Nate’s Notes: When I Grow Up I Want to Be…

Seriously?  You already expect me to have an answer to that?  You do realize I’m not even 2 right?  And as far as I can see, people who are 10 times my age still haven’t grown up…so, yea.  Don’t expect an answer from me today on that.   Pfff.   Societal pressures are just too much sometimes.   Can’t a kid just be a kid anymore? 

Okay, so I don’t have an answer for what I want to be when I grow up, but I’ve decided that taking pictures isn’t such a horrible option.  Yep, I admit it.  Watching Momma and Daddy capture moments of time and preserve things as they are isn’t so bad.   Course I’m not supposed to look at it that way at my age.  Besides, the best part is the camera. 

Future Photographer?

Future Photographer?

Seeing a Whole New World

Seeing a Whole New World

I’m not talking about the sorry excuses that Momma and Daddy have tried to pass off as a camera.  Those silly plastic ones.  Mere toys.  On our road trip, I got to use real cameras.  Oh my.   It’s cool because you can look at mountain.  Then you can look through the camera and see something different.  You can focus on just the grass in the corner.  You can focus on the clouds above the mountain.  You can focus on the rocks on the mountain.  I understand now what Momma means when she says she gets to see a different world through her camera.   And when it’s all done, when you’re looking at your picture, you feel happy.  You feel like someone just gave you a juice drink, a new toy car AND offered to read you a book.   You feel content, like when Momma or Daddy hold you in a big hug.  You feel excited like when you haven’t seen your monkey stuffed animal in a while and then find it under your bed.  

So, yea.  I think I will be taking many many eleventeen pictures when I grow up. It’s a super cool thing.  Now, where’s that camera…

TMG Philosophy: Kindness

Sometimes it feels like kindness, especially that between strangers, is becoming rare, harder to find.  Sadly, it seem random kindness is the unexpected, the surprise in your day.   Yet, how many of us need that boost, that pleasant shock to lift our spirits?   Once in a while, that moment of kindness comes and encourages us or changes our perspective …or, if we are fortunate, both.

It was on a recent field adventure with my family that I experienced both.   We headed up the Northern California coast to Fort Ross on a beautiful, blue-sky, summer day.   I didn’t see the beauty though.  I was too busy focusing on the list of negatives I had chosen to worry about that day.  With a pounding headache, an upsetting conversation from the day before still processing in my head, an overwhelming list of things to accomplish in the next few days, and a doctor appointment I was anxious about I was anything but focused on the beauty outside.   Every turn on the twisty highway annoyed me, threatening to make me sick.   Every noise from the babies in the back seat sounded more like whining and grated in my ears.   Every tense minute that went by found me more and more uptight.  

It was a day where people’s smiles seemed like smirks and their “hellos” seemed to have attitude.   Or maybe that was just when I looked in the mirror…It was a day where the gorgeous sun was too bright and bothersome.   I knew that being around me on this day was anything but pleasant, but apologies weren’t coming all too soon.  I was digging my grumpy heels in.   We were about 45 minutes into the hike and the walk inside Fort Ross when we came to one of the last buildings.   I was relieved that we would finally be out of this place and on our way home.  

As we entered the building that obviously was a workshop, gunsmith and artillery supply, I started taking photos as quickly as possible to move along.   The baby I was wearing was getting heavy and my patience was almost gone.   The stupid bars around everything made it hard to get a decent photo.  Stupid bars.  One of the volunteers, Harold, tried to engage me by asking about the pictures I was taking.  He only made me grit my teeth more.  I’m ashamed to say I was probably quite rude to Harold.   That didn’t phase him though! He continued to share about the Fort, the history and the artillery.  Any other day I would have been intrigued, would have engaged, for there was no doubt his passion and knowledge was infectious.  I just happened to be immune today.  Or stubborn. 

