Friday, December 31, 2010

Saying Good-bye

I'm a bit reluctant to say good-bye to 2010. Sure, I'm glad to have the cancer treatments behind me. I'm glad we're not worried about business. And new years equal new opportunities and new possibilities.

But to tell you the truth, I feel sad to say good-bye too, because it feels like a farewell to my dad. Tomorrow his death will be "last year", the final days of his life will have taken place "last year", the time we spent together will have ended "last year".

I looked over my calendar for 2010 as I noted birthdays and anniversaries on 2011's. I remembered the night we went to see Joshua Bell, the day I went to Greensboro to see Porgy and Bess, the workshop that was interrupted by his final trip to the hospital. I saw his birthday noted in red, and thought about going into Harris Teeter, asking for a cake that said, "Happy 88th Birthday, Dad", knowing that he would never see it, or see another birthday for that matter.

I'm going to say it now: "Good-bye, Dad. Last year was tough, and losing you was the hardest part. But I'm going to be facing toward the future now, taking you with me in my heart."

Okay. I'm looking forward to looking back on 2010. All peace and happiness to you in 2011, and may your new days be filled with the love of friends and family.

Rabbit, rabbit.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Um, Not so Happy

Okay, last week I talked a good talk about happiness. But today? Not so happy.

My old cat is waking up at 3 a.m. to go outside - he won't use the litter box for certain of his duties - and he's deaf, so his meow sounds like someone getting beaten. This morning, in addition to wanting to go out at that ungodly hour, he woke us up by heaving on the floor. AND when I got up, I noticed something wet and shiny and realized that one of the cats had also peed. Pee that I had walked through in my boiled wool slippers. That can't be "washed, dried, dry cleaned" but instead should be "wiped with a damp cloth". I don't think cat pee responds to damp cloths.

On a week like this, when I wake up at 3 a.m., the list of things I need to do starts scrolling through my head: buy presents, wrap presents, mail packages, clean up for two gatherings, grocery store, end of year at work, etc etc. Once I'm through with my list, I start on my husband's. It was with those lists in mind that I walked sleepily into the kitchen and began complaining. Now after a while, you'd think my man would get it: I'm over the top with imagined stress, he's trying to eat his oatmeal, why doesn't he just say, "Anything I can do to help?" But no, he has to start in with questions about why I plan all this stuff (Christmas with family? Presents? Grocery shopping and laundry? End of the year at the office? HELLOOOOOOOOOO? I don't plan this time of year; it happens).

Okay. So here I am. Monday morning of a week that will be busy and emotional. A week that others will be stressed out too. A week that we've made into a nightmare. WWMD (what will Mamie do) if I want to achieve happiness? I can remember that it'll all be over this time next week. I can revel in the time with my children and my family. I can think about my dad, remembering the time we went to see South Pacific or the time he sat quietly on my sofa with the old cat on his lap. I can make a list and check things off. I can cut my husband some slack, knowing that in the end he'll help with everything. I can count on my girls to do a few things. I write down my thoughts for you to see. I play a couple of rounds of Bubbletown. I breathe and get to work.

Friday, December 17, 2010


Some people might see the flower above and think, "Dying flower." I saw a star for a friend who loves stars. I've been thinking about our ability to create happiness in our lives, and how we view our world seems to have a lot to do with it.

Once I started the thought process, I talked to my friend, Nancy. Do some people just have all the bad luck, I asked, or is it all about perception? I have a couple of friends who can't ever seem to get a break. Are they inviting this into their lives or is it out of their control?

As often happens, when we open the door to an idea, the universe responds. In the past week, these are the things that showed up for me:

1. Daily Peace quote: "Enjoying life - it's a choice and a practice." - June Shiver

2. Daily Peace quote: "In difficult times, you should always carry something beautiful in your mind." - Blaise Pascal

3. Email from a Methodist church in Durham: " Christians, we must not let something as fickle and vacillating as our moods and emotions dictate how we live our lives. Scripture speaks of a deep, abiding joy that can sustain us at all times -through tragedy and triumph, success and failure. So no matter what may come our way...Paul exhorts us to 'rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice.'"

