Category Archives: blog entry

December 25: A Time for Burning

Today is the final day of the December Photo Project. As always, I’ve enjoyed peeking into the lives of everyone doing the project. I love the holiday details, the artistic shots, and the everyday.

This year, the DPP has inspired me to bring to life the images that run through my head each day. I’ll continue taking photographs and putting them together in an effort to make you think.

Today’s post is special to me because these two buildings were already paired together by history. In the 1960s, an East-coast pastor came to Omaha and tried to encourage his new congregation to reach out to other Lutherans across the city. The award-winning documentary film, A Time for Burning (1966),  chronicled the story from many angles. Click the film link for some details and mentions of Omahans who are still making history here today.

Augustana Lutheran Church, 3647 Lafayette Ave., Omaha


Luther Memorial Lutheran Church, 1031 Sunset Tr. (near 60th and Western), Omaha

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December 21: Shopping Center Street

This juxtaposition was a surprise for me. I was in West Omaha running some errands, and I had the idea to photograph Loveland Center, a little strip mall on 90th and Center that used to contain some small stores, a Convenient Mart, and a restaurant. I knew that most of the businesses were empty and pictured a somewhat desolate photograph. I wanted to capture that because Sack’s Hardware was my first job in Omaha, the summer of ’96. I sold hardware and wrote prices in Sharpie on nuts and bolts. Back then, customers and employees could smoke cigarettes in the store. I got in trouble once for using the term “weed-whacker” over the intercom (the P.C. term was “trimmer”). I learned that “Hardware” is abbreviated “Hdwe” in the industry, an abbreviation that I have enjoyed ever since.

As I pulled up to the light at 90th, I was surprised to see that a crew was at that moment wrecking the whole strip mall! As I pulled in, they were actually about halfway through destroying Sack’s. It was a little saddening. Not that the Loveland Center was some amazing specimen of architecture, but it held some memories for myself and others.

How long should a strip mall last? What is an old hardware store worth? How do we decide whether to renovate or start from scratch?

Loveland Center, 90th and Center St., Omaha

New(ish) Development, 63rd and Center St., Omaha

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December 15: Gratuitous Kitty Photos

Sorry, but I had to. I mean, how could I not? They are so handsome! Is anyone in need of a kitty model? I am not sure how these images should be juxtaposed so just consider this a mid-month brain-break.

Horatio, Omaha

Jack Bauer, Omaha

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December 12: Dig a Little Deeper

I figure it’s time I write something to go with the photographs. I have been trying to edit myself so that you can make your own decision about what each post is saying. But I wanted to take a minute today to challenge you to dig a little deeper into your noggin.

It’s easy to look at the photographs I publish and say to yourself, “Okay, we’ve got a newish looking building and an oldish looking building. Got it.” But what if you took it a bit further and wondered:

  • “Why are these particular images next to one another?”
  • “How would they be perceived on their own?”  (Side note: I just had to type perceive 4x before I spelled it right.)
  • “Who lives / works / shops there?”
  • “Do they have life experiences similar to mine?”
  • “Did I learn anything about Omaha?”
  • “Did I learn anything about my presuppositions?”
  • “Did I find out something new or think about something in a different way?”
  • “How might my mom / sister / neighbor / friend / cat perceive the post differently?”

For today’s post, I thought we could play a little game. I challenge you to guess where in Omaha each photograph was taken, before you read the caption. To help you out a little I’ll hide the captions at the bottom of the post.

Full disclosure, some of my recent photographs are pretty poor quality. I’ll blame it on the fact that I’m learning how to use my DSLR while at the same time struggling to get out the door of work before I lose all the natural light. Hopefully the meaning is intact even if the visual isn’t pretty!

The first week and a half of the project has been fun for me — I’ve enjoyed your comments and welcome more!

— j.o.

Photo 1

Photo 2

Have you made your guesses?

Caption for Photo #1: Private Home, North Omaha (just off 30th and Lake Streets)

Caption for Photo #2: Private Home, West Omaha (just off 132nd and Maple Streets)

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December Photo Project!

It’s time!

Time to post every day, time to freeze my toes while taking pictures, time to see the artwork of others, time to get in the holiday spirit! This is my third year participating in the December Photo Project. Click the badge to see how the project works and who else is participating.

This year, Rebecca is encouraging us to try out “the idea of tailoring the DPP to either represent you personally or give you a challenge on top of my challenge”. Seeing as it’s a kickoff to the my entire Juxtapose Omaha project, I would say I am definitely embracing the challenge aspect of the whole thing.

I am also really liking the concept behind Radvent, but I’m not quite sure I can figure out how to fit that in with my double DPP challenge … so that one might have to be a personal challenge. Who ever said January is the month for new beginnings? I feel like December might be the one for me.

Speaking of which, as I begin my Juxtapose Omaha project I am struggling with some of the details. Should I write a post with each set of photos? Do I share my thoughts on the comparisons and contracts I see? Or let the viewers draw their own conclusions? How do I approach people / places of business and take their photographs? What is “being a photographer” and what is “being a creeper”? Will the images in my head match the images I find around me? I guess it’s all a learning curve. I can’t even decide if the captions should go above or below each photograph so clearly I better just pick something and start posting. Your input and constructive criticism is appreciated!

