Embrace

This will be the subject of a future photography project, once Torso is complete, but I wanted to get my thoughts down.

I have always loved photography. It fascinated me even as a child looking through little snippets of life in family albums. I would invent dialogues in my head to accompany them, even when I knew the reality was quite different.

But something changed in me around junior high. I shut down and became afraid to want. I was convinced that it would do no good, as I would never get what it was that I wanted anyway, so why want at all. It was no mere coincidence that it was also around this time when I became very angry.

My anger was directed at my father and anything connected with him. I would become infuriated when my family said I looked like him or that I had this trait or that trait of his. To me this was an insult for to me, at that time, my father was a violent monster who was the last person I wanted to be like.

My father loved photography so I abandoned it; that way I wouldn’t be like him. I abandoned my writing (except for journaling) as well, because it was something that I wanted to be good at (although I didn’t know it then) and I didn’t want to be disappointed yet again when it was taken from me.

My grandmother would tell me that I was too smart to write and I should look into doing something practical for work. She never said a career; it was always “work” or a “job”.

I suppressed these potential passions until both my grandmother and my father died six months apart during my senior year of college. This began my journey of understanding and forgiveness. It also was one of discovering who I am. That lady I am still learning about and probably will be until my death.

It took me a long time to come to terms with my violent past, to understand that my father wasn’t just a monster but a victim as well. He was broken long before I came to be and my presence was not and could not be the cure for his post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Through this journey my mental and emotional awakening was followed by a physical one — cancer. For most people cancer leads to fear and worry. For me it was a release. It allowed me to give myself permission to “want” to not only find my passions, but to pursue them.

Cancer taught me how to let go -

Cancer taught me how to forgive -

Cancer taught me how to embrace life.

I want to explore the meaning of “embrace” in a project that takes the audience through a mother’s first embrace of her child to our final embrace of the inevitable.

I’m not sure how it will take shape yet but I anticipate finishing Torso
By the end of summer and begin fleshing out “Embrace” in the fall.

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I am a survivor ? …maybe

As many of you know, I live in Boston. So much has been made of the anniversary of the marathon bombings in the last few days that it has me thinking….

What it truly means to be a survivor. Of course we know that those who were actually at the finish line are survivors. They were at ground zero and will carry in their hearts and minds the images of that day.

Then you have all of those runners still on the course who were stopped as the confusion set in. They were not running for prizes, but for personal triumphs and now a once safe event has been forever marred. Will they take to the course this year with a little trepidation?

The days after the bombings and the shoot out in Watertown, saw survivors too. My mind goes to the poor carjack victim who ran for his life at the first opportunity. He wakes up each day, but does he go to his car? Does he drive the same route to and from work? The police and EMT workers who came to both events, did they realize what was happening. What about the strangers who could do no more at the finish line so they walked to the nearest hospital to give blood. Are they survivors?

Many a warm spring day since I have spent on Newbury and Boylston streets. I’ve eaten in the restaurants that were damaged, sat on the stairs of the Boston Public Library and wondered why violence has to be. Why innocent people have to pay for someone else’s hatred.

We will forgive, we will come back, the marathon next week will be well attended and restaurants like the Forum will be full. But, we will be slightly on our guard, now. Slightly more aware of those around us. Slightly more careful, because as a town, a community, a city we have all survived the senseless violence of that day.

Nothing has shaken our resolve, we won’t sit cowering in our houses saying “what if”, but we have lost that innocence. That “it can’t happen here” mentality. It is that common thread that weaves us together that makes us feel a kinship to those still struggling to recover one year later. It is that thread that makes us all survivors…just a little bit.

It is my choice…

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I have many people who post platitudes on the laws of attraction on my social networking sites. Most are either thought provoking or innocuous. While I believe that the law of attraction and the secret are tools we can use to achieve goals, dreams and happiness. It is only one tool in our tool box. Another one in mine is a good sense of humor.

So when someone posted a Joel Osteen platitude “you can’t think positive if you surround yourself with negative thinkers,” I made a joke.

“So how do you get rid of your family?” This got the intended laugh from the original poster, but then someone else chimed in.

This poster wanted to complain about my little joke saying they didn’t understand why people keep family that they hate in their life and I was to get rid of them.

I thought that this was assuming a lot. Just because there are negative people in my family– Hell they make an art out of their negativity, doesn’t mean that I hate them.

