Oh happy day!

Not only was I complimented on not getting hit by a bus, but won a Timmy's coffee. OK - so it would have been nice to win a Camry hybrid instead, but whatever - YAY ME!

Feeling appreciated

This morning the Big Cheese called on his way in to let me know he was going to be a few minutes late (traffic) for his meeting and after confirming things were well in hand here he said, "Thanks for not getting hit by a bus, Coach..."

I feel so appreciated. It's almost suffocating. ~smirk~

Friends coming to town!!!

My oldest and dearest friends are far and few between, and the ones I treasure longest I don't see nearly often enough. But I got a happy happy email this afternoon, from one of these oldest (THE oldest actually) and dearest friends announcing she will be coming home to the land of big sky and wide open spaces.

When I was between husbands, for lack of a better term lol, I was able to do a fair amount of travel. This image is one that features prominently not only because I am particularly fond of the mannequin itself, but because it was taken on one of my trips to the t-dot to visit my beloved friend. We spent the better part of a week trolling around Toronto. I got to see Yoyo Ma live. Stood toe-to-toe with her on the glass floor of the CN tower. Taught her to hand roll sushi. Tried to hop the fence at Niagara Falls HAH! And acquired the Juju Shakin' Waxen Buddha.


My heart is about to BURST knowing she's on her way. I love you Tannis, and can HARDLY wait for you to get here!!!!

In the still of the night


So I went out to lock the garage door last night and had to run back inside to grab my camera and tripod. The misty moonlight reflection of this chain link fence in the puddle by our garage was simply irresistible!

make love, not cancer


Cancer touches all of us. If it hasn't touched a family member, it's touched a friend or a co-worker, and it's all around us, every day.

About this time last year, a dear friend of mine from Clothing Club learned that her sister had been diagnosed with an aggressive and terminal cancer. It was only a few weeks after she told us Lori was sick that she passed away, and Stacie was devastated. Stacie's sister-in-law Jennifer was also taken by cancer. A group of us felt like we should do something, maybe send flowers, or maybe donate to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) in her name. Noelle went on the CCS website, and found the Relay for Life was still looking for teams, and within a week we had gotten a team together and started gathering pledges as, "The Mommas and the Poppas." Stacie even held a Cut-a-Thon, and got herself on the radio to promote it, to boot!


The more people we talked to about it, the more stories we heard of folks who had fought and won, and folks who had fought and lost. We all knew someone - Noelle's grandfather, Ginny's best friend, Stacie's sister, my husband and brother-in-law's uncle and grandmother - who had battled cancer. We even had friends from the world wide web buy luminaries in honour of their loved ones, and one of my favourite parts of the night was wandering around with my camera and finding all of them so that the people who couldn't be there in person could see.


We walked proudly, the Mommas and the Poppas, each of us for someone we knew and loved, whether in honour or memory.


Every year, my Daddy shaved his head for cancer. Then he'd wear this floppy hat to keep his head warm, much to his wife's chagrin. His nephew John lost his foot to childhood cancer, and it was always my Dad's hope to find a cure, or to see research figure out how to grow him a new limb so he's not dependent on prosthetics for the rest of his life.


Last year, Daddy & Lorie (my stepmom) stopped in to drop off tunafish sandwiches for us. My Daddy obviously can't shave his head for John, or bring me tunafish sandwiches. He died on August 3rd, 2006; his sister Florence died February 17, 2007 after battling cancer on her neck and then in her lungs. I guess I'll have to make my own tunafish sandwiches, and step up to the plate to pick up where he left off in the fight against cancer. This year, I'll be walking in my Dad's name, in honour of my cousin John, and in memoriam of Stacie's sister, my husband's Uncle Sem and Granny Field, and my Auntie Florence.


The event was emotionally and physically exhausting, and completely wonderful. Being a part of that is something I want to do every year. Especially since it took me so long to sew those hideous fringed polyester vests!!! Don't let my vests go to waste.... I urge you to click on the links at the top of my blog and pledge. We're still filling the team up, so if you think you'd like to join our team, please let me know. And if you'd like to honour a loved one with a luminary, there's a link there for you to do that, too. Every dollar counts - I'll come and pick up your pocket change and the pennies from your vehicle ashtray, even if they're all stuck together from spilling Tim Horton's coffee on them. If you can afford $5 or $10 or $20, don't wait - pledge now! Cancer CAN be beaten!

Comments enabled

Due to an overwhelming amount of threatening mail, talk of being disowned, assinine questions, and stealthy underhanded people getting comments about my blog in *other* locations, I have enabled comments. Happy now everyone? Are ya? Huh?

Something my daughter would SO do...

BWAH hahahahhahahahahahhaaaaaaaaa!!!!!

Karen the Lactivist


I'm the first person to advocate the adage that breast is best, but Karen puts me to shame. She is such a huge advocate of breastfeeding she started BLISS - the breastfeeding and lactation support source. Karen's a star now - she appeared on TV promoting her booth at the Moms Pops & Tots Fair this year!