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assigning homework

As an educator, I am well-versed in the art of assigning homework.

As a lifelong student, lover of learning, and earner of several degrees, I have done more than my share of it.

That’s why, in my personal life and at work, I have to assign myself homework if I want to get a project done! Otherwise I will spend all my time watching Patrick and Gina Neely flirt like high-schoolers in the cafeteria and finding random unnecessary things on Pinterest. So to avoid that fate I am creating a syllabus for myself.

Week of November 14:

Create blog site, email address, and twitter account. Check.

Learn how to use blog site. Check … kind of.

Purchase a photo editing product. Downloaded a trial, so check.

Start seriously scouting photo locations. Only in my head so far.

Week of November 21:

Begin taking photos.

Begin playing with photo editing product.

Sign up for December Photo Project!

Week of November 28:

Define goals and vision.

Take more photos.


Post a set of juxtaposition photos every day of the month.

After December:

Continue the project.

Seek input from others.


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lunch for the girls + one important guy

Today I had the opportunity to get out of the school building and go to “Lunch For the Girls”! This is an annual fundraiser for Girls, Inc., a nonprofit tutoring and enrichment program that helps girls to become “strong, smart, and bold.” I love the concept of “strong, smart, and bold,” as I get sick of girls having to be nice and pretty and kind. In my own life, strong smart and bold have probably gotten me further along, while nice and kind have gotten me into too many difficult situations. I usually have to fall back on smart strong and bold to get out of those situations.

Those of us in the education world are used to bolting our lunches down in 26 minutes (no more, sometimes less). So we become extremely excited at the opportunity to leave school and go out to lunch. Seriously, on teacher work days we spend much of our time texting one another to figure out where to eat lunch (unless we have decided our lunch spot weeks in advance, which has been known to happen). So when my principal asked if I wanted to take a group of girls to this luncheon, I said a quick yes, grabbed the invitation, and scurried off to my office to figure out which young ladies I would ask to go with me. It’s always fun to get to spend some time with kids when we are just hanging out instead of solving a problem, doing a project, or working on something school-related. I took a group of girls I have worked with a little bit but wanted to get to know better. Most of them were seniors, with a few underclassmen.

Part of our lunchtime conversation was learning about the concept of fundraiser/benefit events. It was a little tough for these hungry young ladies to figure out why our principal had paid $100 a plate for us to eat chicken salad, but after hearing from some of the young women who had been influenced by their time with Girls, Inc., I think they understood why the main focus was on getting the most money we could to this awesome organization.

After our salads had been downed, we were all served Dilly Bars. Kind of a funny dessert for a luncheon, but more fitting when you know that the keynote speaker of the event was Berkshire Hathaway CEO and hometown hero Warren Buffett. It might have had a little something to do with the fact that his daughter Susie is on the Girls, Inc. board. To add a little lady-oriented element to it, or maybe to do something different from the standard podium speech format, they had CNBC’s Becky Quick prompt Warren (yep, that’s what we call him here in his ‘hood) with questions from some of the donors and girls.

Since there is an economics component to the Girls, Inc. curriculum, many of the Q&A questions focused on economics, success, and education. Some of Warren’s key points:

  • Small businesses are the key to bringing back the U.S. economy. Especially ones who treat their customers well.
  • The U.S. and global economies will come back. Maybe not right away but they will.
  • President Obama is doing a good job despite obstacles and Warren is planning to vote for him again.
  • Every person deserves to start out at the same starting line, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, gender, or anything else.
  • Communication skills are more important than math skills. Two of my girls who are currently taking AP Calculus had looks of joy on their face as he said that one. I am 99% sure they raced back to school and told their teachers that little ditty immediately.
  • Distribution of wealth in the U.S. is f’ed up. There is too much disparity. Our tax laws are partially to blame for this.

This last point is something I hope to explore in this blog. It’s something I’m constantly thinking about. It’s hard for me to express my thoughts on the matter clearly in words, as evidenced by a recent frustrating conversation with my family during which I failed to get my points across no matter how I tried to rephrase myself. Maybe that’s why I’m starting this blog and using primarily photographs. I hope my photographic entries will be thought-provoking and will explore some of the same concepts that Warren mentioned.

For the record, it turns out that 15- to- 18-year-old girls like Warren Buffett a lot because:

  • He is lively and energetic.
  • He “isn’t boring or senile like most 80-year-olds are.”
  • He told them who he is voting for. Apparently they don’t like it when adults tell them that this is a private piece of information.
  • He is smart, well-read, and opinionated.
  • He really listened to the questions that were asked and answered them clearly.

If you had asked me beforehand I might have assumed that they would be more excited about the Dilly bars than hearing from a guy older than their great-grandpas, but they were truly interested in what he had to say, and were babbling with excitement about his speech as we left. Some Dilly bars were left behind uneaten. Thanks, Girls Inc!

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