Quite the contrary I love my family. They are my blood. That doesn’t mean that I don’t understand them or acknowledge their short comings and faults.

I also know and understand that we don’t change anyone, only how we react to them. So I am not trying to change my negative family. I live my life and if they can’t understand me that’s ok too.

My family is largely negative, true. They grew up in times where war and abuse were much more common and tolerated than today. They are reactive, fearing abandonment by those closest and being left alone and vulnerable for their remaining years. Yet they love. They want what’s best for us, even if they can’t see past their own fears. Does this mean I should throw them away? Why? What purpose would it serve? Do any of us really think that by chucking our families out we will never run into this negativity again? Talk about delusional.

So why this blog? Well this little interaction got me thinking. First I should tell you I’m not a big preacher follower, I don’t see them as the “Shepards” to my “flock”. I don’t believe my soul needs saving and I certainly can’t follow anyone who tells me to give up 2/3 of my worldly good while driving an escalade.

That doesn’t mean that they occasionally get me thinking. I have a vague recollection of Joel Osteen, but I don’t follow him and probably wouldn’t know him if I walked into him.

But, it his quote (or the one attributed to him) that I want to talk about.

Surrounding yourself with only positive thinkers is next to impossible. That would be like living in modern US and only ever interacting with a single ethnicity. We all interact with a variety of people everyday. Even the Amish deal with “outsiders”.

Additionally, the human condition focuses on the negatives. Look at our news. Look at how we learn, by mistakes. Last night what brought the community out of their homes and interacting in the streets? A block party? No. It was a massive fire.

Do we do things in advance because it’s the right thing to do? No. We usually learn through tragedy. Everything from the insufficient communications and life boats on the Titanic to the latest terrorist bombings and shootings (whether foreign or domestic) we learn when we become outraged over a catalytic event and that pushes us to action.

So I understand that negativity is preprogrammed in our make up. So, that would make thinking positive a matter of choice. Every time we are faced with some form of negativity, every time we hear “you can’t” or “I can’t”, we are being issued a challenge. Now sometimes these are done with the best of intentions: to keep us out of harms way for example.

But, we should always question why? Assess if the answers are valid and then determine if there is a better way of doing something. For example:

If someone says you can’t eat cheese. “Why?”

“Well you are lactose in tolerant.”

“Oh so I can have cheese if I take lactate or lactose free cheese?”

“Well yes but it’s fattening?”

“So, if I eat it in moderation and maintain a healthy BMI, then I can have cheese?”

“Well yes but it’s gross?”

“I think it’s gross?”

“No, the way they make it is gross?”

“Worse than yogurt?”

“Ah, no.”

“Yogurt is good for us.”

“Yes”

“Worse than cottage cheese?”

“No.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I think I will have a piece of cheese.”

“Do what you want, but ‘I’ wouldn’t eat that!”

“Ok waiter don’t put cheese on their fries.”

A silly example yes, but it highlights that it is our choice to have and do something we love. It is our choice to find positive solutions to challenges issued, and it’s our choice to pursue our passions despite those who would try to stop us.

They may react negatively to your choice out of fear, hatred, or a need to control things around them, yet that is their choice, not necessarily yours.

I had a friend ask me why I would go to a giant pillow fight. He thought it was strange and reacted very negatively to the idea. I simply asked him when he lost his child like sense of fun.

As kids we all participated in a pillow fight, we laughed and vented and had a good time. No one was malicious or intent on hurting each other. I never met someone who was hurt by a friendly pillow fight.

Yet it is the view if many that when you get beyond age 10 you must let go of these activities. Oddly enough it is these same folks that lament about their bodies getting old but the still feel young inside. Really? Even the elderly can participate in a gentle pillow fight? They choose to let themselves get old.

I liked the Golden Girls tv show because even though they were caricatures of average people, they showed that you are never too old to be silly, negative and positive folks can live and love together and in the end life is a choice.

So what is your choice?

Albertina

Today, I was told of the passing of a dear woman. She was a friend, mother, sister and wife.
Fiercely independent and strong-willed she brooked no refusal to her plans.

I was fortunate to know her in her later years but before dementia had taken it’s toll on her faculties. That cruel disease did something not even polio could do to this stalwart woman; it made her vulnerable to those who wished to prey on her for what they could get. Yet, I do not want to discuss them now. I believe karma will pay them back ten-fold. Eventually alone and vulnerable themselves they will have to answer for their actions.