She was one of the first clients I used my digital camera with, and her boys were truly a riot! I'm so pleased that one of the photos I got of her youngest is on her homepage banner I could burst!!! I was so shocked to see Tammy's pictures - it's amazing how much they've grown!

Karen, I really admire your dedication to this cause. May BLISS be a huge success!

Needed this...

Having a hellish day at work. This just in; I needed a little giggle. Most of us have seen it before, but that's because it's worth repeating.

SIMPLE HOME REMEDIES

1. If you are choking on an ice cube, don't panic. Simply pour a cup of boiling water down your throat and presto. The blockage will be almost instantly removed.

2. Clumsy? Avoid cutting yourself while slicing vegetables by getting someone else to hold them while you chop away.

3. For high blood pressure sufferers: simply cut yourself and bleed for a few minutes, thus reducing the pressure in your veins. Remember to use a timer.

4. A mouse trap, placed on top of your alarm clock, will prevent you from rolling over and going back to sleep after you hit the snooze button.

5. If you have a bad cough, take a large dose of laxatives, then you will be afraid to cough.

6. Have a bad toothache? Smash your thumb with a hammer and you will forget about the toothache.

And remember:

You only need two tools: WD-40 and Duct Tape.
If it doesn't move and should, use the WD-40.
If it shouldn't move and does, use the duct tape.

Rubber Boots

As a child I remember my sister and I getting a new pair of rubber boots every single year. It was always cause for great excitement, because it meant spring was coming. Off to the store we'd go and pick out some really slick shiny knee-high boots, red if I could find them, and when we walked out of the store we couldn't help but skip with glee and head immediately for the first puddle we saw. We'd stand proudly in the very middle and wave to our Mom. "Look! Dry feet!" It was like a bloody miracle! Who needs to walk on water when with proper footwear you can just walk through it?

On the way to school in the mornings, with my new bright and happy footwear, I'd race my sister along the edges of the sidewalk from the house to the bus stop, and from the bus stop to the school, trying to stomp the most ice. There were the spots where the crust had frozen over but the water underneath had all leaked away so that when I stomped, it sounded like shattering glass. As if looking through a glass-bottom boat, there were the spots where I could see rotted leaves and road sludge settled in the water beneath the ice, and sometimes a little lost toy or a bottle cap or a bubble gum cartoon.


I'd stomp and stir up all the sediment with the toe of my pretty new rubber boots and make a nice murky muddy puddle. There were the skinny little frozen rivers right along the edge where the sidewalk met the lawns that I liked to go along tapping with my toes - the ice-breaking equivalent, I suppose, of eating a cob of corn row by row. And sometimes, I'd find a HUGE puddle, usually in some spot of some lawn that was lower than the rest , and if I'd happen to be able to find me a stick, I'd poke a few holes first, then step on the edge carefully, lightly, to send up little geysers before breaking through one end and slicing to the other side by shuffling my feet, setting adrift geometric chunks of ice floes.

I always thought my sister and I were the only people on the planet who broke up the ice on spring puddles. In my mind, it was like we'd invented it, really, and never once did I give consideration that anyone else might do the same thing...


The spring thaw has turned our back yard into a series of lakes, settling in a large delta that stretches from the sidewalk, around the corner of the garage, and out to the parking pad. One cannot make it from the house to the van dry-footed without a pair of rubber boots. Despite all the spring warmth, it was still pretty chilly outside Saturday morning when my son and I were heading out to buy groceries, and the sun hadn't cleared the garage to shine in the yard yet. The balmy daytime temperatures and cool overnight lows can mean only one thing: cracking the ice on the puddles! I was genuinely impressed with how well versed my son was in the artform, especially when he picked up a stick and said, "Watch this Mama," and proceeded to put on a frozen-puddle geyser show for me.

Wil's feet are the same size as mine, now, and he has adopted my rubber boots since his from last year were way too small, and so I get wet feet lately. My mission for this week is to go buy me a new pair of rubber boots.

Dinner at Nanook's

My Mom figured she was too young to be a Grandma when I got pregnant with my eldest, and decided that her facsimile of 'Grandma' would be 'Nanook,' a pet name my sister and I gave her after a really bad perm back in the mid-80s.


I had been helping my Mom get her computer set up since she went wireless. She bribed me with supper and baked goodies. I told her I still thought it wasn't a problem on her end and that she should talk to the ISP ONCE more to see if they could resolve her connectivity issues, and so she did, and they did, and I forgot about the invite to dinner.


This afternoon as I was lounging about after successfully photographing (and subsequently eating) my cookies, my Mom called and asked if I was still coming over. When my husband got finished helping my brother-in-law Oliver paint the lugs on his bike, we headed on over and ate dinner by the light of the late spring sunshine.


How ironic, since I blogged about my Mom and baking earlier today. I love my Mamasan. Thanks for the homemade beef barley soup, fresh bread, and apple sticky buns!

Spring has sprung!

We celebrated the arrival of spring with a trip to the zoo last weekend.

I was enjoying the reflections in the spring thaw puddles,


the cheerfulness of the girls' new rubber boots and coordinating spring jackets,


the boys leaping from the big snow pile,



the texture of the elephant's skin,



the way the sunbeams made all the animals want to nap,


and, as always,


my husband.

