Monday, September 9, 2013

Focus on Gratitude

by Dotti


Just about two years ago, I emailed Claudia and Terri, who were collaborating with me on a Flickr group, and said something to the effect that they would probably think I was insane for suggesting it, but why didn’t we start a collaborative photography/inspiration blog? As I’ve pondered this post for today, I recalled this exchange and how Focusing on Life came to be and it reminded me yet again of how much gratitude I have for all of the contributors here at FOL.

Carol Albers and I first crossed paths, as most of us did, in Tracey Clark’s ‘Picture’ classes. I was struck by what a wonderful photographer Carol was and by her always encouraging comments on my photos and others as well. Carol and I exchanged a few emails and we knew we wanted her to be part of our FOL family. Last month I finally got to actually meet Carol. And do you know what? She’s exactly as I thought she would be. Generous, warm, loving, humorous … and she sparkles.

Carol Hart joined our family last winter. She was the first ‘sister’ I’d had the privilege to actually meet before she became one of our collaborators. We met last October at Shutter Sisters Oasis in Palm Springs, California. I was immediately struck by Carol’s warmth, poise, polish and her ever-positive outlook on life. I’d followed her personal blog for a while and found it to be a beautiful place. I was drawn not only by her photography but by her love of gardening and the beautiful garden she has created in her home near Seattle.

Claudia Wrightson had to leave the ranks of active collaborators here at FOL and we do miss her. She, along with Terri and me, was one of the founders of FOL. It was Claudia who invited me to help her and two other gals to moderate a Flickr group for alumni from aforementioned ‘Picture’ classes.  To this day, I have no idea why she invited me to participate but I was both honored and scared to death. I accepted the challenge and am so grateful I did. Without that experience, I wouldn’t have come as far as I have in my creative journey and it’s probably also fair to say FOL would not be here today. Thank you, Claudia!


Deanna Swauger is again a person we came to know through ‘Picture’ classes. Deanna’s warmth, vitality, talent and creative energy was perhaps a catalyst for the special relationships that grew out of ‘Picture Winter’ some three or four years ago. She cut through the crap and shared with us about her husband’s ongoing challenge with Alzheimer’s and something happened to our group. She was an inspiration to all of us and we bonded as if we’d known one another for years. I was finally able to meet Deanna at Oasis last year and reunite with her last month at her home in Naperville. And oh what a treat that was! Deanna is exactly as I knew she would be and I’ll never forget the enormous hug she gave me when we first met in the hotel parking lot in Phoenix prior to our drive to Palm Springs.

Judy Salcedo is the only current contributor I’ve not had the joy of meeting and I sure hope to change that before much more time elapses. We were thrilled when Judy accepted our invitation to be part of our team, again, having met in ‘Picture’ classes. I must tell you that I’ve been astounded as I’ve watched Judy’s photography over these past few months. Always a good photographer, she has surpassed herself and has been doing amazing work! And I feel a special kinship to Judy simply because she lives in the Hudson River Valley, a place I remember well from my childhood days in New York.

Kelly Ismael is our bubbly, energetic, multi-talented and newest contributor. After following Kelly in ‘Picture’ classes {there it is again!} and on her personal blog, we knew we wanted to add her to our team. It was such a joy to meet her last month at our little get together in Naperville-Chicago. Again, she is exactly as I imagined she would be. When you share your photography and your thoughts with people online, it seems that your inner self emerges. Kelly is warm, beautiful, fun-loving and a wonderful asset to our team.

Kim Stevens was nominated by Deanna to be part of our FOL family and boy! am I ever glad we listened to her! Kim brings a wonderful, fun, wacky kind of side to our family. Kim and her butterflies, Kim with her pink hair, Kim with her ever-ready smile, Kim with her sunrises, her photographic artistry and her deep insight into life. Kim was part of our get-together last month and I’m so over-the-hill happy that she was there. I watched in admiration as Kim dealt with … and continues to deal with … her son’s sudden and serious illness. Happily, he seems to be in a good spot right now.

Leigh Love is one of the original contributors to FOL. I remember during ‘Picture’ classes being struck by what a wonderful photographer Leigh is. Then I learned that she has two young children. And her own landscape design business. And a husband. And she contributes to our Flickr group as well. Through it all, she has an effervescent smile that lights up a room. I met Leigh last fall at Oasis. I marvel at all she does, how she juggles her life and manages so well {though I don’t for a minute think it’s easy!} but she’s always gracious and fun.


Linda Owens was my ‘roomie’ last year at Oasis. Neither of us had had a roommate since before our marriages years ago so we were both a bit nervous about how this was all going to work out. But do you know what? It couldn’t have been better! Linda was the perfect roommate, we learned that we had much in common besides FOL and photography. We’re both kind of ‘quiet’, we both take care of our granddaughters during the day, we both like to walk first thing in the morning. Linda has a wicked-funny sense of humor and I adore her!

