Monday, January 31, 2011

U.S. Judge, in Pensecola, Florida Rules Healthcare law is Unconstitutional

A U.S. Judge, in Pensecola, Florida has ruled this morning ... in repsonse to a lawsuit filed by the Attorney Generals of 26 U.S. States ... that the Healthcare Reform law as passed by the 111th Congress is unconstitutional.  This is the second U.S. Judge to rule that the law was unconstitutional, but the first judge to rule that the entire law was unconstitutional.  A Virginia judge had previously ruled that the "individual mandate" only was unconstitutional.

In his written ruling, Judge Roger Vinson, stated that the "individual mandate" requiring all individuals to purchase health insuarnce was unconstitutional.  He further stated that because this portion of the law was not "severable from the whole", that the "law in its entirety is therefore void."

This is a huge victory for justice, but unfortunately a final judicial say in the matter will not come until this case and likely dozens of others like it finally make their way up to the U.S. Supreme Court which could take up to 4 years.  In the meantime, while awaiting appeal at the highest level, this Healthcare Reform law will go into effect and begin the socialization of our U.S. Healthcare System.*  Thus, the need to act still remains.  We must stop this law now at the Congressional level.  The time to act is now! 

I urge you to write to your U.S. Senators (you have 2) and urge them to vote against this unconstitutional Healthcare Reform law.  Remind them that they represent you ... us ..."We the people" and that WE want this bad and unconstitutional piece of legislation repealed NOW!  Let them know that we will hold them accountable for their actions.  If they voted for this law under the 111th Congress, now is the chance for them to redeem themselves.  Then urge your senator to take the worthy measures in the law up under separate, constitutional, legislation (e.g., no pre-existing condition clauses, malpractice lawsuit reform, requirement for insurance companies to spend at least 85% of their premium intakes on actual healthcare costs).

Here is the link to locate and write to your U.S. Senator on-line:  write to your U.S. Senator on-line

*The "individual mandate" portion of the Healthcare law will not go into effect until 2014, hence the reason that Judge Vinson did not issue a separate ruling to prevent Congress from enacting other portions of this law.  I guess, that the Judge is relying upon the notion that the appeal in this matter will reach the U.S. Supreme Court level before the "individual mandate" portion of the law goes into effect.

Still Can't Sleep ... The Original ...

Just like an old book, with its tattered, worn and treasured pages ... We always hold a special place in our hearts for  that which came first ... The original ... The familiar .... With that in mind, and since nothing bold, new and inspirational seems to be springing into my own mind these days:  here is the original for the photograph that I colored the other night when I could not sleep.

@Copyright 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

"Conversation in a Foggy Wood: Original"  High Contrast
(Next time I will try using a polarizer! ... Still learning?)

Maybe sometimes we need to return to the original in order to gleen new ideas and gather inspiration?

@Copyright 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

"Conversation in a Foggy Wood: Inspired!" 

Joyful day to you!  Once the Fog in my head clears, I am hopeful that mine will be too : )

Peace & Love,

Friday, January 28, 2011

I Can't Sleep Again ...

So what's new, right?  Well, I was going to try and run a few miles, but decided against that.  So I decided to do some coloring instead ... I took an old photo of a robin and a squirrel having a conversation in a foggy wood ... And  this is what I came up with:  the wanderings of a tired mind?  You be the judge ...

"Conversation in the Enchanted Wood"

@Copyrighted Image, 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Hah!  You should see all the Google suggested ads for sleep clinics and treatments that came up when I posted this.  : )  Trust me:  they wouldn't want to get inside my head.

I wonder which one is me?  The robin, the squirrel, the splintered tree branches?  Who or what is the source of light?  Are there answers to all of our questions?  Should there be?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Repeal Healthcare Reform Law Update ...

I have previously discussed (in many, many posts) the specific reasons why I feel this piece of legislation is so so very BAD for our country.  For this reason, lately I haven't felt the need to restate the same points over and over again. That being said, I got to thinking that maybe someone who is uninformed or undecided might be persuaded to action if I wrote a brief summary once again.  So here goes ...

The first and foremost reason for repeal, is the fact that this piece of legislation will ultimately result in the socialization of our healthcare system ... and if you don't know what that means just look at the failed healthcare systems in Europe (e.g., the United Kingdom ... England).  It means a lower quality of overall care due to government over-regulation.  It means longer wait times for needed treatments and in a worse case scenario the government deciding who gets what treatments and when.  I don't know about you, but the latter scares the HELL out of me!!

The second compelling reason for repeal is that overall costs will rise for people like you and me as the insurance companies pass the burden of government increased coverage requirements onto the little guy.  A third  compelling reason for repeal of the Healthcare Reform law is that some small businesses, not lucky to have won a government "Get Out of Jail" free card, will go bankrupt trying to meet the new government mandates for providing health insurance for all of their employees.  Ironically, in many cases paying the penalties for not insuring all employees will actually be cheaper than conforming to the new healthcare coverage mandates in the Healthcare Reform law.

If you're worried about the "pre-exisitng" conditons clause that many insurance companies currently hide behind in order to deny coverage:  this issue can and should be addressed in an entirely separate piece of legislation.  Same thing goes for addressing sky-rockecting malpractice insurance costs.  This should also be addressed in a separate piece of legislation.  We shouldn't have to swallow this entire poisonous pill of a piece of legislation in order to address these issues.  The latter issues are just camoflauge for the greater end goal of socializing the healthcare system in our country. 

And a third reason to vote for a repeal of the Healthcare law:  this law is unconstitutional.  The Congress has overstepped its powers, as given by the U.S. Constitution, by requiring that all individuals must purchase some form of healthcare insurance.