Favourite things

I have very fond childhood memories of my Mom baking, and eventually teaching us to bake. I then remember my Mom getting irate with us once we learned how to bake, as she'd purchase ingredients with a recipe in mind, and my sister and I would get a hankering for something fresh-baked and use up all the sugar or the chocolate chips. That wouldn't have been all that bad, but before she got home we'd have eaten all the baked goods and left a stack of tell-tale dishes in the sink. It wasn't until we got older that we learned to at least wash the dishes before she got home. That way, she'd just think she'd gone crazy when she went to the cupboard and was SURE she'd just bought another thing of baking soda...

There's something inexplicably quaint about making and eating fresh homemade cookies as a family. We all gather the ingredients and set them up on the table, measure them out, take turns stirring... We really enjoy it, and this recipe is the #1 request in my household. These nubbly (is that a word?) crispy and chewy morsels of heaven are a favourite of not only mine, but all my friends and family. For what it's worth (and call me nostalgic if you must) they taste best if you use a well-seasoned wooden spoon and Pyrex bowls. They taste even better when you are able to make and eat them as a family. I'm sad to admit that I actually waited ALL DAY today for the sun to be in just the right position to take this beautiful picture of what's left of about 6 dozen. I am, however, eating the props as I type this. That one on the top slightly off to the right was especially delicious- had LOTS of chocolate chips.


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup of butter or margarine
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla
3 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

n.b. semi-sweet chocolate chips are best for this recipe as the milk chocolate are just too much sweet. I also strongly advise against using quick oats (sometimes labelled as instant or fast cooking) because they don't give as nice of a texture and tend to get all mushy in the batter.


Preheat oven to 350 F. Mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together and set aside. In a big glass Pyrex bowl, whip the butter and add white and brown sugar. Add eggs and vanilla and stir frantically with a nice thick-handled, tie-dye stained wooden spoon. If there are little pea-sized clumps of brown sugar, be sure and leave them in - when the cookies bake they make nice little crunchy surprises. If your kids are cracking the eggs, make them do it in a separate bowl because eggshells aren't a nice crunchy surprise. Add the flour mixture and stir some more. I always take the first stir after adding the dry ingredients or I end up having to wipe up all the flour that flies out of the bowl. Taste the batter. It's really delicious. Add your old-fashoined rolled oats. Use a half cup scoop and let the kids count out to 7. My 3 year old loves this the best of all. Then stir in your chocolate chips, and taste the batter again. Still good, isn't it? You'll have to pause now to play eeny-miney-moe to decide who gets to lick the wooden spoon. Exclude your spouse - spouses cheat. You need 2 teaspoons, plus one for each person who helped. Use two of the spoons to drop the cookies onto a cookie sheet in golf-ball sized blobs - the more lopsided the better; use the other teaspoons for intermittently checking to see if the batter still tastes good. Turn the oven light on so the kids can watch. Bake for 11 - 12 minutes. They will be glossy and look almost raw when you first pull them from the oven, but I guarantee you they aren't. Let them cool - the bottoms will be nicely crisped and browned while the tops are perfectly chewy. If you like, try one hot from the oven but be careful not to burn the palm of your hand or the roof of your mouth! Serve with cold milk or hot chocolate. If you can restrain yourself (or want to) from baking and eating these cookies all at once, you can freeze some of the cookies or even some of the batter in a freezer bag to bake later.

Unfortunate


For my stepdaughter's birthday, she only had two requests: a strawberry cake, and a pinata full of fortune cookies. We left the cake up to a dear friend who makes these crazy amazing beautiful AND delicious cakes. The pinata, I stupidly volunteered to make, though it turned out (if I do say so myself) quite lovely and was - pun entirely intended - a big hit.


The party was a good 3 weeks ago, and I just ate the last fortune cookie. This may not sound like much of an accomplishment unless you are aware that finding a little pinata-stuffing sized box of individually wrapped fortune cookies is nearly impossible! As the date of the party drew nearer, I began to panic, and by the day of the party, alas, no fortune cookies had been found.

I had gone to pick up the cake and figured I'd take my chances and see if, just *if* there might be some individually wrapped fortune cookies. At the wholesalers. lol (You can see where this is going now, can't you? lol) Under duress, ANYONE would have bought the $16.98 case of 400 individually wrapped fortune cookies. So that 14 could go in the pinata. Right? At least the cake was tasty...


But today is a good day. After delivering bunches of them to any and everyone I could, putting them out as hors d'oeuvres and desk treats, leaving them as tips in restaurants, serving them up as dessert, stuffing them in gift bags as special extras for other people, sending them in lunches, and calling any I found on the floor fair game for the trash bin, at long last, I am unfortunate.

Gary & Sylvia


So I suppose this will rate right up there with the strangest, most beautifully dysfunctional, and completely wonderful weddings I may ever have the luxury of photographing.


Gary - I know we were young and foolish, but I love the son we created together and am grateful to you for having bionic swimmers. *smirk* The only regret I have is the time we wasted in those first awkward years being angry and estranged instead of being friends and co-parents like we've finally become.

