Christmas

I haven’t been feeling well. My wife Krista, took the last couple of weeks of the year off and so far we’ve been through her being sick. Her ripping off part of her fingernail trying to clean the pool filter. I haven’t felt so hot the past couple of days and my back is really bothering me. Yes, I’ll have some cheese to go with my whine. I was asked this morning if I had already given up blogging, but I’m still here!

Holidays are a funny time for me. My childhood sucked. For the longest time I hated Christmas. We put on a big show, everything had to be perfect and we pasted phony smiles on our faces that hid all the pain and ugliness that went on in our lives the other days of the year while I was growing up.

As an adult, as a parent, I’ve had a second opportunity….a do over….to create the kind of family that gives my kids the love, security and support I never had. It gives me the chance to bathe my wounds in the love, security and support I get back from them in return. I do the best I can everyday to give my kids the things they need (and often the things they want, within reason) and to make them feel special. So I still struggle with Christmas.

I’ve done my best to hide my struggles from the kids. I’ve tried to make sure my kids know that we are celebrating the birth of Christ, the real reason for Christmas. We normally bake a birthday cake for Jesus, but somehow that slipped past us this year. I’ve been to culinary school and although I love to cook, I’m not much for baking or eating sweets so I leave the baking to my wife. When it comes to Santa, I’ve always told my daughter that Santa is just something we do for fun. I never really came out and told her the truth, but I never encouraged it either. It was my compromise and the best I could muster when it came to jolly old St. Nick. I was a surprised at my reaction to find out that my daughter Emily, who is now in the 3rd grade, came home telling my wife that kids at school are beginning to tell her that Santa is not real….that Santa is your parents. We have a tradition now in our family. It started one year when Emily wanted to mail letters to Santa. We didn’t want her going out to the real mailbox each time, so there is a table in the front entrance that has a drawer and we told her that the drawer was Santa’s special mailbox where he would pick up her letters. That drawer has been stuffed full of letters the past few years. We’ve even been caught off guard when we were informed in the middle of the year that Santa hadn’t been by to pick up her letter. Krista had to tell her that Santa was on vacation and he would be around soon. So anyway, I guess I was a bit taken aback by my feelings when I found out out that though she claims to still “believe”, I know that time is running short for Santa in the life of my daughter. I guess it represents a certain loss of innocence that I’m just not ready to see slip away from her…another reminder that time is going by way too fast for me as a dad. I love my kids SO much….I wish this time with them could last forever.


I’ve moved around a ton in my life. Krista and I have been together for 16 years. We’ve been in our current house for 6 years this coming March. Before that, we averaged a move every six months. It was always like that for me. I think this is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere in one place. As a result, I am the exact opposite of a pack rat. If I don’t use it, it’s out of here. After all, when you move that much, you don’t want to have to keep moving all your junk with you each time. Krista’s parents once told us we should get inflatable furniture. We donate all of our old stuff to Mission Arlington. I know we could save up our stuff and have a garage sale, but it makes me feel really good passing on our stuff to people who really need it. I feel thankful that we have so much and I remember what it was like to have nothing. It is my pleasure to help those less fortunate than we are. I’m trying to instill that in my kids. My daughter Emily is a bit of a pack rat…..ok…she is a full blown pack rat. She never get’s rid of ANYTHING. It used to be so easy with her. Each year we would go through her stuff and have her donate her things that she wasn’t using anymore to kids that didn’t have what she has. She never really had a problem letting go until the last year or so. I don’t know if it’s the whole Toy Story syndrome, or something else at play, but we don’t force her to give up anything, we just encourage. It’s gotten to be just too much and yesterday, Krista went through all the kids stuff and got them to agree to give up some of it. Justin, my son, was the recipient of a lot of hand-me-downs in the toy department from his big sister. It just so happens that he has now outgrown a lot of the stuff we originally bought Emily when she was just a baby. One of the toys was a Baby Tad that I bought for Emily before she was even born. So to my surprise AGAIN, I suddenly find myself having anxiety over the things being set aside to give away. I really started to struggle with my feelings of having to give these things up. If you knew me at all, you would know that these kinds of feelings just don’t fit me. I worked through the emotions and I’m happy to report that we made a large donation of clothes, baby furniture and toys to Mission Arlington today…but not before I took some snapshots to keep as reminders. It’s a lot easier to keep pictures than stuff and somebody that really needs what we had, now gets to make good use of it. So my kids had a good Christmas and hopefully they learned a bit about giving and also about what our Savior gave to us….



