Monday, January 28, 2019

Week 4 Goal: Digital Photography with Help from a Professional Photographer

It's the last day of Week #4 and that means it's time for my "demo" of the goal I focused on this week: #17 in my list of 60 until 60

Learn digital photography better with the help of a professional photographer (my sister, Michele)

Why did I want to do this?

I've been wanting to improve my photography skills for years. Michele is a professional photographer, so who better to help me? I especially wanted to learn to take better photos this year for my 60 until 60 project! I'm really focusing on celebration, connection, and experiencing new things, so I want to capture those special moments. I wanted to take advantage of the photo apps and editing tools that are available so I can create a special slideshow at the end of my project.

How will I know when I'm done?

This is tough because learning a skill is on-going.  The more I learned, the more I realized how much more there is to learn! For this particular goal, my acceptance criteria was:

* Complete any lessons Michele gave me and review my photos with her for a critique
* Feel confident and have a system for organizing and collecting the photos for my 60 until 60 slideshow
* Write a blog post about the experience (that's what I'm doing now!)

What we did:

Michele took her role in this goal very seriously.  She patiently taught me some basic rules of composition as well as some good tips about using my iPhone camera. She also introduced me to Snapseed, a photo editing app.

My first assignment was to capture some "rainy day" pictures. I was spending the day at Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter with my friend, Nancie, and, being a Hermione-like student (always an over-achiever), I took my assignment very seriously! By the end of the day, I had enough rainy day pictures to fill a rainy day art gallery. 

I'll include the 3 I choose for my assignment in the post below. Even Nancie wanted to get in on the assignment and was snapping puddles, rain-drops, and umbrellas. However, I have to include the video she took that CRACKED ME UP! She had the camera in 'selfie mode' pointed at herself as she was struggling to take a picture of me!

Throughout the week, Michele gave me more assignments, and every day I looked at the world differently..  looking at colors and angles and artsy photo composition in mind. I noticed the twinkling sparkles the sun made on the water and the iridescent bubbles in the foamy aftermath left from a wave, and the tree-like design left in the wet sand at the beach.

I tried to capture the natural smiles and candid moments of connection: my thoughtful nephew who guided me with my selfie-stick up a steep hillside to explore some caves. I love the photo I caught of him at the entrance to the cave. 

There were just so many photos and memories from the week that I absolutely loved.

What worked well:

  • I absolutely LOVED this goal! It's like I've discovered a whole new world. 
  • This really helped me tap into being more creative with my pictures.
  • I learned a lot about using my iPhone camera more effectively and how to edit pictures.
  • This was quite a bonding experience with Michele. I really appreciate how patient and supportive she was in helping me to learn. I also have a deeper appreciation for her talent and art.
What could be better:

  • OMG! I have a zillion pictures now! And way too many apps that are confusing me! I really need to spend some time getting more organized in how I process these pictures.
  • I have so much I want to learn. I've barely scratched the surface and I know that to really get better will take a lot of time. 

My rainy day 'artsy' shot

Rainy day selfie that shows we were at Universal Studios
I loved the colorful park against the cloudy sky

We laughed so hard when we saw this!

My nephew, Reece, after guiding me up a steep climwith my selfie-stick

Original: Michele taking photos at Oxnard Beach

Cropped and edited

Bubbles left from a foamy wave
Tree-like 'art' in the sand
Twinkling sparkles

Monday, January 21, 2019

Week 3 Goal #13: Visit to The Last Bookstore

We are at the end of Week 3 of my 60-week-birthday party and Wow! This week has been AMAZING! I've been in southern CA, staying with my sister, Michele, and she has gone above and beyond in supporting and participating in my project! She has been celebrating with me, given me a theme-based present every day of my visit and helped me with so many of my goals! However, I'm going to focus right now on: 

Goal #13: Visit my sister in Southern CA and go to this super-cool bookstore (among other things).