Sylvia - if I could have chosen a wife for Gary and drawn up a list of requests for my son's other mother, you are all that I could ask for, and then some. You are a wonderful Mommy, and this baby-to-be will be just as lucky as Gary, Wil, and Jamie are to have you in their lives.

I am honoured to have been present for this momentous occasion, and I wish you all the very best.



All my love to you both.

And I hope you get sunburnt bums in Mexico.

Maddie

This is Maddie.



Maddie' s a cutie patootie, but has a little bit of a mischeivous streak. You can see it in her eyes. Really, she's licking her lips and looking at the dog (who was so sweet and just wanted SO bad to be in all of the pictures!) like he's lunch... ~smirk~

This was one of the funniest shoots I've done, because I'm a die-hard natural/available light photographer as much as is humanly possible. I usually warn my clients that I will seek the best natural light I can find before resorting to any type of flash or artificial lighting, and ask that they prepare the space (clear out furniture, pull the drapes open, etc.). Well, the best natural light for Maddie's shoot was in the master bedroom. Therefore, I had to set up on the bed! It was a little awkward at first, both in terms of space and mobility, but we made due just fine! Maddie's a dolly, though she was really less than impressed with the little dress from Grandma that Mommy put her in after her time spent nekkid. I mean really, what baby ever wants to get dressed?

My cousin Debra

When my mother and father divorced way back when, my Dad and my stepmom were very good at keeping my sister and I in touch with his side of the family. There were weekend trips to Grandma's house as often as I can remember, and I have wonderful memories of my Uncle Adolf and Auntie Doris, my cousins Kelly and Jason, the park with the weird and ancient play equipment and the walks up the tracks or in the ditches north of town to collect everything from rocks and railroad ties to ancient looking cigarette tins. I also remember meeting up with folks who were passing through town, and going to hang out at my cousin Gordie's house. But sadly, as often happens, I grew older and stopped going for regular visitation in favour of hanging out with friends, and I began to lose touch. I suppose living with my mother didn't help as for whatever reasons the older I got, the more divided I felt in my loyalties. Then when I moved out, the onus then fell entirely on me to maintain whatever bits of contact I could muster. And I didn't.

In retrospect, I guess there were a couple of reasons for it, but the one that sticks out in my mind the most was lacking that feeling of entitlement. I was one of the 'divorced' kids and despite the fact we were always kept abreast of and openly invited to family functions I never really felt like I would be welcomed, or even deserving of being welcomed. The longer I stayed away, the more this feeling grew.

I remember hearing friends talk about all the wonderful family gatherings they attended - reunions, birthdays, Christmas and so on. I was always a little jealous, since my Mom's side of the family isn't what you'd call close-knit. While I was younger, they were. When my grandfather and uncle were with us, we'd carve pumpkins, make horrible food, pester each other, play, and laugh ourselves silly. My grandfather and my uncle were the glue that held the family together. My uncle died of complications with pneumonia just days after my 20th birthday; my grandfather had already spent 5 years in an extended care facility battling the degenerative Alzheimer's disease. Once my grandfather's body finally caught up with his rotted brains a couple of years later, that side of the family had already started falling apart, and completely disintegrated shortly after the funeral. There are no more memories of happy family gatherings on that side, only strained meetings and obligatory participation in the odd Christmas or Easter thing.

My Daddy died very suddenly on August 3rd, 2006. I found out while standing on The Edmonton Queen River Boat, surrounded by my 3 dayhome children, my daughter, and my middle son. Stranded on the boat, I had to wait 45 minutes for the boat to finish its cruise, then make it home to get the dayhome children collected before I could do anything. While I waited, in complete and total shock, I felt completely, utterly alone. Yes, my husband was an amazing support, and my dayhome daughter Madisyn was a rock (for which I will always love her very much) but the only person in my family who could share my pain was my big sister, who was in Arizona at the time nowhere near a phone and at least 2 days away from being close enough to hug and cry with. She was my only family tie.

There's a whole other story between that point and this point, which I'll leave for another day. You all needed that little bit of backstory for this post to make any sense.

This is my cousin Debra, and I am in love with her. (The handsome devil in the picture with her is the love of her life Charlie.)


Debra too lost touch with a lot of our family, for her own reasons. To illustrate how disconnected we both were, we actually owned houses just 3 blocks from one another for about 4 years, and my sons used to walk past her front door on their way to school every day, and we never knew it.

She too was one of the 'divorced kids' (her Dad Freddie was my Dad's older brother) and went through her own trials of fire that led to her being displaced and somewhat estranged from the clan. When she heard news of my father's passing, she took a huge leap of faith and decided to show up for the memorial. For this, I am truly grateful.

I need to list some of her qualities and I'm not quite sure how to do it without sounding like an obsessed fan, so I'm going to go for it and you can all just suck it up. ~wink~

Brave, kind, generous, gregarious, beautiful, funny, welcoming, strong, wise, exuberant, accepting, effervescent, intelligent, resilient, forgiving, understanding, outgoing, lovable, and loving. I'm sure I could hunt through the thesaurus and come up with a list 10 times as long as this, but you get the idea. The path that her life took, what she has endured and not only bounced back but blossomed from is admirable. She is a role model and inspiration. She is a sage - a veritable wealth of advice and common sense - and has somehow managed to tap into the fountain of youth that all but obliterates the age gap between us. She is in love with life, and therefore, it's impossible not to fall in love with her.

