Those Moments

Sometimes I just have THOSE moments. Maybe I am just a little more aware of the things around me because I am always searching for just the perfect shot. Maybe it’s because I look at things a little differently, seeking those things that a different and unique. I’m not really sure what it is, it just is. It’s difficult for me to explain and even harder for me to teach. It just is what it is.

Those moments I speak of are when something happens, for me it’s usually captured by a camera in my hand, that makes you sit back on your heels and ponder the moment. The moments don’t happen often. It’s rare and it takes you by surprise. It could be something crazy like a grasshopper that jumps on the window of the truck on a cloudy day. It could be something as simple as a calf smelling a flower. Then other times, it could be something as simple as the delicate petals of a flower that are nearly transparent from the rain, wind and sun.

These aren’t those moments that are bad. They are the moments that are miraculous. Those moments that I just happen to be in the right place at the right time. Some require patience but most just happen while out walking doing something entirely different. They are moments full of awe and wonderful amazement as you look up and see things in a different perspective. I am a professional photographer. These are the moments that take my breathe away and moments I am always on the look out for.

Amy, a week old Jersey/Dexter cross calf, smelling a wildflower.

 

The delicate petals of an unusual colored wildflower

 

The flight of the grasshopper

I have won awards, placed in the top 300 for international competitions, been published countless amounts of time and nothing compares to the moments when these moments are taken. No amount of money, praise or attention can compare. I take photographs JUST to capture these moments. It happens with nature, with people and everything in between. I’m just blessed to be able to have them happen time and time again!

 

 

My Daddy and Me

It’s been said time and time again, that I was my father’s son. Raised as a tomboy from as early as I can remember, I think it’s very fitting.

From stories passed down from members of my family, I’ve been told all about how happy my dad was to have a child. When I was really little, under the age of 4, my dad used to put me in this hiking pack and strap me over his shoulders to take me out coon hunting with him and his hounds. As I got older, I would go with them as often as I could. My Uncle’s would come along too and I have so many memories of the “boys” time we used to spend out in the dark while listening to the bawl of a hound on the trail of it’s prey. I remember being fascinated to do everything my Dad did. If he was target practicing, I wanted to do it too. If he was working on cars, I wanted to help. If he went to the farm, I had to go. When my Dad was around, it didn’t really matter, I wanted to be there.

I wish I had copies of the photos with me at age two, holding a wrench and kneeling beside my Dad in a bright yellow sundress while he worked on his little Ford Fiesta. I really wish I had photos of me standing at age 5 while I climbed on a split rail fence cheering my Dad’s hounds on while they swam at a water race. I wish I had photos of us dressed in camo to go out squirrel hunting at age 6.

All the greatest lessons in my life have come from my Dad. He taught me to always work hard and to not expect much out of life. He taught me how to raise chickens for eggs and meat. He taught me how to fish and hunt so that no matter what I would never go hungry. He taught me to respect my elders and do everything I could for them, even if it meant me going without. He taught me how to drive. He taught me how to go mud bogging and how to shift a standard transmission. He taught me how to treat people with kindness, no matter what their status. He also taught me that you are never too old to learn. In my adult life, many of the things I enjoy have come from my time spent with my Dad. I can clean a fish, skin and process game for the freezer, fix my own vehicle and to laugh at all the odd, stupid and dumb things that happen in life.

My Dad never had much. He worked a third shift job, helped on the farm and still worked odd and end jobs all summer long but he always found the time to do things with me when I was little. I learned to enjoy the peacefulness of a foggy morning waiting for the fish to bite. I learned that no matter what life dishes out, it could always be worse.

I don’t get to see my Dad anymore. No he isn’t in Heaven (although I know someday that’s where he will be). Due to extenuating circumstances and a situation that neither of us control, I don’t get to spend time with him anymore. We have both made an extremely difficult decision that we need to stay apart to make his life better. It hurts more than words will ever be able to describe.

He is and always be my best friend and my hero. No man will ever be able to fill his shoes in my life. I wouldn’t even attempt to try because NO ONE is like my Dad. For now, I sit back and remember the good times and I shed tears more than I care to admit. It’s hard, especially on days like today. I wish I could wrap my arms around him and tell him thank you for not only being such a wonderful Dad but a great person. I look at this one photo I have of us from the only time we ever danced together. I remember the song we dance to so I’ll share the video too.

