light bulb! [day 65]

We went to see Despicable Me the other night and loved it.  My kids and I try to get one good line from every movie, and then we pretty much wear it out.  Our line from this movie is “light bulb”.  When Gru has an idea, he tilts his head, and with a somewhat devious look, says, “light bulb” with his funny accent.  So we say it a lot around our house, along with “…give me my angry wig!” and about 20 lines from Spongebob Squarepants.

Yesterday, while cleaning my house, I looked at the light fixture in my laundry closet (it’s clearly not big enough to be considered a room).  It was very dim, partially from needing to be cleaned, but I was pretty sure it was a two bulb fixture with a burned out bulb.  Just a little history on my lovely house of 3+ years, it’s had all kinds of electrical problems.  My garage door opener will still fry any type of light bulb in less than 24 hours, my GFI trips at least every two weeks, my heater trips the breaker about twice a week in the winter and I have about 10 plug outlets that won’t hold plugs.  I wanted a fixer-upper and I guess I got what I wanted.  After removing the glass bug holder off the fixture, I discovered a missing bulb.  There was one energy saving bulb on the other side, so I went to find another bulb so I can better see my laundry mountains.

This is where I realized I have no extra bulbs and many of the bulbs in my house have not been switched over to the energy saving type.  Now here’s a time where I would just go out and buy what I need.  How do I get used bulbs?  I’m sure they must have some at the resale shop.  Maybe I can trade something I have for some light bulbs.  I pulled an energy saving bulb out of a lamp that I don’t use very often.  I got the ladder, started screwing in the bulb and had instant fireworks! Yes, one more electrical issue to add to the list, no to mention a fire hazard.  The wires are all burned on that side of the fixture, so now I need to replace the whole thing.  Thrift store, here I come!

I need a “light bulb” for light bulbs.  Are they a need?  How do I buy them used?  I will keep you posted on my light project.  If you have ideas, please post them.  :)

I thought you guys might like to see some of my non-electricty light bulb art:

humanitarian photographer [day 63 & 64]

I went to the Echo conference this week at Watermark Church.  (#echo10 on Twitter)  As I was looking at the list of speakers, I noticed many good ones, but one stood out to me.

I’m not sure if it was her quirky photo or the words ‘humanitarian photographer’ that got my attention, maybe both, but I was curious about Esther Haven.  Of all of the breakout sessions available, I was most excited about going to hers, and let me say, it was no disappointment.   Through her own experiences, she shared things that every photographer should know and consider when taking photos of people.  It’s not about just taking a photo, it’s about getting to know the people in the photographs.  I took some sporadic notes in her session, as I was completely captured by her images and had to actually remember to put the pen to paper.

Take a look at her website. Here’s one of her amazing photos.

Here are some of my notes, which probably contain more questions than anything, but are some very important things to ponder.

what kind of pics r we taking?

think about being in their shoes.  how do they feel about you taking their photo?  have you interacted with them?

negative and positive of stories, choose how to portray each

what is our job when we take missions pics?  do we stop and help?  do we get involved?  minister to them?

being a photojournalist, do not alter the story, record the story.  don’t move them or set situations.

why are you taking photos?  are you trying to tell a story?  do you want to communicate to change something?  are you taking photos just for you?

how does God see the people you’re photographing?

we are not our circumstance.

ask your subjects how they want to be portrayed?

how does God see this person and their story?  we can help them through photos?

what is our motivation for taking the photo?  is it to get a good photo that you like or to communicate a story?

look up wiki on humanitarian

good stories or good neighbors?  it’s about the relationships.

be a voice for people.  listen to the people

give the camera to the kids or to the people

awareness without action is pointless

it’s not just a job, it’s a ministry

Here’s an example she used in her session.  Kevin Carter, a Pulitzer prize winner for this photo in 1994, didn’t stop to help this starving child.  Shortly after, Kevin ended up committing suicide, the note he left behind saying how he was haunted by the things he had seen.

Her session really made me rethink about the way I do photography.  I do take pictures to communicate a story, but I don’t always stop to interact.  Surprisingly, I do stop more with people than I do my ‘trash’ situations like Tom, the homeless guy or Flo, the ghost of Christmas future.

Not just as a photographer, but in any occupation, do we allow a job to separate us from who we are ?  I work for a church, and even I’ve done that on many occasions.  I sometimes hide behind my camera, creating a barrier between me and the rest of the world, not because I don’t want to help, but to keep me in my comfort zone.  As in many of my earlier posts, I’m becoming more uncomfortable with comfort.

