into focus

It's not really surprising that life comes into crisp focus when reality is shattered by something like the death of a dear loved one, or worse, a loved one is facing imminent death. In my Gramma's case, it was expected, and considering her physical decline in the past several months, a relief - no one needs to live a life devoid of dignity - I assure you seeing my Gramma without her hair set, a coordinated outfit, and her teeth in, sitting by her window and filing her nails to perfection, would have been nothing shy of traumatic for her.

I went to a wedding reception tonight, for a little girl, the older of two sisters I spent a lot of time caring for, who were once the centre of my universe. When the Orange Fairy and I parted ways almost 2 decades ago, the mother of these two girls, Debbie, gave me he one thing I wanted from my Mamasan that she was unable to give me: trust. Debbie had faith in me, for whatever unknown reason, and gave me responsibility that I am sure without would have put me in a very different place than I am today. Every fibre in my being said I should be at home processing pictures and sorting photos from the Relay; I knew somehow that I actually needed to be at that reception. My girls are all grown up and beautiful and I'm so happy I was able to see them.


I got home just a few minutes ago, to find in my inbox an email from another dear friend, Mrs. PQRS, who has I am sure at least 99 lives. Despite being accustomed to her having near-death experiences (she's one of the reasons I relay) it never stops scaring the ever-loving snot out of me when her health takes a turn for the worse - I am always chastising her about her 'hospital holidays' but in truth I am terrified for her, and her husband, and their 9 children (6 are hers and 3 are her husband's.) She's on the waitlist for a second heart transplant and is slated to go in for surgery for a pacemaker to tide her over until (not if - until) a donor becomes available. Of course, wishing for a new heart is a morbid thought as it means one must ultimately hope for the untimely death of a suitable donor.

I've been making efforts for several months to find balance in my life. As it stands, I am far too busy to be available to my friends and family. This is changing, slowly but surely, and I am beginning to see with crystal clarity the need for a better means of prioritizing my life, and putting family and friends above the busy-ness I always manage to create for myself. I prayed last week, and asked others to pray, for the painless and safe delivery of my Grandmother to the arms of her Maker; for the next several days I will be spending my time praying for my friend's recovery from surgery, and that God somehow sees fit to find a donor for her. Please feel free to add Mrs. PQRS to your prayer list.

housekeeping

#1) This weekend's workshops are postponed until June 22, 2008, location TBA.
#2) The final project on the 15th has been postponed until we have a chance to figure out what that's going to be...
#3) Kathleen Swanson of Heart & Soul Photography has agreed to give us a tour of her home studio.  Date and cost will be announced once we have a few dates chosen.
#4) The 80's glam shoot needs to be scheduled.  I'm thinking mid-July would work?
#5) The Travelling Suitcase needs to be picked up - who wants to go first?

road-trippin' with mein seestor

Danna and I emailed through the day on Monday debating what to do. From people at work I received nothing but support to go, if that was what I decided I needed to do. I didn't even stop to pee before calling her when I got home, and within 2 hours the decision had been made to at least try, or spend the rest of our lives regretting not having taken the chance to bid farewell. By midnight Danna had made it to Edmonton from Calgary and we were on our way.


We travelled in darkness, and watched the sun coming up over the mountains. I can honestly say I've never seen sunrise in the rockies and frankly it was less than stellar. I'm a prairie girl at heart and waiting for the tall shadows of the mountains to let in the warmth of the apricot sun was frustrating at best. I guess I was expecting smoething more majestic than thin beams of sunlight struggling to spill into the bowl of highway we were sitting in, and it made me think if I had a Superpower, it'd be levitation so I could shoot up in the air and see sun sitting like a big egg yolk along the horizon of the prairies. It seemed to take forever before the roads were warm and golden, but in that painfully long dawn we were treated to a feast of wildlife - elk, deer, bears, and a moose butt (why do they always face AWAY from the road?)


