Saturday, October 10, 2015

My View of You: Victim 4

You Can't Measure Fear

When I was a kid, my parents took our family to the circus. The play-it-safe clowns could not hold my attention, but the acrobats were among my favorite acts.  I now understand it was the adrenaline I experienced watching them that made them a favorite. I thought the acrobats were fearless.  I wanted to be that free. I grew up thinking that fearless people existed. The opposite is true. Everyone has fears. What I used to see as fearless people are in fact fear-seekers. To face fears you have to identify those fears and choose your response: play it safe, live on the edge, fight or flight. 

Recklessness is not something I admire, courage is. Recklessness is fear-filled actions masquerading as the absence of fear. Recklessness is behavior executed immaturely without regard of the consequences. Courage is raw assessment, acknowledgement of possible outcomes, and having the wisdom to make the right choice based on ability and the situation. Courage is facing your fears,  knowing your limits, and making a choice.

This brings me to Ashley. Ashley can make me laugh in almost any situation. Her brutal truth and facial expressions coupled with my sarcasm got us verbally reprimanded numerous times through school. She is quick to tell a funny story and has no problem laughing at herself if the occasion arises. It usually does.

She will reveal with blunt honesty that she is afraid of a few things. Today, I choose 2 of her fears to focus on: mascots and ferris wheels. It is not  possible to quantify an emotion: love, pain, joy, or fear.
Since fear can not be measured, it can not be deemed valid or considered senseless. It is the choice that follows that makes the difference in life.

Mark Twain said, "Courage isn't the absence of fear. It is acting in spite of it."  Now a person visiting Disney World is usually just taking a vacation. In my mind, for Ashely, this has to be the equivalent of an aqua phobic visiting an aquarium. Surprisingly enough it is one of Ashley's favorite places. Please note there are people in "giant mouse" suits among other "mascot" type costumes! And yet she goes, dragging her husband along. I suspect she takes him in case she needs a body to push at any covered character that ventures too close to her. She loves the thrill of all the rides, the food, and some part of me thinks she secretly likes the thrill of running from the employees. Adrenaline is adrenaline. Some people jump out of planes, but my friend likes to run from cartoon characters. Fear is faced in both scenarios I guess.

For our college graduation Ashley, Natalie (whom you met in the previous post), Julia (who you will meet later), and yours truly went to California to celebrate.  While there, in true friend fashion, Ashley's skittish antics kept me laughing. We each chose a place to eat. I chose Rainforest Cafe for my turn. It was complete with a mechanized gorilla near our table that would come alive in the rain storms to move and grunt. Ashley would jump in her seat every time and have to look away until the storm passed and the animals were still again. I laughed to my breaking point. She never complained, whined, or pouted. She endured, finished her food, and had the experience.

Lastly, you can't go to the Santa Monica pier without riding the Ferris wheel. In this case we didn't know Ashley hated Ferris Wheels. She rides roller coasters like a champ! Again, you don't have to understand someone's fear. You just have to be aware and let them decide what they need to do. I saw the determination in her face. This may be the only time in our lives that all 4 of us would go to California together -just us. She got on the Ferris wheel that day with no coercion from us. She rode it with a death grip on the seat and looked out over the Pacific Ocean. The point is, she did it.

These experiences are what comes to my mind first when I think of Ashley. You see, she may be my fun, fraidy-cat friend, but she doesn't let her fears stop her from experiencing anything in life  and having a great story to tell. She may have fears like everyone else, but she has courage along with them. She acts in spite of fear. I cannot respect recklessness or paralysis as responses to fear. But I can admire and applaud Ashley.

Friday, August 21, 2015

My View of You: Victim 3

Look Twice

"You only get one chance at first impression."
In some cases, I see the value in this statement, but consistency over time means more to me than any first impression! My rule of thumb is: take a first impression at face value but, find the consistency afterwards.