4. A friend on Facebook: "I decided to be happy. Forgot how powerful that is."

5. An interview with Barbara Fredrickson in the May 2009 issue of The Sun Magazine entitled, "The Science of Happiness": "There are some bedrock conditions that need to be met. Once they are met, though, even at a very low level, everyone has the same opportunities to experience positive emotions." (Let me note here that, yes, I was reading the issue for the first time. Sometimes I get behind on my magazine reading. Interesting that this was the week I chose to read it.)

Here is what it takes for me to establish and maintain a positive emotional state:

1. A sense of gratitude. Right now, that means that although I have dealt with some pretty significant things in the past six months, I am grateful for where I stand with them at this moment.

2. A sense that everything is temporary. On one of my tomorrows, my sorrow over my dad's death will become manageable. And yesterday, I was dealing with cancer; not today.

3. Something to look forward to. This may be as simple as a story I'm brewing or as large as a trip. It can be an immediate anticipation (my day off) or one that will take a little longer such as retirement.

4. Doing things for other people who are going through difficult times.

5. Creating. Cards, photographs, stories. Relationships, good habits.

6. An ability to be flexible and patient. These are toughies for me, but lack of them contributes to unhappiness in my life.

One of the readings (I couldn't locate it by the time I finally got around to writing this post) suggests that we get up every morning and decide that we are going to embrace the day with the expectation that our day will go well. The holidays will certainly be a good time to put this suggestion to the test. Let me know if you try it and how it works out.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Why Me?

I had my last radiation treatment today. I cheered with the office staff and patients, exuberantly hugged the technicians, and smiled through thirty-seconds of buzzing. I noticed that my funny bone was very closely connected to my tear ducts.

I stayed a little longer after I was finished to visit with a friend I've made, someone also dealing with breast cancer. She's almost through - nine more days - and we decided that we'd like to have a meal together to celebrate when she's finished.

There's a real feeling of "Why me?" about my experience with cancer. Not in the despairing way of why did this happen to me, not feeling the victim at all. But instead an overwhelming sense of gratitude for how easy it has all been. My surgeries went off without a hitch, I've had few side effects from the radiation, and my friends and family and even the people I've met along the journey have been loving and supportive. So why was I so fortunate?

Six months ago, when I found out I had breast cancer and my father was recovering from hip surgery, everything seemed very bleak. And a month later, I was recovering from surgery and my father died, and I didn't know how I would maneuver through the next few months.

But here I am, five months later, looking back on that time, healing emotionally and physically. Amazing.

Last night I dreamed about my dad again. He was with us for Christmas, had actually come back from the grave to be with us. And this morning, my husband called me to the window to see the sunrise: vivid reds and vibrant pinks with the trees silhouetted black against the sky.

What does this day mean to me? It means that when we gather at Christmas, all the members of my family, my father will be with us in spirit. It means that a new day has dawned for me, and I have a responsibility to take my fortune seriously and move on with my life. It means that no matter how slowly time passes, it still marches on, and eventually we get to the end of the things that we worried about and from there they don't look half so scary as they did in the beginning.

So why me? Maybe so I could come to this night, thankful for endings, anticipating new beginnings, and begin to look at scars instead of wounds.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend

As I said on Facebook: "This was the oddest Thanksgiving I've ever spent. I liked it. And I didn't."

My children don't come home for Thanksgiving because they'll be here for Christmas in a few weeks and it's such a terrible weekend for traveling. Usually we go to Greensboro to be with my dad. We've done this almost every year since we quit going to my grandparents' house in Carolina Beach. There's lots of food and family.

But this year, our tether has been severed, and my dad isn't around to host us. So with my kids away and my dad gone, we decided to do something totally off the wall. We took the boat to Georgetown, South Carolina.

It took us all day on Thursday to get there. Most of the leaves had fallen but there was color here and there among the brown trunks and the evergreens.

We pulled into a little creek off the waterway for lunch. It was beautiful and peaceful. The weather was warm and we enjoyed the sun and sustenance.

Thursday night we ate turkey, collard greens, and the last of our garden squash. It felt so strange, thinking about this day being one that we usually spend with so many people. I got a little melancholy, so we decided to watch a few episodes of Season 1 of the Showtime show, "Weeds". I'm hooked, and it did take my mind off the sadness. Friday we rode our bikes into Georgetown, had lunch, window shopped, and browsed the wonderful indy bookstore. As we headed back to the boat it started raining. Rainy afternoons are great for napping, so we read and slept.

