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  1. Jan
    20

    TOPIC: Personal.

    Hanging up my shingle

    …um, in reverse?

    I realized in the course of a self-Google (there’s just no good way to say that) that I haven’t been to this website in a while. I was alarmed to see that I had put my cell phone number basically all over the Internet, which may explain why I get so many unsolicited phone calls offering me a free vacation if I act now. So while tidying that up, I came across this site. This beautifully designed site for a dream that I wonder if I ever really had.

    My last entry on this blog is hard to read. I wrote it during the very short window of time that my mom was considered cancer-free. We took our trip to Paris–it was weird and wonderful; not at all what we expected but full of magic that I’ll never forget. And then a month later the cancer was back, and it was all over the place. My mom went through ten more months of agony, both physical and emotional (much of that thanks to a healthcare system that forces very ill people to advocate for themselves and slams dozens of doors in their faces before finally allowing them to give up hope). She underwent biopsies, scans, and an incredibly brutal round of radiation that the doctors told us should buy her the six months she’d need to qualify for a clinical trial. Instead, she lived another five weeks. The day I realized that she was never going to be “okay” again, not even for a minute, is one I can hardly think about.

    I didn’t really intend to come here and write about my mom. I’ve done so much of that in my Project 365, year six of which was basically all sickness and sadness, all the time. I still keep that up, even though I don’t post the results on this blog anymore. It’s actually been very therapeutic. I started posting almost every day, instead of at the end of the week, which meant the project became almost more about words than photos. Words have been what I’ve needed, because I struggle to express the depth of my emotions in conversation with anyone who hasn’t experienced this kind of loss. I still worry about ruining other people’s days if I’m honest with them. I still have to self-censor occasionally, mostly out of respect to my mom, but it’s been a good outlet. I’m glad I was in the habit for so long before all this happened; it kept me going, and it allowed me to occasionally skip a day and use an old photo without feeling guilty.

    Part of what I learned while my mom was dying was that I tend to attach a lot of importance to things that ultimately don’t matter at all. One of those things was my web presence. I had effectively shuttered my photography business in 2013, but I still blogged almost everything I shot in 2014. Why? I remember sitting in my mom’s hospital room, knocking out blogs for 13 sessions. If I wasn’t trying to get business, why was I spending tedious hours resizing photos into collages? So while I do still shoot sometimes, I haven’t felt compelled to share. I crave more time spent away from the computer screen. Blogging had to fall by the wayside.

    That meant I stopped writing my bug blog, too, although not for lack of engaging in Internet entomology. (I deliberately resisted the urge to make that a portmanteau.) I just felt like there must be a more useful thing to do with my nature photos than confine them to a nigh-totally-unread blog. Luckily, I attended a session at the Urban Parks Conference last year where someone evangelized iNaturalist, so I started uploading all my photos there. This way, should an actual scientist want to track the spread of the checkered setwing dragonfly, they can search on iNat and see that I found one straying well east of its range right here in Cordova. This enormous amount of uploading is what I did during my mom’s 2015 stint in the hospital while she was sleeping. At present, this seems more worthwhile than how I spent the 2014 hospital-thon. I’m still into it, at any rate. Look! Behold the pretty dragons.

    So that’s it. There wasn’t really a point to this post, other than to acknowledge that this place is full of cobwebs and likely to remain that way. I’d like to keep it here for a while, because it reminds me of Before. Not necessarily a good Before, because this site was designed during the first few months after my mom’s diagnosis, and those were not happy times by any stretch. But if there’s anything Project 365 has taught me, it’s that I need to remember. In my tough moments, I go back and look at other tough moments I wrote about, because I obviously survived those days. This little site is a reminder that I could find beauty in the darkness, and that’s not such a bad message for a world that can sometimes seem colorless in the aftermath of loss. Au revoir for now.

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  2. Sep
    14

    TOPIC: 365.

