I’ve run around the block a few times. I’ve never been noted for my speed or how I’m reminiscent of a gazelle, but I just do it (like the Nike ad tells me to do). I have been buying running sneakers for years. I recall my first set of Zips back in the 70’s. The fancy Z on them made me feel fast. Since my husband puts more miles on his shoes than his car, I believe we are single handedly supporting the sneaker industry. When a box from Road Runners shows up at the doorstep, we have been known to tear into it like eager kids on Christmas morning. The intoxicating smell of chemical and rubber beats out the perennial favorite of many: the new car smell. Our shoes lead us to a runner’s high, leaving one much better off than sniffing glue. Getting shoes to fit me are a challenge. To spare you the ugly details, I have just that…big, ugly, bony, and wide feet. Yes, the type of foot the evil step-sisters had in the story Cinderella. A recent trip into DSW proved it once again. My “athletic” (or genetically predisposed big) calf and wide foot that I lament over removes 9 ¾ out of 10 aisles I can shop in. Usually what I’m left with are a few pair of sneakers and maybe some Merrills or Uggs that I can fit my foot into. No Cinderella glass slipper would fit on these feet. It’s a good thing my prince would rather me wear running shoes instead. When I finally found the Brook’s Glycerin 8 years back, I felt like I had hit the jackpot and found my sole-mate. My knees rejoiced. The infinite cushioning that the shoes provided could abate my disastrous foot mechanics. I had fallen in love. All eight editions of the shoe have been just shy of perfect, only losing its A+ grade for its lack of imaginative color. Normally, by the end of the first rainy run, the typical white mesh surround would become muddy grey. The new kicks that came knocking at my door today made me feel fast despite the truth. With a sleek black and silver build, accented in electric blue, I felt like one of the cool kids with the pumped up kicks. These shoes may just be the miracle I need to get this body back in shape. All this boils down to is that sometimes we just need to be thankful for the little things in life. Brooks, thanks for bringing on the bling.
This weekend, I put down the camera and ate. My mother-in-law's wonderful gourmet delicacies pleased the senses only to be followed up by more gluttony at my parent’s house. Thanksgiving is the undisputed king of holidays for a number of reasons. Very little needs to be transported other than our four bodies, a dog and a couple of pies (and some bicycles). In the past, we have had some pie transport disasters; one left on top of the roof, one dog paw perfectly set in the middle of the pies apple goodness. Perhaps the worst pie disaster is when you realize it’s been left at home in the fridge as you have finished the journey over the river and through the woods. We make our journey to Essex and Guilford. Which comes first, alternates from year to year. My favorite thing about the holiday is that upon entering either of our parent’s homes, we step back into our childhoods. The traditions haven’t changed. While spouses and children have been added to the mix, we all get to experience a small piece of the family pie that makes each brood unique. The nuances that make a family, helps define who we are as we venture back into our own grown up world. While we have all weathered differently in life, I can still see us as the children we were so long ago. I love to come home to this as it refreshes my memories of my childhood. My family is far from a perfect entity. While we all came from the same plant, our branches have grown in many different ways. Like a pack of dogs, we have established who’s dominant over the past 50 years. This weekend, we were all on our best behavior. No dumb fights rekindled from where we left off at the last holiday. Rather we had fun, watching 13 cousins take over the home. To make room, every bed and couch were occupied. Five slept in my mom’s walk in closet with my massive dog draped over them. As the food stores dwindled over the weekend, the crowd became less and less. My four brothers and their counterparts left full bellied as did I, thankful to the pillars of our life, our parents. With each exit, their vibrant personalities took leave until next time. One brother made his last trip out to the car with his arms loaded with what is pictured above. Yes, what a unique family we have. Our interests run the gamut. We take our crazy ideas out into the world and add own flavor to the pot. I hope you all are thankful for what your family has to offer. Each is a spice like no other.