I was getting ready for one last attempt, digging deep in my arsenal to brush off Harold when he pulled out his own weapon: kindness.   He looked around and then told us to come closer.  After suspiciously agreeing, I realized he was allowing us to come on the other side of the stupid bars, behind the sign that said, “NO ENTRY”.   He was bending the rules so I could take better pictures.  An act of kindness I surely didn’t deserve.   In that moment, I felt my harsh walls shatter under his kindness. 

Behind the Bars

Behind the Bars

A Shot of Kindness

A Shot of Kindness

The rest of the afternoon, I noticed that bluer than blue sky and how it complimented the warm grasses dancing in the wind.  I noticed the amazing craftsmanship in each building, could almost hear the soldiers and traders that walked at the Fort in times past.   I smelled the salt air, the eucalyptus trees and hugged my babies.  I appreciated my husband for taking time for this field photo adventure and for putting up with me the first half of the day.   Most of all, I thought of Harold and smiled.  He had encouraged me, had reached me like nothing had been able to that day.   And he had done it with such a simple, easy gesture of kindness.  

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RSWL: Crowdfunding

Crowd what…?  According to crowdfunding can be defined as: “Crowdfunding (alternately crowd financingequity crowdfundingcrowd-sourced fundraising) is the collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the internet, to support efforts initiated by other people or organizations.”

So, why am I talking about this for this week’s entry to Random Stuff We Like…?  Well, it just so happens that we are working on a crowdfunding campaign where our goal is to raise money for additional help on the sites, and more importantly – raise money to use for marketing our sites.  There are several companies out there that will help you put your crowdfunding program together (for a fee of course) and we have chosen to go with a company called  We have been working with them for about a month now, and within the next month – we will launch our campaign.

Here is how it works. sets up an online profile for us that anyone who has access to the internet can look at and contribute to.  We set a goal for how much money we want to raise and explain who we are, why we deserve the money, and what we intend to do with the money.  In exchange for money from people, we offer rewards.  For instance, if you give us $25.00 we will give you a permanent listing on our site as a contributing member, a decal (for your car, Vespa, bike, go-cart or skateboard, motor home, etc.) a water bottle, and 5 credits to be used on the site to “purchase” images you like.  Just the credits alone are a $75.00 value!

The list for rewards, of course,  goes up the more you contribute.

If you have been following us for the last year or so, you will know that we have been hard at work building a unique, creative tool that we believe will have real impact on how artists are able to create and imagine.  We have received positive feedback from friends and family as well as professionals in many of the industries we intend to target with our marketing.  In short – we have built it – now they will come (with marketing, financial support, moral support and a lot more hard work of course…)

We are very excited about this campaign and will be telling you more about it in the next few weeks.  Please keep an eye out for our e-mails announcing the start of the campaign and we greatly appreciate any help you can provide!

Stay tuned…

Nates Notes: All Good Things Come to An End

Well, we FINALLY made it home. I think I’m mostly happy about it.  Momma went over the numbers when we got home, and kept saying,All good things come to an end, Nate.”   Okay.  I guess that is what I feel like when my favorite train show is over.  But why would she say that about the trip? 

So here are the numbers.  We drove 5,125 miles from home, across that crazy map to Minnesota and back home.   86 hours of driving- might as well have been a trillion-million-eleventy-four as far as I am concerned.  16: the number of times Momma yelled, “Stop!  I want to take that picture!!!”.   3 toy cars lost to the open road.  5 stops due to planned pooping (score for Nate) thus allowing me to run in slow motion while yelling, freeeeeeee!.   5,962 pictures taken by Momma and Daddy.  221 of the pictures were just of me and baby Lyla.   6 pictures taken BY me.  Those are the BEST ones.   In my opinion, there aren’t enough pictures with the blurry effect on the websites.   Nobody asks me though.  

Moving on… 12 car naps, 11 tunnels, 10 states, 9 books read, 8 hotels, 7 tantrums (guess who), 6 McDonalds stops (the horror), 5 early morning starts before 7am, 4 light and drum shows, 3 National Monument stops, 2 amazing nights in a pool…  and 1 prison (besides the ever-present car seat).  



