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Stay Tender, Dear 2018

What do you wish for in this new year?

In the beginning of 2017, I picked “Everything Is Connected” as my motto for the year. It was neither a statement nor a commitment, just a fact of life which I wanted to comprehend better.

Oh, did I! 

So for 2018, I’m choosing another phrase to guide me through the next four seasons.

It is: “Stay tender.” 

Tenderness is the feeling I get when something good and beautiful is reflected back at me; when my efforts are returned in equal measure or more; when I get something for nothing simply by being around inspiring people and positive energy.

It’s the feeling I get right now catching up on your Instagram updates, with my adorable family by my side.

#Tenderness. May it also be a part of your new year. 💛 .

My Simple Secret to Happiness

Tilt up your head, and hold it there -- what do you see?

Close your eyes, and absorb a heavy breath all the way down to your tummy -- how do you feel?

Stand firm, wiggle those heels deeper into the ground, and just listen to your own voice coming from within.

🌿🌿🌿

This is what I like to tell people who ask me: "Eileen, how do you stay so happy and hopeful all the time?"

Some ask, because they find my outlook frustrating, unrealistic and even privileged.

"You don't have the baggage of ______ (children, family, bad job, discrimination, pressure from everywhere, etc.). That's why you can talk as if nothing weighs you down."

These people, in their minds, they've drawn the short straw in life, which is the one excuse they use for everything they believe they deserve but can't seem to achieve.

The truth is, we all have been one of these people at some point in our lives. Some of us may still be in this mindset, and some of us may return to it.

So what, if you feel bitter and unloved? It's nothing to be scared or ashamed of. It's a genuine feeling from within, so own it.

Then, use it as the ignition to drive you forward -- be honest with your fears, tackle them gently, and praise yourself along the way for having the courage to face the struggles head on, whatever the outcome.

As the title of this post says, this is my very simple secret to happiness! 

It is how I stay happy. And I am, truly.

Eileen xx

Autumn sky in London's St James's Park. © EIleen Hsieh/Follow That Bug // Cover photo by  Teddy Kelley  on Unsplash

Autumn sky in London's St James's Park. © EIleen Hsieh/Follow That Bug // Cover photo by Teddy Kelley on Unsplash

Give Less, Give Smarter - My InstaReflection

Always be kind to yourself, and help others who deserve it.

But do not confuse being kind with giving unconditionally, because kindness - when presented to someone who doesn't want it - is wasted energy that could be used to empower someone else who truly desires it, or yourself. 

If you're reading this and thinking that I'm talking about you, you're mistaken. 😘

This question -- how to strike a happy medium between helping others deal with their struggles and focusing on my own challenges -- is one that I've been thinking about a lot lately. .
.

Lo and behold, while scrolling through my boring twitter feed earlier, I came upon this article called "Why I Stopped Helping People and You Should Too" by Cammi Pham (link in my insta stories), which gave me the reassurance I was looking for. 

It's time for me to give less, and give smarter. 🤓 💜

Eileen x

Little White Flowers - My InstaReflection

For you... just because. 🌼

Just because I want to say hello with these pretty little flowers.

And to thank you for sending over so much love and support for my #FTBTimeOfMyLife project. 
I write every entry on the day of post. Some take minutes to finish. Others take hours as I wade through decades of memories to identify the one single moment that helped shape me into the person I am today.

Coming up, as I enter a new chapter of life, the posts will be become darker, more complex, and possibly even difficult to digest. 

So you may find me sneaking snapshots that reflect my Present into those of my Past, just to break up the intense emotions that I know I'm about to trek through. 

So here they are, tiny little flowers, so perfect in their harmony, so consistent in their form, no matter how close you look. 

Eileen x

#thankyou 💛

P.S. This comment from viviennejlevick adds so much more meaning to this post:

Made me smile to notice that considering the context, you chose yarrow, achilliea millefolium, or 'soldiers woundwort' - used for centuries to help heal wounds xx

FTB Time of My Life is an exercise to celebrate the things that have shaped our lives. Click here for details on how to participate.

