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.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Most Beautiful Day

I had my yearly mammogram last week.  I'd forgotten all about it until two days ago.  I came home from walking the dogs on a beautiful fall day to find the light blinking on my answering machine.  I pressed play.

The message was for me.  It was the mammography specialist at Jefferson Radiology.  Would I please call her back?

Intellectually, I knew it was stupid to panic.  But my brain was going to places that weren't calm and reasonable.  I tried calling her back but got her answering machine.  As instructed, I left my cell phone number so she could reach me wherever I was.  Five hours later when I finally talked with her in person, she just told me that something in the films looked different than last year and they needed more views to determine what it was.

The first appointment I could get was two days away.

My mind was all over the place.  Growing up, breast cancer was a pretty dismal diagnosis.  I know there is a world of difference in breast cancer treatments today.  Still, just the thought of any cancer at all is enough to instill fear in my heart.  My kids still need me.  My husband. My sister.  My grandchildren would never know me.  I'm glad I take so many pictures.  I'm glad I write this blog.

Have you ever heard about someone you know being diagnosed with cancer and you feel horrible for them, but you also feel a little bit of relief because you think your odds of getting cancer have just gone down?  Then you feel guilty for even thinking that thought?  I have, and I'm not proud of it.

Other thoughts were of my parents.  I considered how the end of life isn't quite as scary as it used to be because I believe I will see them again someday.

Then I considered how I would face the disease process.  Would I be strong and face it with courage and optimism, doing whatever I had to do to beat the disease and enjoying life as much as possible?  Would I be able to appreciate all that I have?  Or would I wallow in self-pity?  I hope I wouldn't do that.

Next, I started cleaning the house.  I put away the 3 laundry baskets full of clean laundry that had been decorating my bedroom for the past few weeks.   I vacuumed.  I cleaned the kid's bathroom.  Kind of like the nesting instinct before you give birth, I was kind of preparing for something.

I also talked to God.

Sometime during that first day of not knowing, a sense of calm and peace came over me. It seems like I had thought through every possibility that could happen,  and I knew I could handle it. Who knows? Maybe there's a reason this was happening that I didn't know yet.  I had to trust in God. I just felt that everything was going to be ok.

I slept 9 hours last night and woke up very rested.  It was a beautiful day once again.  As I walked into the medical building I was in awe at how beautiful the trees were.  And the breeze felt so nice.  I was amazingly calm.

It was a happy ending.  With additional views, the radiologist declared everything to be normal.  YES!

The day was just as beautiful when I walked to my car to leave.  I was relieved for sure.  I was also proud of myself.  Even though it turned out to be nothing, I felt like I had faced the enemy and was stronger because of it.

And more appreciative for my life.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

21 x 5

All of these girls are now 21 years old!

Julie, Parker, Kaylee, Kerry and Mel live in 4 different states, but made a point of getting together last weekend to celebrate the 21st birthdays of Mel (far right)  and Julie (far left).

 Mel and Julie have been roommates for over 3 years in college.
They just happen to share the same birthday too!

 Vance and I were delighted to be able to take them all out to dinner at Rizzuto's in West Hartford on Saturday.

Kerry turned 21 in July  (notice the eyebrow piercing is gone - yeh!)

There was good food,

tasty drinks,

and interesting conversation!

After dinner, Mel posed with a female "something"...

and Kerry was attracted to "something" else.

We walked to get something sweet for dessert.

 Mel and Julie are training to run a marathon next month, so they chose something healthy at Robeks.

Others chose a different sweet ending.

Then we sat outside on a beautiful fall evening to eat our desserts.

Happy 21st birthday, Mel and Julie!


When we got home, Kerry and Kaylee got exciting news.  They had made a sculpture of comedian Miranda Sings out of a volleyball. They sent it to her and asked her to post a pic on Instagram.  She did!

After only 44 minutes, it had 5815 likes.

By the next night, it was increased to 12,868 likes!

Unbelievable, isn't it?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Good-bye Glenn

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you might remember a post about a cute old man who made my day in Whole Foods by singing to me a year ago:

Click here to read

Today I sadly read this comment on my blog:

Hello Gayle , Awhile ago you posted about a singing old man -  my dad aka Glenn Miller - who sang Day by Day I Keep Falling inLove With You. You met us in Whole Foods grocery and he sang for you. He made your day. Sadly to say he entered into God''s kingdom last Friday the 20th of Sept. Thank so much for his moment of fame. We all enjoyed it. His obituary will be in the Journal Inquirer  Mon or Tue. this week. Thanks again. It was a lovely memory. Charlotte his daughter.

