Nonna & Poppa Visit Nebraska

If there is any drawback to me having a very, very large family, it’s that we don’t ever really feel like we get to spend enough time with any of them. Since leaving Arizona in December 2010, I’ve been lucky enough to take Cadence back with me for a few visits, some work trips and some just to spend a little time with Momma Dawn and Mark. But somehow the trips always seem rushed (especially when I’m working) and always end too soon. Planning visits is always challenging with work schedules and my youngest siblings’ school and activities to consider. And now that Cadence has started Kindergarten just as my two youngest brothers are finishing their senior years in high school, finding ways to visit all the grandparents in New York and Colorado and Arizona is going to get even harder.

But if there’s anything we’ve learned being so spread out from so much family, it’s to take whatever visits we get and try to make the most of them. So when Nonna and Poppa said they might be able to come for a quick visit after Christmas, we jumped at the opportunity. We hung out, watched a little football, and just enjoyed the time together. I was lucky enough to get an extra day off work with Snowmageddon threatening to bury us (which amounted to little more than a few inches and some slick roads). And the only regret I have  is that I wasn’t better about getting out the camera while Nonna and Poppa were here. Next time, I’m gonna go all paparazzi, but for now, this will have to do…

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And I have to say, for being a desert rat, born and raised in sunny Arizona, Poppa Mark sure can shovel a mean driveway!

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Project Life 365 – Day 93 – Skyline

Well hello Denver. We meet again. Second roadtrip here in 2 months. I think I should start charging some sort of fee for bringing my awesomeness to town so frequently.

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Project Life 365 – Day 72 – Message

After already being snowed in for two days, being suddenly puked on by my 3-year-old, and then walking outside to find this when it was time to hit the road, I think Colorado was trying to send me a message…

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Take Cadence Picture

Many photographers joke around that their kids suffer from PKS–Photographer’s Kid Syndrome. Sure, all kids go through phases when they hate standing still for the camera, but I have to say, I do believe that photographers’ kids often taken their camera loathing to a whole new level. For the longest time, trying to get a decent picture of Cadence was one part comedy routine, two parts acrobatics. I’d chase after her, sing songs, repeat lines from her favorite movies, make fart noises, climb park benches and playground equipment, dive in front of her in the grass–anything I could think of to make her stop and look at me long enough to fire off a couple of shots. Sometimes they were blurry. Sometimes her eyes were half-closed, or half of her face was out of frame. But sometimes, it was magic.

These days, I’m happy to say, that things have taken a turn to my advantage. Suddenly, instead of constantly running and trying to hide from my camera, Cadence seems to have taken a keen interest in Mommy’s work. She likes playing with her toy camera, and sometimes even picks up a random object (like my old voice recorder) and pretends it’s a camera and walks around the house taking pictures of things. Even better, she loves, LOVES, having her picture taken. Anytime I pull my camera out, she immediately starts chirping, “Take Cadence picture? Mommy? You take a picture of Cadence?”

Who can say no to that?

It’s funny though, as a lifestyle photographer, I never tell my clients to “Say cheese.” Instead, I do what I can to capture natural expressions in my work. And Cadence seems to have picked up on this the few times she’s been with me when I’m on a job, because she never pulls out the cheesy smile in front of the camera. In fact, I’m not sure she even knows what a cheesy smile is. I love it because I get to snap photos of my favorite girl exactly as she is, and exactly how I’ll always remember her. The poor folks from Lifetouch who took her pictures at preschool though, they didn’t quite know what to do with my sweet girl who won’t smile on command.

Here are a few of my girl I snapped back in August when we were in Colorado taking my sister Whitney’s senior pictures…

Having fun and getting dirty playing ball with Granny and Uncle Collin
Collecting pretty rocks, just like her Momma loves to do
She’s gotta get her picture taken everywhere Aunt Whitney does
Love that face!
My baby looking like such a big girl
Climbing the mountain with Uncle Collin
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My little nature girl

I’m Baaaaaaack…

And I’ve gotta rant about some Sidewalk Chalk Nazis out in Colorado.