The number of times we laughed- so many I can’t count that high yet.   Yep, I guess all good things do come to an end. 

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RSWL: West End Salvage

Some of the things I enjoy most about being in “the field” taking pictures for our websites, are the stories behind each picture, or the stories we come away with from each field adventure.   The stories behind a scene or object give life and depth to our work.  

For the same reason, I also enjoy spending time with my husband, Chad, finding items in barns, at yard sales, and even at the dump recycle center!   Some people call it picking…some call it finding.   We don’t care what you call it, we just like looking for unique items and uncovering their stories.   For example, we just brought back from our recent road trip to Minnesota, some lightning rods (unusual in California), old farm equipment, taxi cab lights, and slides of animal brains and blood samples from the Mayo Clinic.  Okay, that list may end on a weird note, but they are conversation, statement pieces.   We may keep some, or we may sell it all.  If we sell it, we will include the story for the future owners and hope they appreciate it as much as we do.  Again, the stories add depth and life to the items. 

West End parking- We Made It!!!

West End parking- We Made It!!!

West End Warehouse

West End Warehouse

Yes, I’m getting to my point- West End Salvage.   West End Salvage in Des Moines, Iowa marries the adventure of photos, textures and stories.  This past winter we discovered this gem while watching HGTV, when it aired this series which follows the store, its owners and designers.   We were so impressed that we made sure to stop at West End Salvage on our way to Minnesota… and it was worth every minute.  We became completely enchanted as we wound our way through each of the four floors of this 50,000-square-foot warehouse.   Pleasant surprises and unique treasures live on each floor.  As we checked out, ordered amazing coffee from their café and chatted with owner, Don Short, we left inspired by the items, the designs and the stories. 

If you haven’t heard of West End Salvage, discover it at HGTV’s website for episodes by visiting HGTV-West End Salvage Otherwise, you can browse and explore the floors of fantastic finds at their home website West End Salvage.  


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Nate’s Notes: Heading Home

Okay, okay.   So I have already confessed that I was wrong about how horrible this road trip would be.   I didn’t realize how many super super cool places we were going to see.  I mean, they could have told me about the place in Utah where someone spilled all that salt.  It sure does sparkle!   Or the big big hay balls that are as tall as three of me.  Or the old train engines at Pioneer Village you can climb all over.   Nobody told me I would see a whole building with corn all over the walls.  Yea- the walls are made of corn cobs!!   It kind of makes my head hurt a little bit to think that nobody ate all that corn.  I love corn.   Clearly there is a shortage of proper building materials in that part of South Dakota.  I mean, if Momma or Daddy had told me I would see pink rock, broken water, falling water, AND get to run through a rock tunnel at Pipestone in Minnesota, I may have been a little more cooperative.  Maybe.  It would have saved a lot of crying…by everyone! 

What a waste...

What a waste…

All that corn...

All that corn…

Now it’s the end of day 3 on our journey home and I’m trying to figure out if I’m happy about the promise of home just 2 days away…or if I’m feeling like I need extra hugs.   I got to do and see a lot on this trip…and we aren’t even done.  We get to see some devil rock, some moon thingies, and some ghost towns that I’ll tell you about later.  I even get to take some of my own pictures!!  But there are long long days in the car…in and out, in and out.  You feel trapped after awhile and no amount of books or cars or crackers makes it better.  So I SHOULD be happy about heading home, right?   I’m going to have to think about this a little.  Hmmm… I think I need a hug.   

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TMG Philosophy: Perhaps I Was Too Quick to Judge

It’s me, Nate.   Yea, I know it’s not Wednesday, my assigned day.  Before you turn in unhappiness and irritation because I have once again hijacked the blog entry of a fellow writer, hear me out.  I may have something worth listening to.  Don’t be too quick to judge me or my insight because of my age. 

