Meet Wyatt

Wyatt The-Crippens_1-copy The-Crippens_8-copy The-Crippens_10-copy The-Crippens_12-copy The-Crippens_12cr-copy The-Crippens_13b-copy The-Crippens_13-copy The-Crippens_15-copy The-Crippens_16-copy The-Crippens_18-copy The-Crippens_21-copy The-Crippens_23-copy The-Crippens_24-copyWow! Can’t believe it has been a year since I have posted on my blog! No wonder I had to ask for my password to be sent to me—I had completely forgotten it. I have been really busy the past year and just had to let some things go, the blog among them. So you know it had to be something pretty special to get me to take time to make an entry here. And this is special.

Wyatt’s Dad contacted me recently to ask me to do some photos of Wyatt and some of the family as well. You see, they have been pretty busy too and haven’t had time to get some good photos of Wyatt. While I have been busy with two photography jobs and the day to day running that comes from being a wife and mom, Wyatt’s mom and dad have been busy fighting for Wyatt’s life. Wyatt is only 9 years old and has already undergone two surgeries to remove a brain tumor. Unfortunately, the family recently learned the tumor has returned and Wyatt is once again scheduled for surgery in January. He has previously undergone surgery at Vanderbilt Hospital in Nashville, and the parents are making decisions now about whether to return to Vanderbilt or seek a new surgeon. As you can imagine, this is a very stressful time for Wyatt’s family. I cannot imagine being a child who has already endured this process twice and is facing it a third time. But Wyatt, as I said, is special. He is a trouper.

Wyatt has a smile a mile wide and is quick to share it. He loves to fish with his dad, David, and we made sure we included some photos of the two fishing beside the creek. Even mom Kristi had a pole in the water! Wyatt also likes to wear his cowboy hat, and I had to persuade him to take it off long enough to get some photos of that sweet face of his. He was such a good sport in making some faces and expressions and I am glad he was because it made for some really cute photos.

It was a really cold day for photos outdoors, but like I said, Wyatt is a trouper and he braved the weather well. You would never guess he was shivering between shots! But if anyone has had to learn to be tough, it is this little guy.

I only had a few minutes of one day to spend with this young man, but that is all it took for him to touch my heart. Walking and talking with his parents, I couldn’t even begin to imagine the emotional roller coaster they have been on the past few years. But through it, they have learned to not take a single moment for granted. They treasure their time with their son. And I, along with many others, am praying that it will be many, many years that they have to do just that.

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Christmas Magic

Christmas 2012_5 Christmas 2012_37 Christmas 2012_40 Christmas 2012_22But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)

One of the things I love about Christmas is all the tradition that is tied into the celebration of our Lord’s birth. It is a time of coming together with shared memories and stories of Christmases long ago as well as a time of creating new memories to pass along to a new generation. As a child, I listened with wonder to the stories my grandparents and parents told me about Christmases when they were growing up. Times were very hard for most of them, but they still had such fond memories of the times they spent Christmas with their families as youngsters, many times getting only a piece of candy or a coin for a present. But it was not the presents that brought the smiles to their lips and the twinkle to their eyes as they recalled those Christmases of yesteryear. It was just the memory of being with loved ones and all the acts of kindness and sacrifice that they remembered most. And as I have gotten older and look back upon my many Christmases past, I realize that I, too, treasure the memories of being with those I love above all else.

I no longer have my mother and father to share Christmas with me. Mom passed away almost ten years ago, and this will be my second Christmas without Dad. I miss them so very much, and I am just so grateful to have been raised by the two people I was blessed to have as my parents. Times were very hard growing up as far as finances were concerned, but we were never short on love. Every year, somehow I cannot imagine, my parents managed to buy Christmas gifts for their three girls. We never got the most expensive brands or anything close to what most of our friends got, but we never hurt for anything we needed either. We always got at least one thing that was on our “list”. Except for one Christmas. The year of “the sweater”. I wrote about it a while back. But even that year was special, and it was a year that stood out from most because it showed me just how much my parents really loved their children and how much they sacrificed for us. No matter how hard times were and how bleak the outlook for enough money for presents , they made Christmas a happy time for our family. Santa always made it. Because of them, we understood the term “Christmas magic”.