I am a DAD!

I am a full-time, stay-at-home, take care of the kids and my wife….DAD. There….I said it. Why do I find that reply lacking when asked what I “do”? I know why. You know why. Although we live in a world that is changing rapidly, there are still plenty of people out there that measure you, place a value on your worth, by what you do. I sat there looking at this 80 year old man and added “I’m a photographer too!” Like that’s any better right? I’m sure he was ready to revoke my “man card” on the spot.

When my wife and I decided to have kids, we agreed that one of us would be at home to take care of them; that we wouldn’t ship them off to daycare and continue life as usual. I am thankful beyond expression that God has provided the means to allow us to stick with our commitment. I drove a 18 wheeler when my 8 year old daughter was born. I continued doing that until she was 1. At that point, my wife went back to work fulltime and I took over taking care of the family….and I had my own computer consulting business that I worked on the side (see….I did it again). My wife already has her degree. She is a very successful professional. It just made sense for us. It was a surrender that I made because I realized that I’d rather be walking in God’s will rather than my own any day. “Bloom where you’re planted!” And we have been blessed as we have followed this path.

I’m not saying that there haven’t been struggles. Of course my ego, my insecurities get in the way sometimes. Our whole culture dictates that I must “be the man”. I must “be the provider”. Even my mother-in-law occasionally goes on a kick where she starts asking my wife if she is bothered by having to be the “bread winner”. How can I NOT feel SOME insecurity? A job came up a couple of years ago, that was particularly appealing to me. The salary was great. It fit in with my computer experience perfectly. I thought, hey….I can do this! I can work this job and still take care of my family. It would require that we put my son into daycare, but hey, “everybody does it”. From the moment we made the decision, I knew we were deviating from our intended path. I’m not here to judge anyone for putting their kids in daycare. There are circumstances beyond people’s control that dictate that choice for them and wouldn’t be able to make it without them. I grew up in daycare. I know what that experience is all about. The loudest, most obnoxious squeaking wheel gets the grease. No matter how good of a daycare, they can never love your child like you can. Of course kids are resilient and can “survive”, but surviving should not be the ultimate aspiration for our kids. We have put our kids into mother’s day out programs at 2 different churches and I have no problem with the kids getting the structure and playtime with other kids that I can’t supply by myself. But they only go 3 days a week for 5 hours, not 5 or 6 days a week for 12. So anyway, it didn’t last. It was apparent that the things we were seeing happening with him in daycare weren’t going to work for us so I quit.

What do you want to do with your life? Damn I hate that question. Where did that come from? Gen X’ers must have been asked that question a million times by well intentioned parents who although they meant well, didn’t provide the guidance necessary to actually help us find an answer. It is far more helpful to encourage your kids in their passions and pursuits….helping them to explore, allowing them to make choices, than it is to dictate their life and ask them impossible questions. I spent way too long trying to find an answer to that impossible question, putting all sorts of pressure on myself. More than I should have. I not only had to find out “what”, but it also had to be “respectable enough” as well. Damn! Is there anything else I can do for you while I’m at it?

So a friend of mine calls me this week and asks me to come assist him at his job. He services ATMs, cameras, etc for banks. It is an awesome job. Good money, independence…the kind of job that I could see myself being really happy doing. We have a great day. He tells me that I’m a great helper and he wants me to come to work with him. I tell him that I’m only available while my son is in the mother’s day out program and that doesn’t give me much time. I know in my head that this isn’t going to work. I’m feeling incredibly guilty because he is my friend. I’m feeling guilty because, how can I be turning down good money and a chance for a job that I could really, really like? He tells me, ahhh, you can just put your kids in daycare. No matter how guilty I felt at that moment, It was crystal clear to me that I had a choice to make….God’s will or my own and I already knew what I was going to choose.

So as I sat there talking to his 80 year old dad, explaining exactly what it is that I do. I may have felt inadequate at the moment to speak it out loud, but I AM PROUD TO BE MY KIDS DAD. I’M PROUD TO TAKE CARE OF MY FAMILY. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My year in photos, part 3

Wow what an amazing year. I’ve had so much fun and had so many wonderful photo opportunities.

Some people live in naturally beautiful places. Some people live where there is always people and events taking place. I LOVE street photography. My favorite photographer is Vivian Maier. I long to be a photojournalist but alas, I believe I probably missed that opportunity. With newspapers and newsrooms slashing staff to the bone and the proliferation of the Internet, opportunities in that field are few and far between.

