I had a session this afternoon with the Holland family. Travis ,Amy and their 3 amazing kids, Tyler, Brayden and Regan (the last two are twins) It was HOT, humid and the mosquitos were eating us alive even with “deep woods off” spray on us. But those kids made me laugh so hard I barely noticed any of the challenge we had.
WHERE’S THE OWNERS MANUAL?
Having children always comes with its challenges some more unique than others. This family is dealing with those challenges in a most amazing way.
I remember the concerns everyone had when the twins were born. Concerns that often accompany babies that are born a little early. Then add an another sibling to the mix (3 great kids to love and care for now) Wow, can you imagine how overwhelming it may have been at times? I know with my one and only child (who is now grown) how difficult it was. There were so many times I wished I had been given a manual on how to be a good parent over the years. And I only had ONE.
As I watch the dynamics between each member of the family I couldn’t help but think ” what a blessing it has been to be a part of this sweet family as their photographer and friend. ” Today, I watched these little twins literally run circles around everyone and laughed so hard it brought tears to my eyes – after all I remember when we wondered if they’d every run at all. Totally a priceless experience for me.
STOP TOUCHING ME!
In the midst of all the mosquito slapping, sweat wiping, tears, chaos and chasing, the true story of this family was right there in front of my very eyes. There was so much love there. Life is not perfect. Life is not always. It does not always present itself in a neat little package all tied up perfectly with a bow around it. Nope. Sometimes you get life in “living color full of action”.
THE BIG REVEAL
I haven’t had a chance to look at the images yet but I already know that if we can’t find one perfect Image in the batch that’s okay because they are all perfect because they are “real”. The reflection do real life filled with real love!
Take a minute, 30 seconds, okay even 10 seconds to look at the blessings in your life. They are there. Disguised as challenges but filled with love!
I read an interesting blog post by a fellow photographer (unfortunately, I can’t remember who it was) and I could not have agreed more. It expressed my sentiment so well that I wanted to share it with you.
Choose the Right Investment
A lot of times, you hear the word investment used loosely. You have time investments, emotional investments, and of course – financial investments. Now everyone agrees that stocks and bonds are an investment, but is photography really an investment? I might be a little biased, but I think it is a wonderful investment.
Let’s say you had an extra $1000 sitting around the house and couldn’t decide how to spend it…I know, a good problem to have! Obviously, there are tons of options for you to choose from, but I’d like to just narrow it down to three.
Fun with $1000
The first option would be something Dad would love – a 50” plasma TV for the den. Weekend football just got a whole lot better! Depending on how much television you watch, you could get a lot of enjoyment out of this over the next several years.
Another option would be something Mom might vote for – a new sofa for the den. You could pick out something very traditional or maybe a really cool, trendy piece that will change the look of your den.
The third option would be a portrait of your family or your kids. Lets say they are 16 and 18. You decide on a nice canvas portrait to hang over your fireplace – something that goes beyond what they look like and shows their personalities.
Ok- you’ve made your choice and all three are working out splendidly. Every day you walk through the den and admire your darling children on the wall. In the evening you relax on your new comfy sofa and watch some television on the big screen. Life is good!
Fast forward 15 years – a reasonable time for any investment. The sofa isn’t doing so well. It is showing the signs of age with a few stains and small tears. You will likely drag it out to the next garage sale and pray someone gives you $25 for it. By the end of the day you’ll be hoping someone just takes it for free – just to get it out of the garage.
Unfortunately, the TV isn’t faring much better. In fact, it is highly unlikely you still have it. You have probably already replaced the television you bought to replace the original 50” unit. If you DO still have it, you would probably be hard presses to get $25 for it at a garage sale.
The portrait however, is a whole different story. Your kids are now 30 and 33 – they have moved away and started their own families. Instead of seeing them every night at the dinner table, you now see them everyday hanging over the fireplace. If someone showed up at your home and offered you $25 for that portrait, you would laugh. Heck, someone could offer you that original $1000 back for the portrait and you would never take it. Why? Because you can always buy new sofas and televisions. Once your kids are grown, however, you can’t buy portraits of their childhood.
There just aren’t too many things you can buy today that will be guaranteed to be worth more to you in 15 years than they are today. A beautiful portrait of your family will never go out of style. In my mind, that makes it a wonderful investment.
What do you think? Have you had similar experiences? Leave a comment and let me know!
Every year on the fourth of July I think about sharing this story and I never have before. This is the year. Its a happy story and a sad story at the same time. It is, either way, a very important story for this time of year as we celebrate.
