Posts Tagged ‘family’

February 28, 2016
Waterfall

Waterfall

We visited our daughter today.  She lives in northern Colorado with her husband and two sons on the ranch her in-laws own.  It’s a beautiful place, and I always take my camera with me.  Most of the time I just take pictures of our grandsons, because they are just so darn cute.  Occasionally I like to wander around and take photos of the animals that call the place home.

Today I took a bunch of pictures of the grandsons, which I shared in Facebook.  As we came across the last cattle guard before the ranch buildings, I noticed a little waterfall in the creek that runs nearby.  That was my target.

If, dear reader, you are a photographer, here are the details of this shot.  ISO 100, f22, 70mm, 0.3 seconds.  I tried to do a longer exposure to get the water softer, but it was taken almost at noon and the sky was clear and sunny, causing a whiteout when I looked at the shot.  I did not have a filter with me, so I was left to my own devices, hence the tiny f stop and the 0.3 exposure.  Any longer and I got a blown out picture.

This creek is no more than a few feet wide here, and to get to this little waterfall I walked through the water.

If, dear reader, you don’t care about those things, that’s OK.  This is a beautiful little spot in the shade that just a few weeks ago was all ice.  At that time it was precarious to walk across, and it was best left alone.

When the mountain snows melt in June, this little creek turns into a raging torrent.  The place where I took this shot today will likely be under 6 feet of water at that time, whereas today it was just a couple inches deep. When I walked through the water, it never reached the laces of my boots.

I like the serenity of this moment.  Coupled with seeing our daughter and her family, this was a wonderful day.  I hope you like the waterfall.

The blue hour

February 17, 2016
Cheyenne sky

Cheyenne sky

In the world of photography, there is this thing called the Golden Hour, which is just before sunset. It’s a coveted time that produces light that turns nice pictures into great photographs.

This isn’t really the Golden Hour, because it occurred after sunset.  The sky takes on a personality of its own at times like these, and the blue and white that is our ceiling is not at all the blue and white we see during the day.

I was feeling a bit desperate tonight, not really having an opportunity to shoot anything for this blog even though I had two “professional” jobs for the Diocese.  We are in the process of putting together material for our annual appeal, and I was at a state agency where the extraordinary people of Catholic Charities were holding meetings for foster kids, foster parents and prospective foster parents. I got some great, emotion-filled shots that I couldn’t use here because, well, they really are not right for this venue.

There are heartbreaking stories regarding those kids. The associate director of Catholic Charities told me that he seeks the hardest cases, and that includes kids who have undergone torture.  These are little kids in Cheyenne, not in Syria.  Torture? Really?  Really.  Addiction is the root cause of this travesty, and it takes a terrible toll on the most vulnerable people in our world – our children.

The people at Catholic Charities deserve medals for their valorous work.

But I won’t put those pictures here. So I hunted for a shot in desperation, and turned a corner and saw this.

I have remarked in the past that this project has been wonderful at opening my eyes to things around me I would normally miss.  Like the blue sky at night. And Catholic Charities. And, sadly, little kids being tortured in my very city.

Thanks for reading.  God bless Catholic Charities of Wyoming.

February 11, 2016
Shamrock

Shamrock

As so often happens, I intend to shoot one thing and end up with something else.

I’m at home recovering from some shoulder surgery.  It was minor as far as those things go, but it hurts and I’m basically a pain wimp.  To achieve a sense of balance, I am taking some stout painkillers that make me feel a bit woozy.  I wanted to shoot a picture of some blurred motion to illustrate that wooziness, but it didn’t work like I wanted it to. Instead, I got a nice clear shot of the white flowers of this shamrock plant.

That’s OK, because it ties into this pain theme.

The plant came from my mother to Sherry as a gift 35 years ago.  It’s a good thing Sherry got it, because I probably would have caused its demise shortly after arrival.

My mother always had plants around, and this shamrock was a treasure of hers.  I’m sure she would be pleased to know that it thrives at our home.

She also had a lot of physical pain in her life.  A bout of rheumatic fever as a teenager caused lifelong problems with her heart, and she spent a great part of her life coping with and alleviating the pain.  She managed to give birth to and raise six of us, giving her a superhero award in my book.

She never complained about it to me.  She was always active, but always moved at a more measured pace than everyone.  No doubt part of that was from chasing 6 kids around, but a big part was that her heart didn’t work as well as ours did.