I just read his obituary.  

Glenn was a very interesting man.
- He was born in Vermont (something we both have in common).
- He lived for 92 years. 
- He was a direct descendant of William White who was a passenger 
  on the Mayflower! 
- He was married to his wife Celia for 66 years, who survives him.  
- He was an airplane mechanic and instructor in the Army during WWII.  
- He was also a private pilot and enjoyed flying his Cessna.  
- He enjoyed fishing and was an avid Boston Red Sox fan.
- He managed Little League teams in Windsor Locks.  
- He retired after 36 years from Pratt & Whitney.
- He was an all-around handyman and was very giving of his time.
- He was musically talented and loved to play the harmonica.
- He was an active member of his church.
- He has a son and a daughter, 4 grandchildren and 5 great grandchildren.
- He was a well-versed storyteller and often enchanted friends with epic tales
  of his travels in Vermont and surrounding territories.

I only met Glenn once for a few minutes, but I was impressed by his warm personality and gentle spirit.  And I could tell by the way his daughter treated him that he wasn't a burden to her.  He was well loved.

One of the most important things to teach children is to respect the elderly.  It's so easy for them to only see what they can't do anymore.  We need to teach them just how valuable they are - like a Renoir painting that becomes more priceless with each passing year.

The complete life, the perfect pattern, includes old age as well as youth and maturity. The beauty of the morning and the radiance of noon are good, but it would be a very silly person who drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to shut out the tranquillity of the evening. Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth.

Lightening the Load

When I was trekking around NYC a few weeks ago,  I  was well-equipped with my camera and a few lenses so I could take pictures of interesting things I happened upon.

Big mistake.

1)  I felt like a target when riding the subway if I didn't have my camera hidden - which is hard to do when it's so large.

2)  I felt like I had a sign on my forehead that read "I am a tourist".

3)  When it began to rain, I had to be concerned about protecting my camera.

4)  After 5 hours, my shoulders were aching and I had to keep switching the strap from one side to the other to redistribute the load.

With plans to spend much more time in the city accompanying Vance on business trips now that we are empty nesters,  I set out in search of another way to satisfy my photographic needs.

Not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars on another camera, and since I already have a decent camera on my iphone, I investigated options for my phone camera. had the answer!

Buy the Photojojo Phone Lens Series at the Photojojo Store!

For only $50, I bought 3 lenses that attach to my iphone camera magnetically -
a fisheye, wide angle/macro, and 2x telephoto.

You just need to take your iphone out the it's case and stick this magnetic ring around the camera on the backside of the phone.

Each lens has a magnetic cap over the back to protect it.

To attach the lens, just pull off the magnetic cap and put the lens onto the magnetic ring around the camera.

Each lens is extremely small, lightweight and easy to carry in your pocketbook.

I tried each lens a little this weekend.  Above is the fisheye lens.

The macro lens took this close-up of a map.

I love the wide-angle lens too!

Next time a go to the city,  I'll leave my large DSLR at home and travel lighter!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Everybody's Beautiful

Urban Dictionary definition of "teen-age girl"
The Teenage Girl is possibly the absolute stupidest, most materialistic, and shallow kind of human there is, and by definition the easiest to make money off of.

As a senior portrait photographer,  I  make my money mostly off of teen-age girls.

They put their faith in me to take pictures of them that they like.

That's a pretty tough job description, and it's not always easy. Sometimes it's impossible.

Girls today are so critical of their appearance - much more so than when I was in high school.

This was my high school yearbook picture.  I had my Dorothy Hamill haircut, my onyx earrings and a simple peach jersey top.   There were no other pictures. This was it.  It was an honest picture of what I looked like on a daily basis in high school.  I was not the class beauty queen.  I was in the nerdy group.

When someone comes to me for senior pictures,  my goal is to take honest pictures.
When they try their best to put on the smile they've practiced in the mirror at home,  I try to get the real, honest smile that their mom and dad know and love.

When girls are uptight,  my job is to relax them.
When girls are afraid,  my job is to put their minds at ease.
When girls don't think they're beautiful, my job is to show them that they are.

Back in my youth, there was a song that I loved by Ray Stevens called "Everything is Beautiful".  Released in August 1970, it took home two Grammy awards that year.  The famous lyrics center around the following words:

Everything is beautiful
In its' own way
Like a starry summer night
Or a snow covered winter's day
Everybody's beautiful
In their own way
Under God's heaven
The world's gonna find a way

I truly believe that everyone is beautiful.  I don't think I could do this job if I didn't. 