But before I spout off, you should probably read a little background information here…

Sidewalk Chalk Art Against the Rules in Stapleton

First of all, I want to say that it pains me to speak ill of any community in Colorado right now. With the wildfires raging and destroying homes as I sit here writing this, I’m half-fearing some sort of immediate karmic backlash from the Universe if I unleash on the group of morons in Stapleton who are trying to keep a 3-year-old from coloring on the sidewalk with chalk. But, I can’t help myself. This news story popped up on my phone while I was on vacation last week, sending both Steven and I into tizzy, and it’s been bothering me ever since. So, today, as my vacation has officially come to an end and I begin to settle back into a routine, I figured I better get this one off my chest before I pop a blood vessel.

Here’s the deal, people. Even the most optimistic person has to admit that times are tough right now. Our economy is in the toilet. People are losing their jobs and their homes. We’ve got brave men and women in our armed forces being killed to protect our freedoms overseas. The costs on almost everything are rising. Fires are burning out of control. And people are literally chewing each other’s faces off.

It’s a shitstorm out there, my friends.

And yet, in spite of all the craziness and negativity, humans have a very natural instinct to find the simple beauty in life and hold fast to it. Little things like sharing a hot cup of coffee with a friend, singing along to a favorite song on the radio, and feeling a cool breeze against your face on a hot day are often the things that make all the difference, the things that keep us going in spite of all the odds stacked against us.

To put it simply, sometimes a little sidewalk chalk is exactly the therapy we need to get us through a difficult day.

Hell, Cadence and I had fun drawing with some sidewalk chalk on the patio just this afternoon…

So what’s the big problem?

Apparently, a sub-committee of a local HOA in a neighborhood in Stapleton has received complaints from a few of the residents, and they’re saying that “because it is a shared space, anything that offends, disturbs or interferes with the peaceful enjoyment isn’t allowed.”

Seriously??? What the hell is wrong with these people? They’re so miserable, they make Ebenezer Scrooge look like that cuddly little bear from the Snuggle fabric softener commercials.

Here’s my response to the complainers and the Courtyard Committee…If a 3-year-old drawing her ABC’s and some pictures of hearts, flowers, and balloons on the sidewalk is disturbing or offensive to you, you need to seek immediate medical help, because that stick you’ve got wedged up your ass has obviously migrated north and is starting to affect the parts of your brain that regulate logical thought, pleasure, empathy and compassion. If your health insurance won’t cover a complete asshole-removal and personality transplant, feel free to drop by my house tomorrow afternoon. I’ll gladly slap you in the face a half-dozen times to try and knock some sense into your empty head.

And if that doesn’t work, I’m fresh out of ideas, and I might have to admit that the old saying is right…You just can’t fix stupid.

So, tonight, I’m soliciting prayers for the people out in Colorado. Please take a moment to pray for the people affected by the wildfires, and the brave firefighters trying to bring them under control. And please pray for the hardhearted morons in Stapleton that have forgotten what it feels like to have fun.

Something Bigger Than You Can Imagine

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I’m not what most people would consider a “religious” person. In fact, I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve been to church in the two years since my daughter was baptized.

So no, I probably won’t be winning any attendance awards anytime soon.

See, I’ve had issues with organized religion for awhile now, since way back in my middle and high school days when I began to notice that the very people who talked the biggest and sang the loudest and dressed the fanciest and put on the grandest Look-at-what-a-wonderful-Christian-I-am show every Sunday morning were the same people who spent the rest of the week looking down their noses and treating the people they thought were beneath them like garbage. Somehow, I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it, and it made for a lot of uncomfortable Sundays, and feeling like the sermons being preached from the pulpits were hollow and empty.

During college, I had something of a love/hate relationship with religion. Part of my loved the intimacy of the daily chapel services, and I felt a genuine connection with the faculty and staff and students that I’d formed relationships with during my time at Concordia New York. But there was another part of me that just really believed that God had abandoned me, unable to forgive me for all the horrible things I’d done. Losing all hope and faith, and being so miserable when my life was filled with so many blessings was like making a conscious decision to spit in God’s face, and I was convinced that there was only so much of it that He was going to take.

