Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Back in the Saddle

It’s always a crap shoot when trying to figure out how to start a blog post.  It’s an even bigger guessing game when the content of said blog post is one in which I’m opening up and exposing myself to the two people who actually read this blog:  Hi Mom! Hi Dad!
But, I’ve had several emails, Facebook messages, texts, etc., inquiring about my lack of activity on the web.  I thought it was time to get back on the proverbial horse, clear the air, and start shooting again.  At the end of last year, I hit a low.  Like a low-low.  Like no one’s getting under my Limbo stick, low.  It was a culmination of MANY things.  And like several times before in my life, I did the most sensible thing for me; I hid.  I hid inside myself and inside my family, and I pushed everything that was a trigger to the ‘low’ far and away from me.  Every.  Most.  Some of the reasons for my feeling low were all wrapped up in my photography.  For the past two years, I felt myself moving away from the reason I fell in love with the art of capturing people.  When I first started to ‘shoot’ people, it wasn’t for the money.  It definitely was NOT financially motivated.  I had always enjoyed the way photographs made me see things differently – the way that a fleeting moment could truly be frozen in time.  I took that awe and studied, practiced, studied more, and went out on a limb.  The closer I got to the end of the limb, the less I was afraid it was going to break.  Until it did.

As time marched on, and people seemed to like what I did with my camera, more clients booked me.  It’s an intoxicating experience to know that people appreciate your ‘art’ – that they appreciate the way you see the world with the closing of the shutter.  When BJ lost his job, it was almost serendipitous how much my business picked up; it was like the cosmos was aligning in my favor.  I couldn’t get enough of it. And then, my brother got sick.  When we finally knew what he was battling, a large part of my world had been rubbed raw.  It was as if a chink of armor was chipped away each time I thought of him.  Which was ALL the time.  Then, my entire world started to revolve around the idea that my kidney would save him.  And when my kidney couldn’t save him – when I essentially failed at saving him, something in me quit.  I put on a very brave face, and I continued to work, but I wasn’t the same.  And, I DO get how shallow that sounds; I DO understand that it wasn’t me who was suffering from kidney failure; it wasn’t me who was watching my child suffer from it.  But, I now realize that everything truly is relative, and at the time, it affected me in a way that I wasn’t prepared for.

Around that time, some other things occurred that were pretty craptastic as well.  I lost my best friend and only employee,  my beautiful Boston ended his journey on this earth; my beloved Uncle Jim joined Bos in heaven; my computer – my lifeline for work – died, and  my husband was diagnosed with stroke-like migraines after three weeks in hell of not knowing what was happening to him.   While each of these on its own would not have been enough to take me down, the combination of all of them at once took its toll.  All the while, I was booking and processing shoots fast and furiously.  My brain went into overdrive and dealt with my crap by keeping busy and not thinking too much about it.  My business was about finances at this point, because we were dependent upon it.  Along with all my shoots, I started doing the newborn photos at the hospital.  That job was doomed from the beginning by things of which I had no control.  The way I was treated, and the things that were required in that job, was laughable.  But not until I talked with other photographers did I realize how much.  And even with the realization that there is nothing I could have done differently, it still hurt, and it still chipped away at my psyche a bit.  Slowly, and surely, my job started to be a big negative cloud hanging over me.

Yes, much of it was my fault.  I should never have booked as many shoots as I did.  My kids and my clients paid the price as I was always working.  I missed ball games, bedtimes, and so much in between.  I began to burn out and it showed in every possible way.  I didn’t offer my clients the best customer service I could, because I was too busy trying to just stay above water.  I had taken the one thing in my life that gave me an identity outside of being a Mama and wife, and ran it straight into the ground.
Fast-forward to now.  Over the last few months of 2013, I barely picked up my camera.  In fact, my beloved Kelly  Moore Camera bag had sat untouched for so long, my cats peed on it.  Yep.  That’s how glamorous my life has been of late.  I did a couple shoot s – lifestyle shoots – that I loved.  They were definitely a ray of sunshine in a pretty dismal situation.  But, I still couldn’t even fathom finding the love I once had for it.  I couldn’t find the will to come up with anything new and exciting – and the last thing I wanted to do was get on Facebook and look at the page that once brought harmony to my world, but now only created a sinking feeling in my gut.  And so, I didn’t.  I avoided it like the plague.  I even stopped posting my Instagram pics to my feed because I couldn’t stand the thought of keeping the page active when I wasn’t.  I stopped checking emails and voicemails; I turned my phone off, and I crawled into a hole of shame and embarrassment.  And I stayed there.  I camped out there.  I had parties there.  And then, one day when I was checking my flickr account for something, I came across all my sets from long ago.  Some of them were really bad.  Bad- Bad.  Alien eyes, oversaturation, blown whites, and clipped shadows, bad.  But, in most of even the bad stuff, I could see what I saw when I snapped the image.  I felt a glimmer something besides dread.  After I clicked out of my flickr account that day, I realized that it wasn’t my style, or my approach, or my photography in general that had caused me to want to hide; it was simply that I had done what millions of people before me had done; I did too much of a good thing, and I wore down physically and emotionally.

