The garden is indeed a disaster

You might remember my prediction that our first attempt at a garden may be a disaster.  

That prediction has proven to be fairly accurate as shown by the weeds attempting to choke out the few plants that did survive the initial stages of planting a month and a half ago.

First, I missed the memo about planting everything in neat little rows. There definitely isn't anything neat about our garden and not really any rows at this point.

I didn't read packages right and failed to space the seeds far enough apart, as well. Then there was the week long rain that started the day after I planted. I'm convinced it washed away a good portion of my carrot seeds.  

Lisa R. Howeler

I am a total garden newbie so when I started yanking out weeds and didn't see carrot tops sprouting where I thought they should have been I ended up ripping out a few carrot seedlings. I thought they grew a lot faster than they actually do. Whoops. 

One side of the garden never even got planted and the weeds know it and have taken residence there, creating what is going to be a town violation at some point if I don't get in there and yank out more of those pesky, pointless plants. It seems as soon as I weed one part I return the next day to find 1,000 more. Who knew weeds could grow so fast.

This week we harvested two little summer squash and you would have thought I'd won the lottery. Little Miss and I ran in the house and proudly displayed the little veggie to the boys, who were appropriately impressed but not as over the moon as we were.

Lisa R. Howeler 2017

There is currently something growing where I thought I planted cucumber. I thought it was zucchini but now it's rounding out like watermelon and I truly do not remember buying watermelon seeds at any point, let alone planting them.  A quick message to my dad and he said it's a pumpkin growing, which is very upsetting to me because we now have four official pumpkin plants and two more trying to grow by my house. I had no idea simply dropping pumpkin seeds could lead to plants sprouting up all over the place. 

I guess I'd better start searching the internet for pumpkin recipes now. And now to freeze pumpkins, carve pumpkins and convince others to take pumpkins away from us.

So at this point, I'm fairly certain we'll have at least some summer squash, no cucumber, maybe some butternut squash (need to Google and find out when that usually starts to make an appearance) and I've learned that I can plant spinach and kale later in the season so I'll be trying that too.

How about you? Do you garden? Does your garden thrive or barely survive?

Because sometimes it's okay to not be happy your kids are growing up so fast

You know what's really annoying?

Having to say what a blessing it is to watch our children grow up.

I see it all the time in the photography world. A mom-tog (not a bad term in my mind though it is to some) posts a photo of her oldest on instagram and writes a beautiful piece of prose about how much they miss when this growing child was young and innocent and liked to cuddle. Inevitably some other mom writes "but it's such a blessing to see them grow, isn't it?"

I have this suspicion that the other mom writes this because she herself knows the dark, ugly truth of parenting: yes, watching them grow is a blessing but yes, it also sucks raw, rotten eggs.

You know what?

I'm tired of us moms thinking we are horrible human beings if we admit there are days we can't stand that our children are growing older and aren't as sweet and cuddly as they once were.

Lisa R. Howeler 2017

We need to embrace our feelings even if it doesn't fit our Pinterest list of perfect motherisms (yes, I know it isn't a word,  but you can pretend it is).

Does it mean we love our children less as they grow out of our arms and into independence? Of course not, but we need to stop feeling less than because sometimes we cry when we see how much they've changed over the years.

We all know what's behind our tears.

Nostalgia.

Joy. 

Sweet memories.

Selfishness.

Yes, selfishness.

We don't want them to grow up and move on. Why? Because moms, deep down, feel very strongly that once their children grow up and move out they will no longer need them and worse yet? That we moms will no longer have worth, purpose, a reason to live.

Lisa R. Howeler, 2017

Don't get me wrong - our lives don't completely revolve around our children's to the point they are our only identity but then again - maybe it does for some of us.

And when we have to think about what our lives will be when they grow up and move on?

It's hard.

It's gut wrenching.

It's scary.

It's time for introspection we don't want to face.

Yes, it's necessary to accept our children are growing, not live in the past.

But it's also hard and it's ok to say that.

It is not only ok but it is healthy to honor how we feel in the moment let those emotions roll around and over and through us so we can deal with them in the open and not deep down in the dark caverns of our suppressed sensibilities

 Too often we let the opinions of others, those who tell us how we should feel, should act and react, rule us and guide us and drag us through life.

