Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sneak Preview: Jennifer and Ken

This past weekend I photographed an awesome summer camp theme wedding for Jen and Ken in New Hampshire! They got married at a YMCA camp where Jenny was a camper and eventually an arts and crafts instructor. A lot of the guests- me included!- stayed in cabins, had campfires every night and pulled together the Ultimate Do-It- Yourself wedding. All the details you see here from the cake to the hanging lanterns to the bouquet were pulled together by the bride, her friends and family.

Speaking of canoes, check out the ice canoe at cocktail hour! Love it!

Congratulations, you guys! Thanks for all the s'mores! :)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

School Lunch: Creative Writing Prompt

This post is inspired by Gwen's latest entry. Someone in her old writing group posed a creative writing prompt: "Tell me about a school lunch you had once. ... Don't forget the details. Write for fifteen minutes."

I'm feeling inspired by Gwen's really awesome entry, which offers up this line: "Did some fairy-godmother lunch lady decide that a bunch of eight-year-olds needed freshly grated mozzarella?"

So here's my offering.


I got lucky my first day of kindergarten. The very first person I met became my best friend for the next eight years. She always saved a seat for me at lunch, and vice versa.

Even in the earliest grades when you were just directed to have a seat and eat ("No saving seats! Packers sit with packers, regulars line up first, then alternates!"), we planned the night before what we were going to do. Wendy and I were always together. We coordinated our regular, alternate or packer status. I was covered. Except on Brunch Lunch days. I hated Brunch Lunch. Always made me sick.

The giggly BFF-ness spilled from the pull-out-from-the-wall-like-Murphy-bed cafeteria tables to the girls restroom where the "let's wear denim skirts and pink shirts tomorrow!" girl council summits continued. We declared war on rival cliques between flushes, swapping pre-broken Best Friend necklaces from Claire's Boutique over sinks slick with slimy pink hand soap but under wet brown paper towels turning on clickety spindles. We spritzed away the the smell of tater tots and sloppy Joes with apple-scented Salon Selectives hairspray- THE BEST haircare product to crunchify one's poofy bangs, doncha know- then headed out to the playground to broker the ensuing peace treaties.

Wendy's parents announced they were divorcing pretty much in the first month of seventh grade, and well... everything changed. When we finally reconnected via Facebook and got together on Memorial Day of this year, we spent nine hours catching up on the seventeen years that had passed since our friendship ended. A solid half hour was spent discussing what it was like when in those first few months without our friendship to fall back on: her move out of East Pete, the introduction of the guy who would marry her mom. (She still refers to him as R!ck the Dick; I almost snorted Diet Snapple out of my nose in May. Can't believe she still calls him that).

But that fall, missing her was like missing half of myself. When you are 12, there is nothing quite so validating as someone who dresses like you right down to the poodle skirt for trick-or-treating, gets identical glasses and spiral perms, and takes dance classes, and joins the soccer team, and suffers through violin lessons and drama club try-outs with you. After the divorce, her three-times-daily phone calls every-day-since-1985 dwindled to none.

But I was never lonelier than I was at lunch time.

I sat in the same seat every day because the Popular Girls were just one table over. I never quite broke through the glass ceiling to the Elite Level of Popularity where half the student body worships you so much that they secretly wish you'd die in your sleep, but oh, I had dreams and aspirations. "Hey you! Nearby girl! Come sit with us and play field hockey!"

It never happened, so every day I sat next to Br@d Ford and Brend@n O'Donnell and Todd H@y. This was YEARS before they would respectively become the power-drunk drum major in too-tight sweatpants, the long-haired hemp 'n puka shell necklace-wearing star of the Malaprop Players, and the moody adorable curly-haired guitar guy with a marked indifference to personal hygiene that they would each become in the latter years of high school. I was a girl. I was scary to them, and we never spoke.

I did okay in 8th grade actually, having been swapped to a new academic team with Smarter Smart Kids who cared about Word Wealth and wrote deep, meaningful poetry about anorexia. We were all together except for two periods a day: math and lunch. I slogged through Level Two Math while they ate. They solved for x in Algebra I, while I- having officially abandoned Operation: Popular Clique Quest '91- wrote notes to my New Special High School Friends and ate completely and totally alone.

Until one day, when one of the many Jennys realized this. "Eat lunch with us!" she said, but oh no, Lick Nongobardi's once and future on-again off-again crush girl who hated me since I danced with him at Homecoming was a part of that crew. The Drama! The Angst! The Mutual Eye-Rolling!

"Come on, " Jenny #2 said, picking up my tray. "She'll get over it. No one should have to eat alone." And then I didn't anymore.


You know you want to share a lunch story. Do it. Do it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Okay this is just HILARIOUS.

I feel like we need a little levity after that last post, don't you? Gwen sent me this link to awesomely bad engagement photos. Hee! I haven't laughed that hard since I saw this a few months ago.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Finding my peace

My grandmother died. Not Nanny, my mother's mother. She suffered from Alzheimer's-related dementia, and she was so, so sick. We weren't close, even before the disease robbed her of her own sense of self.