The first thing we ask with goals is why do we want to do them? What value will we get from accomplishing this goal?

OK, this is kind of a no-brainer. I wanted to go to a super-cool bookstore because I love bookstores! But WHY? Why THIS bookstore? The name of the store was, "The Last Bookstore" with the implication that bookstores may soon be obsolete. Even though I'm a nerdy techie who loves apps and digital everything, I also love, love, LOVE books! If they are at risk of becoming an endangered species, I will do what I can to protect them! Fear not, precious, old books! You will not just be shelved and forgotten in some dusty, old, attic. At The Last Bookstore, you might be chosen to become...  ART!

Yes, The Last Bookstore not only housed books to be purchased, but used books to create a variety of book sculptures and art work. (I'll need to refine Goal 46 which has to do with figuring out what to do with all my books!) The creativity and unique displays were really why I wanted to go to this particular bookstore and they didn't disappoint!

The second part of this goal that makes it so valuable is that I did it with Michele! She is as gaga about books as I am! In honor of our excursion, she gave me a beautiful bookmark and a Nancy Drew Mystery journal (I placed it so it was mysteriously peeking behind the Nancy Drew / Hardy Boy section for a photo op). We both nostalgically browsed throughout the store reminiscing about many favorites we found and had read.  She's a photographer and I'm a writer, so it's no wonder that we both love books!

What worked well
  • I just loved sharing this experience with Michele! So wonderful when you both share a passion!
  • Very fun, unique, and creative bookstore! Exceeded my expectations!
  • I loved that Michele made our celebration into a 'book-theme-party-day!' We even watched a movie, The Guernsey Literary Potato Peel Pie Society, which was a story that centered around the love of books and literature.
  • We each found some great books at good prices that we were very happy with!
What could have been better
  • The location of The Last Bookstore in downtown LA was tough driving on the LA freeways, and getting back to Michele's place was slow-going. I'm grateful she was driving!
Next week's plan:

Another goal that I've been working on with Michele is #17: 

Learn digital photography better with the help of a professional photographer (my sister, Michele)

Stay tuned for next week's exciting revelations!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

To Fly or To Drive - That is the Question!

I’m flying to Los Angeles as I write this, starting my obsessively-talked about “Snowbird Plan” to escape Colorado’s winter cold. Unfortunately, it appears to be the one week of the year that southern CA is experiencing a lot of rain. Better than the snow that’s expected in Boulder this week, so I’ll take it.

This trip is just the first in a series of trips I’m planning for the winter.. a week-long-vacation to visit my sister and friends and not really in contention for the sought-after “perfect warm-weather-winter-spot” that I might retire to some day. (Too expensive and crowded, but great for a visit.)

But let me get to the point. I’m coming back to Los Angeles on Feb.3 to compete in an escape room competition and from there, I’d like to spend a few weeks in Arizona. I need to be back home in Colorado for the final week of February before flying to Florida for the next in my series of snowbird excursions.

I need to decide today whether I’m going to:

Fly: Fly to CA, Fly from CA to AZ (rent a car or use public transportation & Uber), Fly Home to CO

Drive: Road trip to CA with my son, Drive to AZ (have my car while there), Drive back home to CO

Here are the advantages of both options:

Fly Option: Low-stress; Someone else does the driving (not my strong suit). No need for multi-day road trips in winter; (My phobia about winter-weather-driving is one of my primary reasons for doing the snowbird thing in the first place!) Road-tripping (sitting for several hours at a time) is bad for my back.

Drive Option: Overall, cheaper (but may be a wash, when you consider the road-trip time.) More of an adventure; Much more convenient for getting around and exploring a new place; Ability to transport more of my stuff when I hole up for a few weeks. Would have a memorable road-trip experience to CA with my son. I’d possibly be able to find someone who would road trip back to Boulder from AZ with me which would be fun. I’d be getting out of my comfort zone (which is always empowering for me!) If I fly, I’d probably end up renting a car, and stressing about driving in unfamiliar place with unfamiliar car--better to drive with my CARpe DM-mobile!