This year is a lean one at our house. Economic concerns have taken a huge toll on our income, and the past couple of years have truly been a struggle to make ends meet. And they don’t always meet. My heart fell the day my husband told me that we weren’t going to have money for the kids to have much of a Christmas. But I remembered my family of childhood, and the beautiful memories of lean Christmases that led to sweet handmade gifts from the heart, less hustle and bustle because there was so little shopping to be done, no money to go places so we spent time together, and special traditions that we created just for our family. We were able to focus on the true meaning of the season and didn’t have to be caught up in all the entrapments. And you know, it really was a good thing, not a bad one. So I decided to give my kids some of the same memories and to try to keep the focus on what Christmas is really all about.

Most of the gifts my youngest will receive have been the result of the generosity of incredibly thoughtful and generous friends. They have made things possibe that I never dreamed would happen this Christmas.  One of the gifts she will open is a beautiful American Girl horse that a dear friend has given her. Kellie’s brothers are making a stable for the horse with wood taken from our fallen barn at the family farm. With four generations of our family having used that barn, this makes the stable even more special. Kellie will be thrilled that her brothers took the time to make such a special gift for her, and I am sure it will be a family heirloom.  I am happy she will get to open such special gifts, but most of all, I am thrilled to watch the joy she has experienced as she made the gifts for everyone in her family. She put so much thought and time into each one, and her excitement about giving those gifts has spilled over into me. She has not asked for one thing this year, but cannot stop talking about the things she is giving to those she loves. More Christmas magic.

A few years ago, I put out a little gingerbread house that is part of one of those little light up villages so many of us have. I don’t even know how it started really, but little elves started coming out during the night, unnoticed by a sleeping family, and leaving little bits of gingerbread for Kellie to find when she got up in the morning. I will walk by the living room some days and hear a little voice whispering. If I ease closer, I can make out Kellie’s voice whispering instructions to the elves and making requests for more gingerbread. She peeks in the windows, hoping to get a glimpse of the little guys at work. So far, she hasn’t been able to find them. But she gets so excited every time she finds the little cookies left for her. Christmas magic.

I was pretty sure that this might be the last year for Christmas magic in our house. At least for a while. But when I thought about it a little more, I realized we can always have Christmas magic. And that is because when you get back to what the celebration is all about, and when you experience the joy and the hope that was created by the birth of that tiny little baby in a lowly manger, you have magic of the most sensational variety.A year ago, I never dreamed I would be sitting around the piano with all four of my children , my husband, and his parents listening to a concert of Christmas music. Our family has experienced many challenges that made that possiblity seem highly unlikely. One of those challenges included my father-in-law having multiple surgeries to remove a brain tumor. Although he is suffering from paralysis on one side of his face, he is otherwise doing very well. And other challenges have been conquered that can only be explained by the intervention of the Lord Almighty. More Christmas magic.

So I am grateful for the chance to slow down and enjoy Christmas with my family this year. I am grateful for the reminder that gifts are not even necessary to experience the best Christmas I could hope for. I am grateful for my family, and for the chance to be together and enjoying each other’s company. But most of all, I am grateful for the magic of that first Christmas.

Merry Christmas.

Yes, I’m Still Here!

“Success usually comes to those who are too busy to be looking for it.”-Henry David Thoreau