Now is the time to ACT ... do something positive.  Write to your Senators in the U.S. Congress and tell them that you DON'T WANT THIS PIECE OF HEALTHCARE LEGISLATION.  Tell them that you WILL HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE and THAT YOU EXPECT THEM TO VOTE FOR A REPEAL OF THE HEALTHCARE REFORM LAW.  Then go to the website listed at the top of my page and in the link given below and SIGN THE PETITION (which will be delivered to the U.S. Senate) to have the Healthcare Reform Law repealed.  And be sure to pass this message onto all of your friends and family:  Together we CAN make a difference!!

Here is the link to write to find and contact your U.S. Senator.  In most cases you can write to your Senator on-line and have your message sent directly to your Senator electronically:

(Email from Ken Hoagland, Chairman of

"Week of January 24, 2011: Repeal focus shifts to the Senate

After Repeal It Now delivered 530,000 names to House leadership, the House of Representatives voted to repeal! Now the battle shifts to the Senate, where we must fight to bring a successful vote for repeal to the floor...

Hours before the State of the Union speech last night, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell offered an amendment to repeal the HealthCare Act that will bypass the refusal of Majority Leader Harry Reid to schedule a vote!

If taken today, such a vote would fail--along party lines--but we can change that outcome with massive public pressure. We must immediately signal the Senate that there is overwhelming support for repeal.

You helped make this call for repeal powerful in the House and that has now translated to the Senate. Help us get the job done for the sake of the country.

In the aftermath of the historic House vote to repeal the HealthCare Act Washington pundits and liberal politicians rushed to the cameras to claim it was merely "symbolic".

It wasn't.

In truth, this was their way to deflect the will of the American people and convince some citizens that any further effort would be wasted. It didn't work.

We have the power to convince more than 20 Senate Democrats who will face re-election that the will of the people must be respected.

It's up to us.

The TV ads with Mike Huckabee and Mike Reagan helped us raised 660,000 petitions. We presented more than a half million of your petitions to House leaders the day before the House vote to repeal! We bought low cost TV time to reach the most people we could in the shortest amount of time. To raise this many petitions in such a short time is nothing short of amazing. Thank you for helping us.

We're just getting started. Now we must raise at least five million petitions almost immediately. It's a big job but we can do it.

We ask you for contributions only so we can get more TV ads on the air, reach more people and gather more petitions--and momentum--for outright repeal. Your dollars go right into new television ads and a growing tidal wave of pressure on the Senate. This is how we get it done!

We are producing New ads focusing on the Senate as you read this and will on the air by early next week. Please help us buy more air time and massively turn up the heat on Democratic Senators now by clicking HERE.

Thank you for standing up for our country.

Ken Hoagland, Chairman

PS. Even if you can't afford a contribution you can still help. Ask five friends to sign our petition at: Now is the moment we must stand up and be counted. Please pitch in.

Paid for by Repeal HealthCare Act
P.O. Box 12956
Pittsburgh PA, 15241, United States "


To see more related news and updates, please visit the: "Repeal Healthcare Reform Law: New and Email Updates" page on this blog.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

IR Photography ... "The Enchanted Wood"

Infra-Red Photography ... Painted. Playing with the software ... This one started out as an IR shot of a dead tree in the woods. Looked as if it had been struck by lightening. I added some color and played with the photo in Photoshop Elements and this is what I wound up with. I call it "The Enchanted Wood".

"The Enchanted Wood" a.k.a. "Spirits in the Material World"

@Copyright 2011, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

A friend of mine says that she sees a wicked witch in here?  An enchanted wood does seem to speak of a fairytale of sorts, so I do suppose that there could well be a wicked witch lurking in the shadows of this tale?  Another friend, who just happens to be Irish, sees a leprachaun in the tree tops.  I see water nymphs ... niads, wood faries, angels and of course a blue butterfly.  What do you see?

Here is the image that I started out with ...

IR photography of Dead Tree

@Copyright 2011, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

What I want to hear in the State of the Union Address ...

Q:  What do I think would help to take the sting out this lousy economy?

A:  JOBS!!

@Copyrighted Photograph,  2010.  All Rights Reserved: Isabelle Black Smith.

Looking forward to the State of the Union address. Hope it winds up being more than past rhetoric or some pep rally speech. I want to know what President Obama is going to do to bring overseas jobs back here to the USA. A detailed plan on bringing jobs BACK to the USA would impress me.

What do you most want to hear?

1/26/2010  Well, it was ... not surprisingly ... largely a "Pep Rally" speech after all.  I found it rather ironic that the President started his speech by talking about the need for both sides of the aisle to work together ... not just sit together.  Where was this same spirit during the last two years of his administration??  When Republicans were not only NOT invited to the table, but where excluded from the room entirely?  When the Healthcare Reform Law was crammed down our throats whether we wanted it or not?  The latter aside, I am hopeful that members of our new Congress, the 112th U.S. Congress, will find a way to work together in order to accomplish the hard work that needs to be done in order to put our country back together again.

Next up? Green Jobs ... How many promised Green Jobs ... promised at the start of the last two years ... are present and thriving today?  Green energy and green jobs are a noble goal to shoot for, but we aren't there yet with the technology ... not to the point where we can rely on 80% Green Energy.  Penalizing the little guy (you and me) via cap and trade policies for having to continue to rely on existing technologies isn't going to change the latter fact.  I do, however, agree with the notion of discontinuing subsidies for oil companies in the here and now.  Use this money to fund viable options for large scale green energy technology research.

