My life, family and photography

Yes, you read that correctly…today I am blogging about another blogpost.  Stick with me – it will all make sense.

I don’t even remember where or when I found her blog but that’s how a lot of blogs get found…you just stumble upon then after clicking here and clicking there.  But I found a voice that I liked reading and enjoyed reading about her adventures as a family that had just moved from the midwest (St. Louis) to the North Shore of MA.  I could relate to those feelings in some ways since I’m 1000 miles away from my family.  I read, I responded at times but mostly just enjoyed.  Then one day last spring something made me reach out to Kate on LinkedIn to connect with her on a professional level.  We emailed and discussed work, life in New England, family, kids, etc.  We chatted via email from time to time, then connected via Facebook.  I appreciated her humor and her stories and discovered that we both seem to be night owls.  We had talked about meeting up at some point but such is life with your own families and activities to do it just hadn’t happened yet.  But no matter, it was fun to keep in touch electronically.

Recently she learned that a children’s book that was inspired by her 3-year-old son’s interest in all things poop would be published.  What fun, how exciting!  Seriously, I’m not sure she envisioned her name being on the cover of a book about poop but hey, it’s a worthwhile topic when you have potty training tots.  And honestly, what adult doesn’t like a good bathroom joke from time to time!  ;o)

She announced that she would be doing her first reading at a bookstore in Brookline…a store that I enjoyed a lot when I used to live in Brookline many moons ago.  I decided that this would be a perfect event to meet in person.  So this past weekend we took the kids for a drive to my old stomping grounds to do a quick visit to the Booksmith to say hello and show her some support and offer her congrats.  It was a quick visit but we got to meet each others families and, as is my MO, I baked them some cookies to congratulate them on this event.

Bella and Kellen (Kate’s 3-year-old son) seemed to have hit it off and had a great time chasing after each other.  What strikes me as odd is that even though we just met for the first time we already now so much about each other.  It’s a crazy world we live in these days with all this technology and connectedness.  I know it has its pitfalls but in this case I think it’s just pretty darn cool!  I can actually think of a few other people who I only know via the internet that I given the chance would love to meet in person.  Just goes to show that human connectedness isn’t always about face to face.  I  have connected with some through their photography, others through their baking and others through our similar life paths or stories.  Maybe I will be blessed enough to meet them in person some day but until then, I appreciate the fact that we don’t live our life on an island.

Kate, It was a great pleasure finally meeting you and all the best wishes in the world as you continue on this Author path!  Maybe you’ll remember me when you become famous!  I look forward to keeping up with your success and possibly meeting up again in the future.  Until then, see you on the web!

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My submission in the I Heart Faces March B&W Picture Challenge…Jeremiah, less than 2 weeks shy of 8 years old.  How did we get this far so fast.  You’ve only been a part of our lives for 4 years when you stole our hearts the day we met you.  You have grown so much, laughed a million laughs, learned a million new things and filled a million tiny holes in our hearts we never knew were there.  You were the first one to call me Mommy, the first one to teach me what this job is all about and what love really is.  We have a million more hours to see you grown into the person you will become.  Thank you for the honor of being your mommy!

Photo Challenge Submission

This photo was submitted to the I Heart Faces photo challenge – www.iheartfaces.com

 

Telling a story in just one picture isn’t an easy task.  When it comes to writing I tend to be a bit verbose.  Why say it in 10 words when you can say it in 20, right?  Well maybe not that bad but you get the point.  So why would my photography be any different?  Well the point is that sometimes you can’t tell the entire story in just one sentence but at least you can leave the reader wanting more.  So in photography, you leave the viewer waiting for the squeal, right?  However, for the last assignment in this workshop that was the task…one picture to tell a story.  I wanted to use people because after all, I LOVE people, they tell stories in all kinds of ways, actions, emotions, facial expressions, etc!  But my planned session with a friend and partner were thwarted by the stomach bug.  Honestly, if she didn’t want her picture taken she didn’t have to get sick to avoid it! HA!  But in all honesty her being sick wasn’t a story I wanted to tell or share with anyone.  I assume you agree with me on this thought.