After many years of feeling like I was somehow detached from my relatives, in no small part from Debra's example not only have I reconnected (read: been drawn into the black hole of never ending love lol) with my extended family, but I've come to realize that as much as I feel I am unlike anyone on my mother's side of the family, I'm just one of the slightly off, crazy, weird, fun-loving gang on my Dad's side. Thank you Debra for your inner and outer beauty, your persistence, your strength, your existence. Thank you for joining Clothing Club. And especially for throwing my mother RIGHT out of her comfort zone by unabashedly calling her Auntie! HAHA!!!!

One Hawt Mama

As a photographer, although I do all kinds of photography, I'm kind of pigeon-holed with children. This might be because I'm good with and enjoy photographing kids, or it might be because I'm just plain immature and kids are attracted to that. I'll let you decide which. But I digress.


I love doing pictures of children, but every now and again it's a nice treat to get asked to do glam or boudoir shots. This hawt mama decided to do something a little risque for her hubby as a Valentine's day. Not only is J drop-dead gorgeous, with incredible blue eyes and crazy strawberry blond hair, she's bright, humourous, and warm-hearted.



Although she has a very versatile look, she was totally rockin' the 80's thing. We ran with it, and it turned out simply marvelous! In fact, this slightly blurry rocker shot on the piano bench has become one of my favourite images of all times. Love it, love her! Thanks for the opportunity to spread my wings a bit, you sexy thang!

Toast Post

Toast, for anyone who wonders, is a euphemism for S-E-X. A friend whose name I won't mention was chatting online one night. At some point, she claimed she was hungry and was going to make herself a piece of toast. About an hour later, she returned to chatting. Apparently somewhere between looking for the Wonderbread and getting a butter knife, our sweet compatriot ended up getting a little action, thereby prolonging her absence. So in the future, if ever you see the word 'toast' appear in my blog and it seems out of context, replace it with the word S-E-X and it'll probably make sense. ~smirk~

Tanya & Brian

Since I showed you Brayden already, I figured I better show off his Mommy and Daddy. Without being totally cheesy (which means this is going to be totally cheesy) Tanya and Brian are an amazing couple. I already told the story of how Tanya and I became acquainted, and I thought geez, who could ever love HER. (kidding lol - I love you Tanya!) But seriously, there are couples who are glow, and there are couples who outright shine. Tanya and Brian shine. When they look at each other, you can see the deep love they share for one another, and even when they are sparring and tossing playful banter and silly insults back and forth, it's obvious how much they truly cherish their relationship. It's kind of sickening to watch, really.

So. When we went to do their maternity session, for me it was kind of like being a voyeur, in a non-creepy unperverted sort of way. The two of them were in their own little bubble. The session went along beautifully in spite of the fact Bear (the puppy) was totally uncooperative, and the images of this budding family are both playful and touching. Brian's deep sense of awe and admiration for his wife was tangible, and when I got home and scrolled through the pictures I was truly moved, but none so much as by this one picture, the very last one I managed to take. It literally took my breath away and is without reservation one of the most beautiful pictures of one of the most beautiful couples I've ever had the pleasure of knowing and capturing in digiform. This, people, is a man very much in love with his very pregnant wife.

Brayden

I had the pleasure of hanging out with mein Brayden this evening. My friend Tammy invited a few ladies over to visit as our other friend Dani was in from Red Deer. Now that I'm weepy all the time, and can't hide it, I'll admit that I cried when I held Brayden the first time. I didn't cry tonight. Maybe I was crying a little on the inside when I asked Dani if she wanted to hold the baby, and she misunderstood the question and actually said yes.

Brayden's Mommy and I met under somewhat strenuous circumstances. Our first words were exchanged during a very very heated argument regarding politics. Although I still completely disagree with her, I have to give her kudos for sticking to her guns when under fire from myself and another woman who held the same position as I did on the issue at hand. She held her own in the face of two very sarcastic and outspoken women, and for that, I respect her. (Too bad her political views suck ~neiner neiner~ lol)

The site where this debate was taking place was a mommy website, and Brayden wasn't even a twinkle in Mommy and Daddy's eyes. Tanya had joined in anticipation of becoming a mommy. There was a frustrating period of several months (that felt like years) trying to conceive, and for a while there it felt hopeless for her.

Obviously, it was a case of trying too hard, and just a she was giving up, lots of fellow mommy supprt and lots of 'toast' worked. When Brayden arrived, I was tickled to go over and take some pictures. (Being a photographer is a great excuse for being the first person called when there's a new arrival...)


The only thing I have to say about Brayden, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, is that he is a NICE baby. The nicest baby ever. He's so content and sweet and wonderful, that his Mommy's politics are (almost) forgivable lol. It was so nice to see him (and Tanya) again; hopefully it isn't another 3 months before I see him (them) again! Perhaps we'll all join up at his cousin Ryder's place, since I found out tonight that Brayden apparently digs the ceiling fan, too...