The President didn't really address bringing jobs back to the U.S. either ... a lot of talk and hyperbole, but he avoided the tough issues.  We are going to have to make doing business here in the U.S. attractive to companies who have decided to ship jobs overseas.  That means heavily taxing imports to make products made here in the USA more attractive to U.S. consumers and more costly to companies making their products overseas.  It means lowering the corporate tax rates, so that doing business here in the USA makes sense to these companies once again.  And quite frankly, Mr. President, churning out more people with college degrees isn't going make American companies want to hire more U.S. employees.  Bottom line is that the same employees in other countries (e.g., India and China) cost these companies less.  It has little to do with education, experience or expertise; the bottom line is the almighty dollar.  And in that line of thought, excessive government regulation is also costly when it comes to doing business here in the U.S.  I'm not saying do away with all regulation: just take a fair and balanced approach and eliminate unecessary or excessive regulations.

Most important of all ... In order to reach our "Sputnik moment", Mr. President, we need to get our country back onto stable ground.  That means addressing the 4 billion dollars A DAY that we are paying on just the interest for our current national debt ... that's 1.46 TRILLION DOLLARS in interest per year!!!  Addressing our ridiculously out of control national debt is going to take more than a "spending freeze" ... It will take a spending freeze and massive spending cuts.  Investing in our future needs to mean getting a handle on this national debt and starting to dig our country back out again before we are burried alive.  Tough economic times --not to mention the ongoing weakening value of the American dollar due to mounting debt--require hard choices to be made in the here and now.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

A Church, with no walls ... one God and one people.

What I believe ...

"A Church with no walls ..."
@Copyrighted Image 2010, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

I probably shouldn't be writing this when I am tired, but the words are flowing rapidly through my mind so I am hoping that perhaps they are divinely inspired.  Thus, I will try to capture all of these thoughts swirling about in my mind into something a bit more tangible, black and white ('ink').  First, let me start by stating that religion is not a subject I often choose to discuss with others, especially my parents.  For the most part, my philosophy on religion is "live and let live", meaning each person must travel the path they find best suited for the individual journey they find themselves on in this particular lifetime.  As for my parents, they are very old school and  quite frankly --at this point-- rigidly set in their ways. They have a strong belief in a higher power, that is to say they believe in God and as such they have found a way to worship that they are comfortable with in the Catholic faith. Knowing this about them, I feel no need to share my present day --after years of suffering and the subsequent spiritual evolution thereof-- ideas and personal beliefs on the subject of 'religion' with them.  For some reason, of late, they continue to press on this subject matter: religion and faith. So tonight, I shared my thoughts and feelings with them, but perhaps I did not accomplish the task in the most eloquent way? It's hard to keep the emotional element that comes with a deep pondering of the spiritual aspects of ones life, especially when you happen to be talking with your parents and basically saying --to their way of thinking-- that you reject "everything they taught you to believe." With this in mind, here follows the basic gist of the unemotional version of my thoughts on the subject matter of faith and religion, bearing in mind that to my way of thinking two are not mutually exclusive.

My parents wonder:  1) "Why don't you go to church every Sunday?"

2) "Why have you chosen to practice outside of the Catholic faith?"

3) "It says in the Bible that the only way to get to the Father is through the Son. Don't you believe in Jesus? Don't you believe that the Bible is THE Word of God?"

Okay, before I get into the semantics of religion, let me first say that I have come to believe that there is in fact a God, a Creator, and that He is first and foremost a loving and benevolent being. He loves us and He wants us to become the best that we can be in this life, as we continue our journey back to ultimately re-unite with Him, where upon the entire essence of our being will finally be HOME, that place where we belong.  Furthermore, I believe Our Creator is present in our lives.  He is there for us if only we ask for His help, His strength and His guidance. I, personally, believe the Creator does not particularly care which method we choose to utilize in expressing our belief in Him and our need to have Him present in our lives, whether this expression be an organized religion, of any faith (be it Lutheran, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism or ANY other), or be it merely a personal belief and relationship with Him on our own terms, outside the confines of any organized religion. What fundamentally matters is THAT we believe, NOT HOW we believe.

With the above in mind, I don't feel that one has to attend a church, or other religious places of worship, each and every Sunday in order to find our way back to the Creator and have him present in our daily lives. To my way of thinking, the opportunities for spiritual growth are all around us, each and every day ... in almost every moment. I find it rather ludicrous that some ardently believe that weekly attendance at mass, on Sunday, is a prerequisite for returning home to our Creator. I also find it rather hypocritical that some attend mass religiously on Sundays, only then to turn around and forget, by both their words and actions, that there is in fact a God every other day of the week. That being said, I do grant that religious institutions. churches and faith communities, can be useful in providing fellowship, community outreach and spiritual guidance should an individual choose to participate in them.  "If I am willing to admit that not all who attend mass regularly on Sundays are hypocrites, then won't you admit that perhaps many who do not attend church are, in fact, good people who can have a strong relationship with God?"

As for the Catholic Church specifically, for my part, I was personally tired with the ongoing guilt that I felt while attending the Catholic Church. This guilt stemmed from the ongoing issues I had with the Catholic Church on many of the positions they hold.  These issues came to a head when my husband and I decided to send our children to Catholic school. When my kids came home from Catholic school and started asking specific questions, questions that needed specific answers, I finally had to admit the truthful answers:  I don't believe that the Pope is the only person on the planet that has a direct line to God; I don't believe that the Pope is infallible; I don't believe that the Catholic Church is infallible; I don't believe that all birth control is wrong; I do think all priests should be allowed to marry; I do feel that women should be allowed to become priests; I don't think that we have to go to "Confession" in order to address our sins or to be forgiven; I believe that people should be free to love whomever they love, regardless of gender; I personally do believe in Jesus, but I don't believe that everyone has to believe in Jesus in order to be "saved." I believe that the Spirit of God is all around us, each and every moment, and moreover that the Holy Spirit is within all of us, while it has yet to awaken in everyone. I believe that there are many paths that lead to God, our Creator, and in the end that we will be judged by our actions in this life and by what is in our hearts, not by what man-made religious dogma we choose to subscribe to and the rules and consequences thereof. I believe in the resurrection of the body, in the sense that I believe that we are, each of us, reborn into a series of lives during which we hopefully, grow and progress spiritually until we are last worthy of the final journey home to our Creator ... That is to say that I believe in reincarnation.

