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i have always loved the ‘freaks’, the deviants, the rule breakers. in high school it was the skaters with their shaved heads and mile high mohawks, shredded fish nets and knee-high doc martens… i pined to be one of them.  me the pleaser, the cheerleader. i secretly longed to be weird, different, edgier. it never happened. closest i ever got to deviant behavior was my tattoos. oh and that time i got my nose pierced but then took it out because it never healed right.  yeah livin’ on the edge people, that’s me.   i did eventually wear docs,  just not the knee-high ones,  my deviancy had its limits.  at age 40 i still love the freaks. i love to walk the streets and seek them out in my lens.
fire lucky for me i live near a fairly progressive hip little city.  we have street fairs, which bring out all the street artists and street kids.  I LOVE THEM. I can’t look away.  I stalk them. pathetic. truly. now that spring is finally here there is sure to be more people and more skin.  more skin  = more tattoos.  win win in my book.squeezeboxtattoos, piercings, pink purple green dreads, yes please! boots and fish nets, leather and lace, dreamy!  i love shooting these mysterious strangers that seem to live life on the fringe. i imagine they hang out and read poetry, draw in journals, and play the ukulele at 4am. they live in cool flats with funky thrifted furniture with graffiti all over their walls that they change whenever they feel like it.  they hang out in subways and art galleries. this is normal right?  me, the mom, daydreaming of the lives of these cool kids.  don’t answer that.
east cackalacky

i guess a small part of me still longs to be in the club.  i wonder what they think, mild middle-aged mom me, taking their photo.  do they wish i would go away?  or can they see my secret longing in my eyes. that rebel in me that never saw the light of day.  i hope so,  because each time i focus my lens on them,  i am loving them in all their quirkiness.  i should have been crazier bolder darker weirder….  i should have gotten that mohawk at 16,  played the musical saw in a garage band named “hose water”… opportunities lost i guess.  my wasted youth.  😉

yesterday i took my wanna-be deviant self and some cans of paint to a legal graffiti wall. yes legal, allowed, not very deviant when i put it that way.  oh well, even legal it felt slightly naughty.  for a few fleeting moments i got in touch with my inner bad girl. maybe i need to re-pierce my nose or work on that sleeve i’ve always wanted….  or maybe i should just go buy some more spray paint.deviant me

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I was recently asked by my cousin to take engagement pictures of her and her boyfriend. Although I had never taken pictures of adults I didn’t hesitate in saying yes, she is my family so how hard would it be. Well….let me start out by saying the day it came, I started sweating. I had done my homework and of trying to get inspired by looking at pictures of pretty, happy people smiling and showing lots of pda.

I drove with them to their chosen location and as we arrived I really started to panic. I usually like to check out the place before I shoot somewhere and figure out where I want to spend most of my time. We walked around and I had them sit there and as I raised my arms to start taking pictures I realized I was shaking. My camera felt foreign and two people were waiting for me to tell them what to do. Uh…why don’t you…put your head on his shoulder…yea uh…and put your arm there..and put your leg on his , wait actually don’t do that. My mouth was dry and my voice was shaking. I think about poses I had seen and how they were draped all over each other. Let’s keep walking I say.

I seriously wanted to book it into the woods. I was panicking-had I lost it all? Why did this camera feel so weird in my hands?
So a little background, usually I am a very kid centric person. Kids are my thing-I love chasing them around and capturing them and only them. Adults, not so much. Unless they are with their children of course.

So I started out getting pictures like these which makes me think of a picture you get in a frame. My eyes literally bulged out of my head when I saw this picture. Which is fine and great for the grandparents but soo not me.

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So here is my question-do you think you have to specialize in something? Has anyone had an experience like this? I look at websites and people have categories a mile long-weddings and babies and maternity and commercial. I now have SUCH an appreciation for people that can photograph couples. They make is look so easy!
I did end up finding my groove and this one was one of my favorites..

