Last night I finally relented to Peter that I would teach him how to play a new board game. I taught he and Kate how to play Clue. I have great memories of long games of Clue with my friend Valerie as a kid, but I wasn't prepared for this. He sets it up already sure that the revolver has to be the murder weapon simply because he thinks it's cool. He drags Kate from a good book and begs her to play. As they get the hang of the game, it eventually becomes clear that the suspect was either Miss Scarlet or Mrs. Peacock, in the living room with the candlestick. Peter becomes so excited that he knows what 3 cards are in the envelope that he hustles his pawn to the pool to make his accusation. Questionably, I looked at him knowing he couldn't be sure of Miss Scarlet because she is the big question mark on my radar. I warn him it's too early. He gets the first two right and is devastated that he has chosen wrong in Miss Scarlet. Hence we have begun ...."Fight in A Box". Usually Monopoly caused huge amounts of discontent in my childhood home as my brothers cheated and stole their way to victory. Yes that's you Michael and Glenn. But this anger was more from personal failure. Peter's self confidence usually carries him to great heights, but he was defeated by his own misjudgment. Kate and I finish the game and implicate Mrs. Peacock correctly as Peter whines in the corner. Peter's misery now has spun into a tornado of despair and sure enough, Kate throws the knife right at him telling him to shush up while Peter picks up the revolver and pretends to shoot it at Kate. I'm thinking, "I have such beautiful children." I also think that maybe next time we should play a game with no lethal weapons. To make things worst, I start to laugh at Peter for his behavior which makes him even more angry and he storms off to bed. What a great family game. Thanks for nothing Parker Brothers! So the dusts settles and I go to tuck Peter in. To my surprise, I see on his cheek, that he has written "I stink" with his label maker. Now I feel bad because he feels bad, but not so bad because I pull out my camera. I guess this is just one of the many lessons that Peter will learn in life's big game. We at least we need to think before we come to a conclusion. Your just not going to win every time and we need to learn to lose gracefully. Either way, mom will have her camera ready to catch the conclusion of the game, win or lose.
Sometimes you just have to stop. Here’s why. I usually have the most positive outlook on life. When the footing for this cheery attitude starts to get shaky, I need to take care of myself a bit. As 40 looms near, I feel so many stresses that come with the age. At any given moment I have been grappling with the sickness of a close friend, home repair headaches, and myself trying to balance children, a budding career and being over-volunteered. On top of that, the hurdle of getting my son to complete a bible-sized packet of CMT practice by Monday may send me into a strait jacket. I realize that many of us have these stresses as well, but sometimes it just feels like you are just being sucked up by a tornado. I was supposed to go to a party tonight for my beautiful little nieces. I felt so tired and overwhelmed that I called them an hour before the party to tell them that I just needed to stay home. I felt terrible calling at the last minute. I think that sometimes we just have to gather up the nerve to say no, even when we are so good at saying yes. Saying no is really difficult as I have an insatiable appetite to pay it forward to my family and my community. A well-balanced person realizes when the gauge is teetering dangerously close to overheating. I know for a fact then when I have neglected any exercise for over a week, that I have hit the skids and I’ve over-heated. So here I am typing and cooling down. I know I am much more useful to this world when I feel an inner peace as life’s tornado swirls around me. This happy girl could use some of her favorite things to help her come around: sunshine, hot chocolate, a day of uninterrupted photography and some Twizzlers to name a few. For now, I’ll take the hot chocolate…it’s a good start.
The ultimate fix-all...Twizzlers
I drive by this statue every day. Last year I snapped this photo as the sun descended while I waited for Peter to come out of CCD. I am a very mediocre Catholic even though my heart is in the right place. But when I see this statue I realize how beautiful the relationship is between a mother and a child. I love how the baby Jesus is touching his mother's face and in her eyes, he is perfect. As mothers, we gain strength from and for our children. Everything that we do is for their benefit. The kids look to us for everything putting the weight of the world on our shoulders. I know a few mothers going through some very difficult illnesses lately. I see how they look to their children for strength to fight their battles. Their children give them hope and necessity that tomorrow they will be better. For those that read this little blog, please help me send the 911 call to God that these moms find strength to heal so they can watch their children grow.
It has been a chaotic 2 days. I have driven many miles, but all well worth it to share the laughter of the people I love. Sometimes we feel like the cat in this photo with our life hanging in limbo. As we sit in a state of limbo wondering what will happen next, it is a great opportunity to appreciate what's happening right now. So many cool things happen every day that we totally take for granted. I often try to photograph these things. Things like capturing a shot of a tree that we may drive by every day but are too busy to see or one of my kids doing a mundane every day thing like eating a bowl of cereal. If we can appreciate these average moments, you realize they are quite extraordinary. They are extraordinary because we are fortunate to have them at all. I am always fascinated by fact that when I slow down to capture these moments on film, life becomes transparent and I suddenly I get it. I couldn't have my camera out today, but I had to make a bunch of mental pictures of the good things to catalog in my mind. I usually say "click" and the kids start laughing knowing mommy is at it again with her fancy imaginary camera. (By the way, my imaginary camera is a Nikon D3). Today I saw the grandeur of the Brooklyn Bridge, re-watched the best chick flick (Love Actually) of all time, and saw the joy of a little boy's face when he made it through the jungle gym obstacle course without falling into the pit of boy eating crocodiles. So being in limbo often works out OK, especially if it helps you live the more examined life. What's next isn't nearly as important as right now. Today, make a promise to yourself that as you meander down Main Street or Savile Row that you try to get it, catalog it in your brain, and feel good about what we have been given.