We rolled into Prince George in rush hour traffic, which compared to our familiar versions of rush hour seemed almost laughable. We had initially been concerned about congestion because of a terrible fire in the lumber yards on Highway 97 rumoured to be bunging up the whole city, but by the time we reached town traffic had been successfully rerouted and it was smooth sailing. We headed to Gramma's side where save for a few sporadic 3 or 4 hour naps we waited, hoping for peace and willing Gramma to rest. Because we both had our own reasons, we needed to get home sooner rather than later, and when the time came to leave our goodbyes were the typical mixture of pain and pleasure that has become familiar since lately the only times we seem to see each other is when someone has died.

We agreed to take our time getting home. Danna and I have never taken a road trip together, just the two of us. We talked like only sisters can talk about everything from boys to jobs, easily sliding from laughter to tears and back again as we reminisced about our sordid histories, and talked about the future. We stopped in McBride for a stretch, pee, and a postcard (if you're ever there, you MUST stop in at the Beanery 2 Bistro at the train station - excellent coffee and treats and if you're lucky you'll be serenaded by a train squealing by.)


In addition to a few chosen locations we made several unscheduled stops to watch a mama cub and her bears, to look for frogs, and to prolong the sense of suspended reality. We even stopped by the camp where Danna and I went and worked as kids, the same camp I met my husband Bill at 20 years ago this spring; she got to do some froggin', and I spotted a skunk (the pictures are blurry - I didn't want to alert him to my presence, and when he reared his stipey behind, I didn't stop to see if I was going to get that perfect shot because 9 times out of 10 he had better aim than me...)

The drive home happened in technicolor. I don't know how much of it was because our raw selves were more acutely attuned to our surroundings or because we were simply trying to avoid thinking about Gramma laying there in a bed trapped between the aching desire to be here for her grieving family, and the urge to go meet her maker and be reunited with her pre-deceased husband and children. It was hard to leave, not so much because of sadness over Gramma's passing, but moreso because we left behind our cousins and aunties and uncles to bear the bittersweet burden of sitting vigil through her dying hours.




I spent most of today recuperating. My body is sore and tired, my heart is broken, and I ~ look forward to ~ hate the idea of ~ laying my Gramma to rest with my Grampa and Daddy next week. Thanks to everyone for your kind words and support. I still have so many things to tell you about the Relay for Life. Right now, my priority lays with my family. Until then, enjoy the album, and be sure to read the captions...




a million bucks

It had been about a year since I saw Chase and his Mom. Chase has, of course, changed a lot. He's shot up a good 6 or 7 inches and is turning into a fine-looking young man. However, the transformation in his Mom was truly astounding. It wasn't the way she looked or the clothes she wore - it was the million dollar smile she was sporting because of some personal triumphs that made her glow from the soles of her sassy boots to the tips of lashes lining her bright blue eyes. Bryanna, you look positively stunning, and your son is a handsome little devil...





geraniums were never my favourite

Gramma passed away about 3:30 p.m. B.C. time today, May 29, 2008.  This picture was taken on our family vacation last summer.

This picture was taken in Prince George at her 98th birthday in October 0f 2006. Only about 1/3 of the family is present.

I wish I would have visited with her more, but circumstances what they were I didn't.  Despite being very close to that entire side of the family while my Gramma lived in Alberta, once they moved her to B.C. I had a million convenient excuses to avoid them - I had no time, no money, you name it, and successfully cut myself off from a huge beautiful part of my life.  Having my own blended family, I've done everything in my power to ensure there are no rifts, especially since I know now what didn't then - that family is family no matter what. My Uncle Adolph said, "It pisses me off that it wasn't until Kenny died we got to know you. All those wasted years..." But my father's passing gave me back the rest of the family, and despite the lost years I feel as close and loved now as ever did. 

