Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Sunshine

Right after we got back from Canada, Kristen and my mom and dad came for a visit. I really wanted to take Kayla and Aiden to the community pool where Joel and I are... well, not members, but rather... taxpayers eligible to pay a daily guest rate? Yeah, that describes it.

I am so proud of Aiden's swimming skills! He wasn't thrilled about putting his head under water when we were at the beach in July, and now he is practically Dolphin Boy! These two just bring out my silliness (not that I need much of an excuse), hence my "dinosaur voice" in the beginning of the video.

While I was a band geek in High school, Kristen was all about swim team. She was one of those year-round swimmers who not only swam for the East Pete Frogs but also the travel team winter program, the varsity team at our high school and competed all the way through college.

I look at Kayla wrapped in a towel (as seen at the end) and I can just hear, like a megaphone from the future: "Swimmers on deck for heat 1 of the 25-meter 8-and-under freestyle. In Lane 1, Kayla K****. In lane 2...." etc etc.

Meanwhile, Aiden is all about cameras and animals, which were my two favorite things when I was four (or you know, now, whatevs). He kept asking if Fred and Ollie were sleeping while we swam and if we could read to them after dinner. The cats were incredibly patient, but not much up for reading. Bella cooperated, though. I'm still working with Aiden on the difference between cats and dogs and how cats don't really come when called...

Anyway, Aide nwas obsessed with the possibility that we might see the duck that seems to love this community pool, and I was a little worried that the duck wouldn't be there that day and he'd be disappointed. Happily, the duck was not otherwise engaged in ducky things like eating bread or swimming around upside down in nearby ponds and makes a few cameos below.

I should also say that there's a scene where A kind of tackles his sister in the water. He did this six or seven times, much to her delight. She kept surfacing and clapping as Kristen and I kept our hands inches away in case the dunking went amiss. Finally, I got it through my head that she was loving it, so I taped it. She didn't clap this time, but you'll see Kayla is completely un-phased.

Listen to my spinning the video with a fear of drive-by commenters clutching their pearls as a four-year-old sinks his 20-month-old sister while I blithely filmed it. Dude, I am not going to obsess over potential imaginary mommyblogging trolls. These aren't even my kids! They are, however, my sunshine.

Swimming Day from Angela Gaul on Vimeo.

I'm an ichthyosaur! I'm extinct!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Vacation Video

I nearly lose my mind trying to finish working before vacation! Joel wipes out in a kayak! A semi-employed actor runs around in a cartoon caribou costume. What's not to love? Enjoy.

Oh, and the screen shot here makes me look like I'm disgusted by poutine. I'm not! I love it! YouTube now has an option where you can choose a different screen shot, but it takes six hours to take effect. So you might see my squinty face for a little longer. Never mind- that's fixed now.

If you can't see the full video or it looks likes the footage is pushed to the right, it's because blogger's display window for videos is a different aspect ratio than HD video. You can see the video here on YouTube, which is nice because then you can read my witty, witty captions.

Oh, and Mom? About three minutes in you can see how close the house is to the water when I pan up from the shot of the frog. See? It's very close. :)

Okay, now carry on!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jupiter Shines

Anyway, I keep trying, in stops and starts, to write about our vacation. I think the most significant thing was the way that I fell head over heels in love with the cabin at first site. At the risk of plagarizing Tom Hanks' character in "Sleepless in Seattle," it was like coming home, but not to a home I'd ever been to before, which is exactly what falling in love with Joel felt like.

Spending time at the summer house feels a little bit like getting to play in your childhood closet, if you can imagine spending an afternoon going back in time and seeing all the detritus of an ordinary life. Except that it's not really YOUR closet, but rather, Joel's mom and uncles' collective childhood closet.

There are souvenir penants from the 50s on the walls, a small "Army guy" with a parachute and a crumbling American flag pinned to the wall, as delicate as a dragonfly wing.

