Get Squared Up for the New Year with Becky B.

I am so proud to introduce today the hostess of the Squares Photo Challenge, Becky B. of Becky of Winchester on my hobby blog, Always Write. I met Becky through my Photo Challenge friends, Cee Neuner of Cee’s Photo Challenges, and Terri Webster Schrandt of Second Wind Leisure last summer or early fall. I love the word games Becky B. plays with her photo challenges. She’s so popular with many of my readers that I was thrilled when she said, “YES,” to an interview.

What prompted you to begin to host a photo challenge? – Squares didn’t actually begin as a photo challenge! The very first one began because I need a focus for a month. I was still reeling from the death of my Dad, and with what would have been his birthday in September and a busy month for my first ever festival I wanted something to keep the blog alive and myself distracted. So Square in September was born, and within hours a few friendly bloggers decided to join in the fun. By the end of the month there were around a dozen joining me daily, and I realised there was potentially a great challenge in my hands. So Squares as a challenge was born! I must at this point shout out to a few other amazing bloggers who run challenges such as Debbie from Travel with Intent, Jude over at Cornwall in Colours, Restless Jo and her Monday Walks and the Queen of Challenges the incredible Cee. I have learnt so much from all of them and other great challenge hosts.

What is your purpose in hosting the challenge? How does it support photographers? – I hope to provide a friendly place where photographers can make new blogging friends and find inspiration as well as having the opportunity to share their photographs, thoughts and lives. By making it a requirement that every shot is square it levels out the playing field and so every photographer, whether brand new or experienced, faces the same challenge of creating a great photograph in a square. And it seems to be working as not only has my photography improved, but Squares has become a community. There are now between 50 to 75 bloggers taking part every week during the challenge month, and some of those have become great friends.

How long have you been hosting Becky’s Squares? Have you hosted other challenges? – Squares began in September 2017, and it takes place once a quarter. To date there have been 14 square challenges with the themes of flowers, sky, circles & squares, roofs, in the pink, time, spiky, blue, lines, words ending in light, top, perspectives, kinda and up. I have tried hosting other challenges, namely ‘Past Meets Present’ but as I host two blogs for myself as well as organising a major festival, managing website and multiple social media for a charity I volunteer for I now focus just hosting Squares.

How much time does it take from preparation to follow-up each week? Everyone’s challenges run differently. What steps do you take to get your challenge ready?  – ooh that’s a tough question! I guess each theme takes a few days or even weeks to be born, and then once I have decided upon it I have to start collating my own photographs. Prior to the pandemic I would decide themes months in advance and so I could easily take new photographs specially for the challenge as well as drawing upon the archives. In this new world however I tend to decide much nearer the time and need to dig deeper into my extensive photographic archives. Up to 6 weeks before the start of the challenge month I will share teasers and then an official announcement. Then a week or so before the challenge begins I will set aside a couple of days to prepare the photographs and then schedule every square post in advance. Occasionally the last few days won’t be scheduled until the end of the first week as I like to be inspired by everyone else’s fabulous squares. Everyone is so brilliant in fact that quite often once the challenge starts I will tweak posts or throw in new squares. Once the challenge starts I will spend up to 3hrs each day visiting other posts and responding to comments, and then there are my galleries. These have evolved over the years, but I now keep a record of every participant and my technique of creating prose for each one seems to have become a favourite for everyone. I have such fun collating the galleries, and the half day or so I spend on them is always a pleasure.

How did you attract people to participate rather than to just leave comments on your post? The trick it seems to me is to have a really simple challenge idea that just takes off on its own accord, however I admit it does help if some of the major league bloggers take part! Other things that seem to help is to connect with others both during and outside of your challenge, and this is best achieved by taking part in other challenges yourself and regularly leaving comments on other posts. I love taking part in other challenges so even when Squares is happening you will often find I am also taking part in others. 

Supermarket Views – The UP doesn’t have to mean the direction.

What do your participants say they like most about your challenge? What do you like most about hosting the challenge? It is an honour to host Squares; everyone is just so lovely. You’d probably have to ask all of them though why they like it. If I had to guess I suspect there are three possible reasons 1) there is only one rule your photograph has to be square, 2) it takes place for a whole month x4 per year and you can post as frequently or infrequently as you like, and 3) I collate a gallery so everyone can visit everyone else at least once.