That’s why I love shooting weddings so much. It’s my opportunity to be somewhere, where people are gathered, sharing an emotional event. It’s my chance to capture real human emotion….not just “SMILE!”



I rented a Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 for the wedding. I love this lens so much, I went out afterwards looking for things to “shoot”. Why let a good rental go to waste?




and then why not a trip to one of my favorite Arlington parks with the family?



I purchased a Nikon D70 some time back with the intention of converting it to infrared. In the meantime, I have no “throwdown” camera, so it’s the camera I grab when I don’t have my gear with me. I found myself at the Parks Mall with Justin and drug out the D70.


Later that night, I heard screams of joy coming from the living room….

I’m a full time dad as well as a photographer, so Justin ends up coming with me when I’m out scouting new locations. For the longest time, I couldn’t get him to “let” me take his picture. Now, he’s a big ham. I LOVE it. This is him taking a picture of daddy taking his picture.



Justin’s birthday

Logan, Lilly & Lexi were all sick the day we went out to do their photo shoot. We had fun anyway!




Krista wanted a “headshot” for professional purposes.

I pass by this church all the time and decided to stop one day and have a look around. The pastor came running out asking me what the problem was.


I went out exploring with a fellow photographer. We found a great little location right next to the stadiums here in Arlington. I spend most of my time behind the camera. This was the first day in a long time to have MY picture taken.




Halloween!


ZTA UTA!



Occupy Fort Worth

There is a tree that sits on I-30. It caught my eye.

Another wedding! This one at night in East Texas. I love my D700! Beautiful wedding and the nicest people.





Eric is my chiropractor. He is one of the nicest people I know. I was thrilled when he and Lauren wanted me to shoot some pictures for them.




Halloween!



Wow…that’s a lot of pics. That almost wraps up the year. Only one more post left.

My year in photos, part 2

Each day we take another step forward. Days turn into weeks, months and years. I know that it is such an old person thing to say, but how is it that time seems to speed up the older I get? I stand here one year later looking back and it fills my heart with joy to remember this wonderful journey I am on.

Mom & Justin…another favorite of mine.

Emily was going through this stage where she didn’t really take care of her hair. We were constantly having to tell her to brush her hair or we were going to give her a buzz. In typical kid fashion, she went about the task in the quickest and most careless way possible. This day she ended up getting her hair so tangled that I had to take her up to where she gets her hair cut. I was anticipating that they would have to cut it out (it was that bad tangled). She managed to survive with all her hair still intact. She’s been a little more careful since then.

Through my photography of the Arlington Kite Festival, someone from the Parks & Rec department found my pics online. I was invited to come take pics for Ventana Grill, one of my favorite restaurants.


The kids spent the night with Grandma & Grandpa and Krista and I got up early to go see a hot air balloon festival at the Midlothian Airport. We arrived just in time to catch a couple of balloons playing around before the event was cancelled due to high winds. We decided to go walking around downtown Waxahachie instead.






Scouting a new location for an upcoming wedding, I ran across this…

I took the kids to the C.R. Smith museum one day where we all had a great time.

For Emily’s 8th birthday, we went to Build-A-Bear

Meet the teacher and first day of school




Justin & I at the park

More to come…

My year in photos, part 1

For me, this has been a really fun year for photography. I thought I’d take a look back at some of my favorite photos from all the photo ops I’ve done in 2011.

The first picture is also one of my favorites of the year. It was taken back in January. I took my daughter and son out to Veteran’s Park in Arlington and captured this picture of Emily.

During the year, I volunteered to photograph different events at my son, Justin’s mother’s day out program. I greatly enjoyed this experience. As of the fall, he started attending a new school. I couldn’t help but look back on all the fun I had with the kids and get a little sentimental. This was from western day.

Waiting to pick Emily from school, I snapped this pic of Justin.

My friend and fellow photographer invited me along to shoot Mr. Colt at Arlington High School.

I caught this snapshot while wondering around the Fort Worth Zoo.

Taking photography classes at UTA provided lots of photo ops.

The kids went through a sudden and persistent urge to go fishing. We spent some time out at Lake Arlington.

Weddings are one of my favorite things to shoot.


What better way to exercise my photo journalistic skills than the Arlington Kite Festival? I really had fun.



