Friday, December 30, 2011

"We Choose...therefore we are."

We watched 127 Hours last night. Spoiler alert: I'm going to write about his "desperate measures to extricate himself".  If you haven't seen the movie and want to be surprised by the end, you should stop reading now.  Most of us heard of the young man Aron Ralston (played in the movie by James Franco) who became trapped in a canyon in Moab, Utah when a boulder pinned his hand and he ultimately came to the decision after 5 days to cut off his arm to save his life.
One thing I can tell you about this movie, even though I knew the end, I sat on the end of my chair and barely breathed for the entire film.  My daughter and I watched it together, and after I said for the sixth time, "you should always tell someone where you are going; never just take off like that"...she said "mom, I get it".  At one point, she said "I wonder why he cut his arm off so high up; it was only his hand that was pinned?"  When it finally got to the scene where he makes the decision to take off his arm the realization hits that he needs to break the arm first and then cut through - as he didn't have a tool sharp enough to cut through flesh; let alone bone.  Just before he started to use his arm as a fulcrum to break itself; I said "that's why it's up higher - it broke at the weakest point".  So, could I do the same, confronted with that decision? I think so.  Not because I am brave.  More for fear.  Fear of what I would leave behind.  My daughter, my dogs, my life.  Fear of the pain I would cause for my daughter by not having enough courage to endure what is essentially a relatively few minutes of excruciating pain in exchange for a chance at life. My own mother decided to give up on her chemotherapy and died of cancer.  I am still angry at that choice.  Hers to make.  But the hole she left behind in my heart will never heal. Can I for certain say she would have survived had she continued the chemo? No.  But without it, her chances for survival diminished greatly. In my mind, she gave up and chose death (no more pain) over pain. But, she didn't have the benefit of knowing what the aftermath would be.  I do.  So it would make my choice to live easier to make, if I had to.

What about those choices we make everyday that aren't life or death (in our minds)? How about the cigarettes we continue to smoke, drinking too much, drugs, eating more than we need, not exercising enough or spending money we don't have?  All of these choices can lead to ruin and/or death over time.  Most people don't make the choice to quit smoking, until faced with a diagnosis of cancer - by then - too late.  Same for liver failure, diabetes, heart disease, and relationship/financial disaster. It's just easier to continue our behavior when it takes longer than the very condensed decision Aron Ralston had to make to survive.

Choices shape us. In the movie, Aron has 5 days to reflect on who he is and how his selfish choices have impacted those around him.  He never took time to return calls to family & friends. He didn't share his life with those around him - thought that he alone was in control of it all and above needing help from anyone.  I can relate to this. Party Of One. The most gripping part of the movie for me is when he makes it out of the caverns, sees people in the distance before him and starts yelling for help.  His cries are muted and music is playing so it's hard to make out what he's yelling - but you can read his lips and the final plea "I need help" leaves it's impact on me. Would Aron have learned to reach out and trust had he not experienced his life/death experience? Maybe. Maybe not.  I don't want to have to be faced with that decision.  So, I'm going to try harder everyday, little by little, to make better choices.

(Photo Credit: I took a photo of the DVD case; it's a film still from the movie; I'll just credit Cloud Eight Films)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

"Oh the Places You'll Go"

My amazing daughter bought me this bracelet for Christmas.  I know we all think our children are amazing.  But, Ceeanna and I have a pretty incredible bond built by years of having to be there for each other.  It has been just the two of us since she turned 4 years old.  We had our moments - as all mothers/daughters do - but they never lasted more than a few minutes; an hour tops. We both love Dr. Seuss and she thought this bracelet was perfect to remind me of all the new adventures I have coming up this year. She's the one who actually found my apartment.  We were driving around the Brewery District downtown and she saw the sign on the fence and wrote down the number, then texted me the next day at least 3 times to ask if I had called it. I finally did and everything fell into place from there. She's so much more proactive than me; I'm trying harder to be more like her. On her visits home we will be having breakfasts of Dojo Gelato (peanut butter/sriracha is my fave; she likes the caramel/sea salt) or Taste of Belgium for freshly made Belgian Waffles.

"And when things start to happen,
don't worry.  Don't stew.
Just go right along.
You'll start happening too.


Wednesday, December 28, 2011

"Stuck" in Cincinnati

A friend of mine posted this excellent article on Facebook today (thanks, Kim!).  Among other things, it reminded me of all the awesome that is Cincinnati.  Being winter, I find that I kind of get down on our city, not being a big fan of cold weather.  The impending move to downtown has rejuvenated my spirit - so I will list here what I'm looking forward to most in my new/old Over the Rhine home:

1. Walking to Findlay Market on the weekends and doing my shopping there.
2. Dojo Gelato for breakfast on Saturday mornings.
3. New photography projects in OTR.
4. No more yardwork.
5. Using the the Main Branch of the Public Library; Cincinnati's public library system is amazing.
6. Hanging on the doggy patio of Neon's in the summer; I'm not sure how Evildog will behave but I'm gonna give it a try.  dumBella will not be trying.
7. Making new friends and meeting up with friends that already live downtown.
8. My new (old) kitchen stove - it's original to the 1860 house I'm moving into.  It's so cool.
9. The architecture. Did you know that OTR has the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the US?
10. Did I mention NO yardwork?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation...