In the 6th grade, I transitioned out of Christian school into the public school system. Classes were easy because the previous school moved at a faster pace. Socially, however, this now-loud-mouthed extrovert, was painfully shy. I dreaded physical education class; being chosen close to last for teams was frustrating. I did not know anyone; no one knew me.  All my peers simply assumed I must be from one of the other elementary schools. Those first couple months were lonely, and I hated it. One day in the locker room, some of the rough girls were playing around bumping into one another. One of them slammed into me. Let's just say the Law of Relativity happened despite my attempt to be invisible. I hit the floor, outweighed by at least 10 pounds.

There were a few giggles, but the serious face and concerned brown eyes of Natalie appeared out of the crowd. She was sitting on a locker room bench surrounded by friends. (We had not previously met.) She got up, asked if I was okay as she helped me up, and immediately turned to the girls horse-playing (who were also bigger than her!) and mincing no words said, "Hey! Y'all need to be more careful!"

The girls muttered apologies and shrugged off the whole encounter. (Thank goodness! They could have pounded us both into the ground.) That's my friend Natalie - she has grit. We've been friends ever since. The funny thing is, she didn't remember how or when we became friends. She couldn't recall my locker room story! Why? Because that is normal behavior for Natalie. That is why it never stood out to her.  (I tell that story every chance I get!)

Roughly 17 years, later I was leaving Montana for North Carolina by car. My family had just experienced the tragic, unexpected death of my uncle right before Christmas. I was still days away, unable to be with my family who was reeling from the loss. The funeral services couldn't wait. One night from a hotel room, somewhere in Wyoming, I called home to check on my family.  I was updated on loved ones and the service was described... this stood out: "Natalie was there."

As word of the loss spread back home, I had the love and support through phone calls and texts from many friends. I am grateful for everyone one of those, but it did not occur to me that any of them would go to the services. I will never forget the fact that Natalie "stood in for me" so to speak. She went and hugged my hurting family when I was physically unable do it myself. In the midst of working two jobs; she made the time to do the uncomfortable & selfless acts that strengthen friendship. Again, she never told me she was there. I consider myself lucky to have been pushed down in the locker room so many years ago, because that event brought me a quality friend for life.  She is a friend who pulls through during tough, uncomfortable, inconvenient times! My first impression of her was right, her consistency has proven even more valuable.

Natalie is serious by nature. I maintain that she feels things so deeply you don't see the evidence on the surface.  She has always known exactly what she wanted in life. She has always had a plan and enough discipline to execute and see it through, alone.  She is independent and pretty self-sufficient. Combine all those descriptors and you will understand that Natalie can be misjudged if you only look at her on the surface. I would encourage you to look twice. You see, the truth is she doesn't need you, but she will choose you because she cares. I believe that is the highest compliment; to be someone's choice as opposed to them needing you. She isn't carefree all the time, but she is very caring.

Natalie is dependable and requires that trait in her friendships and other relationships. Her close circles are comprised of people lucky enough to see her unguarded. She jokes around, but she is steady. She is the best of both worlds. So today I wanted to show you the friend I know. This image doesn't show a different side of her, but rather the depth of her I mentioned before. After all, I don't believe people have sides;  it is really a matter of how deeply you are able to see.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

