Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Table Cloth

Fifteen years ago, I put a taupe colored
twin sheet and a set of sharpies
on my Thanksgiving table.

At that time,
our family consisted of just our two boys
and the baby girl kicking around inside me.

My goal was to have everyone in attendance
sign the table cloth with just their name
and a sentiment of the holiday
and then repeat that process every year
until the cloth was full.
I had no idea what a cherished thing
this table cloth would become.

There are signatures on our table cloth
from people whose paths crossed ours,
people who shared a meal and a holiday with us,
people we love and remember with a smile,
people who were only in our lives for a season
and signed our table once
and people who are still present at most of
our holiday meals whose signatures can be seen
over and over again.

There are signatures from people who are
no longer with us on this earth,
leaving behind an outline of their hand
and a few words of kindness.

On the years when our holiday table only had
five or six chairs,
that table cloth reminded us
that we were connected to so many other people
who loved us
even from afar.

If one were to take the time
to read all of the messages on the table cloth
one would find words of longing
from years when David was deployed
and then joyous words written on holidays
when he had returned.

One would read well wishes sent to far flung family
and words of gratitude for
a full house of celebrators.

There are expressions of welcome
to new family members
and warm wishes from old friends.

That table cloth holds fifteen years of life,
love, family and friends.

Some of the words bring tears to my eyes.
There is an entry from Zachary
when he was about 9 years old
that says, "I love the Lord"
and there is a tiny outline of Madison's little baby hand.

There is a message from my dear friend Trudy
that was written a lifetime ago
about the pain of being separated,
but the joy of memories held close to our hearts.

Some entries make me smile
like the year we signed our name
making it known that we were
the first place winners of the neighborhood
Christmas decorating contest
and the many signatures of kids that we love so much
who are now grown up
with little ones of their own.

This table cloth is more than a tradition for me.
It is evidence of a life of togetherness
and being connected
no matter where we were in the country.
Evidence that time flies and
we cannot hold any one thing forever.
Evidence that change is inevitable and is much easier when
gratefully accepted.
Evidence that all things really do work out for good
and that too much time is wasted on fear and doubt.
Evidence of family in the form of friends who we
shared our lives with over the years
and evidence of friends in the form of family
with whom we share a heritage.
It is a reminder that we were never alone
even when we felt like we were.
A reminder that we have led and are leading
full lives,
and that what matters most in this life
is opening yourself up
to others and fully embracing them
while you have them.
Whether they sign your table cloth or
leave love notes on your heart,
the friends and family
that God places in each of our lives are
precious, precious gifts!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Shockingly fun

My family is so over my photographs.
They really are.
I can see the "OK now I've got to act interested in catchlights
and composition" look when I ask them
to come and see a client session
that I've just edited.
They just don't get it.
They don't speak my language.
But I really can understand this because
I don't speak my husband's or son's language
when it comes to football either.
I do love the sport and I enjoy
watching key games and cheering as loudly
as the next person,
but to spend two or three whole months of
Saturdays on the couch watching
game after game after game
while so many other things are going on
around town
or being stuck to the phone updates
when you are dragged out of the house.....
well, that's just not my language.
Madison is emersed in her own photography,
so unless she is telling me that I need
to up the contrast on one of my photos,
she'd rather spend her free time pouring over the
1.5 million photographs that she has of herself and her friends.
I get that too.
She's 14 and her own little world
is all there is right now.
What I don't get though is
how shocked my own family members are
that my photo sessions are actually fun events
to participate in.
They've seen my smile upon returning home from a shoot.
They've heard me tell stories of funny things that happened.
They've even acted like they've heard me when they ask,
"How was the shoot mom?" and
I answer back, "It was soooo fun!"
For Thanksgiving this year,
we had my brother and his family in town.
Jeremy and Ashley have the only other grandchildren
on my side of the family,
so I could not pass up the opportunity
to do a shoot while everyone was together.
Trying to get everyone excited,
I pushed the shoot for a week before the event.
It had to take place on Thanksgiving afternoon
because of flight schedules,
so I heard alot about how stressful it was gonna be
right smack in the middle of cooking chaos,
but I insisted that this shoot MUST happen.
I told them that the resulting images from a shoot like this
would be well worth any stress that they anticipate happening.
We put the turkey and everything else in a holding pattern
and off we went.
It seemed fitting that we were doing the shoot
at an abandoned mental hospital.
Upon arrival,
I arranged everyone for the group shots and
snapped away.
Before long everyone was laughing and joking
and having the best time.
I was able to get some excellent shots of my mom and all
of her grandchildren gathered around her.
These are memories that she will cherish for many years to come.
I took a few of Ashley, Jeremy, Zane and Easton too.
I was even able to hand the camera to Jeremy and
let him take a few of our family with me in them.
Upon leaving, my boys kept saying
over and over again how much fun they had.
They sounded surprised that this was not a torturous event.
My husband even told me that he had more fun than he expected.
My mom was thrilled with the shoot and had a good time as well.
I don't know what they thought
my shoots were like
or why most of them thought that this would be a stressful
frustrating afternoon,
but I'm glad they were able to experience
a laid back, natural, fun session with me.
So now they know what I do
and why I love it so much....
even if I still can't get them to sit down
and let me show them a client session
without seeing them roll their eyes
or heaving a big sigh of dread.
Here are some highlights
from our {apparently} shockingly fun family session:

My mom and all her grandkids!

