RSWL: The USS Hornet

It’s no secret our team at The Transmogrifier thinks our jobs are the best.  In our endless quest to photograph everything in the world (yep!), we are constantly on field adventures to capture our images.  These adventures take us to abandoned places, long forgotten and dilapidated, needing to be preserved and appreciated for their story in time.   They take us to gardens, full of beauty and color.  They take us through neighborhoods of varying architectural styles.  The adventures allow us to walk through history, discover, and learn.  We are constantly learning new things both by photographing and by researching what we have photographed. 

One recent field adventure was to the USS Hornet in Alameda, California.  I have lived here for over 30 years and don’t recall ever hearing of it.  And I liked school; I paid attention in classes!   One day in a work meeting, Tim asked if I had ever been, expressing that pictures from the Hornet would be a great addition to our warships gallery.  That was all the incentive I needed.  Assignment accepted.  That Friday, my little family headed out, eager to discover.  Just imagine my two year old boy’s eyes when he saw this huge boat (actually it’s a ship)!! 

The USS Hornet was a United States Navy aircraft carrier of the Essex class. She played a major part in the Pacific battles of World War II, served in the Korean WarVietnam War, and also played a part in the Apollo program, recovering astronauts as they returned from the Moon. The first steps on Earth of returning moonwalkers Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, with Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, are marked on her hangar deck, as part of her Apollo program exhibit.

 USS Hornet_0005 USS Hornet_0048 USS Hornet_0106 USS Hornet_0155 USS Hornet_0172





Some quick, fun facts about the USS Hornet:  Aircraft based on the Hornet destroyed 1410 Japanese aircraft and 1,269,710 tons of enemy shipping; 72 enemy aircraft shot down in one day; 255 aircraft shot down in a month; She supported nearly every Pacific amphibious landing after March 1944; a quarter of the crew that built her were women.  (Source: 

 The USS Hornet is said to be one of the most haunted warships in the American Navy, with numerous reports of supernatural events occurring on board.  Luckily I didn’t know this bit of information until AFTER we were back home.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t have spent so much time alone in the corners of this floating piece of history!

You can read more about this ship on the website.  And if you ever get a chance, be sure to visit this not-so-random piece of history.  Her story is inspiring.  

TMG Philosophy: Stronger in Waiting- Part 1

I am impatient. Though I resolve each year of my life to become more patient, I feel like the virtue slips further out of my reach.  With a toddler son now, and an infant daughter, I find myself surprised when my friends and family tell me I am calm and patient with the kids.  Most times, I feel frantic and flustered.  Most times, I feel like screaming while I roll my eyes dramatically when my son decides we need to stack the books AGAIN just as we are leaving the house; or he chooses to throw a level 12 tantrum with five minutes to spare before getting to an important appointment (level 12 requires at least 37 minutes to get through).  Most times, I feel like giving myself a time out in the corner and rocking back and forth.  Truth is, I am impatient, no matter how I SEEM to others.   I loathe waiting, whether it is in a line for food or for my kids, or for photos to upload.  I start twitching.  

It is exciting to think about where The Transmogrifier will go, how many people we can inspire to create and connect with through our photos and blog.  Trouble is, I, along with the other team members, have to wait. Probably longer than ANY of us want to.  I loathe waiting.  Whenever I hear myself drift toward this negative but very real part of me, I remind myself…



Ten years ago, if someone had told me I’d be stronger because of waiting, I’d have shown them the door.  I didn’t have time to listen to psychobabble about being refined through trials and patience.  I had a plan.  My husband and I wanted to start a family, and we were pretty sure it would happen pretty fast, without glitches.  We were so wrong.   One year, then three, then eight years went by.  People tried to support us.  People tried to love us.  I didn’t have time for that though.  I didn’t want to wait around and be comforted. 

My fervent pleading and prayers seemed unanswered.  Or maybe I didn’t wait for an answer.  I began to slow down.  My hope disappeared.   My courage vanished.  My strength dwindled.   I cried harder, pleaded longer, listened more intently, and waited for a “yes”.   But all my waiting got me was another year, another “no”.   I was done waiting.  I gave up. 

And then, one summer, some key people and a series of events changed me forever.    