That cereal eating boy...
...and the tree that keeps it real.
A few months back, I joined a camera club with the intention of learning the tricks of the trade to becoming a better photographer . Participation in the club, calls for having your work judged. I had never been judged before. When I went to the juried competition, I learned that each photo is given a grade 1-10 by three separate judges. It is a nail biting session that often sends you home wondering what I was ever thinking for taking the photograph in the first place. I come from a different type of judging background. In my past as a rower, one’s merit is pretty clear. One is judged by who crosses the finish line first. To me, a photo is much like a race. It is either a success or it isn’t. In the digital age, we delete the ones that aren’t successful. In reality, anyone that brings a photo to a competition believes that the photo is a success or it wouldn’t have been brought at all. So after looking at the stubs where my nails once were, I throw my hands up and wonder, “what is the judge really looking for anyway? The judge can give a point more or less based on composition, sharpness or what ever, but do these qualities really tell the story of the photo? As a teen walks down a school hallway, does her clothing, hairstyle and boots really tell you about who she is? I see the merit in getting technical details correct, but what makes me continue to look at a photo is how it personally affects me. I love my wide-angle lens because it forces you to virtually become part of the photo. You become so involved with the scene that a piece of your heart is somehow imprinted in the image. Some of my favorite childhood photos are semi-blurred and off kilter, yet the image speaks volumes about who we are and where we come from. I love history and I love doing portraits. I don’t think that it is a mistake that I married these two passions into how I compose a photograph. Slapping a number or score on a photo has virtually no merit in deciding its significance to the photographer or the subject. So to all you photographers out there, feel good in knowing your photography is an extension of you. Much like the deli counter’s pink waiting number, when the judge scores your photo with a number it’s merely to tell you its your turn to be seen.
The big winner....There can only be one.
As many of you may know by now, someone that is fighting a brave battle inspires this blog. I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with this somebody. This leads me to thinking about winners. I have been to hundreds of races in my lifetime. I have sometimes been a winner and often more realistically, a participant. When we enter into a race, we realize that the odds of winning an event are quite slim. I have never been a big fan of the quote…”everyone’s a winner”. The athlete in me says…”I don’t think so”. But there is much truth to this quote. I have learned from training many children and being immersed in sport since infancy, that being fully involved in your passion makes you feel like a winner. For this reason, we see thousands of people entering marathons, Ironman events, and races of all shapes and sizes. Today's blog photos show just a few winners as they take on the great ironman challenge. Winning comes with the journey. From the moment we take on a challenge, we become victorious in life because we have decided to embrace it. Through the high points and the low points we win because we have opened out hearts to everything that is possible. Real winners come in all shapes and sizes. In life, real winners are the people that despite all the odds against them , see the value in being part of this great event. Real winners realize that they are fortunate to have been given an opportunity to participate at all. Real winners never truly give up on the dream of being in the medal hunt. Real winners smile a lot because the get it. Real winners help others cross the finish line when they see they are needed. Real winners embrace their own every day victories, whether small or large. There is only one lucky one that gets the #1 spot. I hope that the big winner realizes that the value of his or her win is a result of every participant’s effort. Without this shared experience, the win would mean nothing. So whether taking on the challenge of learning a skill or more seriously, like fighting a disease, the winner is within each of us as we bravely forge ahead.
....and all the other winners.
We pull into the driveway of my parents house and there is a flurry of activity as cousins embrace and parents lug in the bags marking the beginning of a sugar infused weekend at fun. The comforts of our childhood quickly return as we settle in hearing the voices that we have heard all our life. This is Mema’s and Papa’s house, where food is aplenty and laughs are many. On a lucky day, the kids will get chocolate chip ice cream for breakfast if not a pancake feast. We all come here to escape our busy lives and return to the old ways and traditions we grew up with. While I chat with my brother and sister in law, the kids swirl in a constant activity passing us by with Nerf guns, Lego planes, then move on to to video games and chess as things quiet down in the evening. On a busy weekend, up to 13 grand-kids may rally to what becomes a tornado like fun-fest. Last night, old friends stopped by and we spent hours recounting stories from years ago that like wine, get better with age. Stories not heard for the first time, but recounted again and again. The kids half-listen to these tales as they play, but you can’t help but think that these stories will become an important part of their history. I realize that we are lucky beyond measure that our recounted past if full of happy memories. When times get hard, we depend on these memories to pull us through. With this in mind, I can only hope that someday my kids will journey back home to do just what we have done this weekend. I cherish my family and in the same thought, Chris’s family, for giving us a lifetime of comfort and wellness. As I write this, I can smell the pancakes. I guess that's my cue. Enjoy your day everyone.