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin to get caught up on here. The last few months have been a blur. Not only have I been snapping away on my camera and watching my photography business become a bona fide flourishing business, but in between we have been dealing with lots of other stuff. Not little stuff-real stuff. For instance, my father-in-law has undergone two brain surgeries and one eye surgery to remove a nasty tumor. Overall, he is doing quite well, although he is aggravated by paralysis on the right side of his face and the loss of his hearing on that side. His drive and spirit are so inspiring, and I am so grateful we just celebrated another birthday with him this past week. I pray for his continued progress. Also, we have dealt with a fire that damaged several thousand dollars worth of inventory at my husband’s log mill. It happened over a weekend, so gratefully no one was hurt and the office and equipment were left unharmed. That could have been much worse. (But I really could welcome a relief from our financial struggles for a little bit. The fire was NOT very helpful in that department, I am afraid.) Since my last post, I have watched three dear friends lose their loved ones. Two lost husbands, one lost a child. All very sudden and unexpected losses. My heart still breaks for them as I think of them in this moment. But there have also been happy events as well. My daughter graduated from college this year and is preparing to enter law school. I am so very proud of her. Not only for her accomplishments, but for the woman she has grown to be. And my wonderful church family has grown to the point that we need a new sanctuary. And after years of serving on the New Building Committee, I am terribly excited to see our sanctuary so close to completion. So, although I have neglected this blog terribly, I have to give myself a little permission to say it is OK to take a little break. It is not like I was just sitting on the sofa eating bon-bons and watching re-runs of The Andy Griffith Show.

So, true to the above quote by Mr. Thoreau, I have been so busy that I have not had time to look up and realize that I can actually say I am currently full-time employed. A year ago, I don’t think I could have dared dream that I would be booked months in advance. And the busy-ness has been a blessing that has helped me move forward following Dad’s passing and remember that life does go on. It doesn’t mean I don’t miss him, it just means that I have seen how short our time on this earth really is and we don’t have time to fool around. Make it count. Every single day is a gift, my friends. So make it count.

The Ultimate Escape

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a mother who read to me.
~Strickland Gillilan

I have loved books since—well, I can’t remember a time that I ever didn’t like books. From the time I was a babe on my mother’s lap, books have been a part of my life. A part I have adored. One of my earliest memories is trying to climb the floor to ceiling bookshelf in my room and feeling it pull loose from the wall. That shelf came right down on top of me and it rained books upon my head. Mom came running into the room and pulled the bookcase off of me, scolding me and hugging me at the same time. I just really, really wanted that book on the top shelf!

Books transported me to wonderful places and introduced me to fascinating characters. I loved to read so much that Mom would beg me to go outside and play with the other kids. Rainy days, sunny days, wintry days–it didn’t matter. You could find me curled up somewhere with a book. My mom told me she even worried about me at times because I read “too much”. She said I used to pull down the encyclopedias and find interesting pictures and subjects that I would peruse for hours. She worried that I would lack in social skills because I never played outside. I got over some of that and developed other interests, but the love of reading remains to this day. These days, I have to build time into a hectic schedule for reading, but it is important enough to me that I do it. Waiting in the car line for pick up after school, there is always a book or magazine with me so I can steal a couple of moments to read. If I have an appointment with the doctor, the book keeps me company in the waiting room. If I arrive early to any destination, I read until the last minute I can. And I try to end every day with a bit of reading before I fall asleep. Reading, to me, is the ultimate escape.

I am delighted to have a child that has that same love for books. I think it is partially due to the fact that although she has three siblings, they are so much older that she is really more like an only child. Books have offered her companionship when otherwise she would be alone and bored. But as with me, it is partially because of the wonder and excitement that comes from the pages as they are turned. She laughs, giggles, or frowns as she reads, most certainly living the story being told within the book in hand. And if she reads out loud, she is full of affect as she relates the words. It is like she becomes the person or animal she is reading about. It is fun to listen to her.

Since she was able to look at picture books, we have made it a part of our routine to visit the library in our small community. Always sunny and cheerful, the library has begun to feel like a home away from home. Kellie knows her way around the children’s section like the back of her hand. This year she has become interested in chapter books, so she heads right to the Junie B series or American Girl books. She also loves to learn, and she often picks up a biography or non-fiction book about a subject she is interested in. Like horses. She has read every horse related book the school and community libraries have to offer. Kellie has been such a good “customer” that the librarians recognize her and call her by name. They even have selected books before her arrival to show her because they thought she might enjoy them. The library has become a very comfortable place for this little girl.