What say you, O-Wise-Readers? I especially want input from family and good friends who know both about my driving “issues” (too slow, fear of being sandwiched between big trucks, prone to provoking road rage from neighboring drivers, being directionally challenged, phobias about winter weather), but also know that I get excited about facing my fears and accomplishing something that’s a challenge for me.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Week 2 Goals: Sign up on Freelance Site (Goal #57) & Unassisted Pull-Up (Goal #1)

Two weeks into the New Year and I have been ultra-productive with my goals! This week I completed two from my 60-until-60 list: Signing up on Freelance Sites (Goal #57) and doing an Unassisted Pull-up (Goal #1)

Signing up on Freelance Sites

I LOVE all the extra time I have now that I don't have to commute or spend 9 hours a day in an office. I'd been afraid of getting bored or lonely once I stopped working, but it's actually the opposite! 

WHY, then, do I have a goal to sign up for freelance work?  Should this be a priority? A very annoying and loud voice in my head is screaming: STOP WORKING!

But it's kind of in my DNA.  It feels weird and uncomfortable not to work. I'm even 'working' every day on all these goals and loving it, because they give me purpose, keep me challenged, and help me grow.  I love being an agile coach, and I don't want to give it up completely.  I just want to limit the work to part-time work that I can do from anywhere.  My user story is refined to:

Sign up on freelance sites so that I can be made aware of short-term, part-time, freelance, or remote opportunities that I'd enjoy.

There is an awesome set of resources available for people looking for remote or freelance jobs, especially in IT. I'd been meaning to sign up on some of these sites and this week I did.

As evidence that I completed this goal, below is a screenshot of one of the sites I signed up on noting that I was "Available for Work!"

Besides signing up on a couple of job sites, I also contacted some of the groups I've worked with in the past. Last week I had a two interviews and a proposal I submitted for an article was accepted. I also got asked to write some blog posts and to do some coaching. So tomorrow, I will be back to work, but totally in control of my time!

What worked well:
  • Discovering how many resources were available for freelance, part-time, and remote work. It made me feel more secure that there were a lot of avenues for finding work outside of the traditional 8-5 office job.
  • I found some interesting opportunities through some of these sites. 
What could be better:
  • Contacting people directly (as I did) worked better for getting freelance work than the freelance sites and it also cuts out the middle man. The freelance sites are OK, but they do take a cut and the pay is typically lower than what I get when working directly with a client.  Also, I would advise caution on some of these sites. I'm not sure if they're all reputable and sometimes I do get weird spammy auto-generated calls about suspicious 'job opportunities.'
Doing an Unassisted Pull-up

I already posted my 'demo' video on Facebook! 

What worked well:
  • Since Lifetime Fitness is down the street, it's been easy for me to get in the habit of going and working out on the machines almost every day.
  • I was surprised that I was able to do a pull-up after less than a month of working out on the pull-up machine. I'm hoping to be able to do a lot more by the end of the year.
  • I notice a big difference in my strength, muscle mass, and body fat since going regularly to the gym! Percent Body Fat went from down from 31.6 to 23.3!

Could be better:
  • My form doesn't look that great on that pull-up. I probably shouldn't be swinging around so much.
Comment time!
Writing these blog posts are only going to be fun if I get some comments, so I'm asking again for some feedback or comments either here on the blog or on Facebook!

Tell me what goals you're working on. How many pull-ups can you do? What experiences have you had with freelance work? Or just say, 'hi' (and tell me who you are!)

