Friday, February 26, 2016


A few days ago, right as the Great Home Overhaul of 2016 began, I sat down at the computer to clear up a few files.  There was actually a problem with a client's photo gallery and I needed to get to the bottom of it, the kids were still asleep, and I had a few hours to spare.  I noticed immediately that something funky was going on.  There was an error message on the screen and it was running all catawhampus. After a few attempts to get rid of the rainbow circle of Mac confusion, I pressed the power button for ten seconds and started over.

At least, I tried to start over.

The Macbook, she was not starting over.  She was, however, doing a great impression of something that doesn't work at all.  Given the vastness of the home projects in front of me and with a sinking feeling, I just closed the cover and got to work emptying the kitchen cabinets onto the kitchen table so we could sand the empty cabinets in preparation for painting.  But, I reasoned, I had just run a diagnostic test, and everything was fine.  I was good, I thought.

I thought wrong.

Wednesday, it came to light that my hard drive had suffered an unexpected, unexplained, and absolutely catastrophic crash.  There was nothing to be done but to replace it.

What could not be replaced, and could not be recovered by the folks at the Apple store, was the data from my old hard drive.

*Pause here to allow everybody to gasp in horror.*

I tried to be light about it:  all of my clients' photos (except for the ones in the messed up gallery) were in online storage for ten years.  Most of my pictures and documents were on disks or external hard drives.  I subscribe to the Creative Cloud, so I still had access to Photoshop, Bridge, and Lightroom, if I ever decide to learn it.  I didn't lose everything in a catastrophic fire.  I didn't lose a limb.  It was okay.

Except, of course, that I keep running into...glitches.  Yes, I have Photoshop, but what I don't have is five or so years of actions and settings that I built as I learned:  all of my photo processing "stuff" is gone and has to be reprogrammed.  Yes, I have MOST of my pictures, but some are mysteriously missing from my disks:  2011 and 2013 have huge gaps in them and in those gaps lurk some of my favorite pics that now can only be viewed via Facebook or my creaky, probably about to implode old Dell (copying those to an external hard drive now.)  2015 and most of 2014 is gone, unless I edited the pictures and loaded them onto the online gallery I built for my family.  All of the pictures of the house I took for my blog and Instagram, the "befores" waiting for "afters..."  gone.   New logos and marketing info...gone.  It's all just GONE.

*Pause for me to clutch at my chest dramatically and cry out to the heavens.*

I gave myself a day to mourn and glump and berate myself for FOOLISHLY not backing up my hard drive every week, after every download from every camera disk, every time I changed my logo, uploaded a product...EVERY TIME.  Foolish, Heather.  Jeez.

Then...I took a deep breath and rebooted.

The truth is, after five years, I was ready to change the direction of my photography business.  I love working with folks, and I adore most of my clients, but I felt my work getting stale.  I fell behind in editing because I was just simply bored and could do it in my sleep.  NOT that my clients weren't beautiful, awesome, great human beings, but because I just felt bleah about doing the same old thing over and over again.  I was already lining up a shift to a new style, a new pricing system, a new delivery system, a stronger marketing plan.  Now, I have no excuses to fall back into the "old way" because the "old way" is gone.  Literally, it is not there anymore.  Heather Ray Photography is officially rebooting and will be launching anew in the next couple of weeks.  (Thankfully, I was smart enough to order the items for my logo design from Creative Market, which offers online access to your purchases for a good long while.)

Another truth:  after years of stops and starts and weird backward loop the loops, I'm FINALLY on track in terms of what I want my home and work life to be.  I've lost lots of links to recipes I've never tried, projects that interested me, self-help articles that I was saving myself.   I've lost bookmarks to sites that I thought would make me more marketable, that would make me sound more hip or smart or whatever.   All I can say is, "Thank goodness."  Those bookmarks and recipes and storage cabinets made out of leftover turf scavenged from golf courses were weighing me down, man.  They were constantly making me question myself, constantly making me try to be cooler or meaner or more tear-inducing.

GAH.  I'm just me.  I say dumb stuff.  I say smart stuff.  I build cool stuff and completely fail at planting cucumbers successfully.  I can crochet a lovely blanket and wind up crying over learning how to knit.  And it's okay.  If you don't love me for my perfect imperfections (sing it with me, now), that's cool.  It won't hurt my feelings and you don't have to spend a lot of time framing a perfect response to something I said that was wrong or angered you or made you think I was a spawn of the Dark One.

Buh bye, bookmarks and websites filled with things that made me want to be more awesome than I already am.  You were cool and pretty, but I've rebooted and I'm doing okay without you.

In fact, I'm doing just PEACHILY without you.  The Willster and I have come up with a one year plan to get the house all spiffied up, the kids and I are working on the garden and planning for chickens, and I didn't eat ice cream for breakfast today.  (I ate it for lunch yesterday, know...protein.)  My forty-second year is ending up awash in productivity.