    Project 365-5 #4: A Gift

    The start of this post will be sort of redundant if you read the caption to today’s photo, but I woke up today feeling like it was my birthday.  My actual birthday passed two and a half weeks ago largely without sentiment.  In fact, I can recall two feelings from my birthday: that of road rage, and that of being impossibly full during dinner but needing to soldier on so I could consume peanut butter crème brûlée.  (Always and forever: Priorities.)  But as with most birthdays, I didn’t do a lot of reflecting on the past year, thinking about what it means to be a year older, or any of that.  But this morning, I felt all those things.  I thought, if I had only known what this year was going to bring back in September 2013, I might have curled into a ball and wished for time to stop right then.  Or thanked my lucky stars.  Or been incredibly excited.  Or proud.  Or terrified.

    Here are just a few of the ups and downs of this year:

    – After living out the last several years as Aunt Mo (or Aunt Fancy, or sometimes just Aunt Melissa) to so many of my friends’ kids, I’m going to be an aunt for real in a few months.  My brother is finally fulfilling the end of the 1995-era contract he endorsed promising to name his firstborn son Judy.  (He does not think this is funny AT ALL.  In fact, he gender-revealed to me by telling me there was a piece of paper in my possession that meant he was moments away from setting my room on fire.  But it is!  It is funny.  Think of all his little monogrammed Judy outfits!)  So, you know, if we can ever stop arguing about what the child’s legal name should be, that will certainly be a blessed event.

    – My best friend got engaged, which means 2015 will be a bridesmaid year as well as a “first time to visit Michigan not counting Terminal B at the Detroit airport” year, both of which are positive things.  No word yet on whether she’s willing to let me fulfill another ancient agreement made only partially in jest: I believe we discussed that whoever was first to get married, the other would sing a karaoke version of “Tainted Love” at the reception.  Since I will be in the “singer” position, I may need to shift from Soft Cell into Rihanna’s “S.O.S.,” which…I’m sorry.  I can’t deal with Rihanna in 2014 either, but “S.O.S.” is a banger.

    – On a sadder note, we’re living out our last days with our beloved Colbie, whose giant back-growth unsurprisingly turned out to be cancer.  She seems to be in fine shape at the moment, so we’ll just wait until she loses her enthusiasm for eating, walking, and having a terrible attitude toward virtually anyone not named “McMasters” and then let her go.  Colbie came to us as Daniel’s carriage dog ten years ago back when I had just moved to Pittsburgh, and she was such an all-fired nuisance that Daniel had to beg my parents to keep her around.  (She famously availed herself of a bowl of chili that Dad had left momentarily on the counter after picking all the beans out, an act that was NOT well-received.)  She matured into a much calmer presence, a truly loyal and sensitive dog who gravitated toward whoever was hurting the most.  Driving myself through Florida this winter, with an incredibly heavy heart for what my family was going through, I realized I loved her more than any of our other dogs.  I always figured that the companions of my childhood, my grandparents’ dog Alfie and our dog Trixie, would hold the top places in my heart.  But I’ve had too many times when I’ve felt low and hopeless that Colbie has forced herself into my space and willed me to get better.  She is family.  I will miss her so much.

    – I made a big fuss about This Being the Year of My Photography Business, and then I backed off (as covered in the previous 365 post).  Now my plan is for 2015 to be the year I revolutionize how people identify nature on the Internet, starting with our humble Overton Park Old Forest.  But in order for me to get to do this, I have to raise north of $50,000.  I am feeling oddly zen about this rather herculean task, but well-wishes and tips for wooing corporate sponsors are always appreciated!

    – Things that came in strong on the positive side this year: Birds. Chattanooga. Rolf & Daughters. Tennis (the band, not the sport, #nodisrespecttoRogerFederer). “The Travel Bug with August Lindt.” The addition of Tart to the Memphis pastry scene. J-Hay All Day. U Talkin’ U2 to Me? Summer not being deathly hot. “The Americans.”

    – Things that came in strong on the negative side: I bet I covered all of those in the captions. Ha.

    – In the grand scheme, though, the worst thing about this year gave way to something pretty great.  My mom is currently cancer-free.  Free.  From pancreatic cancer.  Do you know how many people get to say that for even a little while?  It’s such a low number that it hurts my heart for everyone in the world who has wished so hard that they could say it.  I did not expect to be sitting here today while she was outside pulling up the last of the spent tomato plants, but I am.  And there’s nothing in the whole world I’m more grateful for.

