The Importance of Being Idle

Sigh. I know I promised myself I would get tons of writing done while I was in Connecticut, but I ended up spending most of my time on photography. I did three photo shoots (one of which was a complete disaster, resulting in not a single usable picture), and we also spent every Saturday doing something big.


Nicole, Brandon, Alexander, and baby on the way!

Our first weekend, we went to the tri-annual flea market in Springfield, Ma. I mostly managed to keep up, but I did eventually give out and ended up crashing in the van while Leigh and Bill continued to shop.  I was completely knackered, and spent all of Sunday recuperating. It was worth it, though. I bought a secretary/dresser that Leigh and I worked on together, and she’s finishing it without me. I also found a couple of Christmas presents for Aubrey, and saw a lot of really cool, funky antiques.

The second weekend, we went to New York City for the day. Again, I mostly managed to keep up, but I ended up with blistered toes, and by the end of the day, I was seriously dragging. I did a little bit more Christmas shopping for Aub, and got a ritzy haircut in the Village. I fell asleep on the train back, and on Sunday, I dropped into quick catnaps in random spots all around the house. Leigh was awesomely prepared for me, and had several spots prepared where I could just crash.

Our final weekend was spent at the Big E, which is like a multi-state fair. It’s very similar to San Antonio’s Folklife Festival, in that various folk arts are represented, there are food booths, a carnival, and a whole lot of small business shopping. The highlights of that day were seeing the Clydesdales, wandering through the Irish section (more Christmas shopping for Aub, obviously!), and looking at all the different clothing vendors in the Indian section. I ended up with even more Christmas presents for Aubrey, but I also bought myself a gorgeous soutached dress that looks very Renaissance. We had a blast, and because we took breaks to escape the rain, I wasn’t too exhausted by the end of the day.

On my last Sunday, we went to a huge antique store that houses multiple vendors. I found a beautiful Irish shawl for $20, a fraction of what they cost at the Big E. I spent a small fortune with one vendor as I bought several presents for several different people (including Aub, of course!). On Monday, Leigh took me to Ocean States Job Lots, which is a giant outlet store. I needed to get a second suitcase in order to bring home all the extra stuff, since my luggage for my trip up weighed 48 lbs; I had a LOT more than just another 2 lbs of stuff. While there, I found some t-shirts, another present, and a ton of stuff that I’d have loved to buy if I lived up there and didn’t have to worry about transporting it.

One of my larger purchases was from Leigh’s friend’s tag sale. She was getting rid of an antique French-style full size bed for $30. I snapped it up for Aub’s future house, and Leigh is going to use it in her guest room in the meanwhile.

It was really tough to leave, and Leigh and I both bawled our eyes out while I packed, but I’m confident we will eventually end up neighbors, albeit across the MA / CT line. Aubrey has been socking away ALL of her money, and will have quite a large nest egg by next summer. She decided to wait until then to buy a house in MA, so she can continue to establish her credit (she needed two more lines of credit, and more time at both jobs since she doesn’t have a rental history. She said a house will be her 21st birthday present to herself. She’s seriously excited about quite likely being the only person she knows that is her age (and many people older than she) and a homeowner all on her own, without our help.

Ron and I are both proud of how frugal she is, and how well she handles her money. She has it distributed between an IRA, a savings account, and a checking account. She is very much Ron’s daughter, as she has become just as bad as he is about not spending money on anything, including going out. Not that she has much time, because she so rarely has a full day off; she’s either working at one job or the other, and most of the time working at both.

Matt did surprisingly well while I was gone, since I had no cell service and was barely online. He started his internship at a small art gallery / music venue just a bit down the street from his apartment. He LOVES doing live sound, and is learning a lot. It feels really odd now that he’s finally past the age of still wanting to check in with me before making decisions. Instead, he handles everything by himself, so I don’t hear from him for days at a time. He’s already starting to make a name for himself with REAL bands, and the guy that he’s interning with has been super impressed with him. I’m so proud of him going after something that he feels passionate about.

Now that I’m home (okay, so I’ve been home for a month), I have been working on cleaning up my office/disaster zone. Our plan is to make my office Aubrey’s bedroom and her bedroom our office, with the playhouse becoming my craft room except for my yarn and temperature sensitive things like paint, glue, and stickers. I want my bedroom to be just a bedroom and not Ron’s office, too.  Besides, Aubrey’s clothes collection requires my giant walk-in closet in my current office. Right now, her clothes overflow two small closets and an IKEA wardrobe so they are in clothes hampers and in piles on the floor. Ugh! It’s impossible to even walk in her room, which means she doesn’t have a quiet place to work on her art or write or even have friends over.

