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My Buddy and Me

It's a rare day when I get to spend any time alone with Jaxson.  I was looking back at my blog post over the years as I continue to make hard copies of them, and now books for the boys this Christmas, shhh, don't tell them, what I discovered and should have known, was that there is defiantly a second child syndrome. It doesn't happen because you love one more than the other because it would be impossible for me to love Jaxson anymore than I do, it happens because of circumstances.  The time and space now needs to be shared with two and the second child simple doesn't get as much personal attention or alone time with family members. It's just the way life is.

After seeing that reflected in my blog post, going forward, I will be much more aware of time spent with Jaxson but also, with time posted in the blog space.  There have been times when we have shared precious time together and because I let life get in the way, I failed to post as often.  Jaxson has made his way over on my Facebook page...he has a huge following there.  As a matter of fact, I get more likes and comment when a story about Jaxson goes up than I do about any of my other posts.  He deserves equal space here also.  He is so smart and entertaining.  He is happy and makes those of us around him happy to. He's growing fast now...and he's just learned how to whistle so I see the big boy trying to emerge as me and his Mom try to keep him small.  He is not going to let that happen.  One on one with him though offers such great moments, memories and oh my gosh, he is so loving with his kisses and hugs..So keeping with those thoughts in hopefully, will be seeing a lot more of Jaxson over here on the blog.  We have a lot of catching up to do before he moves on in a year or two.  I don't want the boys to have lopsided books.

Having said that, a few weeks ago, I picked Jaxson up at school and we had a few hours before getting Liam. Instead of going home I took him to a place both him and Liam love.  The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem. We go there often when the weather is not nice enough to be outside.  A few weeks before our visit, they had just opened up the new Moon room.  Jaxson loved listening to a video of how the moon works with the planets and stars and he was fascinated by it..and of course the head phones were a really big deal.  Why do kids love wearing head phones so much. Also in this room you could touch the moon at another display.  Can you imagine... you just close your eyes, which we did, and we touched the moon.  It really did feel just like Swiss cheese...and then he was off. He never walks, he tells me it's the fast sneakers.

Don't even ask me.  I have no idea what this thing is or does...well, I know when you plug it in just right, it lights up. So let's just say, while he was busy with this project, I just stepped back, took a photo of what it was and hopefully Santa will bring it for Christmas.

We didn't have a lot of time but Jaxson told me right when we got to the Museum that we had to save time for the gift shop.  A fabulous place for little ones to shop on their own.  So after a giant cookie and a juice box we headed to the shop.  He got a Moon puzzle for Liam and a Moon for himself.  Then it was time to leave and go pick up Liam at school.

It was a lovely few hours with Jaxson.  I hope he understands how much it meant to me to be just with him. In those moments, as he played and skipped and felt the connection to the museum and to just us, I hope he also had fun being just with me. The museum was lovely and fun but honestly, the best part, the part that I hope sticks with him later, was really the conversation in the car, coming and going.  Holding hands and skipping as we walked through the plaza to get to the museum...and more conversation about how much I loved that we got to spend this time let him know that he is not number two or second child but that he is always and will forever be, my best number one Buddy...and time-spent with him is like finding a shiny penny on the ground and knowing that its's a good luck day. The hugs I got as I lifted him out of the car when we got home, were the perfect ending to time spent with you Buddy.  

So going forward we made a pack to go out by ourselves some days...and of course I have that same pack with Liam now...I'm soaking it up for as long as it last. 

Life is about adventures and time-spent with those you love...don't let it slip by while your waiting for something better to come along...because soon that window will be gone.



The Fox and the Hounds

Confession time...I've lived in my town for 23 years and in the next town over for 22 years before moving to Wenham.  That makes 45 years of being in this community and never once, before this year, have I attended the Myopia Fox and Hound Hunt on Thanksgiving day, until this year.  As a neighbor one would have thought I would have gone, but as a photographer I really should have been there much sooner.  

