Sunday, February 24, 2008

Wedding Adventure

I am not a professional photographer. I am not even a really talented amateur. I love photography and I am learning.

I was asked by a friend to photograph her brother's wedding coming up in July. The photographer they hired took the engagement photos and then they never heard from him again. So they needed new engagement photos too.

I explained that I had never done a wedding. I didn't want to do weddings. They are a huge responsibility with no do-overs. But they begged. So I agreed. Casey and I did the engagement photos and they were very happy with them. We will be doing the wedding in July. I am nervous.

About a month ago, my son's friend called him and asked if I might photograph the wedding of friends of his. Zack gave him my number to pass on. The wedding was only a few weeks away and I didn't really think they would call. Kym called about a week later. I explained my lack of experience, my aversion to photographing weddings, but agreed to help her out. Our conversation was so easy and it felt like we had known each other for a while. I was willing to try.

So I recruited my kids. Both are very talented photographers but in different ways. My son uses different angles and perspectives and is very creative. My daughter has a knack for getting "the shot" and is great with composition and setting up poses. My thought was that between the three of us, we would get some good shots. And I knew I couldn't do it alone.

Kym and Patrick's wedding was yesterday. We came up with a plan to ensure everyone's talents were being used in the best way possible. And I have to say, we got some really good shots. But it truly took all three of us. And it was a very long day. We took 984 photos in 5 hours. A very long day. We all agreed that this would NOT be our preferred way to make a living.

And Kym was a beautiful bride. We had never met before yesterday when she got out of the limo but we clicked. I would hang out with her. She is my kind of people.

The photo for today is one of my favorites from the day. Just as Patrick and Kym walked back up the aisle after the ceremony and exited the doors of the sanctuary, she burst into tears. Patrick was comforting her. It was very touching. A few moments later, I noticed he kept touching her back and arm. This was one of those moments.

So we will do this one more time. In July for Travis and Gina. One last time.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Champagne and Bubble Baths

I am a firm believer in doing things that make you happy. I love bubble baths. I am also fond of champagne. Together, they make me happy.

There was no celebration. There doesn't have to be one. It's the end of the week. I was home alone. It was a cold, rainy day. A bubble bath sounded lovely.

There was a bottle of champagne in the fridge from New Year's Eve. Champagne should be enjoyed because you like it, not just for special occasions.

Home alone, a bubble bath and a flute of champagne. It's a great way to end the long week. A great way to relax. Doing something for myself, just because I enjoy it.

Do something for yourself. Today. Don't wait for a special occasion. Today is the perfect occasion.

Also the perfect occasion for one of those silly but fun question games, edited for space.

Something you hate more than anything?
Stupid people. Not uneducated, just stupid.

One person you'd travel across the country to see?
My family lives all over the country so it would be them even though I have yet to take that road trip.

Someone just handed you $100,000,000 now what?
I plan how to spend a windfall while I am driving long distances so I have thought of this many times. I would pay off or buy each of my siblings and my father's houses. I would bring my entire family and their families to Gatlinburg for a week in a huge cabin. Then I would take them all somewhere for a family vacation every year. I would take my children to Europe. I would build my dream home, as well as a couple of vacation homes. I would travel with my kids all over the world. I would take classes. I would set up a charitable foundation. I would buy whatever the heck I wanted.

What's one business you'd start if you could?
A photography studio.

Your phone rings, who are you expecting?
Hopefully one of my kids letting me know where they are. Or my dream date.

You go into Walmart and have $20 to spend, what do you buy?
Paper towels and dog food. How boring is that?

You're able to go back into your life and change one thing, what is it?
My sister said it best - I'd make my Mom have radiation after her mastectomy. She'd probably still be here if she did.

Who's been the greatest friend to you throughout your life?
My Mom has always been my best friend. I have other, really close friend but right now, my kids are my closest friends.

When driving, what was one of the strangest things you've seen?
A tire bouncing across the interstate, hitting the car in front of me.

What was the best trip you've ever been on?
The trip to NY with my kids was one of the best.

