Memories in Time

I was thinking about something this morning. People who really know me know that I’m all about taking pictures. I mean, not just during the Holidays or special occasions, I take pictures almost every day. I take pictures of random, ordinary moments, sometimes just a quick snap shot, sometimes taking it to the picture editor and embellishing it a little. I post many to Facebook, but there are some that just sit on my computer for a while until I finally decide I’m ok with deleting them or I move them to a named folder to keep for good. My friends and family have varying degrees of the opinion that I’m “picture crazy”, and others who are more of an acquaintance might think I’m silly, annoying, or even a little self-absorbed.

Well, you have to understand my history to understand my pictures.

I was born in the 80’s, into a world of Polaroids, long before the digital age. It wasn’t nearly as easy or as cheap to take and keep pictures around as it is today. You had to keep the photos in album books if they were going to stay nice, and film and books cost money and you had to keep buying them. To get a good portrait shot, you had to pay a photographer and pay for copies of those photos, and then you had to buy frames and all that. This, of course evolved a little, but pretty much was the norm until the very late 90’s, early 2000. Needless to say, my parents having 3 kids at that time, and 8 by the time it was all said and done, had better things to spend money on.

In addition, when I was 9, my family moved from a big, normal house into a tiny 31 foot travel trailer to travel west and begin a new life of adventure and pioneering. (Long story for a different day.) We had to down size to the very barest of minimals to fit us all in. After giving precious items to friends and family, many things just had to be pitched, including a lot of photos. It sounds harsh, but my mom did what she had to do and a drawer full of pictures and Polaroids that had never made it into albums had to be thrown away. I remember she cried while those memories went into the trash. Baby pictures, birthdays, family snap shots – all gone. To this day, I have no pictures of myself as a baby except for the few that my aunt has shared from the ones she kept. Sometimes, and Facebook has been a great thing in this respect, a long-lost memory surfaces as a very old picture is scanned and shared by family or friends that my mom reconnected with in the past few years. It is rare, though.

Between that time and the years we lived in Colorado and then Kentucky, disposable cameras were cheap and made it much easier to take pictures, but developing still cost money, and after moving so much, we learned to travel light and we didn’t take many pictures that have survived. There is a small handful that each of my sisters and my mom have, pictures my dad hand-picked before he died of the cabin he built and the years in Colorado.

Then, in 2005, I moved out on my own and was introduced to a world of rapidly evolving digital cameras and camera phones. I was young and single, so I had very little incentive to take pictures for a little while, but then I got married, a year later we were pregnant with the first grandchild on Hubby’s side and moving a thousand miles away to Colorado to open our first restaurant. My mom in law bought me my very first, very own digital camera. Suddenly, pictures were so easy to take, and storing them on our new laptop was incredibly easy too. No more developing charges, bulky photo albums, and any “bad shots” could easily be deleted. It was life changing.

But the biggest piece of this puzzle fell into place later that year, the reason why I like to capture so many ordinary moments.

Many who have read this blog and followed it even a little know that in 2008 we lost our first baby girl to a surprise and mystery condition she was born with. She lived 17 days, all of them in a NICU unit, and while I took pictures and a few videos, I did not realize she would die and how many memories I would not make. I didn’t take nearly enough pictures, and even if I had, there would be none of the ordinary moments we take for granted. There were no pictures of her first bath, her first time getting dressed up for church, her first steps, her first birthday, her first day of school, and there certainly weren’t any every day moments to remember and smile over. What’s worse is that the time I did spend with her is missing huge chunks in my memory. I have blocked out most of the traumatic days of her in the NICU laying in pain, unable to be held by us, a blur of doctors and medicine and sterilization. Those are the only memories she is part of and many of them are lost.

We were blessed, by surprise no less, the following year with our rainbow baby Faith. From about half way through that pregnancy (the point where I begin to remember life again, the months directly after Skye died are almost completely gone, I vaguely remember very little, clips here and there) I had decided that no matter the outcome, I was not going to wait to spend time with her. I was going to make memories and make the most of her time with me, whether that was days or years. I talked to her all the time, just as you would a friend, when she was in my belly. I told her what I was doing, how things looked, my hopes, my fears, why I was doing a certain chore and how. Someone watching me would have pegged me as insane, walking around the house talking to “nobody” about needing to do the dishes and why one brand of soap was better than another.

