Friday, November 30, 2012

List 36 - a few things I've learned this week . . .

Here are a few of the things I've learned this week:

  1. I learned that sometimes if you tell your eight year old son not to forget to put his belt on, he might consider putting the belt 'on' the bed was good enough.
  2. I learned that even when everything is set up perfectly - you ate at your favorite pizza place, you saved a great big slice for the next day's lunch, you retrieve your go-to pizza stone, you sing the right songs, you're rocking this thing called life - you might get so carried away with your greatness that you forget the slice in the oven.           

     3.  I learned that you never know what you might look down and see on the sidewalk in front of 
          your house.

     4.  I learned that even on the grayest of days, one still finds stuff like this, doing its thing . . . 

      5.   I learned that sometimes when I'm at my most angry about all of the negativity on the internet, I 
           end up finding something so good, like this:
    There are only two days of the year when nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.  Dalai Lama
  6.  I learned that when you find this in your porch railing, it means that yesterday your kids were 
          finished with the snack and they put it away.

     7.  And I learned that a gingko storm is every bit as beautiful as a snow storm, and you don't even    
         have to stock up on bread and milk.

                                             What did you learn this week?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Loving Jack . . .

A week ago something tragic happened.  I know tragic things happen everyday, maybe every second, somewhere in the world.  We all know that; we just don't usually have that fact on the forefront of our minds.  And then something tragic happens to someone you know.  Or to you.  Then it's different . . . you know what I mean.

A week ago the house of my friends burned to the ground.  No one knows how it happened or why it happened.  The very different thing is that I watched it.  I watched it along with many others, including the three friends who lived in the house.  The friends who were losing all of the material things they owned.  And other friends who owned the house and whose grandmother had lived for years in the house.  We watched.  We all watched as the firefighters worked and worked and worked and worked.  We watched as materials that had withstood the test of time failed the test of fire.  We watched and watched and wondered what in the world to do. 

That's what I wanted to tell you about.  That's the part I want you to know.  What people did is part of what I'll remember.  Watching your house burn down is not graceful, but what people did in that moment was grace-filled, to be sure.  

I can see all of the people now.  I can see them in my mind's eye.  I can see my three friends, a daughter home from college and Jack, their dog on a leash.  I can see them - their eyes wet with tears and thankfulness for their lives and lit up from the flames that wouldn't burn out.  I can see them now.

News travels fast, and word of the fire moved swiftly through many folks in our church.  You might imagine that most people would be safely tucked in their warm homes on the night before Thanksgiving.  They were.  But you should have seen the folks who left those warm homes on the night before Thanksgiving to come out and stand with their friends as they watched the fire destroy all that was inside.  There was nothing to do.  So we watched.  

And more folks came and they stood beside the folks watching what they knew go up in flames.  Some folks said things.  Some folks cried.  Some friends hugged.  Some folks said nothing at all, but stood in support, as if by standing alongside they were serving to hold up those whose home was being demolished by a force too strong for humans to outsmart.  Some folks called others from the scene.  Some folks went to the store to purchase toothbrushes for the moment that would surely come and it was time for them to go to sleep, somewhere, sometime.   Some friends left to go the ATM to get money that they would come back to put into the hands of the ones who had nothing.  People made plans about how to get what they would need.  People planned where they could live.  People planned what they would eat.  Friends loved in all of the ways we knew to love when there isn't anything we know to say.   

The fire raged on, as if to show us all that it was powered by something stronger than we understood.  We stood, we watched, we planned, we hugged, we wondered what in the world we were supposed to do.  We wondered what to say.  We wondered how to look while we stood shoulder to shoulder with loved ones as they watched the unreal happen.  We wished we could think of something to say, to do, something to help.  We wondered what we would want, what we would need.  The fire just kept burning, kept raging - sometimes growing calmer and then surprising us all with force as it roared to life again.  And then we stood some more, wondered some more.  Didn't know what to do some more.

There were people everywhere.  Sometimes the scene was so surreal that you had to remind yourself that it was actually happening.  I'm sure that Greg and Jan and Michelle and Elin felt that way.  I'm sure they had to continue to internally remind themselves that this wasn't a bad dream, that this was really happening.  And there was Jack, the sweet Jack Russell dog, on a leash, confused and wondering.  I remember that I often saw Greg bend down from standing, grab hold of Jack's sweet head and hold it - loving him, giving the confused dog some sense of certainty even though he had none himself.  I'll always remember that.

Hours went by.  The fire raged on.  It was almost surprising that something burning that hot, that fiercely, could burn for that long.  We kept standing.  We kept wondering.  What do we do?  What do we say?