Now, don't get me wrong:  I've saved the old, crashed hard drive and maybe one day when I become an insanely successful something or other and people are throwing buckets of money at my head to do something fantastic, I will be able to find a tech wizard to get my pictures off of there, because that loss still stings.  But...I lived those moments already.  They will always be with me and I can see them any time I want to by closing my eyes.  Sure, I'd like to show y'all a picture of my table before I paint it and make it faaabulous, but most of you have already seen it in pictures of biscuits I post on Instagram.  Don't follow me on Instagram?  You should totally do it.  You can see pictures of biscuits!  On my table!

Said table currently looks like this:  

 I'm rebooting.

Sometimes it takes a while.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Taking Down the Fence, Part One

That title sounds like it should be a euphemism, doesn't it?

Like:  "Why's Heather so grumpy?"
          "Oh, you know, she and her sister took down the fence last night."

Or maybe:  "Heather sure looks happy!"
                   "Well, she and Will took down the fence, so she ought to."

It could work in a lot of ways, I think.

However, in this case, it actually means "I'm taking down the fence in my backyard."

You may remember last March, Phil Robertson inspired me to clean off the weird concrete pad at the very back of our property.  Since then, it's stayed pretty clean, but the back corner continues to be a dankesque, gloomy, snake-ish looking area and I've decided that I want it to be more open and airy.

The first idea was to chop down the large and ice-storm-damaged Carolina laurel tree that lurks near my garden.  I am generally not in favor of chopping down trees, but this one leans and sprawls and makes forty blue million babies all over the yard AND it's poisonous, so I was okay with it.  Will, however, nixed that idea.


The next idea was to take down the fence that surrounds the concrete slab, making it easier to get in the yard and taking away any number of interesting crevices into which brown widows and snakes can insert themselves.

*Pause to say here: I am NOT anti-snake or spider, per se, but last year a farming family nearby cleared a lot of land and all of the timber rattlers and copperheads that lived in the brush decided that my neighborhood would be a great place to which they could relocate.  And brown widows are fine if they don't do things like build their webs under door knobs, in the tracks of sliding glass doors, and under the edges of patio chairs.  Which they do, so I consider them "not fine."  Unless pressed, I won't shoot, squish, spray, or otherwise harm these guys, but I'm not going to keep providing them places to chill out with kids and dogs running around.

Anywhoodles, below you will find the fence I'm taking down. You'll note that right at the corner, there's a gate.  (You'll also note that there is a slightly overweight beagle snorfling around happily because any time I'm out in the yard doing work, Frodo is convinced I will overturn vast colonies of voles which he can dig up and chomp.)  To the right in this picture is the jasmine vine that is going to be wrestling with me as I attempt to move it to the back side of the fence.  I decided to start with the gate.


Roughly four seconds in, I was cussing.

Y'all.  Why?  Why would you hammer two zinc nails into the holes of a hinge to affix it to a gate?  Is this some kind of redneckery that I don't know about?  Is this standard procedure in whatever part of the country from whence the renters here before us lived?  I don't know, but whatever the case, it looked ridiculous.

And it made taking out the nails all but impossible, since they had rusted to each other or were overlapping each other.  At one point in time, I was pretty much wrapped around a post, gripping the handle of my hammer, trying to pry out a nail whose head was mushing all out of shape every time the hammer got near it.  Without warning, the head slipped out of my hammer and, I swear, I clocked myself right in the jaw so hard that I saw stars and my ears rang.  Thank all the stars that I gave myself an uppercut with my fist instead of the hammer.

The nails weren't just zinc.  Also included in the bizarre gallery of fasteners were staples, finishing nails, sheetrock nails, and this bad boy.  I can't even figure out how I got that sucker out.  It appears to be some form of alchemy.

Because of the whackatoodle nailing job, it took me a little longer than expected to get down the gate and one of the panels of fence, at which time I was neck deep in greenbriar and fallen branches and assorted little bushes.  I decided to take a break and work at getting out the greenbriar so that when I got back to hauling out the fence parts, I wouldn't trip and fall and eviscerate myself on a nail I neglected to pull out.

My friend Whitney called while I was working on the greenbriar, and I horrified her by telling her what I was wearing:  a teeshirt emblazoned with the mascot of the school where Will's principal, my polyesteresque, bright green yoga/workout pants, and my doodoo brown muck boots.

"I don't want to even think about your hair," she said.

"It's slicked back, wet with sweat, and probably has spiders in it."

I am a source of great anxiety for my friends, particularly those who are hairsylists with keen fashion senses.

Around lunch time, it started spitting rain, so I called it quits until after the kids got home from school.  I didn't get as much accomplished as I wanted to, but I did get the gate and one panel off, I cleared up some vines and brush, and I rolled a giant log one quarter turn in my quest to get it over to the fire pit.

Frodo was ecstatic with my progress.  Please note the dirt-besmudged nose of a vole-hunting beagle.