Yesterday, Esther reminded me what it’s all about.  When I do a photo shoot, I have a new outlook on what I’m doing.  When shooting for or taking images for my ‘no retail shopping’ challenge, I need to be a part of helping in the story.  I need to do more than pick up the piece of trash, I need to figure out a way to help change the situation and tell the story in a healthy way.  Thanks Esther!

cleaning the garage [day 62]

Let me start by saying I’m not posting a photo of my garage.  It would scare people.  I did decide to start cleaning it.  I do this process about once a year, but I’m pretty sure that the stuff is multiplying like rabbits.  My house isn’t too big (other than the energy wasting high ceilings) so I really don’t have room for an art studio.  I decided yesterday if I cleaned out my garage enough, it could work as useable space.  If we only had basements here!

It’s ridiculous how much stuff I have.  Being an artist, I see everything as a blank canvas.  I do mean EVERYTHING.  I got a good portion of it cleaned out and sent an entire truckload to Frisco Resale.  About three more truckloads and I should be set.

I will keep you posted on the progress, as this will be a long term thing.  My goal is to have it done by the time the weather cools off.  Done, meaning cleaned, organized and painted.  Looks like I have plenty of time to do it, lots of hot weather ahead.  :)

Is your garage a ‘catch all’?

dumpster diving in my recycling bin [day 61]

I’m always yapping to people about my blog and the challenge, but most people will not remember the website name or think about visiting it.  I would like to eventually turn this into a resource of ideas, from easy to radical, on making life changes to become ‘greener’ and conserve our resources.

That little problem of getting my blog URL’s out there got me thinking.  I need a free way, and a way that fits into my challenge of creating business cards (although I hate calling them that) to hand out.  We can call them personal cards.  :)  I went diving in my recycling container and pulled out some cardboard pieces.  For this batch of cards I used a cereal box, some junk mail and an Ikea curtain packaging insert.  I know what you’re thinking!  I did not shop at Ikea, that was in my extremely messy garage.  Subject for another day.  😉

I cut the cardboard to biz-sized cards, printed my info on paper pulled out of the recycling bin at work and printed these.  I doubt the ink is recycled, but some of the packing of it is.  I printed these at work on a laser copier, as I don’t have a printer at home.  I tore all of the paper by hand and used a tiny amount of non-toxic glue.  There are environmentally friendly glues out there, but I’m using what I have left, as I can’t buy any with the challenge.

Bingo!  Cards.  Here’s a digital close up.

surrounded by trash [day 60]

We had our light painting photo safari last night.  If you want to entertain a bunch of kids, give them a box of toys and some flashlights.  If you want to entertain a bunch of adults, give them the same stuff, but add a camera.

So what does this have to do with trash society?  Many things.  First, it’s a great way to have some family and friends time without spending money.  We play with toys we already have and share our cameras for those who don’t have one.  You can see all the pics from this shoot on flickr.

Second, we always find trash.  Sadly, we are surrounded by trash.  It’s so blended into our lives that sometimes we don’t even see it.

A white picket fence… the American dream?  (I took the ‘green bag’ pictured on the left)

I have this quirky feature I just discovered about myself.  I’m always looking down when I walk and I subconsciously look for stuff.  While on vacation, I found a guys wallet stuffed with cash.  I did get it back to the owner.  I found a computer cable, in the dark, on the floor at work.  I always find stuff on the ground.  I have no idea when I started this or why, but I’ll work it to my art.  Last night, I found some trash on the ground and decided to use it in a few photos:

This became a good opportunity for some ‘trash awareness’ with the kids.  We kept the little plastic mountain, probably a piece of a milk jug.

Third, we can teach the kids about art and making statements with the things around them.  We might bring props, but how do they fit into their surroundings?  The above photos are disturbingly reflective of our society and I’ve titled them ‘Protect the Plastic‘.  Kids are the future and what we teach them now will mold their core values.

There are probably many more things here, but those are the highlights.  If you would like to join in on a photo safari, join our Facebook group.