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when i was 15 years old i came home from school with my very first “real job”.  My teen years were spent on top of a hill , in the middle of a christmas tree farm, on a long windy rural road, so a job off that hill and in town seemed so cool.  i came home with my trainee badge and polyester uniform in hand all excited. i was going to work at a restaurant, Friendly’s, the ice cream and burger place. you know the one right?  my mom laughed and said i would last a week.  she could NOT imagine me, the teenager, serving the masses.  surely i would drop a sundae on someone, or worse, coffee! ( i have done both.) she didn’t think i would have the patience or the chutzpah to stick with it. this is what she said, but what i didn’t know at the time, was what she really meant was that SHE couldn’t do that job. (she fully admits this) waiting on others IS hard. people can be mean and rude. you have to have some thick skin, but i was determined, so i went, and i worked, and i was good at it.  really really good at it!  i got to be social, i do have the gift of gab. lots of my peers worked there, so it was like an extended after-school party every night. i came home with pockets full of cash.  seriously. i would empty out my tips on the kitchen counter and my mom was shocked.  that was it, i was HOOKED! and so i worked my high school years out at that job.

fast forward: i went to college, i left college, moved to FL, back to the restaurant business, met a boy, had a girl, moved back to PA with my girl, not that boy, single mom, back in the restaurant business again.  phew! did you get all that?  now i was 21 years old, a single mother (hello work!), enter TGIFridays. This became my home, and my second family, for most of my 20’s.  granted, it was the most dysfunctional, crazy ass, insane, derelict family, but it WAS family. we worked long hours, 14 hour shifts some days, late into the night (or technically, the wee hours of the morning). we sweated, yelled, cried, laughed, danced, got crazy, slept together, fought, ate, drank, cooked, served, cleaned up and did it all over again the next day. (soap opera? yes there was always drama. Anthony Bourdain was not lying in,”Kitchen Confidential”, it truly is a sub-culture.) we had our own language, we said words like chits, otle, dub dub, expo, in the weeds, and adding on a ho, and that all made perfect sense to us. we had our own inside jokes about the bacon stretcher and napkin press.  i got a nickname, “bubbles”. the names read like the cast of characters that we were: bubbles  and trouble, hustler, doug e fresh, smiley, crazy craig, chalmers, bergman, the perez brothers, tommy the barber, fonze aka zucchini boy, and crazy karen just to name a few. our managers were no better, and some were no older. a large group of co-workers even lived together in an apartment affectionately coined “the orphanage”. we worked HARD. we had FUN. after 6 months as a ‘dub’,  i got promoted to the bar and became something i don’t think i could have ever imagined. (ever see the movie “Cocktail?” does hippy hippy shake ring a bell?  you know, back when Tom Cruise was hot, not weird.) That movie is based on TGIFridays.  they even wear red and white stripes in part of that movie. i became the female Tom. I threw real glass bottles of alcohol all around my head. (and broke a few on the rails) i could flip an ice-cube into a glass with marksman like precision. i threw and caught full pints of beer. i played games like the whipped cream trick. i wore a vest in which i would nest a tin drink shaker, then i would flip the bottles,  pour your libations into that tin shaker and shake! (crowd.goes.wild. see photo below: that is me, “bubbles”)

