Thursday, July 30, 2009

Just had to share...

I love these two.

You can see why, eh? Just thought you'd want to know.
Be blessed.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Processing the West...

Greetings! We're still here in BEAUTIFUL and extremely warm Gresham, Oregon. Yes, temperatures have reached 105 F. Thankfully, my father insists on having air con and cranked to something that will freeze snot. It's quite refreshing! However, Tim and I have been known to sit outside in the blistering weather to keep warm and remind us of home in the Phils. :) Minus the humidity.

We have been so incredibly blessed from all sides here. From dinners out to special gifts to quality time with family and friends. Promise adores her Lola Con and her Papa Jim and can't seem to fall asleep at night without a huge hug and wave "bye-bye" from them. And then there's her cousins. Baby Levi has become Promise's competition as she tries to catch up with his fast crawl and frequent walking. Ben loves to give Promise hugs and says, "I love you, Lady Bird". And Grace is the apple of Promise's 5 years old, Grace has become a mentor and BIG sister to Promise. She goes ecstatic when Grace is around. Wanna make Promise smile and laugh...get Grace!

The West has been good to us. In Oregon, there is no sales tax, so buying necessary toiletries we can't find in the Phils, organic baby food, diapers and even clothes has proven to be cheaper here than anywhere else. Because of the economic depression in the USA, consumer competition is high and prices are alarmingly the jars of organic baby food in Canada are $0.72 while in the Phils (if you find them....which is almost never), they are roughly $2.00 per jar (that's why I don't buy them!). Here, in no-sales-tax-Oregon? Well, they are $0.59! Now I normally make my own baby food, but to be honest, when traveling and staying in other people's homes, I find it very difficult and somewhat rude to raid the fridge for appropriate mashing items. Thankfully Promise's first two bottom teeth have arrived and she has begun to eat food right off my plate without preparation. She is growing up so fast...right before my eyes!

In addition to buying awesomely priced baby food, I bought a dress. I haven't bought a dress in over 3 years. I think the last time I BOUGHT a dress was way back in 2006 with my sister-in-law. I bought two for $9.99. Serious sale. I wore them out. I had borrowed clothes, worn hand-me-downs and loved it! I hate shopping and trying to find clothes for my odd shape is somewhat depressing. But I found a dress and it was almost 50% off. :) Ahhh...the simple pleasures of the West.

Access to stuff is not limited here. We're not buying, buying, buying, but I have to say, the temptation to spend what you don't have is pretty intense. Alas, we're doing well on that front here. I am happy to have a new dress, though. :)

Time is passing quickly here and in less than a week, Tim, Promise, and I will say goodbye to my side of the family for another year. To be honest, I have been struggling with this. I am thankful for the wealth of security and safety we've felt here....the comfort and the plenty. But, to be honest, this is not what I miss when in the Phils. No, I can live contently without stuff. But I look at the support, care, concern of our family....the joy, openness, and hospitality felt from our family....the growth in relationships between Promise and her grandparents and cousins....the peaceful and gracious discipling of my mom and I wonder, "Why would we ever leave!?" Why would I want to raise Promise void of her grandparents and her cousins? Why would I want to strip her away from the peaceful security of her extended family living in a peaceful environment? Am I just that selfish? To strip her grandparents of the opportunity to be hands-on in her spiritual and relational development....and the support in parenting I have received here has been substantial. I realized just how much I crave that support....I love learning from Ruth, my sister-in-law....she is an incredible mom full of creative ideas and motherly wisdom.

There is just no comparison to the love and support we have felt here. I feel spoiled and lavished upon.

My director at MMC warned me of this before we left the Philippines....she said, "You're not going to want to come back, ya know!?" Well, I DO want to return to the Phils. I DO want to finish the work the Lord prepared for us there and I DO know that it is where we are called to for now. But I go with some deep reflection....some sadness....some questions....some fear....but no regrets. I wonder, though, how long we will really be away and where we will end up next....what lifestyle Promise will have to adjust to.

Still processing. I know I could not live in the West for an extended period of time....I just couldn't do it. I know God has called us to a vagabond life. I know He will sustain us. I know there is a cost. I am just learning to relinquish my desires of what I think is best for my baby girl knowing that God is way smarter than me. He has always been faithful....

Sorry for the ramblings.
Be blessed.

I'll get Tim to post a few pics from his recent visit to the Columbia River Gorge.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Does It Matter?

