On photography and writing

A good photograph anchors the story you’re telling, and helps to give it weight.

I’ve never been more aware of the relationship between photos and words than I am now, as a writer, a mum, and an amateur (read iphone) photographer.

Photography is one of the skills that bloggers or writers tend to pick up while doing our art. In the past year or so, I think I’ve grown more attuned to aesthetics, placement of subjects and the space around them, and the networking of colours.

And obviously the kids make naturally awesome subjects to practise on.

God knows how much I covet a DSLR…For the record, I haven’t found the courage or time to pick up a DSLR. I heard it’s a route that one will travel and not turn back on. Plus lugging the kids around is weight enough for me, and so I’ve been content just playing around with my iphone.

I’ve also found that apps make cool toys. I’ve started falling for picfx, which is the app I used to edit Vera and dad’s hadouken moment. And of course instagram, which almost everybody is on these days. I think apps like these satisfy our need for beauty, as well as  community, as exemplified by the avid usage of #hashtags. And perhaps a bit of narcissism, since we all get to prettify ourselves and earn likes for the most adorable pictures of our children. But I try not to think so much, and just enjoy the process. Anyway the cute/fun/funny/lovey pictures will be more for us to reminisce and savour in old age, no?

But I digress. (See what apps do to me?) I wanted to talk about the relationship between photography and writing.

For me, my photos are often the main starting point of a blog post. Like the picture of Vera and her granny walking in the park. Or the lovey-dovey one with dad and daughter holding hands. Or dreams by a window. They give me the spark of inspiration with which I need to start a post and the focus so that I don’t digress.

Sometimes, like the hadouken example above, the photo IS the post. On all other occasions, they embellish a post and help bring out the essence of the story.

I love taking shots of the kids outdoors and at play. It’s where they’re in their zone, and where I can feel comfortable running about in shorts and doing silly things like experimenting with angles, focus, lighting and so on. I also secretly love the green and blue backgrounds that come with those shots. Where there is sunlight highlighting the subject, all the better.

Here are some of my recent favourites, all instagrammed or picfx-ed.

JJ’s selfie, all joy at being able to hold the iphone and seeing himself on the screen.

a joyful boy

Happy boy at the top of the slide. Photo taken literally through a hole in the floor.

shining happy boy

Another variation of the hole-in-the-floor shot.

Just chillin’ (also the cover pic on my facebook page)

Defying gravity.

defying gravity

Like I said, I’m amateur-ish and there’s still lots to learn. Here are some of my inspirations: 6 tips for better instagram photos, scissorspaperstone for her photos of crafty and yummy things, and photographers like Project Alicia and Steph Tan.

I harbour a hope that one day I’ll make that leap into the DSLR world, and never look back, except to perhaps laugh at my own naivety at thinking the iphone was ever enough for me. (But hey it’s all about my own growth and development, so no judgment calls are being made here.)

If I may say so myself, I think I’ve grown in writing and photography in the past few months. I feel as if one passion feeds the other, and creates a giant snowball.

What do you love about photography and/or writing? Do you own a DSLR and why or why not?

How redesigning the blog can clarify your purpose

Redesigning the blog was a mini-project that involved diving into the hidden recesses of my heart. I had to search deep within myself to find out what I really wanted this place to be. I had to re-look my about page and ask myself who am I and what am I doing here?

Those were good questions to ask myself. Challenging, but necessary.

When I briefed the designer who undertook our blog project, I said I wanted this to be “a place to find inspiration, empowerment, encouragement, grace, stillness and delight”. I said I wanted it clean, uncluttered, reader-friendly, and with lots of white space. I’m glad that she understood me.

While she worked on the design, I worked on the content. I sifted through old posts to made sure they were in their right categories, so that they would appear properly in the archives.

It was a slight pain to go through them. Half the time I was going, did I really write this? I thought about deleting some of them, but decided against it. I wanted to keep it real, and be able to look back and see how far we have travelled. We – meaning the blog, my family, and I.