Saturday morning we started the seven-hour trek back to Southport. The seagulls saw us off.

It was another warm, beautiful day. I took lots and lots of photographs, including some amazing water reflections. The waterway is so scenic. And of course, there were lots of reminders of my dad.

I had such mixed feelings about this weekend. But I couldn't have asked for more in the way of a beautiful distraction. For that I am grateful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Note: I realized after posting this that TOMORROW is the anniversary. I've been thinking all day that this was November 19. :)

Five years ago today I made a move that changed my life: I quit drinking. And four years ago today I gave up cigarettes. This blog has been part of the journey too, putting my thoughts and challenges out there for people to see and comment on.

I remember so clearly the day I quit drinking. I had had a particularly humiliating night the day before. When I woke up, I said, "Today's the day you give up the booze." I wanted to be farther down the road - years even - from that day, and here I am.

I planned that day to give myself one year, then give up cigarettes. And again, on the day I quit, I remember thinking, "Wish I had some time in my pocket so I could feel confident that this is for good." Again, here I am.

These two events have helped me so much as I deal with the radiation treatments. At the beginning, when thirty-two sessions under the evil rays loomed large, I reminded myself of the other times I wanted to be farther along. Today I'm two-thirds finished.

Some people make changes at the new year, but for me this day has proven lucky twice. It is my great-aunt's birthday so I can always remember it even though she has been dead for many years. Last year I thought I might be able to give up sugar, might have even vowed it again later, but today, sitting here at the computer, I ate a whole roll of Menthos!! Maybe next year I'll give up the sugar, hmmm? Today I'll celebrate how much farther along I am.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Oh Yeah

Last week I was cracking myself up. This week, it's the gods who are laughing.

Thursday the tiredness hit me. I feel like the floor is one end of a magnet and my body is the other.

It started on Thursday afternoon. When my husband got home from work, I was sulky and irritable. His way of dealing with that is to quietly walk away from the aura of the bad mood. Unfortunately for him, that was the wrong move. I started fussing and fuming and at one point he had retreated to the downstairs room and I was at the top of the steps yelling at him. Then I started crying. And I cried for about thirty minutes as hard as I've ever cried. I cried about the cancer, about my dad, about the tiredness and fear of what the next few weeks will bring. I'm sure I threw in a couple of other things while I was feeling...well, feeling.

The rest of the weekend, I tried to take it easy. This is not my style; I like to be busy. I finished the 400-page novel on Vietnam, Matterhorn, by Karl Marlantes. I alternated between reading and staring at the beautiful colors of the trees outside my den window. I went to bed fairly early. I asked a few more than normal favors of my husband, and I let go of the expectation that he would get them all done. Or that it mattered that he got them all done.

So. I got ready to be tired, and here I am. Now I'm going to have to get used to letting go of a few things, and take care of myself. The countdown is still on: fifteen more treatments. I can do it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Getting Ready

My oncologist, the nurses, the techs, and several friends have told me that I'm going to get tired as I have more and more radiation treatments. Well, folks, I have to tell you: I'm going to wear myself out getting ready to be tired!

I love a crisis that you have to get ready for. I've talked about it before. Here's what I've done so far:

1. Cleaned out the refrigerator, freezer and food cabinets. Re-stocked them with easy-to-fix foods like soups and frozen meals. Unfortunately, we have nothing to eat because I keep saying, "Don't eat that; I may need it when I get tired."

2. Written or revised at least seven stories for my writing class. Since I read at the most every three weeks, this will last me twenty-one weeks, or until sometime the middle of 2011.

3. Gotten everything ready in my workroom in case all I feel like doing is sitting around writing and making cards. I've also made about fifty cards in case I'm too tired to make cards. And you already know about the writing.

4. At work, I've almost finished closing out the year 2010 and getting ready for my insurance audits (which happen in February). All I have to do is set up the 2011 files. At this rate, I can go on a restful vacation in January, traditionally the busiest time of year for me.