Bertha came to Canada on a boat as a little girl, and lived in her own house with her own garden until she was 85 and her body finally began betraying her age with aches and pains and brittle bones, and full-time care was required.  For 12 of those 14 years, she oversaw the planting of the gardens at Parkland.  In 2006, she decided it was too much work for her, and so my Auntie Doris collected all her potted geraniums and relocated them to their acreage so they could be enjoyed when the seniors made their annual bus trip to Adolph and Doris's place for a summer barbecue, complete with a campfire, marshmallows, and treat bags.  Apparently last year and this year when Bertha was strolled through the gardens in her chair she complained bitterly that they had been planted all wrong.


I had brought one of the retired geraniums home with me, which bloomed in summer of 2007 but was left out too long and froze this winter.  I prefer perennials - things like marigolds and petunias and geraniums require more maintenance and though I may have inherited her crooked knobby hands, I totally missed out on the green thumb.  This spring my Mamasan took the poor dead thing and tried without success to save it; she told me on the phone today she has planted a new pink geranium in the pot for me.  Maybe Gramma, free from her aged body and able to travel between provinces again, will be able to help me not kill this one.

Her headstone has been carved with an empty fill-in-the-blank for decades, and sitting atop her husband's heart is her son Kenny.  Next door is her other son Freddie, and just around the corner is her Mom, my Great Grandma Fried.   


I love you Gramma, and when my Daddy DOES ask you to pull his finger, don't do it...

holding hands

Dear God, take Gramma home to John, Freddie, Kenny, and Florence soon, and let her pain be over.

Mein seestor and I took a huge risk driving out to say farewell, but we made it.  Amoungst laughter and tears we have all taken turns sitting with Gramma, talking and singing to her, and chasing the nurses down to make sure her meds are administered on time.   We take turns at her bedside day and night, stroking her hands and arms, and making enough racket to wake up half the senior's lodge (which the nurses assure us isn't an issue since they take out all of their hearing aids at night.)  As she lays motionless save for the beating of her heart and her shallow breaths,  we can't help but be reminded of all the times she said, "I'm not napping - I can listen with my eyes closed," and the banter has been as loud, happy, and joyful as usual.

When my Daddy died, Gramma lamented, "Why couldn't it have been me?" She has been saying for a very long time now that she is ready to go - she wants to see John (her husband) and the three children who died before her, Freddie and Kenny and Florence.   She is in a lot of pain, her breathing is laboured, and she is unable to communicate, and yet she is still holding on.  It is both astonishing and heartbreaking.  We have often referred to her lovingly as the 'stubborn old bird.'

When I was about 8 years old, I noticed my fingers were very crooked, and far from dainty.  I used to tie popsicle sticks to my fingers with pieces of wool in the hopes that if I couldn't have dainty fingers, at least I'd have straight ones.  About 10 years ago I wrote a piece of 'postcard' prose. I had meant to enter it into a contest, but never did; I had all but forgotten about it until today when I was holding Gramma's hands:

Here are my Nana’s hands, washing the dishes. Here are her knobby knuckles and liver spots wiping gravy from this plate. Here are the translucent, powder white hands with the bulging purple veins popping just beneath the thin skin, dunking this plate in the rinse water. Here are the fingers with the bones as brittle as the china they hold, placing the dishes to the tea towel on the counter to be dried. Nana calls me to her and takes each of my tiny hands in each of her wrinkled hands and kisses their backs, and when she lets go she has pressed a creamy mint into each of my palms and she shoos me away with a sly wink. Nana’s hands, cool and smooth like polished stone or glass collected from the ocean where it has been worn by the sand beneath the waves of the rolling sea. Only they aren’t Nana’s hands. They are mine.


Dear Gramma, You have 99 and a half years on this planet already, and you're in the home stretch.  Please, go see your husband and the three children you outlived.  Tell my Daddy I say, "Hi!  Pull my finger..."


prayers for Gramma

I'm off for a few days.  Please pray we make it to Prince George before she passes.  Please pray she passes quietly when the time comes.