Once again, it’s time to reflect on how thankful I am for all the good stuff. To be honest, over the past few months there have been lots of obstacles in the way. The smooth surface of my thirties has weathered and the bumpy roads of my 40’s lay ahead. The rock solid foundation that my parents created so many years ago has held up so well, but it was destined to develop some cracks. The challenge for us is to fill them in the best we can so angry words like cancer, divorce, and financial hardship can find better outcomes for the people I care about. I find that my best way to be thankful is through my photography, as I try to capture life’s everyday miracles. To show this I put together a slideshow of what I am truly thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving.
I have had a love affair with Philadelphia for as long as I can remember. My first memories in my life can be recalled back to playing on the banks of the Schuylkill River during many rowing regattas. I would watch boats coast along the muggy river while fall leaves would colorize its shores. It’s an unpolished city and perhaps that’s why I like it; unpolished like myself. Somehow I feel comfortable in my own skin here. In my times here, I always feel like I somehow just missed it, only touching on the very surface that has caught my eye. Pockets of the city echo its colorful past and vibrant future. As a city, it manages to seamlessly integrate the old and the new, never boring it’s dwellers with mundane cookie cutter architecture. Rather, every turn even invites you to open your eyes and take in something exciting. More than it larger New York rival, Philadelphia welcomes art in every nook and cranny. Somehow it becomes a less formidable and more inviting place. More than 3000 massive murals grace the facades of its buildings and it has no social prejudice in deciding where the art belongs. No matter how wealthy or poor the neighborhood may be, art becomes it. Once again we came here for a sporting event. Rather than sitting on the banks of the river, today I observed from Kelly Drive, a Parisian like road emitting drama and majesty. It was designed to feel like the France’s Champs Elysees. What better a way to see this beautiful city than by running its marathon? The lucky thousands would run by the Liberty Bell and pound the pavement along streets storied in history. Each runner would witness grand statues along the way, view the famed Boathouse Row, awe over the decorated Victorian gates of America’s first zoo and finish along the formidable and gorgeous steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The miles would tick by because of a course that would mesmerize the senses. My hours here are limited to the blink of an eye. I must soon come back and scratch deeper into the surface. I leave desperately wanting to capture more. This city is the miracle of America at it’s very best.
Ben Franklin Watches from High Above
William Penn looks below.
My weekday warrior ready to do battle.
The weekday warrior is a different kind of athlete than the weekend warrior. A few years back, my husband got a free vest after signing up for 4 events that were organized by a race committee. He likes the basics that the vest provides; shelter in a storm, a bit of warmth or a bit of air conditioning when needed. A good investment indeed (sorry, I couldn’t help myself). Those that know him well, know that without a doubt, a weekend warrior he is not. He is about as far from being a weekend warrior as I am from being Christie Brinkley. The man has not driven his car in three weeks. He has covered more than 600 miles in these weeks commuting to and from New Haven powered by pure human ambition. Next time, I’ll ask the race organizer to make a special vest for him that says “weekday warrior”. That would be a far more accurate testament in my opinion. He says that he feels strange running in his “Weekend Warrior” vest on a Tuesday morning at 4:30 am in the rain. Although today is Saturday, so (technically) while he covers the distance, he can wear his jacket with pride. Now all you weekend warriors, get out there and run!