    – Which is why, in four days, we are leaving for Paris.  I have dreamed of this day for as long as I can remember, since my mom made glazed gingerbread doughnut men with raisin faces for some elementary school French unit we were doing.  (If that is a traditional French dessert, I have certainly never seen it mentioned since.  But I remember it was tasty!)  I took seven years of French in school, and although that often amounted to Dot and I telling each other “J’ai besoin d’uriner,” it kept my interest in visiting France at a peak for a pretty long time.  I intended to study abroad in college, but it came down to three more years of SEMO for a semester in France vs. three years of CBU and a distinct lack of misery.  I’ve always been glad I picked CBU, but it did defer my France dream once again.  There have been several other false starts along the way, but as soon as Mom got her clean scan in June, we decided to just get crazy and actually make this happen.  Which means I get to fulfill ANOTHER major goal: I can actually refer to my mom as Katrine Latrine, a nickname she picked up in her own French class, IN FRANCE.  While eating an absurd amount of cheese.  Truly this is a great week for us.

    So that’s that.  And now I am off to complete my final three lessons of Rosetta Stone, because I have of course forced myself to do the entire yearlong French program in three months.  I don’t know how useful it will be, but bless us, if we need a hardware store while wandering the Rue de Buci, I will be able to shout to the heavens, “S’il vous plait! Dites-moi, OÙ SE TROUVE LA QUINCAILLERIE?”

    (Don’t see any images below?  Click on the title of this post!)
    (The first two pics in this post are repeats from last time. I kind of over-slid the bag on June’s post.)

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  3. Sep
    05

    TOPIC: Family Sessions.

    Yankee Doodle Sweethearts | Bartlett Family Photography

    This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten to do a session with Lee and Jennifer at the Bartlett Municipal Station–but the last time, Ryan was about a month away from joining us. And now, happily, he’s here and was more than ready to explore the bridge in the Japanese garden. We had to move over to a different area because a couple was getting married on the bridge that morning, but that just provided us with something fun to watch.

    And yes, this photo shoot did take place on the Fourth of July. Ryan was a little confused about how to properly store his flag when he wasn’t waving it, but he used a little ingenuity and got there eventually!

    Bartlett family photography

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  4. Sep
    05

    TOPIC: Extended Family Sessions.

    Christmas in June | Southaven Family Photography

    I say this truthfully: without my mom’s best friend Cindy, I don’t know what we would have done over the last three years.  She has stayed with my mom in the hospital, cooked us meals, prayed with us, wrapped our Christmas presents, and about a million billion other things that make her one of the best-hearted people in the world. Knowing how generous she is, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear her plans when her daughter Sarah and her family came home for a weeklong visit from their missions work in Egypt. Cindy made every day special: one day, they celebrated Christmas, another was Halloween, another was a “birthday” party, and so on, every day of the week.

    I arrived to take a few photos of the whole assembled group on “Christmas.” Everyone changed out of their Yule attire and posed for a few photos on a windy June afternoon. Cindy really wanted to pile everyone in the pickup truck, and I have to say that’s one of my favorite shots. It’s such a happy Mississippi moment.

    We only regret that it was too soon for Amanda and Timothy’s new little boy Miles to make an appearance, as he didn’t arrive until a few months later. But his newborn pictures are coming up soon, so he gets his due!

    Southaven extended family photography

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  5. Sep
    05

    TOPIC: Family Sessions.

    Honey’s Grandbabies | Bartlett Family Photography

    When Carol, one of my all-time favorite teachers, suggested we attempt something different in photographing her five grandchildren this spring, I was totally game. We photograph the whole clan every year, but she wanted to put the spotlight on each individual kid for a little bit and let them each be the star. We had Zadie looking like the perfect princess, the twins Austin and Taylor cracking up at bubbles, the oldest Cole presiding over it all, and Peyton happily playing and digging in the yard. I also need to mention that Carol’s garden is insanely beautiful, but that’s sort of self-evident in the photos.

    My favorite part of the whole sequence is when Zadie, Cole, and Peyton discover that there are worms to be dug in the pond, and approach this exercise with a mixture of eagerness and disgust.  And then start squirting each other with the water.  I was having a hard time shooting between cracking up so much.

    Bartlett child photography

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