I always struggled, ever since I was a very little girl, to strike just the right note in our relationship. If I laughed and played, I was too loud. (To be fair, I am frequently too loud for a lot of people.) If I wanted to spend time in my mom's childhood bedroom, reading her old "Vicky Gets Her Wings" books under the small plastic reading lamp adorned with velvet stick'um flowers, I was making a mess. If I was caught trying on my mom's old prom gowns and maybe the cheap rhinestone tiara she got as first runner up in the firemen's carnival beauty pageant, I was "tearing things out." The swingset was too rickety, I was told. But when Amanda and I found an old rope in the garage and made a tree swing, she insisted it be cut down because it looked like a noose.

I eventually resigned myself to quietly reading a Baby-Sitters Club book during our visits, sitting on the davenport in living room, where the TV was always tuned to Jim and Tammy Faye Baker's religious program/televised tax scam. That, or golf, for my uncle. We weren't supposed to change the channels. Reading quietly was also not acceptable, and I was accused of "having a stutz on," which is a Pennsylvania Dutch colloquialism for pouting.

Suffice it to say, visits were... hard. My grandmother never learned to drive due to a combination of a 1950s housewife sense of propriety and perhaps an untreated anxiety disorder. My grandfather would drive her to see us, but they never stayed overnight. She had to get home to her cats, and then her rabbits, and then her parakeets. She never raised rabbits, but she loved the wild rabbits in her backyard so much she couldn't be parted from their company long enough to stay overnight at her adult daughter's home. She named them Scooter and Tiny and swore she could tell them apart. Don't even get me started on the parakeets.

She loved animals though; oh, how she loved them. My mom probably had 20 different cats growing up, her favorite a gray tabby named, um, Tabby. My grandmother allowed one of her cats to give birth in her bed. My grandmother's bed, I mean. She allowed her cat to have a litter of kittens in her own queen-sized bed, is what I'm saying.

My first photo internship was at my grandmother's hometown newspaper. She enjoyed seeing my pictures every day, and saved every copy. She and her lady friends would get together to look through that day's edition, racing to see who could find my photos first. Her next door neighbor Ev got a head start, as she was mostly blind. One day I was shooting in her town, and I had to pee so badly, I wasn't going to make it. I ran in her house, giving a brief knock and making a break for the bathroom. She was caught off guard and completely delighted. That was a good day.

She also cared tirelessly for my grandfather after he "took to bed" in 1999. We had a hard time convincing her that she didn't have to entertain the respite care workers, insisting on being solicitous and serving them her amazing homemade blueberry pie. She took care of my grandfather all through the dementia and decay, with the help of my uncle and a caregiver named Jackie. I'm sure it broke Jackie's heart when the dementia came for my grandmother, too, and she no longer recognized her.

The last time I saw my grandmother was at my wedding, where she was delighted on four separate occasions to realize that- surprise! I was the bride! It made her so happy, each and every time that she broke through with a moment of clarity. Then, at the end of the night, she said, "You haven't said hello to me once." I tried to remind her that I had. I had pinned on her corsage and given her that long-stemmed rose right there during the ceremony, but she didn't remember. It was the disease letting her down, though, not me. For once.

After she died, my mom was going through my grandmother's papers, and she found all the greeting cards I'd sent. It was more than anyone else. I don't know what's saddest: that my grandmother kept them all, that my mom was shocked- pleasantly surprised, but surprised nonetheless- by the evidence of how much effort I put into staying in touch, or that in all those years, all my letters and greeting cards and postcards went unanswered.

I was unable to attend the funeral. I mostly wanted to be there for my mom. My dad and my sister had her covered. I thought I would be okay not going, not saying a formal goodbye. I had unbreakable contractual obligations to clients. And yet, I was bothered in the days after the funeral. In a fog, distracted, sad, frazzled by the house and our impending move, worrying about a friend in another battle with a different diagnosis, and the onslaught of wedding editing and deadlines. I was making mistakes- big ones- and I wasn't okay. It all came to a head last Wednesday, and one of my mentors gave me good advice: Find your peace.

So I asked for a sign.

The next day Joel called. He had found a tiny kitten on the property of our new house. It had been abandoned by its mama cat, who was probably spooked by the landscapers ripping down poison ivy and removing a dead tree. The mama cat probably moved as many babies as it could, and left this little guy and his sibling behind. The sibling had already passed. "This cat is DYING," Joel shouted into the phone. "What should I do?!?" I gave him directions to the nearest vet, and he put the kitten in a bucket, the only way he could transport him (sort of) safely since he was riding his scooter.

In the end, we couldn't keep the kitten. It's just too hard right now with the move and the weddings and travel and everything else. We can't hand-feed a two week old kitten and expect Bella, Fred and Ollie to adjust to a FOURTH animal without peeing all over the new house. We decided to sign him over to the custody of the vet, who promised to nurse him back to health and get him adopted.

"You have to name him," the vet said. Joel thought about their perilous trip with the bucket and named the kitten, a tiny gray tabby, "Scooter." Joel didn't know about the wild rabbit my grandmother cherished and named. He buried the other kitten in our yard today, but for the second time in eight days, I couldn't watch.

My grandmother was stubborn. She worked hard. She loved animals, and she made damn good pie. In a lot of ways, she was just like me. If there is such a thing as Heaven, and if this little gray tabby named Scooter was my sign, then I know that the other little cat, the one we couldn't save, is in excellent hands.