I mentioned earlier this week that I've been trying to focus on my photography this month. If you follow these pages regularly, then you know that my camera's only subject for months has been my daughter. I think I had somehow given up on photographing Davao City, resigned to the fact that it's just not a very interesting place. The fact is, I've just been lazy. Or perhaps it's that I've been busy. It's easy to set up a photoshoot with the Bird when I'm with her at home for hours at a time. A more concerted effort is required if I am to find subjects outside of my own home.

With some time to spare while here in North America, I've been out on the hunt a few times. Uncle Bob loaned me a couple of books that helped to rekindle my interest and gave me some great tips. When I received a Barnes & Noble gift card as an early birthday present from Andy and RuthAnn, I knew exactly which book I wanted. I've had my eye on a book called "Within The Frame" by Vancouver photographer David duChemin. Rather than the typical "how to" discussion, this book delves deep into the concept of vision. DuChemin has done a bunch of work for World Vision and other NGOs, and his images always carry with them the spirit of the place in which they were taken.

I was enjoying this book immensely on the flight to California. The author was really challenging me with both his words and his images. I don't know how to explain it, except to say that each of his photographs seems to have soul. Does that make sense? He makes photos that cause you to feel something, even (sometimes especially) when there isn't a person within the frame. I want to make images like that. Incidentally, I only got to read the first half of the book because in typical Timmy fashion, I left it on the plane. I ordered a used copy on Amazon and it should be here next week. You know a book is good when you buy it twice.

Some of you know that I struggle with receiving complements about my photographs. It's not that I don't appreciate your comments (I find them encouraging), but when I look at the images made by professionals such as duChemin, I am immediately confronted by the fact that I have so far to go. If you're not sure what I mean, check out his website. You'll see.

I recognize that I'm missing something, and, by extension, my photographs are missing something. I guess that's part of what I was learning in this book—that I'm missing something. DuChemin doesn't go so far as to suggest that as a photographer I don't have soul. Instead, both his writing and his photography is so enriched with his own spirit, and indeed the Holy Spirit, that I can't help but recognize my own deficiencies.

I was created to be creative. Can't help it. I need to create something on a regular basis. And yet when I make my greatest creative efforts, I always struggle with self-rejection upon reflection of these efforts. Often times, after giving it my all as a musician or as a photographer, I long to retreat from that creative activity, feeling like a failure. Yet for some reason, I just keep getting back up, determined to do better next time. I guess I'm a glutton for punishment.

My weekend at Mount Rainier came at an interesting time. I was feeling discouraged after my group photos on the cruise ship turned out so poorly. While in Washington I was faced with a choice. I could sit around and mope about my extreme distaste for group portraits and my inadequate lens selection, or I could go out and face the mountain. Truth be told, I found time for both.

Our friends Rebecca and Orion invited us to spend a couple of days with them in a cabin at the entrance to Mount Ranier National Park. We had a nice time catching up with old friends and getting to know their two youngsters. On Friday night we stayed up way too late playing cards and hanging out in the hot tub. Despite the midnight bedtime, I had little trouble extracting myself from bed at 4am, determined to take one more step towards figuring out this photography thing.

The 45 minute drive and 20 minute hike was worth it; I had a great front row seat for the sunrise. Admittedly, I probably should have worn more than flip-flops and a t-shirt for my trek across several snow banks. Despite the less-than-balmy temperature (9˚C/48˚F) and heart-attack inducing climb, I was very much at peace when I plunked myself down on the side of the mountain at an elevation of 6000 feet. After sunrise, I drove down into the valley to further challenge myself in the early morning light.

Though the resulting images may satisfy the technical criteria—there are certain principals that make a photograph "work"—they still seem to lack that "spirit of place". Perhaps the problem is that I'm not a very emotional fellow. I didn't "feel" much of anything while making these images, so of course those feelings couldn't translate to the image itself. Another question I ask myself is, are these photos any different from those made by the other photographers who were in the park that morning? Another way of phrasing that same question is, do my images matter?

This isn't supposed to be a photography blog, and I'm probably getting a little too existential for my own good. I guess I just wanted to share with you a little bit of what's rolling around in my head. I suspect I will spend the rest of my life trying to make images that matter. The truth is, I love the hunt. I love the journey.

I recently told my father that photography is like golf. I spend most of my time hacking and slashing. But every once in a while I hit the sweet spot and drive a ball so straight and long that I spend the rest of the round determined to do it just one more time. I've made more bad images than I care to admit. I've got a hard drive full of them. Yet those few times when I've created a winner are enough to keep me coming back for more.

What about you? Do you have a pursuit, artistic or otherwise, that drives you to reach the next level? Are you searching for a way to inject "soul" into your pursuit? Have you long since given up the pursuit and need to pick it up again? Do you want to create something that matters?


As always, click the pic for a larger image.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Is There Anybody Out There?

