A Real Photographer

When I was in college, my concentration was graphic design, but honestly, my passion was photography. However, I thought I stood a better chance at making a living with graphic design, so I stuck with my original major.

Four years later, with my BFA under my belt and a recession hindering the job search, I followed the most reasonable route and took a job at Georgia Pacific in Corporate Credit.  I looked at financial reports, ran credit checks, worked with the sales team, and worked on a team developing an internal app for our department while doing zero design work. However, I actually kind of liked my corporate job and wasn't missing graphics.

As it turns out, I'm pretty happy with my meandering path through life which gave me so many opportunities I may have missed out on if I had tried to carve out a career doing something I didn't really enjoy. More importantly, photography has remained with me throughout every phase of my life documenting it all.

In college, I was lucky enough to take photography classes with esteemed photographer, John McWilliams. I recently ran across this photo from one of his classes. I think it's very interesting, but he absolutely loved it. I remember him studying my contact sheet and zeroing in on this one to ask about it. I wanted to say it depicted a brilliant concept I developed after ruminating on the current state of.... however, I told him the truth in that it was accidentally shot off when I changed my roll of film. He didn't mind the accidental nature of it and asked me to print it.

On the day of the critique, he stood their finger to chin studying my photo. I think he said he enjoyed the ambiguity of the object in the foreground and the perspective created by the buildings in the background. I think. And I get that. Maybe it's because I know what's in the foreground and this view was too familiar to me since I routinely sat on my windowsill in that same spot. However, I keep waiting for the light bulb to go off where I can truly see my photo in the way he saw it. Is it weird that I use that metric to determine when I'm a REAL photographer?

I've often thought it would be fun to look him up, send him the photo and ask him if he still loved it. But there's part of me that's just a little bit afraid he'll say, "Huh. Don't know. Looks like something you accidentally shot off when you were changing the roll of film."


I photographed my 90 year old grandfather for one of my assignments in college. He was living in Statesboro, Georgia at the time and got a kick out of being my "model." He was such a character. I remember him telling me that he saw my grandmother in town one day and decided then and there that he was going to marry her. I'm not even sure if they spoke on that particular day, but he made it happen. 

After my grandmother died, he had a special friend named Birdie Mae at his senior apartment community. We're not sure of the exact nature of their relationship, but they took a road trip from Georgia to Texas in their 80s to visit my cousin. Pop didn't like highways, so he would pull out the map and find all the back roads to any destination. He sent me postcards from the road, spent exactly one night in Texas, and then turned around and came back because "he didn't like to be away from home for too long."

He loved to fish more than anything and was a big fan of the Golden Corral "because he could stock up on veggg-IT-ables for the entire week." Never mind that he kept them wrapped in tin foil on his counter and wondered why he had a belly ache from time to time.

I have so many cards from Pop after my grandmother died. It's special to me because I feel like it's unusual for an older man of his generation to be sentimental or thoughtful enough to write cards. In particular, ones that are filled with some kind of narrative telling me about his day or remarking on something I've shared with him. His cards were often filled with humor whether he meant to be humorous or not.

The photo where Pop is posing with two fish is my favorite. There isn't a date but I think it truly captured him in his younger days. I feel like these are fish that he caught, but it's also entirely possible he could have just stopped to pose with two random fish. Because that is exactly the kind of thing he would do.


When was the last time? I find myself asking this question often when I go on road trips. I see an abandoned house and I always wonder about the very last time the very last person walked out the door. Did they know it would be the last time? Why did they leave? Why didn't someone new move in? It's just a curious thing to me because abandoned houses are so lonely. 

I believe our homes hold a collective energy from every emotion we experience while living in that space. We fill it with memorabilia that reminds us of good times and the people we love. We collect artifacts that reflect our personality, attitudes and aspirations - some of it displayed, some of it stored in closets and drawers and coat pockets. 

As I'm combing through every square inch of a house we've lived in for 20 years, I keep finding these little relics. Some have been absorbed by the housescape and are invisible in plain sight. One such relic caught my eye as I was cleaning out some shelves we use for storage on an old changing table. We have a bulletin board with outdated dusty business cards next to the changing table. Hanging from a pink push pin on the bulletin board, hangs an equally dusty ribbon of hair bows in a rainbow of colors. My daughter, Sophie always had this mop of curls that I loved to tame with colorful bows. Eventually, she was old enough to put her own bows in her hair. 