The picture in this post is of a young man named Ken. This was his high school graduation picture. It was taken in 1974. Ken’s birthday was on July 4, 1956. His mother used to call him her little firecracker. Cute huh? He was an only child. He was one of the sweetest young men I had ever met and he was very loyal to his friends and family.
You see, Ken was my first fiancé. Now wait before you stop reading – its important to know that detail.
Ken went into the Navy immediately out of high school. He was from Oklahoma and stationed in Virginia. He was extremely smart and talented too. He was going to be an accountant who also was a fabulous guitarist. What a combination that was.
I was totally and completely in love with him. Our future looked very bright together. He had proposed to me in June of 1974 while the song “Time in a Bottle” played on the radio. Oh yes, I think of him every time I hear that song. I had no idea then how poignant those lyrics would be to me for the rest of my life.
On June 17,1974, Ken went back to Oklahoma to break the news to his parents that he had found the girl of his dreams and that we were to be married the following year. They had never met me and I can just imagine what they must have thought. In fact, later I would find out that his mother told him “don’t you bring that girl home with a baby for us to raise”. Having a son of my own today, I think I understand that statement more now then I did then. Funny how time changes our perspective about some things.
Ken came back to Virginia on July 4 – his birthday. I was so excited. I had missed him very much and couldn’t wait to hear about his travel back home. I met him outside the gate at the Navy shipyard where he was stationed at about 3:00
in the afternoon. He had a friend with him that he had promised a ride home to so I followed him in my car.
Ken had a bright orange Volkswagen beetle bug. It was always unpredictable and broke down often. But it was cute – just like him True to form, it broke down just a block or so outside of the gates. I was about 20 yards behind him. Ken and his friend were looking under the hood in the back of the car where the engine was, trying to figure out what was wrong this time. When all of a sudden, out of nowhere a car came flying by and hit Kens car.
The impact pinned Ken between the bumper of the two cars and spun his friend out of the way as the Volkswagen swerved around. As I watched the entire thing in horror. My fiancé was catapulted into the air some 50 yards and when he landed on the ground, on his head and shoulders. The speeding car continued to race away. It never stopped.
I ran to his side, quite in shock after what I had just seen. Ken was unconscious and his face was completely covered in blood. His legs had been crushed and it was obvious through his pants they were in really bad shape. I was crying and holding him in my arms and talking to him over and over again. “Hang on baby”, I said “just hang on. Help is on the way. Please don’t leave me. Please be strong.” Over and over I repeated those words to him. This was life changing – and I had no idea just how life changing it was going to be.
A city bus driver that witnessed the whole thing actually chased down the hit and run driver and ran him off the road while calling it into his dispatch. Dispatch called the police. It seemed like it took FOREVER for the police and ambulance to arrive. I’m sure it was only 10 or 15 minutes but I tell you it seemed like an eternity.
Once they arrived and accessed the damage and checked Ken’s vital signs – they motioned for me to come sit with him. I think they knew, even then that this was not going to have very happy ending. I however, being the eternal optimist that I am, was certain that the doctors would be able to save Ken. I had to be strong for both of us.
Ken was taken to the Norfolk Naval Hospital where they immediaqtely took him into surgery to set both his fractured legs in casts that went up to his pelvis. He was in a coma and they had no idea how long he would stay that way.
Many things happened to him and to me in the following 3 months while he was in the hospital. I witnessed many miracles while he was there. I had the chance to touch many lives of many sailors who were on the ward that Ken was on. He was in the back where the critically injured were so I walked past many others every day to get to him. At any given time there was 25 or so young people on that ward recovering from many kinds of injuries. One young man had been in a motorcycle accident and had a broken back. Another young man who had his legs shot off at the knees while attending the guns on the USS Kennedy during a drill. Stories you simply wouldn’t believe. There was even a young lady who had been hit by a car while riding her bicycle – she was in a coma too. I witnessed he simply “wake up” out of her coma one day. It was miraculous. It gave me hope and ever single day as I visited Ken I would stop by and talk to each and every patient on that ward trying to share some of that hope with them. I tried to encourage them not give up. Most of them were very far from home and had no family here.
I heard every persons story. I cried with each and every one of them at one time or another. And I saw most of them leave that ward in much better shape than they had arrived.
But not my Ken. No – not my Ken. I came in one day and he was gone. Gone! Not in his bed. No signs of him
ever having ever been there. I fell to the floor crying. One of the interns came to comfort me and tell me – he had not passed away. No he had been flown back to Oklahoma where his parents were. As I write these words, I still remember how completely empty and lost I felt at that very moment.