What are you most looking forward to in 2021? Having the vaccine and being able to get out and explore again, and in particular meet up in person with some of my blogging friends and non-blogging friends. It has been so long since I saw them in person.

Do you have anything else to share? Tips for readers, advice for blogging? Take time to understand how your blogging tool (WordPress, Blog, SquareSpace etc) works, it will pay off in the long run, and most importantly have fun with your blog. Not only is it your voice, and a great creative outlet, it is a fabulous place to make friends.

Thank you again for joining me, Becky. I’m sure that my readers, many of whom are mutual friends, will love getting to know you better.

Becky’s Contact Information

BeckyB as in ‘Becky in Portugal‘ and ‘The Life of B‘Twitter – @BBWinch and @beckyinportugal
Instagram – @lifeofbb and @beckyinportugal

Other Photo Challenge Interviews

Looking for #WQWWC?

We moved yesterday. Our internet is now up, but I just rolled out of bed after a night with howling cats because they got scared in a new place. It sounded like a trip to the vet. I moved boxes and papers and cleared a space on my computer table to slide my computer in front of Vince’s.

Submitted for Becky B’s Square Up Challenge MESSED UP

I know it is one of those lame excuses.

Yvette from Priorhouse Blog agreed to host #WQWWC this week, and here is a link to her post yesterday. Like a numbskull, I didn’t announce it until my last post for Sunday Stills/Lens Artists Cee’s, Becky B’s and Colleen’s latest challenges. Thank you so much Yvette for hosting this week!!! Please post your replies and pingbacks on her blog this week.

To get started I have all the topics listed on my #Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing Challenge page. This week’s topic is “Persistence” if you want to get a head start.

Autty Jade is my guest hostess next week. You will remember she hosted a few weeks ago about the topic, “New Beginnings.” Don’t forget to leave your comments and pingbacks on their blogs for today and next Wednesday.

Thank you for your love of quotes and writing. I’ll be visiting all the pingbacks, too. 🙂

#WQWWC Logo

See you back here on Always Write in two weeks. Thanks for joining us. 🙂

Puppy-Girl-Approved Reflection of 2020

Sunday Stills Challenge  

“Retrospective shows our year in words, photos, stories, and other creative endeavors. Share your good and bad, your best and worst, and what your hope is as 2021 begins.”

Terri Webster Schrandt

As strange as it was, it may have been one of the busiest year of our lives. I love what Terri said about the year in her challenge post talking about the game-changing done by COVID 19.

“…If this was a sci-fi movie, the plot would demonstrate the resilience of humanity as we navigate through these unprecedented times.” 

Terri Webster Schrandt

Lens-Artists Challenge #129 – Favorite Images of 2020

Tina Schell’s posts reminds me that I don’t need to be so wordy, I can just share my favorite pictures – even that would be 12 pictures, and I have way more than that to share. Donna had a great idea when she displayed her pictures and grouped several together by month.

Also Included Are:

This post is way too long. Take your time or skim, either way thank you for reading and being part of my Always Write Hobby Blogger Family this year. You are the some of the bright spots in my 2020 tapestry. It was a memorable year with the good and bad woven so tightly into the design that you couldn’t unravel it with the sharpest stitch remover.

January 2020

We brought 2020 in with a bang in Las Vegas with our blogging friends from Australia, Carol and Glen.

Las Vegas Fireworks welcoming in 2020

We only has a short time with them, but squeezed in a trip to Hoover Dam, sights on the strip on New Year’s Even, a trip to the pawn shop of the famous Pawn Stars, and downtown Las Vegas.

We drove home to California and had time for only about an hour in the Sequoia National Park.

Days after they left, I had my final surgery following nearly a year-long bout with breast cancer. Vince was scheduled for eye surgery for cataracts in February and Scardy, our 19-year old cat had successful surgery for nose cancer.

Marching along the timeline of life, you have no way of knowing the the line is going to break two months down the road. Looking back we are so grateful that we got all those medical issues out of the way when we did.

Vince finished building a walkway and bridge in the garden. Puppy Girl inspects all his work and gave her approval. This picture is in black and white for Cee’s Black and White Challenge Outside Your Home.