While the bows haven't been touched in 10-15 years, it never crossed my mind to throw them in the donation box. I had stopped seeing them. But now, as I sort our house into various piles, I think, when was the very last time she put a bow in her hair? And subsequently, what was the very last thought that made her say... no, not today.

Ho Ho Hohhhhh

You know that feeling. You unexpectedly trip, there's a fleeting moment where you think you can catch yourself, then there's the realization that you're not going to catch yourself, then you think, OMG, I can't believe I'm actually falling, then you finally hit the ground and you spend the next hour thinking, dang, I could have broken my nose or knocked out some teeth or broken my wrist, but mostly it would suck if I knocked out some teeth and then how long would it be before I could get implants and can I learn to smile without opening my lips, and wow, this reminds me of those dreams where my teeth are falling out and what does that mean anyway?

Yeah, that's what Santa's thinking.

New Horizons

When my daughter was little, she had these three tiny dolls that she would carry around in her chubby little toddler hands. Two in one hand, and one in the other. They would watch her eat breakfast, take baths with her, and ride in the car with her while conversing with her toes. They had a Mommy doll, but they mostly did lone adventures with Sophie, reuniting at bedtime.

Unlike her other dolls, they all existed in this permanent state of wide-eyed wonder with unmovable outstretched arms, colorful painted-on dresses and hair that could not be cut. Yet, despite the fact that they could not be altered, these were her favorite.

Years later, I found them abandoned in the toy closet. They didn't mind. They had been happily tossed together with their Mommy. I decided to pull them out and carefully line them up on my kitchen window sill. They greeted me every morning as I stood in the kitchen drinking my coffee and watching my cats explore the backyard.

When we were moving last year, I was doing some last minute packing and threw them into one of the kitchen boxes, thinking I would later transfer them to one of our boxes in storage. However, when I opened that box in our new place, they made me smile.

So now, here they stand on my current window sill facing a whole new adventure. They embrace their new space with the same wide-eyed wonder. They exude joyfulness and confidence as they look to the horizon. Their Mommy is still here, but she's just a little bit further away in a different space. But that's okay. They're older now and they don't need her as often. Most importantly, they know she's always thinking about them and she's not far away when they do need her.

Unexpected Guests

One summer, we rented a beautiful home on the top of a mountain in St. John. It was on the edge of hurricane season so we got a fantastic deal. It had a two story great room with six tall glass doors that opened to a fully furnished patio with a small infinity pool that overlooked the ocean. 

One night, a magnificently angry storm descended upon us. The wind was howling as rain pounded the roof and thunder and lightning exploded in rapid-fire succession. Subsequently, the sun-bathed morning gave no hint of the turbulent night preceding it.  As I shuffled out of our bedroom to make my morning coffee, it took a few minutes to register the scene. Along with wind and rain and chaos, apparently the storm had also ushered in a swarm of bees that had somehow managed to gain entry into our beautiful home. The room was filled with hundreds of bees, flying and buzzing and bouncing off the windows. I quickly retreated to our room and slammed the door. 

So, in our house, my husband is in charge of roaches. I'm in charge of spiders, and we trade off on the stinging insects. However, in watching his face as I described the situation on the other side of the door, I decided the roomful of bees would be mine. (Can't wait for payback when he encounters his first swarm of cockroaches.) After cracking the door and surveying the room again, I decided I would don my "bee armor," slowlllly walk into the room, and carefully swing open the glass doors. The vast majority of the bees were banging furiously against the glass, so their primary concern seemed to be escape. As predicted, my assessment was correct and I was able to open the doors without much notice. I slowly made it back to our room and shut the door. We waited 30 minutes, then emerged to find only the bees left in little piles at the bottom of the doors who were a bit too ambitious in their pursuit of freedom. Quite the adventure. 

[Design elements supplied by a closet purge -- hand-made papers by @niki.glenister; "Bees" - distorted Spirograph design made from kit buried in the closet.]

Shrinky Dink Rocket Ship

When my kids were little, we spent one day making shrinky dink stickers that were placed on the windows surrounding our breakfast booth. Several years later, when I was in spring cleaning mode, I tried to remove the stickers. The first one stuck and became this mangled shape of its former self. I gave up and made myself a mental note to buy a painter's blade to remove them. 

We also taped a multitude of paintings and drawings all over our walls. Over the years, paint would sometimes peel off as we rearranged the art gallery. The quick and easy fix was covering the missing paint with a piece of white tape. I made myself a mental note to find our kitchen paint to cover the bare patches.