So what is a girl to do when her subject has called in sick…you do the next best thing, you wing it.  Well, here it was, the eve of Valentine’s Day…that holiday for love, friendship and all things, sweet, pink and red.  So I was plugging along just like any other mother of 2 kids with school Valentine’s day parties the next day…I was stuffing valentines, writing all the proper TOs and FROMs, checking the class lists twice, all the while covered in flour after baking 6 dozen cookies to send along with the kids and of course some to share at home, work and the neighbors.  After all, it was the holiday of love and friendship.

So here I was multitasking with the best of them…iPad on the counter, recipe up in one window, iTunes up in another, oven preheating, getting supplies out, the mixer going, Valentines and class lists on the corner of the counter, I’m mixing, I’m whisking, I’m cracking eggs, measuring this, measuring that when it hits me…there is a story laying right  on the counter in front of me.  It’s my story…my story as a mom of two young children.  My story about how I love my children, how store-bought treats won’t do for special times, how you make sure you get the Valentines day cards at the grocery store  because you realize the party is in 2 days and you haven’t bought them yet…it’s MY STORY!  I’m tired, it’s late but I press on because I LOVE my children and would do anything for them, including addressing 40+ Valentines while making home-made chocolate cookies after working a full day, coming home to cook dinner, get through the night-time routine and instead of having down time after the kids go to bed, I do all of the above…and I don’t begrudge it one bit!

So here is MY story…not exactly in one sentence, and it most certainly is not the only volume in my life but it’s one of the most important ones that has many more chapters to come and I await anxiously for the next volumes that are yet to come.

I can’t say that the second part of this assignment was a favorite – honestly, who likes having their picture taken?  Yeah, I didn’t think so!  But…I have to share how the post written by Jessica is one that hit home…nearly 2 years ago!  Yes, I first read that post on  The Creative Mama in May of 2010.  That was my introduction to Jessica.  I know she didn’t write it FOR me but I it felt like she did.  And my response to that post (which can be seen there) says it.

“Have you been talking to my mom? Did she tell you to write this post as a way to remind me that I need to relinquish the camera more so that I can actually prove I was there at all those fantastic moments – and even some of the just everyday moments? Well…if it wasn’t her that talked you into sending me this subtle message you still spoke so many wonderful thoughts about something I really need to do so much better.”

I immediately LOVED her heart and began following her blog.  And I have to say she has lived up to those first impressions.  Her words always leave me either inspired, laughing and occasionally crying but the good kind of tears.  But most importantly, she is REAL!  She doesn’t try to make her life seem perfect, she struggles with things and makes me (and others) feel normal because we share the same struggles of balancing life, marriage, children, work, and photography.

But what really made me realize I was doing something “wrong” was something that happened just before reading Jessica’s post…it just took that post to make it really hit home.  I bought a digital frame for my husband for Christmas to have at work and it somehow just stayed in the dining room on the buffet because the kids LOVED seeing the pictures as they flipped by.  It’s so fun to see their expressions and hear memories about certain events.  My son will often say, “I loved that day…” or “Remember that time…”  and then to see their reaction when they realize new photos have been added is so much fun.  BUT…my then 6-year-old  said, “I loved that day…but you weren’t there mommy so you don’t remember.”  It made me sort of chuckle but is mostly made me sad…I reminded him that I was there, after all it was me who took the picture.  BUT that comment (his reality) reminded me, yet again, that I need to be in front of the camera more and not always behind it.

Both of our children are adopted (from Foster care – so they’ve had tough starts to life) so I want to continue to do better at documenting more than just THEIR lives but our FAMILY’s life.