Friday, January 11, 2019

New Years Resolutions Opportunities

Because I’m a self-help goal-driven junkie, I subscribe to a lot of self-helpy things and my inbox is filled around this time of year with all kinds of New Year’s opportunities that I wanted to pass along. Goal-setting, Happiness, Running (or now, Walking), and Experiencing Life Fully are all things that I have a lot of passion around, so these all appeal to me:
Marelisa Fabrega has an amazing blog that I subscribe to and she's always full of ideas for bucket lists and ways to achieve goals. In this post she suggests a variety of ways to slice and dice New Year's resolutions.

I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's books and listening to her podcast about Happiness for years. Her Happiness Project book steps through a year-long happiness project and now she's created a course that provides structure, videos, and a community for people who want to experience a Happiness Project together.  Unfortunately, I waited to long to write this blog post because the course is now closed until next year, but you can always get the book and listen to the podcasts. This podcast talks about the idea of setting 19 goals for 2019.
I participated in Run the Edge last year and I'm doing it again this year. You need to walk or run an average of about 5.5 miles a day to have a total of around 2019 miles for the year. If you have a Fitbit or other device that tracks your steps, you can auto-sync it up and automatically get 'credit' for all the steps you take throughout the day. This has really kept me moving throughout the year! If you don't think you can do that many miles on your own, you can team up with others and together try and reach the 2019 miles. (I have Team Carpe Diem with my neighbor Bonnie, but there's room for two other people!
  • Liv:
This is a community that's all about having fun and unique experiences.. You can get a membership and earn Liv coins in various ways which will allow you to participate in fun trips and events. I'm holding off getting a membership for now since I have too many other things going on, but I did join the #LivListChallenge for free, so maybe I'll win a membership and event.

More goals to consider!

I have my own set of 60 goals that I’m working on achieving in the 60 weeks leading up to my 60th birthday, but every day I hear about more cool events or experiences that I want to add to that list:

I'm going to see this when I'm visiting my sister in LA next week! I'm excited that I'll be with her because A) she's a professional photographer so we'll have good pictures to remember the experience and B) it's a lot easier to go outside in January at night in LA than it is in Boulder.  Plus, it's just fun to experience this with someone you love.
A couple of weeks ago, my friend, Adam, told me about an event put on by this group, and I saw they had a whole calendar of events and walks in the area! This is a walking group, but their purpose is not just to walk, but to connect! My word for 2019 is "connection" because I not only want to accomplish goals, but to connect with people at the same time. Perfect!
I went on one of the Walk2Connect walks (through the Boulder Ramblers Meetup group) and met two leaders from that group who had gone to Spain and walked the Camino SanTiago pilgrimage last year.  I'd heard about this, but never talked to anyone who had done it. It sounds wonderful! I don't know if I'll be able to do it this year, but it's on my list as something I want to consider!
I'm so jonesing to get out of the cold and to a warm-weather spot that I spontaneously bought airline tickets to Panama, based on an article in International Living about Panama. It's apparently the #1 retirement spot! But about two minutes later I cancelled the tickets because I didn't want to go alone when I have no idea what I'm doing.  I did see there were some upcoming conferences, though, so I'm strongly considering going to one of those to get my snowbird plan in action!

Carpe Diem Connections
Are you also a goal-setter and someone who's determined to live life fully?

Monday, January 07, 2019

Week 1 Goal: Call friends and relatives who I haven’t seen in years

OK, people, it's official! My 60-week birthday party has begun! As my sister so delicately pointed out yesterday, I tend to overwhelm myself with goals at the New Year and go a little crazy because I'm so excited about doing so many things!

Creating the User Story

In order to keep focus, I'm using some of the techniques I teach to Agile teams.  The first goal I choose from my backlog of 60 goals, was #7: Call friends and relatives who I haven’t seen in years.

In Agile circles we call this a "user story." It's something we want to accomplish in a short-timeframe (in my case, a 1-week iteration) that will add value, but we need to ask two important questions: Why do we want to do this? and How will we know when it's done?  We also might add tasks and when we start working on this, we may need to adjust how we're going about accomplishing this.