Daddy, I hope that you can feel the love I hold in my heart for you! Thank you for being my everything to me my entire life. I will be forever grateful for every moment we had the chance to spend together. And don’t tell anyone okay…but I know and you know I will forever be “Daddy’s girl”!

The lyrics to Daddy’s Hands by Holly Dunn

I remember Daddy´s hands, folded silently in prayer.
And reaching out to hold me, when I had a nightmare.
You could read quite a story, in the callouses and lines.
Years of work and worry had left their mark behind. 
I remember Daddy´s hands, how they held my Mama tight,
And patted my back, for something done right.
There are things that I’ve forgotten, that I loved about the man,
But I’ll always remember the love in Daddy’s hands.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’.
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands, weren’t always gentle 
But I’ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.

I remember Daddy’s hands, working ’til they bled.
Sacrificed unselfishly, just to keep us all fed.
If I could do things over, I’d live my life again.
And never take for granted the love in Daddy’s hands.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’.
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands, weren’t always gentle 
But I’ve come to understand.
There was always love in Daddy’s hands.

Daddy’s hands were soft and kind when I was cryin’.
Daddy’s hands, were hard as steel when I’d done wrong.
Daddy’s hands, weren’t always gentle 
But I’ve come to understand.
There was always love …..
In Daddy’s hands.

Where I come from

As those of you that follow this blog already know, I love many things that involve nature and agriculture. Looking back over my life, I completely understand where those passions come from. Today, I will share a little bit of insight into the environment that I grew up in and around.

My grandparents had a small dairy farm in a little town nicknamed Canaan. To those that don’t know the meaning, it’s defined as the “Land of Milk and Honey”. This little community is situation between two other small towns named Harford and Slaterville Springs. The whole area is rural. The closest city is Ithaca and it takes 15-20 minutes to drive there. I went to school in another small town called Dryden. Each community is very close knit and for generations has involved varying levels of agriculture. Dryden prides itself on being a farming community. To the extent of which, every year there is a parade to honor the dairy farms during June. June is Dairy Month to those that didn’t know.

It’s hard to explain how the whole community and surrounding towns pull together to get involved with the Dairy Day. From spectators to local businesses, the area schools to the local churches, farms and political figures. There are floats, young children involved in reading clubs dressed to storybook characters, dog groomers, the local bank with it’s traditional horse drawn carriage and so much more involved in the parade that rolls through down Main Street.  After the parade, everyone goes to the town park. There are livestock, games, country music bands, ice cream and of course milk. It’s a fun filled day and a wonderful community gathering.

This year was the 29th year it’s been going on. I went to take photos of the parade as part of my job and to do a favor for a friend. It’s like old home days. I haven’t been myself since around 2002. I saw so many people I haven’t seen in years, some close to two decades. Everyone still knows everyone. You walk two feet and run into someone else you know. You run into family members you haven’t seen in a year. You see retired school teachers, old classmates, and other staples in the community. Yes, life moves on but here in this little small town once you are part of the community, you are ALWAYS part of the community. It doesn’t matter where you go or where your travels may lead you, it doesn’t matter where you work or what you drive…you are a lifetime member! I love this town and it’s passion for agriculture.

Growing up in this community that is surrounded by agriculture, swaying corn and dairy farms, you can see what I have such a passion to tell the stories behind the fields of green. The stories I write are about my neighbors, friends and even family. This is the very center of why I love all things agriculture. Don’t get me wrong, I am obsessed with cattle but understand this…the diversity within agriculture is amazing. Think of all the things that agriculture provides for us. It’s not only the food we eat but the clothes we wear, the fuel we use and so much more. We, as a society in general, tend to forget where so much of our creature comforts and the foods we eat come from. I am humbled to say that I am thankful for the community where I was raised because it taught me to value the hard work and dedication that goes into the many things we love so much.

I might not be from the boondocks and I might have grown up in a very culturally diverse area but, I will always be from a small town dairy community that shows pride in the area and all the richness it has to offer. I am a small town country girl!  And as that one country song says, “I’m proud of where I come from.”

How about you? Are there things about your hometown that have made an impact on your life? If so, how much?

Struggles and Survival

“I might not be ready to pour out my feelings to the world, but I’d had enough of trying to ignore them.” ― R.J. AndersonUltraviolet

Haven’t we all had that struggle that we kept locked inside our minds and our hearts? It may be over love or life. It could be over a job offer or a job dismissal. We worry about our kids. It seems that everything is always in a constant state of flux. Every situation causes emotions of anger, fear, sadness, happiness, shame, guilt, jealousy, envy, and more that I know I haven’t listed. How many times have you locked these feelings inside? I know myself there have been times I have locked them inside myself so tight, no one could ferret them out. Some of them are constant, like the worry for my kids. But others are short-lived, like anger. Sometimes you just need to “talk to the voices within” and listen to what they are saying.

