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Two weeks ago, the phone rang and it was horrible news. My friends and clients, the Hanson family, had suffered an unimaginable tragedy. That morning, their 22 month old son Mason had unexpectedly run outside and was hit by their car. This precious boy, this adored ball of sunshine and love, was gone. In the days that followed, as I sat with them and created projects for his memorial and for their home with the portraits we’d made together, I saw up close what it looks like to suffer the worst pain anyone can imagine. The pictures were some comfort to them, and I was grateful there was something I could do to help, as I struggled with the absolute powerlessness we all feel when watching friends live through enormous grief.

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In the 10 days following Mason’s passing, they were surrounded with a tsunami of support, from helping with financial concerns to building “Mason’s Garden”, a beautiful growing, flowing memorial to their littlest child in their backyard. Along with extended family, friends and our remarkable Flagstaff community, they accomplished herculean tasks of organization and planning. When Mason’s parents took to the podium next to his casket to beautifully remember their child on Sunday, the sorrow in that room was palpable. But Jessica’s speech was also something else. An inspiring entreaty to make the world more Mason-like.

With Jessica's permission, her words are included here.

Wow, there is a lot of love in this room. A lot of sadness, but a lot of love. Look at how beautiful that little boy is.

I was contemplating talking about the most HansonFamilyPortraitFlagstaff10-2015_025dramatic poop experience with you all but I suppose it would be a good ice breaker. 5 weeks ago I let my Mason go without a diaper for no more than 3 minutes. I wanted to watch his cute little naked butt running around for a short period of time. As I was watching him I noticed he was giving me the look….The, I’m going to poop on the floor look. From that second on everything was in slow motion. I said buddy, don’t do it… I stood up and as I was going to pick him up he pooped right on the floor…then I stepped in it. So there I was standing in my daughters room on one foot holding a naked baby who was ready to fire at any given moment. I started yelling for Mikey… ...continue reading Live Like Mason – A Heartbroken Mom’s Words of Wisdom

When the Rodriguez family first arrived at my studio, they appeared, in a group. Since then, whenever I meet with them, there's usually quite a few members of the family present. It makes sense, since they comprise two of the three local families that own the delicious Tacos Los Altos on Route 66 here in Flagstaff Arizona. Running the family restaurant business together, I’m sure they’re used to the need for lots of familial cooperation! Being really passionate about their food and about their customers means a lot of hard work. If you haven’t been to Tacos Los Altos, you need to go because it’s quite yummy: https://www.facebook.com/TacosLosAltos/

The two oldest daughters in each family were about to receive their First Communion and we needed to celebrate this important rite of passage. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed being with them and being entrusted with documenting such a meaningful moment in their lives. Being with this family always brings a smile to my face and I hope we’ll get to make more portraits together down the road.

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I made this portrait a couple of years ago and I just love seeing how North Country HealthCare designs around my pictures. This wonderful mama has three kids now! North Country HealthCare Tax Credit

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Seriously, is there any more profound joy than witnessing a 1 year old learning to walk? If you then take that scene and drop it into a beautiful Flagstaff location with fun, kind parents, it’s pretty amazing. We wandered around, following the lead of beautiful, smart Porter, who truly LOVES to stop and smell the flowers. She's a reminder of mindfulness and wonder.FamilyPortraitsFlagstaff15_001FamilyPortraitsFlagstaff15_002FamilyPortraitsFlagstaff15_005

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This week, as I find myself speaking with parents that are sending their kids off to college, I hear a jumble of feelings. Joy, excitement, parental pride intertwined with grief and sadness, to name a few. I’m reminded of how the theme of letting go recurs throughout parenthood.

Flagstaff Family and Baby Photographer

From the time our children learn to walk, our job is to help them without hovering, and that balancing act continues as we send them off to college. How much contact and support is the right amount?

I heard a quote that sums it up:

Flagstaff Family Portrait by KDI Photography

A wise woman once said to me that there are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these she said is roots, the other, wings. 

                               - Hodding Carter

 

I thought this would be an especially good time to share one of my very favorite blog posts from one of my very favorite writers on the planet, Juliette Fay. If you haven't read her novels yet, you're in for a treat.  She's amazing.  I hope you enjoy her story of sending her first child off to college.

Letting Her Go: A Daughter Leaves the Nest

photo by Leslie Fenn

In the week after my first child, a daughter, was born, my hormones took me on one heck of a thrill ride. Up, down, exuberant, weeping, weirdly angry with my husband for not understanding. And who could blame him? I didn’t understand it myself. Yet every feeling was so deeply real and rational in the moment, it seemed he should be right there with me. Thank God he wasn’t.

I remember with crystal clarity staring at this tiny bundle of soft vulnerability, and realizing at full volume what I had taken on. Not just the care and feeding of another human being, for which I was fully prepared—I’m an oldest child, had babysat my way through high school and worked with kids for a large portion of my career. I’d had thirty years of preparation.

What I hadn’t figured on was this: I had willingly agreed to a lifetime of desperation.

Desperate love of a kind I’d never known. Desperate worry. And a thought blinked across my hormone-addled, sleep-starved brain like an LED warning sign over the highway: THIS WILL NEVER END.

Before she was born, I had considered parenthood from my own daughterly perspective. I grew up and moved away and my parents stopped taking care of me. Their job wound down to check-ins when I went to college, and ended completely when I graduated and moved across the country. They have their own lives; they don’t “parent” anymore.

Right?

...continue reading Guest Blog Post: Roots and Wings