March is fast approaching in CT and that can only mean one thing…mud season. The groundhog predicted that it was coming. I was reminded today that mud season may already be here when Miles bounded into the house covered in gobs of it. I think that we should rename CT, The Mud Pit State. Could you think of any better place to spend winter break? Well me too. I often feel like mud season is a bit of a tease. You have a hint of warmth of the sun on your skin, but the earth isn’t quite ready for playtime yet. Soon, a large posse of kids will be coming out of their indoor winter cocoons. Most will have grown a few inches. For photographers, this time of the year is a new beginning. We are readying our lenses to capture new life, new growth and rejuvenation of everything around us. I'll visit destinations that I have photographed many times before, and it will somehow seem new again. But first...It’s time to play in the mud. In this older photo, Peter enjoys a romp through the mud. Perhaps we should get out the Wellies and join him in his dance as he welcomes the warmth of the new season and the hope that it carries.
Do you ever knock yourself on the side of the head just to remind yourself of how good you’ve got it? Like everyone, I have my ups and downs. But today, I realized, at almost 40, I am finally walking down the career path that defines me. What’s best about it, is that I am doing it on my terms. I think I can say that I have taken the non-traditional route to becoming a photographer. I started with my little coolpix,. Then, thinking I went big time, I got a Powershot. My husband got me a truly life altering birthday gift in my Nikon d90 and I haven’t looked back since. I have slowly earned an arsenal of equipment that makes this craft possible. Today’s blog photos depict neighborhood kids sharing my excitement as I test out my new lighting equipment on their smiles. Kids piled into my 300 year old dining room and strutted their stuff in front of the camera. Chris laughed as he walked in saying the the view through the window of the dining room was so bright, it looked as though we were being abducted by aliens. He then complemented me for putting the dining room to good use. Last year, I went to a tradeshow and one of the speakers’ poked fun at moms that decide to become a “photographer” after taking some photos of their cute little cherubs. I wanted to stand up and ask him if he was a pro photographer when he took his first photo…jerk. Of course I didn’t get the guts to say it. But, I left the show feeling quite displaced among the “greats”. Since then, I decided that I will learn this skill regardless of commercial success even if I need to figure out how to progress on my own terms with no particular time frame. I find inspiration in the great Norman Rockwell, who borrowed his neighbor’s kid’s, photographed them, and masterfully transformed these images into his greatest works of art. I am fortunate enough to have a community that allows me to practice my craft on them with much encouragement and patience. Some examples: A friend named Jane at the Durham library, who orders books on photography with my education in the back of her mind. Melissa, who gave me the opportunity to photograph her wedding when I barely knew how to take the camera out of auto mode. Deb, a friend that gives me encouragement beyond measure as we have joined forces to make houses look their best. Cindy, who’s talent and mutual love for Norman Rockwell, inspires me every day. Katie at Perk, who kindly helps me get my name out there. Claudia, who has loaned me her children so often to photograph, that people may start thinking their mine. Perhaps I am most grateful to the little kids that help me build my portfolio one smile at a time. While my Oscar-like thank-you list may never lead to an Oscar, these folks among many others make me feel fortunate to live here among people that keep it real. The people around here make you feel like you were meant to be here, doing exactly what you’re doing. All that this neighborhood seems to ask for in return, is a few hours of your time helping at the Durham Fair. So whether you want to be a cake baker or renaissance dressmaker, don’t sell yourself short. The only one that holds you back is you. This place has got your back.
Waiting, waiting, waiting. We are all doing it. In some way or another, each and every one of us is waiting for something right at this very minute. At the moment, I have one friend waiting to go into labor while another waits to hear from the doctor about a life saving medical break through. While these are all happening, the rest of us are waiting for things like the light to turn green, waiting for assembly to begin…or end, waiting for snack-time, waiting for the race to start or for the guy to pull out of the parking space so you can have his spot. I know that Miles is waiting for lunch, even though he just had breakfast. I am waiting for the UPS man and I am ready to give him a hug when my new lights come in. He is just waiting for a signature. In the above photo, Sir Peter waits for his first guest to arrive to celebrate his birthday. Since we have the time to think while were waiting, it’s important to realize that most of the things we are waiting for hinge on another person or on something we sometimes can’t control like mother nature or God’s will. While we all like to think we are all in complete control of our destiny, uncertainty makes waiting a chore. That’s why we share the earth with about 6 billion other people. Were all connected in the waiting game. So it makes sense to me to wait and pass the time together. Waiting alone has its merit, but doesn’t being with other people make the waiting game just seem better? That is except when your on line at Disney World...less people...better. So, while your waiting, look for your little miracle today in the people or things around you. You may find that what is right in front of you is what you were waiting for in the first place.
For a few minutes my waiting is done, the package has arrived...Now i am waiting for someone to teach me how to use this thing.