LIT actioni wore ridiculous buttons (or “flair”) all over that vest. buttons that read klassy things like, “don’t talk to my breasts they’re deaf” / “you’re not as much fun as an enema” / “i majored in liberal arts. do you want fries with that?” /  “it might be looking like a am doing nothing but on a cellular level i am really quite busy” / and these little bits of crazy were required.  seriously, you had to come to work wearing a minimum of 15 “pieces of flair” or risk getting written up.
o+u flair
there were worse buttons. MUCH worse. dirty worse. but being a bartender, dirty and crass is all part of the job. the more you are, the more they come back to see you. i kept the really bad ones on the inside of my vest for special occasions.
o+u enema
people started to forget i had a real first name,  bubbles was how i was introduced and bubbles was how i was known. still am.  remember i started that gig at 21… i am 40 now.  i guess it stuck.  i still have some of my old buttons. weird right?  one day i will pull them out and tell my kids this story of younger me.  i will tell them i was not always this me in my comfy mom jeans, that i used to wear black doc martens with crazy tights, a skirt, red and white stripes, and that vest. people called me bubbles and came to watch my circus act. that their mom made a kick ass long island iced tea and margarita, and could bust out a row of “chits” with 3 blenders rocking at once.  that i shook hands, made people laugh, made lots of great friends, met interesting mix of people and paid the bills. another crazy karmic universe sort of thing,  if i had never been ‘bubbles’,  they would not exist!  see, not only did i meet my very best girlfriend there (aka hustler), i met my husband there (aka fonze /zucchini boy).  he too wore the red and white stripes and boots (motorcycle, not docs).  he had a ponytail, an earring and a foo man choo!  we flirted BAD behind that bar, eventually threw all sense to the wind, moved in together, got married (pretty fast) and there ya have it ladies and gents, restaurant love.  i made a real family out of that restaurant family.  15 years later we are still those crazy kids from behind that bar. we raised one and made 2 more beautiful kids together.
o+u wow pin
i worked that gig for years and “professionals” would ask me, “so when are you going to get a REAL JOB?”  sometimes i’d shrug, or tell them my story of single motherhood (insert their eyes glazing over), or some days i would tell it like i saw it. this IS my real job dude!  if it wasn’t, who would be pouring your 4th beer tonight while making you laugh if this is not a real job?  did they really think i enjoyed all that banter? that i was there purely for recreation? really?!?!   they were not picking gum from the bottom of the tables, refilling ketchup bottles, changing heavy kegs in a crammed tiny beer closet, squeegeeing the gross back line, or shining the brass taps at 8 am on wednesday mornings (pack-n-play and one baby in tow. she too was one of the family.) after closing the bar at 2am the night before, all while waiting on people, some of who stiffed you.  these same professionals, who deemed themselves to have “real jobs”, would be the ones to cutely ask me to ring them in a few more beers under happy hour prices, when happy hour was over.  they would drive home in their sweet cars to their big homes, while i hopped in my geo and fell through my door at 3am, dirty, tired and reeking of their beer and their cigarettes. i know they felt superior, but they never saw the inside of ‘the orphanage’ or bergman do his infamous “i sat in gum” trick, and they surely never ate craig’s dub grub of easter peeps with the heads already bitten off.  that my friends is living. they could have their fancy stuff, i had my bucket of “wow” pins and my crazy family.

i have been out of the business for the past 3 years, now enjoying life as a SAHM, but i still miss it. i still have restaurant dreams. (nightmares really. i am in the weeds and the micros is down and the beer won’t tap and my food is taking FOR-FREAKING-EVER!!!    calm down kristin, it’s only a dream…  or is it?) many say it is in your blood, i can’t disagree.  as for that crazy band of characters i worked with back in the day,  well mostly we grew up, or we most definitely grew older. we all live in different places, different states, but even after ALL these years we still laugh til we cry about some of those stories about back in the day. they were good times shared by good people. really good people. who could have guessed that fateful day at age 15 would turn into all that?

so what did you do before you became the you now?  did you have some crazy job back in the day? did you do something wacky to make a buck? did you have a funny nickname? something that when you tell people now they look at you, smile and nod, but you know in their head they are thinking, really? you? NAH! no way. 

do tell.

ps. tip your bartenders and servers well please!  bubbles thanks you.


It started out as a love affair really. I was pregnant with Falon when I saw my first “big bootie bottom”. You know the kids that have the bottom that is twice the size of them. And when they would walk it would move from side to side. But then I forgot about them and when she was around 4 months I really fell in love. I walked into the natural baby store here and they were all lined up on the walls in amazing colors. Periwinkle and sage!! Oh and I had to have the royal blue. I was hooked. Image

I found my self on online forums and talking about them and trying to get that pattern that was so hard to get.   
Eventually the cuteness slowly wore off and they just became diapers. And even better underwear replaced them and into a bin in the basement they went.

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With Grey, cloth diapering became work. I have less time to marvel over their cuteness and lugging them up and down the stairs to be washed is a drag. I have a hard enough time washing our clothes let alone diapers.