I took pictures of my pregnant belly, but I really began taking pictures when Faith was born and I just never stopped. Over the past 3 years the picture-taking has really evolved as I found fabulous free picture editing sites to fix flaws and enhance the mood of the shot, add frames, etc. and Facebook has been invaluable for storing my pictures in albums. In fact, after my first computer crashed, I learned a valuable lesson. I lost even more of the few precious memories I had, pictures of Skye, on my old laptop, and would have been utterly devastated if I had not put pictures on Facebook and videos on YouTube. So yeah, I post A LOT of pictures on Facebook and my friends may or may not think I’m a little obsessed, but I don’t care. I know that several times I have needed to download them back off the web to have them.

Memories friends, you can’t buy those. They are priceless.

Just a Fall day at the park with my girl.

 

Every time I snap a picture of this little girl loving life, I think of another little girl who is not here. She never got the chance to go down the slide.

 

Another every day memory. One day she’ll be grown up and this picture will be all I have. I don’t take it for granted.

 

 

Capture Your Grief Day 31: Sunset

I am posting this a day late as last night I was busy making memories with family and friends. I have to say, it was perhaps the most appropriate way I could have ended this tender month.

When I started this project, I had the great desire to post every single day, using every subject. However, this month has been very busy, especially the weekends, and I had to skip a few days as they got away from me.

I have taken so much away from this project. I have cried and cleaned out my soul, remembered, mourned, rejoiced, freed myself of inhibitions, made friends, reflected, found strength, discovered things inside of me I had not even known were there. Not being lost on me is the irony that as I cried for my first child, I am pregnant with my last, and the cycle of living life fully while continually grieving has been an epic journey. I suspect it will not be over until I reach the distant shore of eternity. I’m ok with that.

Last night, as I spent a carefree evening with my husband and daughter and some dear friends, I kept in the back of my mind that I needed to snap a picture of the sunset. Since we were walking outside Trick or Treating, I figured it would be easy to capture a perfect picture. The evening sky was clear with just a few clouds that added to the aesthetic value and I was once again envisioning an epic photo much like the one I had envisioned at the beginning of the project. However, when the moment came to take the picture, I realized we were on the eastern side of a hill and could not see the setting sun horizon because of houses and power lines, etc. So I did the best I could, snapping a shot of the evening sky. At the moment, it did not seem very epic at all, but I wasn’t bothered as much as I had been with my sunrise shot at the beginning of this project. In that moment, I felt happy and carefree, I had the people who mattered most spending time with me and making precious memories. Perhaps the deep cleaning done to my soul has helped me more than I realize, all I know is something really is different at the end of this month compared to when October started.

Letting yourself grieve is a good thing, friends. Don’t be afraid of the memories and the tears they bring. Let yourself feel the pain, allow yourself to be hurt, admit that you have wounds. You have them anyway, acknowledging them is just the first step in the direction of healing. Denying your wounded state just keeps the wounds festering. Don’t kid yourself, they are there whether you cry or not, whether or not you acknowledge them, and most of all, they are there whether or not others acknowledge them. Grief is not to be feared, use it as a tool for healing your soul and getting stronger.

I hope each person reading this finds peace, where ever they are in their healing process, whether beginning, mid way, well into the thick of it, or maybe even having yet to encounter deep grief in your life. My hope is that you always have blessed memories being made along the way, and that you are never afraid to pull them out from time to time, even the painful ones. Every memory is precious.

Day 31: Sunset
Mt Pleasant, Tennessee, USA, about 6 pm October 31st, 2012

The Sunshine State of Mind

 I sat here this morning and reread a few posts I wrote several months back touching on my childhood. I love to walk down memory lane and it’s fairly therapeutic to tell of my life, even if I’m the only one who ends up reading it. However, I can’t help but be frustrated and a little sad that there are huge chunks of my life that are literally indescribable. I can’t seem to put into words, that most people will grasp or understand enough to do the story justice, some of the fragments of my life. I have lived a rather strange life, plain and simple. I’m not apologetic, I’m just stating a fact.

 As I sat here for a moment this morning, wanting to write a little more about my life, I scanned through the files in my mind and came upon my teen years. The years between 13 and 19 are so chock full of rich history that makes me who I am today that it is impossible to truly know me without knowing all of that. However, it is also the most difficult part to tell, more difficult than my wild days as a young adult, more difficult than the loss of our business and the death of our daughter. Perhaps one day I will be able to put it into words, but that is not today.