Bridge over no water at Bellavista, our home in Elderwood, CA

February – Supposed Alien

After his successful eye surgery, Vince and I took one last trip to Las Vegas in which we occupied our time hiking around the gorgeous Valley of Fire. This upstanding statue kept his feelings well hidden. Surely those tears did not come from a volcanic eruption!

March

On the night of our Woodlake Awards Banquet, before the pandemic officially started, we found out that two Kiwanians were quarantined with possible COVID-19. We were stunned, not just that they were sick, but that they were condemned to stay in their home for two weeks. Kiwanians stepped in to bring them food and groceries. Even so, I could not in my wildest dreams have foreseen what was coming. Within two weeks everyone holed up in their homes during the California Lock-Up.

Our son was supposed to visit us at the end of March and he called and canceled. I was shocked and a little perturbed at the time. It only seemed logical that if everyone stayed home for two weeks, the bug would get fed-up and die out.

I stayed home except to walk around Bravo Lake with my friend Sally until the pandemic blew over, which I assumed would be soon. Sally made us masks which I wore when I went out and eventually got used to breathing through it.

April – the Month of Hope

Hope evaporates
Like steam off a cup of tea
Yet life continued

Written for Tanka Tuesday Hope.

roses at Woodlake Rose Garden

May – Month of Mechanical Mess-ups

When our air conditioner died, it disrupted COVID-19 from first place upsets. Washing lettuce from our garden supplied most of our excitement and coolant during May.

cleaning lettuce for entertainment

I grew up in Indiana and then Oregon without an air conditioner. At a family reunion my seven-year-old self overheard an adult relative who shall remain nameless because I don’t have the slightest idea who said it, “Look at poor Marsha, she sweats just like her mother.”

I was upset at her insulting, though accurate diagnosis even though it was supposed to sound like sympathy.

Fast forward nearly 30 years when my first husband and I moved to California we lived in an adobe house with a swamp cooler in the hall ceiling outside the only bathroom. That was important because of my hair and the nature of swamp coolers, which blow hot wet air when the temperature rises over 90. My thin wisps whipped around my face into my eyes, stuck to my contacts and made me cry ruining my carefully applied makeup and my hairdo every time I left the bathroom.

I digressed to supply and explanation for how supremely important air conditioning is in my life. When the AC could not be replaced in a timely manner because of the COVID slow down, a couple of people suggested that we needed a swamp cooler. LOL

June – Month of Real Estate Transaction

Vince retired from real estate because of his bad hearing in January, but that did not stop the transactions. We sold a rental in March – a miracle we thought because of COVID-19. As it turned out COVID-19 had turned everyone into real estate tycoons including us. This was our second transaction – a replacement rental for my IRA account. It rented as soon as it was completed, and has been a blessing in our life.

New rental house in Visalia, CA

Food is always a priority on my list. Our air conditioner still wasn’t working as the weather heated up and the restaurants stayed closed because of COVID-19.

One of our best friends invited us over for dinner and air conditioning several times a week. One couple baked pizza on Wednesdays for pick-up and donated a large part of the proceeds to the Woodlake Food Pantry. June wasn’t euphoric, but it was a time of getting creative and grouping together to get through the crisis.

July – What Else Could Happen?

My blogging friend Terri Webster Schrandt actually came to our home in the short interim in which the air conditioner worked, and the flood hadn’t started. Even though a raccoon bit me in the middle of the night, I was raring to go on a photo journey the next day to Sequoia National Park.

Realtors, even retired ones, invest in real estate. Vince got a call from a builder friend of his asking if we would sell the vacant lot next to us. We had left the acre fallow for twenty years rather than one year every seven as the Old Testament required. At that rate it should be productive for another 140 years.

We sold the lot and the next Sunday Vince invited another realtor friend over to “look at” our house and update the estimate on how much it might be worth. She also listed the rental where Vince’s sister lived, and Cindy moved in with us.

In the meantime, I kept occupied blogging and taking in five of our neighbor’s 50+ feral cats in to the vet to be fixed. They came back missing part of an ear (and other parts, too). That’s how you can tell they are fixed. Another five we caught/trapped and carted off to new homes. That was not super successful.

Neighborhood Healthy Feral Cat Colony

August – More Mess-ups

Some of you have read these sad tales of our air conditioner flood before, so I won’t repeat them. All these catastrophes kept our minds off COVID-19.