It was a cold, crisp day, sunless this year.  Yes, we had to park a little bit away from the field and oh yes, we had to climb over one of the stone walls, that line the country roads here in our area, before entering and climbing a hill to the field to emerg at the part of Appleton Farms where this most elegant of events was taking place. As we came upon the rise of the hill we were greeted by so many lovely horses, manes in braids and being held quite nicely by their riders. Then the elders in their red riding jackets and velvet helmets met us and the contrast between the bright red and the late fall colors was astonishing. A picture perfect moment. Of course, you know the best was being ups so close to the hound well behaved by their handler and just waiting for the sense of smell that would take them flying over the fields and stone walls, hoping for a victory with that fox.  Alas, that would not happen as here in Hamilton, there is no longer a fox leading the way...but a scent is planted and they blindly run still chasing the scent and of course, barking like crazy all the way.

So this year, I just took it all in...snapped away and never knew how cold I really was until we started walking back across the field.  What I did know though is that I wanted to share a few shots with all of you. It's an unusual event for those of you who don't live in horse country so please come along for the ride with me.  Liam took lessons at Myopia for 3 years and Jaxson will start next year.  I would love if one day they would ride in this event...maybe after they see the photo's, they will give it a try.  

The open field...that one arrives at after going over the stone wall..The riders and horses just milling with the crowd for about 30 minutes before the hunt starts.  The horses are friendly and you are encouraged to pat them and take photo's if you like.  

There were some awards being given out.  Some members were being given their colors but I don't know what that means yet...The three riders on horses here make sure the hounds stay where they belong and the Master of the hounds was giving them little treats...

Very beautiful Hounds and so well behaved.  I think they have a very good existence down at the Myopia club.  They have their own house and a huge yard.  When Liam was having a lesson I would go over and visit them but then they would start barking like crazy so I never got close.  I didn't want to get the boot from the care-taker.

The Master of the Hounds getting the dogs to come into formation as they are starting to get ready for the Hunt...which, by the way, is a two and a half hour romp through the woods.

I have no idea who these gentlemen are but I do think they have some importance because of their attire. Perhaps they were former Masters of the hounds...I'll find out next time I go to Myopia...but I do think they look quite elegant and a bit British in their red jackets with the brass buttons.

There are two groups of riders...the jumpers and the non-jumpers.  These young ones are part of the group that are non-jumpers and they ride behind the jumpers...keeping some distance.  Perhaps more for show. I'm not sure.  This group was mostly young girls and boys but obviously have been riding for a long time...very lovely to watch and I love how they have braided their horses also.

The Master and the Hounds..are in position to lead the hunt..several of the dogs are trying to pick up the scent.

They are off and took me quite by surprise how fast they were going. It was hard to keep up with them when they rounded the corner. 

This is part of the route and when the riders get to this low fence they have to, of course, jump it...which the Master did quite well here, immediately after this jump is a very narrow foot path and then a higher fence that needs to be jumped.  I have to tell you it was very exciting...

Up and over beautiful to watch...

Last in the line of jumpers...and as hard as the rider tried...this big guy said no thank you to that jump..first time galloping right up to the fence and a quick stop.  She circled him around twice more but he was not having any part of that off they trotted into the woods...

It was a wonderful morning.  We left right after the jumper above.  By that time it was getting colder and the threat of rain was very real.  There was so much more that I could have posted.  So much more I need to learn.  So much more investigating to do.  I can say though, for sure, that this will be become a Thanksgiving tradition for Jim and I and hopefully the boys in the years to follow.  I learned a lot about my town, and about a group of people that I knew very little about.  The horses I'm more familiar with because I do spend time shooting at Myopia, especially when I take the boys there.  I'v also learned about dress code, tailgating code and where the best viewing spot is for that.  I've learned I better be faster with my settings when those horses and dogs come flying by and I've also learned to bring gloves and a hat next year.  The most important lesson for me though, was to learn it's o.k. to go...just go.  People will come, dinner will be served and clean up will happen.  The day won't fall apart because we take several hours for ourselves, doing something we love that really is a gift to us from our town. How lovely of those who participate and dress and regale us with the great outdoors and majestic animals. Flying through the woods in a place that we get to call Home...