So what have I done to fix that?  Well, I can’t way I’m a pro at the self-portrait, nor am I great at asking others to take pictures but what I HAVE done is the following:  In the past 4 years we have had our family pictures taken professionally 4 times.  Once after my son’s adoption, again shortly after our daughter joined our family, then again after the adoption of our daughter and most recently, this past summer while we were visiting with my family in Kentucky so we could have pictures of my mom, my family and my sister’s family.  I adore those pictures and memories.  I also bought a non-fancy camera for my husband to use because he gets nervous using my “big” camera.  This mean I stand a better chance of being in a picture with my kids.  I also realize that memories aren’t about mega pixels or f stops, apertures, and fancy lenses…memories and moments happen whether there is a fancy camera within reach or not.  But one thing I almost always have on me and can quickly access is my phone’s camera.  And quite honestly, some of my favorite moments have been captured this way.  This doesn’t mean I am ready to abandon my SLR but it does mean that I stand a better chance of not missing something just because I can’t get to my “real” camera in time.  Plus, it means that I can quickly text or email a smile to my family 1000 miles away so they can see something they would otherwise miss as well.

So the fact that I saw and read Jessica’s post nearly 2 years ago has led me to this very moment.  I read it, it spoke to me, she responded personally to my post which endeared me to her even more.  So I followed her blog and learned more, took her workshop, learned more about an art I already knew I loved.  But it gave me a network of others just like me.  Women who aspire to many different things in life…some are mom’s, some aren’t but all of which aspire to capture more beautiful and meaningful photos.  She also exposed me to Brooke Snow‘s work and workshop.  And so it all comes full circle…it doesn’t mean I enjoy having my picture taken any more than I did but at least I appreciate and understand the importance of it.  I don’t want my children to look back at pictures from their childhood and say, “Where was Mom?”

I don’t LOVE this picture – but self-love is always a work in progress.  Thank you for another reminder and the nudge that there really is an “importance of you” in photographs.  I am committed to making this something I do far more often.

Abandonded but not gone…

It has been an emotional week in our house.  My father-in-law was admitted to the hospital last week and informed that he must undergo heart bypass surgery.  This wasn’t news our family expected to hear.  I have only been an Anderson for less than a quarter of my life but it has been some of my most important and wonderful years.  I grew up without much of a father figure in my life and honestly I was okay with that.  My mom is such an important and key part of my life that I never felt I was missing much.  However, when I started dating Matt, I was quickly accepted as a part of his family.  I am extremely blessed to have wonderful in-laws in my life.  My father-in-law, however, filled a hole I didn’t know existed.  He really is the only father figure I have ever had in my life and I am so lucky to have him as that figure, not only in my life but also in my children’s lives.  It is clear he raised his boys to be strong and gentle just like he is but I adore the relationship he has with his grandchildren.  Knowing that his health was in question was difficult for me…for our family.  His surgery was this morning and it couldn’t have gone better…but we know that he has a road to recovery ahead of him.  But if anyone is in this for a fight it is Steven.  He won’t like it but he’ll do it because he adores his family and isn’t ready to throw in the towel.

So what does this have to do with these pictures?  Not much other than the fact that I needed some down time to have my thoughts to myself and not in the hurried pace of life.  I needed time with just myself and my camera.  So I decided to take a lunch break to get some pictures at a location near where I work of an abandoned mental hospital.  A mixture of decay, old architecture, growth and renewal despite it all.  I don’t know that I was technically allowed to be there but no one told me to leave so I wandered around to see what I could find.

The first picture is of one of the boarded up buildings – I loved it because it appears to just be floating in the sky.  The windows are boarded up, the contrast of the red board against the light-colored brick, the dark roof and the blue sky.

This next photo I love because of the contrast of the color of the chairs against the rest of the surroundings.  These chairs were inside a green house that was on the property that is also abandoned and crumbling.  It makes me wonder why they are there, what their story is.

Here is a link to other pictures I took while on the property
And I won’t lie – I didn’t get to practice patience this week with trying to capture the decisive moment…but believe me, I’m always looking for it.  What I did do is find a picture to honor or my father-in-law and the fact that he just turned 69 a couple of week ago.  So I went into my files and pulled out this rare photo.  Steven is a  warm and loving man…but it’s so rare that you can capture a TRUE smile on his face on camera.  This is a birthday tradition in the Anderson’s – the birthday crown.  You might even be able to tell it has been well used over the years.  Steve won’t wear it for long but he humored us for a moment and I was able to snap a quick image of him slightly smiling, wearing the crown but LOVING having family around…even if it was to celebrate him getting a year older! I love you Steve…now get better so we can celebrate you turning 70 next year!