I am a member of an online photography forum. They setup a downtown Fort Worth photo walk. Three of us showed up. I got some good pics and made a new friend too!

Camping trip at Lake Whitney State Park.

Scouting a new location


UTA

A fun day at Putt-Putt with Justin

Another fun day with the kids at Justin’s school.


Antique Alley in Grandview

A day at Grapevine Mills Mall with Justin, Emily and her best friend Caren. We were going to legoland, but aborted the mission after finding a two hour wait in line.

I got a TON of great pics at Easter.

Another photo op courtesy of UTA.




Denton Jazz Festival

I had heard about this location and decided to take the family to check it out.



We didn’t know it at the time, but this was Justin’s last day at his old school.

We hadn’t been on vacation in quite some time. Having somewhere to go that was both enjoyable for the kids and the adults was a challenge. I lucked out and found a great place. We had a wonderful time at Lost Pines in Bastrop. We had just adopted Chaz a couple weeks earlier and it worked out that he was able to go with us.






We drove through hillbilly hell on the way home. The absurdity of this sign speaks for itself.

I hope you are enjoying my trip back through the year. I guess I’ll stop here for now, but there’s plenty more to come. Stay tuned!

 

Photography

I never really considered myself the creative type. I couldn’t draw or paint you a pretty picture to save my life. I couldn’t play you a beautiful song with anything other than a radio. I got my first camera back in the early 80’s. It was a Canon AE-1 Program with a 50mm lens and a flash. I always really loved taking pictures, but I never really got serious about it. Maybe it was because of the cost involved and we didn’t have a lot of money growing up. Maybe it was just because I was so terrible at just about any other thing I tried to do creatively, that I just couldn’t see myself in that way. Through the film years I went through periods of time where I would take some pictures I really liked. I especially enjoyed photographing people. But as time went on and we moved into the digital age, I bought some pretty crappy point and shoot cameras, didn’t put much effort into taking pictures and as a result, I went through a number of years with nothing but some pretty crappy shots to show for it. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve regretted not capturing more of the memories of days gone by. I have none of the pictures from my childhood. They are stored away at my mother’s house who I haven’t talked to in years. I don’t know if I’ll ever see them again. When I really think about it, pictures are something that just can’t be replaced. Those moments can’t be recreated. There have been so many times I have wished that I had taken more pictures of this or that part of my life. A couple of years ago my sister got a Nikon D90 and told me she was going to start taking classes at UTA for photography. Something inside of me stirred and all those feelings I used to have taking pictures came flooding back. I couldn’t afford much, so I purchased a Canon T1i with 2 lenses as a part of a kit from Costco. I don’t want to overstate, but my life has changed from that moment forward. I was hooked. I spent the last 12 years working as a computer consultant. I spent countless hours parked behind a keyboard. The really funny thing about photography is that there is a certain geeky aspect to it. I found myself in a world of beautifully creative people who also enjoyed the geekier aspects of photography. It’s impossible to totally escape the technical aspects of photography today but I am passionately drawn to it for the creative side and the ability of self expression through creating images. There’s just something about that thrill that is hard to define. I also discovered a lot of other photographers who are A.D.D…..just like me. Like my sister, I ended up taking some courses at UTA, having the time of my life and meeting some really neat people. One of the first things I photographed when I rediscovered my passion was my daughter’s birthday party.

In my next post, I thought I’d look back at my favorite photographs from THIS year. It may take a couple of posts…I’ve already chosen so many!

 

Christmas is coming

Yesterday my daughter came in and announced that there were only 11 more days till Christmas. Realizing that there wasn’t much time left, I did what real guys do….I went online and did my shopping the only way that could keep me from wanting to strangle someone. No traffic, no finding a parking space, no fighting the crowds, no standing in line.

I almost felt guilty. I started thinking….I really should be shopping locally at some small mom & pop store. I really shouldn’t be buying all this silly crap for my kids. This has to be the least green way to shop in that my actions will now result in all those necessary trips to my house to deliver those packages just for me.

But then I realized that I’m doing my part to keep the Postal workers working, to keep the Post Offices open, spending money to keep the economy humming and at the end of the day, I’m making my kids happy. I’m making my wife happy and that is my number one mission in life. So the hell with the guilt, here’s to a wonderful Christmas and the time that I get to spend with my family.

My son Justin attends a mother’s day out program and today was his last day till next year. I went and had lunch with him and they had a birthday party for baby Jesus.