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Saturday, November 29, 2014

Building a Following, SALES?!, Real Men, and Holiday Scenes!

What was once post views of maybe 20 to 50 (on a good day), my blog is picking up some readership in 2014 with several entries hitting over 100 reads/views. 

My top 5 posts so far in 2014 are these entries:

Kill the Apps & Do NOT Force It!

A Tactical Error: LaBarque Creek Missouri

What is in my heart... "Yellow" (RIP Mr. Williams, and all the others who have been lost lately...)

Learning How to See

I like being 40

In an effort to perhaps make a little more "green" on the artwork... I am attempting a cafepress site/store: and also trying to take part in Small Biz Saturday at my friend's shop in town. 
Lately, I have been thinking about men. What makes a man "real" in my eyes? Sometimes it seems my blog posts where I open my heart are the ones you guys seem to like most... so maybe this will appeal to you, offend you, or neither... but here goes...
My stepdad. He's a real man. 
He provides, cares for, and loves us. 
He's a wonderful grandpa to my daughter. 
He turns the lights on when he knows it's dark and I am on my way. 
He doesn't want me (or anyone) to trip in the dark. 
If something needs fixed, he finds a way to help. 
If you need a hug, he's quick to do so. 
That's a real man.

My friend Kris' husband Matt. 
The longer they are married, and especially now they are parents, I see what a great man he is. 
He will take off work in the middle of the day to help Kris out if someone calls in sick to work at her home daycare. 
He gladly holds Ryan and tells Kris and I to "go have fun" when I am there to visit. 
The love he has for his wife and their son is so evident. 
He's indeed a real man in my eyes.

Those are just two examples. Yet, I know many more. 
~ Curt who loves his wife and being called "Grampi" by his grandbaby Emily just melts my heart. I've never seen a guy so in love with his family, or have I? ;-)

~ My friend at work... her husband openly encouraged her to take back the name of her children when their father (her ex-husband) passed away too soon. Incredibly kind and unselfish. I know many a man who would expect his wife to have "his" name, often pouting as they say so. (Yes, I have personally witnessed a few men pitch a fit when they have a woman express they want their own name.) 

~ Another friend at work... he will bend over backwards to make sure his wife and 3 daughters are happy... sometimes to the point I worry he's not taking care of himself enough, but yet he does it. 

~ I know a man (from my 'day job') who fell in love with his wife when he couldn't even drive a car yet. Decades, many years of marriage, and 2 kids later, he's still just as crazy about that woman. 
I could go on and on. 

What makes a man real? He provides, loves, cares... Similar to what I believe makes a woman real. 

Love. It looks good on so many people. 

Selfishness, lies, cheating and "mooching" never look good on any man (or woman), yet I know too many who fit that mold, too. (WAY too many!) And, they make no effort to break free of that mold and be clothed in love. 

The thing is, I know MANY real men are out there... maybe one day one will be more than my friend or relative and actually want to date me, eh? lol (Not holding my breath.)

Miss K (my daughter) and I got our downstairs ready for the Holidays. Enjoy some scenes from our home... May your December be brilliant and beautiful! 

And... remember the reason for the season, my friends! 

I think Zoey enjoyed "homework" while we decorated!
My daughter's backpack and book report aka
"quilt" must have really set the stage for a nap!
~ Love, Michelle of MK Designs Photography 
Christmas Season 2014 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Kill the Apps & Do NOT Force It!


A little over a week ago, I had nearly three full pages of apps (some housed within folders) on my iPhone. I am now down to a page and 1/2 of apps... and many of those folders are cut nearly in half of their contents. 

As I have pulled more and more apps off my iPhone, I have found it has made me more focused on:
1. using it to create task lists for work (and get those tasks done!)
2. as well as focus more on what really matters within the confines of that little device: communication with ones I care for
3. research for work and a state office I hold for scholastic journalism
4. inspiration for my own photography and actually getting more done with my own photography instead of just "thinking about it" 

It's also helped me take a step back and realize this is more important than ever... 


Over the years I have heard over and over how much "work" a relationship is. And, that's for any relationship: family, lover, spouse, friend, etc. 