That’s pretty much life in a nutshell since I’ve last written. That’s not true…there’s more, but I’ve had a rotten case of writer’s block. I’ll try to get past it; I have so much to say, but I can’t figure out how to say it all. I’m sure YOU can relate 😉



Express Yourself

Yesterday, Aubrey entered a competition for e.l.f. cosmetics. The grand prize is a photo shoot in New York, and that part is decided by judges, but there’s also a “popular vote” competition. The winner of the popular vote gets an all expense paid vacation to a Beaches resort. Since she could take another adult with her, this means that *I* would win an all expense paid vacation to a Beaches resort!

I have (literally) THOUSANDS of pictures of Aubrey, so narrowing it down to six was near impossible. Not only does she have hundreds of fantastic pics, but I look at photos from a photographer’s point of view. That means I like the artsy, unique shots, like the one of her spinning in her purple dress (that for whatever reason photographs blue)…



Or the zombie pic…


There are a million reasons why this is one of my most favorite photos that I’ve ever taken. The wind was blowing her hair just messy enough, I caught the “REBELS” at the bottom, the top of her dress looks torn, her hands are perfectly spread…I could go on, but like I said, there are a million reasons. I finally narrowed it down to her headshot as the primary pic. I chose three closeups and three full body, since they want to see both. It took several hours to wade through my computer, which would have taken even longer if I didn’t have Picasa.

Realistically, she entered extremely late, as the deadline is the 31st, so there’s not really any way she can surpass the 15,000+ votes of the most popular entrant. However, this competition is hosted on, so there’s a lot of exposure to be had. Agencies can see her profile, and she can submit to agencies as well. I’d love to see her pushed over into the top 1000, which is only 17 votes away.

If you have fifteen seconds to spare, please click the link below and cast a vote for Aubrey. She’ll be moving to New England in just a couple of months, and that means she’ll actually be able to audition for countless opportunities. A little exposure goes a long way, so any click helps 🙂

You can vote for her once a day, so if you have another fifteen seconds to spare tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…well, it would be awesome if you voted again.

All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth

Before I go into my planned post, I want to give an update on my “Highway Days” post:

We didn’t make it to Austin, as it took Aubrey three hours to get her clothes together, steam ten of her dresses, do her hair, etc. I had asked her to do it the night before, but she used the excuse that I was asleep when she got home from work. Considering that I didn’t pick out any of her outfits, I consider that pretty bogus.

Instead of Austin, I decided to brave downtown anyway, and it turned out to not be so bad. Unfortunately, the light was horrible. Because I don’t have an assistant (since Aubrey is usually my assistant), I couldn’t use a diffuser. My flash is completely gone, so I couldn’t use a fill flash, either (which is how one deals with blotchy light, like under trees). I tried moving her from spot to spot, and every shot was just garbage. Finally, I found a set of stairs that had even enough light, and managed to get TWO pictures that were useable. The two became three when I cropped one to a close-up.

aub1     aub2

aub3Aub loved these two pictures, and is especially proud of this dress. It is a Scott McClintock that she bought for $1.75 at a thrift store. The gloves are from one of her mall shopping trips with her friends, and likely are from Spencers, Claire’s, or Hot Topic. It is always amazing to find a dress that is tiny enough for her, and this one fits like one of her gloves. She has a McClintock body, both Scott and Jessica.

In spite of how tall she looks in the photos, let me state once again that she is 5’4″. It’s all in the angles, baby. I’ve learned so many tricks for making someone look much taller than they really are. Using that post as a prop and having her in an ankle length dress both work to elongate her body. Height is an optical illusion.

And now for something completely different:

Yesterday, it was finally Matt’s and my turn for our dental evaluations. After Aubrey’s $7000 total, I knew ours were going to be bad. Oh, how that is understated…

Matt’s tooth that the previous dentist butchered during a simple root canal has now become a giant abscess. The infection is starting to spread into the bone, so our new dentist has referred him out for oral surgery today. That tooth has to come out and a bone graft has to go in, as they are likely going to have to scrape away the infected bone. Not including the oral surgery, Matt’s total came out to about $13,000. Almost twice Aubrey’s, but realistic, at least.