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TMG Philosophy: Balance

Most people, seemingly, struggle to juggle life’s demands whether they are personal, social, family or work commitments.   We may even be pushing the limits of our daily time allotment to see how much can be accomplished in 24 hours.  Less and less down time is “scheduled” into our lives. 

Personally, turning “off” the go button for me has always taken great effort, and probably will always take extra discipline.  Though I’ve usually been aware of my fight to find balance, it hasn’t been until the last couple years that I’ve worked so hard to achieve that stability.  

Two years ago, I was an office manager who worked too many hours and days, had an amazing husband of 10 years, lived in a lovely home with our puppies, and yearned for a day we would become parents.  I didn’t hate my job, but I wasn’t happy.  My husband and I filled our calendar squares with working, camping trips, hikes, fishing and hunting trips, dinners with friends and family, movie dates, dinner dates, and alone time.  

Then came Nathaniel who will be 2 years old on Wednesday.  Then came a major work change from office manager to working from home doing something I get pleasure from every day at The Transmogrifier.  Then came Lyla, 7 months old.   So now, here I am, given an incredible gifts of my babies, being at home with them, and the opportunity to work with other creative people.  I get to do artistic and original work every day whether it is writing or photography and all that comes with it. 

Never before have I felt I’m where I should be.  Never before have I felt such happiness in all areas of my life.  Never before have I struggled so much to find balance.  Our calendar squares and the hours each square encompasses are filled with baby memories, field adventures, taking pictures, writing, picking, laughing, teaching our kids and learning from them.   Now the work that fills my squares brings me such pleasure I have to compel myself to stop.  Or, when I’m not doing it, I find myself pulling away from other things to focus on work. 

It occurred to me the other day that my work and family life/free time are no longer neatly compartmentalized, but are seamlessly becoming jumbled up together.  Our family vacations, field adventures, and road trips are full of image photography opportunities, blog entry inspirations and family memories.  To a multi-tasker like me, that seems pretty darn cool!  I get to check multiple things off my list with one event!  Win win win!  Or is it? 

That depends on me.  A few weeks ago on a field adventure with our babies and my husband, Chad, I realized with no small amount of horror that I was losing my balance.  Or maybe I had lost my balance.  We were out taking pictures, stopping at the San Francisco Zoo and the Japanese Tea Gardens.   Throughout the day, Nate kept tugging on me, beckoning me.  I can still hear his eager voice, “Momma!  Momma!  Momma!  Mom! Mommy!”.   Each time, I told him to wait.  Each time, I barely acknowledged him because I didn’t want to miss my shot.  I had work to do.  I couldn’t be bothered with the love and exuberance of my son.  

It wasn’t until I was lying in bed that night that I realized I hadn’t ever stopped to discover what Nate was so excited to show me.  Epic fail.  I then began wondering how many other times I had done this to him.  How many times had I dismissed him or my husband?  I was most certainly out of balance.  With renewed vigor and effort, I have begun the battle to regain some balance. 

Having a balanced life is different for each person as we all have different components that make up our wheels of life.   But I do really believe it is realistic to get to a balanced place, even if the glitches come.  The glitches will come.  It comes down to with what and how we choose to fill our calendar squares. There is that word again: choices.  We choose, for the most part, what and how much of what comes first in our lives.  Quality and quantity.  Obviously this fluctuates on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.  But we have a large say in how busy we are…and being busy all the time doesn’t mean we are more productive or more fulfilled, necessarily.  It might just mean we are busier.  And that might mean we are missing moments and opportunities, like I did with my son. 

RSWL: Another Keri Smith Book

You may have noticed we tend to write about creativity, exploration, and  inspiration as recurring themes.   It’s only because our team at The Transmogrifier believes in these ideas so profoundly, we seek both out daily ourselves.  A few months ago, Tim introduced you to the Canadian author, Keri Smith and her wonderful book How To Be An Explorer of the World.

Well, I found another fun and inspiring book by her I want to share.  It is called  Living Out Loud: Activities to Fuel a Creative Life.  As Keri Smith writes in her introduction,  “my favorite books are those that make me burst with energy and inspire me to drop everything and get down onto the floor and fearlessly create for hours.  Living Out Loud is a “to do” book, not a “how to” book.  I hope it will encourage you to play, and to face the fears that hold you back.”

