For the first 50 years of my life, my perfectionist self mistakenly believed it was all about knowing more, getting it right, planning, attempting to prevent bad things from happening, and keeping all of my chicks in a row. It took me this long to discover that the JOURNEY is all that matters. This quote from Gilda Radner sums it all up:

"I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

An Unusual Photo Shoot

I LOVE taking pictures.  I especially love taking pictures of people.  Photography is an art, and portraiture is the art of bringing out the beauty in your subject.  There are many technical aspects of  portraiture that can help make someone look better - the lens you use to take the photo, the lighting, the position of the lighting, etc...    For instance, I took some pictures of my daughter, Annie, last week in the snow.  The snow acted like a reflector, bouncing beautiful light up onto her face to balance out the sunlight from above.

Today I had a photo shoot with a very unusual subject.

She wasn't a typical girl.

She was not having a very good day,  in fact it was one of her worst.

This inspired me to do a really good job today.

I really wanted to make her look beautiful!

She was VERY cooperative and didn't fidget or complain when I asked her to pose a certain way.

I am very pleased to say that I was able to bring out her INNER BEAUTY!




She was kind of shy with a smile reminiscent of Mona Lisa.

                                        She was playful!

                                      She was fashionable.

                                       And she was really cute!

         She did not complain about posing with different props...

                    Sami loved the smell of her perfume.
                     Halle had other things in mind!

Oh,  I forgot to mention one little thing......

She was dead.

After getting home from church today,  I looked out the kitchen window into the yard and saw Halle carrying around a stuffed animal.  She has a stuffed squirrel with a squeaky thing in its tale.  But I hadn't seen it around in a while.  Where did she find it?

It donned on Vance, Adam, and me at about the same time.  That was no stuffed animal!  We ran outside to take a look.  It was a squirrel who had met its master on this beautiful winter day.  How?  Did she fall from a tree as she ran across its branches, taunting Halle.  Did Halle finally catch a squirrel?  It didn't seem to have any obvious trauma.  Was it a stroke or a heart attack?

I felt bad for her, and really wanted to memorialize this fine creature in the way I know best -


When all was done,  we said a fond good-bye!   But this is not how we will remember her!

                       THIS IS MUCH BETTER!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The House that Built Me

One of my favorite songs on the radio right now is Miranda Lambert's "The House that Built Me".
It chokes me up EVERY time I hear it because it reminds me of my childhood, and I wish the car radio would have a "replay" button so I could listen to it again. 

Watch it in full screen mode - it is a beautiful video!

My family moved into our house when I was 4 years old (1963).
My parents lived there until they passed away in 2009.

THIS is the house that built ME!

It is located at 396 South Winooski Avenue in Burlington, Vermont.  To anyone else, there wouldn't be anything special about this house.  To me, it is like a giant time capsule containing memories from all of the stages of my life.

This is a picture of me when I was 4 years old.  We moved into the house before my sister Lori was born.  This picture was taken on the day of her baptism.  I was sitting in a wrought iron chair made by my father.

Here I am the following year in our back yard.  My mom used to make "pin curls" in my hair by twisting little sections and pinning them to my head with bobby pins until my hair dried.  It looks like she forgot to do the bangs that day!

This was my 5th birthday party.  Actually, it was my only birthday party.  This was the only big party with lots of invited guests, that is.  We usually celebrated birthdays with only my immediate family.
My older sister, Kathy, is holding my younger sister, Lori behind me.  My brother, Paul, is standing next to them.  I think my cousin Mary is to my right and my cousin Diane is to my left.  The others are neighbors.

We used to have an old claw-footed bathtub which was my job to clean.  I remember this red bathing suit well.  And I kept my long hair in braids.

I was in high school when this picture was taken.  I was writing my first high school term paper.  I was wearing my long johns with a sweater, mismatched ski socks, and a scarf on my head, probably because my hair wasn't washed.  This was on my bed in the bedroom I shared with my two sisters.  Is that a corsage pinned to my sweater??  I really can't remember.

This was taken in our living room before Christmas with Jim McCormick, my date to the Snow Ball.
Nobody went out and bought expensive fancy dresses back then.  I was wearing a long plaid skirt and a black top - both belonged to my mother!  Notice the Dorothy Hamill haircut!

Here I am sitting with my cat, Diddles (or Mr. Deets) when I was in college.  I remember wearing this rag wool sweater a lot!

When I moved away to Connecticut after college, I would go home often.  I proudly brought my future husband there, my own children, and my dogs.   I can honestly say that every time I turned the corner onto my street, my heart would beat faster in anticipation of going "home".

We sold the house after my parents passed away.  The new owners renovated it A LOT.  Last summer when my sister Lori was visiting from Alaska, the new owner was nice enough to invited us in and give us a tour of the house after the renovations.  Nothing much remains the same on the inside - it was gutted and totally redone. The outside is a different color and has also been changed.  We walked through it much like Miranda Lambert in the music video.  It was beautiful.