 Instead, I’m going to call on a much earlier time frame, my childhood in Florida, and our recent vacation.

 All the memories of this happy time in my history came flooding back last summer when Josh and I went on the first real vacation of our married life and really since our childhood. He’d been to Florida on vacation several times with his parents and to visit friends long before he’d met me, but I had not been back to the state since my family left for Colorado when I was 9 years old. I had not seen the ocean at all since then, though I had been just a few hours away in  South Carolina, New York, and Texas at different points in time.

Me, my brothers Nick and Naaman, my mom, and our dog, Sandy. I think I was about 6 or 7 years old here

 My childhood in Florida ranks among the happiest years of my life. My family was all together in one state (my Gramma, Mom’s sisters, her brother, and their children.) and we were all close. We’d go to the beach together, go to the park, the mall, the flea market, hang out at my Gramma’s house and swim in the pool, there was almost not a day that went by that I didn’t spend time with my cousins, aunts, uncle, and grandmother.

 I remember cook outs by the pool, the grill fired up, chicken and corn on the cob and baked potatoes wrapped in shiny foil all laid across the grates, fresh fruit salad with kiwi and mangos and bananas and watermelon. (You could not have a cook out without watermelon.) All the kids would be splashing in the pool, my brothers and I, my cousins Jessica and Kaleb, sometimes cousins Jon and Greg, and later, Rebecca and little India. To this day, grilled chicken ranks among my favorite foods.

 We lived only fifteen minutes from the beach, so we went often. Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s there was very little environmental awareness connected to global warming and marine conservation. We would go to the Bathtub Beach and swim right out to the reef. When the tide was out it was very easy to access, sometimes you could even wade, you didn’t have to swim. We would climb right up on the reef and explore, searching for marine life and sea urchins, using our little snorkel sets to dip beneath the water and watch the fish and search for sand dollars. Today, this Beach is in danger of being shut down due to the deterioration of the reef. They started implementing a “no walking on the reef” regulation in 1994 as this problem began making itself apparent. I remember this because the very last time we went to the beach right before we left Florida the life guard was shouting for people to get off the reef and I was confused since we had always gone out there for as long as I can remember.

 In Florida’s hot, humid climate, knowing how to swim is all but a requirement. I learned at a very early age. I don’t think I can even remember as far back as when I didn’t know how, that’s how young I was when I learned. We might as well have been fish, that’s how much time we spent in the water. My Grandmother’s pool was an in-ground with a 7 foot deep end. I remember being very afraid of the suction cleaning system that rolled along the bottom of the pool when we weren’t using it, sucking up the debris that would fall in. My father had personally landscaped Gramma’s back yard while he was running his landscaping business when I was very little, and he had put in some big palm trees, nice and close to the concrete walkway around the pool. They made for some very nice shade, but they would also drop big round seeds, about twice the size of a marble. The pool system, nick-named “Creepy”, would suck them up when they would sink within reach of its submerged vacuum head. I remember frogs would fall into the pool too, eventually meeting the same fate, being sucked up through Creepy’s long hose and ending up in the filter basket. It was always fascinating to find them, in a gross sort of way, when we would clean the filter.

 Sometimes we would jump in the pool before Creepy could be taken out and coiled neatly out-of-the-way. I was always very careful to stay clear of “him”, but my brothers were not afraid of him at all. My older brother would often dive down and grab the vacuum head and chase me with it. It made a horrible, loud sucking noise when it reached the surface and started gulping air, helping to perpetuate its illusion of being alive. I was so terrified, I thought I would be sucked up through the hose and end up swirling in the filter, bloated and lifeless like one of those poor frogs. (I’ve always had a vivid, if rather unrealistic imagination.) I would swim for the nearest edge of the pool and bolt out, sometimes scraping my knees on the rough cement, and scream and cry until my mother or aunt or grandmother would come outside scolding, telling us we needed to take the vacuum out before we got in or we might break it. I would have gladly done this every time if I wasn’t so terrified of Creepy. I couldn’t even bear to touch him.

 Such carefree days those were! The year round warm weather made it seem like summer all year. There was no division of the seasons and time seemed to float by lazily. I was so young, my biggest worry was when lunch would arrive. (All the swimming and out doors play made us very hungry.) Even back then I had very few friends and while my brothers were hanging out with the neighborhood kids, I was hanging out with my mom and Gramma and Aunt Shanny at the bead table in the living room.