Just like How To Be An Explorer of the World, this book gives activities to encourage you to play, do and create.  The activities are easy and inexpensive.  A lot of them are free.

Here is an example with also embodies how our Transmogrifier Team hopes people will look around them, really LOOK, and SEE things from a different perspective.  This idea actually feels a bit like looking through a camera lens…

It’s called The Finder.

“Charles and Ray Eames praised the use of a finder in their teachings.  A finder is a small piece of cardboard (about three-by-four inches) with a one-inch-square hole cut out of the middle.  Viewing the world through this hole forces you to lose context and content, and to greatly shift your perception.  The finder allows you to focus on small sections and negative space.  It also singles out color and isolates pattern.

The Finder

[Photo credit: from Living Out Loud by Keri Smith]

“Make a finder and place it on a stack of magazines.  Cut through as many layers as you can with an X-Acto knife.  Sort through the pieces, picking out the ones you like.  Look at the shapes you’ve created by accident.  Use the cut-out squares as reference for other projects or to create new ideas, concepts, and compositions.

“Take the finder with you on a walk.  Look at familiar places with a new eye.  In your sketchbook, sketch out what you see.  What do you notice that you didn’t see before?”

I love any suggestion that changes the way you look at something and ignites a spark.  And this activity is not the only one like it.  Smith’s book is packed with games, suggestions and ideas to encourage you to tap into the enthusiasm, joy for life and playful spirit that some may have left in childhood.  The book also leads to a lot of self observation, which I’m always ready for.  I might not like what I observe, and that kicks me into a growing movement…never a bad thing!

Add this book to your list and dare to live out loud!   

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RSWL: National Parks

Okay, the past few RSWL entries have admittedly been related to my recent road trip…and this one is no different!  I still have some residual fuel from that adventure!  If you read Nate’s Notes, you may remember we stopped at a few National Parks, National Monuments, and National Historic Sites on our journey to and from Minnesota.  We LOVE, not just like, National Parks.

It’s August! You may wonder what August has to do with National Parks.  Well, it just so happens the National Park Service turns 97 on August 25th!  Since 1916, the American people have entrusted the National Park Service with the care of their National Parks.  That’s 97 years of protecting land, preserving local history, celebrating local heritage, and creating close-to-home opportunities for kids and families to get outside, be active, and have fun.  Together with volunteers and park partners, the National Park Service safeguards more than 400 places to share their stories with more than 275 million visitors every year. 

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park

Since we here at The Transmogrifier are kind of number obsessed (i.e. how many photos can we take, how many photos can we upload in a day, how many brick textures can we amass…), I thought I’d break down the National Park Service by some numbers.

11,700,000,000 visitors
121,603,193 objects in museum collections
97,417,260 volunteer hours
84,000,000 acres of land
4,502,644 acres of oceans, lakes, reservoirs
2,482,104 volunteers
85,049 miles of perennial rivers and streams
68,561 archeological sites
43,162 miles of shoreline
27,000 historic structures
2,461 national historic landmarks
582 national natural landmarks
400 endangered species
401 national parks
49 national heritage areas
1 mission: The National Park Service cares for special places saved by the American people so that all may experience our heritage.

Preserving history, protecting nature, and creating opportunities for people of all ages to learn isn’t just some “Random Stuff We Like”.  It’s something we are extremely passionate about.   It’s something we support on every level.  Seriously.  That’s why our team decided to offer our images for free to National Parks, as well as State Parks, Non-Profit Museums and any other Non-Profit Organization whose purpose is to educate people about history or nature and preserve it.  That’s how much we believe in supporting these organizations. Seriously.

Have you checked out our Gallery of National Park images?  We have 16 of the 401 represented so far.   Never fear, we aren’t even close to done visiting, photographing and uploading our Nation’s parks and landmarks.  

So, bet you can’t guess where I’ll be with my family on August 25th!  Any guesses?  I’ll give you a hint:  It starts with “National” and ends in “Park”…and sounds like “Yosemite”.  **Big Smile** 


Sources: &

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Nate’s Notes: The Drawing Game

I know, I thought we were going to be using color crayons too.  What do you expect (wink wink- even though both my eyes still close when I try to wink) when you hear “draw”?  Well, Momma and Daddy said they were going to need my help with a game.   They called it “The Drawing Game”.   Naturally, I went to find my color crayons and tried to sneak in some highlighters and markers.  Momma quickly took the highlighters and markers away.  Not cool.  After being ignored when I threw myself on the floor thrashing in an attempt to get the markers back, I picked myself up, forgot about the markers, and decided to see what they meant.   I joined them at the table where they were writing on small pieces of paper.