As hard as it is some weeks to find time for the library, I always make every effort to get Kellie there. She looks forward to it and starts talking about it on the way to school the morning we plan to go. She savors the thought of which book she will check out, and maybe she can even check out more than one, and maybe she might renew one she especially enjoyed the previous week. I would never want to do anything to quench that thirst for knowledge, that love of reading, that opportunity to learn about the world through books. I want her love of reading to follow her through life, just as it has for me.

I am very grateful that we have access to such a wonderful, friendly library right in our own backyard. The staff could not be any more helpful or any more courteous. If you are lucky enough to find yourself in White Pine with a couple of hours to spare, treat yourself to a visit to the library and curl up in a corner with a good book. It is the ultimate escape.

Childhood Revisited

O men, grown sick with toil and care,
Leave for awhile the crowded mart;
O women, sinking with despair,
Weary of limb and faint of heart,
Forget your years to-day and come
As children back to childhood’s house.
~Phoebe Cary

I don’t know if it is the same for you (although I suspect that it is), but whenever I run into one of my childhood friends that I have not seen for a while, it is like the years between us just fall away and we are right back where we left off. Things that had been long forgotten come rushing back like they just happened yesterday. Well, I had that experience just the other day. I was contacted by a friend via this newfangled cultural phenomenon called Facebook. I had not talked to her in years, but we go all the way back to toddlerhood! I am a couple of years older than her, but our parents were great friends and  Karen and I often found ourselves at each other’s homes, playing together while our folks played cards or talked and laughed together. We always had our siblings and often many other kids to play with outside. I remember I learned to play team Frisbee at her house and it was so much fun! Even our parents played. So you can see how it is that when one of my frequent bouts of nostalgia sets in, Karen’s family is one of the families that holds a very special place in my heart and often comes to mind .

 I was delighted when I was asked by Karen to make some photos of her four children over the Christmas holiday. One, I got to make another trip “home” to see my family and two, I got to catch up with an old friend. On the way, I wondered how the years had been to my friend. Had she grown up to be anything like the girl I had known so long ago? Is her life anything at all like mine? If we met today for the first time, would she still be someone I would want to be friends with?

All my questions were answered in a hurry. Once again, all the years fell away when I saw my old friend. She introduced me to her four beautiful and charming children, and I introduced her to my youngest. And then, icing on the cake, Karen’s mom came along. My Kellie latched on to “Mamaw” like she had known her as long as I had. The day was a lot of fun, made more so by the new memories layered onto old.

Is her life anything like mine? We have more in common than I even dreamed. Karen’s son was back in the States and getting ready to head back to Afghanistan the day after these photos were taken. My youngest son is scheduled to enter the Navy this Spring. So we have the bond of knowing the pride and the agony that goes with having a child who is committed to serving our country and protecting our freedom. We both have four children and have been married about the same number of years. We both place high priority on our duties as wives and mothers. And I love that we are both women of faith, trying to serve our Lord and Savior as He directs us to do. So this particular shoot was a very special one. It built a bridge from the past into the present, and it has rekindled a friendship that was formed a long time ago. I am looking forward to many more visits with Karen and her family. Who knows? We may even break out the Frisbee!

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A Kindlier Dozen

And ye, who have met with Adversity’s blast,
And been bow’d to the earth by its fury;
To whom the Twelve Months, that have recently pass’d
Were as harsh as a prejudiced jury –
Still, fill to the Future! and join in our chime,
The regrets of remembrance to cozen,
And having obtained a New Trial of Time,
Shout in hopes of a kindlier dozen.
~Thomas Hood

Well, here we are. The beginning of a new year. Full of possibilities, full of hope, full of promise. Just like the one before. And as I reflect upon the past year, it did have it’s great moments. There were lots of happy family get-togethers and lots of memories made throughout the year. But I do have to admit, it has been one of the more challenging years I have experienced in my half century upon this earth. It is the year that the economy all but shut down my husband’s business and left us hanging on to our home by our fingernails. It is the year that I stopped getting hair cuts and started cooking from scratch again in order to stretch our budget as far as possible. It is the year we lived with no air in the summer heat and are living with very little heat in the winter in order to save money. It is the year I went to the hospital with symptoms of a heart attack. It is the year my father died. And it is the year I have lived in true faith.

