The 2020 Gratitude Project

During past 365 projects, somewhere in the middle of the year, I found myself losing the purpose, getting overwhelmed by the scale of it and worrying about daily images “not being good enough.”   I’m hoping this year will be different as I work to change the the way I think about documenting my life.  Some amazing sermon series, several life experiences and a few books and people placed in my path at just the right time are starting to shift my photography brain.  As I complete this 365 (well, 366), I’m working to focus on the following:

 – There is no room for self doubt or insecurity.  This project isn’t about proving a talent or perfecting a skill.  This project focuses on noticing, on being aware of the blessings placed in front of me and capturing them, and on being grateful for the gift of seeing.  Comparing or measuring my technique places the focus on me, and the goal is to focus on the blessings.
Grant me daily the grace of gratitude, to be thankful for all my many gifts, and so be freed from artificial needs, that I might lead a joyful, simple life. -Henri Nouwen

– I will trust in the process, not chasing opportunities or panicking that the day will not produce an image.  This is simply a documentation of my life and the things for which I am grateful.  This project isn’t about searching for the best light or hunting down the most engaging lines or building more connected interactions – this project is about noticing those things and then gratefully documenting them.  I do hope that the project fine tunes my eye and polishes my story presentation, but that’s not the ultimate goal. 
If we really want to be full and generous in spirit, we have no choice but to trust at some level. – Rita Dove

These daily scenes and my gift of photography come from God.  I don’t have anyone to impress or compete with during this journey.  It’s an exercise in appreciation for this world and for the gift with which I was blessed.  Competition results in one of two outcomes – I am better than someone else or someone else is better than me, and neither of those conclusions are healthy or accurate.
Gratitude is not a passive response to something given to us, gratitude is being awake in the presence of everything that lives within and without us. -David Whyte

–  This project will hopefully lead to learning new techniques and seeing in a new way, but I will be open to whatever is placed in my path.  I will not be completely passive in this journey.  I have ideas of techniques I want to learn and activities I hope to capture, but I will be flexible in my expectations.  If my life has taught me anything, it’s that the alternate ending can be way more beautiful than Plan A.
Never be so focused on what you’re looking for that you overlook the thing you actually find. – Ann Patchett

So it begins – the 2020 Gratitude Project.  If you are creating your own gratitude project, please share a link so I can follow.   As much as I hope to stay true to my goals, I know how days can get busy or negative, and sharing in others’ gratitude fills my own gratitude tank!  
At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us. – Albert Schweitzer 

Should I slip back into emotions that keep me from shooting, I am leaving this here as my reminder that there is only one way for me to successfully complete this project – focusing on gratitude.





Our Year of Stories 9/52

This child!  He is just full of happy and love, and it spills right out onto you if you’re not careful!

march 1a

The one who was so afraid of heights, he shook uncontrollably at the top of the monkey bars 2 years ago.  This is that same kid, but he has no fear now.  He’s climbing and hanging on everything lately and, should I give him a worried look or mention he should be careful, he reminds me that I don’t always need to be such a Safety Pup.

march 2

Oh, that light in the morning!  She’s not much of a morning person, but this light certainly helps her face
the thought of getting out of that warm bed.

march 3

She much prefers to spin than the swing.

march 1

She’s just starting to sound out short words and she loves scanning books and trying to figure out what is happening.  Everything she finds with writing is studied and it makes me wonder what she is inventing as she “reads.”

march 5

Her birthday is just less than a month after Brother’s.  Last year, she was a bit sad all day, feeling frustrated that she had to wait for her own celebration day.  This year, she was giddy from the moment she woke up until the party was over in the afternoon.  She hugged on him and kept talking about how it was his day and just celebrated him with so much joy.

march 6

She sleeps in princess dresses and fairy wings, so I suppose I can see how getting dressed in the school uniform
every morning isn’t something she loves.

march 7

Our Year of Stories 8/52

I feel like I say it every week, but I can’t believe we are still outside daily (in shorts some days!) at the end of February.
As always, we are soaking up the sun at the parks and, when we are inside, we’re spending much of our time creating art.

I may have to create a paper budget for my kids.
With the art projects and now the origami and paper airplane obsessions, we are going through the supply quickly.

I think they are both quite comfortable.


This is her.  So very sweet, but just enough tough to get her way.


The typical afternoon scene in this room, bird watching and drawing.


This kid’s happy just spills out and infects everyone around him.


She will hang anywhere (and swing and climb and balance, and basically give me panic attacks on a daily basis).


Note M’s bangs sticking straight up in the silhouette, courtesy of her princess headband worn the entire day and night.


February 28, 2017 - 11:48 am

Our year of stories – 8/52 – Our Year of Stories - […] Mel Karlberg Recently, H said, “There’s just so many ideas inside of me that I feel like I can’t get them all out before I lose them.”  I know this about both of my kids, but it was interesting to hear it come out of his mouth, so perfectly articulating exactly how I feel as well.  Since we eat at our round breakfast table 99% of the time, they have started calling our dining room table the Art Table.  There is so much to be done during the week, but we try to gather in here as often as possible to help “get those ideas out.”  To see more images from our week, head to the blog. […]

Our Year of Stories 7/52

This one is all gymnast, all the time.  If she can climb over it, flip to it, straddle to traverse it, or jump it, she will choose that over simply walking from point A to point B.

A mini tramp was the perfect present idea for this one!


See, even at basketball practice, she’s a gymnast.


I loved how her rainbow hoodie was mimicked with a rainbow in the heart shaped puddle as the wind gently lifted her hair.


Brother’s Cub Scout events are often at the VA, where there is this giant fish tank in the lobby.  She always stops to identify specific fish and I was actually trying to photograph some of the fish along with her reflection.
I ended up loving this one because of the silhouette of the man in the cowboy hat creating his own reflections as he looked out the front window.


I pretty much never get in the frame.  I am taking a workshop right now that encouraged it, so I went for it.
I’m a lazy self portrait person — I don’t even pull out my tripod.  I find tables and stacks of books and just make it work.


We were touring the museum buildings in our quad and discussing how creepy they are.  This one cracked me up as he looked at me from the outside.
That Star Wars shirt just tops off the absurdity of it all.


It is my mission to photograph this historic house as much as I can before we get orders to move somewhere else.
I have almost exhausted the porch, and I will now start moving into the less photogenic dark corners and details.
But the porch will always be my favorite.


February 21, 2017 - 10:09 am

Our Year of Stories – 7/52 – Our Year of Stories - […] Mel Karlberg You can see more of our week on the blog. […]