In some respects, to me, the focus and bickering that goes on amongst individuals within and of various religions over differences in dogma and belief systems makes religion little better than "organized deceit", because this takes away from what should be the focus and the message: That there is a God, a Creator, one God for ALL of humanity. That this the Creator loves us deeply and that He wants us to love one another, to help one another along our journey in this life that we will in turn come to know Him more fully in our daily lives so that we may grow in the ways of spirit and eventually be worthy of completion our final journey back home to Him. It is Faith, in the form of Hope and Love that can move mountains. It is reaching out to the forgotten, the neglected and letting them know that they are not alone, that there is a God and that He is a loving, merciful and forgiving God. It is learning to forgive ourselves, to forgive others and to know that we are forgiven if we but ask and mean it in our hearts. It is not about rules and dogma; for these things are of men and they have led to some pretty horrible things being done in the name of religion, claiming falsely to have been done in the name of God.

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  "I am but an empty vessel waiting to be filled,to be used as I am needed", and while, I may not attend church every Sunday these days: when God calls on me, I answer His call. I have gone head  to head with very intelligent people, brilliant thinkers who claim to be staunch atheists and have over time, with God's guidance and grace, planted the seeds that have led these individuals to a belief in a Creator. I have reached out to those who have felt betrayed by God, because of failure to conform to or to meet the demands of organized religions , and led them back to see God's love for them, to know His forgiveness and to believe in Him once again. I have stood up for injustice when I have seen it (from a very young age), even at times when I knew that it meant that I might be physically hurt myself. I pray earnestly for those who I encounter or come to know directly, or indirectly, who are need of prayer ... most often for physical healing for some illness. I pray for these individuals daily, with formal and informal prayers, throughout the course of a day as they happen to enter my mind, not just on Sundays and not just in a church. When these people are uplifted and often healed, I cannot help but feel that others too see the hand of God and believe.

As for the Bible, I do believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. I believe that Bible was sent to us as a guidebook to help us find our way. I believe that the Bible is God's Living Word, that it is to say that the Bible is there to guide us in our own unique situations, that one passage, read by two different people in two different situations, may have a different meaning for each. I don't think that God intended the Bible to be a black and white set of rules that we would fight and dispute over.  And in absolutely no way does the Bible, or any other inspired Word of God (e.g., Quran) call us to commit violence in His name.  The latter runs so very counter to the nature of God, our Creator!

The Bible is also a rich tapestry of history, containing the story of where we have been as a people of God.  It details our weaknesses and shortcomings, but the Bible also reminds us of our triumphs and provides us evidence of the spiritual growth, we as a people have made thus far.  In sum, I think the Bible helps us to remember our past, such that we may continue to move forward, perhaps a bit more enlightened and hopeful, into our future.

Two of my favorite passages in the Bible are the story of The Prodigal Son, from the NewTestament (Luke 15: 11-32), , and the Story of Martha and Mary, from the New Testament. The story of The Prodigal Son reminds me that God rejoices over all of us choosing to live as His children, but He is overjoyed when a lost child, a sinner ... a non-conformist,finds their way back to Him.  This passage of the Bible reminds me that we should not be so quick to judge one another,to condemn one another. We should, instead, reach out to those who have lost their way in order to share God's gift of forgiveness with them and let them know that God loves them still.

The story of Martha and Mary reminds me that being a child of God is NOT about following the so called rules; it is about paying attention to God and what He is trying to say to each of us in our own lives, to heed God's call when He calls us to do His will here on Earth:  be that to reach out to someone in need, to bear witness to God's love and presence in our own life, or to pray for the needs of others.

As for the Bible "saying that Jesus said,  'No one can enter the kingdom of heaven but through me.' " ... This is the passage in the Bible that I find to be the most revealing:

"The Father Revealed in the Son

25 At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. 26 Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”   "

~Matthew 11:25-30

To me this passage says that in order to be worthy of returning to God, our Creator ... that is to reach the final stage of spiritual growth ...  you must be willing to forgo what you think that you know ... and like "little children", you must imitate the examples of Jesus in his life. And when you are at last willing surrender to this idea, you will be at true peace and you will at last find "rest for your souls."

It's not about "knowing Jesus" in the sense of acknowledging him ... believing in him ... it's about understanding what his life and way of living were all about.  Jesus is God saying ... I have tasted of your humanness ... I know your burdens ... follow me and I will show you the way, "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." 

This is God being inclusive: not exclusive.  God is showing us the way (back to him) through Jesus, through his life and examples, in terms that we are capable of understanding.  To my way of thinking, it is possible to understand the ideas behind the life and experiences of Jesus without actually "knowing Jesus."  And that is why I personally believe that everyone does not have "to know" and acknowledge Jesus in order to return to our Creator.

So Mom and Dad, while I no longer choose to worship as you do, please know that I do believe in God and He is a bigger part of my life than you could ever possibly know. And while I no longer feel that weekly attendance at a church service, on Sunday, is necessary in order to be a good person and to have a strong relationship with God, our Creator: I have chosen, for the time being, to belong to a religious community, a Lutheran community, and my family attends mass as often as we can and want. I do the latter in order to help my children build a strong foundation for their relationship with God --as you did for me-- but I will teach my children that in a perfect world there would be a church, with no walls, one God and one people.

"Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. ...." "

~Matthew 12:24-26

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Beleive in Something Bigger than Ourselves ...

I am SO HAPPY today!!!

I have some TOTALLY AWESOME news to share!!  I just found out this evening that a very special little girl ...  a beautiful soul ... that I have been  dilligently praying for since October 2010:  Ally, Age 12 ... received her test results back for her MRI brain scan to follow up on a growth that her doctors had identified back in October.  This week, the new scan showed that Ally was 100% free and clear ... the suspected growth area was now nowhere to be seen.  Praise God!  Talk about a miracle and an answer to many, many prayers.

Ally had brain cancer three years ago.  They did surgery to remove the tumor, then followed up with chemotherapy. Ally had been cancer free for three years.  Then, this past October 2010 when she had her yearly scan a new growth showed up on the MRI.  When I heard the potentially devastating news, I immediately told her Dad to keep HOPE and then began storming heaven for Ally.  Tonight, I am so very happy for Ally and her family. Feels like we should be setting off fireworks or something to celebrate?! : )

God Bless you, Ally!!  Keep on sharing that beautiful smile and wonderful, uplifiting outlook on life with the rest of the world. Love you!!  Here is a post of one of my favorite magical and enchanting photos for you  ... I call this one "Driftwood Fairy Queen" ... I love this photo, because it reminds me that sometimes we just need to BELIEVE in something bigger than ourselves ... believe in magic ... miracles.

Your friend,
Michelle (a.k.a. Isabelle)

"Driftwood Fairy Queen"

@Copyright 2010 Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

(Thanks to an on-line photography friend's suggestion, I now have a circular polarizer ... so water shots (with blue sky like this)  turn out much more vivid and not so washed out.  Gotta love the internet and the on-line community : )

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

"I Have a Dream" ...

God Bless you, Martin Luther King Jr., and your family and loved ones.  We remember you today, and we are so very thankful for the many gifts that you left behind ... especially your legacy of Peace, Love and Understanding.  Your words do live on in our hearts and minds ... and hopefully in our actions as well.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.'"

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

"From every mountainside, let freedom ring. When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

~Martin Luther King Jr., I Have a Dream, 1963.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Apparantly, I'm Not ALL Thumbs? ; )

I've been taking some on-line training on photo editing software.  Only a few 6 minute lessons so far, but today I finally had the courage to try enhancing one of my Infra-red Texas Mission photos.  This is my first attempt at what I call "painting IR" ... hopefully, my images will only improve from here.   There wasn't a lot of foilage in this particular shot ... so not much ethereal white ... except for the grass, which to me looked out of place being all white ... so I shaded some green into the grass.  The remaining white resembles an angel to me.  The presence of which .... angels ... I felt all around this and the other missions.  An army angels waiting to be called where they are most needed.  I think I even saw an actual angel at the Mission San Jose.

(Note:  If you're wondering what Infra-red (or IR) Photography is, see my post from a few days ago ... It explains the basics.)

Anyway, here is what I came up with ...

Original IR image with Red removed.
"Mission Concepcion"

@Copyrighted 2010, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

A) First Pass Painting.
"Fortress of Angels"

@Copyrighted 2010, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

B) Second Pass Painting ... Enhance contrast in stonework.
"Fortress of Angels 2"

@Copyrighted 2010, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

I don't know?  Is the second pass too much?  Too overpowering?  Which is better A) or B)?

Life got you down?  Frustrated?  ... Why not go paint something?  : ) ... I'll be right behind ya!

Peace & Love,

P.S.  Think maybe I am at last more right handed than left?  I don't have a digi-pad yet ... I really, really want one of these.  A digi-pad is at the very top of my Want List.  But for now I am stuck using an optical mouse ... that is an exercise in patience in and of itself, but I think I've finally adapted ... the mouse is now an extension of my hand  ... a part of it.  Funny thing is, I got so used to mostly using my right hand with the  mouse that I am now better at drawing on the PC with my right hand.  Well that's ambidextrous for you ... no challenge you can't overcome ; )

1/26/2011  Okay ... I decided that both A) & B) above were BORING (ya'll are just too sweet to tell me so ; ) ... so I played with the software some more and came up with C) & D) ... these may change some (I'm loving this coloring), but here they are for now ...

C)  "Angels Among Us"
@Copyrighted 2010, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

D)  "Angels Dance"
@Copyrighted 2010, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

[11/25/2011 ... Final ART render deleted from this site.  To view go to the link for my Flickr website via main page.  Thanks!]

As my software editing skills increase, I might be able to shine the light into the mission tower?  But from an artistic standpoint, maybe that would just take away from the light source ... unless it was done just right.  We'll see time will tell ...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Hope ...

Hope keeps my planet spinning.  And on this day, when a beautiful little light ... Christina Taylor Greene ... is laid to rest ... I think that hope is a good thing to focus on.  Hope for a better world ... One filled with Peace and Love, where we aren't too busy or afraid to reach out to others in need.  Perhaps in that world tragedies such as the senseless shooting of innocent people, as on January 8, 2011, would not be as likely to occur?

Whenever I reflect on Hope ... the image of a sun starburst comes to my mind.  I've recently learned how to successfully capture these starbursts in my own photography.  Here are some of my favorites from this past Autumn 2010.  Perhaps, these beautiful bursts of sunlight also remind us that each of us has a light within and that we are called to share this light with others.

"Hope ... Stephanie's Star"

@Coprighted Image, 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.