Dec 23 is not the best day to put your holiday card together. It’s up there with the man who walks aimlessly around the mall on Christmas Eve looking for something; anything for his beloved wife. Last year, our family Christmas card was created out of an act of desperation. I had been busy photographing client holiday cards and somehow, I missed the boat. The saying, “the shoemakers children go shoeless”, comes to mind. Not heeding Chris's advice to buy some redi-made cards at Target, I soldiered on.One day prior to Christmas Eve, I called the troops into action, “Get those smiles on, It’s photo time!” Just because I’m a photographer, I am not excused from the typical groans that we have all come to know well when it’s time to take on this holiday task. I think that’s why photographers are hired for the job. Kids always seem to behave better in front of the camera when the person snapping the photo has no blood relation. As I licked my final envelope last December, I vowed that by November 15 of 2011, I would have the dreaded deed done. There would be no more “expedite my order” nightmares to contend with this year. When my ICal app. smiled upon me last week, I knew it was time. I trudged up to the attic ready to dig into a place I call Christmas Corner (across from Halloween Haven) and around the corner from the toy orphanage. I would pull out all sorts of holiday props: tinsel, lights, stockings and various green and red artifacts created to convey holiday joy. Irresponsibly, I would drag the kids away from various homework rituals to get the shot. I would bark at the kids foolishly, like my prodding would help this lost cause. Kate would do her best to at least fake a good smile while Peter did his best to sabotage the mission. Stage 2 hyper-tension was setting in. It was clear that I would need to abort this mission. Exasperated, I went up to bed thinking, “Gosh, I really need to hire a photographer!” One night later and one day wiser, I would have a glass of wine before picking up my camera. I would enter the game ready this time, armed with a theme in mind as well as some chocolate for good behavior. The kids would smile, the dog would pose and the stars were aligning. Dare I say that we felt “merry”? I would, until my husband would pick out a glaring error in the photo. Sigh… Much later after a night of hanging out with my old friend Photoshop, I would have bloodshot eyes and the card would be ordered. The perk…50% off and free shipping! Now I know why people that get their Christmas stuff done early, look merry and bright. No miracle necessary. So when that card does end up in your mailbox (or inbox), like a good Hallmark card, “I do care enough to send the very best”, but it sure wasn’t easy.
I looked out the window from the comfort of my bed. Outside the fog was thick and formidable. Days like this are when a photographer tells herself to get going. There’s probably a good shot out there somewhere. Bed however was warm and the dog allowed me to sleep in. Waiting probably a bit too long, I let the sun burn through the thick fog and captured the final minutes of the haze. I was in my own fog, existing in my own little world, forgetting everything else. It’s a place where I love to go. I feel so busy most of the time, usually swapping one hat for another, as the day demands. Picking up the camera transports me into a fog-like world. The busy world seems to vanish and I find myself focusing on solitary things as they present themselves. In the fog, artifacts from the landscape are defined through nature’s filter and have a solitary feel. Framed in a new way, the clutter is removed. Snow pictures also allow this freedom by naturally removing the distracting elements. I have run by this tree hundreds of times, never truly noticing it until now. I think of the gnarled and pugnacious apple tree from the Wizard of Oz and I secretly long for it to pick up an apple and chuck it at me. I double dog dare it as I peer at its uneven eyes, bulbous nose and warped mouth, armed with my waiting camera. As I leave I quickly look back, lost in my imagination, waiting for an apple to hit my head. I laugh at myself once again. The fog is lifting and reality is coming back. Life has given me a quick moment of solace so I can handle what it throws at me next. For the rest of the day, I would keep and eye out for apples coming my way.
I watched 6th grade students listen to military veterans tell their story yesterday. One by one, each gentleman walked up to the podium and explained the way it was. These experiences would leave an indelible mark years later and be forever part of the way it is. During their service, their celebrity was well hidden by their uniforms and military conformity. However, each has a story that makes their life famed. Their stories didn’t include over- exaggerated fanfare. They told us of the military tents they called home, the friends they made and the packages sent to them by their mothers. The kids saw the simple tools they used to shave, brush their teeth and keep them warm, despite the conditions. We learned that Spam isn’t just something you see on a supermarket shelf as you meander down the aisle. For the soldier, it was as close to getting a home-cooked meal as you could ever hope for. Because of their own struggle for normalcy during conflict, they have allowed us to have our own piece of normal at home. For the children, it came to mind yesterday that call of duty really isn’t a video game; it’s a way of life. Some had old tattered photos and once again the importance of photographic history came front and center. In the photos, the veterans looked young and their innocence looked no different than the students watching them. I looked at their photos and felt some strange form of envy that their experiences were so rich. In seeing them, I too wanted to capture a piece of their storied lives. We can honor their celebratory lives by living ours in gratitude. Hardly a tall order when you think of how much harder they had it. We should honor them, because they live or lived with honor. Thanks to all that served.