"Hunting is our music, it is our poetry, it is our art, it is our pleasure. It is where many of our best friendships are made, it is our community. It is our whole way of life. "

To learn more about the art of the Fox and Hounds...please feel free to visit this web-page.  It's a lovely page...for photographers in New England.



Seven Candles On The Cake

Dear Liam, I can't believe that I'm already writing you another birthday letter.  As I sat across from you on Sunday and I saw that delicious looking cake, chocolate of course, with seven candles on it...I was crying a bit inside, for the lose of our first little boy.  Then I looked at your face before snapping this photo and saw how excited and happy you were to be celebrating this day.  I think I sometimes forget , Sweet Friend, how much a big birthday can be to a boy that is growing so fast now and your world is getting so crowded with so many activities and new friends.  So this year I promise I won't ask you anymore to "stop getting bigger"...because I know, deep in my heart, that all you really want to do is get bigger.  Along with getting bigger though, you are getting better.  Stronger and more athletic.  Sweeter and more loving, especially to Jaxson, who thinks your the best thing since sliced bread or a Twix bar.  You have always been smart and sensitive and those are the words I will always use to describe you.  I don't know many boys who can put together a giant Lego set as quickly and perfectly as you can. This year you learned about elections and we talked a lot about that.  Your first time time of keeping track but really not wanting to hear to much.  I think someday you could grow up and be a great President.  I know for sure, that I would vote for you. One thing I'm really happy for, as you celebrate the beginning of your seventh year is, that you live so close by.  That means for as long as you want, we can still go out together and have our amazing adventures.  Take our camera's for a walk and be with Mother Earth, that's what you call Nature.  I think I like Mother Earth better. Let's not forget the Tea House either, one of our most favorite places, where you and Jaxson get great treats but also practice your best restaurant behavior.  Liam, you've been going to the Tea House since you were two years old. Way back then, in the old days, we used to take your sippy cup. This year you are now pouring the tea and using a china cup..along with adding about sixteen sugar cubes, using the tongs, if I don't catch you quick enough.  So Liam, as you continue to grow, as I know you will, even though some days I'd really like to keep you small, we will find new and more challenging adventures.  Papa and I will continue to support all you do and come to as many of your games as we can, take you to swim lessons, and now to Irish Step dancing lessons, a gift you have asked us for over and over.  Yes, you are seven but you never forget, in your busy days, to stop over, still spend Wednesdays after school with us, and to spontaneously say "Nana I love you"...really who could ask for more.  

I thought it might be fun Liam, to just take a peek at your year..It was a busy year..but way far in the future, when your like ten, you might forget some of these exciting things your doing now.  So, you know what I do best, right?  Yup, take photo's of you and Jaxson..thanks Liam for letting me do that, cause sometimes when your not around, I can look for you in my computer, so your never very far from me..

You've been playing soccer for a few years now and your getting so good.  You love it and we love watching you every Saturday morning.  You do everything with so much enthusiasm.

I really enjoyed when Mom was your coach...She did a great job to.  I think you really like that she was there for you and your team.  I liked when you both walked off the field together when the game was over.

New for you at the end of last year was flag football.  This is your second year and this is where you shine. You understand the game and are so fast. You love your team mates and really, you just have fun.  I like sports that promote fun as well as winning.  Just always remember it's not all about winning, sometimes you have to lose also and then you have to be "big" about that. It's just part of the game.

 Oh, Sweet Boy, every once in awhile, though not often anymore, for a few minutes, I get to see my Super Hero as a little one again.  These moments are so fleeting now but even big brothers and master Lego builders need to re-charge.  I love watching you and soaking up your preciousness, even for a minute.  They are like little tiny gifts given to me and I lift my camera to hold onto them.

There is nothing better for a Nana than to see her two boys sharing time and space together.  You and Jaxson are on solid ground to loving each other for a lifetime.  To taking care of each other and sharing toys and times together.  I love this photo of the two of you. Never forget Liam that even though sometimes he will annoy you, for ever and ever, he will love you.  Your job as his big brother is to protect him and show him how to grow..don't worry about the loving part, you already do that really well.