There are model airplanes from the 70s and a romance novel ("The Lady is Nurse" by Arlene Hale) published the summer my mother-in-law was 18. There's a boom box with tin foil on the antenna in the kitchen. A proprietory note scrawled by Joel's cousin-"Kathy's radio!"- sits nearby with a set of 1980s headphones like the kind Tutti wore on the Facts of Life.

The neat thing is almost everything works, right down to the ancient toaster (patent pending in 1918), partly because Joel's family is so good at fixing things. It's also partly because the cabin isn't habitable for nine months of the year, so the appliance didn't get used as much they theoretically would have were this their full-time home.

The other thing is, Joel's grandparents really loved each other. I never really understood that before, in the way that one can't when you're thinking about a relationship between two people who both died before you joined the family.

There's a Valentine's Day card and a birthday card pinned up the living room and a love poem in the bedroom. There are photos showing us all, even me, in oval frames on his grandmother's bedroom wall.

My mother-in-law added it in the past two years, clearly, since I'm in my wedding dress in the photo. Not far away is the number for the local poison control hotline, dated in the 1950s. I'm sure if I had rummaged around enough I might have found 50-year-old syrup of Ipecac or the French Canadian equivalent, in case someone gets sucked into a time warp and accidentally swallows bleach or something. ;)

On one hand, you don't want to move anything, because Joel's grandfather put that coaster there, so who am I to move it? He died in 1991.

That coaster realistically may have been there since before I was born. His antique fishing poles are still propped behind his chair, you know? On ther other hand, my mother-in-law respects hard work. She works damn hard to keep this place in good shape (evidence: the modern shower staff and updated bathroom she installed two years ago).

One of Joel's earliest memories of the summer house is his grandfather telling him that he and his little brother would have to climb up into the pipe over the woodstove and clean it with toothbrushes the summer he was 7.

He really thought he would have to, too. In his family of plucky do-yourself-ers, it's not outside the realm of possibility. My mother-in-law believes in sweat equity, so I decided to dust. I really, really didn't want to drop anything, but it also needed to be done. I was scared of breaking the bust of the saint over the fireplace, but then I saw it had already been glued back together once before, a molasses brown crack filled with aging epoxy.

Tucked behind the vase of dried flowers next to it was a tiny, broken figurine. Who knows how long that secret has been tucked back there? It was probably broken the way that things sometimes do in a cabin built for a family with four rambunctious boys and the tomboy my mother-in-law claims she was. "If only these walls could talk..." the expression goes, but since the sorority of well-intentioned daughters-in-law who screw up is a sacred bond, I'm not about to tattle just in case it was broken by a girl like me. I carefully dusted it and stuck it right back behind the vase. The once decapitated and re-glued saint statue tells no tales.

Of course, as fun as the time capsule of the inside of the cabin is, the real beauty is the lake ten steps away.

Helen Keller once said that the best things in life can't be seen or heard or even touched, but must be felt in the heart. I feel that way sometimes about things that can't be photographed. We took the rowboat out at 3 a.m. on our last night to watch the Perseides meteor shower. At night it gets so dark and the stars are so bright that you can see them reflected in the lake water. Even with a tripod and a long exposure, you wouldn't be able to photograph the pinpricks of light reflected in the ripples around the rowboat, mostly due to, well, the ripples around the rocky rowboat.

You just have to enjoy it in that moment, right then, on the lake in the middle of the night, where Jupiter shines.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Oh, Canada

Um... I sort of forgot to tell people that I'm on vacation in Quebec! Obviously, this is a much needed break given my last entry. :) Thanks for the supportive emails, comments and phone calls. :)

I shot a wedding this past weekend in Massachusetts (where I didn't have to be mean to anyone, for anything, at all, and everyone was cooperative! woot!), and then Joel and I drove the rest of the way north to his family's cabin near Mount Tremblant, which is a fancypants resort about two hours from Montreal. I didn't really know what to expect; Joel always made it sound so rustic. His grandparents built it themselves and their children all helped, according to their age and ability. My mother-in-law, then about 8 (I think?), was in charge of peeling the bark off the pine beams that form the structure of the house. It sounds so... Little House on the Prairie. And yet there's a full kitchen, bathroom, fireplace, etc. so it's really comfortable, too.