FTB: Time Of My Life

My birthday is coming up, and I want to mark the occasion by showing my love for... everything that matters to me.

So starting from June 15, my #FTBTimeOfMyLife project begins. Every day, for 40 days, I will be sharing a piece of my memory from the year in focus... that's quite a few years to flip through, and a lot of forgotten events to recollect! 

But this will be a beautiful exercise, and I hope you'll join me in going down the memory lane and sharing a piece of the puzzle that's shaped your life. 

You can share your thoughts in a few ways -- in post comments, on Instagram, or simply write them down in your private diary.

Now, let's go and explore the Time of Our Lives!

Eileen x

The Chocolate Box Life - My InstaReflection

A quaint 17th century thatched cottage near Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

I came, to find a quiet place to clear my mind.

I arrived, to find that I still quite like a mind brimming with thoughts, senses and fascination, except now the deafening sirens are replaced by chirping birds, the air is perfumed with wildflowers and horses instead of car fumes, and the skyline is embellished with not highrises but cottages and cattle.

Right now, I'm looking out from the bedroom window of this 17th century chocolate box cottage, watching the morning sunlight dance across the garden and turn a row of rose bushes into sparkly yellow diamonds under the gray sky. 

I'm in the home county of Buckinghamshire, and I feel home.

Turning the World Upside Down - My InstaReflection

Westminster Abbey at sunset, after the rain. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

This image is the product of a combination of minor frustrations. And how I love it. 💙

Westminster Abbey at sunset, with soft sunlight caressing its facade, is a serene beauty. As I approach the spot where the building can be viewed in full, I discover that my perfect shot has some unwelcome guests - cars parked on the roadside, and puddles everywhere. 🚙 💦 

Up until now, I’ve taken countless pictures of the Abbey and they all look fairly similar — postcard worthy, maybe, and also run of the mill. 

Not today. 😊

“Do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?” - Wisdom of Rumi. ✨

Have you ever had to flip your world up side down? And how did it make your feel?

Eileen x

Life is like a Park Bench - My InstaReflection

Watching our lives go by.  St. James's Park, London. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

An escape to London’s city parks is one of life’s simple pleasures. 🌳

Here you’ll find urban greenery, wildlife, and free entertainment from the entourage of tourists who’re chasing squirrels as if following the Pope. 

Here, you never know who’s going to be sitting in the bench next to you. In any given frame of time, a complete stranger may be the closest person within your reach, and the smallest gesture of goodwill from either side may lead to delightful surprises that will stay with you long after the stranger is gone. 

Occasionally, the stranger becomes no longer strange and accompanies you on part of the journey towards your next destination. 

This is what I call fate, and it all begins with a small smile and an open heart. 

Eileen x

Photography & I: Bringing Dreamscape into Reality | 攝影與我:把夢想帶入現實世界

Happy Instagram birthday to me!

@FollowThatBug is five years old this month, having been actively sharing photos since April 2012.

That is by far my longest happy relationship with any social media platform, and my infatuation with this app and its community is growing stronger day by day.

Not long ago, I received some comments from fellow Instagramers that nearly shot me to the moon with elation. In different ways, they described my editing style as a "professional makeup artist", making whatever that's in front of the camera appear as paradise on earth, and bringing out the quiet beauty of my subjects that others may fail to notice. 

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BEFORE: What my lens sees -- a classic London icon.

AFTER: What I see -- Big Ben and his candyfloss.

My Rose-Tinted Lens

Filters were what initially attracted me to Instagram. It was like trying on new clothes, I got a lot of satisfaction accessorizing my pictures with different layers of effects, then taking them off and starting all over again, and again, and again, because I could never decide which style I liked the most.

I became BFFs with the filters. Not only did they add colors to my images, they also camouflaged any imperfection that I didn't know how to remove.  

BEFORE: What my lens sees -- a lonely bird overshadowed by the shiny yellow blooms.

AFTER: What I see -- a sweet little creature enjoying the view from her flower castle.

Finding "Me"

Slowly, as I gained more confidence in my photographic expression, I began to see filters in a different light.