It took a lot of years for me to heal, and to reconnect with my spirituality. Maybe I’m not an every Sunday churchgoer, but my faith is strong. I feel genuinely connected to the universe and believe absolutely in a power greater than myself that connects all of us. I do my best to be a good person, to treat others with dignity and respect, and to leave this world a little better than I found it. Do I fall short? Do I sometimes miss the mark? Absolutely. I’m human, after all. And there is no such thing as perfection.

Yet, even though I’ve never been much of the regular church going type, I do wish sometimes that Steven and I could find a church that we love and feel comfortable in, a church where we can start taking Cadence. I definitely don’t believe that children should be indoctrinated and forced to believe in something, but I do believe it’s important to give them an education and a foundation for belief. I believe it’s important to expose them to different ideas and viewpoints, and give them the freedom to form their own opinions. I don’t care if Cadence decides she doesn’t want to be Lutheran or attend a Lutheran church for the rest of her life. How could I, when I don’t even subscribe to all of the Lutheran beliefs or attend Lutheran services on a regular basis myself? But what I do hope is that Cadence is able to know, without a doubt, that she is part of something much bigger than herself. I think too many people lose sight of that, and I think that many of the problems we face in this world are a direct result of too many people living egocentrically, as if they are the only ones on earth who matter, instead of realizing that they are a very crucial part of something a whole lot bigger than they can imagine.

If you ask me, that is what church should be. It should be a place, like home, that offers security and comfort, a place that you know you are always welcome, a place where you can belong in spite of your differences. It should be a place where you feel a sense of connection, a sense of peace. It should be a place where you feel uplifted, and where you uplift others in return. It should be a place where you can lay down your burdens, where you can learn from your mistakes, and where you can nourish and heal your soul. It should be a place where you can feel, without a doubt, that you are in the presence of something bigger than yourself.

If you ask me, too many churches these days are focused on who can draw the biggest crowds, and do so by pandering to the fast food, MTV, reality show generation with loud music and loud sermons and bright flashing light shows that are dazzling and dizzying and reminiscent of the old circus sideshow acts that used to draw a similar sort of thrill-seeking crowd. Sure, it’s important for churches to have members. Otherwise, they can’t survive. But what’s the point of filling the seats for the big Sunday show when there is no substance to the message? What’s the point of having a service at all when the teachings and the beliefs don’t matter the other six days of the week?

Recently, my good friend Pastor Scott “Money” Geminn and his wife Becca started blogging. (You’ll have to bear with me, “Money” is what I’ve called Scott from our college days together, and I just can’t quite get the hang of calling him anything else). And I’ve been hooked on their blogs since day one. See, Money and I have always had similar views on a lot of things, and ever since he was first called to Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, I’ve wished that somehow I could find a way and a means to become a member of his church and arrive every Sunday just in time for service.

Pretty bold words for a girl with an attendance record like mine, don’t you think? But it’s the truth. And if I could find a way to push Lincoln, Nebraska and Glenwood Springs, Colorado just a little closer together on a map, I’d be a very happy girl.

Money is one of those people who would be a spiritual leader whether he was actually standing in front of a pulpit or not. He’s got a light that shines a little brighter than most, and a heart that is happiest when he is serving others. He is kind, gentle, loving, and a bit stubborn at times. He is the sort of man who stands up for what he knows is right, and who can be humble and contrite when he is wrong. He loves to learn, and makes a point to face new experiences and challenges with an open mind and an honest heart. He has a wicked sense of humor and a loud, echoing laugh that is downright infectious. Whether you’re listening to him preach in church on Sunday or wax philosophical about his favorite movies and sports teams, you can’t help but get caught up and carried along by his enthusiasm.

And Money’s wife Becca, though I have yet to actually meet her in person, seems to be the perfect match. They’ve been blogging for just a few short weeks now, and I’m already addicted. They’re definitely worth checking out. Here are a couple recent posts that really got me, and I wanted to share with all of you…

Money’s Blog : A Foolish Way

Becca’s Blog: Eleutheria

If you or any of your family or friends live in, near, or are visiting Glenwood Springs, Holy Cross Lutheran Church is definitely worth a visit. I think you’ll like it there. And be sure to tell Money and Becca hi. 🙂