You have one last meal to eat before you die, what is it?
Ummm, my mom's chicken n' dumplings, my mammaw's biscuits, my mother-in-law's mashed potatoes, green beans and sweet potato casserole, my mammaw's coconut cake, mom's chicken tacos, can you tell I love food?

Where will you be 12 hours from now?
Photographing a wedding.

Who do you wish you were with right now?
I kind of like being alone, chillin' right now. Although, I'm always looking for a soulmate.

Is your life simple or complicated?
Kind of complicated. I'm really trying to simplify.

Would you go back in time if you were given the chance?
Yes - give me a time machine. I am a genealogist and I have so many questions about family members that I would love to be able to ask them in person. The opportunity to know them during the historical time period in which they lived would be fascinating to me.

Do you think you are a good parent?
I am the best parent my children have.

What's your favorite kind of ice cream?
Ben and Jerry's New York Super Fudge Chunk.

Is your current hair color your natural hair color?
It's my natural color as I remember it. But it is covering up what has become my natural color - grey.

True or False: Everything happens for a reason.
TRUE. Absolutely.

Do you follow the rules?
I am such a rule follower. Unless they are ridiculous. It's really all about the karma.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ode To Tea

I don't drink a lot of tea. I am a coffee lover. I have a hard time passing a Starbucks without stopping. But there is something about tea.

Hot tea is comforting. It's pretty. You drink it in a pretty teacup and prepare it in a pretty teapot. I love ritual. I love pretty things.

Coffee seems laid back and informal. "Come on over for a cup of coffee" is a neighborly statement. "Do you want to get a cup of coffee?" is an invitation for a get-to-know-you date or could be just friends hanging out. No big deal. Just coffee.

Tea is more formal. More serious. High Tea. But you also want hot tea when you don't feel well. When you need comfort. Some people want it because they just want to be different from all the millions of espresso fueled Starbucks groupies.

Last Sunday was a rainy day. It was that gray, quiet, constant drizzle that falls all day. My sunroom has 10 windows but I turned the lights on in the middle of the day. I was chilling, watching old movies and doing laundry. It was the perfect day for tea.

I boiled the water for a pot of Constant Comment, an orange and spice tea I have always loved. I took my dainty little teacup and saucer out and retrieved my stoneware teapot. They don't match but they are both so pretty. After preparing the tea, I brought the pot and cup into the sunroom, piled up into my chair and a half, and proceeded to sip the afternoon away.

Rainy afternoon, old black and white movies, Constant Comment tea.

It was perfect.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Used To Dance

"There are shortcuts to happiness and dancing is one of them" Vicki Baum

I read this quote in a magazine this morning. It made me think. I grew up dancing. The photo is me at 4 years old. My grandmother and my mom had taken cheesecloth and wrapped it around me to make a "dress", tying it with red ribbon. I was wearing those plastic high heels that all little girls had, red of course. I was a dancer.

I took ballet classes from the time I was 5 until I was 12. I can't say that I ever really loved ballet but I did like it. I also took a year of tap and a year of jazz dance.

I loved to watch American Bandstand for as long as I can remember. The dancers all looked so grown up and they were sooooo coooooool. As a preteen, my friends and I would get in the living room, put on records (remember records?) and dance around the room. Later, during the disco phase, my teenage friends and I practiced The Hustle and the dances of John Travolta and friends. We went to the monthly high school dances and showed off our moves.

I don't really dance any more. I am not really a club girl. I recently looked into tap and hip hop dance classes but I think I might be a little to self conscious about that route.

But I still love to dance. So I think I will. I will dance when I am alone. I will dance when I am in my car. I will dance in my living room.

If you see me, don't call the men in the white coats . . . I am just taking a shortcut to happiness.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Love Someone, Even Yourself . . . Please

I watched the Today show this morning as I was getting ready to go to work. As I drove to my office this morning I listened to a couple of different stations. Valentine's Day is apparently very difficult for some people.

Several times, I heard statements like:

"I don't have a Valentine."

"Even if you don't have someone to enjoy Valentine's Day with . . . "

"If you are looking for a Valentine . . ."