And then I saw something I'll never forget.  I saw three people I didn't know just sitting right in the middle of the commotion.  As throngs of wonderers and watchers and wishers and prayers stood and walked and hugged and wondered, these three people - a married couple and their son - sat down on the ground.  I couldn't help but wonder what they were doing.  Why were they just sitting there?  They seemed so intent on being in a circle, on roping off the reality from their little party.  I couldn't understand.

I walked closer to them and saw them there in a circle, as if the terrifying scene lighting up our eyes and our faces wasn't really happening.  I got closer and closer.  I wondered who they were.  Why were they there?  Why weren't they trying to figure out what to do?  Why weren't they standing alongside those who were watching what they thought was sturdy fall to the flames?

And then I saw Jack.  There was Jack, the sweet dog, right in the middle of the circle.  That's what they were doing.  They weren't doing nothing.  They had found something they could do, and they were doing it.  If I had taken their photo and could crop the horrors of the background away, you would think they could be nestled together in a warm cabin somewhere, enjoying their family pet.

They were active.  They weren't just wondering.  They were doing.  Acting.  Walking the walk.  They whispered to Jack and petted him softly.  They took turns calmly holding him, caressing him and using all that they had to give him peace.  They didn't know what to do either, didn't know how to help or what to say, so they found something they knew they could do and did it.

I won't forget them.  I won't forget what it looked like to see them in the midst of the terrifying night.  There was horror that night.  There was disbelief, shock and sadness.

But there was grace, too.  There were friends and strangers giving all they knew to give, saying what they could or just standing in support.  And there were three people who did something totally different - a little band of angels that quietly walked up, found a job and made a difference.  I won't forget them.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Squeezing in some Special Smiles . . .

Recently I got to squeeze in a session with some special folks . . . people more like family we finally met than new friends.  We moved to a new town and landed right next door to these fine folks, right where we were supposed to be!

                    We spent the day at the Steeplechase and got a head start on some photos . . .

Later we got the family back together, as the light was waining on a wonderful day, but we wound up with some of the sweetest smiles.  I love these sneaky, sparkly eyes and the personality that shows through these grins.

You won't have any trouble feeling the love among this gang.  It just shows and it's wonderful to be able to capture it with the press of the shutter.

                                           Here's to a special family and great memories!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

You ask me why I do this?

a good question;  I'll grant you that.  Sometimes it's good to sit back, have a look and wonder if what you spend your time on is worth it.

I'm delighted to respond with these . . .

This is why I do it.  This is why I stopped a much more conventional, predictable career to juggle a somewhat 'iffy' one.  This is why I sometimes stare at my computer screen for hours, tweaking one little  spot on a photograph.  This is why I adore shooting folks with a camera, why I'll carry the thing around 'til my right hand feels like it might break off!  This is why I press the shutter a million times for every one image that feels perfect and why I believe that there is magic in still photography.

When I sit down and begin to upload shots from my card into my computer, I know it's what I should be doing.  When the pictures begin to reel across my screen as sneak peeks of moments captured in time, I remember it's the right thing.

I get to capture folks I care about, with folks they care about, doing what they love.  Often what they love is simply touching, sitting with, holding hands, laughing with the ones they love most.  There's not enough of that in the world, to be sure.  Capturing those moments - forever - that is good stuff.  Real good stuff.  I'm thankful.

You won't have to see many of these images to see the bond between these two special people.  I love catching the moments when they look into each other's eyes or slip into holding hands or laugh so hard that their eyes shut.  Good stuff.

I've said it before, friends, and I'm sure I'll say many times again . . . this is the good stuff and I get to be part of preserving it.  

Thanks for trusting me with your memories, friends, and thanks be to God for cool people and happy families.

You'll find the entire session at Mollie and Ben

Monday, November 12, 2012

GrandMae's Dictionary . . .

Recently I met a woman on her ONE HUNDRED AND THIRD birthday!  103.  That is a big number.  She was beautiful and gentle and had a quiet wisdom that matched perfectly with her spunky personality.  I'm glad to have met her, and I couldn't resist asking her (what, to me, was) the obvious question.  I had to ask.

What's the secret?  What's the trick?  Someone who lives one hundred and three years must have the manual for a secret formula.

Her lips curled up in a sneaky smile, she clapped her soft hands together and peered over at me - Secret?  What's the secret?  Oh, there's no secret.  I wish I had had a few more moments with her, though, because the child-like, sly smirk on her face made me think she had more to say.  She had some secrets.  I hope we get to talk again.