However, I just don't buy it anymore. Yes, relationships require work in that you may have to drop everything (not because you're forced to but because you want to) in order to try to comfort a friend. However, it shouldn't be this sense of "obligation" or a "chore." 
1992 Senior Prom. My friend Emily Rose. Met the first day of Freshman Year of HS. Have we always been in constant touch? No. We have had our years and months on hiatus, but that's ok. I would like to hope she knows by now I am here. Always. And, I know by now she has my back as well. We don't have to always be in each other's business to know we are friends. This beautiful person, my friend Emily, has one of the biggest hearts and I just love her laugh. Nothing "forced" - we just let it happen. And, sometimes it doesn't happen... and that's ok. :-)
One thing I have figured out in the past few months is this: if anyone (family, loves, friends, etc.) thinks being around me is a "chore" - then don't bother. Yeah, I guess I am finally "saying it" - you don't have to like me. I am not everyone's cup of tea (or shot of whiskey) and that is ok. 
Me. Today. 2014. Rained on & a little tired, but content! 
For too long I made the mistake of staying in relationships (of all kinds) that weren't working...trying to force things into place. (maybe you have been guilty of that, too?) I have finally learned, that just like eating too much fast food, that kind of life is not healthy for any party involved. 

It's perfectly ok to take a break, and pick back up (or not!) in a few months or years if a relationship is a "chore" or "forced" to the point of discomfort. Forcing the issue or trying to chase down a "relationship" only makes matters tense to the point of ugliness. I have seen enough of that in my lifetime. I'm ready for some beauty. 

This weekend was beauty. 

If you do what you love, the right people come into your life.

If you love yourself, others often love you more. 

This was my first full "free" weekend since Labor Day... and every day there was a special person involved that contacted me for my time.
"I do not want to take long walks in the rain." Well, looks like I did! (photo thanks to Slava!)
Leslie invited me to dinner Friday with her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend. All her plan. Miller's Grill. Yum! :-)

Kris - for months has plotted out this weekend getaway. She came up to visit Saturday to Sunday morning. She said she didn't care what we did, just that she wanted to be with me. ((honored)) We did so much around downtown Washington and beyond...AND we were able to fit in a quick visit with my parents too! #Blessed 

Sunday afternoon, my friend Slava ( and I finally redeemed the tickets she bought us this summer for the new Photography Museum in St. Louis... and found a stellar place to eat! She invited me to do this in the summer! 
International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum
The Fountain on Locust! WOW!
Every person I saw and spent time with this weekend initiated that contact. Wanted my time. Sought my friendship and company. THAT feels so good. 

If you find yourself in a situation where you are the one ALWAYS making the contact, ALWAYS forcing the time together to happen... STOP. Re-eval the situation. Is spending that much energy on people who aren't interested really worth it? In some cases, yes - in most... I dare say... no. Free up your time for the people who actually do want you in their lives and share commonalities with you. Open yourself up to new experiences and people. It's ok. 
Reluctant selfies (KRIS!), Bob Dotson loves me & my kids/students on twitter, raindrops on a Sunday morning, my mantra for my spare time, a new project I will encounter soon thanks to the Painted Home, and cozy quilts (thank you, mom). 
Remember... we are only here for so long. Nothing is promised here as far as how long we get to be on Planet Earth. Enjoy it. Don't waste precious energy on negativity 24/7 and embrace the beauty around you. 
Again, "I do not want long walks in the rain." Well, ended up I did want them because we had a blast. 
Much love and well wishes...
Until next time, 
M of MK Designs
November 2014 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The life I am living, the blogs I am loving, & the thoughts I am having...

The life I am living...
I think today's sermon by one of our church leaders (since my Pastor is indeed a deer hunter!) was spot on... it's about passion. It's about having a life that you stood up for something. It's about people not talking about how you died, but how you lived. It's about those quiet moments you stand up and live life... not just muddle through and let it pass by. One of the best sermons I have heard. Ken Click rocked it!
Ken chose this for his sermon today!
Blogs I am loving...
Since this is a little blog I keep...that technically makes me a blogger!  So what blogs do I enjoy (besides my own)? Glad you asked! 
1. The Blonde Coyote.
2. Olive & Ash.
3. Camping Missouri.
4. Re-Discover Washington
5. Happy Lark. (formerly This is Elizabeth)
As you can see, art & nature & creativity & Missouri are my reoccurring themes... not just in my photography and in my life, but in blogs I enjoy! 