When I ran across these words from Thomas Hood, they struck a chord with me. As hard as the last year has been, I still enter this new one full of hope for a brighter future. I still feel a joy for living that I know comes from being able to trust in a God that brings me through such trying times. No matter what I might have to face in the new year, God will be with me. And that is what keeps me going.

It seemed rather fitting to spend the last day of the year and the first day of the new year involved in the task of cleaning out the home of my husband’s grandparents. They passed away several years ago, and the house has just sat empty since then. The real estate market has been such that the house and property has not sold and sadly, the house has suffered because of the neglect. A leak in the roof caused a lot of damage to the rear of the home and it looked like the house would just slowly  fall into a state of total disrepair. It was certainly in a condition that greatly limited the number of prospective buyers. But, lo and behold, a man contacted my mother-in-law about the house a few weeks ago and asked to live in the house in exchange for doing the needed repairs. What a blessing for everyone involved! The house is being saved, as the roof has already been repaired, and the gentleman has found a home with a beautiful piece of land to work and enjoy. The only hitch–he wanted to be moved in by today. We had to have all the belongings collected in a lifetime of living in that home moved out by this weekend. “We” meaning my husband and me and little Kellie, because we were the closest and only ones available to do the task at this particular time.

The timing was a little stressful, coming off the Christmas holiday. But the task ended up being a lot of fun as it was a wonderful journey through the lives of Greg’s precious grandparents. I only got to know them for twenty years or so, but they took me right in and treated me like their own granddaughter and it felt like I had known them all my life. So it was so nice to see the rooms again that were responsible for so many great memories with Ni and Dad and their family. My family.  The tiny country kitchen was just as Ni had left it, full of every utensil a great cook could hope for. We came across five canners, and I remember so many summers when they had all five canners busy processing the bounty from their huge garden. In the root cellar still stood hundreds of jars standing as testament to the hours of loving labor that went into that process. There were countless blue Mason jars, pressure cookers, canning basics stashed everywhere. Ni and Dad worked tirelessly taking care of their home and the 30 or so acres around it. Dad often set up at the local farmer’s market or flea markets to sell his harvest from the garden and small fruit orchard. Ni was retired from teaching and Dad a retired machinist with Lockheed Martin. So the house was also filled with books and tools. One thing I remember about the house is that no matter when you showed up at that house, there was a Bible open on the dining room table where one of them had been reading. Ni and Dad were such faithful servants to the Lord and they lived a very simple life, perfectly content with their very quiet and frugal lifestyle. They shared whatever they had to give with a joyful heart, just like you read in the Bible we are supposed to do. They constantly told us of lessons they had learned during their lifetime and how the teachings found in the Bible had helped them over and over. They modeled Christianity in a beautiful and loving manner to all their family and friends and often, strangers. Simply put, Ni and Dad were very special people.

Though they have been gone for over six years now, they still are teaching me lessons. As I looked at the summation of their life together within the walls of that home, I reflected upon all the years that they were together and remembered how happy they were. I remembered many struggles, especially near the end when Ni was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but Ni and Dad remained positive and grateful for what they had. Some years were better than others. In a marriage that lasted for over 50 years, I am sure that they looked at more than one New Year’s Day as I have looked at this one, reflecting upon the many trials of the previous year and looking with renewed hope to the next.  And in their life, I can see that often, they were given some really great years. So, joining in the chime of many others, I am hoping for a kindlier dozen. And it is already looking pretty promising….we  got a little fishin’ in today.

Happy New Year.

The Sweater

Remembrance, like a candle, burns brightest at Christmastime.–Charles Dickens

Memories of Christmas

I hope everyone has enjoyed a beautiful Christmas this year. My family and I have just gone through one of those bittersweet celebrations of Christmas that has just a few holes in the usual traditions associated with our Christmases of past years. You know, the kind of Christmas that is so full of memories that you can almost feel them, taste them, see them. Memories that include many faces that are no longer with us. The memories felt so close sometimes that I am sure I felt the presence of Mom, Dad, and my grandparents in the room with us.