But in my mind, I was seeing the house as it was before.  And I could still feel the love that had been there for my lifetime.  I still felt like I was "home" and boy, was it a good feeling!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Dear Diary....

I took out my old diary today.  It has been in my nightstand drawer for many years.

        It was given to me from my mom for Christmas in 1970.
        I began writing in the beginning of 1971.
        I was 11 years old at the time.

It was a 5 year diary, so it didn't give you much space to write.  Four lines.  I was reading a few entries to my daughter, Annie, tonight and we were laughing at what I chose to write in those four lines.  It was like looking into the mind of an 11 - 16 year old.  I was 12 when my mom gave me a purple skirt for Christmas that I really didn't like, but pretended to wear it proudly to school because I didn't want to hurt her feelings.  That was obviously the most memorable part of my day.  That's a 12 year old for you!
 What intrigued me the most about the diary was the stitching that held two pages together.  I never knew when my brother or sisters might find my diary and read it, so I needed to make sure whatever was written on these pages was only seen by MY EYES.  So I did a nice blanket stitch around the edge and finished it off with a little flower in the corner. 

Whatever I wrote was REALLY PRIVATE.
It has not been read in 40 YEARS  (1971) since I stitched it up!

 I know what it was about, but I really want to see how my 11 year old self put it into words!

I had written the entry with a pencil and many of the words were barely readable.  So I put on my reading glasses and got to work.  The words might have been faded from all of the tears that probably fell on these pages as I was writing.
It felt weird to write again over the words that I wrote 40 years ago in the hand of an 11 year old.
I carefully traced over the faded letters.

I remember being terribly sad for a LONG time.
And I remember being embarrassed that I was so sad.
Hence, the stitching. 
What was I so sad about?

When I was 11, my favorite TV show was "Alias Smith and Jones". It was a western about 2 famous bank robbers struggling to go straight, using the alias of Smith and Jones.  Every week they got into crazy adventures where their identities were constantly in danger of being discovered by the law. Their real names were Hannibal Heyes and Kid Curry.   Looking back, it was probably influenced by the popular Redford/Newman movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid".

Peter Duel played Hannibal Heyes and Ben Murphy played Kid Curry.  I loved them both, but I had a MAJOR crush on Peter Duel.  Dark hair, dark eyes, big smile, dimples  - he was the whole package. As far as I was concerned, he was the perfect man.

When my mother told me he had died and then later found out it was suicide,  I WAS DEVASTATED! He shot himself in the head!

I couldn't get him off my mind and my 11 year old self could not comprehend why someone so perfect would take his own life!  In my own little world, I had been in love with him and he was gone!  I remember being depressed for weeks and going into my room to cry often.  But I didn't want anyone to know how sad I was, so I hid it and I stitched the pages together.

Looking at what I wrote,  it really wasn't so incriminating.  It was nothing to be embarrassed about. The words do not reflect what I was feeling inside.

He was adorable!  And he was gone!  My     heart      was     broken!   I did recover eventually.  I went on to have crushes on many other men.
My final real-life crush was on another dark haired, dark eyed man with a big husband. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A GLEEful Project

I LOVE PHOTOSHOP and all the creative possibilities it gives me. 

Before Christmas,  my son, Adam, was looking to make his Christmas gift to his girlfriend more special.  I asked him a few questions about what kind of things she likes, and found our she is a big fan of the TV show "Glee".  BINGO.  I googled "Glee" and came up with a great idea.


Adam ended up buying her a nice bracelet, but we decided to package the bracelet in a CD case with a cool GLEE cover.  I got my camera out and took a few pictures of Adam against a plain background.

After some color-corrections and cropping, I came up with this basic picture to begin.

Next I had to cut him out of the picture so I could change the background.
The wall was gold and we needed a more vibrant color with a radiant glow in the center.

We decided on a bright green background (since it was a Christmas gift!)
 I added the green over the top of the original picture....

Then I put the cut-out picture over the top so it looks like the glow is behind him.

Now it was time for the letters.  Adam found a font that is very similar to the one used in Glee.

It looked good but needed a drop shadow.

And the finishing touch "Special Edition Christmas Album" on the top.

It was a fun little project that I could never have done with my BELOVED PHOTOSHOP!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


My husband is a very sweet, kind, generous man.  He has so many good qualities and I love him so much.  BUT, there is one quality about him that can be VERY irritating.  Whenever we play a game of any kind, he is VERY competitive and tends to win A LOT!  This is mildly irritating because I am competitive too, but WHEN he wins,  HE GLOATS!  He gloats BADLY and gets this superior attitude like he is smarter than everyone else. 

Ok, lets rewind a little bit to Christmas.  My main gift to Vance this year was an iPad.  It's the coolest thing I've ever seen!  The APPS that you can download for it are so much fun!  When I was setting up his iPad for him,  I downloaded a few game apps.  WORD SEEK was the first game that we tried.