My funeral

I am part of a Clothing Club. For those of you who aren't familiar with these, how it works is a group of women get together every month and throw in a certain amount of money. Over the course of a year, each member wins the pot once, and the winner is required to go and spend the money on herself. Not on hubby, the kids, the house, the bills - only on herself. Get your nails done, buy some slacks and shirts and shoes, go for a manicure and a massage, get a new haircut and a handbag, grab 14 pairs of panties and a custom fitted bra... you get the idea.

Anyhow. The winner is then required to host the next party and show off her purchases. I've heard tell that not all clothing clubs require there to be a theme, and that some of them are set up in such a fashion that it's more like a coffee meeting than a gathering. If I wanted a half hour coffee date, I'd make one. I want an event! I despise shopping for clothes and get my hair cut once a year, and am always struggling what to spend my winnings on. I'm as opposite of girly as you can get without being butch. Without a doubt, it's the whole social aspect of this particular Clothing Club that drew me in, and our Clothing Club goes all out for our parties. The list includes a Geisha party where we all got gussied up in Japanese garb, hair styles, and make-up and learned how to hand roll sushi, a formal dinner party, a wild and fun game called Convivium... and coming up next is a Roller Derby!!!

Last year, I did a retro glam photo shoot.



This year, my theme? A funeral. I really wanted to hear all those nice things people will say about me at my funeral.

OK, OK - so it sounds morbid. There was a method to the madness, though. Honestly, we spend half our time walking around like the living dead, holding regrets and grudges, devaluing or failing to acknowledge our own importance in our own and other people's lives, and not appreciating the opportunities that exist each and every day when we have the ability to choose what we are going to say or do, where we are going to go, who we will spend our time with.

We always hear about how a person's life flashes before their eyes at the moment of death. A flood of memories and regrets streaks across the screen like a high-speed film, highlighting the good and bad parts of our lives. At that point, we have no time to act OR react. No more chances to apologize or forgive, no more time to spend with the family and friends we leave behind, no more choices on what we are going to say or do, where we are going to go, who we will spend our time with.

So I took pre-planning to the next level, and made a point to be present for it. I have a rather eccentric friend who loaned me a casket he'd bought at an auction when his bid for a big Altendorf saw fell through. They'd foreclosed on some funeral planning place in southern Alberta, and were auctioning off the goods - headstones, wreaths, coffins, etc. - and he bid on it as a lark, and won, and has been storing this casket in his shop for the past several years. He was kind enough to let me borrow it. (We were planning to drive it through the hand car wash place to have the van detailed while we were dropping off the casket, but ran out of time....)

Initially when the casket came in the house, it was very eery, and my 12 year old found it especially disturbing. "I want it out of the house. How much longer is it here?" My youngest brother-in-law and my 9 year old son wanted to sleep in it, and my almost-3 year old drove it like it was a convertible Cadillac with pastel blue satin interior... If nothing else, it was certainly a much nicer 'first memory' of a coffin for my children than most of us have to experience, which according to a brief poll I conducted (myself included) is usually a beloved grandparent.


I find it odd, in retrospect, how much differently we all reacted to the coffin. My 9 year old thought it was cool, my oldest son afraid, then intrigued. As the picture below shows, my brother-in-law saw something glamourous about it, while my husband (that's him in the background eating a bowl of cereal) was completely indifferent. I personally found it creepy but humourous. And the Clothing Club ladies all received it differently, too.





Because the box has different significance for all of us. A coffin comes with a very long list of sentimental attachments, in what it represents to each of us based on our own very unique, very individual experiences. Who, if anyone, have we loved and seen in a casket? Are we going through a prolonged death experience right now because a loved one has a terminal disease? Have we watched too many horror movies? Each of us will see a casket, but no two of us will ever experience its presence the same way, empty or not.


A coffin itself is just a box. They can be very basic and boring, or very ornate. Some people spend terrific amounts of money decking out their coffins, test driving them for comfort and fit, and even outfitting them with amenities. Short of resurrection, it is, after all, where they will spend an eternity. There are even companies specializing in casket furniture, that you use while living then take with you later! Although most people were hesitant to get too near the casket at the beginning of the party, by mid-way through they were serving up munchies (like devilled eggs and Death by Chocolate) from the closed lid, and at the end, people were climbing in to get a once-in-a-lifetime photo-op. It went from a respresentation of death, to a piece of furniture, to a prop, in the span of just a few hours. Tasteless jokes abounded. My favourite, (thank you Christina) was that I had put the 'fun' in 'funeral.' lol





Please be reassured that it was never my intent to make a farce of death and dying or funerals. Honestly, I think it was an eye-opening experience for the guests, with plenty of fodder for instrospection and self-exploration. And it really was so great to hear all those nice things people had to say about me, I made everyone say nice things about each other, too. Now YOU go tell someone something nice. Spread some love today, OK?