@Coprighted Image, 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

"Peace on the water"

@Coprighted Image, 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

"This Little Light of Mine"

@Coprighted Image, 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

God Bless you and your family, little Christina ... Safe journey as you head to your next great adventure. : )

Peace & Love,


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Love Can Move Mountains ...

Today is a day for reflection as final preparations are made for the burrial of a young, innocent child of only nine years of age:  Christina Taylor Greene is burried.  Our nation is called on this day to remember the loss of all six lives taken in the senseless shooting of Arizona Senator Giffords this past Saturday.   We remember:

Christina Taylor Greene, Age 9

U.S. District Judge John Roll, 63

Gabe Zimmerman, 30, Giffords' director of community outreach.

Dorwin Stoddard, 76, a pastor at Mountain Ave. Church of Christ.

Christina Greene, 9, a student at Mesa Verde Elementary.

Dorthy Murray, 76.

Phyllis Scheck, 79.

I have been trying to make sense of all that has happened since Saturday.  Especially the loss of little Christina. I happen to have a daughter 9 years of age, born in the Spring of the year of the 9/11 tragedy.  When I look at my own daughter's face I see Christina's face.  .... Some things have been going on in my own life and I have been trying to stay positive and focused ... hence my trying to be upbeat post made early this morning.  My feelings concerning my own issues remind me that we each of us have our trials and disappointments in life.  But what is it that gets someone through the hard times?  Why does one person make it through their time of trial without breaking down or snapping, while another like  Jared Loughner goes off the deep end?  Goes off the deep end and in a worse case scenario winds up taking the lives of others?

I think that the answer is "isolation" and "loneliness" ... The ones that weather their storms have support in one form or another.  Something that tells them that they are worthy of love, that they are cared for, that they are not aloneIsolation and loneliness can be powerful and haunting demons during times of trial.   Maybe if we take nothing else away from this terrible tragedy and loss of life this past Saturday, January 8th 2011, it is that we all need to make a honest effort to search out those in our communities who have been lost and neglected and let them know that they are NOT alone.  That they are cared for and worthy of love.  Love can not only move mountains:  it can stop a gun from firing into a crowd of innocent people.

God Bless you little Christina and all of those who have lost their lives in this tragedy.  God Bless those still recovering in the hospital.  May you continue to heal and return to your own families quickly. God Bless all of the families who have lost loved ones or have loved ones recovering in the hospital.  God Bless all who were witnesses firsthand to the shooting.  God Bless Senator Gabrielle Giffords.  May her body continue to heal and may she defy the odds, living to return to a near normal life ... a witness to the power of God, our Creator,  a reminder that we all need to step outside of ourselves more often and look to the needs (i.e, not just the material needs, but also the social and emotional needs) of others in our schools, neighborhoods, churches, and other communities.  If we do nothing else, let us PRAY ... even pray for the man who pulled the trigger on the gun this past Saturday, Januray 8th, 2011:   Jared Loughner.

I Love Numbers ...

It never ceases to amaze me the way numbers come into play in my life ... I'm not a supersticious person or anything, but numbers really do play a significant role in my life. For instance, without even trying ... or really even noticing until the night before ... my first post for the New Year on my other blog was #100. And yesterday, I noticed that I had hit 1111 profile visits here on this blog ... the day of the 11th of January 2011 ... 1-11-2011. What are the odds? Well, quite frankly I don't believe in "the odds", nor do I play them ... I prefer to defy them. How about you?

Stuff like this happens to me ALL the time ... I should be buying more lottery tickets, no? ; )

Well, I hope today brings scores of FANTABULOUS things your way! Make today ROCK! : )

And I hope today brings a major score  in the U.S. House of Representatives, as the House was (I believe) scheduled to vote on the repeal of the "Healthcare Reform law", where Major Score == A VOTE TO REPEAL THE "Healthcare Reform law" (a massive snowball of a piece of legislation).

Lauren's Snowman

Lunchtime ... Here are some amazing numbers for you:  Just heard on the news that at the present moment 49 out of our 50 U.S. States have snow on the ground.  Even Hawaii has 7 inches of snow in the mountain regions.  Only Florida remains untouched by snow, and to the best of my recollection they have had some snow themselves a bit earlier in the season.  Have to say that these numbers would seem to deliver the final blow to the "global warming" theory.  And our snow, here in the Seattle area, did stick on the ground ... so my kids got the day off of school which they are loving.  Let it snow! : )



P.S. Anyone out there familiar with Harshad numbers?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Got Snow? If not: Create your own with Infra-Red Photography ...

We were dusted with a flurry of  snow here, yesterday ... But nothing stuck on the ground : (  Still there is something truly magical about those BIG white fluffy flakes dancing down from the sky.  Makes you feel like a kid all over again! 

Even though our snow didn't stick on the ground this time:  I do just happen to  have some IR photos that I took and they look like snow.  IR stands for "infra-red" photography.  I have been experimenting with IR photography off and on over the course of the past several months.  All of my photos, and most digital photos, are taken in the near IR ... that is they capture light from an external source reflected off of an object.  Whereas far IR captures energy (heat) radiated directly from a source (e.g., heat retained from absorption of the sun's energy during daylight hours ... many stone and concrete surfaces retain well and hence photograph well in far IR). 

Far IR photography captures are most often taken with special IR film, because the digital counterpart technology is so very, very $$costly$$.  I do have a nice film camera (an old old Cannon 35mm)  that I plan to have serviced (repaired) so that I can use it to take some IR film images.  Far IR film images are best taken at night for obvious reasons.   In order to do IR photography with a digital camera you need to have a camera with a sensor that is sensitive to IR.  Most digital cameras have IR sensitivity disabled.  I just happend to have one of the few cameras that is sensitive to IR ... I have a Pentax K-100D (DSLR).  If your camera is not sensitive to IR, you can pick up a used one that is or you can pay to have your existing camera modified.  The latter can be costly, and I would recommend having a reputable lisenced dealer or manufacturer perform the modification or you could wind up without a working camera all together.  There is a simple test that you can do to determine if your camera is sensitive to IR.  I'll post some links here shortly for reference.