When they started my evaluation and I heard the hygienist say, “It’s going to take me half an hour to chart this,” I decided I didn’t want to hear anymore, mainly because it was making me nauseous at the thought of how much it is going to cost. I put on my headphones and turned up my mp3 player. After they finished all the x-rays and charted all my spots, they took me into the “just in case they’re going to make a scene” room to give me the bad news. Mine came out to about $22,000. I could buy a brand new car with that much, and have money left over.

The problem is that my previous dentist did all of my fillings and crowns very poorly, and now there is decay underneath everything. So all my old fillings need to come out, and I need 11 crowns. I also have loose gums, so I need to have them lasered in order to encourage healthy tissue to adhere to the bone. On top of all of that, I need braces. Because I didn’t have my wisdom teeth removed early enough, they shifted all of my perfectly straight teeth. Then there’s the tooth on the bottom that was pulled I don’t know how many years ago, so my bottom teeth have all sort of slid to the right, making my bottom midline off by an entire tooth and a half.

It’s tough to decide what needs to be done NOW and what can wait a month or two. Matt’s oral surgery is a NOW, as are three of my crowns and lasering my gums. Aubrey has some emergent stuff, but she’s paying for most of her own. We’re paying for Matt’s surgery, and then he has to pay for the rest. Unfortunately, there is no one else to pay for my teeth.

What totally sucks is that we won’t know about Ron’s mouth until the 26th. There’s no telling how much work he’s going to need. I’m pretty sure he’s going to need to have the laser cleaning, at the very least. I told him I was going to laugh when they tell him that he has a mouthful of cavities. Yeah, it’s not so funny now that we have to deal with my mouth.

And so begins our oral adventure, as we put our dentist’s children through college. I expect a damn invitation to that graduation.

I Remember That Longing From My Highway Days

With a high of 72 waiting for us, and the perfect storm of my daughter and I both going to bed at a decent hour last night, we are finally going to work on her portfolio today. While this doesn’t actually require a drive to Austin, we pretend it does, because we’ll take and make any excuse to go up there.

I love shooting my daughter, as she has been doing this long enough that when I give her what seems like conflicting directions (“turn your head a little more to the left, chin up, eyes down, look at me but past me, back to the right just a smidge”), she follows them exactly. She knows how to not smile, smile just a little bit, a little bit more, big smile, big smile with teeth, perfect! She can stay perfectly still while I bracket like crazy (shooting a photo with just slightly varied settings to either direction of the original settings). She knows what I mean when I tell her to flip her hair (some people fluff it with their hand, when really, I mean to fling the head forward and back quickly so that it has body and movement). Best of all, she is a master of changing clothes in the car, including putting on a wedding dress in the backseat of a Nissan 200SX.

Because Austin is at a higher elevation, it is cooler and greener than where we live. Besides, after last night’s downtown event here, downtown is going to be a disaster for the day. Austin also has great graffiti, cool random art installations, and amazing architecture. Of course, there are also the lakes, Zilker park, and the Capitol building. Best of all, there is the original Chuy’s and IKEA.


The jalapeno cream sauce on the left is the food of the gods. I could drink it like soup, although it is meant for eating with tortilla chips or for pouring onto your food.

My husband doesn’t understand my wanderlust, nor does he appreciate how truly difficult it is for me to stay in one place. Driving up to Austin eases that need to go…just go…in any direction, as long as it is not here. It has nothing to do with being happy or unhappy. Honestly, I believe wanderlust is genetic. My father had it, and my daughter is also afflicted.

It’s days like today that I miss my friend Sean the most. We were both explorers at heart, willing to drop everything and drive for hours and hours, just because. I actually got fired from a job because we decided (on the night that a major project was due) to go to a local taco place. We thought there was one on a particular highway, but there wasn’t, so we kept driving. Eight hours later, we wound up in El Paso, where we did indeed find the taco place we were looking for. We ended up spending the night and driving home the next day. My project was a day late…which would seem as though it’s not the end of the world (it wasn’t to me, anyway), but other people didn’t see it  in quite the same light.

However, today I must control my urges, and contain myself to the Austin/Round Rock area. I think I can handle it. The photography will keep my mind off the burning desire, and eventually I will be tired enough that it will pass.