Years later, with my oldest daughter in college and my youngest in high school, I love those shrinky dink stickers and the peeling tape on the walls. It's a reminder of that brief period of wonder and unbridled creativity not hindered by the internal self-judgment that comes with age. Sometimes procrastination is a good thing.

Hit Record

I grew up listening to Shaun Cassidy, Donny Osmond and Leif Garrett. And yes, I had the accompanying posters plastered all over my walls that I had ripped out of Tiger Beat. I would lay on my bed under their dreamy eyes flipping through my Young Miss magazine, searching for the elusive answer to "how do you french kiss?" For the record, they NEVER really told you.

My parents had a big music collection with songs that still elicit tangled memories when I hear them on the grocery store loop... Fleetwood Mac, the Beatles, Wings, Elvis, ABBA, Stevie Wonder, Chicago. I've been spontaneously humming Neil Diamond's "Song Song Blue" my entire life. Then the Bee Gees! Furniture was moved, music was cranked, and the living room was suddenly a disco! 

High school was jumbled with top 40, movie soundtracks, and cast recordings from musicals after I joined community theater. I still unconsciously and spontaneously sing the colors of Joseph's technical dreamcoat when my mind is idle. My powder puff blue Datsun was littered with cassettes sliding around the floor that would fly under the seat when I slammed on the brakes because I was yellow light challenged. 

I recently found over 250 audio cassettes in the bottom of a closet. Half were tapes I had bought and the other half were tapes that I had recorded from someone else's tape. Then there were the few that were compilations recorded from the radio. I think you've missed out on a little something in life if you've never had the experience of calling a DJ to request your favorite song and then sitting there for the next hour with your finger on the record button!

It is still amazing to me that I can now hold this mini computer in my hand, hit the screen a few times and have access to thousands of songs in any genre. However, when I found all of my cassettes, it still brought back warm fuzzy memories. So I took some photos of the ones that were heavier in the rotation before they were ousted by the CD and then off to the donation/recycle pile they went!

Tonka - Guaranteed for Life

In looking at our backyard, you would never know that my children have graduated high school. You would guess they were much younger and only moments away from busting out the back door and dashing into the yard. There's the remaining swing set and fort that was the center of imagination and entertainment on long summer afternoons, countless play dates, and many birthday parties. The height of summer fun was converting the slide into a water slide by positioning a blow-up pool underneath the foot and tying a garden hose to the railing at the top. ⁣

When they grew bored with the backyard, we would load up the red motorized jeep with noodles and towels and snacks and 'drive' to the neighborhood pool... until they grew too big to squish themselves into the seats that were designed for toddlers. Even though they abandoned the red jeep, it still lives in the backyard storage room providing a haphazard container for various yard tools that we only occasionally use. ⁣

We still have trucks, balls and little people stashed in various places around the yard that have slowly become a familiar part of the landscape. It rarely occurs to me how long they've been there or what purpose they now serve. So as I do my annual spring cleaning this week, I'm throwing out all of the cracked and faded flower pots, along with the leaking hoses and the dried up paint cans. However, the toys in the yard have grown accustomed to their solitude and are quite content to rest in the shadows and preserve the memories. So once again, they shall remain.

Not Soccer

Both of my kids tried soccer camps, but it never really stuck for either one of them. However, I still like seeing the soccer ball peeking through the ivy.⁣ My younger daughter did play basketball for a number of years, but she liked running down the court a lot more than she liked having the ball. Nothing like going to the games, watching her repeatedly tear down the court at lightning speed, only to look terrified each time she realized she was the first one under the basket and the ball was already sailing through the air in her direction! 

We even bought a basketball hoop for our backyard so she could practice at home. It was one of those stands with a base that you stabilize by filling with water. Let me paint a picture. We don't have any concrete in our backyard. It's all grass. Like fluffy grass. The only exception is a little 5' x 5' concrete pad next to our storage area. We placed the hoop in the grass so we could bounce the ball on the pad while standing in place. For some reason, we thought it would be fun to stand on that little concrete pad and throw the ball in the basket. Or 'try' to throw the ball in the basket. There was also the chance that the ball would bounce off the rim and over the fence and into the neighbor's yard. And there was no possibility of playing a game since, well... it was ALL grass. So yeah, not sure what we were thinking on that one. ⁣

We eventually donated the basketball hoop to the neighbors at the end of the cul-de-sac. You know, where it can sit on concrete. And you can actually play a game. Which is the point of buying a basketball hoop. Anyway, the big patch of dirt left by the basketball hoop eventually filled in with grass and my daughter ultimately decided to join cross country and track in high school, which seemed to suit her a little bit better.

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