I just love it. You know all those antique knockoff snow hoes, paddles, lanterns etc that places like Pottery Barn have made in bulk in China and sell for hundreds of dollars? Yeah, the summer house has all of that, but the "antique" snowshoes are authentic. (I feel like phoebe in the apothecary table episode of Friends...) The cabin was built a few decades before the fancypants resort, so it's a happy accident that we're about 10 minutes from this lovely, European-in-an-Epcot-kind-of-way resort with a spa, casino, shopping, luge rides, Internet cafes, and Asian infusion restaurants, etc.

I just... feel like I know my husband better for having come up here. He always said he knows a little French because you really have to, up here, but there's one thing having him tell me that, and it's quite another to hear him actually speak it with the lady who runs the little pommes frites shop up the road from the cabin. He hasn't been here in six years, since his family gathered to spread his grandmother's ashes in this place she loved best, and yet we're greeted excitedly with: "C'est Joel! (two syllables, like "Noel") le garson de Lyse!" (translation: It's Joel! Lyse's son!)

Although Joel's family eventually sold his grandparents' home in Queens after his grandmother died in 2004, the cabin still hums with her maternal touch. Magnets with grandmotherly sayings hang on the fridge, photos of the grandkids adorn the walls, a sewing kit rests on the bureau, her galoshes are in the supply closet, a cigarette dispenser with the phrase, "Coffin nails! I love 'em!" stills hangs in the kitchen. You get the sense that she's just gone out for a walk around the lake. You can FEEL her, but it's not creepy. It's nice.

I never want to leave. It's good thing that Kristen is bringing Aiden and Kayla up for a visit on Saturday, because otherwise? I might stay here forever. That said, it's also Joel's and my anniversary. In seven minutes, it was exactly two years that we were walking down the aisle. We slept late, ate poutin, went on a luge thingy and going now to a Swedish spa/bath/waterfall place, and he's itching for me to get off the computer. I should probably listen to him. ;) More later!

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Only Human

I am feeling so very, very human right now. I am coping with a lot. Joel and I have a former student of his (who graduated three years ago) living with us for the past seven weeks. We are, in essence, the only thing between him and homelessness. We are working really hard to get him help, and I feel helpless in a lot of ways. I don't like feeling helpless. I like feeling helpful. Helplessness is the exact opposite of helplfullness, so you know, that sucks.

On a more shallow note, we are getting the exterior of our house painted. We picked out a lovely taupe-y latte color that was supposed to be "one shade lighter than brown sugar." It's pink. Pinky pink pink pink. The painter did all the scraping yesterday and did two coats on a small portion of the house. I hate it. The house painter didn't do anything wrong. The chip matches the paint perfectly. It just looks dramatically different on a big section of house. We're stopping and changing colors right now, and while Joel was on board with all the decisions, things like picking out colors for stuff is generally my job in this marriage.

This feels like my mistake, and hoo boy, we are paying for it.

But I grew up hearing my mom talk about how she hated the shade of yellow aluminum siding that my parents picked for their first home back in 1976. She knew she hated it from the very first piece that was installed but didn't say anything. That house stayed cat piss yellow until about 1999 when the current owners finally, blessedly changed it. Joel and I are already the Harry and Judy Show, but I refuse to be agonizing over my stupid pink house for the next two decades. No. Just no.

I had my biggest wedding of the year last weekend. I absolutely fell in love with the bride and groom's love story, and I can honestly say that Joel and I shot the best photos we've ever done for a client. I am so proud to show them the photos, but I lost my composure at this one. I am not proud of that.

Everything was running late. The ceremony was held a big, military academy, and while I was going through the security checkpoints a tour bus pulled onto the road in front of me. Even though I had been to the chapel for the rehearsal the day before, I knew the street address for the chapel, so I tried to get away from the bus by turning onto the street that matched the address. Except there's no access to the chapel parking lot from the street view, and it's a straight vertical climb up a rocky incline to the chapel. Abandoning the car and climbing the rocks wasn't an option. An illegal u-turn was an option, but there was an SUV with a thingy on it indicating it belonging to someone important, like, say, a four star general. I ended up holding up the ceremony even more. I felt AWFUL. I still feel awful.