My View of You: Facing The Camera

For quite some time the camera has been a multi-tool for me.  It has been my tool of trade; that catalyzed the work/travel across country.  It has been a bridge that brought a diverse collection of people from different careers, with various interests, social standing, & backgrounds into my life. It has been my companion, the only thing in the car with me at times, as I traveled.  It was a constant.  The only way I could bring the places I traveled to the people I care about.  The camera was my voice at times, when I couldn't seem to express what I was thinking or feeling.  I have even used it as a shield to keep others from getting too close. It has most importantly been my teacher. I have learned what the camera and I brought to each other, but I have learned it has taught me more about people than I ever realized.  The camera has required that I become a studier of people.  Photography for me is more than "what is their best angle?"  It is more important for me to find out WHO they are and figuratively speaking, photograph their soul.  We are so much more than what we do, where we go,  and how much money we have have/spend.  Who are you when nothing stands between you and my lens?  My goal is to photograph the authentic, true heart of a person.  With that said, so much plays into how I observe people before photographing them.  Their interactions with others, body language, eye contact, tones, and of course what they say, as well as that wealth of information in what they don't say, all comes together to help me see the true person.  All this has to be observed and translated within minutes.  The most important element when photographing people isn't great hair, makeup, or sucking in that tummy they have kept meaning to work on; it is trust.  The camera is a mirror that offers the reflection to others instead of themselves.  It will reveal their insecurities to everyone!!!  It reveals that and your true self; which is probably much prettier than you think. The secret is, if you just relax, trust the artist behind the camera, and stop worrying about the tool in between you both- you will be better off: before, during, and in the final product of your photoshoot.

What I have noticed over the years is how we see ourselves so inaccurately.  This started me thinking about how nervous I get when I am in front of the camera and how I would rather cover my face with my proverbial "blankie"/camera.  It was time for me to take a look at me. So I procrastinated. Being a people person I decided to learn from others, collect data, and then face me armed with information.  And thusly, this project took root in my mind.  I wanted to show a few of those (within my reach) around me how others see them or in this case how I see them.

So it begins.  Look out…I am still recruiting my "models/victims."
The requirements.
They do not get to tell me how to photograph them.  (Newsflash: Photographers don't like being told HOW to do their job anymore than you do.)
They do not get to do excessive primping, wardrobe planning, etc.  In fact, they don't get much warning before their shoot so that they can't cheat on this rule.
They do not get to see the back of the camera or samples before their finished product.
Essentially, they are completely letting go of all control & placing trust in someone else, me.

So here is Victim #1:
Bonnie is a close friend and a talented artist/photographer.  She is an introvert by nature.  She doesn't ever go into any room vying to be the center of attention.  She is calm.  She is steady.  She is consistent.  Don't be fooled, she is ever growing and bettering herself by taking stock of her strengths to hone and weaknesses to strengthen.  She has high expectations of herself and is one of the most forgiving, encouraging, and challenging truth tellers I know. A friend that will tell you the truth vs what you want to hear is valuable.  For all that she is, she hates the front side of the camera like so many; women in particular.
Photographing your friends and family….  is ridiculously difficult (mentally).  They don't just go along with what you ask.  They debate to put it nicely. They know you. They will push you; because to them, you are their friend or family first and a professional photographer second.

Bonnie was a trooper.  Oh I got plenty of, "Are you kidding me?" "I hate this!" "Please hurry up." "Are we done now!?" And all those were only through her body language and facial expressions.

Victim #2 (you will meet later) was VERBAL in her protests.

Back to Bonnie, she has been a trusted confidant about the brightest, as well as, darkest days of my life.  She is truly one of the strongest, deepest, most understanding, and loyal people I know.

Let me introduce you to her:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Where's My Gun?!

As a wedding photographer, at the end of a big day you will have no energy left if you have done your job.  A wedding day requires your mind and body.  You must utilize both hemispheres of the brain; be analytical, organized, observant, creative, emotionally connected from behind the camera, etc  My boss, Doug, says he reserves enough energy to drive home.  I reserve enough to make sure he doesn't fall asleep at the wheel, by telling him stories and sometimes he turns on the radio in the middle of them. It makes me laugh.  Last night was no different.  It was a great wedding.  We headed home around 10 pm.
My boss and his wonderful wife, Stana house me when I am in Montana.  Stana had to make an overnight trip to Missoula to check on her mom.  Doug and I hit the back door tired and went separate ways without saying a word.  I headed to my room downstairs and closed the door; happy to see my giant comfie, bed.  It is difficult to fall sleep after a wedding. You have to slow down the mind.  So whether it be half of a movie or some reading; my required routine is somewhat the same.  I chose a book.  When the words started sliding around on the page, I cut off the lamp and went to sleep.  The last thing I heard was Doug upstairs getting some cereal.
At some point in the night, noise from above drug me from a deep sleep.  I assumed Doug must not be sleeping well without Stana at home.  I grabbed my phone to check the time; a little aggravated at being woken up at 4:30 AM.  The loud noises continued.  I got out of bed and listened.  Something wasn't right. Then a loud boom of something hitting the floor upstairs shifted my awareness.