My dream is to do a nighttime cemetery shoot in far IR, but I have a lot to learn about shooting in digital and near IR first.  Shooting in near IR digital is challenging!!  Not only do you have to have a good external light source (e.g., sun), but you have no digital preview to work with to see how your shot looks and if you have successfully captured your intended image.  That's because you can't look through the lens and IR filter without potentially damaging your eyes and the image that saves on the camera is pre-dominantly RED, RED, RED ... with very few distinguishing detalis readily apparent.  So basically, in order take a near IR digital shot you have to:   

1) find your shot and compose it (using a tripod) without the IR filter attached to the lens; 2) then tape off your viewfinder (to avoid errant visible light from reaching the camera sensor and interferring with your image ... noise); 3) carefully attach the IR filter of your choosing (there are many types of different filters that produce different effects, but they basically filter out visible light to varying extents) for your specific camera ... all the while being careful not to bump your camera/tripod composed for the shot; 4) and finally take the shot (or shots if  you are varing the EV compensation values). 

Here is an image as it looks straight off the camera. The image following is what you get after some minimal post processing.

"The Enchanted Fairy Wood"

Photos by Me ... Feel free to reuse this image.

Note: Feel free to use this image, but please link back here to my blog and give me credit as the photographer. Thank you!

And you don't really know what you've captured for an image until you get back home and do some post processing ... specifically, stripping out all of the RED ... to see what you've managed to capture.  In the above shot the highlights are overexposed, so I probably had the EV set high (e.g., +2.0) on this shot for experimentation and learning purposes. 

In Infra-red photography a lot of knowing "what to shoot" and "how to shoot" it will come from experience ... of which I don't yet have a lot to draw upon.  I know that foilage is highly reflective and that with a good light source foilage produces really cool images.  Water almost always photographs dark grey or black ... unless you have the sun reflecting intensely off of it, then you get silvery-white patches where the light is most intense.  I have managed to capture some interesting reflections in water with IR.  Most man-made surfaces do not produce interesting IR images, but they are neat to have in the shot for contrast to the objects that do photograph well in IR.  Some stones (e.g., concrete mixes) photograph with an aura about them which is tres cool.   People photograph silvery and surreal in IR, but I haven't taken many people shots.  The real key to unlocking IR images ... near IR images anyway ... is in the software post processing ... layers, masks and the like ... adding back in selective color in a natural looking way, while leaving the glowing white portions of the images untocuhed ... resulting in ethereal and dreamy images.  I still have A LOT to learn in the software image processing department, but I am having FUN on this IR adventure thus far.

So here are a few of my IR photography images ...

(image temporarily removed for editing)

"The Silver Pond"
 @Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

Believe it or not, the above shot was taken this summer at my parents' ranch, in central Texas, in 100+ degree weather!!  Snow would have been awfully nice to have while I was out baking in the heat trying to capture these images.

Same shot with a bit more color?

(image temporarily removed for editing)

"The Silver Pond II" ... This photo is dedicated to my friend over the pond, in England.  He is the one  that encouraged me to give Infra-red Photography a try.  Thank you, Steve.

@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

This shot really looks like snow ...

"Summer Snow"
@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

Here is a shot of the "barnyard" near my Mom and Dad's house ...

"Barnyard IR"
@Copyrighted Image 2010.  Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

Here's an IR barn shot where I intentionally left some of the red in the image ... I have not tried to do an IR paint on this image yet.  Will have to try that next and see what I get.

"Old Red Barn"
@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

Same shot with increased saturation ...

(image temporarily removed for editing)

"Red Barn on Fire"
@Copyrighted Image 2010. Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

I took some IR shots of the San Antonio missions while I was in Texas, but I haven't done much of anything with them yet as I don't have the software image processing skills to do them justice yet ... and I really what them to WOW, if you know what I mean.

Here is a favorite photo of mine from another photographer.  It is taken in near IR and the photographer/artist has gone in and added back color to the brick home (Monticello ... I believe) in the image:  IR photograph of Monticello.  Hopefully, I'll be good enough with the software to do this sort of image enhancement myself soon.

The nice thing about far IR shots is they require little post processing. So that is a big plus in my humble opinion. That being said, the IR film can be costly and hard to find. Still the images that can be captured with a standard camera and IR film are some my absolute favorties. Here are a few far IR shots sent to me from a friend of mine. He lives in England and they have some of the most wonderful cemeteries over there. I may have to make a trip back to England just to shoot some of their magnificent cemeteries.

Far IR film capture of a cemetery.

Lister park, Bradford, UK. 
@Copyrighted Image.  All Rights Reserved.

(I know that I have a close-up of the statue on this one, where the statue is glowing ...  almost
looks alive, but I can't seem to locate this image right now.  I will keep looking for it though.

1/17/11 My friend saw this post and pointed me to the photo I needed.  Thank you Steve :  )
... By the way, Steve is the one who encouraged me to pursue my interest in IR photography.
I wouldn't have any of my own photos to share if it had not been for his sending me informative links,
sharing photos and encouraging me.  God Bless  you, Steve. )

"Goddess, Diana ... of the Hunt."  Lister park, Bradford, UK.
@Copyrighted Image. All Rights Reserved.

Castle Ruins, Far IR image.

Statue, Far IR image.

Ruins near the sea, Far IR image.