I have been so fortunate to have been raised in a family that celebrated Christmas with an emphasis on the true meaning of the holiday. Therefore, my history of past Christmases is rich in stories about acts of kindness and giving and worshiping the God Who gave us the greatest gift of all-His Son, Jesus. This history is rich in traditions that place giving way ahead of receiving, that encourage giving from the heart rather than the purse, that helped us know that sometimes the greatest gifts don’t even come from a store.

If you have been following my blog in recent months, then you know that this was the first Christmas without my Dad. Since we have celebrated Christmas at his home in past years, it made this year even harder to know we would not celebrate there this Christmas. With Dad’s death has come lots of other changes as well, and it has caused me to frequently conjure up images of the life I have lived because of my Dad and the person he was. If I were to measure his success in terms of financial gains, he would not score very high. If I were to measure his success in terms of his place in social circles, he would not score a page in the society columns. But if I measure his success in terms of the character he modeled for us, then that is where he achieved glorious triumph.

So many times over the years, I saw Dad give people things that our family could really use, but he saw someone else needed it more than we did. From that we learned sacrifice. And we learned how rewarding sacrifice can be, because it gave Dad such joy to see the happy reactions of others who received his gifts. Many times, I saw Dad reach into his billfold and give me or one of my sisters the very last $2 he had so that we could go skating or go to a movie with a friend. And I also saw him leave the room with tears in his eyes on the occasions he did not have it to give. I suppose that is where I learned to earn my own way and not have to ask for anything. I hated to see him hurt like that. Dad had a big heart.

One Christmas in particular keeps coming to mind as I stir up all these memories. It was the Christmas when I was about 12 years old. Dad had suffered the loss of his business that year and had taken a job digging ditches in order to pay the bills and keep a roof over our head. He was embarrassed to have to take that job, but he did it because of his love for us. Because it did not pay very well, there was no money left over once the utilities and rent were paid. I knew he and Mom were very worried about Christmas and how they were going to buy gifts for their three children. Mom had warned us that we should not expect very much that year, and we were prepared. But somehow, on Christmas Eve, Dad got a bonus check. He and Mom scrambled to the stores, shopping frantically before they all closed. Back then, very few stores were even open Christmas Eve and the ones that were had been very picked over by that time. So, what we opened that year were presents that contained clothes that were seconds or poorly made, toys that we had not asked for and no toys that we had asked for, and some other very forgettable items. But one gift I have never forgotten. It was an ugly tan and white sweater that was no where close to being in style. I remember opening it and looking over at my Dad. He looked so sad and so apprehensive as he waited for my reaction. He knew it wasn’t what I wanted. But in that moment, I realized what an act of love he had committed that day. He took the money he had earned digging ditches and bought gifts for his children. He didn’t spend it on himself. He didn’t pay bills with it. He tried to give his kids the best Christmas that he could possibly give them. So, with all the joy I could muster in that moment, I glowed over that ugly sweater like it was straight out of Vogue and every girl’s dream. Dad beamed. Mom smiled with tears in her eyes. Christmas was great that year.

Although he got a better job and we had lots of Christmases after that with nicer, costlier gifts, THAT Christmas is the one that I remember as one of the most special Christmases ever. That is the Christmas that I learned about how great my father’s love for me truly was. He taught me that love is often about sacrifice. What better time to learn that lesson than Christmas, which in itself is all about our Heavenly Father’s love for us and His sacrifice for us?

Papaw Ron and Chelsea, Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas.

P.S. I still have the sweater.

A Merry Little Christmas Now

Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles.  ~Author Unknown

Recently, I had the opportunity to photograph a family who wanted some photos for this year’s Christmas cards. What a fun night it was! Four energetic kids, two equally energetic giant dogs (or maybe they were horses?), and two totally fun-loving parents made for an evening to remember. The outtakes were as great as the shots we meant to take, maybe even better. At any rate, it was an assignment that certainly made my Christmas season a little merrier, as I am sure it will yours as well.