Three scenarios played out in my mind:
1. Doug is unaware of how loud he was and then fell in the kitchen.  "Crap! Is helping him up in my job description?"....Probably; in fine print of course. :)
2. Intruder. Doug must have suffered a head injury because no one could sleep through this!
3. BEAR! -"Where is my gun!?"

Doug and Stana suggested I sleep with my windows closed in September and October because of black bears coming through the neighborhood.  But the doors have been left opened lately to let in cool air.

I grabbed my large pocket knife and pink pepper spray.  It would only make a bear sneeze -ONCE- then it would come for blood. However, I couldn't go with just a knife.  Besides, if it was an intruder, I was gonna empty the can on their tail for dragging me out of bed at 4:30 AM!  Either way, it was MAN OR BEAST vs. BECCA.  I took a deep breath and eased open my door, "armed." Sort of.  This was the epitome of "taking a knife to a gun fight."

This decision to investigate and confront was nothing new.  There has never been a, "Honey, I heard something," situation.  My life requires a different response to something like this.   In college, I lived with 3 other girls in a townhouse apartment. It was the youngest & shortest girl that cautiously, went down the stairs in pink satin shorts with a death grip on her baseball bat. The other girls followed behind me.

I know if an intruder is in your home, it is best to leave the lights off.  However, I needed the overhead light.  I would rather have a full frontal man attack vs being taken from behind by some unseen animal that CAN see me in the dark.  I  silently climbed the stairs to the first landing and hit the switch; flooding the house in light.  My eyes tried to adjust as I saw a flash of dark fur bolt from the kitchen down the hallway.

It was in that moment that the "fight" overtook my "flight." One word came out a growl.
It was a little embarrassing. I'm glad I was alone.  My grandparents used to shout "GIT!" at wild dogs that would come on their property when I was outside playing as a kid.  I never knew that under the right circumstances it would come out of me!  What does it even mean!?  How did I speak at all?!?!?!  I was mentally preparing to chase a bear out of the house for heaven sakes! The guilty party was moving so fast I still don't know what type of animal it was.  One thing was for sure we scared each other to high heaven.

I looked down at my opened knife and pink pepper spray still in my hands. I checked the kitchen and cleaned up the mess.   I turned off the light and headed back downstairs.  Laying my "weapons" on the nightstand I realize 3 things climbing into bed.

1. I remembered where my gun was.

2. WHAT WAS I THINKING!? I was going to take on a potential bear with HUMAN pepper spray and a large pocket knife!  Who did I think I was- "Tristan," the bear wrestling guy (played by Brad Pitt) in Legends of the Fall?!  Good grief. I didn't seem to be worried about it being a person.

3. I chuckled because I was so grouchy and I assumed Doug slept through the WHOLE scenario. I definitely wasn't going to check.  I sighed.  Well there was the silver lining- Doug didn't fall out in the kitchen.  Which is good.  We have 3 more weddings in the next 2 weekends!  I don't want to do those alone.  I'd rather face "the bear."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