What things do you do to help lessen trash production?  This challenge of not shopping retail has helped me.  Less stuff, less impulse buys, less trash.  :)

do you grow your own food? [day 59]

I have a small contain spice garden in my very small backyard.  I had every intention of making a garden this year, but I ran out of time, money and space.  Time, I could make time if I really wanted to.  Money?  Probably would have paid for itself many times over.  The space issue would require some really creative backyard reworking and possibly having to get rid of our trampoline.  It would be a small garden, and more container gardens, but I could make it work.  Next year…

In the mean time, here’s a family that did a garden in their (also small) backyard.  The Jacobs family has so much fresh produce, they’re having to get creative in the kitchen.  They’ve been in the area for over two years now.  When they bought their house, they put in a $16 peach tree, purchased at WalMart.  After a short amount of time, the tree is producing so much fruit, they can’t eat it all.  They are using jars and also making lots of chutney.  They also have lots of cucumbers and have made many jars of pickles.

I asked them, “Why?  What made you decide to have a garden?”  Warren said he and Sonya both grew up in homes that had gardens, and at one point, they said they would not have one, but changed their mind.  I remember Sonya trying to decide what to do with the “big empty square” in the back when they first moved into their house.  The new areas of Frisco have no trees, or tiny Charlie Brown trees, and I’m thinking she put the space to good use.

Sonya said she wanted to show her kids more about where food comes from and how much work it is to make it.  She said the kids have been ‘Walmartized’ and she doesn’t want them to think the food just shows up in cans at the store.  My kids are definitely Walmartized and I will have a garden next year.  For now, I’ll have to teach my kids with the rosemary and oregano plants.

The Jacobs family is setting a good example of what we should all be doing.  Even a small garden will help save money on groceries and make the world a greener place.  Here’s some more photos from their garden:

Here’s a few tips I found on the internet to help in your garden planning:

  • Find out what grows best in your area.
  • If you’re limited on space, research some container gardening.
  • Plant only stuff you like and will eat.
  • If you have neighbors doing the same thing, plant different stuff and do a veggie trade.
  • Start from seeds, low cost way to start a garden.

Happy gardening!!!

back to school [day 58]

Houston, we have a prob… challenge.  It’s time to buy school supplies.  The boys dad is buying their new shoes, which is good, because I have had a difficult time finding used ones for them.  I suppose it would be helpful if I knew what size they wore!  I realized I did not have that info when asked what size bowling shoes they needed last week.

Here’s the school supply list for Frisco ISD, 4th grade:

  • 1 Crayola Crayons, 24 count
  • 1 Crayola Washable Markers, Classic Thick
  • 1 Crayola Map Colors (colored pencils)
  • 12 #2 Pencils
  • 1 Pink Pearl Eraser
  • 2 Ballpoint Pen, red
  • 1 Highlighter, yellow
  • 1 Wooden Ruler, 12 inch with 1/8, 1⁄4, and 1⁄2 inch markings
  • 1 Fiskars for Kids Scissors, sharp tip, 5‐to‐8 inches
  • 2 Large Elmer’s Glue Sticks
  • 1 Spacemaker 8 X 5 School Box
  • 1 Assorted Construction Paper, 12 X 18
  • 2 Wide Ruled Spiral Notebooks, 70 Notebooks
  • 4 Composition Notebooks
  • 2 Packages of Wide Ruled Notebook Paper, 200 Sheets
  • 6 Folders with brads/pockets‐blue, purple, yellow, green, orange, and red
  • 1 Large Box of Kleenex Tissues

Notes Specific for Fourth Grade: Student planners will be provided by the school. Students will be using dictionaries and thesauruses in their work; if you do not have these items at home, you may consider purchasing them.


  1. Since this is a standard list, sometimes the teachers don’t need or want this stuff.  Some of it is used, some of the stuff came back home at the end of the school year.
  2. Name brands.  Really?  Is the school getting a kick-back from Crayola, Fiskars or Elmer’s?  I agree that sometimes these companies do make better products, but most times you pay a premium.
  3. My kids are going to be embarrassed by me bringing in a bunch of used or incorrect supplies.  Maybe I SHOULD join the PTA.  Can you imagine???  LOL


  1. Finding some of these supplies used, such as colored paper and spiral notebooks, is going to be difficult.
  2. Finding all this stuff for free or in thrift stores is going to be difficult, and most likely, very time consuming.
  3. Brainstorming a way to change the system for the better, getting the needed supplies to the school, but also having a system for the extras.  (teachers, help me out here)


I don’t have many answers yet, as I haven’t really started the search.  I am starting today and will keep you posted.  Here’s a few things I do have:

  1. We are reusing lunch boxes and backpacks.  If they want new (used) ones, they’ll have to go shop for them in thrift stores.
  2. We are using a lot of supplies leftover from last year, such as scissors, paper, rulers, etc…
  3. Share multi packs of supplies with neighbors.  If you buy in bulk, you can save money.  This is a greener way to shop too, as the bulk stuff usually has less packaging.
  4. If possible, talk to the teachers to see what they need.  This usually is not an option before school starts, but once school is in progress, you might have some supplies laying around the house that they could use for projects.
  5. Old folders can get a facelift with a little artwork and duct tape.