When the temperature reaches almost 70 degrees in November, I try to hopelessly sink my teeth into the warm air and not let go. I know the days are coming when all of the leaves will dangle and release their last grip from the trees that have nurtured them throughout the year. Rather than mourn this loss, I’ll chose to celebrate and remember summer, my favorite time of the year. During lazy summer days, I often find time to revisit my rural haunts and rediscover them once again. It was a warm day in early July that I took this series of photos up on Whirlwind Hill in Wallingford. Having been here time and time again, I realized only small changes; pitchforks and shovels moved, fresh new hay piles piled into lofts and young calfs to meet for the first time. The little changes I can see make these havens a comfortable place to visit. Although they seem to stand still in time they beautifully reflect a natural pace of things. It isn’t until these farms disappear, that we realize that we often take them for granted. They play the role of timekeepers, year after year. Watching the fields grow through the season until the earth becomes cold and barren again is like having a clock remind us there is a time and place for everything. In a small town, the changing seasonal landscape brings vitality but also tells us when to hibernate and get the rest we need. Summer, you’re a long way off, but I’m happy for the time we had together.
It’s birthday week for the two kids in our house. I have hit the retail world hard, covering the big box stores far more than I would like to admit to. As birthdays come and go through the years, I do my best to find meaningful gifts for my kids that wont end up as attic fodder. Yet somehow yesterday, I ended up wandering long aisles looking for a retail miracle. The predictability of box stores is nauseating. They all have the same layout, sell the same stuff from China and make shopping a chore on par with cleaning bathrooms. I wrote an entire blog yesterday griping about my box store experience that brought me to my knees. It made me completely lose my faith in humanity. I didn’t post it because I didn’t want to ruin your day either. I worked in a mom and pop bicycle shop for 4 years. People didn’t come in just to buy a product; they came in for the personal experience. To purchase a $7 bicycle tube, a customer left with 30 minutes of true retail therapy. A tube would be sold, but each customer received enough time and energy to make them feel special. We were merchants, but we were also seasoned personal therapist and cheerleaders for whatever the customer's cause. People liked walking through our doors because they left genuinely happy. Christmas is coming. After the birthday shopping debacle, I came home thinking that this year, Christmas season shouldn’t make me into a scrooge. Gifts should be created and not bought out of desperation or from a feeling of requirement. But how do we break the pattern? I have started to wonder if Christmas has become too big to fail. I was reminded yesterday of this as I heard the familiar hum of Bing crooning White Christmas while walking through the cavernous stores. The big stores are already desperate and they want us to jump on board the runaway train. Here are some thoughts on how to take control of the holidays:
Make something. Get some ideas off of Pinterest.com. Whether you’re making a craft out of Shrinky Dinks or knitting a sweater, it's really is the thought that counts. If you start today, there’s a pretty good chance that by Christmas, you’re craft will be a masterpiece. Give it a whirl.
Handmade by my dad!
If you’re a hopeless crafter, Go to Etsy.com. Thousands of people that seriously know how to use a glue gun sell their wares here and you’ll come out looking like a champion. You'll also be helping cottage businesses and American individualism thrive.
Give the gift or refinishing a room in your home. Last year I constructed Kate’s Harry Potter room and it was the most rewarding gift I ever gave. It also gave my shopping purpose once I came up with a theme. Put up the keep out sign for the week or two before Christmas so it's even more of a surprise! When Kate opened the wrapping paper covered door, she was so excited that I cried.
Use your hard-drive full of photos. I have thousands of them and there’s a good chance you do as well. The ideas are endless, but pick up the book, “Photo Craft”, to get some more advanced ideas.
The gift of an experience…my perennial fall back. My husband loves this and it always takes first place in our house. In our journeys, he usually gets to go to a race, I get to play with my camera in an unexplored place and the kids get to have an adventure away from the XBOX.
Support someone’s hobby by purchasing materials that allows it to happen. By doing this, you’re supporting their dreams. You never know what successes will come of a hobby unless someone supports it.
Shop at the Mom and Pop store. Creativity runs rampant in these little gems. They’ll help you get a smile when colorful wrapping is opened. If it’s local, you’ll also get the scoop on what’s going on around town. I may write an entire blog entry on local ideas soon.
Donate time. It may sound corny, but giving feels as good as receiving. We all have a bag of tricks that’s unique and useful. Open up this bag and your heart will feel better.
Please feel free to comment and share your holiday ideas, we can all learn from them. You have less than two months, you better get moving….