"I am anti-Valentine's Day"

People, come on! What have we done to Valentine's Day? We have turned it into another day of judgement and self-criticism. Stop it! Right now!

Remember when we were kids? You carefully selected your Valentine cards, or if you were crafty, made them, in anticipation of handing them out in class. You made sure that the "best" ones went to your special friends. You hoped your secret crush would know that you really meant what was on their card. You counted the number of cards you got in your mailbox - a carefully decorated, heart covered shoebox with a slit on top.

It was a fun activity that reminded us of the importance of friendship and letting others know we cared.

We can do that with anyone on Valentine's Day. I get my kids little goofy gifts and boxes of candy. I try to do something nice for them.

This morning, I got up at 5:30am (have I shared just a few times that I am NOT a morning person?) and made homemade heart shaped muffins and scones before my daughter left for school. I set out special plates that had I Love You written all over them. I put diced peaches in a small paper cup, sprinkled heart candy on top, and stuck a heart skewer in the middle. I laid out a box of candy, a heart covered plastic duck that lights up, and a pair of heart covered socks. Then I woke up my daughter, who is not a morning person either. It was fun. It made her feel good. It made me feel really good. And if I had no child or special person in my life, I would have done it for myself, although not at 5:30am.

The Valentine's Day after my husband died, I came home that evening to the most special gift I have ever received. My children had cut out construction paper hearts - red ones, pink ones, white ones - of all sizes. They had taped the hearts all over my bedroom walls, on the vanity mirror, on the window. There were probably 60 or 70 hearts. It was the coolest thing. And guess what . . . six years later, they are still on my walls. You can see them here.

This day is about Love. Stop focusing on the negative and what you don't have. Focus on the LOVE. Do something for someone else. Or yourself. Just stop whining.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Drive Home

Much of my time spent at my job is spent in a car. I travel Middle and East Tennessee to Nashville, Chattanooga, Johnson City and Kingsport as well as my hometown of Knoxville.

Some days are boring and I hate being in the car. I have my faithful Ipod with me and XM radio so I can usually keep myself entertained. And there are frequent phone calls as much of my job is also done over the phone.

And then there are days like today. I was returning from a visit in Kingsport and Johnson City. For those that are not familiar with East Tennessee geography, the drive from Knoxville to the east and back is along the edge of the Smoky Mountains, skirting the Appalachians. While you don't see the most spectacular mountains and valleys, the scenery is rural, with rolling hills. If you have to be on an interstate, it's a pretty nice one on which to be.

This was my view on the way home. The clouds were large, white, and puffy as the sun began to set. Frequently, they blocked the sun - a welcome relief as I was moving due west, straight into the setting sun. The sky was bright blue with pink spots of reflection. As I came over a hill, the sun sent rays through the clouds like something out of a bible photo.

I grabbed my camera and tried maintain my interstate speed while not running anyone else off the road. I took several photos. Then I put down my camera and just enjoyed the view.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Think Pink Day

I am thinking PINK. Today is Think Pink Day. The University of Tennessee Basketball Lady Volunteers - known to all as The NCAA Champion Lady Vols - are raising awareness for breast cancer. I am a supporter. Of the Lady Vols and of breast cancer awareness.

I am not a joiner of causes. I am passionate about certain things but I don't usually join "the cause".

But my Mom's battle with breast cancer made me a supporter. Not for the reasons you would think.

Mom had a very small lump, detected early. In fact, the lump was so small that the biopsy almost "got it all". She had a lumpectomy and all looked good. The doctor recommended follow-up radiation treatment but chemo was not necessary.

Then Mom made a decision.

My mother was very spiritual and very knowledgeable about alternative medicine. She was highly intelligent, educated, and she researched thoroughly whatever she considered.

Mom decided she would not have radiation.

She said that she had researched it and that often, the radiation does damage to other organs and causes more problems than it helps. She was going to treat this holistically.

There was no changing my mother's mind once she made a decision.