Hey everybody. If you're reading this, then you are likely rather bored and have little else to do with your time. You've checked your email, sent your banking info to the Nigerian who needs your help getting $21 million out of the country, read all of the urgent news about the recently departed Mr. Jackson, signed up for two new social networking sites and annoyed your friends with invites, and you've messed with a few Wikipdia articles just for fun. So with nothing left to do, you have stumbled into our little corner of the world wide web, on the off chance that those vacationing missionary slackers have updated their blog. Well we have, so there!

I'm sorry folks, but the reality is that I still have little to say. We were in California last week for a great visit with Bethany's extended family. Bethany's grandmother, Thelma, turned 80 this year. Thelma's husband, Phil, turned 75. In the Philippines, when an adult celebrates a birthday, they are expected to throw a party for themselves (and cover the expenses for said shindig). I guess Thelma and Phil felt like celebrating the Filipino way, because they invited the whole family to join them for a three day cruise. They are such warm and generous people, and as always we enjoyed our time with them immensely.

The boat (our nephew Ben would be quick to remind me that it is a ship, not a boat) was lots of fun. The kids played in the pool, and the adults munched on food. A lot of food. We made a stop in Ensenada, a little Mexican town that seems to exist solely to take advantage of people who have grown accustomed to the inflated prices on cruise ships. Can you believe I paid $2.50 for a taco? A Taco! Well, it was a pretty darn good taco, and I'd do it again.

I've been trying to be more intentional about photography lately. "Intentional" just means that in an attempt to find good light, I drag myself from bed at unusual hours, and then disappear in the evening when everybody else is being social. On the cruise, I spent an evening practicing my long exposure photography, and then woke up early the next morning to catch the sunrise.

So, since there isn't anything else to say, I'll post a bunch of the cruise photos here, and then later this week I'll tell you about our recent trip to Mount Rainier, where I spent an early morning on the side of the mountain. Oh, and I'll include here a photo of one of the hummingbirds that haunt the front of Thelma and Phil's house.


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Ol' Peg Leg

I got a haircut today at a barber shop. You know the kind with the barber pole outside? The kind of place that has a chair that looks like it's been there for 50 years. I was hoping for a nice relaxing straight razor shave. Unfortunately the guy working there looked like he was about 23 years old, and based on the uneven haircut he gave me, I feared a shave might end with a trip to the hospital. He did a decent job of tidying up my beard though. I needed to get 'cleaned up' because I left my electric razor under the bed at Mum & Dad's place, and I was beginning to resemble one of Captain Hook's accomplices.

Speaking of Captain Hook... No, I'm kidding. I have no clever way to segue from that last paragraph. So we're in Oregon, hanging with Bethany's family. They're my family too, but not in a Menonite kind of way.

Ok, so nothing much has actually happened recently. We had a great visit with lots of friends and family in Vancouver, and now we're having a nice relaxing visit in Oregon. I've been reading lots (thanks to Uncle Bob, Andy & RuthAnn, and Dad for the reading material) and I spent an hour poking around the backyard with my macro lens and tripod.

Bethany had to get a minor procedure done at the clinic today. She had a wickedly infected in-grown toenail that was becoming quite the affliction. The doc took care of it and gave her the offending portion of her claw as a trophy. Eww. She's in lots of pain, but every four hours she pops a happy pill and everything is right with the world again. She's hobbling around the house like she's got a wooden leg. Ah crap, there's my segue! Too late, and I ain't going back.

We're all climbing on a plane tomorrow and flying to L.A. When I say all, I mean Bethany and Promise and I; B's parents, Jim & Connie; and B's brother, Andy, and his wife, RuthAnn, and their three kids, Grace, Ben, and Levi (aged 5, 3, and 11 months respectively). I hate flying—somebody's annoying kid is always crying.

In Los Angeles we will be joining Bethany's extended family for a three day Mexican cruise. It will be a wild time I'm sure. I'm looking forward to it. Apparently there will be lots to eat on the boat. Nice.

I have just a bit of work related news. Toti and the guys are currently working on distributing water filters to an entire community, called Gatungan. I've mentioned it once or twice here before, but it is actually happening this week. A whole group of very cool Australians and Canadians have pooled their resources to make this happen and we're all very excited about it. I encourage you to visit the Impact Network site and follow along as Toti reports their progress to the rest of the group.

I'm super tired, so I'm outta here. Sorry the blog postings are few and far between during our vacation. Sorry that when they finally do arrive, you get stuck with a sleepy Tim who has little to say. Here are a couple pics of Promise with a few of her cousins. And a flower. Everybody loves flowers.