Bubble Wrap - a family affair

Bubble wrap rocks. I love bubble wrap. I get excited about bubble wrap. I have a long and loving relationship with bubble wrap, and share bubble wrap stories like old college drinking stories. For Christmas, all four of our children got gifts bags containing nothing but bubble wrap. People know that in a pinch, instead of sending flowers, they can send bubble wrap, and I'll be perfectly content.

Apparently, it runs in the family.


Ryder

Frankly, I get bored of taking the same pictures over and over again, and am always in the market for a great new idea or theme. My eyes are always peeled for inspiration. Aydin inspired my new 'tube' theme, which I still have to go shopping for, and while the idea for vintage pictures was inspired by Wren, the guinea pig for the boy version of it was Ryder.

I arrived a bit late and was grateful to have Ryder's big sister as a willing assistant setting up my portable studio. In most of Ryder's pictures, he's looking longlingly over my shoulder. One might be inclined to think that he's looking at Mommy or checking out Daddy, or maybe even his big brother or sister.

Nope.

Ceiling fan.

The little guy only had eyes for the slowly turning ceiling fan. Completely mesmerised by it, he was complacent as I stripped him down, and threw him in....



...the suitcase. (And he's not even looking at the ceiling fan in this picture! Yay me!)

This particular suitcase has now become a popular prop. (Propular?) Anyhow. Kids of all ages seem to LOVE this suitcase, circa I'd hazard a guess 1965-ish, with it's swank blue satiny interior and clicky flip-locks. (Heck - *I* even like playing with the clicky flip locks almost as much as bubble wrap!!!) I hunt for props and costumes in a variety of places - everything from dollar and department stores to the florist to garage sales to Goodwill and Value Village. I look for uncommon or obsolete items, items I think will give a certain flair or flavour to the pictures I'm taking, items that are unique to, and reconizable as, hallmark ticdesign.

Much to my husband's chagrin, the collection is in a state of perpetual growth and now takes up the entire back half of the laundry room, spilling out of the large Rubbermade trunks and the two wardrobes and onto the floor. Shoe stretchers, a rusty 1950s baby pram, yellow polka-dot full-length gloves, a waxen Buddha candle, several umbrellas, a hand-smocked infant dress, baskets, ribbons, foliage, bunny ears and elf hats... I carry around a random supply of props when I go to a session. I often have requests, but get especially excited when the client gives me carte blanche do do whatever I want. "Whatever ideas you have will be fine, I'm sure."

As it were, Ryder just happened to scream, "Throw me in a suitcase - it'll be cute!" Thanks for letting me try it out on ya, Ryder! You wear it well!!!

Now. If only we could convince our friends vacationing in Europe or Mexico to show us the same courtesy and throw us in their suitcase, the world would just be a better place, wouldn't it?

Aydin

So I missed the first client appointment EVER a couple of weekends ago. I keep all my appointments in a digital calendar, replete with binging pop-ups to let me know a couple of days in advance and a snooze button to let me know about it the day before and the day of, if need be. However, with February and March having the same dates, in what must have been a moment of stupidity ( or perhaps a drunken stupor) I managed to plug the appointment in for February.

But that's OK. After some grovelling on my part, Aydin's Mom was nice enough to forgive me and invite me back, same time, one week later, to get after the task at hand. That being, taking some 1-year photos of Aydin.

When I first got there, Aydin wasn't quite sure what to make of me. I laid out my instruments of torture, and he wasn't the least bit interested. Mostly, he wanted to use my backdrop extensions as a battering ram.

As the session wore on, Aydin certainly warmed up. I particularly enjoyed the pictures I got of him, looking at a picture of himself on the shelf. ~smirk~ So he was loving his ducks, the camera remote cable, and the bunny ears more than anything, and things went swimmingly. Then right at the end, though, I had one of those 'guinea pig' moments, where an idea pops into my head and I have a burning desire to try it out on a live subject.

"Do you guys have a tube?"

"A what?"

"A tube! Like a tunnel?!"

"Uh... yeah..."

Mom trots off to the bedroom and returns with a spanky pale aqua Ikea tube. In goes Aydin, and I'm off like a rocket! So I admit, I've taken pictures of kids in tubes before. We got ours on sale at Superstore for $15. It's a cheap red thing made from some weird synthetic fibre that looks like the stuff you'd find hiding the fibreglass stuffing on the underside of a brown plaid hide-a-bed from the 70's. It connects to a blue and yellow pop-up tent that requires a degree in origami to put back in the little circular carrying case. Because it's so dark and gloomy, I always had to use a really harsh flash and the tubular effect, though present, was always diminished by the harsh lighting.

The Ikea tube (made of some smooth soft fibre I could see me wearing a jacket made from) lets in tonnes of lovely filtered natural light, is twice as long, and made for my favourite pictures of the session! Aydin was my willing muse, and I think his parents were happy with the results. Next time I'm near Ikea, I gotta get me one of these things!

Boys With Bikes

When my youngest brother-in-law came for an extended visit in Edmonton, the three brothers let me tag along and snap a few biker shots. These, ladies and gentlemen, are the Charlie's Angels of my life.



