Fotos

“Sometimes I get to places just when God’s ready for someone to click the shutter.”
— Ansel Adams

Please forgive me for using “Fotos” instead of “Photos.”  Thank you.  It worked with my “Five F’s,” and I thought it was cute.

Now that the apologies are out of the way, I want to introduce my favorite hobby… digital photography and photo editing!  Just typing those words makes me happy.

I confess that I am a newbie as of late 2007 to the non-point-and-shoot club.  Both my husband and I always wanted to delve into quality photography, and early in our marriage, we invested in a Pentax 35mm camera set.

Our first good camera, purchased in about 1985, I believe

Neither of us ever really got the hang of it, though, due to time and money constraints.  Experimenting with rolls and rolls of film and developing costs for that film just did not fit into our early marriage budget.  Ultimately, the camera made it’s way to the top of a closet, and that was it for our first attempt at photography.  From time to time, we continued to look at good digital SLR cameras, but we never bought one.  Something was starting to swell in me about pursuing photography, though, and I think my husband picked up that I was really serious this time.

Fast forward to Christmas Day, 2007.

I try to not put treasure in earthly things.  I really do.  But I must confess that when I opened my gift from my husband that Christmas that I was just blown away… really and truly.  With my family eagerly watching, I unwrapped my new Canon Digital Rebel XTi, (detailed info) the most current Canon DSLR at that time.  If I didn’t cry, I know that I wanted to very badly.  I never realized until I opened the box just how much I wanted to explore photography.  Now that I have experimented with it for almost three years, I think I know why.

I am a “visual” person.  If you want me to learn something new, you will do well to give it to me in writing and not tell me verbally because I am 1000 times more likely to pick it up that way. I am often mesmerized by the sight of something, and honestly, that can be almost anything…. a beautiful sunset, a hummingbird at the feeder, a homeless person on the street, a new baby right after he is born, or my big ol’ poodle taking a nap.  It’s like there is something that resonates inside and says, “This moment is special and needs to be preserved because it won’t come again.” This has been a part of who I am for as long as I can remember.  It is why I now take 150 pictures at my great-nephew’s birthday party.

Just look at those eyelashes and the Indiana Jones hat!

I truly believe that sometimes God is “nudging” me in what I see, so that I will wake up and take notice what he has laid before me to appreciate or notice that something needs to change.  My opening quote by Ansel Adams is my absolute favorite thought regarding photography in general, and I plan to talk more about by budding love “no color” photography at some point, too.

Part of my desire to take good pictures also stems from the experience of trying to preserve the photos of my parents… the only visual record of our family from those days.

My grandmother (right) and her sister (left) as young women, most likely taken around 1910. Her sister looks exactly like one of my cousins as a young woman.

Both my sister and I have worked on this project, and we still have more work to do.  Bless her heart, my sister sat at a scanner and literally scanned hundred of old paper photos.  I have worked to restore some of them digitally as best I can.  And we are still trying to figure out the best (and most affordable) way to preserve hundreds of slides.  But, the reward of having our oldest family pictures preserved in a better format is very rewarding indeed.  Someday, I believe that younger family members will appreciate having our quality pictures in digital format, already organized in an online database can also be searched with relative ease.  Perhaps not.  But, I will have one there for them, just in case.

The art of photography, for me, is moving the image and feeling (especially the feeling) that is so vivid in my mind to the digital image that others see, and doing it as accurately as possible.

Our big ol’ baby, now 13 years old on a “dog day afternoon”

I needed better equipment to accomplish this feat, including digital imaging software.  When I opened that camera on Christmas Day in 2007, I knew that was the first step to making a dream come true… helping others to see what I see and even understand a bit more about who I really am and what my values are.

While equipment is very important, there are techniques for good photography that can be applied to any camera, including my trusty little point-and-shoot and even my phone camera.  Even most of the basic point-and-shoot cameras today have untapped capabilities beyond what most people care to explore.  I still have a Nikon point-and-shoot camera in my purse at all times, so I’ll explore more on this topic here, too.

