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Photographs: Julie Blackmon

Have you seen the wonderful images by Julie Blackmon?  I have always loved her work.

Julie Blackmon is a photographer who lives and works in Missouri.  She majored in art education and photography during college, and she began photographing seriously in her late thirties.  Her photographs are inspired by her experience of growing up in a large family, her current role as both mother and photographer, and the timelessness of family dynamics.  Many of her photographs are inspired by 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings of domestic life.  Blackmon photographs are carefully orchestrated to include members of her own family with a sense of an uncanny.  Sometimes her photographs are made up of several images via Photoshop.  Blackmon has been quoted as saying, “I know I’m very much defined as the ‘family’ photographer, but I don’t think of it quite this way,” she says.  “I’m just looking around at my everyday life and, like any artist, trying to make sense of it.”

Prior to the COVID-19, Julie Blackmon’s photographs were on display at Robert Mann Gallery/Fotografiska New York until May 2, 2020.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos are courtesy of Julie Blackmon.

How Are You Doing?

 

 

How are you fairing with everything going on during these strange times?  I personally have never ever experienced a time like this before.

We’re hanging in there.  We have been really busy with Alex who is home from school.  We have managed, to our best ability, keep her busy and we get outside twice a day on most days.  The fresh air helps everyone.  We have found a new schedule and pace of things, as the days pass.  It is definitely different than our norm and more challenging to get things done, for sure.  Alex misses her friends and school, as do we.  We all did a Zoom yesterday with Alex’s teacher and friends from school.  During this time, we have experienced great joy to intense meltdowns with Alex within minutes of each other.  Doug and I are traversing our way though everything with Alex home from school.  Some days feel really long and challenging, while others pass quickly, like usual.  Sometimes, it is really difficult to believe this pandemic is happening.  Someone wise said to me, recently, “this will pass and all we’ll have is what we did with the time.”  I found those words so helpful.

However, we are doing our best to thrive versus survive this time.  I am doing my best to look on the brighter side of things, most days, even though what is going on is truly awful for people experiencing really hard times and sickness.  Everyone is experiencing some type of hardship.  Reflecting on this time, so far, it is the most time the four of us have collectively spent together since Alex was born.  We have had to be very creative, which has been interesting, as we cannot go on our typical outings together.  We have taken car rides together, gone to open fields that we have never been to before in order to get everyone out of the house.  Bubbles have been a hit as well.  I think Doug has purchased every type of ball for Alex from tennis balls to kick balls, as she loves them and we have already lost a few of them as well!  (She even likes to sleep with some of her balls — go figure!)  Alex is still really into studying her books, so we always do that with her in the evenings before bed.  The pace of life has not been so frenetic as usual, which has been a nice change of pace not to have to be somewhere at a certain time.  Doug and I have more time to talk and visit.  We actually are getting to watch a little television in the evening on Hulu and Netflix.  We are all getting a little more sleep at night, which never hurts.  Perhaps some good things will come from this uncertain time.  I have found the most beautiful things often can come from difficult times.  I am grateful that we are healthy and we can all be home together, for now.  Stay safe.  Sending love.

 

(Top image credit: Morgan Harper Nichols).

Nineteen Month and Twenty Month Snapshot: Alexandra

I completed the monthly snapshots of our beloved Alex during her first year.  Here is the snapshot of Alex’s nineteenth month and twentieth month!  (You can view Alex’s thirteenth and fourteenth month here; and Alex’s seventeenth and eighteenth month here).  Alex is changing all of the time and she is still growing like a weed!

How is our little girl already twenty months old!  The time continues to fly by very quickly!  I cannot believe we will have a two-year-old in short order!  This is such a sweet time, and there has been so much change in these last two months.  Alex is finally sleeping consistently throughout the night and it has really made a difference.  Since birth, Alex has not been the best sleeper at night.  Right now, her sleep is consistent and predictable, and I am honestly getting the best sleep since before she was born.  Her hair is getting longer, and she still has her lovely curls.  We can even do little pigtails now!  She is not a picky eater, and she is willing to try anything.  She is also working on getting her two-year molars.

Alex is quite outgoing, she has a sense of humor, and she is fun and adventurous!  She has the cutest laugh and giggle!  She is dancing up a storm and she loves to dance (she makes up her own dances) on the hardwood floors at home!  She loves music and she makes up her own songs, which she sings, and it is so endearing.  She still loves her bath time and she loves practicing going under water and blowing bubbles during this time!  She has even started to take a few showers with me, and she loves it!  She also is really into balls right now — she loves to throw them and play with them!  Alex is also captivated by her Daddy’s trains, shown below!  She still loves to read her books, she loves for us to read to her, and she enjoys going to the library and bookstore.  A favorite book right now, is the “I spy” books!  She loves looking at her books, and she frequently says, “What’s that?”  She is spending more time on her own reading her books and playing, which is great!  She also loves coloring.  She made the cutest Valentine for us at school and we gave the girls Valentine gifts, which they loved!  Alex loves going to school and she enjoys learning and being with her friends at school.  Alex is learning to count numbers and she is saying more words and she seems to comprehend and understand more and more each day.  Her favorite that phrase is, “What’s that?”  Alex still loves to be outside and go to the play grounds.  She is quite curious; and, she never forgets anything!