So this whole road trip thing has been something I’ve been disgruntled about from the first day I realized it meant I’d be captive in the back seat.  Notice I say captive…not captivated.  I don’t know how many times I tried to explain-using toys, color crayons, facial expressions and hand gestures- that caged animals don’t thrive.  I would think you big people would get that the only thing worse than a caged animal is perhaps, a caged toddler boy and his baby sister.  Some people are slow learners. 

Mostly, our sequences of screams and inconsolable outburst have done nothing to burst the happy smiles, excited voices and clicking cameras of my traveling companions.   Lyla turned out to be less than helpful, with only one bad afternoon out of 5 days on the road.  So the opposite of what we discussed and planned.   Clearly her comprehension skills are lacking; like I said, some people are slow learners.   But to be honest, I tried to be grumpy for long periods, and acted like nothing was exciting…but THERE WAS SO MUCH COOL STUFF!!!  Sometimes I got caught smiling, wide eyed or pointing in joy. 

Perhaps I was too quick to judge this whole road trip thing.   Perhaps there is a lot to learn on the open road and from that map thing that Momma insists on using.   Just as I suspected, there have been a gazillion stops for pictures.   And there is talk of many stops on the road back.   We’ll see.  But so far, this road trip thing has given me many first experiences:  My first time in Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and now South Dakota, Montana, and Idaho on the way back home;  my first time seeing fire flies;  my first time riding a tractor;  my first time with sparklers; my first time seeing corn fields, huge rolled hay bales, baby cows, bean fields, silos and so many parks;  my first time eating cheesecake;  my first time meeting more cousins and other family; my first time at a family reunion with so many meatballs and potato dishes…and no beans;   my first time seeing a movie in a theater. That’s a lot of firsts and that’s not even all of them!   

The journey that brought us to Minnesota was supposed to be horrible.  Instead, it was amazing.  The week in Minnesota was an unknown for me, and I expected to be overwhelmed.   Instead, it was a week that brought me more family to love and be loved by.  It was a week that gave me stories of people I won’t get to meet, people who are sleeping in the clouds, but people that Momma says are part of her and who she is.  That means they are pretty cool.

The journey home begins today, another 5 days on the road.   Instead of making a story about what it WILL be, I’ll just wait and see what it IS as it comes.  Momma would think that is very wise of me.  This road trip thing has taught me not to be too quick to judge, and the time in Minnesota has been more fun than…than…than playing with all my cars at once, taking a bath, riding a tractor AND eating blueberries.   Don’t tell Momma though! 

Nates Notes: On the Road Again

On the road again….just can’t wait to get on the road again.   Whaaaattt??!!!  Whoever wrote that song never spent 5 days in the back of a minivan strapped to a lumpy car seat, unable to use his legs.  5 days. 5 days of my life I’ll never get back, even if we did make it to Minnesota. 

The song is stuck in your head now too, huh?!  Man…if I never hear that song hummed or sung again, I’ll be okay.  I mean, I’m a toddler- we love repetition.  We thrive off of repetition.  C’mon though… repeating the whole car seat thing is not something that should ever be continual for over 2,000 miles across 7 states.  Again, I don’t know what miles or states are, but I do know that my butt will never be the same.  Thank goodness for diapers. 

And Momma wouldn’t shut up about how cool maps are.  “Maps this… maps that.  Nate, just wait until you see how cool maps are!”   Yea, yea.  I have an idea for her maps, but I probably shouldn’t share it.   I’m not supposed to say things that are mean or ugly.   

Sure there were cool things to see out the window.  There were rocks I’ve never seen before, things called farms I didn’t know could exist.  Corn field after corn field after corn field.  I love corn.   I got to see and hear my first lightning and thunderstorm too!  Lights flash all over the sky and then people play drums after the lights!  I wasn’t scared at all…mostly because Daddy was holding me.  Please don’t tell anyone.

There was also a cool place that Momma said is where bad people and kids who don’t listen have to spend a lot of time.   Really?  Because I thought that place was called a car seat in the back of a minivan.   Anyway, there were cool wood ladders, lots of windows with bars, different brick than what we have seen, and big b-balls with chains on them everywhere.  Cool!  These bad people get to play with b-balls?   What do they do with the chain?  Hmmm.  