I still loved them, deeply, but I also realized that as Iong as I continued to rely on them to gain attention, I would never be able to develop any style that was truly, uniquely "me".  

Filters were someone else's creation, someone else's vision. They showed me the amazing possibilities of effects and manipulation, and now I wanted to be that "someone else" and leave my own stamp.

BEFORE: What my lens sees -- intricate craftsmanship from a bygone era. 

AFTER: What I see -- ray of hope and possibility shining through from all directions.

Painting the Stories of Our Lives

I'm a storyteller, and I appreciate the power of human touch.

When appropriate (this is key!), I like to run my hand over things that catch my attention, so I can feel their heaviness, their bumps and cracks, try to peel of their layers and see what hides beneath.

More often than not, I discover a diamond in the rough, ready to shine.

So what is my 5-year Instagram birthday wish? Make the world sparkle! And I'm taking concrete steps to help make this vision a reality, so watch this space. :)

And if you like, I can keep you updated on my progress -- just sign up here.

Eileen x


Related reading

5 Tips For Taking Amazing iPhone Photos

Eileen Hsieh, iPhone Photography School

What does it take to create amazing iPhone photos? Apps can help with editing and special effects, but you can produce beautiful images using just the iPhone’s native camera and a few simple composition techniques. In this tutorial, you’ll discover five highly effective tips that’ll help you take stunning iPhone photos that you’ll be proud to share. With just a few small tweaks to your technique, you’ll have the tools you need to become a really great iPhone photographer.


We Are London - My InstaReflection

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

You may break our bodies, but you will never break our spirit.

On March 22, 2017, London joined several other major European cities in becoming a target for extremists using vehicle as a killing machine. 

In the heart of British politics, in broad daylight, a car rammed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and the assailant tried to force his way into parliament. Five people died as result of the attack, including one police officer.

Londoners had been bracing for an imminent attack for quite a while, so many of us were not completely taken by surprise when the incident took place. The real hero here were the Met Police, who dealt with the situation swiftly and contained the damage to a minimum. 

It's noteworthy to point out that it was just in November 2016 that the New Scotland Yard moved into its new headquarters right next to parliament's Portcullis House, with a clear view of Westminster Bridge and the Thames. 

As this article states, Scotland Yard is on the front doorstep of London life. To me, it's also a pillar of the city, keeping us safe and free to go about enjoying our lives in the great British capital.

Eileen x

Under the Cherry Blossoms - My InstaReflection

Canary Wharf, London. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

Canary Wharf, London. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

I love looking up from under a canopy of cherry blossoms.

It's like standing under a blanket of stars -- except they are sweet, plump, delicate flowers twinkling under the sunlight, swaying in the wind and making you want to run and catch every translucent petal that falls from above. 

I found this tree in the concrete jungle of Canary Wharf. The sparkles between branches made me think of the nursery rhyme Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, then it occurred to me that I never knew the full lyrics of the song! 

Now I do.


🌟
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.

🌟

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, through the night.

🌟

Then the traveller in the dark
Thanks you for your tiny spark;
He could not see where to go,
If you did not twinkle so.

🌟

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye
Till the sun is in the sky.

🌟

As your bright and tiny spark
Lights the traveller in the dark,
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.

🌟 

 

Eileen x

Pay It Forward - My InstaReflection

St. James's Park, London. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

St. James's Park, London. © Eileen Hsieh / Follow That Bug

Pay it forward, because it will always come back in the end.

As to what will be reciprocated, that is your own choice.

Every so often, I hear from people who feel belittled or ignored just for being their genuine selves. Kindness gets taken for granted or even trampled on, and they feel like everyday is a struggle just to be who they are and not who they should pretend to be. 

If this describes you, I just want to say... you may not know this yet, but sometime in the not-so-distant future, you will become the "good egg" that people aspire to be.

And don't think of it as a struggle, because if something comes naturally to you, lifts your spirit and makes even just one other person happy, then embrace it -- it will hug you back. 😊

Eileen x