The battle wages.  I fight alone.  My arm feels every ounce of my sword and shield.  The armor meant to protect me weighs me down.  How do I continue?  How do I press on?  How much longer can I keep this up?  I am so tired.  The pelting rains creates a bog across the field.  The ground slides beneath my feet.
The growling foe comes one after another.  There is no end to their number.  I feel their hot breath press me.  Blood, spit, and sweat fly. Heavy threats hang in the air of what will come if I fail.
I swing. I deflect. I parry.  I slice.  I block with my shield. Some I slay; their broken bodies scattered at my feet.  Shock vibrations cascade through my body.  My shield bearing arm is broken on impact from the enemy's weapon.  A sneer lights his face as I am forced to drop the shield.  My only defense, anticipate and move.  I cross block with my sword.  
The rain begins again with renewed strength as my own ebbs. There is no help.  I am still outnumbered.  I have called; no one comes. "You are on your own." Those sobering words are delivered with a victorious sneer as if he has read my fear.  Was anyone ever with me?  Was it all a figment of my colorful imagination? My throat constricts as prickling tears fill my eyes. Truth is not always easy to accept.  I am alone.  I release the armor protecting my heart.  I need to breathe and move with more ease.
A firm, heavy blow bears down on top of my sword. I am forced to my knees; buckling under its weight. In that moment my sword is forced from my grasp.  My time has come.  Eternal rest.  I lift my eyes to my predator's gaze.  The emptiness in those eyes are more menacing than anything I have ever seen. He informs me, "Most beg for their life or join the ranks of a new leader."
I whisper, "Never."  A well delievered  whisper can be stronger than a shout.  It hits the mark.  Much louder I declare to something bigger than he or I,  "I believe, but help my unbelief."  I am focused.  Peace cloaks me. I'm ready to meet death head on.  
My sword lies out of reach being cleansed of all things ugly in the deafening rainstorm. I square my shoulders and with a defiant lift of my chin I pray that my comrades fair better than I have.  The monster has decided to slay me with my own sword.  The sword I have lived by.  What is supposed to be the biggest disgrace will be my honor.  The storm wages but, I hear his clear chuckle.  "Foolish girl!"
Once more I repeat.  "I believe, help my unbelief." 
Unconstrained anger bursts forth as the monster rushes me; sword raised.
I gently close my eyes.   A gust of wind whips my hair across my face and everything slows to a snail's pace.  I open my eyes to see what game my attacker plays.  All that fills my vision is the embodiment of my belief, despite my unbelieving doubts and questions.  He has slain that which set out to destroy me.
A tear courses down my face, striping my bloodied cheek clean in its wake. I lower my gaze in shame.  I am not alone.  As the booted feet of this warrior appear on the ground in front of where I remain kneeling; I hear a voice more like a caress.  Barely above a whisper, this message was delivered.
"Your questions and your doubts won't cause your failure.  How you decide to respond to them can.  I've been here with you.  Choice is the most powerful gift to give someone.  In order to choose you must first question.  Don't fear questions.  They lead to conclusions. Until you arrive at those conclusions your belief and faith will bridge the gap. You have done well. More battles are ahead. More victories and perhaps some defeats; but the choice is forever yours.  I am here."  
With that I lift my sword.  It is a welcome weight in my grasp.  I have chosen. This is my destiny. I take a deep breath and see a new enemy on the horizon.  I start forward. After all there is no reason to wait for him to come to me. I am ready.  I believe.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Some of the Greatest Things are Unexplained