The photos are great, but oh my god, I was so rattled. I snapped at Joel throughout the night. I'll just say that it wasn't completely unwarranted and leave it at that, but still. In the end, he did some truly great work, his best wedding shoot ever.

The couple wanted big group photos of the extended family during the reception, and it was incredibly stressful. Nothing that usually works: having the DJ announce that it's time for the photo, being patient, staying upbeat and positive, cajoling with humor, asking a relative to fetch their missing spouse, reaching out to a VIP in the wedding party for assistance, testing the waters to see if we should just abandon the plan, getting Joel to direct, appealing to uncooperative people with logic- none of that worked. The DJ came out to the patio and asked me to hurry because I was killing the party. Gah, no kidding. I detest taking the bride and groom away from their party. I've shot photos like this at dozens of weddings, and it's never been this intense before. In fact, usually people find it kind of fun and respond well to my particular brand of humor. Not this time. I actually got teary-eyed in the middle of all of this.

Finally, I bit a few people's heads off, and lo and behold, being mean got the job done. I never, ever want to be the mean wedding photographer, but how do I tell a father of the groom that I know his son just got home from war and his relatives flew thousands of miles to be here, but no one is cooperating so we're just canceling these group shots? I can't. No. Just no.

I WANTED to do this for them. I needed to give this military family who has sacrificed so much quality time together, so many holidays and birthdays and plain old ordinary time together, a reminder of this joyful gathering, and believe me, it was so, so joyful. Well, you know, minus the part where the bitchy photographer tortured 60 people after the cake cutting by asking them to get together in groups of 15 and smile. :::lays head on desk:::

I'm not sure anyone realizes how embarrassing it is when you're trying to do a job (for which you have been paid handsomely, I might add, so you really want to deliver) and no one will cooperate. It's humiliating, actually. So here's my little PSA for the world at large: the next time you're at your cousin's wedding and the BJ/bride/photographer asks everyone on your side of the family to gather for a quick picture, please please please just put down your drink, make sure your spouse or kids are on hand and be there for the newlyweds. Take off your sunglasses if prompted. Please don't hide behind people, especially if the photographer asks you to stop. If it becomes apparent that someone needs to kneel in the front because there are so many people there that otherwise some folks will be cut off or have distorted cone heads from a super wide angle lens, please just be That Guy who kneels or squats in the front. And please don't talk. Your mouth will mostly be caught in a funny shape in the photo, no one else can hear instructions, and chatter just makes the whole thing last infinitely longer.

No one likes this part of wedding photography, least of all the photographer, and while I hate when photographers are bitches on wheels for the whole entire wedding and think it's completely unnecessary and unprofessional and Not My Style, if the photographer gets frazzled, remember that it could just be because he or she feels helpless and embarrassed, and he or she, too, is only human. So incredibly helplessly human.

We came home to find our houseguest/tenant in emotional crisis, by the way.

So let me ask you, dear readers. If this were your wedding, and in the end you received the best photos Joel and I have ever shot, how would you feel? Also, what's the likelihood, given that libations flowed all night long, that people won't remember this part all that well after all? If you feel the need to offer critique in the comments, please be honest but gentle. I'm still feeling my humanity here, and acutely so.

UPDATE: The bride loves her sneak peek, is truly thrilled with photos, thanked us for our hard work, and linked to the sneak peek on Facebook while also tagging me. A wedding guest commented on her status, calling me a "tempermental artist" and asking if "[I] was forgiven" since the photos were "remarkable." Gah. Can anyone guess who was the topic of conversation at the morning-after brunch? Like me, maybe?

Clearly the wedding guest does not realize that I can see what she wrote even though I'm tagged and linked and mention in the blog entry that the bride and I are in contact over Facebook. This is killing me. Pardon me while I wallow in my stupid half-pink house and contemplate cutting off my ear like the tempermental artist that I am...