Indeed, despite having been in existence for only more than a year and a half, it has already begun to show me how much I’ve grown as a person, and as a wife, parent, and friend. The blog has grown too, mirroring the ups and downs of my life. Like footprints in the sand of a faithful friend, it follows me. It listens as I pour stories into it, as I share my joys and sorrows. Through blogging, I get a few steps closer to my dream of writing a book one day. And on good days I think, perhaps I really will.

On this blog, I freeze all the memories and lessons I’ve learnt in my parenting journey, in a wild hope that other parents would find some of these useful. Through this blog, I sow and water seeds of friendships, new and old. Through this blog, I learn to be a master weaver of words and images.

I am still learning and I am still grateful. Grateful to be able to clarify my thoughts, my purpose, and grateful to have made new discoveries about myself, about this thing called parenting, and about God.

In the days to come, we will try to live out those little words that appear under the blog’s title.

“A place for parents to find love, confidence, hope and delight.”

I hope you’ll join me in this journey.

A letter to myself about joining the Singapore Blog Awards

Congrats June, you took the leap of faith by joining the Singapore Blog Awards.

You overcame your fears, doubting thoughts, and pursued what you believed was worth dreaming for.

Not the award in itself, certainly not fame, but something more.

Yes, when you were checking the results, you couldn’t believe it. You thought it might have been a mistake. You thought you better take a photo of your blog’s name on the top 10 list, in case it should disappear in the next minute, and you did.

Then you reloaded the page just to see if you were still there. And you were.

It was you. It was true.

And the first thing you did was to tell the hubby. You whatsapped him the photo you took of your blog on that page, and you went “OMGGG”

And your hubby was totally cool. He said “So expected. Ok, let’s start executing your voting campaign.” Which made you LOL and nearly fall off your chair in the office. (He has a knack for making you laugh that way.)

For the next 20 minutes of so, you were smiling at your computer screen, while hoping that no one in the office would notice. You weren’t ready to break the news at that point. Eventually you did, but not at that moment. You just wanted to relish it for a little while.

Then you shared the same photo with your usual bunch of girlfriends who are always on standby on whatsapp, and they jumped for joy along with you.

In spite of your silly antics, I’m really glad you took this leap. You chose to step out of your own shell, brave the outside world a little.

You chose to believe what the hubby said, about how you should join this Awards, and how you should set your own goals.

I know you’re still on cloud nine, but here are some gentle reminders for you.

It’s not about winning or losing.

It’s not about fame.

It’s about who you are at this moment. It’s about trying your best, and overcoming your fears.

And it’s about the people whom you know will support you all the way.

And about the God who has granted you favour.

And because of all these, the outcome of the Awards really doesn’t matter all that much.

So, keep your feet on the ground.

Keep writing from your heart.

Keep enjoying what you do here.

You’re a mummy blogger. A writer in the making. And you should be proud. (But not too proud.)

Be totally thankful.

Keep trusting in the One who made you, and you’ll be okay.

Mummy? She blogs. (An interview with a toddler)

My blog turns 1 today! Yes, I have my first post to prove it.

To mark this special occasion, I have here an uncut interview with a very special guest. Yes, she’s my most loved daughter. The one and only. Vera.