You see, I was not family – not yet. We were only engaged. I had no legal right to even be informed about his transfer. So this is how I found out. By finding an empty bed. Ken was still in a coma and I was unable to go to Oklahoma to be with him. His mother kept in touch with me daily for a long time. Then once a month. Then once every couple of
months. I think everyone else knew Ken would never really recover from this and that I needed to move one. That was their idea – NOT MINE!
Well, time passed. Many years passed in fact. I was eventually able begin to live again because I know he would have wanted me to do that. I later met a wonderful man. I told him my story about Ken. I also told him that I still loved Ken and always would. He understood and in 1977 he married me anyway.
Christmas of 1979 I received a Christmas card from Kens mother. I hadn’t heard from her in a very long time. remember hoping with all my heart that Ken had finally come out of his coma and had made a full recovery. I quietly went into the bathroom, closed the door, took a deep breath and opened the envelope.
Inside were 6 words. It read “Kenny is no longer in pain.” I sobbed for hours. My heart ached. I felt every ounce of
life flow out of me through every tear. And then as if a warm blanket was placed over me, I felt a sense of calm and quite. I knew that Ken had reached down and calmed my anguish. I suddenly knew – Ken truly was no longer in pain. He was in a better place and he still loved me.
What is the point of this sad story? How could it possible have anything to do with the 4th of July other than it being Ken’s birthday? A lot actually.
The man driving the car that hit Ken was drunk. So drunk in fact that he didn’t even remember hitting Ken. He had started celebrating Independence Day early. He drank and then he got behind the wheel of his car – thinking he was in complete control of course.
This mans celebration and irresponsibility changed the lives of many people that day – including his. What happened to him is another story entirely and I won’t cloud the importance of Kens story by sharing that now.
If I could share just an ounce of the pain I still feel to this day from my loss with you – no one would EVER get behind the wheel of a car after having even one simple drink. In the absolute blink of an eye – your story can go down in history and trust me, it is not a story anyone should ever want to be remembered for.
When someone wishes you a safe and happy 4th of July – I hope for just a moment, this story will resonate in you very soul and you will either stay overnight with a friend, call a cab or give your keys to a friend to take you home.
Please, please don’t make this a story that anyone else has to live through because you think you have a drink under control. I’d love to say, please don’t drink but that’s not realistic is it? I will instead ask that you PLEASE not drink (even ONE alcoholic drink) and attempt to drive. It is NOT worth the risk.
Trust me – I know.
What’s the happy part of this story? It would be Kens birthday – my little firecracker – Celebrate with me and be safe.
Kenny, I still love you.
In honor of my daddy - Gary Markham
The most interesting thing happened to me on Friday. I still get chills when I think about it so I decided I should share this one.
It’s Fathers day today and I know many of you have lost your dad’s. So have I. My dad passed away too soon. He was only 70 years old and I hadn’t really had enough time to spend with him. It’s important for you to know this little background before you read the story.
My parents were divorced when I was 18 months old. My mother moved out of state with me for many years to put distance between me and my father. When we returned to Virginia, she made every effort to continue to keep me out of my father’s life. I did not really get to know my dad until I was in my twenties. It was my choice then to reach out an find out just who he was and to get his side of the story. I had a thousand questions for him.
Now why he never tried to get in touch with me in another story all together but that’s not what this story is about. This story is about what amazing things can happen with the powerful love between a father and his daughter.
This is a miracle story to me – in more ways than one. See if you don’t agree once you read it.
A friend of my father’s, called me Friday and said “Cathy, I ran across a letter you wrote your dad for fathers day, years
ago, that he kept and I thought you might like to have it.” It was dropped off at my studio that afternoon and even though I didn’t sit down and read it until later that night I can tell you it had a profound effect on me.
As I unfolded the faded and yellowed sheets of paper, it became obvious to me that my father had taken great care to preserve the letter that I had written to him back in 1979. You could see it had been typed on a dot matrix printer (some of you will know what that is). I could see the tear stains on the paper but I honestly can’t tell you if they were mine or his. It didn’t really matter. I knew in my heart that my words had touched his heart very deeply – otherwise he would not have saved the letter over all these years.
Even though I’d love to share every word with you (not sure you’d want to read it all) I’ve decided to share just a small part of what was in the letter…
When I was a little girl living with Mama away from you – I remember when friends would ask me about my father. I remember taking a very deep breath and very proudly telling them about you. It usually went something like this:
My daddy is a very strong and kind and gentle man. He is proud and smart and has a strong sense of family. My daddy, well, you know, he’d move a mountain if it needed to be moved. And he can make the sun shine just by saying it’s so. My daddy doesn’t live in our house. No, he lives in my heart. And whenever I need him I know he cares because I feel it – here in my heart”…
I bet I said those words a thousand times in my youth. I grew up in a time when divorced parents was an oddity not the norm as it seems to be today.