I have learned much, but I still have much, much more to learn.  It is all pure joy, too.  Grab your camera and come along for the journey!

Visually yours,

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Food

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
— J. R. R. Tolkien

Oh my, where do I start on the topic of  “Food?”   Well, perhaps a bit of honesty will suffice.

My mother set the bar very high in the cooking category. Her holiday meals are legendary in our family, and we are all quite sad that at age 89, she no longer opts to spend hours and hours in the kitchen preparing her famous meals. Oh sure, she will come to one of our houses and cook up a batch of fudge or two, but she now opts to let us attempt to carry on the tradition. To date, we have not even come close. But, we do try.

Until the last few years, I can honestly say that cooking was often a chore for me. Most of my first two decades of marriage were consumed with holding down jobs in my profession, raising kids, running the “mama taxi” and doing housework. More often than not, I worked more than eight hours per day at my jobs, especially my first job right out of college. My husband frequently traveled during the week on business and was unavailable to help. By the time I picked up kids from daycare, I was tired and hungry, kids were tired and hungry, and all I wanted to do was get us something to eat and enjoy some family time before hitting the evening “to do” list.

Needless to say, cooking was not on my radar as often as I would have liked, except for preparing some traditional holiday dishes for our family gatherings and some weekend meals at home.  I did, however, take advantage of my crock pot, and often used it at least once a week.  My husband sometimes volunteered to cook on a weekend, which was so nice for all of us.  Experimenting with new recipes was fun, especially ones that I had sampled from friends or fellow church members. (Oh my, covered dish meals at church… what a fond memory! How I miss them now.) I never disliked cooking. I just didn’t have much time to cook.

Fast forward to the beginning of my “empty nest” period that began a few years ago. Combine that with my mother selling her house and moving to a place that will do all of her cooking for her, and the result was a desire in me to cook more and try to fill the void of my mother’s home cooking. I appreciate great food in restaurants, but there is just something about the satisfaction and flavor of a good home cooked meal that just warms the heart.

One of my first cooking tasks was to gather and preserve our most treasured family recipes. I will talk more about that project later because it is one of the most satisfying things I have ever worked on. I will even share a picture or two of the finished product. All I can say is that I am so glad that I completed the recipe collection while my mother was still around to help clarify some of her handwritten recipes. If you are considering such a project, take that bit of advice to heart and don’t delay another minute.  Treasured family recipes should never be lost.

Food posts here will not be solely devoted to home cooking. We have dined at some wonderful restaurants, and many have been quite affordable. Others have been more memorable events that I will always treasure… in some fabulous places. Who could overlook those special times in any decent food discussion?

Shredded chicken tostadas at La Margarita, our favorite San Antonio restaurant

Stayed tuned and bring your appetite. More to come… especially calories.

Tastefully,

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Family

“Families are like fudge… mostly sweet with a few nuts.”
— Author Unknown

I am a child of God, and I know where I come from.

I am a grandchild to pioneering grandparents and great-grandparents that set out to this part of the country in search of the best life they could find for their families.

I am a daughter to a hard-working father, now deceased, who owned a small trucking company, and a life-long stay-at-home mother who still holds the title, “Best Cook Ever,” and made pie crusts from scratch.

I am a sibling to an older brother, now deceased, and an older sister, my longest and dearest friend.

I am an aunt to some great nephews and their wives.

I am a great-aunt to some truly amazing kids that are all wonderfully unique.

I am a niece to some spontaneous and fun-loving aunts and uncles that helped to raise me. All but one aunt are now deceased.

I am a cousin to some wonderful cousins. One died much too early, and his untimely death changed me, and our extended family dynamics, forever.

I am the wife of a loving, smart, funny, opinionated, kind and complicated man that I have known since I was 13 years old. I am still trying to figure him out.

I am the mother to the two most beautiful and brilliant children to ever walk on the face of the earth. Yes, you heard it here first.

With the exception of God, none of us are, or ever have been perfect. Especially yours truly.  Just ask those closest to me.  (Just don’t tell my dog.  He thinks I am perfect.)

