Guilty pleasures and personal tidbits

In an effort to be real with you about what makes my heart sing, I wanted to share a few guilty pleasures and personal tidbits.  This is who I am.  Get to know me, and thanks for stopping by!  (I'm looking forward to getting to know you!)

 

I wish I could tell my mom, “You know what mom, you were always right.”

I believe that smelling a certain scent can take you back in time in an instant. For me … Drakkar Noir.  Enough said!

I love that my daughter asks me to tell her stories from my youth at bedtime.  Dr. Suess 'aint got nothing on me.

My father taught me to love photography.  Taking pictures still connects me to him.

I believe in the necessity of Nutella.  All you need is a spoon.

My favorite memory is 30 seconds long.  My mom smiling at me on a car ride.  Pure simple love.  She is gone now, but the snapshot keeps her alive forever in my heart.

I believe in a comfy pair of pajamas.  The elastic waistband expands perfectly after secretly eating all of my kids snacks.

Great TV for me is Forensic Files and Dateline Mysteries.  Don’t they know by now it’s either for the insurance money or because of the affair?!?!?

I love doing things with my daughter that I did with my mom.  As a kid, I stood combing my mom's hair for hours.  As an adult, I lay next to my daughter, combing her hair for what FEELS like hours.  (Isn't she supposed to be combing my hair?!?)

I NEVER shut off my car if an 80's song is on, even if I am in my driveway.

I still love dancing alone in my room. Why should I change after 20 years?

 

My camera, my healer

Catching my dad photographing my grandmother's 80th birthday party

Catching my dad photographing my grandmother's 80th birthday party

I struggle writing this. I want to be open with you. I mean, you let me into your life by photographing you, it’s only fair you know about me, right? 

I want to portray the reality of where I am and what the camera means to me. I hope I give this story justice because it is such a huge part of who I am and my daily struggle.

My love of photography and the feelings I feel when I pick up the camera are all tied to my father. My father had been a photographer before he married my mother. He continued to take photos and have a love for cameras long after that career ended. It was normal to have my photo taken. The camera was a natural extension of him. Wherever he was, the camera was, capturing our lives. 

My dad as a young photographer in Passaic, NJ

My dad as a young photographer in Passaic, NJ

As I got older, he taught me how to use the camera. How to use a darkroom. (No photoshop back then.) We spent hours, together, photographing people and places. I eventually got my own camera and we would photograph the same events together and compare our photos.

I loved it. And I loved him. 

My mom died 14 years ago. After she died, I vowed to take care of my dad. Our relationship changed. We became even closer. We started talking daily and became best friends. When I began my photography business, I was nervous. He was the one who coached me and pushed me to do it.  I will say that even when I was nervous, the minute I picked up the camera, I felt that comfortable safe feeling a child feels when they go back to their childhood home as an adult. That’s because that camera was always in my hand when I was being cared for by my dad. Loved by my dad. So, the camera was tied to the entire feeling.

But my relationship with my dad was more than a morning phone call occasionally encouraging me about my camera. We talked about everything. He was interested in my life. I had children whom he loved. When I had problems with them, or was stressed, I would call him and he would help me sort it out. When something funny happened in my day, I would call him and tell him. He LOVED hearing about my life.

He was getting older. Not working as hard. Had more time for me. We would have lunch together, go out to dinner. We could talk for hours! Close the restaurant. 

My Dad and I were SUPER happy here.  A random night eating chips and drinking wine.   But, you'll find this odd.  Or maybe you won't.  The best part of this photo are the chips.  Yes, the Ruffles chips.  My father DEVOURED bags of chips -if he could.  His favorite food.  All who knew him always had them on hand when he visited.  They are part of his story.  Who he was, what he liked.  It's captured and that's important for me and my kids to remember about him.  

My Dad and I were SUPER happy here.  A random night eating chips and drinking wine.   But, you'll find this odd.  Or maybe you won't.  The best part of this photo are the chips.  Yes, the Ruffles chips.  My father DEVOURED bags of chips -if he could.  His favorite food.  All who knew him always had them on hand when he visited.  They are part of his story.  Who he was, what he liked.  It's captured and that's important for me and my kids to remember about him.

 

He got sick. Metastatic Prostate Cancer. Spread to the bones. 

He was going to beat it, he said. “I have too much to live for.” 

The disease had other plans. He fought - no, WE fought, for six long years. 

As he spent more time in the hospital, I would put the kids to bed and drive to the hospital and sleep over. I didn’t want him to be alone should he need something. When he was home, I slept over, should he need to go to the hospital in the middle of the night. For months, I was there every night and back by the time the kids were up for school. 