5. Cleaned out my closet. Again.

6. Stocked up on books and movies. I can't read or watch any of them right now in case I need to do that when I'm tired.

As you might imagine, all that getting ready is making me very tired. But I can rest as much as I want now. And rest is good if you're thinking about being tired.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Veterans Day

I'm sure you've seen the statistics--increased suicides, domestic violence, child abuse--among our returning veterans. Then there's traumatic injury, higher survival rates due to advances in medicine, PTSD.

I took this picture at a Veterans Day parade in New York several years ago. The man was a Vietnam War vet. I'm reading the book Matterhorn by Carl Marlantes, a very realistic and graphic look at that war. And no matter how you look at it, war is an ugly, inhumane business. A huge, complicated business venture.

There are women in wars now too, but I want to look for a minute at the indoctrination that happens mostly to our male children. We give them video games at young ages where they shoot, kill, and maim imaginary characters. They play these games competitively with their peers, cheering at every death. They play at home, they play in stores while they wait for their parents to shop, they play on their phones and their televisions. Death has no meaning.

Then some of the join the military. We beat them down and wear them out, give them guns and send them to war. And when they come back? What do we do for them once they've realized that killing people isn't all that much fun?

I believe that if we're going to continue on this insane warrior path we've been walking as long as man has existed, then we'd better come up with a way to deal with our soldiers when they come back from doing the job we asked them to do. Only a handful of them will voluntarily seek mental health care--it's not the warrior way--but I believe that the government should require and pay for a minimum of two years of mental health care for every returning military person. We've brought them home from a brutal arena, thrown them and their families into the worst economic situation since the Great Depression, then we read the papers and watch the news and wonder why these guys are harming themselves and their families.

I've written a couple of Congressmen about sponsoring a bill to make this as available as the GI Bill was to our WWII and Vietnam vets. We owe these men and women something. And their sanity is the least of it.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Show and Tell

One time my sister wearily told me, "You're always wanting to show me things."

I've realized lately how much of that showing I did with my dad. Articles, pictures, anecdotes about the family. I wanted to share it with him. And I can't tell you how many times in the past four months I've resignedly said, "There's no one to show that to," because my dad isn't around.

We saw the ship in the photograph this weekend on the water. He would have loved seeing it. He served in the Navy in WWII on the USS Anzio. He was interested in so many things--sports, the arts, people, religion, wars, politics, family history--just about anything you could think of to talk about he would participate in the discussion. I swear he had a photographic memory because he remembered everything. And he knew a lot about a lot.

These are my saddest moments lately, realizing that the person who consistently wanted to look at my life and hear about what I was doing is gone. He cared about when I left on a trip and when I got back. He wanted to hear the details. He always asked how my children were doing. He could fill me in on what others in the family were doing because he was keeping up with them too.

He, and he alone, never got tired of seeing my literal and figurative stuff.

PS A perfect example of what he would have loved to hear is something that happened to my sister recently: Twenty people out of 6000 were randomly chosen to get tickets to the final shuttle launch. She was one of them. "VICKI!" he would have said, in awe of her good fortune.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween

Everything looked sinister through my camera lens this weekend. Except for the fox :)

Here it is: Halloween in pictures (no costumes allowed).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Gail Caldwell's Book

Last weekend I read three books. Today I want to talk about the book, Let's Take the Long Way Home by Gail Caldwell. It is the story of Gail's friendship with Caroline Knapp, author of Drinking: A Love Story. The book follows Caroline's battle with cancer and Caldwell's care for her and subsequent sense of loss at her death.

At the beginning of the book, I felt that Caldwell was being self-absorbed, but as I read on and looked closer at their burgeoning relationship, I fell in love with the book. Toward the end I was underlining passages and turning down pages.

This in particular sticks in my mind:

"Suffering is what changes the endgame, changes death's mantle from black to white. It is a badly lit corridor outside of time, a place of crushing weariness, the only thing large enough to bully you into holding the door for death."

I've read this at least twenty times, and its profundity is never diminished. Because I, sitting in the hospital with my dad one of the nights after his first brain surgery, wished for his death. I couldn't bear to see his pain and defeat and depression. And I watched the heart monitor rise and fall and thought, "Please flat-line. Please let's end this right now."