Thoughts I am having...1. After the past week especially,  this is on my mind... "I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us." (Romans‬ ‭8‬:‭18‬ CEB)
The sunset this past Friday on the way towards Mary's Home, Missouri for my friend's sister's visitation. A very sad weekend indeed. Celebrations of life... funerals... wakes... whatever you call them, they are hard. 
2. Chicken & dumplings! Snow & chilly temps in the teens just makes me crave them. How do you make yours? I am used to my mom's & grandma's big fluffy dumplings...but in south central Missouri it's a different story! This past Saturday I again found myself with their version...which is more like a thick noodle for a dumpling. How can this be?!
THIS is how Chicken and Dumplings should look folks! lol 
3. Our Capitol...Washington DC. I think I am now up to 5 times I have been there, but still need to go again! Action items on my to-do list:- cherry blossoms- go inside the Capitol- the spy museum- the National Geographic Society.
A couple taking a selfie at one of my favorite places... The WWII Memorial.
The Newseum is a MUST SEE! I love going here...
4. I've been unloading, deactivating, & deleting a lot of games & social media apps these past 3 weeks. Huge weight lifted! 
Color in DC last weekend... looking forward to more time clicking than skimming and playing on the old iPhone! 
As always thanks for stopping by. I gotta get motivated to order & frame a few items for an upcoming art show I am hopeful to gain acceptance into. I'll keep you guys posted about that here and/or on my Facebook page. 
An image I need to print and frame for consideration into an Art Show soon!
Have a blessed week. - The M of MK Designs... Michelle Nov 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tents, Teaching, Learning, and Failing... :-)


I have failed so many times in my life. It has only led me to eventually get sorta good at things.

Take for instance, the tent. 
Lord knows that setting up and taking down a tent is a lot like trying to fold back a road map after use! Not easy, but I have gotten pretty good at it. 

Even when I don't camp nearly enough like I should, it comes back to me... not from all the times it went up with ease, but from all the times I struggled to figure it out. 
My old car... and campfire to light my way as I set up a tent in Shawnee National Forest two summers ago!
Failure, even in proper tent set up and take down, taught me what NOT to do. 

Knowing what NOT to do is often the key to any sort of success, be it in camping or in life. 
Rental Car, my own tent I checked in my luggage, etc. at Yosemite two years ago... and the whole time a mom/daughter from another country was watching me. The daughter came to tell me her mother thought I was a very "strong woman" for putting up a campsite by myself so well and so quick... She was standing by her daughter the whole time nodding her head and smiling. That made me glow! Selfie after the nice talk with them!
I think one of the worst teachers I have ever known is an earlier version of me.  

I know one of the worst navigators in the world would be that gal I see in the mirror every day, but a much younger and hotter version. ;)

Truth is, we have to fail. It's ok.

Do you know how many horrible photos I have taken!? Way more than my "keepers" -- and that is perfectly acceptable. 
Do you have ANY idea how many photos I took to get this "right" with the sparkle in the water, the wind blowing her hair, etc? I think at least 30. Sometimes I feel like if I get one or two shots I kinda like out of every 1,500 photos I take... that's a good week. Not kidding. I fail at photography... A LOT. 
So, this is where my little thought process will go another direction here... why are parents so afraid of letting their kids fail? Why are teachers and other adults trying to make it an "everyone wins" society? 
I always think of the baby chick. If it doesn't struggle to get out of the egg, it doesn't get strong enough to survive.

It is so easy for us to want kids to not struggle with that tent, with each step on a challenging hike, or...with reading, writing, math, art, relationships, (insert anything here). 
However, we have to remember that's how we learn. 

Sometimes we have to fall flat on our face or even our ass and pick ourselves back up, dust off, and calmly follow the directions (even if we only have the version in a language we can't read). 
Bloody toes, out of shape, cramping legs... but... I picked myself up and kept going each step of the over 5 miles I did going DOWN a very steep route of switch backs in Yosemite two years ago. (Down isn't as easy as you think, wowsers!) 
And, THAT is something we should all embrace more of... failure. 