We would get our mind off what was happening by talking about my photo shoots. I would share photos I took with him. He would tell me what was good, what needed improvement, etc. He loved to look at my new equipment. Try it out in the hospital room.

And then, one night at the hospital, after I went to sleep, so did he.

I miss my best friend.  Part of me is lost. Numb. Not sure how to navigate my day considering my father was such a large part of it.  My kids are at school. My husband at work. The camera is the one constant thing that can keep me company, distract me. It always has.

However, I have this incredible push-pull feeling when I pick up the camera. There are days all I want to do is hold it, feel connected to my dad. Tell him about my shoots. Then there are days it’s beyond painful. No one to call and tell about a new idea I have or encourage me. The camera feels strange, different without my father next to it. It is almost to difficult to hold on those days. But, that's when I hear him in my head saying his famous line, “it is what it is.” So, I push on, put the camera to my eye, focus and shoot. Try to see clearly through my tears.

I want my best friend back. I cry even as I write this. I don’t know if I’m portraying why I need the camera in my life. How it is my healer. My only physical connection left to him. Almost as if I’m holding his hand. 

dad

I miss my best friend!

I can’t remember my mom’s hands.

There’s a scene in the movie “Beaches” that always makes me cry.  Barbara Hershey is at her beach house and her health is deteriorating quickly.  She is in her bedroom frantically looking through photos of her family.  When Bette Midler walks in the room, she says, “I can’t remember my mother’s hands.  Help me find a photo of her hands!” I know it all to well.

It’s been 14 years since I last saw my mother’s hands. 

I have no photos of my mother’s hands.  I wear a ring that she wore everyday.  I can still remember taking it off her hand in the hospital and slipping it on mine.  I often stare at my hand, with the ring on it, hoping it will spark an image of her hand.  

All photographers want to capture special moments with your family. Help to create memories that will last forever. Ok, well, I want to do the same thing.  So, what differentiates me? 

Well, I can’t speak for other photographers.  But, for me, it’s the story I just mentioned. See, I have lost both of my parents, my aunt and my grandmother.  You should know that’s most of my childhood family.  I only have my brother and my aunt left.  That’s it.  My childhood home was sold 12 years ago.  A lot of my life, and the people I loved, exist now only in my head.  I use that to fuel me.  It helps guide me to take the photos that are important.  (I know this sounds extremely depressing.  It is... but it's not.  Please keep reading.)

I know what will be important later.  What you will miss and what slowly fades from memory.  The types of images that will spark the here and now.  More importantly, the feelings that come along with them.  Whether it be the hat that your little girl never goes anywhere without, how your daughter and her grandfather always would smell flowers together or simply the way your son bites his tongue, to help him concentrate, when he is drawing.  All of these types of moments add up to a documentation of your family's life. These types of photos tell your family’s real story. 

Love this photo of my dad and my daughter.  The story is so much more than the smelling of the flowers.  This also tells the story of my father's Sunday morning, as I knew it, for 40 years. My father would perch his glasses on his forehead when he was thinking or speaking.  He would do the Sunday New York TImes crossword puzzle, using a crossword puzzle pencil my Aunt Joanie bought him.  He would only use the pencil once a week and he would use no other pencil.  Even if it meant searching for a half hour to find it.  This was him and it's all captured in the photo.   I'll always remember what Sunday looked like.

Love this photo of my dad and my daughter.  The story is so much more than the smelling of the flowers.  This also tells the story of my father's Sunday morning, as I knew it, for 40 years. My father would perch his glasses on his forehead when he was thinking or speaking.  He would do the Sunday New York TImes crossword puzzle, using a crossword puzzle pencil my Aunt Joanie bought him.  He would only use the pencil once a week and he would use no other pencil.  Even if it meant searching for a half hour to find it.  This was him and it's all captured in the photo.   I'll always remember what Sunday looked like.

So, even though I’m a photographer, ultimately I consider myself to be a storyteller.

It’s very personal for me.  Being that my father had been a photographer, he DID document my life story.  I am SO happy I have photos to trigger memories and things that I would've forgotten. They're not all posed photos - some are - but some aren't.  I don’t want you being in a position one day longing for these photos.  I want you to have them. These are the memories you will look back upon years down the road and value. When I take photos, I think of you, but I also think of your family’s future generations. Your grandchildren, your great grandchildren. I want to preserve your life. I want those family members to know you and your kids at this very moment. 

It’s important to be able to look back and say, “Yes. I remember when.”

And in case you’re wondering, I ALWAYS get a picture of mom’s hands.

She can’t write!