Oh my gosh, this year you are going to be able to sing that famous Christmas song, "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth."  They are coming back pretty fast Liam.  That was pretty exciting wasn't it.  We all wanted to pull the first one out for you in our own unique ways but you were pretty sure that you would do it your way.  Mom sent you to school with all your teeth one day and when you came home one was gone.  Fortunately you didn't lose it and then that night the tooth fairy came and boy she must like you a lot.  She was very generous.  I'm thinking of putting my teeth under my pillow in a few years when they start falling out again...just kidding.  I do love your toothless smile though...

One of my favorites of you my friend.  Yes, you are busy and smart.  Your run and play and work hard. You also have a serious side that rounds you out.  When you are working on a project, reading or needing some alone time, you go quiet and concentrate.  It is a beautiful part of your personality.  You know how to accept a challenge and you are quite engaged with whatever you are working on.  I see it with Lego's, I see it when your in the shop with Papa.  It's like you already know when it's time to play and then it's time to be serious and work things out.  Even things that need talking about.  It's also your sensitive side that I see here.  Your growing my so many ways.

This last photo is how your Nana sees you most often.  It is the Liam that brings joy to the world.  Who makes life sweeter.  You love a challenge and this day I challenged you to climb to the top.  You did it and you were so proud.. I think this is how you are going to live your life as you grow.  You love to be busy, and you love to have fun.  You are serious but then you laugh from your toes up, just like your Mom...tender and caring of your family and friends.  Your only seven but your wise at heart.  Your a protector of your brother and you respect Mother Earth and all that she gives to us, including all the o.k., I'll let you be seven but only for a year, because I am so excited to see where you will go...and you know whatever you choose to do, I'll be right there watching you..

Happy 7th Birthday to my Best Friend

Love you to the Moon and Back...Nana


Writing With Elizabeth

What happens when you take 11 creative women, one of which is Elizabeth Berg, my most favorite author, put them in a beautiful house together, feed them great food, fabulous wine and then teach them how to up their game on writing. Well, I'm glad you asked because this is where I was last Saturday and I can answer all your questions.

First of all, I must tell you that when I saw that Elizabeth was coming to my area, it took me about 30 seconds to fill out the form and hit the send button.  It took me another day or two to figure out if I could really do this. Lately, I'm not a good traveler by myself. Secondly, I didn't really know what I was up against or even what would happen when we got to the workshop.  After a few days though, I got pretty excited and waited for November 5th to get here.  

I would like to report that I didn't have any trouble traveling to our destination and upon arrival, I meet Elizabeth and then all the girls arrived.  So much happened, some much was learned, so many tears and cheers and good jobs.  The validation of each piece that was read, was so encouraging and all of our listening skills were honed.  Elizabeth was a gifted and charming teacher as well as just one of the girls.  We wrote our stories and during meals we told life stories.  We cried with each other openly and we laughed really loudly.  

These workshops though, are much more than the subject which brings you there.  It's about putting yourself out there, stepping out of your box, and stretching yourself far beyond what you think you are capable of doing. It's about letting new people and views into your life, strangers when arriving, friends when leaving, with promises of writing groups and meeting for tea.  Visiting again in another season.  It's about a woman and her daughter welcoming us into her most beautiful home and cooking us three meals, meals that were hardy and delicious, and then two days later e-mailing all of us the recipes.  It's about being open and honest, raw and deep without being dramatic or apologetic.  These are rare events and if you ever have an opportunity to be part of something that is really important to you, you should put yourself out there and take a chance. Creative people often feel isolated and sometimes not very validated.  That wasn't what happened on Saturday.  I think we all walked away feeling just a bit taller than when we walked in.

So to Elizabeth, not only my favorite author, but now one of my writing group friends, I say thank you. Thank you for the notebook, a signed copy of your newest book, Make Someone Happy, my sweet little pink bird that now sits on my desk to remind me to WRITE. For all the great lessons on life and the quotes that pulled it all together and which are now in my Elizabeth Berg envelope, and for so much more. You made me feel like I had a won a ticket to The Price is Right but only better.  Mostly though, thank you for teaching me to walk before writing and to amaze myself at what I find.  Who knew.  I already do that with my photography but I didn't make the connection to do that for writing also.  Thank you also for the solid four hours of writing. A struggle that was so beneficial.  If the opportunity comes up again, you will see me at another of your workshops.  Next time I'll bring the wine.