I haven't felt exactly guilty for thinking this, but I did feel uneasy about wishing for my dad's death. Suffering changed the endgame, though, just like Caldwell says, and I welcomed death into the room.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lake Bonaparte

This past weekend, my daughter and I went to Lake Bonaparte in upstate New York to do a photography workshop with Jan Phillips (that's Jan in the photograph). This area of New York is bucolic and peaceful this time of year and it was good to get my mind off my troubles.

There were four other women there, from as far away as Alaska and as close a a couple of hours away by car. Hazel graduated first in her class of 100,000 at the University of Bombay. Lisa is the mother of adopted daughters from China. Sandy is a chaplain with an artist's eye and a tale-teller's voice. Lura, quiet and calm, has lived in some very exotic places and came from Alaska via San Diego for the weekend. We spent the days out and about shooting scenery, each other, and in some cases being very paparazzi-like! My daughter was a photographer's dream, lying in the freezing water, hiding in the cornstalks.

One of our goals for the weekend was to get a photograph of ourselves that we could use for promotional purposes. The first full day, we paired up and set out in the rain and wind. My partner was Lura. She was methodical and careful about her shots. I was more haphazard. When we got back to the house and looked at what we'd gotten that day, I hated how I looked in every shot. Nothing wrong with Lura's eyes; it was all in my vision of myself.

The next day, I decided to do something different. I asked Lura if she would photograph me talking about what has been going on lately in my life. The breast cancer and my dad's death. And so I sat, wrapped in a beautiful shawl, cried my eyes out, and Lura shot photo after photo.

As we looked at the photographs that night, I was proud of myself for letting her shoot my sadness. And the others were moved too, I think.

At one of our ceremonies, I released my fear of radiation. I've felt calmer since then. And by stilling my grief and fears in front of the camera, I feel better able to move on. I want my sadness and my breast cancer behind me. I'm tired of saying, "As soon as this is over...."

I'm so grateful to Lura for being present and a witness for me that day. I'm grateful that I got to know the other amazing women. I'm grateful that I was with my daughter for the weekend.

Thanks to all of you - Jan, Jean, Lura, Lisa, Sandy, and Hazel - for everything.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Reunion Weekend

This weekend I went to my 40th high school reunion. And for all the pictures I've taken over the past few years, I didn't not take one photograph the whole time I was with my friends. Thanks to all those who did, and I look forward to seeing them on Facebook.

I love, love, love my reunions, getting lots of hugs and kisses being one of my favorite things! I can understand though, those who shy away from them. It takes guts to go to one. First of all, we all look just enough the same that the face is familiar, but I have to glance at the name tags to be sure that I have the right person sometimes. You cannot be a wallflower at a reunion - you have to put yourself out there time and time again.

For the first time, I didn't agonize about what to wear or what to say about my life. I feel great about me, even if I don't weight 120 pounds anymore, and I've pretty much reached my peak professionally. I have interesting hobbies, talented and beautiful kids, and a husband who looks good standing by my side. And for the first time in forty years, I only put my foot in my mouth once, thanks to the fact that I wasn't drinking!

One of the most moving moments of the weekend was my visit to the memorial table. The organizers had taken some time and given some thought to this presentation, and there was a candelabra and small white place cards with each deceased class member's name. Some people I knew had died, but others were a shock. I knew the first person in our class who died, Ricky, and the most recent, Steve, since the second grade.

Seeing everyone made me greedy to see them more. We have moved beyond the facts - where we live, how many children/grandchildren we have, the lives and deaths of our parents, whether we're retired or still plugging away. We could get into some depth now, if there was only more time.

Yesterday my husband and I did a little cleaning at my dad's. It was very hard to walk into his house on Friday; his absence was palpable ("Dad? DAD?" "Hey!"). But as the weekend progressed, I distracted myself with family and friends and found it easier to be there. One excellent moment (you know how I am about numbers!) was when I noticed this clock on the yard sale pile:

It was a weekend of friends, nostalgia, sadness, longing for our youth and reveling in our present age. Thank you, friends.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

How I've Changed

We all have them: friends who think their opinion is the only one that matters. Let's take my husband for example, mainly because he never reads my blog. I say, "I love love love disco music!" He lowers his head and raises his eyebrows. "You love disco music?" And he means how could anybody in their right mind, with any taste at all in music, love disco?