I made a mad swipe at all the papers and ran, eager to see what they were about.  Daddy grabbed my overalls and hauled me back to the table.  Man.  Did I mention they are soooo serious sometimes??!!!  After resigning myself to standing there, marker-less and confused, they told me what they were doing.   Momma decided our list of field adventures for pictures was long and taking up too much room on the whiteboard in our kitchen.  She also said she wanted to add some fun to the family decision-making process and asked me what I thought about that.  I blinked at her (not winked) and thought to myself, “she DOES realize I am not even two right?  Family decision-making process?  What does that even MEAN????” .    She clearly took my blinking as a cooperative gesture because she responded, “Good!  I’m glad you like it Nate, because you get to draw the first adventure.”   Well, who doesn’t like a good game of Pictionary???!!!  THIS boy does!   So I ran to get my color crayons.  Daddy grabbed my overalls and hauled me back to the table once again.  They are SO confusing.  Do they want my help or not??

Momma said we could crumple the pieces of paper and put them in the old coffee tin.  She told me what some of them said as we crumpled.  Golden Gate Bridge;  Rodeo;  SF Zoo; Armstrong Woods; Point Reyes Lighthouse;  SF Japanese Tea Gardens;  Pier 39;  Giants Ballpark; Healdsburg Playground; Monterey; Mendocino;  Fort Ross;  Downtown Napa;  Santa Rosa Air Museum; Angel Island; Alcatraz; China Camp State Park; Yosemite;  Camping; Fort Point; Aquarium; Howarth Park; and Spring Lake.   Then she explained that “draw” is a complicated verb with many meanings.  Yes, I can draw with my color crayons.   I could even draw with highlighters and markers if she’d put on her fun-Momma cap and let me.  Well, this time, draw meant to pull out one of the pieces of paper from the tin.   Whatever- your language is so bizarre sometimes.  I’m just trying to learn it.

So, here goes…my turn to draw the first field adventure!   Got it!  And we’re going to…

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RSWL: Roadtrip- West Sonoma County, California

One of the hardest parts of my job at The Transmogrifier is the numerous field adventures I absolutely MUST take in order to take photos for our texture and imagery websites.  It’s just torture having to explore cities, sites, and towns near and far.  I dread waking up and searching for all that beauty.  Okay, so it is actually amazing, something I am grateful for each day.  Something that has changed the way I look at life and what happens around me. 

One of these recent adventures took me and my little family on the back roads of Sonoma County.  From our house, we drove out Westside Road past budding vineyards with happy spring wildflowers waving as we passed.   Landmark barns and beautiful winery structures begged to be photographed. Eventually, hundreds of shots later (again, we mean camera shots, not liquor shots), we connected with River Road, where we followed the Russian River all the way to Highway 1.  Before joining the coast highway, we passed the infamous winery, Korbel, and the Armstrong Redwoods grove.   As we traveled south along the rugged coastline, we passed beach shacks, crashing waves, and seaside ice plants.   More pictures were taken.   By this time, our 1 ½ year old, Nate, looked completely dismayed and determined to get his hands on our cameras so that he might dismantle them.  He told us this in many words, half of which are clear, the other half guttural. 

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Sonoma County Barn

Off of Highway 1, we circled back inland through the town of Bodega with its charming cemetery and famous schoolhouse building from Alfred Hitchcock’s film, The Birds.   This Highway 12 carried us past sprawling ranches and farms with proud farm equipment, timeless barns, cattle and sheep dotting the open land.   Large rocks and majestic oak trees covered the rolling Sonoma County hills as we approached home.

Despite Nate’s protests, we arrived home content from our Sonoma County road trip and well satisfied with the number of photographs.   These roads and their scenery make them just one of those random things we like.   If you are ever in Sonoma County, these idyllic backroads are a MUST for your camera and your soul.  

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