That conversation has had me thinking.  From time to time, I find myself pondering my own question - wondering to myself what the secrets are.  We probably all know them somewhere deep inside.  I guess the secret is allowing yourself to get to them, to burst through all of the busyness and flotsam and jetsam of these crazy lives of ours to see the obvious.

One secret keeps burbling up in my mind; and for me, it is symbolized by the picture of a great big dictionary in a warm home I used to know well.  I believe - no, I think I KNOW - that one of the secrets is to stay curious, to keep wondering and I hold in my mind the clear picture of someone I've known who wondered and asked until her last days.

Once we had the sweetest of neighbors.  Her name was Mae and she was married to Jimmy and years ago we luckily landed next door to them.  As we started a family, they quickly became Grandmae and GrandJimmy and they were delights.  Our lives are better for having known them.  I could write post after post about them, about what they taught me, but today I remember Grandmae's dictionary and consider how it was one of the physical manifestations of a life well-lived for a long, long time.  It was living proof of one of her secrets, I just know.

The dictionary was one of those great, big, chunky ones; the kind you see in the library, always opened to a page close to the middle so the chance to find something new is always awaiting the right person.  There were signs on the book's edges that were evidence that once each page was framed in gold and its pages were curled in just the right amount, to let you know that each and every page had been attended to, had been studied.  It sat on Mae's 'porch', a bright room at the back of her house that had long ago been a porch but years ago had been converted to a comfy den.  The dictionary laid atop a table at the perfect height, just under a great big window to the back yard and its old hardwoods and memories.

Just having the book was not her secret.  The book was grand and majestic in its own right, to be sure, but it was its aid to a life lived out that made it special.  It was its role in her days that I remember, that I draw on when I'm being truly alive.  It was how she used it that made it special.  

I doubt there was ever a time I spent in her home when she didn't refer to the grand ole' book.  I can see her now, jumping up from her perch to look up the meaning of a word, to figure out how to explain something in our conversation.  That was one of her secrets, I believe.  She kept wondering, asking and jumping up to find the answers.  I'd love to know the number of times her sweet hands held that book, the times that great mind was filled a bit more with some new, juicy bit of knowledge.  That would be  a big number, to be sure.

I won't see her grasp those worn, metallic-edged pages again, but I've got a perfectly clear picture in my head.  I carry it with me wherever I go, and I remember to keep wondering.  That has to be one of the secrets.  I just know it.

Friday, November 9, 2012

List 35 - Lucky me . . . clouds and kids . . .

I'm one lucky mama, and here's the list to prove it.  I'm sorry if you aren't as fortunate as I am.  I can only wish for you these gifts.  Here's hoping.

I have three children and now they are quite 'plugged in.'  One of the benefits of the iphone world is that everything that goes on one person's phone, goes on everyone else's.  Usually, that is a good thing. I can't explain it, but it's all about a cloud.  How's your cloud?  My cloud has photos and keeps documents and other nifty things like that.

My cloud also puts everything my children get from the app store onto my phone.  I am a lucky one, indeed.  Here, my friends, is list 35.  Here are a few of the things I can do because of my cloud.  Please don't be hurt if you can't do them too.  Your day is coming; I just know it.

1.  I know, for instance, if I gain an enormous amount of weight in the lower head region, this is how I will look.

2.  And I know that in 2042 I will look like this.  I can't wait.

3.  Lucky me, I know how great I would look with a mustache!

4.  And, would you believe, I know that George Clooney and I have an 84% compatibility index!  (I would be able to show you what our children would look like, but the app wasn't behaving correctly at press time.)

How is your cloud helping you?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

1,379 pieces of good news . . .

I'm tired of doom and gloom.  Are you?

I'm tired of hearing everyone's rants.  Are you?

I'm ready to hear people being positive, trying harder, getting along and all of that other good stuff.  How about you?

I want to tell you about something I found a few months ago.  I want you to know about a treasure trove of good attitudes, amazing brains, encouraging ideas and hope for us all.  If you don't yet know about TED, it's high time you found out.

Technology, Entertainment, Design - that's TED.  It's more than you might think, though, read on.

TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.  I've only just begun to scratch the surface of what TED has to share, and I've fallen in love with TEDtalks.  I hope you'll look into a talk or two, too.