I'm going to admit that I have watched Eat Pray Love at least 12 times.  And  will probably watch it many more.  The book has been read as well. Which is even better than the movie. I can so relate to Liz Gilbert in the story.  My life is at a crossroads and 2012 will bring many changes.  I would love nothing more than to pack all my shit into a 12x12 box and move to Italy...but the reality is that I'm a mom and the breadwinner (as little as my bread is) and taking off for a year isn't in the stars. Or my budget.  I've lived in the same house and neighborhood for the past 16 years and put the second floor on our little home. My daughter and I picked every tile, paint color, fixture and hardwood plank up there. And now we are losing it all.  I gave it everything I had (and a lot I didn't); but it will now go back to the bank.  So, I'm moving downtown to fulfill a lifelong dream of living in a city. My new digs will be a 650 sf second floor apartment. I've decided to blog about the upcoming move and changes in my life. I'm not much of a writer; but I think it will keep me from spinning out of control and stay focused on what's truly important.  I have a roof over my head (and my dogs' & my kid's heads), I'm healthy and employed. My house holds so many precious memories, but is now an albatross around my neck and a source of financial ruin.  The quote from Eat Pray Love about "Ruin being a gift; ruin is the road to transformation" holds special meaning for me now.

My daughter got me this book for Christmas.  I'm just going to go on faith and agree with her.

Friday, May 13, 2011


Last weekend I had the opportunity to shoot my first wedding.  Jennifer Prine & Andrea McClain of Luv Bug Photo (and the bride & groom) were kind enough to let me tag along on their photo shoot so I could get an idea of what to expect as a photographer.  I was nervous - what I call the "jitters".  Steve & Heather Gabbard decided on a "First Glance" style wedding - where photos are taken beforehand and the Bride & Groom see each other prior to the ceremony. We took pics of the groomsmen/groom first.  I took several shots of Steve with the "jitters".  Then the bride and her bridesmaids came out and my first few shots of Heather are full of "jitters" too.  I didn't feel alone anymore. And I realized their "jitters" go a little deeper than mine as a photog there to help record this very important occasion. No more baby steps, this was the BIG step forward.  But as soon as they saw each other and hugged under the gazebo, the "jitters" melted away.  They took comfort in each others love, as they will for the rest of their lives as husband and wife. Congratulations, Heather & Steve Gabbard! 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My Two Cents

I recently read a photography blog (wish I could remember which one) that talked about the importance of clients purchasing their pictures in some sort of printed form from the photographer.  There were lots of good points in the blog, but the comments made by other photographers gave me much more insight and info than the actual blogpost.  Her point was, by "giving" the client the digital images on a disk and not requiring a printed purchase the Photographer was falling down on their job.  It's a huge debate in the photography world...part with your digital images (the negatives) or don't.  The comments provided me with some much needed info; which was that photography pricing and product is ALL over the board.  I don't think I saw two comments/Photographers in at least 50 that priced or produced the same. Some people just charge for the photography session and produce a Hi-Res disk with images, some require printed sales, some do both, some charge more for Hi-Res, etc. ad nauseum.  My head was spinning!

But, last night I came to a conclusion.  As a Photographer, I should provide a number of proofs (that I select based on my skills as an artist) and put together a printed product.  It will be part of my package from this day forward.  I was of the crowd that did the shoot, PP'd a given number of images and loaded them up to a disk in Hi-Res.  I don't want the hassle of picking out albums, photos, mugs, blankets, whatever the client wanted to see their photos in/on.  I still believe that the bulk of that decision should be left to the client - there are far too many options for me to limit their choice.  But, the vast majority of people that receive a disk, do only two things - load some of the images up to Facebook (which resizes the photo to crap) and then put the disk in a drawer.  Oh, and a third thing....never get around to putting together an album.

See, last night I came across my mom & dad's wedding album.  It's one of those beautiful white leather bound books with brass corners on each heavily matted page, protected by thick vinyl on the outside and each page encased in cello.  The front is embossed in gold with script that says "Our Wedding Day".  The first two pages are heavy stock paper with places to fill in the date, names, place of the wedding, guests, etc.  Guess what?  NONE of it was filled out. My mom didn't even take the time to fill in a few blanks.  She died 25 years ago,  my dad remarried and entrusted me with his & mom's Wedding Album.  It's a rare glimpse back to who she was as a young woman. Back then, the photographer provided the couple with proofs and they picked which few would forever more be the memory of that wonderful day.  And I get to open the album from time to time and remember what a fun, beautiful woman she was.

What's that worth? I can't even begin to put a price on it.

It made me think that everyone should at least have a few prints from their photoshoot.  If my mom didn't even take the time to fill in a few blanks, how in the world could I expect someone to filter through over 300 digital images and put together a 20 page album?  It's too overwhelming for most people.  As a photographer and artist I have the skill, creativity and knowledge of what will look best in print. I have not photographed any weddings...yet.  It's still a little out of my comfort zone.  But I do family & senior portraits, pet shoots.  I always pick out the shots I think work best (with input from the client) and post process them. I don't give the client a disk with 300+ images on it.  Quality over quantity.

I haven't decided on how I will produce the printed product yet.  It may just be a simple 10 page mini-photo proof book with 4x6 prints.  But there will be something to look at other than the CD. With my logo on it. And my business card in it.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2011 - My next 365 project

2010 was probably a good year to skip.  Some good things happened to be sure; but overall not my best vintage.  So here's to 2011.  The year to re-define me.

Observing several college students hanging out at the pipeline in Richmond on New Year's Day,  I was reminded of my own daughter off at OU for her first year.  So much new stuff to do, explore, learn.

I guess I'm kind of in the same spot.  Just older.  And wiser. But maybe I can learn a few new things too.