2008 Relay for Life a Huge Disappointment

Over $490,000 was raised by some 1200 people. Over 150 Survivors released balloons to celebrate beating the odds. Edmonton boasts one of the largest and most successful Relays anywhere in the world. And, despite the coldest wettest year in a while, there were more people still walking the track at 7 a.m. this year than I can remember since I discovered Relay, wearing smiles that made their bleary eyes pierce through the grey morning-after with palpable HOPE.

What's so disappointing about that?  Look at this flag.  Each flag like this handed out to the remaining relayers represents a person in Alberta who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

See this crowd?  Most of these people were carrying 3 or 4 flags each.

And everyone, present company included, was discussing plans for next year.  What that represents to me is twofold.  First is the disappointment in feeling the need to keep returning year after year because we don't have a cure yet.  Second, is HOPE.  HOPE to find better treatments, HOPE to find  cure, HOPE to end the Relay for Life because cancer is history.

Christy Parker and Christine McCourt, organizers of the Edmonton Relay for Life, expressed their own HOPE: to still break the half-million fundraising mark year.  Online pledges are open for another week.  Please, if you haven't donated, if you have more to donate, please visit their site and pledge now.

I have SO MANY stories to tell.  First, I need to help my son celebrate his 11th birthday this afternoon.  Please visit the blog soon to hear the tale of 10 photographers who endeavored to Click Cancer's Butt.

2008 Relay for Life a Huge Disappointment

Over $490,000 was raised by some 1200 people. Over 150 Survivors released balloons to celebrate beating the odds. Edmonton boasts one of the largest and most successful Relays anywhere in the world. And, despite the coldest wettest year in a while, there were more people still walking the track at 7 a.m. this year than I can remember since I discovered Relay, wearing smiles that made their bleary eyes pierce through the grey morning-after with palpable HOPE.

What's so disappointing about that?  Look at this flag.  Each flag like this handed out to the remaining relayers represents a person in Alberta who will be diagnosed with cancer this year.

See this crowd?  Most of these people were carrying 3 or 4 flags each.

And everyone, present company included, was discussing plans for next year.  What that represents to me is twofold.  First is the disappointment in feeling the need to keep returning year after year because we don't have a cure yet.  Second, is HOPE.  HOPE to find better treatments, HOPE to find  cure, HOPE to end the Relay for Life because cancer is history.

Christy Parker and Christine McCourt, organizers of the Edmonton Relay for Life, expressed their own HOPE: to still break the half-million fundraising mark year.  Online pledges are open for another week.  Please, if you haven't donated, if you have more to donate, please visit their site and pledge now.

I have SO MANY stories to tell.  First, I need to help my son celebrate his 11th birthday this afternoon.  Please visit the blog soon to hear the tale of 10 photographers who endeavored to Click Cancer's Butt.

challenge project: the traveling suitcases

Here's the challenge. I have two vintage suitcases I picked up off freecycle. The woman I got them from says they were her mother's and her mother-in-law's, circa late 40s, early 50s. When I told her I was going to use them as photography props, her face lit right up. She seemed genuinely tickled when I told her I'd email her the first pictures I took with them.  

I'd like anyone who is interested to borrow the suitcases, and use them as props in a photo session. You can dedicate a session to using them and make a still life, put your kids in them, use them as decoration in a 'scene' - whatever... When we've passed it around and we have a good body of pictures together I'd love to put together an album or scrapbook of 4x6 prints to give her. Who's in?




voluntary regression: day 4

Some personal myths I have identified:

Sleep is time wasted; sleep is for sissies.
Inactivity = laziness.
I am WONDERWOMAN.
Saying no is rejection.
There aren't enough hours in the day.

Some things I am struggling with:

I am tired every day.
I feel lazy if I'm not doing something.
I kinda like being WONDERWOMAN.
I don't like rejection.
I lose time trying to make time to get everything I take on done.