However, it has been a tough winter filled with sickness here.  Alex missed at least a week of school as she had fevers, a double ear infection, and bad cold.  It took multiple rounds of antibiotics to kick the infection.  I then got run down taking care of Alex, and I got strep, the flu, pink eye, and a bad cold all in quick succession.  Then, Doug got a bad cold.  This all happened over a six week stretch.  We just cannot wait for spring to come fast enough, and it’s almost here, technically!  Victory and Alex bonded during all of this sickness, as she is so attentive to everyone in our home.  As a result, there are not as many photos taken during this time, as I did not feel well.

Once everyone felt better, we took Alex to the train store to get a few things for Doug’s train set up.  After much work, Doug has nearly finished his train set up, a passion of his, and he can run three trains simultaneously!  And, it is so sweet, because each night, Alex asks to go up and have Doug run the trains!  The trains have never been run so much, ever!  It is so nice Doug can share his passion with Alex!  (A brief video is shown below).  Doug even got Alex a girl’s conductor’s hat, and Alex loves to conduct in only her diaper, of course!  We are working on getting Victory to come up during this train time, but she is not yet comfortable.  So, we bring Victory up during this time, only to have her leave!  So, we are working on it!  For Valentine’s Day, Doug got Alex an Ikea train, which she loves and she is pretty good putting the track together and ‘running her own train’ liker her Daddy!

We also took Alex to Port Discovery, a children’s museum, with her little friend from school.  Alex had a great time.  It is one of the neatest and most interactive places that I have been to for kids.  As you will see in the images below, there was a large slide, four stories high, and one had to be five years in order to go down the slide.  So Doug broke the rules, and they climbed up to the top together, as he knew Alex would love it.  They reached the top, and Alex sat right down on the slide; and, thankfully, the museum worker let them go down the slide even though Alex is clearly not five-years-old.  It was neat to watch them go down together!  Alex still seems to have no fear and she is pretty adventurous!  There were so many activities for the children, and Alex really enjoyed pretending to be a cashier and pressing all of the buttons on the cash register checking people out with their food!

We were finally recently able to get Alex back into swimming lessons after everyone got over being sick!  She still loves it!  Doug and I take turns going in the pool with her!  And, we now have Alex on a wait list for a gymnastics class since she is so active and loves to climb!  That should be fun as well!

We also went with Alex on a school field trip to the Maryland Science Center, where she had a wonderful time with her class!  Alex loved the Kid’s Room and she especially loved the dinosaur exhibit!  She had a great time exploring, as always!

We were fortunate to get some fun outings in, described above, before things really changed out here late last week due to the COVID-19.  We hope you are all staying safe.  It is a really crazy time, isn’t it?  We will have to be really creative to keep Alex occupied, while finding safe ways for her to burn her energy!  Most everything is cancelled out here and work schedules have been modified greatly for many people.

Alex still cuddles with me for a little bit before bed and sits with me in the glider.  She no longer falls asleep in my arms outside of her being really sick.  It is a reminder that everything is always changing and it is all so fleeting.  What I will remember from these months is how she wakes up talking to herself in her crib, and it is so captivating.  She is entertaining herself more in the mornings, which buys us a little time!  However, she loves to and prefers to play with us!  How she greets Victory in the morning with a big smile and wave, whereby Alex says, “Hi Tory!”  I always love her big smile, which melts our hearts.  Alex also loves to run up to us, and she gives us hugs on our legs, while we are standing.  It is so sweet.  And, she is always up for an outing and adventure!   She is becoming her own little person right before our very eyes!  I feel so fortunate.  It has been such as journey.  We are doing our best to embrace the now, the present.  We are so grateful!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few iphone images from Alex’s nineteenth month!

 

 

Here is a video from Alex’s nineteenth month — Victory being such a good ‘big sister’ to Alex!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s nineteenth month — Alex feeding Victory some treats!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s nineteenth month — Doug and Alex running the trains together!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few iphone images from Alex’s twentieth month!

 

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twentieth month — Alex coloring!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twentieth month — Alex at her swimming lesson!

 

Here is a video from Alex’s twentieth month — Alex and Victory sitting together during a dinner together outside!

 

Transition: Integrating Your Furry Family Member

Before Alex arrived, Victory was our ‘only child’ for nearly five years!  I previously wrote a blog post about preparing your furry family member when a baby arrives.  However, this post, today, is about continuing to integrate your furry family member upon the arrival of a child and it can also be applied to a major life transition.