A couple weeks ago, I did a shoot for one of my good friends and her family.  They were having a ‘Celebration of Life’ ceremony for her dad, and they all wanted some images of each family as well as some group photos.  And honestly, I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to pull off the creative stuff that I love,  and that they would be disappointed.  The wimptastic part of me wanted to back out.  But I didn’t.  I cleaned the cat pee off my stuff (not an easy task), put on my big girl pants, and headed to the event.  Within thirty seconds of the first snap, I felt the joy I had been missing for a long time.  It was flowing again, and I could see that I just needed a shot of confidence.  When I finished, and I got home and looked at the images, I saw that I had captured the love of a family for whom life had been a bit unfair as of late.  I realized how blessed I was to have done something that may have brought them a bit of joy in a pretty joyless time. 
Since then, I’ve done two more shoots – one maternity shoot, and one six-month shoot.  In both of them, I felt true love for my ‘job’.  I didn’t have to rush through them for fear of not finishing the eight shoots in front of them.  I didn’t have to miss any time with my punks, sitting in front of my computer for days on end. 

And all of this, has led me to now.  I started eating right and working out, and I feel better in general now.  I have a pretty good outlook on what my future work path may look like.  While I will always  ‘shoot’ people, I’m also going to go back to teaching at some point.  I’m either going to finish my Master’s and end up back at VU if they’ll have me, or I’m going to complete the teaching part of my BA so I can teach English in Middle or High School.  I miss teaching, and I know that as far as retiring from something, it’s a pretty good option for me.  But until then, and even while I’m teaching, I will NOT stop doing photography.  I am going to book shoots, just not as many.  And I’m going slow down in the wedding business.  While the money is decent, the responsibility and liability is too much.  I will probably book one or two a year, but that’s it.  I learned my lesson, and I don’t want to ever burn out again.
So, if you’ve stuck around to read all this, I thank you.  As long as this post was, it seems like a drop in the hat compared to the real life versions of all my crap that played out.  I know all too well that those of you reading have had your share crappy things, as well, and somehow, that makes all the collective crap easier to handle.

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom in a situation to realize that the fight to get back to the top is worth it.  I’m grateful that I’m surrounded by a family who will help me get back up.  That proverbial horse isn’t intimidating at all now; in fact, I may just hop on and ride bare-back. 


Tuesday, March 5, 2013

For Him.

About six months ago, I turned and looked at Bax, our beagle mix, and realized that our time with him was drawing to a close.  The years had weathered him, although he never lost his youthfulness in his eyes.  His muzzle was gray, and the black floppy silk ears were speckled with white.  After losing Bos just six months prior, the notion that we would lose him sooner than later, filled me with a sense of dread. 

And even with my the heaviness in my heart and gut, I was still amazed at the absolute joy it brought me to watch him be the dog that my kids had known for their whole lives.  Even in his final season, his quest was simple:  love, love, and love some more. 

On a spring day in 2000, I waited out back for my Mom to pull up and take me to have my wisdom teeth removed.  Needless to say, it wasn’t a carefree day, and to top it off, I was still healing from the loss of our first pregnancy just a few weeks before.  As I sat down on the back porch steps, I heard the sound of a chain dragging against the sidewalk.  As I stood up to investigate the sound, a beautiful black and white dog came happily up to me with the chain still around her neck.  And along with that chain, came the most beautiful, fat puppy I’ve ever seen.  He was still nursing, although it looked like his Mama would have preferred otherwise.  About that time, my mom pulled up and noticed my visitors.  We thought for sure someone had to be looking for them, so we loaded them into the car and canvassed the neighborhood.  Although we came up short, we made the decision that they would ride in the car to the dentist’s office, and that we would have a better idea of what to do with them when I was looped up on pain killers.  Needless to say, Macey, and her baby, Baxter, became part of the Thorne family the minute they walked up onto our porch.

Baxter was a baby in every conceivable way.  For a full 24 hours after his first set of shots, he whimpered and whined as if someone was stabbing him in the injection site.  If he couldn’t see us in the house, he tore through it like a crazed maniac – tearing up pretty much anything in his wake.  He would howl at all hours of the night, and we didn’t have an intact venetian blind to be found.  At one point, the Vet put him on doggy Prozac to calm his nerves a bit.  But all the while, he was our baby.  And, during the time he went from a pup to a dog, I was pregnant with Sam.  From the minute I found out I was pregnant, Baxter never left my side.  When my belly was gigantic, he would still manage to carve out a space on my lap in the recliner.  While in the hospital for Sam’s birth, BJ had blown up a giant photo of the dogs for me to concentrate on during labor, and it helped immensely. 