She eventually had repair work done on a valve, a procedure that is done pretty routinely today. Then, back in 1973, it was experimental.  There came a time it was either replace the valve, with the accompanying risks that open heart surgery entailed, or get her affairs in order.  After much deliberation and prayer, she chose the surgery.  The doctors swapped out her God-given valve for a metal one.

The surgery was a success, and that valve kept her alive – and in my life – for the next 22 years.  I often tell the story of how, sitting at a quiet breakfast table reading the morning paper, I could hear “click, click, click”, which was the opening and closing of the valve, and the sound of life.

Mom suffered with that heart problem.  She bore it with extraordinary grace, and showed us how to endure physical hardship.

I saw suffering in her.  My shoulder is painful, but it will be better soon.  It’s inconvenient, but it’s not suffering.

My pain meds make me feel like I’ve had glass of scotch, and they make everything a little out of focus.  One thing I know that is clearly in focus is that my mother was a wonderful woman, and a great example of courage.  Every time I look at this plant, I am reminded of her and her graceful suffering.

I like the in focus.  I hope you do, too.

Thoughts on Sewing

February 4, 2016
Stitched together

Stitched together

Let me clear up any possible misconception right now.  Yes, this is a sewing machine.  No, I couldn’t use it to save my life. This is Sherry’s sewing machine. She acquired this before we were married, and we have been married 33 years.  She has had it longer than she has had me.

Sherry has a sewing room where we keep our ironing board and our iron.  Each morning I go in there to iron something to wear to work, a task I have been doing for a long time.  This morning I noticed the shadows as they cast themselves across the machine.  There is a south facing window in the room, and at 7:30 a.m. the sun is shining through as it starts its arc low across the southern horizon.  Today the blinds were just right to make me take notice of the stripes across the face of this piece of equipment.

Sewing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember.  More accurately, it’s been a part of the women in my life for as long as I can remember.  My mother was a wonderful seamstress, and she spent many hours running material through her Singer.  That always seemed to be the best time to talk to her – when she was busy with her hands and I was watching the TV in the same room.  Deep stuff, like girls, school, girls, my future, and girls.  She always understood, never tried to tell me what to do, and made me believe she really listened to me, because she did.

For my senior high school picture, my mom made adenim leisure suit for me.  I can see you cringing – and laughing –  right now, but in 1975 it was cutting edge.  I don’t know where that picture is, but I can see, and feel, that suit right now.

My sister-in-law Sharon is a legendary seamstress.  She made clothes for her two girls while they were growing up, and not just simple things, either.  She taught her skills to her daughters, Carole and Jayne, who picked up the craft and make clothes for themselves, their children and grandchildren.

Sherry would sew, then not, then sew, then not, then sew throughout our married life.  Maybe ten years ago, she got an interest in quilting and went down that road.  We both know of women – I don’t know any man quilters – who have gone into the quilting thing like men go into the tool/hunting/biking thing.  They have yards and yards of fabric filling up cabinets and closets in their homes, and they churn out quilts by the dozens, or so it seems.

Sherry has made quite a few quilts, but our house isn’t littered with them.  She gives them away.  She is working on two quilts for grandchildren right now, and this sewing machine is seeing a lot of use.

Which brings me to the thoughts I had when I was ironing.  Yesterday I wrote about nails holding things together for a long time.  Quilts, while not hard and stout like nails, hold things together as well, but in a much more complex manner.

When Sherry makes a quilt, she spends hours and hours cutting out little pieces of fabric, putting them into some sense of order, ironing them and then sewing them together.  I’ve seen her stay up quite late working on her quilts, not because of a deadline to finish them, but because she just loses track of time.

Her quilts are a lot like her life and our family.  She has spent years selecting the fabric of our lives, making sure that what we have is strong and durable, and it can withstand multiple cycles of clean/dirty/clean.  She takes these disparate pieces of fabric that is us and our girls, and irons them, taking out the wrinkles that distract from the beauty of the fabric.  Then she takes her scissors and cuts off the rough edges.  She sews it all together, making this batch of fabric – us – come together as one beautiful piece of art.  That finished product is a marvel to behold.  And while there are imperfections, that’s OK, because this life quilt was built out of love.