Learn from it. 

Grow strong in it. 

Help it guide you to success in ANYthing you pursue! 

Much love & appreciation for you taking the time to read this. Hope it was a blessing to you! :-)
~ Michelle of MK Designs, Nov 2014

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Our Missouri R O A D T R I P October 2014!

A little fun at Johnson's Shut-Ins. Oct 2014. 
Oct 17th. 
- Work the last home football game right after a full day of teaching.
- Come home. 
- Crash. (Ears buzzing from the night at the stadium.)

Wait, it will get better.

Oct 18th. 
- Crawl out of my hibernation and hit the road with my daughter for an adventure! 
- Lunch at Subway in St. Clair.
- A few geocaches along the way.
- Johnson's Shut Ins State Park
- No "hikes" since daughter has a runny nose, but lots of beauty all around us. 
- Dinner of cheeseburgers, sides, soda, and ice cream in Lesterville, Mo for crazy cheap! (Reminding me how far my retirement check could go in such an area one day.)
- Check in at Wilderness Lodge Resort.
- Fun at our cabin, in the game room (my daughter is a POOL SHARK!), and s'mores by the fire. 

The trees were just blazing with color at Johnson Shut-Ins!  
Flowers still in bloom. 
A sign long forgotten...
Lost track of how many images I took to get this one I am pretty happy with. This is the closest I have gotten down to the water... there weren't a MILLION people there jumping off rocks and being crazy, so it was easier to get around.
Oct 19th. 
- OVERSLEEP. Almost miss breakfast at the Lodge, but they are so awesome they weren't bothered. Said they were glad we could rest and even let us check out an hour later since it is off-season. I can't stress how awesome Wilderness Lodge Resort is. This was our second time there. 
- Try to go see the new Taum Sauk power plant, upper lake... only to see what was once a gravel road is now paved and guarded. No tours. Nothing. Just a nice lady explaining one day they hope to reopen again for the public. 
- Hmmm?
- My daughter requests a "new way home" since she'd done Hwys 47/21 so many times. 
- Head up through the Mark Twain National Forest
- Blink and miss Black, Missouri.
- Happy to find Bixby, Missouri (and a wonderful lunch at their store, along with a geocache!) after a nice little backroad adventure off the black top though the Mark Twain NF. 
- Stumble upon a brown sign for Dillard Mill and fall instantly in love!
- Make our way through Steelville, Cuba, up I-44 back home for a late dinner and a solid night of sleep before heading back to the real world on Monday Morning. 

Donna Cregger says this is my "money shot" - I say this was a fun moment off the pavement in the Mark Twain National Forest south of Bixby, Mo. Lovely spring-fed creeks, colorful trees, etc. just made the day wonderful!
So, I have this thing about old things. I pulled over and took so many photos of this... and not one person drove past. Solitude. Love solitude!
Dillard Mill. Must go back. Need to go and take the full tour and do some trails when my daughter is feeling up to it and we have a full day! Another Missouri gem I am finally happy to say I have visited. Only took me about 40 years. 
FALL! Dillard Mill. 
This very well could be my fave photo from the whole weekend. She's a my true Missouri gem! We loved our time at Dillard Mill and hope to return. Karlene was so happy she requested a different route home, and so am I.
OK, so little to no hiking involved.  
No real camping... we were more of a "Glamping" pair on this road trip weekend. 

BUT... I just can't say it enough... GO OUTSIDE! 
- Missouri (our home) is such a lovely state. Fill up with gas and see where you end up. 
- Brown signs are often good things to turn off at. 
- Get the itch and go off the pavement. 
- See our State Parks. 
- Check out our National Forest(s). 
- Snuggle up in a homemade quilt in a cabin. 
- Make some S'mores. 
- Count the stars. 
- Try a local mom & pop store for lunch, don't eat Subway or chain restaurant food for EVERY MEAL. 
- Get your kids out in fresh air. 
- To be perfectly honest, I've yet to see any negative side effects to exploring our state. 
- I think it helps us appreciate our Missouri home more, and each other. I love time like this with my daughter. I pray she never "outgrows" it. 

Until next time, 
Michelle of MK Designs