Some realizations I have had:

I need more sleep.
I am not a lazy person.
WONDERWOMAN is a part of who I am.
Saying no is rejection, and that's OK.
There are the same number of hours in the day as there always have been.

I'm going to meditate on these things and see if I come up with any solutions.

a day without pictures...

... is like a day without oxygen.  Here are some snippets of my long weekend when the weather played tricks on us and forced me (~boohoo~) to take some time off and hang out with my crazy silly family. There was playing at the park, there were cinnamon buns to be made, and there was "jumpin' balaya" as Serejane calls it to be consumed.

voluntary regression: day 3 *re-post*

Thanks to everyone who replied to the original post. However, after realizing I had successfully vilified someone who I genuinely like and respect for what is, in the grander scheme of things, not the end of the world, I decided to reduce the entire experience to something more condensed and self-realizing:

On day 3, Hope learned first-hand the repercussions of not saying, "NO," when she should.

I can't stand my client...

Anonymous wants to know how to remove yourself from a client who you don't jive with for some reason or other - the children are orangutans, the husband is a pervert, the wife is too demanding, they live too far for you to travel... Whatever the case may be, it's extremely important to tactfully remove yourself from clients you genuinely don't enjoy working with. Here's why:



#1) the quality of the pictures will suffer. Because most of us shoot with our hearts, if we aren't comehow connected with our subject, even if the picture is technically passable, it will lack that certain *something* that is usually the cause of people deviating from studios to seek a professional or 'boutique' photographer. If the pictures are always less than stellar you won't even want to use them for your portfolio.



#2) you don't want to get into the habit of saying yes to projects you'd rather say no to because eventually it will take a toll on your enjoyment of taking (and processing) any and all pictures. One unpleasant hour-long session can turn into a nightmare of stangnant creativity, stalled processing, and bouts of general frustration and unhappiness. Whatever you are charging for that session I guarantee it isn't worth the lost productivity that can result.



#3) setting precedent can be a bad thing - if you say yes to someone you genuinely don't enjoy a good photographic relationship with, they become loyal to you and it becomes more and more difficult to extricate yourself from the situation. Whether the client is genuinely a nice person who you just don't click with, or a genuinely horrible client you dislike but tolerate because ~insert personal reason here~ it's best to sever the ties before they bind.



You will have to decide what the most tactful approach is for that particular client. You can nicely explain to them that you just don't feel a connection and refer them to other photographers who might better connect. You can be very direct and tell them you don't like the husband looking at your boobs, the wife phoning every day to see if the pictures are done, or the kids destroying your home and personal property. OR. You can choose a passive route and always be unavailable due to other commitments. You can be completely passive and not even answer emails or phonecalls. Hopefully they will get the hint. If not, you will have to just let them know you aren't taking them on as clients any longer.

voluntary regression: day 2

The guilt was admittedly short-lived. However, I can't help but think I've just handed someone else a new client. There's some sadness in that - I'm always looking to expand the fold. When your entire business is built on word of mouth it's a scary prospect not generating or perpetuating that buzz on the street. I think in some ways I understand why retirement can be so hard for some people - getting past the hump of, "But this is what I've always done..." and finding something else to do every day, going through the process of discovering or creating something new to do every day, is tough. 21 days to form a new habit, hey? Damn. That's 19 days away still.

announcement #2

So I know it's been a while since I said I had big announcement #2 (of 3) and since I got confirmation today, I'm too excited to keep it a secret or even pretend like I'm going to build suspense...

One of the things I never got a chance to do when I found out I was having Wil at the ripe old age of 20 was go to University.  I went to Grant MacEwan and took Arts Administration so I could get into the work field and it has served me well, knowing that someday, somehow, I would get some letters after my name.

So, big announcement #2 is, I've been accepted as a student at the University.  Starting in September I will be taking 6 credits per term towards a degree.  If I did my math right and I stick it out, I should be celebrating my convocation with Wil. I'm going to explore a few options before applying to a degree and declaring a major, but I have a feeling it will be something like major in Sociology with a Minor in Fine Arts.  I guess I'll kind of figure that out once I get to that point.