Off to thrift for school supplies.  :)

craigslist greatness: 2 left shoes [day 57]

I found this listing under ‘free stuff’ on  It made me smile.  This is a great example of being mindful about our resources.

Reply to: sale-qathe**********

for some reason i own 2 blue fuzzy lined little boys crocs size 9. seemed reasonable until i noticed that they are both for the left foot. since our kids seem to have one right and one left foot these will not do us a whole lot of good. perhaps you have the matching right shoe, or you just really like fuzzy crocs, or you need them for anything…..?

also for free, a bag of plastic easter eggs. half have never been used. half had cereal in them for easter (kids dont eat candy) but are now empty and generally clean.

having a Hawaiian themed wedding and still need a Vail? boy are you in luck!

Now honestly, what would you have done with the 2 left shoes?  I would not have thrown them away, I would have given them to the thrift store.  When the thrift store found they were unmatched with ‘right’ shoes, more than likely, they would have pitched them in the trash.  Kudos to the lady that listed these! and are both great places to list stuff you don’t want or need anymore, and the people that do want it will come pick it up right from your house.  If you’re not comfortable with that, you could meet them somewhere public and complete your transaction.

what if nobody bought new stuff? [day 56]

“What if nobody bought new stuff?  What would happen to the economy?”  This was a question asked by Thom yesterday, and I might add, a very good one.

First let me say that I appreciate the people that have enough money and are willing to pay for new items.  Without them, people like me would have no used stuff or second hand stuff to buy.  We would have to resort 100% on dumpster diving?  Not sure what the full impact of that would be for thrifty types, but it would sure change things.

Our economy is built on plastic and filled with air.  When I started on this soapbox yesterday saying that “…it has to collapse someday…”, I was quickly corrected by Jerod that the proper word here is “deflate”.  So, in my opinion, the economy will ‘deflate’ at some point.  We can’t possibly continue like this long term.  I’m not an economist or a fortune teller, and I don’t know how this will happen, but it will.  It makes me want to stuff money in my mattress instead of investing it.  (note to criminals: I have not actually done this so don’t break in and look in my mattress)

Whether the Awful Inevitable Radical Economy Deflation (AIRED) happens fast or slow, and the amount of negative impact it will have could be lessened by everyone just being a little bit intentional about the way we shop.  We have the ability to support good retailers and not support bad ones.  I know all of this sounds radical, and maybe somewhat like a conspiracy theory, but could it happen?  Yes.  If you think something different, please comment with your thoughts.

In the mean time, here’s a few simple things to consider when shopping.  You can help make a difference.

  • Know where you’re buying your stuff. Is this retailer using unfair labor practices or are they paying fair wages?
  • What is a retailer doing to be green and help conserve resources? Green energy, materials and business practices are clearly evident if you do a little research.
  • Do they give back to the community? If so, support them.  No business has to do this but many choose to.
  • Is this something you can buy second hand? You could save money and keep things from going in a landfill.
  • Instead of buying an item, could you borrow it? Sharing things you don’t use frequently will give you less clutter and save you money while building community.

If you can find items that aren’t supported by Ed Hardy, you’ve done well!  LOL, sorry, I couldn’t resist typing that.  😉

grocery store gives $1 million [day 55]

Grocery shopping is the only shopping I’ve done lately, and really the only shopping I’ve had any desire for.   I went to Sprouts last night, as I have a few select things I like to get there.  Tuna steaks and kabobs mostly.  Their seafood is not smelly.  😉  Also, they give a $.05 credit for each green bag you use and they replaced my broken freezer bag for free.

I mostly shop at Kroger now, as it’s reasonably priced and almost walking distance from my house.  Here’s another good reason to shop there.  Kroger donates a lot of money to food pantries through their Neighbor to Neighbor program.  Our local funds go to Frisco Family services.  Here’s a link to the form, all you have to do is print it and have them scan it every time you shop there.

If you’re not in the Frisco area, there’s a URL to Kroger’s site on here to find the participating Kroger’s in your area.  This is great, as they will donate $1 million dollars annually.  Also, their Plus card give great gas discounts.

I just started this, is there anyone out there already doing this?  Are there any similar programs in other stores?  If so, please share them!  :)