I have been house sitting for the past few days.  Usually when you are in a new place sleep can be elusive or somewhat shallow.  This has not been the case.  I have been sleeping deeply and have not felt so rested for a while. Perhaps it is the massive black lab by my side; snoring so hard that he could suck the paint off the walls.
This morning was odd.  I awoke to let him out to run just as the orange rays of sunlight broke through the gray, thick clouds.  Half asleep and rubbing my eyes, I was stopped in my tracks at the sight.  It was beautiful.  Hank soon reminded me to snap out of it and open the door!  I let him out and fell back to sleep.
About an hour later, the next thing I heard, woke me like a caress.  Church bells, off in the distance.  Easing the covers back I padded into the kitchen to start the coffee.  Silence filled the house;  which incidentally provides a great environment to think.
In the South, many people go to church;  some do not.  I started thinking about Easter Sunday and what that means to us.  I have many friends that do not attend church. Yet, they pray as much as church goers do.  They have shown me more stability and love than some religious folks.  In moments of need and extreme pain it is those same people and my Christian friends that have provided the comfort and love that Christ asks us to.  Some have been hurt by the church or should I say the people in it.  Some people have work that does not permit regular attendance. Whatever their reason I think about the negativity they associate with the church.  I started pondering how much of the aversion to church was contributed to God vs the people in the church.  I am not hear to  point fingers, fuss, spit, and snarl; enough of that has been done evidently.  I just know what I have been told.  Maybe it is time for us church goers to, once more, reexamine our hearts. Are we misjudging people?  I can say that my heart has hurt for the last two years, even when I sit in church.  This morning the church bells, brought a sense of peace that I can not explain.  Not a word was spoken, the  melody simply floated across the fields and filled a void in my soul I had not even identified.  Sometimes the greatest thing we, as Christians, can offer the world is a melody with no words or opinions, like the church bells. After all, the best intentions, can still be words that are heard as "a resounding gong." (1 Corinthians 13:13)
My last parting thought... after a wonderful cup of coffee, I became completely conscious. :) I get that from my mother, "consciousness requires coffee."  I started wondering what church was close by that may still have bells that ring on a schedule.  It seems to be a sweet tradition that is becoming more rare these days.  The  closest church is a few miles down the way, but church bells do not play before 8 AM on a Saturday morning. Come to think of it, I have never heard them while visiting my friend at any time of the day.  Sometimes the greatest gifts are undeserved and unexplained.
Tomorrow is Easter. Whatever your plans for the day are, I hope you spend a day filled with joy and you are wrapped in unexplained peace from God because He loves you. I am sorry if some of us church goers have stepped in between you and God intentionally or unintentonally  with opinions and idle chatter.  As always you are welcome visit with me and the family at our home church, no words or strings attached. Happy Easter!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

My First Elk Hunt!

The 5:30AM wake up whisper, through the door, resounded through the room and finally penetrated the sleeping bag I was burrowed within.  I croaked, "I'm up."  I slid my feet into my hot pink boots. (They are water proof I might add!)  Two seasoned elk hunters equipped me with a camo fleece jacket that hit my knees and a camo baseball hat; since mine was home in NC.
After hearing "Uncle" Bobby use the Elk Cow call I could mimic the sound with the tool:  one long with 2 or 3 short bursts depending on hand gestures given in the woods.
As the menfolk gathered their bows, I am called upon every ounce of self control to contain my excitement and remain quiet as I met them  them outside the front door.  We were shrouded in fog, but the Montana moon was brighter than any North Carolina coastal lighthouse!
Uncle Sam and Uncle Bobby checked over everything a final time.  Bobby used the bull call.  Before the last breath left the end of the tube the hauntingly beautiful notes of a real bull elk answered.  I was mesmerized.  He was so close!
I was brought out of  paralyzed/awed state when I heard one of the men hiss, "find cover!"  The three of us moved into the tree line and stayed quiet.  We hear the elk's repeated call but from over the next ridge. Unfortunately, we must have been seen.  We set off quickly into the draw in the general direction of an entirely different singing elk.  I try to step in the footprints of Uncle Sam to help move as quietly and swiftly as possible.  The elk answer our call almost everytime .  They always seem just beyond the extent of our vision.  How can such a huge animal remain so elusive?
At the end of the day we came out of the woods "empty handed."  But you know I enjoyed hearing first hand accounts from those two brothers about other hunting expeditions with family members that are no longer with us, but have not been forgotten.  Hunting is taken very seriously in my own family.  I realize what a privilege it was to tag along.  It was only one day, but it was definitely one of the best days I have had in Montana.
This weekend is opening weekend and I am wedding free.  This time there will be more of this incredible family present.  I am sure there will be plenty more stories and laughter.  I will layer up in hope that "a big daddy elk" will come our way. However, because of Uncle Sam and Uncle Bobby taking me on my first elk hunt, I realize a trophy isn't the only thing you can bring out of the woods to enjoy the day.  A full heart was pretty great itself.