The many moods of Bella…

In many ways my Bella is a very typical 3.5 year old little girl…but in other ways she is very much her own person…so determined, independent, head strong, and has a memory and the mind that never ceases to amaze me.  She has a range of emotions that go from hysterically funny, incredibly serious, amazingly smart to Niagara Falls-like tear filled emotion.  But one thing that she is to me that she isn’t to many others is MINE!  I adore this little girl in every way imaginable and then in other ways I never knew possible.  When you go through the process of adoption you get asked questions that they never ask birth parents.  There is one that intrigues me…”Do you feel that you can fully love a child that is not your “own?”  I knew at the time when I was asked that question that of course I could.  But I am not sure I realized the depths to which my love would go for her…far deeper than I could ever imagine or have hoped.  She is such a mama’s girl (and in fact she’s also a HUGE Nana’s girl – my mom)…and while I want and encourage her to have a strong relationship with Daddy I secretly love that she’s a Mama’s girl.

Part of me never wants her to grow out of this stage but I also know there are so many more wonderful (and amazing) times ahead for my Bella Bo and that I’m bound to find another stage that I’ll wish to keep in but alas change and growth is not an option so I continue to make it my duty to document these days and moments that will forever mean the world to me.

I loved all three of these shots but each of them tugged at my heart for different reasons.  Sometimes changing your physical perspective can also change your mental and emotional perspective in the process.
   

This past weekend we attending the mayhem, I mean birthday party of our neighbor’s son’s 4th birthday.  When Bella loves you she lets you know.  She raced to make sure she was sitting right next to Owen for cake, she ran after him all over the party place, kept asking him to come play.  She always wants to give Owen hugs and he’s sweet and obliges but at one point he said “Again?”  Boys…

 

I love closing in on them and getting the details…the group behind them is distracting me from all they fun and cake!

I had the opportunity to photograph a music class that took place in one of the schools of the company I work for.  They are early childhood education schools – infant through Pre-K.  My daughter also happens to attend this school.  But on this day I got to photograph the babies…they are natural-born musicians and LOVE music class each week.  One little girl in particular is a quiet observer…Little Miss S was observed looking on quietly as the music therapist (she’s the one that runs the music classes in this school) played the guitar and sang the songs.  She’s not unhappy, but she’s also does not seem fully engaging in the music and playing along like the other children.  As the class moves on she starts to become curious about the guitar, looks on quietly and slowly reaches in to touch.  She even looks up at the teacher at one point, as if to make sure it is okay to explore and touch.  Then the teacher takes her hand and guides it to the strings of the guitar to show her how they work.  She continues to engage in the activity…but on her own terms.  And then, as if to acknowledge me and to say, “See, I did it…” she looks right at me, very seriously and I oblige by taking a picture of her so as to congratulate her for stepping out on a limb and trusting her heartstrings.  I know she tugged at mine!

I’m not really sure what I expect to get out of his blog or what to put into it for that matter.  I’m a blog reader…but can I really be a blog WRITER?  Who knows!  One thing I do know is that I started this under duress.  Okay, that might a slight strong word but I’m going with it.  I am taking a photography workshop with Brooke Snow called Lifestyle: Telling the Story this Winter.  And I found out that this course requires that we share our homework via a blog.  I signed up for the class because  I needed something to push me to take pictures and to step outside my comfort zone.  Well…here I am…on a blog that I have to call my own!  Thanks Brooke…I think!

I don’t know where this will lead but if you are along for the ride, say hello, give me a pat on the back from time to time, give me some honest feedback…or a kick in the pants if I need it.

I will use this as a place to share some stuff from our lives as a family, my life as a wife/mother/career woman/avid photography lover but most certainly will be sharing pictures here as often as I can (read – as often as I feel confident enough to do so).

Thanks for reading.

Lisa

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