You almost have to step outside yourself and look at you as if you were someone else you really care about and really want to protect. Would you let someone take advantage of that person? Would you let someone use that person you really care about? Or would you speak up for them? If it was someone else you care about, you’d say something. I know you would. Okay, now put yourself back in that body. That person is you. Stand up and tell ’em, “Enough!” ― Queen LatifahPut on Your Crown: Life-Changing Moments on the Path to Queendom

Are you standing ground for yourself or living what someone else says? I know, we all have a tendency to take the easy road and let someone else take control of our lives and our destiny. But in the long run, will it be what you really wanted? I’ve done it myself. Living the life that everyone else wanted for me, putting my own life on the back burner. I managed to put my dreams in someone elses hands that had no right to hold them because they didn’t know what was in my heart and soul. That kind of goes back to the first quote about ignoring your feelings. Feelings you hide inside yourself, no one else can express but you. On the other hand, opening up fully to someone else about your internal battles of mind and body and having them listened to is hard but when the right person listens its miraculous. 

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow.” ― Thomas Paine

Sometimes when we open ourselves to ALL the possibilities of the things we enjoy, amazing things start happening for us. It’s never easy to shut your mind down from saying the negative things like “I can’t do that” or “It’s too difficult”. We, as humans, tend to think we always need more of something. More education, more money, more time or more space when in reality, we are making excuses. Grab opportunity when it’s presented but stop selling yourself short when it comes to you talents and inner strengths. To get what you want and sometimes more, you have to live life with passion and actively pursue what YOU want. If you try and fail, try again and again until you get it right. The harder it is, the more determined you need to be!

“Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” ― Bill Cosby

All of the above being said, through failures and success you need to learn to find humor and laughter in everything! It eases the pain of the struggles and works kind of like sun rays peaking around the corner of a storm could. Since I seem to connect everything with nature, you can compare it like this: The pain, hurt and failures are a rain falling from the sky. Humor is the sunshine just past the clouds bringing the rain. Laughter is the rainbow that just magically appears. Those rainbows are the beauty of everything combined. Without the rain they can’t happen. Without the sun there isn’t the light for them to appear. 

 

I struggle every day but I survive. I survive because I can find the beauty, the humor and I constantly laugh at the stupid things I do! There are days I literately roll with the “punches” when I battle with being clumsy due to my MS. I fall down and usually end up in a fit of laughter because it doesn’t seem possible one person could wind up on their backside so often. It happens. I’ve learned to take each moment as it comes. Are some of them annoying and do they make me mad? Sure do. BUT what’s the point in being mad about things I can’t change. What’s done is done! Might as well make fun of myself and laugh it away.

I hope that you find solace in the words. I hope that you find encouragement, determination and the will power to become the person inside…You know who! That one you tend to hide from everyone else. Dig that person out, let them shine with what makes you unique!!!! If you need words of encouragement, give me a shout. If you want to share you story, I would be glad to link it back…just let me know! Don’t let anyone tell you to go with the flow. Fight against the grain. BE YOU! Not what everyone else says, thinks or tells you to be!

Mother’s Day Reflections

Today is a day full of reflection for me. A day when I won’t get to celebrate something I wish I could because it’s been ripped from my grasp. While others are praising their mom’s for doing a great job…I am contemplating what I don’t have with my own.

I have never once heard the verbal words from either of my parent’s that they loved me. I was never allowed to snuggle into my mother’s lap when I was a kid. I was called names, made fun of and shoved away. I always swore I would be a better mom than that. Those opportunities were taken against my will in 2006. Today for me isn’t a day of celebration about my  mother or being a mom. I don’t get that chance. Instead today is about burying the hatred for manipulation, abuse and loneliness.

Mother’s Day for me is about letting go of the past and moving forward to a new day. Not all of the people in the world have been fortunate enough to have the perfect situation and upbringing. Some of us don’t have Mothers who supported us into our own personal growth. We didn’t have Mothers who hugged us through our failures or gently wiped our tears of despair.