Over 5 years, Mom tried many things. I won't go into my hatred for some of the charlatans that took her money. But she believed. She believed that the pain she was experiencing was not cancer. It must be something else.

And there were many times that the traditional medical tests showed no sign of cancer. They couldn't explain her pain.

"It has to be related to the cancer though" they told her.

In late August of 2005, she was at the Mayo clinic for 2 weeks. They did a minor surgery unrelated to the cancer. They did find that the cancer was recurring and recommended that she return to Vanderbilt Medical Center for some minor chemo. One pill every couple of weeks, she wouldn't even be sick or lose her hair. She gave in and agreed. She just didn't want to be in pain anymore.

Mom returned home. Within a few weeks, she went to Vanderbilt for tests to get a baseline so they could measure her progress. They said the cancer had spread. They admitted her. She died 48 hours later.

Would radiation have prevented her death? How will we ever know? Am I angry with Mom? No. She lived her life on her terms and we ALL supported her, all of us knowing the risks. But I am sad. Would I do it the same way? No.

So I am a supporter of awareness. And knowledge. And choices. Even bad ones.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

For Real?

When I fly, I listen to my Ipod. It keeps me from focusing on all the craziness around me.

Last night, it didn't work. Maybe there was just too much and the crazy filter got clogged.

When I connected in Memphis, the flight to Knoxville was delayed for only a few minutes to wait on the crew that was inbound.

After 20 minutes . . . "Ladies and Gentlemen, the crew is here, we aren't sure where they are, we think they stopped to get something to eat."

In my head, I said, "For real? Oooooooh that crew is going to be mad that you said that, Ms. Gate Agent".

The crew arrived and we boarded. The pilot announced, "Sorry we were late. We figured since we were late anyway, we needed to get something to eat and what's a few more minutes, right?"

For real? Did he really say that?

Still waiting to push back, the young couple in the seats across the aisle from me are discussing their relationship. I hear bits and parts. The girl, who was wearing overalls, appeared to be very young but she was obviously old enough to have taken college psychology. "All the signs point to the fact that you are depressed." Then it was mumble, mumble something I couldn't understand. "You never share your feelings with me". Mumble, mumble. "That's why I don't trust you".

In my head I say to her (I have lots of confrontations with people in my head) "For real? You are going to do this on a plane? With all these people around?"

Next to me, the young man is focused on his crossword puzzle. He sighs. He sighs again, with exasperation. He looks at the answer in the back of the book. He sighs again. The pilot makes an announcement that we are waiting for some reason to push back and Exasperated Puzzle Guy sighs again, loudly. Is he frustrated because of the flight delays, the puzzle, or the couple next to us? I am not asking.

I wish I was sitting next to the older gentleman a few rows ahead with shaggy gray hair and the Harley shirt. I have this thing about longer hair and motorcycles.

Overall Girl said "How do you feel about that?" Boyfriend put on his headphones.

I laugh. I have to write all this down. I get out my notebook and pen. We take off. Finally. I put my headphones on and turn up the Ipod.

After a violently bumpy landing, I am very thankful to arrive home. It is almost midnight.

On the way home, I am driving quietly through a quiet neighborhood. I stop, turn right and go to the next stop sign. There are red and blue lights flashing in my rearview mirror. For real????

She said I ran a stop sign. No, I didn't.

"Not this one, the other one."

"For real?"

"Yes, for real."

I took the stupid ticket. Again, the confrontation in my head went something like this: "Why would I stop at one stop sign and not the other? I always stop. Maybe not for 3 seconds but I stop. I am going to court over this one! Who is she protecting? It's midnight on a Wednesday night in a quiet suburban neighborhood. What the heck? I know I stopped!"

For Real!!!!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

What's A Utata?

Utata - what is it? Utata is a photography group that really keeps you challenged. It is made up of photographers and they are quite a creative bunch. And funny too. There are regular challenges and projects as well as educational discussions. They display their member's work on a great website in a professional manner.