The game gives you a 4x4 square of letters with point values on each letter (like in scrabble).  The point of the game is to find words by dragging your finger over the letters, which have to be connected either vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. 
You have 3 minutes to get as many words as you can and you get a score at the end based on the letters you used for each word and the value of each letter.    On Christmas day, we began playing as a family, with everyone chipping in to get as many words as possible.  Our high score was only @6000.   Over time since then, Vance has become addicted to this game.  About 4 days ago,  he scored 8400 and he was EXTREMELY proud of himself.  He was SO SURE that nobody would beat his score that he offered $100 to the first person who beat him.  Kerry immediately started playing to try to beat his score (because she is very competitive too!)

Vance may be good and fast at finding words, but I am the person who always reads directions and figures out exactly how things work!

As I was exploring the Main Menu, I saw there was an OPTIONS button.  I clicked on it and discovered something SO WONDERFUL!  You can actually change the size of the game board AND change the amount of time you get to play!   GOLDMINE!!!  I went to Annie's room and closed the door.  I asked her if she wanted to earn $100 for camp next summer.   Of course she did.  When I showed her my discovery, her eyes lit up with delight!  She finds her father's antics very IRRITATING too. 

So we changed the game board  and time limit, and ran the score up to over 10,000 points!  We didn't want to go too high right away.  Then we changed the game board back to the smaller size and time limit.
Annie took the game downstairs and pretended to play for a half hour or so before she announced her SUCCESS!  Vance immediately accused her of cheating, but then realized there was no way to cheat, so he paid up.  Ever since then,  he has been playing for hours every day trying to beat Annie's score!!!!  He got past 9000 last night, so we decided it was time for someone else to run the score even higher.  Everyone is in on the joke now and greatly enjoys watching him sweat.  After Vance went to bed last night,  we ran the high score up to  10,475 and this time Kerry's friend Jojo took credit!  THIS REALLY BOTHERS HIM NOW THAT TWO PEOPLE ARE SCORING HIGHER THAN HIM!

So here he is tonight, watching football and playing Word Seek again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again........................  HAHAHAHA!  It warms my heart!! 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lessons from My Father

It has been almost two years since my father had a stroke which led to his passing in early April of 2009 at the age of 81.  I still think of him often, sometimes with a smile and sometimes with tears.   He was the single most influential person in my life, and that continues to be true even now.  I admired almost everything about him.  They say that actions speak louder than words.  My dad's actions were his teachings.

He grew up on a farm in West Rutland, Vermont.  There was a lot to be done and each of the kids did their share.  My father had a tremendous work ethic.
One of the many jobs my father held was a bartender, although he rarely drank much himself.
 (That is my mother with the dark hair.)

If you are able to  do the job yourself, do it. Don't waste money by paying someone to do it for you.

I can probably count on only one hand the number of times my dad hired someone to do work for our family.  If something was broken, he fixed it.  If he didn't know how, he figured it out.  He was up for any challenge, big or small.  His creativity and logic combined to allow him to be successful in just about anything he attempted.   I remember how proud he was when he came home from work one day to find that I had taken my 10 speed bike apart, cleaned it, and put was putting it back together.  He taught us that you can't be afraid to try!
 My dad and my sister, Lori, standing on the new deck he built on her
home in Alaska the summer before he died.
 Here he is installing a new dishwasher for us when he was 76 years old.

He cut down trees and build a multi-level deck and screened-in porch on our house.

 Rain did not stop him.  Vance was so happy to be working with him out in the rain!

Look for the good in everything and everyone.  

He would always say "That's the beauty part of it!"  He was an optimist through and through.  He saw the beauty in all people and things.

                      Don't forget what it's like to be a kid. 
Act silly sometimes and don't worry about
what people will think.

 Stay active and be a big part of your kids lives
and your grandkids lives. You will be remembered more for what you do WITH them than any material gift you give to them.

 Never, ever give up without giving your best effort, no matter what life throws at you!

After his stroke, Dad never gave up hope that he would regain his ability to walk.

And he never lost his sense of humor (You wouldn't believe how often he stuck his tongue out for pictures throughout his life!)

 He told us his rehabilitation was the hardest thing he had ever faced...and he gave it 110%!

 Here he was released from the hospital to the rehab center.  He was happy to be able to ride
 in his red pick-up truck again.  It was his pride and joy!

                     And last but not least, keep smiling!
My brother and my father really liked the speech therapist and thought she was cute.  My dad gave me an extra big smile for this picture!

After watching him take care of my mother when she was at the end of her life, we learned from him the importance of being there for your loved ones, no matter how inconvenient or difficult it may be.  Cherish all the time you have and don't let them down when the going gets tough.  I am proud to say that my dad was alone for only a couple of days in the 2 months he was in the hospital and rehab in Florida.  My brother and sister and I were with him from morning until night.  We wouldn't have had it any other way.