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Catching My Breath

Life is like a roller coaster–and I am about to throw up.    Author  Unknown

That is exactly the way the past few weeks have felt–like a roller coaster. Some days I am headed up, and others I am hurtling downward in a crazy free fall toward utter chaos! So many things have happened since my last entry that I don’t even know where to begin. I can start off by saying that life without Dad has not been easy. My heart still aches every time I see his name in my contacts on my phone or when I run across the unopened emails that I have not been able to bring myself to open yet. Though they bring heartache,  I can’t remove the name nor the emails. All that is yet to come, once the healing is well under way. But the hardest part continues to be helping little Kellie to get through her own grief. She, too, has constant reminders of the grandfather who has gone on to heaven, and there are daily incidents of quiet tears as she remembers the special man she calls Papaw Ron. I have seen her shedding tears in the back seat of the car on the way to school on a couple of occasions, and when I asked what was wrong, she told me she was remembering Papaw Ron. Standing in the pumpkin patch when we visited with our church friends in October, Kellie broke down and sobbed as she looked for a pumpkin. Her wails were so loud and full of distress that I thought she had hurt herself. Between sobs she was able to tell me that she needed her Papaw to help her pick out a pumpkin because he always knew which one was the perfect pumpkin. She said she didn’t know how to pick out the perfect pumpkin without him. She was remembering last year’s trip to the pumpkin patch when he bought her a giant orange monstrosity after telling her she could have any pumpkin she wanted. Of course, he may not have realized a 100 pound pumpkin was going to be sitting right out front when we arrived or that offer might have been re-phrased. But being a man of his word, he bought Kellie the pumpkin she wanted. And she remembered.

 There have been lots of happy times amidst the tears and I am grateful for the busyness that surrounds this time of year. Thanksgiving, basketball games, Gingerbread competitions, photo shoots—there have been all kinds of demands on my time that have been welcomed as fun diversions to our loss. As much as Dad was missed at Thanksgiving, it was wonderful to be with the rest of the family during a time of year that reminds me to count my many blessings, among them the chance to be raised by such special parents. There are so many who never had the chance to know such parents, and I am so grateful for the values and lessons they taught me during their short number of days here on earth. I am grateful that my four children had the chance to know my dad and to hear his infectious laughter that often resulted in tears running down his face from laughing so hard. I am grateful for two of the most special sisters I could ever ask for and for the times we have together. We all understand how precious those times together really are. So, even thought it has been busy and the ride really does feel like a roller coaster at times, it is a great ride. I am hanging on tight and waiting to see what is around the next corner.

Haley and Kloey

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same.–Anonymous

This was a real treat! Haley and Kloey are two adorable young ladies with very distinct personalities. Haley is very poised, refined and yet very athletic. Kloey is gung-ho, traveling in a million different directions at the blink of an eye. I noted that Haley is very watchful and protective of Kloey, part mother and part sister. Kloey looks up to Haley but doesn’t really care to do what Haley asks her to do. It reminds me very much of the relationship that my own daughters share.

Part of the reason I enjoyed this shoot so much is that Haley and Kloey are the daughters of a childhood friend of mine. Jackie recently reminded me that our friendship goes back just under 40 years. Time truly does fly, because it seems like only yesterday that we were running through the neighborhood, sledding, playing ball, etc. Jackie was really best friends with my sister, both being a few years younger than I am, but I loved getting into the midst of what they were doing many, many times. I smiled so many times during this shoot because both Haley and Kloey did things that reminded me so much of their mother when she was their age. A giggle, an expression…glimpses of my childhood friend came rushing back. Being with Jackie and her girls was like going home to a place in my mind where things were sweeter and simpler, full of the innocence and joy of childhood. With Jackie, we can talk and laugh for hours on end, recounting the tales of events on Holly Street with our mutual friends. Some I knew about, and as I have learned recently, some I just had no idea they happened. (It’s all good. The statute of limitations has run out on most of it. lol) And then, we can just sit on the porch and say nothing, and be just as comfortable with the silence as we are the laughter. Friends like those are hard to find. If you have one, treasure that friendship. I can tell you, it only gets better over time.