This is a link to my favorite far IR photo of all time: "The Sleeping Angel.

You'll be happy to know that snow is again in our forecast for tonight and tomorrow.  Well, it makes me happy anyway.  Love playing in the snow!!  I called my parents, in Texas, last night, to see how they were doing, and it turns out that they had gotten snow yesterday too.  Nearly 3 full hours of snowfall.  They said that they had put on a roaring wood fire, made some popcorn, worked on a puzzle and just watched the beautiful snow falling ... layering everything in a pristine winter white.  Let it snow ... Let it snow ... Let it SNOW!!!!

Hope you're getting some winter white in your part of the country!  Enjoy : )

P.S.  Yup!! We got SNOW...  and then some!!  I know, because I just drove to the grocery store and back  in it.  There must be between 1 and 3 inches on the ground, and it's still coming down.  Sadly, the temps are supposed to warm back up overnight and mornings rains will probably wash this fabulous white fluff all away again.  Guess, I'll have to put the groceries away and head out and play tonight ... helps not ever having to sleep .. Just wanted to let you know that I will post some useful IR photography links here shortly.  Throwing a BIG snowball your way!!  ... Did I hit ya? ; ) ... Later ....

Okay here are some of the most useful internet IR-photography links that I have found thus far (one's that get you up and running quickly):

1) If you are wondering: Can my camera be used for IR?  This link is for you.  See the section titled "Honey, Where's the Remote?" for how to do the TV remote IR test with your own camera.

This page also gives the most comprehensive IR overview I have yet found.

2) Once you've got your camera and you are ready to shoot then you may wonder:  What am I  looking for and what do I do with the images once I've successfully captured them?  This site provides a pretty simple overview on image capturing and post processing basics.

If I recall, or come across any other useful links ... I'll be sure to add them here.  But I've sorted through tons of sites on-line and these two are the best I've found thus far.  So maybe I've saved you some time by not having to do the same?  By the way, I have yet to find a really useful IR film (far Infra-red) on-line site.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"Antithesis": A Valid Point of View? ...

"Antithesis ... A point of view."

@2011 Copyrighted Image, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

Black and White? Or shades of grey?

What's your point of view?  Well, mine seems to be dusted with snow this morning ... It just started snowing again (this will be our 3rd snowfall this year) here, in the greater Seattle area, as I upoload this photo.  Big, white, fluffy flakes ... as the sun continues to stretch and yawn, slowly creeping his way into the morning sky. Magical ... I love it!

And I wonder, as I type this, what color is snow? Is it truly white or rather some shade of grey? ; ) 

@2011 Copyrighted Image, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

Maybe I'll venture out and try to capture a few flakes on film ... of snow that is ... today?  Tomorrow, I will finally post an update on my progress ... adventure ... into IR (near infra-red) photography.

In the here and now, however:  I Close my eyes and make a wish ... That you will have a truly FABULOUS day! Reach for the stars!!

Peace & Love,

P.S.  Had not watched much news this weekend.  Weekends are family time ... and I had a lot on my plate from a personal perspective.  Just heard about the shooting Congresswoman Giffords, of Arizona.  How scary?!  But she is alive and not taking a turn for the worse ... that in and of itself is a miracle.  I will keep you in my special prayers Mrs. Giffords.  Hang in there and show them that you can beat the odds!!

Late p.m. ... early a.m. the next day:  I realize now, at the end of this day, that several people lost their lives in this tragedy.  Six in all.  Six lights extinguished from our world  ... our reality.  How truly sad?!  Unfanthomable ... And the youngest was just 9 years old ... the same age as my youngest.  Born on September 11, 2001 ... 9/11.  I have been trying to process all of this today, but still no words spring readily to mind ... just an overwhelming sorrow.  I will pray for those injured and in the hospital and for the families of those who lost their loved ones.  I will pray for the man, who for whatever reasons felt compelled to commit this unspeakable crime.  His tormented cry for help perhaps?

Saturday, January 08, 2011

"Wind Blown" ... Me and Photography

ME ... An ART render ... "self-portrait" ... A cowgirl at heart?

@2011 Copyrighted Image, Michelle C. of
All Rights Reserved.

I don't know what it is, but I have a hard time taking a "standard photograph" ... There is just so much more there to see to my way of thinking.  I love to take "less than perfect" shots and  then try to find the beauty ... the magic ... in them ... To shoot from an angle that no one would expect ... To take a shot when the wind is blowing and I can't still the object of my focus with the camera.  I don't know maybe it's just my inexperience: I'm still learning, but I go with it. And you know, wind blowing an object can be very beautiful, unexpected.  I love the unexpected as you well know ... the magical and mysterious.

Well with that in mind ... Here is a shot that I worked on playing with (in the software) tonight.  These were multi-colored tullips, in a neighborhood flower bed, that I shot while during a walk on a very windy day.

This is the finished product.  Below it  is what I started with ... well, minus the brown patches throughout the lawn ; )

@2011 Copyrighted Image. All Rights Reserved.

"Wind Blown" ... Dedicated to my friend, Dave, whose mother passed away on January 3, 2011.

@2011 Copyrighted Image.  All Rights Reserved.
(All of My Photographs are available to license via my Flickr website:  isas_fallingstar )  

If I had my mp3 sites up to date: I'd post the song "The Southern Cross", By Crosby Still and Nash.

Why? ... It seems to fit and it just happens to be playing on my playlist as I make this entry.

Go find some magic for yourself ...



Okay ... updated one of my sites ... so here's the song ...
Song: "Southern Cross", By Crosby Stills and Nash

... And just in case you were wondering ... What is the Southern Cross? ... Here you go Windows to the Universe  and here is some additional interesting historical info wikipedia-Crux.