Of course this means I'll be winding things down quite a bit starting this September.  I'll be hosting another round of DLS Workshops in January, and going full steam May through August with clients.  I will, however, be limiting myself to one or two client days per month while classes are in session.  I will post a calendar with my available dates sometime towards the end of summer.  I'm excited, and terrified, and life is moving forward.

voluntary regression: day 1

I figured I'd be kind and start this whole 'saying no' thing on a short week. (It's perfectly logical - shut it.) Anyhow. I said no to someone this morning already, and I feel like crap. This is the conversation in my head over it:

Guilty and accomodating Hope: "You can fit her in - it's just one client..."
Self-assertive says-NO Hope: "Yeah, and one client ends up being five, then you're kicking yourself because you can't go to the park with the kids and the dishes aren't washed since you have too many client albums to finish."
Guilty and accomodating Hope: "But you left your schedule open in June, what's the big deal?"
Self-assertive says-NO Hope: "The big deal is, you left it open because it's wedding season - how do you expect to process weddings AND family sessions on time?"
Guilty and accomodating Hope: "I know, but she seems like a nice lady."
Self-assertive says-NO Hope: "Your kids are nice, too, and they will grow old without you, and remember you as the Mom who spent her entire life at the computer looking at pictures of nice people's kids."
Guilty and accomodating Hope: "Nice - countering guilt with a guilt trip AND sarcasm..."

Honestly, I know my limits. The boundaries are drawn in the sand, and even when they get a little muddled, I know more or less where theye are. I also know it's not other people who don't respect my boundaries. It's me who doesn't respect my boundaries, who somehow feels like I will be viewed as an unkind person, a bad friend, and inflexible businessperson if I don't make sure I can be all things to everyone. I've taught people to expect me to come through. "What's the harm in taking on one more task..." Because I still need to spend time with my family, I do late late nights and often pull all-nighters. And when late nights and all-nighters aren't enough, I ignore my own family. And that is NEVER a good thing.

At the end of the day I've come to the conclusion that WONDERWOMAN is deluded, and needs a good dose of humility. I've bound and gagged WONDERWOMAN and she's spending some quality time with the skeletons and mothballs in my closet. If you happen to hear her struggling to get out, you have my permission to slap her.

something in the water

This is fair warning that there is DEFINITELY something in the water west of Edmonton. Madeline, like most of my other clients out in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, is going to be a big sister in 2008. Despite me being completely stupid and unable to find City Hall in Stony, we managed to hook up (thanks for your understanding guys) and we got these amazing pictures. Looking forward to meeting the younger sibling in September.





under the bridge

It's been a while since I got to visit with Taylor.  The excuse for this session is that she's going to be a big sister!  Rumour has it she was disappointed at first to be getting a baby brother, but has since decided a brother might be OK since she won't have to share her toys or her clothes... Congratulations, L & K on the pending arrival of Baby G!  I'm sure he'll be as beautiful as the rest of the family!  Looking forward to meeting him!








t.c.o.

That's short for, "Total Cuteness Overload." I promised cute kitty pictures, you got cute kitty pictures. Get your barf bags ready.







my little preciouses

Blessed spring brought a whole crop of beautiful new babies, and this particular baby will always hold a special place in my heart because I was there when he was born. Canaan is a veritable Tonka truck of a baby with perhaps the only lips comparable to Landon on the 'luscious' scale. I always have a pleasant visit with Mom and Dad, and some nice playtime with Wren, and now that the cat is declawed, we had a scratch-free photo session for smiley-pants.

The best pictures are the family and sibling set we did at the very end that runs a lot like a gag-reel of tomfoolery and slippery baby-ness... ~snicker snork~  As always, thanks Mom and Dad for letting me enjoy your beautiful children as much as I do without calling the authorities...