So, it was no surprise at all that the moment we walked in with a new baby, Baxter made his way over to him, gently stuck his nose in every possible space in the car seat and breathed him in.  From that moment, he became his dog.  Oh, he loved me still, but his ultimate life plan was to be the best snuggle bug that any kid could ask for.

With every kid we brought home – and you know that’s quite a few in our abode – Bax did the same thing.  He’d smell them, roll on their blankets, and claim them as his own.  When one of them was sick, you would find Bax curled up with them on the couch – keeping watch as he kept them warm.  Not one time did he EVER act anything but loving to them when we didn’t get to them in time to stop them from pulling his hair, or poking his eye.  He was the most gentle, loving being I’ve ever witnessed with children. 

About two weeks ago, I noticed that he wasn’t eating.  He’d still take food out of our hands if we offered it, but he stopped with the dog food completely.  About a week after that, he became so weak that he could barely get up and down our porch steps.  My sense of dread became overwhelming at that point, as I realized that his end was indeed, near.

On Saturday morning, we awoke to a frail, shadow of the dog that Bax had been.  He couldn’t stand on his own, and when we would take him out, he would collapse in the yard as if he was giving up.  I knew what we had to do, and I told the kids to love him until they could give no more, and prepare themselves for the hardest thing a human can do for their beloved furry family.

His doctor said that he was in acute kidney failure.  She gave him some IV fluids, a shot of pain meds, and sent him home to spend some time with the family who loved him beyond reason.  I sat and held him in my arms until all of the kids came home.  I explained the situation, and told them how sorry I was that it was at this point.  All of them, in their own hysterical, jaded, and beautiful way, told him how much he meant to them, and they thanked him for being this beautiful creature who had kept them safe and warm.  Carrying him to the car for his final ride, was honestly the most gut-wrenching thing I’ve done.  Bos was loved by all of us, but he was MY dog.  Bax was an unrelenting angel to my babies, and their pain was almost too much to bear.

Doc Shroeder gave him an injection to relax him and calm him, and BJ and I spent the better part of ten minutes  gently rubbing his head and telling him how much we loved him.  When he closed his eyes in peaceful slumber, we were the last faces he saw – the last voices he heard – the last humans he smelled – and we thanked him, a million times over, for being what he was to our kids.

He wasn’t a dog.  He wasn’t a man.  He was a selfless being that showed more love and gratitude in his thirteen years on this earth, than I could hope to in a lifetime.   Although our hearts are heavy, and we miss him more than it seems possible, we know that he is happy, and he is where all dogs go:  Heaven.

Batty Beagle – you were, are, and will always be, our family.  Our lives are better for having had you in them.  Though your time on this earth was relatively short, you taught us more about what it is to love selflessly than we could ever meausure.  Run, Bax, fast and furiously, and know that we will await the day that we meet again, and we will talk of our adventures. We love you, Sweet Angel Dog, now and forever.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Gorgeous B & C

As if their gorgeous house isn't the perfect backdrop, the family itself couldn't be more beautiful - inside and out. I always love being around these guys, and I so look forward to capturing them. Miss B has the most gorgeous blue eyes - they get lighter in rings as you get closer to her pupil - gorgeous. Love this family - love this shoot!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Again, each time I do a 'lifestyle' shoot, I realize how much I love them, and how these are the ONLY shoots I want to do from now on. Miss K and her big Brother, G, are favorites of mine, so to catch them in their environment, with REAL joy on their faces, is priceless to me. I truly love these photos, and they make me smile each time I look at them!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sam and Lukas are Turning TWELVE!

It's hard to imagine that the friendship of these two goofballs began in the womb! Bill and Kathy, and BJ and I, were in the same birthing classes, and when I left the hospital after having Sam, Kathy checked in to have Lukas. Their friendship really took off in preschool, and after many playdates and ballgames, and sleepovers through gradeschool, these guys are still best friends in middle school! And, our family couldn't be happier; Lukas is one of the kindest, smartest kids we know, and we are so grateful that Sam has him. Happy Birthday Sam and Lukas; may you celebrate MANY more birthdays together in your futures!

It honestly was such a great party!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Super Wy" is Seven Months!

Wyatt has the most beautiful eyes that I've ever photographed.  And it's not because I'm his God Mother and biased.  Obviously, I love him, and so I think he's perfect, but honestly, I've never seen someone with eyes so blue and lashes so dark and long - they are gorgeous!  He is so laid back, and his adorable personality makes him even cuter - if that's even possible.  He and his big Bub "Tote" are my little sweethearts, and getting to capture them as they grow is truly a blessing.