My favorites are the projects. There is Thursday Walk - pretty simple - take a walk every Thursday and post a picture of something from your walk. There is The Weekend Project. One weekend it was Bowls, another was Mugshots, and the most recent was Seven Deadly Sins. But my "most favoritist" project is Iron Photographer. The give you 3 elements that must be used. Some recent ones that can be seen here:
  • A hand, applied tape, intense color
  • One or more eggs, a white background, portrait orientation
  • Something metal, something grown on a tree, indirect light
  • A t-shirt, the oldest pair of footwear you own, soft image
This week's Iron Photographer criteria - an umbrella, shot indoors, cinematic ratio. At first, I wasn't too sure that I could do something creative and interesting with that. But I love the creativity of this group and it inspires me. My comfort level is kind of limited to candid, unposed shots. Or things in their natural state. Very rarely do I plan out a shot. But you have to do that with Iron Photographer. So the picture you see is my submission. I love it. And I had so much fun, changing the background to go with the different umbrellas, changing hats, setting up the lighting. I did a red background, black and white umbrella, with the black hat. Then I did this pink one. Then I did an orange, yellow, and red striped background with a red umbrella and the black hat. The pink was my favorite.

I am learning. I am having fun. I love the interaction of all the creative people. They are all so much better than I am and I love it. It pushes me to be better at something I love.

Now, if I could just find a less expensive passion.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

It Was My Birthday

Friday was my birthday. I am 40ahemmumbleahem years old. It was a good birthday. By that, I mean that it was remembered by many people this year.

Let me back up. Growing up, our birthdays were special. My Mom made them a huge event. I don't mean that we got a lot of stuff or had huge parties. We did not have a lot of money but she made it our day, all about us.

We had parties with our friends. Mom always made the cake and themed it - mine was always a pink heart cake because it's in February. She also made lots of homemade games for the party. One was a paper plate with a cat face drawn on it and a big circle cut out for a mouth. Then she balled up peices of aluminum foil and we had to throw the tin balls through the mouth of the cat hanging in a doorway. Another was a paper bag, open on the floor. We stood with our toes touching it holding wooden clothespins. We had to look straight ahead and drop the clothespins into the paper bag. It's harder than it sounds.

When we got older, we got to pick a restaurant and we all went out to eat. Those were days when eating out was a special treat. To allow the birthday kid to pick the restaurant, any restaurant, was a risky thing when parents are living paycheck to paycheck. But they did it. It was our day.

Our birthdays were special. I did the same thing for my kids. When you grow up, people laugh if you feel like your birthday is supposed to be special. You learn to be embarrased about drawing all that attention to yourself. Is that called growing up? I don't know. But I do know that the feeling of being special on your birthday is still there no matter how old you are.

Last year was not a good birthday. Dad forgot it for the second year. I thought that the amount of grief I had given him over the previous year would have spurred him to make an effort. Nope. The directors that worked for me forgot. Every one of them. My kids remembered about 3pm and apologized for not getting a present. Other friends and co-workers also forgot. A couple of my siblings remembered the next day and apologized. Along about 9pm that night I sat on the bed and cried. My daughter apologized for not getting me anything. I explained that it wasn't about the presents. It was about remembering. Knowing that people forgot. It was a huge pity party. My birthday pity party.

This year was so different. My daughter started the birthday countdown 3 weeks ago. "Mom, it's 12 days till your birthday." "Mom, did you know it's only 6 days to your birthday?" So many people called me and sent emails. My directors got me a beautiful edible arrangement of fruit that looks like a basket of flowers - see today's picture. My kids and their significant others took me out to eat and to a movie. We had a great evening. When we got home at 11pm, I had a message from my brother and missed calls from my youngest sister and my in-laws. My middle sister text messaged me at about 12:30am. I teased her that technically she missed it. She insisted that because she is on central time, it was still my birthday. She gets credit.

Did my Dad make it this year? No, he didn't. He did leave me a message this morning apologizing. He sounded really sincere. I believe him. He is doing the best he can.

So do I sound spoiled? Maybe. But I don't think there is any reason why one day a year, it can't be all about me. Or you. We do so much for others, we need a day that people show us how much they care. Not with gifts. Letting people know they are remembered is so much better.