That doesn’t mean that we aren’t thinking about all that could have been. Can we change it? Nope, we can’t because it’s not us that needs to change. Some mothers (and fathers too) just aren’t model, idealistic parents. Some just don’t want to be and other’s aren’t given the chance.

To those that are struggling today with not being given that chance, keep this in mind. Out there somewhere in the Universe, no matter what religion (if any) you are, someone in the big wide complex dimension of what we call Life, hears what is in your heart. Even if you don’t speak it through you lips or put ink to paper, I have faith that a higher power listens. Someday, somehow the world will right itself within your corner and you will get the chance to vocalize those thoughts within your head and heart. It might only be through blog pages or it could just be through a diary but someday, somewhere you will have the chance to share the hurt, pain and sadness. It’s why I’m writing this now.

Don’t be ashamed of situations out of your control. We need to learn to express, cope and move on. Know that you are not alone. There are more of us that do not celebrate Mother’s Day than you can imagine. Be fearless, speak your heart and hold nothing back. Let the offenders of wrong-doing wallow in their own self-pity because someday, you will still be standing strong surrounded by those you love while others will be alone and empty. Know that you are expressing yourself to get out from behind the walls of hurt and betrayal. Know that there is NOTHING wrong with you, unless you let someone else control your thoughts and your destiny. The power is yours! Say ENOUGH, express to the world the hurt and pain inside yourself.

Most of all, KNOW that you are LOVED by others just because of SHARED pain, heartache and tragedy. Wrap yourself in the smiles and laughter of friends. Surround yourself in the happy!

To all you Mom’s out there: Never take for granted the opportunity to show your love. Never pass on a hug. Show your children every chance you get to show them how much of your heart they hold.

The Tomboy Within

Growing up, I always used to joke that I was my father’s only son. From as early in my life as I can remember, my daddy used to take me hunting and fishing. We spent so much time together as I grew up, he became my best friend. I love my daddy very much. I don’t get to see him anymore due to circumstances and choices that are out of my control but I will never forget our time together and all the lessons he taught me. Being my father’s “tomboy”, I learned to not only hunt and fish but to work on cars, get greasy and spin wrenches. Since my dad drove race cars for years, I learned the ins and outs of mechanics and car set ups. I know how to change my own oil, brake pads and even to change tires. These are life lessons that have helped me out on more than one occasion. Parts departments hate to see me coming. Service stations have threatened to have me thrown out of building when they couldn’t admit fault, especially to a girl. It’s actually kind of comical after the fact…but during situations like that, it makes my blood boil. I’ve had people try to fit me into a box of a proper, well-behaved lady. That box doesn’t fit…AT ALL! I am my father’s only son. I swear like a trucker. I like to drink beer. I hang with the “boys” more than I do the ladies. I don’t sit through gossip over morning tea. I work just as hard, if not harder than a lot of men I know. I like to go throw a little mud from the tires on my truck. I like going fishing and hunting. I like shooting guns and bows for competitive sport (and have even gotten myself a couple of trophies for it too). I like four-wheeling. I like being a grease monkey and fixing things. I go at my own pace. I like wearing blue jeans, t-shirts and baseball caps. I would rather be sitting on the tailgate of a pickup in the middle of a field looking up at the stars or watching a bonfire than sitting in some fancy restaurant enjoying a chef prepared meal. I am a burger and french fries kind of girl.

The "real" me in my ball cap in the pasture with cattle.

The “real” me in my ball cap in the pasture with cattle.

On another note, I do “clean-up” rather well. The difference is so startling that even my own neighbors and family members hardly know it’s me. Until I talk that is. I have a rather unique voice with strains of accents I have no idea the origination of. I was bred and born in upstate NY but I have a southern accent on some words while others have a Canadian accent. I’ve had lots of people ask me where I’m from…even when I grew up the next town over. I’m not really a traveler either. I’ve been to South Carolina once. The eastern sea board once. Canada once. It’s just the strange mess of who I am. A mix of a little bit of everything. It makes me that much more unique. Fishing has been a relative constant in my life. An obsession that I have carried on my shoulders, lacking a few short years here and there, that has given me so much peace in my life. I remember fishing with my daddy when I was really little and him showing me how to bait my own hook. After I became a pro at catching fish, he taught me how to take the fish off the hook too. I think it was more for him than me because he wasn’t getting a chance to fish himself. But, needless to say, I can do it myself. Something a ton of women I know refuse to do. Over the years, I have been so obsessed with fishing that when I worked as an account representative for a printing company, I would take lunch breaks in my long skirt and all to go fly fishing for trout along the banks of creek. You should have seen the looks I would get as I wrapped the back of my skirt up between my legs to tuck the hem into my waistband and proceed to done my hip waders. Many years ago, I discovered something that combines two loves of my life…fishing and art. I learned how to tie flies! I even had a small business for a while making and selling flies for fishing. I even did classes for local youths to learn to tie their own flies and then I would teach them how to fly fish too. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I haven’t tied flies in years and I am hoping to find some time soon. I still have some old ones in my box that I broke out on this last Sunday. Still managed to land me a bunch of panfish with the old standby. Life is good when I hear the gear whip of a fly line. Life is even better fighting a panfish on a nearly 8 ft. fly rod. Here’s my favorite image from Sunday…a flashback stonefly nymph in the mouth of a hand-sized panfish caught along the bank of the farm pond. Oh yes. Life was very good.