For those of you who don't know, my husband, sons, brothers-in-law, and I are all bicycle commuters. I'm a recent convert. Although I have always ridden my bike a lot, when I returned to work this year after an extended maternity leave, I had no desire to pay the over-inflated parking rates, and so decided that my daughter and I would make the trek on 2 wheels. No, we aren't granola-eating hippy tree-huggers who go on conquests to save the planet or anything - we just genuinely enjoy the clean, efficient bike as our preferred mode of transportation.

I've come to really love our bike rides. Instead of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic cursing the icy roads or suffering a failing air conditioner, I coast along silently, stealthily, steadily. Now that my husband has me riding a single-speed, I challenge myself to pedal at different rates, some days going for steady pedalling, other days alternating cruising with sprinting. Much nicer than wondering when the yabbohead in the car behind me is going to spill that cup of coffee, get electrocuted from the cell phone, and subsequently rear end me.

Most days the weather is pretty average, and only occasionally do I really feel like I'm "stuck" in bitter cold or driving rains or sweltering heat. And I did get a whole new MEC wardrobe out of the deal. I will never be a fashion icon; I'm a fashion onion, with many, many layers - warm ones, light weight ones, water proof ones, windproof ones... Nevertheless, I appreciate the long sigh of watching the sun rise and listening to the birds twittering on my way to work, and cruising along the river valley or zipping up Whyte Ave on the way home with all the sights and sounds of the changing seasons. What a pleasant way to decompress at the end of the day.

Rain or shine, and sometimes snow, my daughter happily sits in her Chariot, eating leftover bits from her lunch and giving a running dialogue (often in song) about everything from her lunch to the puppy on a leash 'ober dere.'

Connor's World

Connor has a very special place in my heart. After a lengthy series of trips to emergency, Connor was diagnosed with CF, and ended up spending an extended stint in the Stollery Children's Hospital at the University of Alberta. Now, most people that know me, know I don't do hospitals well. At. All. In fact, I'd sooner bite a hole in my own flesh and rub Tiger Balm and vinegar in the open wound than spend any kind of time in or near a hospital.




Well, an opportunity presented itself for me to do some personal stretching when a friend and fellow shutterbugger was unable to make it into the city to do some newborn pictures of Connor while he was stuck at the Stollery. I spent the days leading up to the session in a comlete panic, had cold sweats going up in the elevator, and got heart palpitations wandering the halls looking for his room.

This little trooper, and his trooper Mama, amazed me. Completely accustomed to his grisly sterile metallic surroundings, he was happy to be held, didn't fuss when Mom took out and put back in his feeding tube, and had nothing but smiles for the sweet nurse who came in to check him over. It was emotionally exhausting and a little terrifying and most importantly, a lot healing, and for the ability to experience those growing pains, I am eternally grateful to Connor and his Mommy. (And secretly really glad Tammy lives way out in Spruce Grove lol)

Now, I can't say I'm completely cured of my paralyzing fear of hospitals, but this amazing baby (the only flirt bigger than little Frankie) certainly gave me a new perspective. Thank you for letting me come and visit.

Frankie

I have a lot of catching up to do. I'm going to be delving into my older and existing albums, randomly plucking out my favourite pictures, and sharing stories about them. In the midst of it all, I'll be adding the new stuff, and eventually (ideally) there will be some sort of completion.





For no particular reason other than the fact I did his pictures just this weekend and the novelty of this picture hasn't worn off yet, I HAVE to start by sharing my experience of Frankie.
J - thank you for letting me photograph your family. The pictures are gorgeous, because you guys are gorgeous! And yup - I howl out loud every time I see this one shot of him doing his best Dr. Evil impersonation!!! Frankie is 6 months old, baby brother to my son's best friend. I had meant to do pictures of the little gaffer back when he was a newborn, but our schedules just never matched up until this past weekend. Well, I have to say, I fell in love instantly! It helps that he's got those amazing blue eyes, but that's not what hooked me - it's the way he utterly oozes devilish charm. (Only Connor has proven a comparable flirt!)

ticblog begins

I discovered that I was having an issue. The issue was updating the website every time I wanted to change things up a bit, add a new favourite photo, make things current... In fact, updating the website has been like a kind of torture for me. Not only am I terrible at making the time to sit and actually do the updates, but trying to decide how many pictures to include, whose, and for how long entails a lot of indecision, frustration, guilt, and subsequent resignation. And I won't even begin to get into the conflicts with my web host's server that has become so tedious I'm in the process of moving to a new web host, perhaps with a stupid amount of optimism that the conflicts will no longer exist...

Anyhow. I decided the best way to resolve this need to be 'ongoing' was to start a blog. I'm not really great at journalling, but I am always keen to share my favourite stories and pictures. Friends and family often complain that I'm so durn busy I don't get much of a chance to let them know what's going on in my own life, despite the fact I have my camera on my person every waking moment and have pictures of everything from what sunrise looked like last Tuesday to some fun pics I took of the SJ washing dishes in the buff last night. Whether for professional or personal purposes, I never know what I'm going to get when I start shooting, and I end up with these priceless little time capsules, captured in digiform. I'd like to share with you these time capsules, and the stories behind creating them. And so, ticblog begins...