I refined this story to:

Call at least 10 friends and relatives to reconnect with, invite them to my 60-week-birthday-party, and ask them for a song to contribute to my party playlist (see items 25-27 on my backlog)

Now I know I'm "done" when I've called at least 10 people and I am clear about my purpose.

Some might think I'm not really "done" if I didn't call at least 60 people since that's how many songs I want on my playlist, but I will worry about getting all 60 songs and inviting others to my virtual party when I'm working on those stories. We want to keep these stories manageable to something I can do in a week.  This story is part of two bigger features..  one to be more connected and one to plan and execute my 60-week-birthday party.

Doing the "work"
You may think it's easy to call 10 friends and relatives but it is a little awkward to call people who you don't normally call. You feel worried about interrupting them or that they may think you're bothering them with another one of your crazy ideas that they don't really want to participate in (no.. that NEVER happens to me!)

My first call was to my Aunt who lives in Pittsburg and the first words she said were, "Is anything wrong?"  Quite an understandable concern when a relative calls you from out of the blue.

I decided it might be a good idea to send an email to the people I was planning to call to give them a head's up. I also asked for phone numbers for those distant relatives who's numbers I didn't have.  I didn't get much response to this, but that's OK. I've learned over the years, that some people think my ideas are weird. They, perhaps, are not the best people to invite to a 60-week-virtual-birthday-party.

Once I stopped thinking I had to call distant relatives who don't know me and changed the focus to people who are accustomed to my quirky ideas. it became much easier.

Once we do the work, we want to demo to our customers or stakeholders some evidence that we accomplished what we set out to do. You, my loyal blog readers, will be my 'customers.' Though I know you probably have no skin in this game, this helps me have some accountability.  It will help if you give me feedback in the comments, since that is your role here, but, sadly, I rarely get comments either on the blog or on Facebook (except from my favorite anonymous blog commenter, MB! I'm counting on you!!)

People I haven't talked to for a long time and their song:
1. Chris Y. - My Way
2. Aunt Frances - Maybe Ave Marie
3. Aunt Nancy - Mack the Knife or Fascination
4. Dee O. - Ebb Tide
5. Alma P. - Help Me Make it Through the Night
6. Peter F. - TBD
7. Nancie F. - TBD but will pick a 60's song
8. Kay D. - TBD
9. Stella K. - TBD
10. Lucia F. - Unchained Melodies

Also, for demo purposes, I did get a picture of my call with my Aunt Lucia, but she didn't like the way she looked in it (duh! Does anyone think they look good with these Webcams?)

My sister, Michele, who has been a solid supporter in my ventures volunteered herself and her husband, Ray, to help with this demo. This is much appreciated since it's quite out-of-character that he was amenable to this request.

The Retrospective / Learnings
What worked well:

  • It turns out my phone connection works much better with FaceTime than without it! Weird! 
  • It was really fun catching up with people I hadn't talked to in a long time!
  • Most people really liked my 60-week-birthday-party idea!
  • I got some good ideas of things that I can do in the next 60 weeks!
  • It was fun to get the pictures of the FaceTime calls and don't Michele and Ray look so cute?

What didn't work so well:

  • It was harder to get contact information for distant relatives than I thought it would be.
  • It's hard for people to come up with a song for my playlist on the spot. (But that's OK, I have plenty of time to collect those.)

Getting Feedback:
Here is my ask: You can say ANYTHING, but, if you made it this far, please leave a comment.  Here are some examples of things you might say:

  • Can I go to your 60-week virtual/real party even though it sounds confusing? (The answer is Yes!)
  • Here's what my song would be for your playlist: [your song here]
  • This blog post is too long.
  • Hi
  • Why didn't you call me?
  • You are a geek.
  • What are you doing in Week 2?
  • I think you should have called your 'ex'.
  • This is brilliant! I love how you use Agile to accomplish your goals! Will you work for me?
  • This is fake news.