My grandmother and
all of the great grandkids from her daughter Joyce's kids.
My cousin Leah has the other two greats.

My favorite from the shoot...
Ashley and Jeremy.

My three men all together!

Our oldest three.

My favorite of our kids.
This is such a precious photograph
to me because Zach lives in Seattle
and I can't see this everyday in real life.

The family shot!

Another good one of the six of us.

And finally one of David and I.
I've got lots of ordering to do from this shoot!
Beyond the images,
the memories of the time we spent together
as a family laughing and having fun
will be held close to my heart
for a long, long time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Yesterday's green

Last night the wind blew a
great deal of the remaining leaves from the trees
surrounding our house.

Our yard is inches deep
in yesterday's green.

Soon we will use our leaf blower
to gather them up in piles
and send them whirling down the revine.
If we leave them laying on the ground,
they will rot and our grass will die.

This process is vital to new growth.
In order for new tender green buds to appear
with the warming sun,
the old must be stripped away.
Dead and falling to the ground below,
the old leaf is serving it's
final purpose in the circle of life.

Sometimes I am the wind
blowing strong against the things
that need to fall.
Assisting in the emergence of newness.

Sometimes I am the tree,
being tossed and beaten
until the dead things fall away.
Until I am prepared for
bearing new fruit.

A time or two I have been the leaf,
my influence being pulled from
another for a greater purpose.

I've also been the leaf blower
encouraging another to disguard the dead and rotting
in order to preserve new life.

All four bring a degree of discomfort.
Being a relentless catalyst for change,
being stripped of yesterday's success,
being necessarily removed
for the greater good
or holding the wind steady
long enough for the ground to be free
are all uncomfortable places to be.
All require focused effort,
and all of them are necessary
for new growth.
Each an important process in achieving the next
crop of fruit.
Through pain comes life for
there is no Spring without a Fall.

Rev. 21:5
"Behold, I am making all things new!"

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Trappings of Childhood.....

Most trees don't have names beyond Elm
or Dogwood or Pine.
But ours does.

Most trees don't hold within their branches

the echo of laughter

and the enchantment of childhood,
but ours does.

Most trees aren't marked by
carefully carved proclaimations
of generations of love.
But ours is.
The "Love Tree" isn't just any other tree.
It's ours.
She still stands in an untouched lot with houses built all around her.
She is a symbol that we were there.
That we ran through those woods,
our pigtails trailing behind us
our arms outstretched in the wind.
She still stands
and we still remember
the innocence and wonderment
of our childhood.

Across the woods stands another grouping of trees.
These held no inscriptions of love,
but were the support for our tree house.

My brother Jason and I
spent countless hours hammering nails
into wood and constructing our
magnificent two story tree house.

Our cousins Leah, Scott and Carrie
can also stake a claim here as
they are responsible for more than one nail
in those wooden planks
and more than a million
romps through those woods.

The rope from our swing still
hangs from branches that have grown taller
just as we have.

What a treat it was to retrace the paths of the past
with my brother leading the way.
Rediscovery is one of the best parts of leaving things behind.
Reliving joyful moments is a priceless gift.

As we left Wilson's woods that day
I could almost hear the ferns and ivy calling out to us,
because they were once filled with magic.
"Come back! Be carefree
and get lost in your imagination again!"
I wonder,
how can one stand growing up and leaving
the delight of childhood behind?
The answer is simple:
Embrace the stories of days gone by
and find the best moments to tuck away in your heart
so that you can retell them to your
children and watch their eyes fill with the same
fascination that once captivated you.
In this way,
you will never really grow up
not in your heart.
In the words of Captain Hook:
"Growing up is such barbarous business,
full of inconvenience....
and pimples!"
First tree to the right and straight on til morning!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

I have IAN disorder.