We're not bad mothers if we cry in the darkness of the night, aching for the younger days. We're not even bad mothers if we live there for a little while - but only for a little while.

It's not wrong to weep about the days gone by but if we do it for too long we'll miss out on the now.

We will miss out on who our children are now and who they are becoming.

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There is no rule that says a mom, or a father, can't say they are dreading their children growing older while also enjoying watching them grow.

The alternative to not seeing them grow up? It's unthinkable and is a million times worse than watching them go from cuddly toddler to stand offish teen.

But, yes, mama, you are allowed to say "I miss my baby."

"I miss my little boy."

"I miss my little girl."

"This is hard. "

There are a lot of other moms and dads who are right where you are, even if they don't say it.

They have those hard moments.

You have those hard moments.

But, yes, they, you and I know it is a blessing and a gift to watch them grow, develop, and bloom even as we lament how fast it's all going.

Lisa R. Howeler 2017

The flowers are sad

 

I love how my 2-year olds' brain works.

Sunday at my parents, we were walking to the house from the pool and she saw the flowers along the wall and said "oh those flowers are sad."

They were purple flowers drooping down, closing up as the sun set.

 

I said "oh do they look sad? They're really just closing up for the night."

She looked at some green flowers that aren't blooming fully yet and said "those flowers are angry."

And she was right. They did look angry with their spiked petals and centers, dark green towering above the rock wall. With the shadows cast from the trees the petals almost looked like teeth ready to bite down on us.

It wasn't something I'd ever really thought about - flowers looking happy or sad or angry.

When you look through the eyes of a child you see so much more than you did before.

And children see, feel and understand much more than we realize.

Blueberry Picking and practicing storytelling through the lens

I read Elizabeth Willson's post about storytelling through your lens after we visited the local blueberry farm, but was a bit proud of myself for actually following most of her tips already. Since reading the post, though, I'm looking forward to trying this again and capturing each of the different images she suggested.

I'll be honest, we chose to visit the blueberry farm for something other than photos - we were hungry for blueberry pancakes and blueberry muffins. Still, it did provide a nice opportunity to capture my family interacting and their personalities. 

Lisa R Howeler 2017

Like Elizabeth suggested, I did try some wider angles to capture more of the bigger picture and surroundings. I also focused in on details like little hands carrying buckets full of blueberries, and little fingers picking berries. And of course I also focused on my son sneaking blueberries when he was supposed to be picking, though I couldn't say much, because I was doing the same thing.

Lisa R. Howeler 2017
Lisa R. Howeler 2017

I also made sure to capture my children interacting and luckily I didn't have to take Liz's suggestion to photograph the bad moments as well, since the visit went fairly well until Little Miss decided she needed a nap. Even then we were able to get her to the car and home for a nap before a major meltdown happened.

Lisa R. Howeler 2017
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Lisa R. Howeler 2017

As for "getting in the frame" I didn't use my own camera, but did finally ask my husband to grab one of the kids and I together with his cellphone so they would see that "I was there too."

And like many I wasn't thrilled with a photo of myself, but when my children are older and look at the photos, they won't see what I see. They'll simply see their mama. Or at least I hope.

For our next trip I'll try more of Liz's suggestions of trying different perspective and switching up with lenses, even though right now I'm only carrying around two.

 

Storytelling through your lens: 10 tips for sharing authentic stories

Thank you to Elizabeth Willson of It's Still Life Photography for this great post about visual storytelling and authenticity in your photography! I loved it and hope you do too!
 


It was a process. As my children grew I dedicated my free time to learning the technical aspects of my camera. To obtaining gear. To capturing images for others. Yet over the past year, I’ve found joy in embracing the story. Each time my camera is raised is an opportunity. It’s a chance to capture a bit of the true life unfolding in front of my eyes, my lens. Not every story is perfect, yet my challenge is to find the emotion and beauty in it. To connect the brilliance and light to the heart.

While each image may tell a story, sometimes a collection of photographs gives the viewer an enhanced scope of the richness of the moments. Here are a few simple suggestions on how to document YOUR story for you to experience in your memory and others to grasp through your visuals.

Choose an event.

In our home of South-Central Pennsylvania, we are surrounded by gorgeous orchards, fields and farms. Our climate leaves only a few short weeks to pick seasonal fresh fruit. When I received an email that our favorite apple-picking orchard offered cherry-picking, I jumped on a free afternoon. Packed up water bottles and my four kiddos, rolled the windows down, and headed for the mountain. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. An afternoon at the playground, baking cookies, your bedtime routine...