Looking in through a window at our flooded room

By the end of August we had endured all the paper work of two more real estate transactions. Our upmost need was to find a place for Cindy and her stuff to live besides our tiny cabana. Vince still wanted to move to Prescott, AZ, so we embarked on our fifth transaction and bought a condo for Cindy – in Prescott. Good thing she wanted to move with us! Now we had to uproot!

September – Septic Upwelled – AGAIN!

You’ve read our cat stories of Snickerdoodle and Tex. They were untroubled by our turmoil. By September we were itching to move. Vince still wanted to get a few more things perfect before we listed the house, but our realtor Patty urged him not to wait to list the house. So we sold the house, our sixth transaction for the year, and then dealt with the septic problems.

Snickerdoodle above, Tex below, my sunglasses for perspective

October – Giddyup

On a more upbeat note, Patty and Jesse took the three of us to a Dave Stamey outdoor concert as a thank you for listing Cindy’s condo. We felt safe and joyful as we sat in family groups in the open air enjoying the famous cowboy poet. Here is a short video for your euphonic enjoyment.

Open Air Dave Stamey Fundraiser in Elderwood, CA

Another positive event of the month was the honor of hosting one of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contests.

November – Goodbye

“Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.”

Germany Kent
Last view of Bellavista, our house for nearly 20 years.

The garage sale was long over. The movers had loaded the last of our furniture and boxes. It was empty. I took pictures of every room, but no wall hugging pictures. I was alone and I don’t have long enough arms to do selfies.

Vince had gone the day before in a UHAUL with all of Cindy’s things.

Brave or stupid, Jesse agreed to drive Cindy to Prescott in her car and they left early in the morning as the movers arrived. I have never been more grateful to anyone in my life. But the dangers of COVID-19 still raged in our county as they flame now in Arizona. Like Patty and I, they traveled nine hours in a car together and I believe that God kept them both safe.

I said goodbye to our home of nearly twenty years and went three miles up the road where the animals and I spent the night at Sally and Mike’s Bed and Breakfast, Running P Ranch. Smart move!

December – New Beginnings

Bridge at Tanglewood Hills Cindy’s new home

My life if full of new beginnings now. Besides the fact that I am in a new place, one of the tools that has kept me sane and healthy over the last 9 months is blogging.

The series of interviews of so many blogging challenges on the web got me started with a purpose for my blog. By supporting challenges I can share my photos and my stories, meet friends, and have fun.

The series ran its course and then Story Chat sprang up with Hugh Roberts’ The People Under the Stairs. What fun that has been! In less than two weeks you will read “A Postcard from the Past” by Anne Goodwin.

Because of the interview with Colleen Chesebro, I started learning and using poetry in my writing. I’ve met so many interesting people through her blog. She invited me to restart one of her challenges, Writers Quotes Wednesdays Writer’s Challenge, #WQWWC.

Another interviewee, Yvette Prior honored me with an interview. Next week Yvette will host the #WQWWC topic “Persistence” on Priorblog. I can’t wait to hear what she has to say about it. Please join in on her blog next week. I will post a response to her challenge right along with you, and will visit your responses along with her.

Searching for shapes at Willow Lake in Prescott, AZ.

Thanks for taking the time to read this long post. Please visit some of the other participants when you visit Sunday Stills, Lens Artists, Cee’s Fun Fotos Challenge, and Becky B’s Square Up as well as Tanka Tuesday. And don’t forget to check out #WQWWC on Priorblog next Wednesday.

#WQWWC 5 New Beginnings

Thank you so much to Autty Jade who is hosting this week’s Writer’s Quote Wednesdays Writing Challenge. To join her is easy. Pick a quote then write a response.

“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”

Steve Jobs

Heaviness of Success

A cinquain by Marsha Ingrao

My success, my life 
did not feel heavy, Steve Jobs
Rooted, comfy, loved 
Appreciated 
even with my endless faults.
Success in Woodlake 
Bound when I drifted.
Success felt like fuzzy socks 
To leave - start over?
COVID-19 hit 
No projects sheltered in place 
House troubles assailed

“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”

Alan Cohen
Battleground question
Was leaving running away?
No? So let’s move on.

I hope you all are having a Happy New Year’s Eve. Here are a few more quotes that inspired this post and I hope will inspire you as well.

“Never underestimate the power you have to take your life in a new direction.”