One of my favorite things...fly fishing for panfish!

One of my favorite things…fly fishing for panfish!

I’ll leave you for now. I’ll update more soon. Until then, I want to leave you with one small thing. NEVER under estimate a female, woman or girl. You don’t know what kind of background they may have. 🙂

Strength of the storm

Back in 2008 when I was struggling with the loss of family members and a new diagnoses of Multiple Sclerosis, I watched a storm develop over my home…these are the words that came to mind.

Photo taken as a storm receded and the sunshine blessed us with it’s presence.

In the inner recesses of my mind, there is no light. 
There is no way out. No way to start over. 
No way to control the inner blackness that surrounds me like storm clouds.
Emptiness. Loneliness. Sadness.

These are the emotions I feel. 
My existence here seems so small and unimportant. 
I have lost nearly everything that I hold near and dear to my heart. 
I am but a shadow of my former self. 
Earth shattering and heart breaking events seem to swirl around me like clouds of the impending and unrelenting storm that keeps whirling around my body and soul.

The pain is like the driving rain that falls from the sky. 
The loneliness blows at my soul like the winds of a tornado. 
My utter sadness that goes to my core is like the lightning bolts that shoot from the sky. 
Ominous clouds, strong winds, driving sheets of rain and bolts of lightning;the center of my existence.

I stand in the center of it all. 
Still fighting, still struggling against it all. 
Feet planted firmly apart on the ground. Arms slightly raised, palms up at my sides. 
Head tilted back with my face lifted. My breathing is calm and deep. 
I am absorbing the strength and ferocity of the storm, becoming one with the pure unadultered power of nature. 

One lone tree stands in the background. 
Barren and leafless, it spreads out its branches like the fingers of death and destruction. 
It fights my soul to gain control of nature’s prowess. 
Dark and menacing as the storm and grown from Mother Nature herself, 
this tree should be over powering me yet, for some reason we stand in compatible silence with the noise and roar of the storm blowing around us.

I will not be defeated. I am who I was put here to be. 
I am here to prove a point to all those I come in contact with. I am at peace. 
I have found serenity. I am strong. 
No one can not chop me down like the old dead tree. 
No one can not strike me with lightning to split me in half.  
No one can blow me apart with their winds. No one can not knock me down. 

The driving rains toughens my skin. 
The winds only make me gnarled and twisted, in turn making me stronger. 
The lightning only charges my conviction.  
The ominous clouds only serve to make me blind to what I need to see. 
The rumble of thunder deafens me to hear only what I am suppose to listen to.

I stand in the center of it all. 
Still fighting, still struggling against it all. 
Feet planted firmly apart. Arms slightly raised, palms up. 
Face lifted while my head is tilted back. My breathing is calm and deep. 
I AM the storm that has strength and fury. 
I am at one with the power of nature. 

You fight as you continue to gain connection as you dig into her inner ground soul and as you touch her skies with your fingertips. 
You challenge her at every turn but, she is stronger willed that you are and she controls your destiny. 
You are that barren, leafless tree that someone will chop down. 
You can be struck by lightning and split in half. 
You can be blown apart by the howling winds of destruction. 
You can be knocked down and you will. 

I stand in the center of it all. 
Still fighting, still struggling against it all. 
Feet planted firmly apart. Arms slightly raised, palms up. 
Face lifted while my head is tilted back. My breathing is calm and deep. 
I AM the storm that has strength and fury. 
I am at one with the strength of the storm.

I have found my strength within, I pray that you can find the same in yourself. Gather strength from the struggles. Empower and embrace your inner storm.