But the world today often teaches something very different.

"There is nothing more rare, nor more beautiful, than a woman being unapologetically herself; comfortable in her perfect imperfection.  To me, that is the true essence of beauty"  ~ Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You

Most teen-age girls aren't there yet.  They want to look like someone else.  

"This is a call to arms. A call to be gentle, to be forgiving, to be generous with yourself.  The next time you look into the mirror, try to let go of the story line that says you're too fat or too sallow, too ashy or too old, your eyes are too small or your nose is too big; just look int the mirror and see your face.  When the criticism drops away, what you will see then is just you, without judgement, and that is the first step toward transforming your experience of the world."    ~Oprah Winfrey

I disagree with the Urban Dictionary's definition of a teen-age girl.  While that is the face that many girls show to the world,  if you look beneath the surface they are just insecure little girls who are trying to be beautiful.  

I wish they knew they already are.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Negative Space

 Negative space. White space. Empty space. The void.

In this photograph, the negative space is what draws attention to the subject of the image.  The emptiness is just as important as the subject.

What an entirely different meaning this image would convey if there was no emptiness.

It's not easy to allow emptiness.  

We always feel like we should fill up our space, our time, our minds.

It almost seems irresponsible to waste all that space or time.

When my last child moved out of the house a few weeks ago, my first impulse was to fill up the emptiness.  I went to NYC and filled up my days with activity.  

When I came home, I thought I needed to formulate a plan for my new life.  Not a total overhaul, but I felt I needed to do something different.

After much thought,  I came to the conclusion that the emptiness is not a bad thing.

Just as in the image above,  the negative space is what allows the content to be heard.  

Why not try to go back to a time when daydreaming was a positive thing?  A time when I didn't feel guilty doing frivolous things. Not all the time, but maybe with that extra time I find I may have now. 

I practiced my new mindset today.  I could have been editing pictures or cleaning the house, but I chose to do something not so responsible.

I chose to lay outside on a blanket and enjoy the sun and the wind.

I wasn't alone for long.

White space is natural behavior for cats.  

It's not easy to allow emptiness.
But it feels really good when you do.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Filling the Void

After leaving Annie in Rochester, Vance was also leaving for the rest of the week.  He was going to New York on business.  The prospect of being totally alone for the rest of the week didn't appeal much to me at this time, so I decided "Why not go with him?"

We took an early train to the city on Tuesday, dropped our bags off at the hotel, and parted ways.

I was still alone, but at least I was alone with a million other people!

Whenever I had spent time in the city in the past, I was always with someone else.  I always had a specific place to go.  This time I could go wherever I wanted to go and do whatever I wanted to do.  I had a guidebook, a subway map on my iphone and my camera.

For two days, I walked the streets until my feet ached, rode the subways to unknown neighborhoods and spent a lot of time with my reading glasses and my map trying to figure out just where I was and how to get to where I wanted to go!

Columbia University
 But I had no timetable.

St. John the Divine Cathedral

And no place I needed to be.

Hot Dog for lunch in Central Park

I could browse the aisle in the huge Container Store for an hour...

Sit down and watch people in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village...

or spend hours at the Museum of Modern Art, even though it was dinner time!

It wasn't the art that necessarily thrilled me.

Such as this "Portrait of a Woman"

or "Dance" by Henri Matisse.

I loved the architecture of the building.  

I loved watching people sit and study the art, wondering what they were seeing that I was missing.

One time, just for kicks, I decided to study and take pictures of a blank wall with a door and a sign "electrical closet".

It would have made my day if someone had joined me!

On the second day I was there, I decided I would give a little money to every homeless beggar I passed.  It didn't cost me much, but I received many thankful smiles that day.  I wish I had taken pictures!

What I love most about cities is what you find when you're looking for something else.

On the third morning, I decided I was ready to come home.
I was tired and the city just isn't a very restful place for me.
When everyone and everything is moving so fast, it's hard to slow down.

So I made my way to Grand Central Station and hopped on the train back to New Haven with minutes to spare.

I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home to stock up for the week...

I guess I don't need such a big shopping cart anymore!

When I finally got home, there were two friendly faces welcoming me!

The trip was a nice diversion to get me over the hump of having no children at home.

Now it's time to start considering how I want the rest of my life to be.