 Ah, beads! Yet another fond memory and love that carries into my life today. My grandmother and aunt Shannon had their own business, they created unique beaded jewelry and would sell it at the flea market and to area surf shops and high-end consignment stores. Their work was always in demand and my mom would often help. It was a great time for family bonding. Since I was the only girl and my brothers were always off doing their own thing, Gramma, Shanny, and Mom would often let me have my own corner of the big bead table set up in the living room. It was a big formal dining table, completely covered in plastic containers of beads, leaving just enough space for 4 or 5 people to work on a piece of jewelry. There were seed beads and clay beads, trade beads, polished stone beads, round, square, cubical, large, small, shiny, dull. Every kind of bead you could think of in every color of the rainbow. And not just on the table, but in boxes and bins and drawers under the table and around the table. It was an artist’s heaven.

 We would spend weekends just sitting and making jewelry. Necklaces, earrings, anklets, bracelets, whatever our creative juices would demand. I would usually have the job of making the coffee, you could not make jewelry with out a cup of coffee to stimulate your creativity, and the older ladies would talk and visit and I was allowed to be right there, feeling all grown up, if I promised not to get too chatty. (I was a very “talk your ear off” kind of kid once I was allowed to get going.) I think most of the jewelry I made was disassembled when I was done, but I remember some pieces were deemed good enough to put on the “sell” rack. I was so proud when this happened, and even prouder when I’d hear the news that one of my creations had sold. To this day, my grandmother and aunt Shannon make beaded jewelry and sell it. They live in Arizona now, and they have a few other irons in the fire in addition to beaded jewelry, but it is still a family passion.

One of my Grandmother's lastest creations for sale online in her Etsy store.

(Feel free to check out my grandmother’s Etsy store, it’s becoming quite popular in the short time she’s had it open, just since early 2010.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/DesertHippie642?ga_search_query=deserthippie642&ga_search_type=seller_usernames 

My aunt Shannon also has an online Etsy store she has been filling with her own line of creations and neat treasures she has picked up from here and there.

 http://www.etsy.com/shop/JunqueyardRoyalty?ref=pr_shop )

 All these wonderful memories and more were pulled out and dusted off on mine and Josh’s recent trip to Florida for a much-needed and long-awaited vacation. Granted, we stayed on Fort Walton Beach, and that is a long ways from where I grew up in Stuart on the East Coast, and very different, but it was Florida and it was ocean and beach. It was fantastic! The weather was beautiful the whole time and there were barely any people for the beginning of August. The oil spill in the gulf had scared a lot of vacationers away, but there wasn’t a trace of oil to be seen where we stayed. We left Faith home with her grandmothers and it was just me and him, very carefree and romantic.

 I’d never been to the Destin area, and could not believe the scenery. I now know why they call it the Emerald Coast and talk about the sugar white sand. It was so different from what I remember as a kid, yet comfortably familiar. The water was the color of green Listerine. I don’t really know how else to describe it. It was crystal clear, beautiful emerald-green.

Listerine Green!

 We were able to do a lot of activities that we hadn’t counted on because our condo came with discount offers and we didn’t have the baby to think about. We were very busy for being on vacation. We went snorkeling and road a giant speed boat called the Seablaster, and we went deep-sea fishing. (Josh caught fish, I did not, but we had loads of fun.) We got sunburned in spite of plenty of sunscreen, and we went sand crabbing well into the night every night. We didn’t do much sleeping because we tried to catch the sunrise on the beach, coffee in hand, almost every morning. It was glorious to be back in the sun and the sand after years of being away. We spent five days there, a rather generous amount of time for a vacation, but it still wasn’t even close to enough. We were like most people I’m sure, spending the whole drive home trying to figure out how we could move there permanently and not be excommunicated by our families. Of course, once we got home and settled back into normal life those thoughts were replaced by reality and common sense.

Destin's Harbour Village from the bay.

 Still, on cold days like this, with snow piling up outside my door, I think about Florida and relive the good times. I’m back in the sun with a really nice tan and there is water everywhere I go. Walks on the beach, fishing from the pier, salty ocean air, seagulls, and all the other sweet memories. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll figure out how to make a relocation work. (Not anytime soon, don’t worry.) For now, I’ll just treasure the recollections.

Taken on our deep-sea fishing trip.

Dawn