls and noticed a pair of boots, well worn, and laying nonchalantly with the riders things. The abundance of dust tells me that the owner spends a lot of time with his horse and doesn't really care about how he looks. 

These boots caught my eye too. The horse trainer came over for a chat. She kept moving her feet around until the spur lay on top of her other boot.  I thought how odd it was that someone would stand for a period of time like this. 

The love of old cars is the dream of many. As I was driving home I saw this car and was taken back to my childhood.  The cars were large and roomy inside. The steering wheel was as big as a pizza and the radio had knobs that you turned to find the music that you love. The only way to cool off was by rolling the window down. 

Those old cars needed gas. When I saw this old gas pump I was very excited and felt like I had really gone back in time.  It was a James Dean moment. Even though I was a child of the 60's, I really appreciate living now with all of the luxuries that we have. That is, except for those people who have their cell phones stuck under their noses all of the time. They get on my nerves. 

May 11, 2016

Monticello: Feeling sorry that I slept through history class

I must have slept through history class when I was in school for every grade. Once the teacher opened her or his mouth my eyes began to roll back in my head and then before I knew it I was sleeping.  All of those dates and wars were of no interest to me then. But now it is a different story. This time around it is personal. How?  Well, once I started tracing my family history the men on the Campbell side of my family fought in every war once they arrived here in the early 1700's.  My recent trip to Virginia opened my eyes to how much I lacked in knowledge about the history of my country.   

Monticello is a daunting place. It is a large house that sits on a hill with the Blue Ridge mountains surrounding it. President Thomas Jefferson lived here. We went on a weekday and I was surprised that it was extremely busy. The guests were herded together and every 15-20 minutes a group entered the house, one group at a time in each room.  Once inside I tried to take in as much as possible. The entry hall was large with animal heads hanging on the walls and deer skins draped over the banisters. A few sculptures were displayed on tall pedestals. The rooms off to the side were smaller, which I found to be surprising. The room that fascinated me the most was the library. The original collection of over 6,000 books were sold to the Library of Congress for around $23,000. But shortly afterwards Jefferson declared, " I cannot live without books" and another collection began.  I spotted a copy of Don Quixote tucked securely behind some glass from the original collection. Sadly his second collection was sold too in 1829 to settle some debts. (I might have to do that too if I don't stop buying so many) 

Across from the main residence was a shack. There was barely enough room inside to turn around. And yet, slaves were forced to live in cramped quarters like this. Try to imagine yourself living there.  It was here that I learned a bit more of Jefferson's private life, especially regarding Sally Hemings, his slave, with whom the former President had six children with. 

There were gardens all around the estate. Not just vegetables but flower gardens too. Jefferson took great pride in the plants that were grown around the estate and documented everything that took place. 

I brought the company bear called "Grizz"along and took pictures of our travelling companion at various places such as Williamsburg in the stocks, at William & Mary College, and Monticello. It was great fun doing this and a lot of people commented that their company did the same thing. 

They say that Virginia is for lovers.  I have to agree. There is so much to do in this state and one has basically anything they could want, there are mountains and the ocean is not far away.  I live in corn fields. The land is flat and you can see for miles. The day after I came back home I cried. The weather felt as sad (rained) as I did and cried along with me. I wanted to pack up my belongings and move right then and there. Maybe I am being dramatic or not. Does anyone out there feel like this when they come back from vacation? 

May 7, 2016

Jamestown, Virginia: A lesson in being a tourist

Our first visit should have been to Jamestown. Somehow we did things backwards.  I was so enamored with Williamsburg that I was a bit disappointed when we made it to the First Settlement. 

This is an oven for baking bread. Very similar to what I saw in Morocco.
Three ships arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607, the Discovery, Godspeed, and Susan Constant. My companion had to remind me that the first settlers had to build from the ground up. It was nature that they had to contend with and at that point in time it was a bit more brutal in Virginia. They were going thru the Little Ice-Age. 

In truth, the houses were nicely built. They were wood frames which were filled in with sticks. The holes were filled with sticky wattle and daub (mud, clay, and grass mixture). The roof's were thatched, with dirt floors, and on the inside of a few of the houses the rooms were filled with elaborately hand carved furniture. But most were one room homes with a table, chairs, and bed with a straw mattress.  

Armour was also in every house.  It kind of reminded me of Vikings. One always has to be on guard. 

The last leg of our tour was visiting the ships. Even though we visited on a weekday the place was packed with children on field trips.  I expected Captain Jack Sparrow to make an appearance at any time. 

The interpreters were wonderful and spent a large amount of time explaining things to us. I learned how the compass works and where the term "knots" comes from when it comes to navigation. ( I should have taken notes) 

On the way in we talked at length to one of the interpreters. (Sadly, I didn't take a picture of her.)  She told us about the Powhatan Indians that were in the area and that Pocahontas belonged to the tribe. We were encouraged to touch the summer dress that she was making out of deer hide while she talked to us. The interpreter was a former school teacher and I felt that she was an invaluable asset to Jamestown because she passionately talked about the history of the area.  

I came away knowing more than when I went in.  Mission accomplished.