I have another friend, who may or may not read my blog, who does this about books. "I read that book you suggested," she said the other day, and her tone implied total disappointment in my choice of reading material.

When I was younger, and less sure of myself, I would think, "Gosh, if this person, who knows music/books doesn't like it, I am probably stupid for liking it." And the next time someone said they loved disco music, I lowered my head, raised my eyebrows, and snorted.

Now? "Screw you and your lack of versatility/taste/acceptance of diversity! I still love disco music. Think I'll turn on Donna Summer right this very minute," or "That book was awesome! And I know an awesome book when I read one."

See, I know I make good choices now, whether it's about books or music or life. They may not be the things everyone else likes, but I choose on the basis of what makes me feel good. And that's all that matters.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Poem and A Dream

Last night I spent time in my creative space making cards for some friends. I had the music going and felt very peaceful. It was nice.

As I headed upstairs, I glanced at a book I bought at a used book store entitled, Our World. It is photographs by Molly Malone Cook with text by Mary Oliver. I bought it after a workshop with Zelda Lockhart. She suggested that we take a few words from a poem and free-write on them. I love writing from photographs, so the book seemed just the perfect prompt provider.

I opened the book to this poem:

Walking Home from Oak-Head

There is something
about the snow-laden sky
in winter
in the late afternoon

that brings to the heart elation
and the lovely meaninglessness
of time.
Whenever I get home - whenever -

somebody loves me there.
I stand in the same dark peace
as any pine tree,

or wander on slowly
like the still unhurried wind,
as for a gift,

for the snow to begin
which it does
at first casually,
then, irrepressibly.

Wherever else I live -
in music, in words,
in the fires of the heart,
I abide just as deeply

in this nameless, indivisible place,
this world,
which is falling apart now,
which is white and wild,

which is faithful beyond all our expressions of faith,
our deepest prayers.
Don't worry, sooner or later I'll be home.
Red-cheeked from the roused wind,

I'll stand in the doorway
stamping my boots and slapping my hands,
my shoulders
covered with stars.
~ Mary Oliver ~

My dad came to me in a dream last night. We walked around his buildings and talked and he gave his approval of some of the things we had decided to do since he died. In one of the scenes of the dream, there was a movie of us as young children showing on the wall.

The poem or the thoughts of those for whom I was making cards - I'm not sure what brought him into my night wandering. But this morning I did feel comforted.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

My Dad and the USofA

It doesn't take much right now to bring me to tears about my dad's death. Dealing with the surgeries and upcoming treatment, photographs, music. The song, "The Weary Kind" from the movie "Crazy Heart" does it every time. During the days when we were exhausted, spending hour after hour by my dad's hospital bed, I played this song every time I got in the car. These lyrics particularly speak to my state of mind:

Somehow this don’t feel like home anymore

And this ain’t no place for the weary kind
And this ain’t no place to lose your mind
And this ain’t no place to fall behind
Pick up your crazy heart and give it one more try

The last time my dad went into surgery, as I may have said before, he told my sister what he wanted at his funeral. And I keep coming back to one thing he requested. He said, "I want them to play 'God Bless America'." And then he started crying. "I love this country so much."

Of course he was a member of the Greatest Generation, and he did love all things American. He never understood why I would buy a German or Japanese car. He loved war movies and was proud of his time in the service. He criticized the government with care, and never hesitated to remind us that we lived in the greatest country in the world. He believed the US was the peacekeeper and caretaker of the world.

We buried him with military honors, draped his coffin in the American flag. It was folded by a military guard and presented to my brother, his only son.

Back at his house, after the funeral, I noticed a small American flag by the chair he had been using after he broke his hip. It tore me up.

When I get in my car, I can turn off the music. I can ignore the photographs and don't have to play the voice mail where he tells me that Joshua Bell is on PBS and to be sure to watch it. But almost everywhere I go, there are American flags and I'm reminded of my dad and the way he loved our country.

Monday, September 20, 2010


I spent the weekend in the darkroom developing the old negatives from my dad's house. I explained the development process in this post.