Get Wide.

To grasp the “big picture” use a wide angle lens. My go-to is the Canon 24-70 2.8L. If you find yourself with the inability to go wider with a lens, then simply back up!

Capture the details.

Cherry-stained finger nails? Yes! Yes! Yes! The little things all combine to create the larger narrative and add the sensory element (smells, tastes, touch) that enrich the story as it unfolds.

 Vary your perspective.

Shoot from above, shoot from below. Lie down, climb trees. Perspective makes a huge impact in giving the viewer a more holistic look at the story.

 Shoot Through.

By using framing of objects in the foreground you can create a “tunnel” effect, like you are peeking through a keyhole or looking glass into the action. There is a mysterious and secretive nature to shooting through objects.

Switch up your lenses.

Yes, it’s ok to change lenses in the middle of a cherry orchard! Personally, in order to add a bit of wonder to my images I shoot with either of my Lensbabys (Velvet 56 or Sweet 35), but you could grab a macro lens, switch out primes or even free lens to get varied effects that contribute to your story. 

 Capture the connection.

Relationships are tough, right? But they are so very rich and deep. I simply adore the connection of my children particularly during the rare moments when they peacefully work together (and enjoy one another).

Get. In. The. Frame.

I know, I know. But bottom line is, YOU. WERE. THERE. TOO. And although you remember it was you behind the lens, your children and loved ones (and grandchildren, and great-grandchildren) want that visual reminder that you shared intimately in their story. So, sit your camera down on the ground (gasp!), set the timer and run :) Or if there happens to be someone else around, pass off your camera to someone you trust. Let go of how you may look and embrace your beautiful role in the story.

 

Include photographs of “things”

While every story has a “main character”, the setting and supporting elements certainly contribute (sometimes pivotally) to the plot. Grab those “things” even when the people aren’t present.

 Be authentic.

Contrary to what you may see on Pinterest-perfect social media, I’m sure you’ve experienced that stories have their ups and downs. There’s whining, there’s frustration, there’s disagreements, there are hot, tired children (and let’s be real, parents too!). Go ahead and capture them. We’ve all been there. And it’s incredible to share the joys and triumphs through it all.

May you be encouraged to embrace your role as “storyteller” and capture your daily adventures.

I’d love to hear from you with any questions and/or see your favorite storytelling images based on this post. Contact me at:

Facebook

or Instagram

He listened to hear. Remembering a Wyalusing treasure

The line to the funeral home stretched down a long sidewalk to the driveway and inside there were more lines, weaving through rooms, people waiting to tell his family what he had meant to them.

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We only have one life to live and he'd lived his well.

Was he perfect?

No human is.

But he was loved and loved back.

He smiled and laughed and made days better.

He made my days better when I saw him at council meetings or fire department events.

He made my dad laugh and shake his head often when they were in school together and afterwards.

Sometimes when you read someone has died you feel a twinge of sadness and you mourn briefly and gently because you knew of them but didn't know them. Other times you read someone has died and you look down to see who just kicked you in the chest. You realize that ache right there in the center of your heart is your spirit cringing in shock and grief.

Tears rising from somewhere deep in your soul and they come suddenly, without warning.

That's how I've felt before and how I felt last week when I read about the sudden passing of Wayne Felter, a friend of my dad's and the cornerstone of the community I used to work in.

We'd stand outside council meetings during executive sessions, him and I, and Dave, the publisher of the weekly newspaper, the man who later became my boss. Wayne would tell stories about pretty much everything and Dave would often stop him and remind him I was there, young and a female. I guess Dave was trying to protect me from Wayne's more salty tales, but few of them were inappropriate. 

Many times the story would end with "you ask your dad about that. That's a true story." 

And I would ask Dad and he would say "it's true ... for the most part" and wink at me. 

I never made it to talk to his family that day, due to a hot and tired toddler squirming in my arms and the long, winding lines.

I'm not sure what I would have said if I had reached them. I didn't know them well enough to offer much more than a brief condolence and to be honest I was feeling selfish.