“Lucky my daughter got her mother’s nose
And just a little of her father’s eyes
And we’ve got just enough love
That when the longing takes me
It takes me by surprise
And I remember that longing from my highway days
When I never could give it a name
And it’s lucky I discovered in the nick of time
That the woman and the child aren’t to blame

For the hole in the middle of a pretty good life
I only face it ’cause it’s here to stay
Not my father nor my mother nor my daughter nor my lover
Nor the highway made it go away
But now there’s too much darkness in an endless night
To be afraid of the way I feel
I’ll be kind to my loved ones
Not forever but for real”



When I Said I Do

Whoo, today was a crazy busy day. It’s been ages since I’ve done any photography work because I was in so much pain, and REAL photography is seriously physical. Since my spinal injections a week ago, my pain level is hovering around a 4, instead of a 15 (on a scale of 1 to 10). When a friend mentioned that her daughter was getting married, I asked if they had a photographer and she said no, they had run out of money. I jumped at the chance to offer up my services just to get something new and fresh into my portfolio, and my camera into my hands!


Of course, as my husband so often has to remind me, pain is only a fraction of my constant battle…fatigue is more often the enemy. It KILLS me to have to sit still or lie around. I hate it. I was an extremely active person…until I wasn’t. Even now, when I know that it’s smarter to manage my energy levels rather than doing too much because I happen to feel good that day, only to exhaust myself, I still have problems with taking it easy.

Ron finally got a taste of what my life is like…he’s got the flu. His boss sent him home on Thursday afternoon, and Ron was even worse on Friday morning. Even though he felt like crap, he wasn’t sleepy; he ended up surfing the web and playing his latest game. After what seemed like every few hours or so, he’d look at the clock and be shocked at how little time had actually passed. When it was finally 7pm, he whined, “Isn’t this day ever going to end?” I laughed! Yup, welcome to my world.

We had absolutely beautiful, gorgeous, amazing weather; the bride was so happy, and said she’d been worrying for six weeks about whether or not it would rain. The wedding was in a large hall in the middle of nowhere, without a paved parking lot, and she was concerned she’d be stuck walking through mud in her dress. Instead, all of the wedding party photos were taken in the field behind the hall, with all of the girls’ stiletto heeled shoes sinking into the soft ground, of course.

She had a friend who is a photography student already committed to taking pictures of the reception; I covered the three hours before the wedding and then we both took pics of the wedding party, the bride and her parents, the groom and his mom, etc. When someone found a ladder leaning against the back of the building, I grabbed it (quite hilarious to watch me wrestling an 8 ft ladder while holding my camera and trying to ignore my car keys stabbing me in the chest because I’d had to stick them in my bra) and climbed up.

I was so paranoid about my rusty skillz, I took my laptop with me so I could look at all the photos before I left, in case I needed to re-shoot something. I was happily surprised that they turned out well, in spite of my external flash not working, and my having to rely on the on-board flash. I was changing shutter speeds and ISO settings every couple of seconds to compensate, but experience often makes up for equipment failure. I’m sure the photog student wondered what the hell I was doing…I highly suspect she had her camera set to auto, because I never saw her change any of her settings. In spite of having a smart camera that is perfectly capable of turning out great pictures in auto, I always do everything manually. I like the creative control, even though that means I’m frantically loading up pictures in my car, checking to see that I’ve got what I want and allowing me to start breathing again.

I did have a bit of fun with the bridesmaids while we waited for the bride’s makeup to be done. I took portrait shots of everyone, and one girl had this quite beautiful tattoo of two roses on her shoulder. She was really shy about my taking her picture, because she believed she’s not photogenic. Any decent photographer can make anyone look good, and I’m better than decent. I told her about how one of my friends claims I have a magic camera that takes pounds and years off her every time I take her photo. Then I showed the bridesmaid the ones I had just snapped of her, and she was so excited, she asked if I would take more. She had a gorgeous tattoo of a dream catcher on the side of her thigh, so I did a little boudoir magic and then ALL of the bridesmaids were lying across the bed, glamming it up for the camera.

By the time all the photos were done and the reception was getting started, I felt like I had run a five hour long marathon. My body hurt, especially my shoulder, and I know I’m going to be paying for this tomorrow. It was totally worth it, though. I got to make a few people happy with my photography, and I got to spend a perfect spring afternoon outside with my camera.

I’m still holding out hope that although I’ll be suffering in the morning, I will be able to rally by the early afternoon and head up to Austin to IKEA for their GORM sale. After seeing an awesome sewing desk on made from pieces of the GORM, I have got to have one. It’s exactly what I’ve been trying to figure out how to build, and to be able to make it for about $20 is unreal.

“I meant that I will, till the end of all time, be faithful and true, devoted to you, that’s what I had in mind, when I said I do.