Germany Kent

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“The secret to change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”

Socrates

Pictures from our New Beginning

“No, this is not the beginning of a new chapter in my life; this is the beginning of a new book! That first book is already closed, ended, and tossed into the seas; this new book is newly opened, has just begun! Look, it is the first page! And it is a beautiful one!”

C. JoyBell

Vince is so thrilled with this move that he quoted this author. I did not even know it was a quote until I sat down to write this post.

Living in Prescott is a new beginning every day. We are making friends in spite of COVID 19. The colors here in real life are the colors you see in the art work of Arizona. Never did I dream that a sky could be turquoise and coral, but here is proof – not Photoshop.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

C. S. Lewis

Vince is-74, Marsha-69, Cindy, Vince’s sister-68. Puppy Girl-11, Florabella-14, Snowbella-1, Moji -2 Nutter Butter-2

Proof that we are not too old to dream a new dream, C. S. Lewis.

“Never forget, Today, you have 100% of your life left.”

Tom Hopkins

Vince and I make our final move next week or the week after. Cindy is looking for volunteer work. The cats and Puppy Girl will stay put at Cindy’s until the move is complete.

“Don’t be afraid of new beginnings. Don’t shy away from new people, new energy, new surroundings. Embrace new chances at happiness.”

Unknown

Maybe a move is not the New Beginning on your horizon. But this year celebrate New Beginnings in the little ways.

  • start a new project at home or at work
  • finish an old project
  • make a new friend
  • call an old friend
  • start a blog (trust me, this leads to lots of new beginnings!)
  • get a new pet like Charli
  • volunteer
  • set worthy goals
  • decorate your soul (thanks Abigail)
  • write a book
  • drop old successes (thanks Steve Jobs)

For more of #WQWWC this week visit guest host, A Day in the Brine.

#CBWC: Fences from “Sea to Shining Sea”

This week Cee challenges photographers to take or make black and white pictures of fences. It just so happens, that thanks to Cee’s former challenges, I love photographing fences.

Out of 2,100+ photos that answered to the category of fences on my phone, I picked three that I thought would make good black and white photos.

The first one was obviously taken in Arizona, not so obviously in the Coconino National Forest on April 18, 2017. Cameras are slightly misleading, but oh so helpful in trying to find information. This picture was not taken in the heart of the Coconino National Forest, but you’re headed that way when you arrive at the Son Silver West Art Gallery.

The date tells me I was in Sedona with my husband. Sedona is one of those unique cities that lies in two counties, Coconino and Yavapai.

We love to shop when we travel – not necessarily to buy, but to see what’s there. Along Highway 179 on the way to the National Forest is an amazing tourist shop where you can buy any number of decorative items, mostly yard art.

The next photo from Son Silver West would also work well for Cee’s Fun Foto – Catching People Unaware or last week’s B & W Challenge Candid Shots. Maybe she was imitating the iconic Kokopelli dancer above. She needs a flute.

A symbol of fertility, joy, feast, and long life, he (Kokopelli) is also a minstrel, a spirit of music, a storyteller, a rainmaker, a healer, a teacher, a joker-magician, a seducer. Kokopelli possesses the wisdom of age.

Harpo/Harris

You might want to visit or just browse their website. Here is their contact information.

Son Silver West
1476 Hwy 179 Sedona, AZ 86336
(928) 282-3580
Fax: (928) 282-5497
Email: Sales@sonsilverwest.com

Son Silver West

If you have been to Universal City in Orlando, FL, then this fence should look familiar to you. Being the shallow person I am, I liked the curly cues.

The last fence is in Woodlake. Don’t ask me why I only took part of the fence. I think I was trying to keep my shadow out of the picture. Doesn’t this fence have lovely shadows?

So that I don’t bore you with the 2,100 more pictures I took over the years, I’ll stop processing fences and half-fences and wish you all the very best New Year.

What are your favorite challenges, hobby bloggers? As always, I’m thankful to Cee for her consistency in hosting challenges. I love them all.

If you know someone who hosts a photo or writing challenge and wants an interview about their challenge on my blog, Always Write, please contact me.

Our next Always Write Challenge, Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays Writing Challenge, #WQWWC, will be hosted by one of my first blogging friends when I started in 2012, Autumn Jade on her blog, A Day in the Brine, with a topic of New Beginnings.