We also got to stop at a spot called Pioneer Village.  There were so many tractors!  And a train to climb all over!  And airplanes!! And room to run and use my legs!!  And…then they shoved me back in a car.  Again.  For 2 more days.

As they buckled me back into my prison, they were humming On the road again…”.  

RSWL: Maps

Maps.  Yep, they are part of that random stuff we like.  For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed maps.  We took many cross country road trips as a family, and my parents always encouraged us kids to help with the maps and navigation.   As a gangly, awkward kid on the open roads headed to the Midwest, I learned about east, west, north and south;   I learned about looking ahead on the map, counting the miles between towns; I learned about how to approximate how much time it would take to get to the next town; I learned how what I saw out my window corresponded to what I saw on paper; I learned there was more than one way to get to our destination. 

Now, as an awkward adult, I yearn for that open road, a good old-fashioned map (sorry Tom Tom) and the opportunities to learn from the journey.  Now, as we travel thousands of miles across a dozen states, through the middle of the country and back, I yearn to share the adventures a map can bring with my kids, even if they are too young.

Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site

Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site

Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site

Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site

This road trip has reminded me how fun it is to use a map, searching for the name of the mountains to our right, finding the name of the highest peak.  These miles have avowed the love of maps fostered in me as a child.  If I hadn’t been studying the map in Wyoming, I wouldn’t have asked to stop at the Wyoming Territorial Prison where Butch Cassidy was an inmate so long ago.  And that unplanned stop was one of the highlights of our trip. 

Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site

Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site

So grab a friend…grab a map…grab a car…get on the road…and see what you can find! 

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Nate’s Notes: Here We Go Again: Road Trip- Day 1

Here we go again…on another road trip. Day 1…of 15.  Yipee.   Yep…still polishing up my toddler sarcasm.  This time it isn’t just a nice little 700-mile drive up the coast to Northern Oregon. Oh no.  Nope.  Once again Momma has sadly misinterpreted my body language in the car to mean I am more than okay with such a journey.   Umm….what part of squealing, crying, planned pooping and general crankiness says “more please” to you???  Sometimes I wonder about my parents.  

Momma and Daddy have decided I LOVE the car SO SO SO much that we are going to travel one way, 2,027 miles to Minnesota.  That lovely distance is without any stopping.   I love how they assume Lyla is okay with car trips as well.  Way to let us think for ourselves guys.  Ya know, I’m not even sure how far 2,027 miles is, but I DO know it will take days and days to get there.  Ooohhhh bumpers. 

I would be willing to bet ALL my toys AND my baby sister that Mr. and Mrs. Snapping Pictures Photosen in the front seat will have those cameras attached to their faces, stopping a gazillion trillion fifty times.

Go ahead.  I’ll just be back here.  In the back seat…staring out the window…wondering if I’ll ever get to use my legs again….listening to the screams of baby Lyla…masking my disappointment in my parents’ choices. 

Road Trip- Day 1

Road Trip- Day 1

Sure, they promise fun, adventure, a train here and there, new books, yummy snacks and flashy toys for the car trip.   Forgive me if I have my doubts.   I mean, animal-shaped crackers and yogurt-covered raisins only go so far.  Besides, THEY eat more of my crackers than I do!!*   Don’t they realize they are too old to eat anything shaped like an animal???!!!  Don’t they realize my brain is still a construction zone???!!!  I am not built to sit for hours and hours…and hours.   They are only hurting themselves you know.   They’ll see.   Baby Lyla and I will enlighten them and give them a road trip alright.  

I better go…Momma is eyeballing me suspiciously, probably wondering what I’m smirking about.  I’ll throw her off by shoving this crayon in my mouth.   I’ll update you again soon though…Minnesota or bust!!!  Heh heh heh…

*This will be in my crayon memoirs as well.