I also have to thank all the girls for your friendship and reaching out.  Each one of you is lovely and enthusiastic. Your stories were wonderful and heartfelt.  I listened intently because you really had something to say.  Keep on writing..

Most especially to Vicki and Lori...thank you for your warm welcome, the comfort of your beautiful home and all the great food, wine and box of chocolate. Life is kind of like a box of chocolates isn't it, when you go to a workshop, you never know what you'll get. Without the two of you we would not have made  lasting friendships and memories of a most important day.

So to those of you who read this blog, I'm speaking to you. Take a risk, trust yourself and your creative gifts, whatever they are.  Live life to the fullest...and never doubt yourself.  You are better than you think...

Below is the piece that I wrote and read on Saturday...we all had to share.  We were given two hours to go out by ourselves, to observe, to walk, to chat and to see what found us.  After lunch, four hours of writing. Like my photography often does, this exercise took me someplace were I never expected to be. some ways our creative interest are never far apart...even that was a lesson from the workshop.


 Memories Brought to Life



November 5th, daylight savings begins tonight, letting the early fall slip away like a dream.  More leaves on the ground now, than on the trees, leaving the limbs partially naked, with only enough cover to make the sunlight of this day vibrant as it passes through those limbs.

 A perfect day for a walk, a day that will take us into the 50’s and warm our hearts as well as our body.  A good day to be outside.  It won’t be long now before these last days of Autumn fade away into our memory bank.

I took myself, my notebook and pencil to a beautiful cemetery in Wakefield, recommended to me by a lovely lady that I had just met at my first writing workshop with Elizabeth Berg, my favorite author.  As I headed out, I had no expectations of what I would find, who I would see or speak with.  I was just going to stretch myself in this new endeavor as I parked my car and started walking.

Shortly, after entering this most stunning space I came across a tree with so many branches and tentacles, dressed in somber yellow leaves. It seemed to be protecting those graves that were under it from the elements of life as they rested in peace. Perhaps protecting them from the strong summer sun, the cold New England winter and the wind that can howl all year long.  In the Fall, it would lift them up with color and grace…in this their final resting place.  The photographer in me aimed the camera to captured this beautiful tree and bring it home as a gift of the season.  As I turned to get back in my cara black, glossy headstone caught my eye. 

Crunching through the crisp leaves, I walked over to the front of it. I read the name, and noticed that it had quite a long quote under it.  I’m a lover of quotes, so I read this new one and wanted to add it to my list, not so much to re-use, but as a referendum of how life should be lived.

If you listen you will hear the sound of an Eternal Amen

For a life well lived.

Not hear for a long time,

Here for a good Time..

I thought about that quote and thought, how beautiful those words were. How wonderful this person must have been, how wise to take life by the hand and walk with it.. So I went around to the other side to see how long this person, with a zest of life, had lived.  Surely, for many years, to have learned such a valuable lesson.

I was wrong:  This stone and resting place belonged to a young man, only 53 years old, 1961 to 2014.  I immediately felt sadness. Along with the quote, this side of the stone was etched with the wedding photo of this young, handsome man and his beautiful bride.  Along the edges were smaller etching of their life together; somehow cut short for reasons I don’t know.

I don’t need to know this young man history to know the tragic and sad story that was part of his life, because as I stood there, rooted in those Fall leaves, that felt like a soft, eternal, yellow fuzzy,, I knew the sadness that was created by letting him go at such a young age, no matter the circumstances.  I had a brother who also rests now in a sea of fall leaves who was only 50 when he left us. Then again, my youngest brother joined him last year. It is way to young to say goodbye, but somehow I think they would have liked to have had that quote on their stone also.  There are those “who get” the quote early and run with it, and there are those who will live to be 100 and never understand the beauty and gifts of this life.