When I have arrived at the perfect exposure setting and time, I can run several pictures rather quickly. The minutes-in-solution times can be synchronized so I'm moving the photographs through in production. It's easy to get caught up in running several because I'm so pleased to be producing the actual picture.

At home, I will have anywhere from five to seven prints of a photograph. Then the question becomes, "What do I do with all the prints?" This has led me to examine why we take pictures in the first place.

1. We want to remember an event: who was there, what the venue looked like, what the activities were.
2. We want to document something, for instance a house we are building for a client.
3. We want to measure a life through the years.
4. We want to capture something beautiful, grotesque, intriguing.

And other reasons.

In developing these old negatives, I have other motivation.

Mostly I want to see emotion in people's faces. There is an interaction between the photographer and the subject. I've seen the happiness and irritation of my subjects many times. In a picture of my mom and dad, both of them impeccably dressed (Easter?), she is smiling broadly, he is not. What does this tell me about them? Is it something about their whole relationship or was it just a second of their life? Who took the picture? In an oddly parallel photo, my brother and sister are in dress-up clothes. She has on high heels and he is a cowboy with a play guitar. She is smiling broadly; he is straight-faced.

There we are on the steps of our house; why is my next-to-the-youngest sister not in the photo? In another photo I look about four years old and I stand apart from my sister as she sits in a rocking chair holding my infant brother, my mother protectively close at hand. I look straight at the camera. What am I thinking?

Pictures are chronicles not just of our lives, but our relationships, interests, happy and sad events. I'm fascinated by what I'm discovering in a dark room.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

New York Trip

This weekend we met our daughters in New York. It was a wonderful weekend with mostly cool and sunny weather. Usually on returning from a trip, I would call my dad and tell him all about it. He would love hearing the details. So this post is what I would tell him if I could.

First I would tell him about the view from the hotel, where every morning the sun came up, touching the tops of the high rise buildings. And about the sign that said, "Now more than ever, you need to be world wise."

We would laugh about the petty arguments and lengthy discussions we had about where to eat and shop. I'd tell him about what I learned: that we really don't have to spend every minute together for it to be a successful weekend. I would mention the museum where the exhibit consisted of things made from feathers and bones and dandelions. And the mall where a nude giant man and woman graced the lobby.

I would talk about the city lights and the fast-moving cars and people, the crowded streets and the alluring and repulsive smells of the city.

We met the girls' boyfriends, and we liked them, I'd say. Each well-suited to the daughter's personality. All three boyfriends are kind and good to them. He would know that a parent always wants the best for their kids.

Althought he never read this blog, I would talk about this post where I speculated about how my daughters' apartments looked, and how they were just as I imagined them.

I wish you could have been with us, I'd say, when we went to see the play Fela! The dancers and music were out of this world, and the story was disturbing (yes, children, it was disturbing!) and he'd say he bet he would have liked it. You need to go with us next time, Dad. Yeah, I will, he'd say, but we both knew he wouldn't go.

I'd tell him about the beautiful cathedral we went in...

...and that I lit a candle just for him.

At the end of the conversation, I'd tell him how hard it is to say good-bye to everybody after a nice weekend, and he'd know just what I meant.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


This week, I feel like I've finally crashed from all that has been going on. I've been so tired I can hardly stay awake in the afternoons when I get home from work, and yesterday, on my day off, I did basically nothing except for a few loads of laundry. At 8:00, I'm ready to get in my pajamas and go to bed for the night.

I still have decisions to make about my breast cancer treatment and am ready to move forward with everything and get it behind me. It has been hanging over my head since right after my dad fell and broke his hip. I'm just now starting to say, "I had cancer". But I can't seem to gather the right or enough information to make a decision about which treatment to do. Tuesday is d-day for coming up with the plan; thank goodness for deadlines.

I've read one book in a month and a half (I usually read 3-5 books a month), and that was Suzanne Collins' book, Mockingjay, something I've been waiting for since December. It was a perfect re-entry into reading: rapid-paced and engrossing without requiring a lot of concentration, something I'm low on.

I need to get my groove back, fellas. Weary is not fun.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Long Weekend in Pictures

Thursday Night:

Friday Night:

Saturday Night:

Sunday Night:

A wonderful weekend.