If you ever find yourself with a bit of extra time or if you ever realize that you need a dose of good hope for our future, choose a talk and have a listen.  You won't be disappointed.  You'll hear about everything and you'll hear about things you've never heard of.  You'll laugh and you'll cry and you'll want to call a friend and talk.  You'll be energized and excited and your brain will start twirling about all sorts of subjects and you'll notice you feel a little better about things.  You'll be reminded that this world has many, many corners and that folks from all of them are thinking up wonderful things and stretching us all to be better.

To date, there are 1,379 TEDtalks and I've only heard a few.  I want to hear them all.  I want to know little bits of what all of those awesome brains can share.  I can't wait!  Please give a listen.   The talks must be less than 18 minutes, and many of them are less than five minutes.  You won't believe what folks can pack into that short smidgeon of time!  You'll be amazed.

In talking about what she has learned from her autistic brothers, Faith Jegede says, "The chance for greatness, for progress and for change dies the moment we try to be like someone else."  Amen, sister.  Let us remember that.  I spend a great deal of time each day attempting to convince my children of that - perhaps they could benefit from a TEDtalk or two.  We all could, to be sure.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Whitwell TN, paperclips and a plea from an 8 year old . . .

If you're not sure how these three things relate, please read on.  You may call me Oprah if you'd like, because I'm about to tell you about one of my favorite things.  My son reminded me of it Sunday night when he pleaded with everyone in our house (we had a Pop, a Baba and a Gigi visiting) that we stop what we were doing, sit down together and watch the movie, Paper Clips.

Usually an eight year old's plea to parents and grandparents doesn't involve a serious documentary film, but this one is different.  This film, this project, worked its way into Harry's heart when he first saw it and he can't let it go.  I admire him for it, and I thank him for the tenacity with which he hung on to get the family assembled to see it together.  

We were busy.  Folks were coming, folks were going, showers were starting, Sunday night was ending and the whole gang was tired from a wonderful weekend.  Harry got it in his mind, though, that we were long overdue at showing the movie to his grandparents.  He wasn't letting it go.  I watched as we all ran through the laundry list of reasons that late Sunday night wasn't the time to start something new. I heard my own voice reminding me that I was tired, that my children were exhausted, that we had put the grandparents through enough for one weekend.  No one was excited about the movie.  No one had it in them.  Harry wouldn't stop.  I saw the determination in his eyes.  I heard the urgency in his voice.  He took a shower with no nudging to ready himself for the cinema experience.  I began to realize that this was a time that the young shall lead us.  I began to know that we had to listen.   

A few years ago, my dear friend Dan, introduced me to the movie.  I'm glad he did.  We showed to a group of young folks and they were mesmerized.  One of them just brought it up to me recently and told me that she had never forgotten it.  Eight year old Harry has been the same.  He was curious about it, but we dragged our feet on letting him watch it.  I was afraid its subject matter was too hard.  I feared he wasn't ready to hear about the atrocities of the holocaust.  I didn't want him to hear how bad it had been - didn't want him to know that humans could be so horrible.  

We have our own copy now.  Sadly, I found it for a dollar at the bottom of a beat up bargain bin at an ailing video store.  Harry noticed it right away and continued to be curious about it.  He begged to see it, to know what it was about.  

It finally dawned on me that I couldn't keep my young son from evil any more than I could erase it from history.  My children will know about it, they will read about it in all its forms and they will be eye witnesses to things I cannot imagine.  I can't keep evil from creeping into their lives.  They can turn on the tv or log onto instagram and see things I hoped they'd never witness.  It's out there.  Maybe showing them what happens when people don't think for themselves is an important enough lesson to teach.

Perhaps, I thought, Harry should see it so we could all talk about it together.  I can't erase evil but I can tell my children what I think of it, I can tell them about how their ancestors felt and I can brainstorm with them ways to make things better.  My kids saw the movie; and I'm not exaggerating to say that they were transformed.  I watched their faces and I saw as they moved to another place in life.  I witnessed them graduating to a place of awareness.  Hopefully, they won't ever forget what they learned about what one person, or a small group of determined individuals can do.  Hopefully, they will remember.  

If you haven't been fortunate enough to see the movie, Paper Clips, I hope you will make it happen.  I hope you will learn about Whitwell, TN and the unlikely individuals that marked their little corner of the world forever.  I don't think you'll ever forget it.  The story of what happened in this little forgotten town will make you think.  Aside from being a beautiful example of incredible film-making, it will change you forever.  Grab a friend or a child, rent the movie and be astounded at courage and thinking outside the box and transformation.  I dare you.

Thanks, Harry, for making us slow down.  Thank you for demanding that we remember together how important it always is to practice thinking for ourselves and how lucky we are to live in a place where we can do just that.  

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