It always amazes me when my days head in a different direction than I was headed when I woke up and dressed that day. When unexpected emotions and memories surge when I least expect them, when I have no idea that they are even on my mind until triggered by a prompt, like that headstone.  How did I end up there, when there were so many other stones to choose? A writing workshop that I thought would be about punctuation and paragraphs, verbs and adjectives, character and form turn into a memory bank and now, my story for the day. My thoughts this morning were on the challenge that I would meet just by attending the workshop and whether or not I could compete against skilled and advanced writers.  Now as I sit here writing this short essay, I am once again reminded that writing always takes me to a place I never expected to be. I would never have thought it would have taken me to the cemetery to visit a grave of someone that I never met, but reminded me so profoundly of my brothers. Perhaps that is why I sometimes hold back on the history of myself.  It’s always a struggle to go with the feelings, when they are uncomfortable or to scratch the project and move on to something more entertaining. 

Today I choose to step-out, to deal with the emotions that came floating to the surface, like a kite flying through this blue November sky, because what good would it be to come to the workshop if I didn’t want to do the hard work.  Something in me brought me to that cemetery and that spot.  The spot that reminds me again, that life is to be well lived because it is not guaranteed or permanent.  I hear my brother Bob’s voice in that quote…a message on how life should be lived.  Writing for me, is part of a life well lived…it’s something that I have been doing since I was a young girl…with my first diary, key and lock provided. A secret writing space only for me.  Today, I host a blog and my words are shared but somewhat protected but always true to myself…and sometimes, sadness is part of the writing journey as much as all those other uplifting and light words.  Words are feelings, of all kinds, so I’m thinking we can’t leave sadness out if it shows up on my workshop day.

In the end, when I was ready to leave that glossy black stone, with all the beauty and sadness that it held for me, with the memory of my brothers fresh in my mind, I tried to listen for the sound of that eternal Amen…it’s there, waiting for me also, but before that time comes, I’m here for a very Good Time.  I’ll be heading back to my workshop with the hopes that the other women will write some very funny and uplifting stories…to balance out the day…and when Fall turns to winter…I’ll add a few logs to the fire and write whatever comes into my mind…because really, some days, I feel all of this is totally out of my control…

Just a side note...the photo of that beautiful table and setting was where we talked, ate and shared our lessons and stories...It is used here, with permission from Vicki Longo...thanks so much sweet lady. It is a photo which I took inside her lovely home. 









Thank You Autumn For Your Visit

October is magical with it's sweep of color, crispness and light.  For me it's a time for going inward and welcoming the wonder of the season.  Alone, or with a few friends, I walk the familiar trails of my neighborhood, never having to travel very far before becoming excited about a view, vista or critter that crosses my path.  It is my most creative and artistic season.  My love of nature and the out of doors springs back into my life, and I go, with camera in hand.  My step is lighter, the crunch under my feet makes for the most pungent smells and the world is alive as only it can be in the Fall. I remember vividly, when I was a little girl, walking home from school, I would always choose to walk through the tallest pile of fallen leaves along the way. It was magical and yes, quite messy. I had to clean my shoes and my socks off before going in the house or there would be big trouble..So my love of Fall goes way back.

This Fall I became much more aware of my need to be outside.  To finally recognize that my best work is done in the natural light and the charm that is New England.  Unfortunately it is very short season.  I was able to just let myself meander the fields, talk to the horses, go at my own pace to find the electric sights, sounds and smells, the earthy tones.  It's the one season that encompasses all of my senses and the cool mornings and warm afternoons are good for my body and soul.  I'm sorry time moves so quickly in this season. The beauty and grace it brings should last longer..but alas, it last long enough for me to be so grateful for the gifts that I receive this time of year.  When I wander, I am never lost but in a sense, I am somewhere else.  I'm so engaged with the simple gifts of nature, that I photograph with much more intention and ease. The wonders of Fall,  I will miss them as they slowly slip away.  Such colorful memories I will have with me though, through my photo's, to view into the next New England season..It was an exciting time and I believe the excitement is the secret to any artistic journey.

“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.” 

Stephen King..


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