Recently I discovered I did indeed forget to spray out the diaper he pooped in 3 days ago. But these babies aren’t cheap so I soaked it in the spray bin and stuck the bin in the bathtub. And forgot about it until bath-time, when Grey was covered in his dinner and he desperately needed a bath.
And the smell. The one where you know your kid peed without even checking her diaper. Then comes the diaper pail that you can smell at night making it’s way into your bedroom from the bathroom.
So I am past the justifying they are cute and they are saving the earth. Once I heard if you are having relationship trouble you should remember what it was like when you were first together, the feelings of excitement and happiness. I tried that. And I have a big bootie bottom staring at me all day. Nothin.

Sometimes I think I am being punished. By the SAHM karma. When I was younger I would gasp at the SAHM mom’s that would have mother’s helpers and complain that they never had time to do anything. Well I am here to tell you we got all the time in the world but not enough of it. I would love to complete a task. I find myself doing things at warp speed. I can unload the dishwasher in seconds and air walk down the basement stairs to get the clothes from the dryer. I am usually done with my meal as my husband salting his potatoes.
I even let things slide. Sure you can unroll the toilet paper into the bathtub. And heck you can even eat it if that buys me some time. The baby often goes into his older sister’s room and plays which is great and last for at least 20 minutes.

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You can crawl through the swept up breakfast as long as I can get you before you start eating it. And you can go outside on a misty rainy day and play in the mud so I can finish cleaning the kitchen.

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Mornings are actually my favorite time of the day. I love bed head, I love coffee. I love how much time we actually spend in bed before getting up.

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I love morning naps and how fresh and happy the baby is after one.

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I am going to be a happy empty nester, but I do want to remember what it was like.  Hearing the pants of my baby boy’s breath as he crawls all over me. The sound of three year old feet on hardwood floors as they make their way to my bedroom. The taste of baby cereal left on your lips making sure it’s not to hot. The sound of a cheerio crunching under your feet.

So how about you-anything you let slide so you can finish something..?

Suzanne

Skritch. Scratch. Skritch.

These are the sounds that I hear as I lay, not quite awake, hoping they’ll stop. They don’t. I know what they are. My 8 month old is on his belly grabbing handfuls of sheets, probably marveling at his hands and his own ability to use them. It’s only a matter of time until he grabs a handful of my hair and yanks. I’m just conscious enough to sweep my hair away from him. I lay squeezed in next to him telling myself ‘it’s the middle of the night. He’ll go back to sleep.’ I pause. Silence. I exhale. DADADA. My eyes involuntarily pop open and I see two big blue eyes and a big smile looking back at me.

Damn. Cute, but damn. I grab him, shift my weight over, and pull him to the other side. Then I try nursing. If it is the middle of the night that’ll eventually work and he’ll drift off to sleep. I feel him latch and again I feel relief flood over me.

It only lasts a second. He pops off to continue his narrative DADADA. I have a sneaking suspicion that despite my hopes otherwise, that my day is about to begin. In about 2.5 seconds his older brother is there, beside him. This boy takes some serious work to wake up on school days. Otherwise? All it takes is a peep.

About 2.5 minute after that- the cat joins us (she’s obese, it takes her awhile). I’m still struggling to get my eyes open. This is my morning, most days.

We make approximately 453,672 parenting decisions and for the most part I stand behind mine with unwavering conviction- probably to a fault. This one, however, the decision to cosleep, this one was the hardest one I’ve had to come to terms with. On paper I should be all about cosleeping- I’m the natural birthin’, baby-wearing, cloth diapering, extended breastfeeding type- cosleeping is just one more to add to the pile. Yet somehow this one seemed to come with the most pushback, the most judgment, and the most unsolicited feedback about how I was doing irrevocable harm to my child, and I was wholly unprepared for that. The first time around I spent years agonizing over it; I was told he would never self soothe, that he’d be in our bed until he was a teenager. It was all we could do though. it was the only way he (and we) could sleep. I lost pediatricians and friends over it. It made me constantly question my ability to parent “correctly.” It helped make that first year- a year that would have been difficult regardless- perhaps the hardest one in my life.