We have laughed, cried, fought, made up, celebrated and mourned together. We have had our disagreements and have them still, if you can somehow believe that. We have dropped everything when one of us was rushed to the hospital. We have spent hours on the phone together. We have looked at thousands and thousands of family pictures and tried to figure out just how to convert old slides to digital. We have enjoyed sandwiches and chips on Christmas Eve together after a pan of chicken spaghetti exploded on top of the stove.  We have researched family history and tried to preserve what we can for those to come after us. We have tried to figure out what the doctor can’t seem to figure out. We have wished for days gone by. We have struggled with loved ones with serious addictions.  We have wished for kids to grow up. We have mourned the fact that kids are grown up. We have consumed millions of calories together. We have hosted hundreds of birthday parties. We have made the decision that we needed a break for a little while. We have prayed thousands of prayers for one another. We have brought our children to God and asked Him to guide and protect them. We fought back the tears when we watched kids walk down the aisle at graduations and weddings. We have hauled gifts hundreds of miles so that we could celebrate one single Christmas in the mountains together. We have gotten up at sunrise to go water skiing while the water was still smooth and were rewarded with breakfast afterward. We have wondered if our country is headed toward prosperity or disaster. We have bailed each other out. We have not bailed each other out. We have attended countless kids’ ball games and concerts and recitals.  We swelled with pride at Carnegie Hall watching one of our own on the stage.  We have struggled with how to care for aging parents. We have played countless card games and domino games and board games. We have made some hard decisions that have not been popular. We have proud memories, and we have regrets. We have wondered how in the world Mother will survive without Daddy. We have watched Mother survive without Daddy. We have spent countless hours on the internet researching various diseases that have sprung in our midst. We have picked and shelled black-eyed peas together. We have eaten black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day.  We have screamed to God when we didn’t understand.  We have worked long hours in our jobs and sacrificed the things we wanted to do for the things we needed to do.  We have stayed up past midnight or risen before sunrise cooking for Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter meals. We have disappointed each other and hurt each other.  We have worried and prayed for a way to pay the bills when the money was not in our accounts.  We have loved deeply.  We have spontaneously jumped on an airplane after dinner to see a newborn niece across the state without packing a single thing to take along.  We held the hand of the most special man on earth and prayed and cried as he passed from this life to the arms of Jesus.  We have marveled at the letter written by great-grandmother, imploring her children to meet her in Heaven as she was dying.  We have done hundreds of other things together, both good and not so good.

It’s complicated, and it’s simple.  We are family.

One of the last pictures of my “angel” brother

Waiting for the glorious day in Heaven when we will all be united again.

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Faith

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”
— Hebrews 11:1 (KJV)

I gave my life and my heart to God in high school, some 35 years ago now. Perhaps I will delve into that experience a bit more at a later date, but it still remains very personal and special to me, as do many other times that God has spoken to me over my 52 years of life.  This relationship defies words, or at least the words that I can give it. It hasn’t made my life perfect by any stretch, but it has helped me to savor the amazing times, bask in the peaceful times, summon courage in the difficult times, and simply endure the impossible times better and with more purpose than I ever could without my loving Heavenly Father at my side. I cannot imagine living life outside of this constant, abiding love that greets me every single day.

I am a wholly imperfect servant, but I remain a servant today, imperfections and all.  I am grateful every morning that I wake up to so many blessings in my life, and I strive to never take those blessings for granted… especially my Five F’s.

The verse that I listed above is one of the first verses that I committed to memory back in my high school days.  I actually had a poster on my wall with a beautiful nature scene and this verse overlaid on it. As a new Christian at that time, it was a concept that I struggled with.  Thirty-five years later, I still struggle with it at times, but I now have many instances of walking in faith to draw strength and hope from. I am grateful for each and every situation that God has both blessed me with and pulled me through, often using his angels disguised as family and friends along the way.

A moment of inspiration in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove this summer, standing beneath trees that are almost 2000 years old; it just took my breath away

Sometimes faith is the only option.

But always… in everything… faith is the best option.

Been there… done that.  Need to keep doing that.

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