I love seeing this sewing machine.  I love what it represents to me, that connection to the strong women in my family.  I love that it is a tool that allows Sherry to make her useful art and share it with others.  I love the fact that she has used this same sewing machine for so long, never looking to acquire a new one simply because it was new.  And I love the stripes across it, giving it a depth and texture that I’ve never witnessed before.

And all that from ironing a pair of pants.

 

Almost there

February 3, 2016
Old nails

Old nails

wrote about my basement project a few days ago.  I was optimistically thinking I might get the floor in this weekend, but I knew a significant amount of work remained to be done, such as tearing out the old floor.  Lo and behold, Sherry attacked those old floor boards with a crow bar and a sledge hammer, getting them up off the ground and into a pile for me to take out to the garbage scow trailer.

Which is what I did tonight.  Underneath the floor boards were 2x4s that were, at one time, the solid underpinnings of the boards themselves. Today as I removed them they were little more than sawdust in places, having been in place against the dirt for about 110 years.

The nails were not of this time, either.  The heads were square, as were their bodies.  They showed no signs of weakening, and a better man could have pulled them all out, straightened them out and used them again.  I am more sensible than that, however, and they remained in the boards that are now in the garbage scow trailer.

This deconstruction / reconstruction thing is a thought provoking endeavor.  Those boards were the parts upon which everything was held, the very foundation of the floor.  They were not treated, or made of cedar, or anything like that that would have helped preserve them. They were just boards laying on the dirt.  The years were not kind to them, and I am certain that water got into that room at one point and accelerated their deterioration.  Today when I picked them up off the dirt, even though they gave the appearance of being solid, they crumbled apart, offering no support whatsoever.

The only thing holding the framework of these boards together were the nails.  Nails forged perhaps by a blacksmith, or made in a factory back east manned by immigrants, were still able to complete the task they had been assigned so long ago.

We have been warned against building a house on a foundation of sand.  While our house was built on stone and sits solidly upon the earth, the floor in this room was not.  If our lives are built on the shifting sands of instant gratification that is our modern culture, they become like the wood on my floor and crumble at the first challenge to their stability.  If our lives are forged together with the iron of faith, nothing can make them come apart.

My intention is to build a strong foundation for the new floor.  I hope that, a hundred years from now, the owner of this house never has to think about replacing the floor.

Grandchildren

December 19, 2015
Chandra. Caleb, Oskar and Cassius

Chandra. Caleb, Oskar and Cassius

We spent last night and today with our daughter Chandra, her husband Caleb and their two boys, Oskar and Cassius.  They have a conflict in Christmas, and so we pushed up our celebration with them by a few days. It has been joyful being with them.

When Chandra was growing up, I never would have imagined that she would become a wife and mother.  She just never really showed any interest in it, and when she was a teenager she flat-out stated that she was not going to have children. Ever.

How wrong she was.

Oskar turned 2 just a few weeks ago.  And he is ALL 2. I have never seen such energy in a human being.  He loves to play, he loves to be around people, and he loves his mom and dad and his brother.

Cassius is 5 months old.  He is a wonderful cuddler and seems to smile all the time.

Being a grandparent is a whole different gig than being a parent.  The responsibilities are different, the way we look at children is different, and our level of patience is different.  The love that is held in our heart for our grandchildren, all 4 of them, is so enormous and so deep, yet it does not diminish the love we have for our children at all.  In fact, in the miracle that is love, it is the only thing we can give away and still have more.

Our children are wonderful mothers, and they married loving, hard-working men who love them and are outstanding fathers.  Life isn’t always a smooth road, but they roll with the ups and downs and come out stronger and wiser.  Raising kids is a most challenging job, and they and their husbands handle it with grace and love.

Both Sherry and I are very, very proud of our girls and their husbands.  We couldn’t ask for better grandchildren, either.  Thanks be to God for this great, great gift.

Cold. Really cold.

November 20, 2015

The temperature dropped tonight, and even though I was expecting it, it still came as a shock.  I call it really cold, but it was only about 15 degrees.  That’s cold for November, not so much for December or January. Even the Capitol looks like it needs a blanket.untitled shoot-1296

Between the cold and the dark, it can get a little depressing. Fortunately, I’ve got my family around me to add a whole lot of joy to what could be a bleak environment. We are having our Thanksgiving tomorrow, as our children are having Thanksgiving on Thursday with their husband’s families.  So we have lots of life in our home – 4 children 4 and under, 6 adults an Kira the Wonder Dog, all under one roof.

Chaos never felt so warm and full of light!


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