But now- now the oldest is in his own bed, in his own room, and I’m feeling confident in my ability, and my right, to tell people to shove it.  It works for us, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that that’s all the reason I need. So a family bed we have. A happy, cramped, hilarious, frustrating, family bed. What about you? If you have (or had) little ones around, do your mornings start out with an elbow or two in the eye? Are you a “nightmares only” kind of house? Or is it no way, no how, not in my bed? I promise I won’t judge either way- I’ve had enough of my share to go around.*

*unless your kids are sleeping in dog crates, then I’ll probably judge

In my house there are generally only very good reasons to be out of the house before dawn, or very bad ones.

We received the call less than a week before. Words that strike fear in every parent’s heart. Possible melanoma. We swooped our four year old boy out of school, took him to see Star Wars at the theater, and started mentally preparing for surgery in less than a week. I- the compulsive investigator who spends weeks researching even the smallest purchases-avoided the internet like the plague. Nothing to do but wait, and do my very best to pretend like none of it was happening.

We woke him up and packed him into the car while it was still dark. He had a stuffed lion, which he has only recently taken to, and four star wars lego guys. We made it back to our room at our children’s hospital and he bravely got dressed. The sight of him in his outfit knocked the wind out of me. So I did what I could. I picked up the camera. It gave me purpose, it gave me distraction. Thank you, photography.

I got in my own scrubs and carried him back to the operating room. How long had it been since I last carried him, and when did he get so big? Once there, he cried because he didn’t want to sit on the table. I exhaled into my mask and we made a game of wiping off the condensation on my glasses. It’s amazing I was able to pull that off when I felt like I could barely breathe. They put the mask on his face, and that was it. My job was done. They ushered me out and there was nothing left to do but wait. So wait we did.

I couldn’t begin to wrap my mind around how much had already happened in a morning when we’d normally barely be out of bed.

They wheeled him back to us and he was crying, and swollen, but good. We took turns holding the phone while he watched despicable me…waiting to see if he could keep food down, waiting to get the iv out, waiting for it all to be behind us. He asked if next time he came back, he could bring some donut holes for the nurse. We locked eyes over the bed and our hearts broke open.

One week later and our news was good- no melanoma, but I may be forever haunted by some of the conversations overheard in that waiting room. For so many families, that morning changed their life. I’d like to say our morning made me a changed woman, that I’m living in every moment, that I’ve stopped snapping at my kids, and I’m breathing in bliss and breathing out fear. I’d like to say these things but that would be a lie. I’m back, just one week later, to “pick up your markers, “stop squeaking that toy”, and “oh dear lord did I just kick over your milk that you put on the floor again?!” We have to, I suppose, enlightenment isn’t that easy to come by.  But every now and then, a morning like that one is enough to make me want to try to do a little better. Even if it only lasts a day (and it did).*

*I swear that I am not nearly this melodramatic all the time. I’ll circle back around to irreverence, once I shake this experience.

Florida.  Vacation mornings.  Who doesn’t love them?!  Who doesn’t long for them?!  Waking up in a new place, devouring breakfast, and rushing off to explore the area makes me giddy.  Wanderlust.  My curious, gypsy soul aches for it.

As hard as I try, and in spite of the lists I make, there’s always something I forget or misjudge, like the size of a bathing suit.  This year, not only did I purchase the wrong size suit, but I also came up short with flip-flops that turned out to be too small, thus resulting in blisters.  Mother of the year?  No, and I’m good with that.

Do you know what else makes me giddy?  Time to myself on the beach in the early morning hours.  A chance to clear my head and breathe in the ocean air, while my mind drifts to what is, what was, and what might be.  On this morning, I awoke to thick fog just as the sun was beginning to rise.  I downed a cup of coffee, grabbed two cameras (I’m still struggling with film), and headed out to see what I’d find.

What do your vacation mornings look like?  Do you have a travel ritual?  Is there a favorite city you return to each year?  Perhaps there’s someplace you’re eager to travel.  Share your wanderlust with me…