Stephanie Mull is another ‘Picture’ alum. I have marveled at how Stephanie’s photography has evolved over the several years that I’ve known her. She has truly developed her own beautiful and unique style … but that shouldn’t be surprising. To meet Stephanie as I did last year at Oasis is to know that she is a beautiful and unique person. In addition to all this she {I hope you’re sitting down, this will make you tired} is married to a minister; mother of three young children; works full-time; is the church organist … and still manages to do a blog post for FOL every two weeks. Terri and I laugh and remark that we don’t think Stephanie ever sleeps!

Terri Porter. I can’t say enough about my friend Terri. We are partners in crime. Here at FOL as well as our Flickr group. I remember watching Terri walk down the sidewalk toward my hotel when we met for the first time and hugged like long lost sisters. The connection was instantaneous; I think there were even a few tears. When I missed my flight home from Palm Springs, Terri graciously invited me to spend the night in her her lovely home so I could catch a plane from there the next day. I got to meet some of her family which was a real treat. They say things happen for a reason and perhaps there was a reason for me to miss that first connection on my trip home. Terri and I laugh because it’s not unusual for us to email and say to one another … I was just about to say or do the same thing! There are times when we finish each other’s sentences and thoughts. It’s a little scary, actually. What can I say? Terri, I love you …

As I do all my sisters here at Focusing on Life. 

And last but not least, I love every one of you who read and follow us every day. YOU are the reason we’re here. You make our family complete.

And for this … I am grateful.



17 comments:

Carol said...

Awww, Dotti! It's so lovely to read this, nodding my head all the way. When I left for Chicago some people said to me-people aren't always what they seem, and I hope you aren't disappointed. But I knew I wouldn't be, and I wasn't . I too think the connection was already there, and you and the girls were just as I had pictured and hoped. Kelly was the first one I met and we shared a tearful hug too! I still have a lot to meet, but I can't wait. And, btw, I can't keep up with all you do too-3 blogs and a husband and grandchild????
I am so very grateful you found me. I love being part of this group and its love affair with life!

Barb Brookbank said...

What a beautiful post!

kelly said...

well now dotti, why'd you have to make me tear up so early on a monday. ;) gosh...where to start...i consider it one of the great blessings in my life to have crossed paths (online) with all of the amazing ladies here at FOL. and without sounding too overly-dramtic, it has changed my life. thank you for creating this special place and that for the opportunity to be able to share it with you. xoxoxo

Karen Gehrke said...

Wonderful Post! FOL is awesome! Great job all!!

terriporter said...

Love this so much I just read it three times! I think often of how blessed we are to have found each other and formed such a strong bond before even meeting each other. Being able to get to meet almost all of our FOL sisters has only made that bond stronger. I feel truly blessed as well for each and every person in this group.

Deanna said...

OK...more tears shed from me, but these are happy tears. What a beautiful post, Dotti, and you captured the essence of us all. What a group we are and so blessed to have met each other.

Ahayes1225 said...

It is a beautiful post. Lucky to have each other.

Roxi -Coppercurls Designs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah Huizenga said...

What a wonderful bond you all share. It is so neat to hear how you all came together.

Roxi -Coppercurls Designs said...

Thanks, Dotti for the extra insight on everyone. I'm not used to hanging out on Flickr much, I guess I should learn my way around there better. Love your cup.

AFishGirl said...

Well, well, well, if this isn't the most heart-warming post. Beautifully written, Dotti. I feel mushy. Good mushy. What a grand group you are. I come here with great delight and much gratitude.

sherrygaley said...

This was such a lovely post, Dotti! I don't know any of you except online through your writing and photography but I feel as though I do even more through Dotti's generous and loving eyes.

Cathy H. said...

I love the story of how this blog began and grew and how so many of you have now met in person! I'm thankful that I've had a connection with all of you!

Kim Stevens said...

This was....hold on a moment....while I wipe my eyes.....just the most heart warming post Dotti. I am so honored and thrilled to be part of this "sisterhood", not just with the FOL girls, but everyone here. So grateful for Deanna's suggestion to be part of this group, so grateful for the connections made, and so grateful to have been able to meet some of you in Chicago....and looking so forward to meeting the rest one of these days!! Much love, Kim xo

Carol said...

And another thing! Don't you just find that photographers are the greatest people. They jut seem to be the types that notice and appreciate beauty, and that seems to lead to appreciating life and nature, and people. I don't know, but I sure have met a lot of great photographer/ people!

Karen Main said...

What a beautiful tear drenching moment you just created for me. i am new to the online world and questioned if you can actually have friends you have not met. Well yes you can.
Wonderfully inspiring

leigh said...

and I am so grateful for you Dotti! For your guidance and your friendship and for inviting me into this wonderful family!

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