Take it away, girl.

~~~

Interviewer: Why does your mummy blog?

Vera: Because she likes to write about me and di-di (little brother) lor. Di-di is very cute, he can’t talk yet, but he makes lots of noises and he likes to blow bubbles out of his mouth. Boootttttt boootttt…like this. I think she likes to write and share her thoughts…or maybe daddy and me don’t listen to her enough. We are always playing!

Interviewer (wiping saliva off her face): Do you know that your mum’s blog name was inspired by something you said about her wearing your papa’s shirt?

Vera: Izzzzzit? (clueless, starts to look around for a distraction.)

Interviewer: Ahem, moving along… Where does your mummy find time to blog? Isn’t she supposed to be busy working and looking after you kids?

Vera: Mummy plays with her phone all the time, so I think she uses her phone to blog.

Or maybe she blog secretly when di-di and I are sleeping…my mummy is so naughty, she’s supposed to sleep with me, but she goes to blog instead. So naughty one.

Interviewer: Okay…so you think your mummy is naughty.

Vera: Yes. So naughty. Vera is not naughty, I’m a good girl. I sleep at 8 and wake up at 7, mummy says I must sleep early every day.

Interviewer: So…do you wish that she spends less time on her blog and more time with you?

Vera: Noooo? I wish she will buy me more gummies and biscuits and sweets.

You want gummies? I ask her to give you…but you must be a good girl hah? Eat already must brush your teeth hah?

Interviewer: ???

Okay back to the topic. How do you feel about your mum sharing so much about you on her blog?

Vera: I like to see myself on the computer. I think I look very pretty.

Interviewer: Yes, you are quite sweet.

Vera: Noooo…I am not a sweet. I am preeetty. You want sweet is it?

Interviewer: Erm, no…never mind.

Vera: I think you need a sweet.

Interviewer: !!! I think I just need to lie down.

Vera: You want to sleep? Okay, lie down, I pat you okay? Softly okay?

Interviewer: …

~~~

And that was the end of a very short interview session with the lovely, almost famous, almost 3-year-old Vera. Thanks sweetie-pie for making this day so special for mama, and for being such a BIG inspiration to me. I mean it. It’s only because of the funny things that you do that life (and this blog) gets its colour.

 

2 babies and a blog

I’ve got two adorable babies – okay, to be exact, 1 toddler, 1 baby, and a hubby who sometimes acts like a baby.

And I’ve got a blog. Yes, the one that you’re reading right now.

This blog was born on 11 January 2011. Inspired by a simple strand of four words that sprouted from my then 2-year-old’s mouth. And as it approaches its 9-month birthday, I’m beginning to realise that there’s little difference between bringing up a blog and bringing up a baby.

The blog doesn’t poop, doesn’t cry, doesn’t need to be cuddled or rocked to sleep (it doesn’t sleep at all, in fact), so what the heck am I talking about?

It’s the sheer amount of effort required to upkeep a blog. The fresh milk of content that you need to keep feeding it. The creativity needed to clear its hiccups. And the pure passion to keep it alive even when you’re so zonked out.

Even when it throws up undigested bits of its last milk feed on your shirt…

Bringing up a blog is bloggy hard work.

You have to be willing to bare your soul to the world. It’s like baring your baby’s poop-clad bottom on youtube. And sometimes…sad to say, you’re the only one who loves viewing it.

And maybe your hubby.

And what happens when the kids grow up, and start questioning why you chose to broadcast their every move (and bowel movement) on the Internet…

You have to crack your head to think of fresh ideas, ideas that entertain, move, surprise, or delight your readers. You have to be original ALL the time. (And I’m actually quite amazed at the amount of interesting / provoking content that’s out there. Just waiting to be stumbled upon. Most inspired by the very mundane things that fill the lives of mums and dads.)

All this while having to run after an energizer-bunny-of-a-toddler and caring for a baby who pees/poops at will?

What I find most challenging is the push for popularity. I detest hard-selling (on a normal day), and suddenly I find myself bordering on shameless, asking friends and family to like my posts, and show their support for my new Facebook page. What’s with me??

Sometimes, I ask myself ‘what the hell am I doing?’ bringing up a blog, when there are real human lives to invest in, deadlines to meet, and endless washing of bottoms to do.

Then I get reminded of the original purpose of this blog, the one I wrote in the About me page –  I hope to share what I’ve learnt (and continue to learn) as a young working mum, and hopefully encourage and inspire other young mums out there.

Encourage and inspire. Parenthood is such a BIG thing. Make that a big and often lonely thing. Most days, I could sure do with a big dollop of encouragement and inspiration to keep going.

I realise I need to keep the faith – keep the candle burning – to stay true to myself and the things I’m passionate about. And hopefully, one day, the kids won’t mind seeing their lives splashed out in all their messy splendour.

Whether you LIKE it or not, I’m gonna keep having blogs. Though I can’t say the same about babies.

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