I went on to say “It took me nearly 20 years before I had an opportunity to spend any time with you.
And I am so grateful for the time we have together. My love for you is difficult to express. Even this letter
is hard for me to write. These feelings are very deep within and like most things with deep roots – they are hard to surface but are steadfast and strong. These feelings have weathered many storms, many battles, many doubts. In my lifetime, I have fought many things and many people who have tried to keep you out of my life and I have always prevailed because we have a bond. The bond that only a father and a daughter can know”
The letter goes on from there but just remember, I did not really know my father. I had spent little or no time with him. This was the man I had imagined in my head and in my heart. This was how I dealt with the profound loss I felt by not having him in my life. And it comforted me many times over the years to simply think about what kind of man, I just knew in my heart that he was.
I have recently been dealing with some difficult things and I have been missing my father even more than usual because I knew he would always reach out and help me be strong. He had a way of believing in me that made me rise to the occasion. He truly was my bridge between failure to success many times and I needed him now.
Then what happens?
This letter reappears in my life. As if my dad had a hand in making sure I knew he was with me – even now. It was a voice from the afterlife. A strong and loving voice – encouraging me to continue.
I can hear my fathers voice just as clear as if he were standing before me saying “Cathy, everything’s going to be okay. Remember, we are Markham’s, we are strong and we don’t give up. You can do this babe – you can get through this!”
People ask me all the time what my license plate means (It basically says “I expect it”). I always say it means I expect all things are possible. After receiving this letter (a voice from the past to today) I believe it even more.
Do I believe in miracle’s y’all? Yes in deed I do – they happen every day but often when you least expect them.
Please share this with family and friends.
You never know who it might touch.
You never know who might need to know that our angels are among us and they love us still.
Fathers Day salute
Allowing Dad to Help with Baby
Letting your partner find his own way is part of the parenting process.
I know I was really guilty of thinking I was the only one who knew what to do for our son – even daddy couldn’t possible know what I knew right? Wrong! It was a big mistake and I hope to help you not make the same mistakes I did.
When I finally broke down and let daddy help it was a relief to me and our son. I was exhausted and I needed help. The real blessing was that daddy WANTED to help. I had no idea how glad I would be until I finally let him into our world. We were all better for it. Today, some of my fondest memories of my husband and our son together. I still remember seeing them sleeping together on the sofa (since they both were tuckered out) and I still laugh right out loud when I think of two diaper changes. One my husband was sprinkled with the fountain of youth as the diaper came off and the cold air hit our baby boy and the other was the first time my husband had to change a really soiled diaper – oh that memory really makes me laugh.
Maybe you need a quality nap or you’re dying for a hot bath, or you just want to see a flick with a friend — sans baby. Who better to watch your critter for an hour — or the duration of an afternoon matinee — than the guy sleeping right next to you: Daddy! Even if he hasn’t had much experience in baby care (without you looking over his shoulder, at least), now’s the perfect time to help him get up to speed.
The first step toward getting Dad on duty? Ask him. It’s okay to acknowledge you need help or just a couple of hours to yourself. He may actually relish the chance to do things his own way (at least when it comes to changing a diaper).
The next step: Back off, Mama, and let Papa have some fun. Let him give the baby a bath or handle a few feedings (or if you’re nursing, ask him to put the baby to sleep). Welcome all questions but try to zip it on the backseat driving. Daddy may seem to have ten thumbs when it comes to wrestling junior into a onesie, but that’s just because he hasn’t had nearly as much practice as you. If you’re hypercritical or bossy, he might just decide to throw in the towel (and the diapers, bottles, and washcloths) and that’s not good for anyone involved, including the baby.
Hey, if your husband really wants to triple bag every poopy diaper, let him. In the past, the two of you have managed to mesh your differences (you’ve got that cute baby to show for it), and parenthood is no exception. Remind him (and yourself) that you’re new at this too — you learned by doing and so can he. Plus, change is good — a different style of playing (perhaps more physical or high-energy than your usual way) will stimulate your baby in new ways.
Keep in mind that your spouse is your partner, not your helper, and should be as fully involved in childrearing as possible (even if he’s the type to need a little shove to get going). You wouldn’t think of leaving him out of the big decisions and events that’ll shape your baby’s future, so why exclude him from the everyday stuff that also makes up your life as a family?