I have Internally Audible Narrative disorder.
I really do.
I don't know if I should be alarmed or not
but that's just the way I think.
No matter what the situation,
I'm thinking in a narrative 90% of the time.
Take for instance a potentially
emotional event like
the first day of school for your last child.
This is what plays in my head
as I walk Bren to class the first day,
"Her little heart pounds as she enters the classroom
for the first time.
she has been the new girl so often in her
young life,
but she never gets used to it.
She is thankful that her mom is with her
and gives her hand a squeeze.
As the goodbye nears, her grip gets tighter,
but she fights back
the tears welling up in her
big green eyes and
puts on a brave face.
One quick embrace and she's on her own."
If I try hard enough,
I can even hear the music
playing in the background
begging every last drop of emotion out of the scene!
Is that normal?
It's like I'm living in the moment,
(really, I am!)
but I'm preparing to retell it on demand
in a way that puts people right in my shoes.
It's sorta like a tool for me to grab
a hold of every emotion happening
in and around me
and organize them into a flow of words
so that I won't forget it.
Should I seek help?
Wait there's more....
I also think this way about important
or meaningful future events.
I will anticipate it in story form.
Like right now,
I am anticipating the arrival of
my oldest son
who will be here for 10 days in November.
I will admit to this narrative,
"Her fingers moved over the plates
as she pulled them out of the drawer.
Six again.
Always six.
She still hadn't gotten used to
just pulling out five.
But soon six will be the right number again.
For a little while anyway."
before you campaign to have me admitted
to the funny-farm,
let me further explain......
It's not like a detached male voice
like the movie trailer voice over guy
and it's not like everytime I go grocery shopping
I'm hearing,
"List in hand, she walks into the store
headed straight for the frozen food section
to gather meat for her starving family!"
It's not that bad yet.
Please tell me I am not the weirdest person you know.
Perhaps I am subconsciously preparing
to write an award winning epic novel.
Perhaps I drink too much caffeine.
It could be that I've dyed my hair one too many times
or that I need more fiber in my diet.
Whatever the cause,
I think this abnormality
may actually help me
in the things I do.
Take photography for example.
When I drive by a wall with peeling paint,
an old weathered barn,
abandoned buildings with vines growing on the walls,
brightly colored doors,
unique staircases
or quaint side streets,
This is what happens to my soul...
well, first I squeal and almost
drive off the road,
but then
I automatically place a person there
whether it be
a bride with a flowing vail,
a family,
a little girl in a tu-tu
or even a tiny newborn
and I create a photo in my mind
that tells the story of the scene that
has distracted me enough to risk fatal injury.
I don't necessarily hear a narrative,
ok well, sometimes I do,
but it's more like the components of a
story yet to be told.
I may never actually get to shoot the
photograph that my mind insist must happen
because the location could be inaccessible
(without colossal effort)
and I don't currently know any brides
plus I doubt anyone would let me
put their tiny little newborn on a dirty
brick and weathered wood window sill
of a mental hospital.
But whether it happens or not
doesn't matter.
The fact is that the scene haunts me
everytime I pass the spot
and is very possibly responsible for fueling my
photo session location choices
and shooting style.
I love to put newness next to broken down,
clean next to dirty
and softness next to hardness.
I think that creating that contrast makes the
most interesting story.
During my sessions,
I find that I am trying to create that
contrast as often as I can
without risking bodily injury
of course.
Here are a few examples
from my most recent sessions
and how "IAN"
transfers to my
photo vision.

This one was just way too easy!
This turquoise grocery cart was sitting off to the side of this wall
just waiting to be filled with little girls
in petticoats!

This was my clients idea,
but fits in very well with my style.
Pink bare feet with rolled up jeans
on hard concrete steps,
yup...right up my alley!

Brightly colored doors....I just had to shoot here!

More colored doors
with an urban feel.

Another cool door,
a little gothic looking.
A ruffled little girl and a kiss
was the perfect way to go.

As soon as I saw this rusted metal wall
I knew exactly what I was gonna do with it
and it turned out to be one of my favorite shots of the shoot.
Thanks IAN!

It took a few shots to get the "mood" I wanted
for this couple,
but I got it.
When I shoot couples,
I try to create an emotion with the photo.
Sometimes I want it to be smoldering
and sexy,
other times I'm just after fun!
I want the photos to tell the story of them.
(without disembodied voices)

I've always wanted to do a "cafe shot"
and alas, we happened upon a table and chairs.

What else could you do with a brick
alley way
except maybe put a newborn in a basket
right in the middle of it?

There's the old wall with the vine growing
on it. More couple love stories!

This staircase
was made for these two!
There's a whole story in my mind
about the boy in the blue shoes
and his ruffly little sister.

I have driven past this old staircase
several times since we've lived here
and I always saw two little girls on it.
Just my luck that
I had two little clients with me
when shooting at this location.

The rusted out wall again.
It's the perfect compliment to her

Who can resist
the giggles of little kids?
Place it up against a weathered trailor
and it's magic to me.

This is one of my new favorite locations.
It is an old abandoned store with the
most fabulous peeling blue paint.
It makes my pink rug pop
and showcases another giggly girl

I know this isn't rocket science
and I'm not the most creative person alive,
although I might just be the craziest,
but I just thought you might
enjoy a little peek into what goes on
inside my brain when
I pick my locations and backgrounds.
And as for that little abnormality I have?
I'm just going to embrace IAN
and call it what it is...
voices inside my head!