There’s always a part of every job that is stressful, right? The part you hate doing the most. Maybe it’s balancing the budget. Maybe you hate presentations. Organizing your desk… AH, I hate it! 

Well, I got to admit. For me, it’s writing. This blog thing is scary as hell for me. I have never felt confident in my writing skills. Writing never came naturally to me. I never knew how to organize my thoughts and how to make a proper “outline” to build from. I guess I was absent that day in school. When it came to my college essays, I was traumatized. I remember giving my dad one of my essays to read. I had written about how much I loved the mall! What! Who was I? How could I even imagine that would win a college over? Well, needless to say, he stopped half way through, looked at my mom and said, “she can’t write.” I was devastated. I’ll never forget it. “She can’t write.”

Anyway, in all fairness, I don’t think I was ever really taught how to write until I got to college. I took a beginners writing class and I learned some good skills. The easiest and most logical. If you write a sentence and there is a question in the readers mind, then the following sentence must answer that question. Huh? That is so smart! Well, it helped me get started on my journey. I still don’t think I have perfected it, but I try and I actually enjoy it sometimes.  What’s really difficult is that my dad was an AMAZING writer. He was a lawyer and had to write all the time for work. He could turn out anything and make it sound beautiful. I always wished I had gotten that talent. It skipped me but it did go to my 8-year-old daughter. (Maybe I should hire her to write my blogs.)

But, I’m going to see this as a learning experience. I’m hoping you’ll bear with me as I try to get better at it. 

There is one other lesson here.  My father had no idea how much his words hurt me.  He would've been devastated to know how I carried those words my entire life.  So, we as parents, need to be careful.  Our words can hurt.  I try to think before I speak to my kids.  I mess up A LOT.  But, when I'm lucky to realize it, I apologize and move on until the next time.

Lead your most decorated life

I recently took a photography class where some people discussed how their fears (ex. fear of success, creativity, failure) kept them from being the best they could be at whatever they wanted to do.  A member of the group mentioned a book called, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, the same author of “Eat, Pray, Love.” I decided to pick it up and see what all the hype was about.

The books premise is simple: Live a creative life beyond fear. 

Get out there and live a FULLFILLING life. Push yourself to follow through on something that you want to try but have been afraid to do. See where it takes you. I thought I was never afraid to try anything. But, in actuality, I was. I always approached everything with the thought, “you’ll do the best you can. It’ll be ok that you’re not that good at it.” I was SO used to that negative inner voice, I didn’t even realize the problem. How could I ever really conquer and/or enjoy anything if I went in with that sort of attitude? That voice actually did talk me out of trying things because it made everything new and unpredictable seem impossible.

What a difference it makes when you change the voice in your head. Now, I try anything without judgement. I do things without the fear of feeling bad or failing. I have found that most of the time, the exact opposite happens. I see that I’m capable of much more than I think. I am experiencing life and in the process, enhancing my self-esteem.

Gilbert writes how she was speaking to a woman who had tattooed her body. Gilbert asks her how she could allow her body to be marked up like that. She responded, “My tattoos are permanent. It’s my body that’s temporary. We’re only here on earth for a short while, so I decided a long time ago that I wanted to decorate myself as playfully as I can.” We should all live the most decorated temporary life we can. Not just physically, but emotionally, spiritually, intellectually.

What are you holding yourself back from doing? How can we get you to think differently to get out there and try something different? Something that actually might make you feel really good? 

I would love to see you all change the voice when being photographed. Moms never want to be in the photo. They never think they look good enough. You know that negative voice! I know what you’re saying because I’ve said the same thing.  Mine always told me I wasn’t thin enough, my hair didn’t look good enough, etc. Then, I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I IGNORED that voice. I did a boudoir shoot with Jen Rozenbaum in New York. It was awesome! I was nervous as hell!  (A later blog to come about this experience.) But, the point is, I ended up LOVING it. She is an amazing photographer, but more than that, I felt beautiful and comfortable in front of her camera. I loved the results and when I saw the photos, I noticed that the inner voice was once again wrong. Sure, my curls are crazy, but I embraced them. They’re who I am.  I went out of my comfort zone and you know what, I felt great!

One of the photos of my boudoir shoot.  It felt great to be me.

One of the photos of my boudoir shoot.  It felt great to be me.

 

I want this for all of us!  Don’t worry about screwing up. If you have a desire, do it. You might be surprised how it turns out. If you like to write, do it. Garden, do it. Paint, do it. Problem- solve, do it. Don’t let that voice inside of you stop you from giving it your all once you decide to try it. If you love it enough, try it! 

See where it takes you. Your self-esteem will thank you for it!