I glanced only once at the casket, only briefly from a distance and saw him motionless there. In those few seconds I knew that wasn't how I wanted to remember him. I wanted to remember his smile, the twinkle in his eye when he was about to say something inappropriate for the moment or tease me, and his laugh when he'd succeeded in making someone else laugh.

As my dad said, Wayne made people who met him feel like they were worth talking to. He would seek people out simply to say "hello" and that made them feel special. There aren't many people who do that anymore.

Today many people are distracted, uninterested and thinking about what they're going to say next when someone is talking to them.

They listen to speak but don't listen to really hear.

Wayne listened and heard and usually found a way to laugh at what he'd heard.

I will have to remind myself now when I visit Wyalusing that he's not around anymore.

At least not physically.

The people of his tiny community will still see him, though.

Anyone who knew him, even only a little, will still see him.

They'll see him when someone is sliding down frozen streets when they were supposed to be cindering or when someone is making a joke although others think the moment calls for seriousness.

They'll see him when someone is laughing with a waitress or joking with the customers at the local diner. 

They'll see him in his children and his grandchildren.

And they will see him when someone stops and listens - really listens - making a person feel they are worth being listened to. 

Mom guilt is the best

magnify glass Lisa R. Howeler

I totally pulled the grandma-wouldn't-want-you-to-do that card this week.

Totally.

Little Miss is in a mean phase.

At least I hope it's a phase.

When she wants to sit somewhere her brother is sitting she shoves him until he moves. When she wants what her brother has she takes it.  When she wants to play with his Legos she tries to shove him out of the way so she can stand at his Lego table.

She doesn't do this with other children. Only her brother. 

He's eight years older than her. She doesn't care. The age gap doesn't intimidate her.

She is a bully.

I've been reading articles and wracking my brain how to teach her not to be mean. So far it's been time outs and long talks asking her how she'd feel if her brother was mean to her instead.

But the other night I changed my strategy, one my own mother has been grooming me for since I was born.

I used mother guilt.

I knew it would all be worth it one day.

My son was hugging me at bedtime, laying across me, and his sister didn't want him to hug me so she stuck her toes in his armpits and pushed hard with her foot, trying to dislodge him.

That's when brilliance struck. I felt very proud of myself when I said:  "Oh my, this would make Grandma so sad. She thinks you are just the sweetest little girl and if she saw you being mean to your brother she would be so disappointed and so sad."

She continued to push but was watching me and I could tell she was thinking.

 "She would. She says you're so sweet and your brother loves you...she'd just be upset."

 "Grandma? She'd be upset?" She asked. Her legs weren't pushing as hard now. "With me?"

 "Sad, yes," I said. "Not mad, but very disappointed and sad."

She took her toes out of his armpits and lowered her legs.

"Oh my! Grandma would be upset at me! She'd be sad!"

She turned to her brother.

"Grandma is upset at me! She sad!"

The mother guilt was getting a little out of hand so I reassured her Grandma would be happy now because she had stopped being mean to her brother.

"Oh. Okay."  She said, hesitantly relieved. 

I'm quite pleased my tactic worked.

For now.

I may not be as happy when the therapy bills start coming in though.

However, none of my therapy bills were related to my mom's superior mom guilt so I think it will be okay.

10 on 10 for July and all that jazz

Today is the day I showcase ten photos from the previous month as part of the 10 on 10 Lifestyle blog circle.

June was a month of discoveries and for me I discovered, or shall I say, finally admitted I am never going to have a photography business. Eight years of rejection is enough. We are told to keep pushing forward on our dreams but sometimes I think we have to know when one dream is dead and gone. That dream I had apparently was not God's plan for me, at least not while I live where I am living now. 

I have gone over and over in my head, trying to find the correct formula to make this business a success, but none of it has worked. Friends have assured me it's not me or my photography, but even with price reductions no one would hire me. And without clients there is no budget for advertising so it's a real catch 22. 

I have even considered maybe I need to change my style, how I edit and what I shoot, but know that changing who I am to fit someone else's view isn't healthy for me over all. At that point one has to ask themselves if the dream has become an idol above all else. In my case, it's possible that has been happening so laying it down is what needs to happen at this time. 

In between the sadness of finally giving up on photographing clients, there has been fun with the children-water hose fights and pool time at their grandparents and simply exploring in general.  

Be sure to follow the circle around by visiting Lauren Cypher next!