I would rather take this moment to remember the feisty lady I first met over 15 years ago. Her quick wit, fascinating stories and independent spirit.

She loved her family deeply and fiercely. And they loved her. I remember long talks and her eyes lighting up as she talked about her grandchildren, or sitting in her house as she pointed out the various photographs on the wall telling me their stories. She had such great plans for her grandchildren, some came to fruition and some will sadly remain unfinished. How she and ‘becca would love going to hospital cafeterias, how she glowed at seeing her first great, granddaughter and great grandson.

Her love of Dunkin’ Donuts, cinnamon cake and all things family. I spent many a lunch time with her, her daughter and granddaughters over the years.
And I can never hear the phrase “word for word” without thinking of her and her spunky “can do” attitude. I see it in her daughters Candace and April, in her son Frankie and in their children. Cori and Rebecca for whom I had the privilege of tutoring embodied her view point of letting nothing get in their way. Cori is now a successful business owner, married with two children. Rebecca’s a Harvard graduate with great potential.

Robbie and Sal have grown into fine young men and while I didn’t see Frankie’s boys as much, they have done their grandmother proud.

When I look back at her life, I see a woman who devoured life. Whose passion surpassed any infirmity or challenge. She was gifted with great love.

May she always be remembered this way…

Albertina

letting down my guard and writing what i want to write

Originally posted on Writing for Myself:

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One of the problems I have with blogging is that I can be indecisive about what my purpose is. Why do I have a blog? Is it worth the time I put into it? I try to be selective about how I spend my time. The older I get the less I have of it left and I want to make wise choices. There aren’t a lot of “have-to’s” in my vocabulary- I’m aware of the difference between what I must do and what I want to do.

I’m sure I’m not the only one that struggles with this aspect of blogging. In the time that I’ve been doing it consistently and making the effort to find a blogging community, I’ve seen lots of blogs come and go. For me, the biggest issue is that I lose focus. I tire of my own voice, I wonder if there is anything…

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Ten Ways to Improve Your Photography

hissmonster:

Interesting

Originally posted on In Flow:

TEN MORE - Ten More Ways to Improve Your Craft Without Buying Ge

If you are little adamant about your photography, if you want to become a better photographer, and if you want to learn more about how to make your photographs more engaging, there is a vast resource of information you may draw upon. I am thinking about a place called Craft&Vision. It’s something the Canadian photographer David duChemin started as a «publishing house» for his eBooks about photography. Over the years it’s grown, new photographers and authors have been added to the curriculum, and today the list of eBooks is extensive and comprehensive. The best thing; the books are inexpensive and full of inspiration.

Some of them are even free. A couple of weeks ago the eBook Ten More was released for free. It’s actually an older book, a follow-up of duChemin’s very first eBook, Ten, published some years ago, but only now has it been made available for…

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Learning curve

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What has this ordeal with my sister taught me?

Well it’s brought up a lot of old wounds. I realize I can never truly walk away from the past. It’s always with me. I have come to terms with my father’s alcohol and abuse. I built a wall around me to protect myself from it. I never wanted to end up with someone like dad, yet that’s my greatest fear.

To be drawn inexplicably to his personality. The charismatic charmer on the outside that masks a raging demon within. It’s what I know. It’s what I stay away from.

Maybe that’s why Dee’s illness feels like such a sucker punch. I wasn’t expecting it.

Now I sit here and I understand me. I can’t ever be with an alcoholic. No matter what I may feel for him. To choose to live that life would destroy me.

I’m not condemning the multitudes who are seeking help and staying sober. I’m proud for them, really.

But whether you see it as a flaw in my character or a strength in my resolve, I understand my limits.

I can’t choose my family. They are my blood and I endure, but I won’t court a love with an addict. To let them into my private world and watch as it crumbles…there would be nothing left of me.

How I wish I were free…to find my own balance without the weights that bind me here. It would be nice to live in Germany for two years. To walk on the shores of Bremen, really explore my heritage. But circumstance won’t allow for it. My timing is off. I need to balance me before I take another into my soul. When I’m ready, he will appear and he will be a good man, a sober man, with a wicked sense of humor. And I will be glad at the person I am by knowing him.