“I am in the process of falling in love with life, again.” Interview with my lovely friend Dena about writing, grief and photography

Andrea, I am so grateful for your invitation to be interviewed for the readers of your blog, sweetsunflowers.com. Always, I love reading your posts and seeing what new and luscious images you are sharing — you have much skill in the field of photography. I adore your book, Sparkling Colors: Enjoy with All Your Senses!

Dena, could you tell us a bit about you?

I am in the process of falling in love with life, again. From time to time, I have lost my connection, due to various life circumstances (including losses, finances, being a parent’s primary caregiver).

I am gathering so many available creative resources into my daily existence, and, in my sixties, it seems I am reinventing myself.

Nearly four years ago, I received a “big idea” while I was quietly reading an article about the final play Lynn Redgrave wrote, Nightingale. I took action right away on the big idea, which became an eBook entitled Mother-Daughter Memories: Love Revealed. I sent out an invitation to many women, asking for their true stories, and I published it in late 2011. It was followed the next year by a companion book, Parent-Child Memories: Love Revealed. Then, the third group of memoirs were published in the book , Living Through Grief: Love Revealed, which won an award from the 2013 Readers’ Favorite Book Award Contest. (All 3 are on Amazon, in all the countries where Amazon now exists.)

I began a blog, www.LoveRevealedStories.com, and received assistance via a course taught by Courtney Carver on how best to do the many blog related tasks. I found a supportive community of bloggers through Courtney. Being with you and our other blogging colleagues, Andrea, is such a lifeline to me. It’s a wonderful forum for sharing our work there and for asking whatever questions crop up.

At my LoveRevealedStories blogging site, the underlying theme and thread of all the posts and the books is this: how to live with more love. Lots of times, personal stories are the thrust of the posts, and sometimes there are how-to’s. I like to weave my own human experiences into whatever I happen to be writing. My way of looking at the world can be a bit quirky, once in a while.

The topic of creativity shows up fairly often when I’m blogging. Also the subjects of compassion, meditation, grief and loss, and finding happiness. Creativity is key to reclaiming the juiciness of my being. I am the most alive when I make time to create. Presently, taking digital photos with my camera phone, writing posts, and dipping into several forms of artwork are high on the lists of my passions.

I can feel your positive attitude across continents. Every blog post you share is full of love and understanding. How do you find your way through life or what is your recipe to go on so positive?

Oh, Andrea, I am pausing a moment to take in the love you are reflecting to me in your words. I have to say laughter is a big ingredient. Laughter was nurtured in our home growing up, as well as the importance of love itself.

My father was, and is, even in his mid-nineties, a punster — I picked up from him a habit of playing with words and finding something funny in the process. The evening meal in our home was filled with sharing the happenings of our day with one another, and laughing about it. I have general sweet memories of our family of two parents and two daughters sitting around our table, with bursts of laughter.

Whenever my mother’s boss happened to call during mealtime, he’d hear the laughing in the background and apologize for calling during a party. “Oh, it’s just the four of us, eating supper,” my mother would say.

Lately you started to share your photos on Instagram. I love them because of the colorful energy you communicate and the special perspectives you choose to see life through a lens. How do you feel when you shoot photos? And is it difficult to be more visible through photos as they also will be seen by strangers?

Thank you, Andrea, for complimenting my photos. Almost two years ago, I began playing with my camera phone a little bit. It was an Android, and had close up capabilities that astonished me. It was Spring. Every chance I had, I was outside popping pictures of flowers. Being able to capture the beauty of the blossoms awakened something wonderful inside me. I felt a rush of happiness. Looking at the photos on my camera was a pleasure, also.

With my blog, LoveRevealedStories.com, I wanted to have at least two photos per post. Whenever I thought the subject matter fit, I included my own work. For a while, there were a lot of flower shots!

Then, I came across Tammy Strobel’s online photography course, found on her RowdyKittens.com site, and gave that to myself for my birthday in 2013. I had so much fun following her lessons and posting photos in the FaceBook group — which is where you and I first came across each other! Each day, I enjoyed visiting there to see what images everyone was posting and to comment on one another’s offerings. I was having so much fun that I wrote a post about it, mid-course, Happiness in Life: Photography.

Andrea, you introduced me to last year’s August Break, hosted by Susannah Conway. Receiving a daily prompt for subject matter to photograph was delightful. Thanks to your directions, I learned how to post on FLICKR, and was able to see all the creative pics folks were uploading there.

In September, four months ago, I decided to find out what on earth Instagram was. I fell in love with it — and the honeymoon phase is continuing! I certainly don’t post all of my photos there, only ones that especially move me or bring me a surge of happiness.

I’ve discovered that my favorite way to be with Instagram is in creative groups. Susannah offered another month of prompts last month, December Reflections. I was so excited to find what image I would share for prompts like Red or Favorite Day or Sparkle. Seeing how others interpreted that day’s theme was delicious — and I made new friends!

A couple weeks ago, I joined Crystal Moody’s project she began more than a year ago, Year of Creative Habits. I am doing my own version of that, which I recently wrote about in a blog post, Creativity Feeds My Heart.

I realize photographs express something about my essence and they are a form of communication. When I’m in these groups, #DecemberReflections, #ShowUsOnASunday, and #yearofcreativehabits, we are communicating with one another through images as much as by the little notes we sometimes write back and forth.

In answer to your question about how it is for me to have my photographs be visible to strangers is that arriving at this point happened gradually. If I’d gone from the pictures being totally private to being in a public space all at once, I might have felt uncomfortable. Then, again, clicking on “Publish” for my first few blog posts was challenging, and now it’s easy to do.

If anyone wants to visit me on Instagram, I am @dena.clayton.771.

What is your intention for the new year? Are you going with one word or what is your way to follow your dream?

I’m very excited, Andrea, about the projects already on my list for the coming months AND for the powerful word I have invoked to help support my work. I wrote about all of this recently in the post, My Guiding Word This Year. Here is the way I interpret Radiance, I’m quoting directly from my post. “The brilliant light of Love burns brightly through everything. I intend that my moment by moment actions and interactions be radiant, loving. I pray to keep remembering that my heart is plugged into Radiance always, and to keep coming back to acting from goodness when I stray off course.”

The three projects of focus in the first half of the year are these:

  • To an existing group memoir eBook I mentioned earlier, Living Through Grief: Love Revealed, I will add nature photos between each two chapters, to allow readers to rest a moment. Then, I will add another dimension to the book by having it become a P.O.D./print on demand book. Folks have been asking me to make it available as a book to hold in the hands, a 3-dimensional book that can be handed to someone who is experiencing grief.
  • There is going to be what I’m loosely calling now a Miracles project. It will have a presence on Instagram, FaceBook, Twitter, and Pinterest. It is an invitation to all of us to keep our eyes open for even the tiny miracle moments. If we expect miracles, I imagine we are more apt to recognize them and to be grateful for them when they show up.
  • I am in the earliest phase right now of getting estimates for certain updates to the kitchen and bathrooms of my father’s house. It was built more than twenty-five years ago. I will coordinate the various people who will do the work.

Thank you for this fun visit, Andrea. I love collaborating, and I feel interviewing one another is a lovely form of collaborating.

Dena, THANK YOU for sharing your inspiring thoughts with us. Stay well & all the best for you.

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