Even though our hearts expanded in every way, we are so, so grateful, and this is the best season of our lives, it was a big change for everyone when Alex arrived, including Victory.  Our overarching goal was to be sure that not too much changed for Victory, even though a whole lot changed, if that makes sense!  We are all in a groove now, getting sleep, figuring out things as we go, which is great for everyone!

First, we included Victory in Alex’s birth.  Victory was at the hospital, the day after the birth, and it was so lovely and memorable.  I am very grateful to the hospital staff for being so accommodating with our request.  Victory was a hit with the hospital staff, and she got right up into the hospital bed by with me, by my side, and she did not want to leave!  Our entire family was together, for the first time, and I will never forget that time together introducing the girls to each other.

Second, we always encourage Victory to be with us wherever we are in the house.  She knows that she has free reign of the house, but we wanted to be sure she knew that she was still, of course, a part of all family activities, and that would never change.  So, from the very beginning, she learned to go in Alex’s room and be apart of our daily routines, etc.  It is very special to hear Alex say, each morning, “Hi Tory!” and waive her hand to Victory with a big smile!  It warms my heart as Victory always follows me into Alex’s room each morning, even during the times when Alex’s room smells like a bathroom, if you get my drift!  Victory wants to be apart of everything, which is so great!  And, she has and continues to be extremely patient and tolerant of Alex since she was born.

Third, we encouraged the girls to bond.  We never kept Victory away from Alex (Victory has never been aggressive to anyone); in fact, we encouraged her to sniff and interact with Alex.  (There, however, have been times that we have had to keep Alex from Victory).  And, since Alex was quite sick, this winter, both girls have really bonded, and it is so great!  Victory loves licking Alex, and Alex knows not to pull on Victory’s fur or chase Victory, thank goodness.  So they reached some sort of mutual understanding, even with limited verbal communication, between them!  Victory knows so much, and is quite remarkable how in tune she is with everything and every person in our home.  Victory has been by our side meandering through mountain tops and valleys, and she is so loyal and she is always there for all of us, and we never take that for granted. We feel so grateful for her.

Fourth, we also continue to take Victory on outings, which she always loves, and Alex loves them, too!  Even in the dead of winter, when there are not too many options for places to take Victory to, there is always Lowes, on standby, which Victory and Alex love!  We also take Victory with Alex, year-round, to get soft-serve ice cream at TCBY, which is a hit with Victory!  We are very much looking forward to the spring, just around the corner, and the summer where there are a myriad of options for outings with our girls!  Victory loves outings and it is always a ‘morale boost,’ for Victory, especially during the winter when she can get cabin fever, at times.

Fifth, we continue to take Victory on vacation with us!  Even though it is not always easy to find a rental that accepts both a small dog and a small child, we make it work!  Doug is always really good about finding places for us to stay!  Victory has been on every single vacation with us since we adopted her in the fall of 2013!  We would not have it any other way!

Finally, most of all, our love never waivers with Victory, and we spend time with only Victory each day.  She loves her time with us!  She is our fur girl, forever!  And, she is such a great ‘big sister’ to Alex!  You can see their love reflected in the recent images, below.  Doug and I are so fortunate.  We love our girls with our whole hearts.

All of this said, if you take the time, and make a conscious effort, to include your furry family member during a big change or transition, such as adding another family member, it will work out for everyone in the long run!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Artist Talk: Sally Mann

 

I recently came upon this very interesting and fascinating talk with one of my favorite artists since high school and college, Sally Mann.  In this talk, Sally Mann spoke with curators about her exhibition “A Thousand Crossings” at Jeu de Paume, Paris, that was on display through the fall of 2019.  During this talk, she also touches on being one of the first distinguished photographers who was both an artist and a mom.

For over forty years, Sally Mann has made experimental and haunting photographs that explore the overarching themes of existence: memory, desire, death, the bonds of family, and nature’s indifference to human endeavor.  What unites this broad body of work is that it is all bred of a place, the American South.

You can view a portion of the body of work that was on display, below.

 

 

Every Moment Matters

Today, in one of my daily readings, contained in this book by Cyndie Spiegel, gifted to me by a good friend, this quote, below, stood out to me and rings so true.  Especially now, I find the most precious moments in the in-between, ordinary moments.

“Every moment matters — not just the big ones, but also the small ones, the seemingly irrelevant ones and the quiet ones.  All of these moments add up to a life well lived.  Don’t take the presumably unimportant moments for granted.  Look for them and treasure them instead.  Listen for the words unspoken.  Notice the quick glance.  Feel the soft touch.  The long-held hugs.  The sadness.  The graciousness.  The in-between.  The magical sweet spots between tiny and massive moments are your life.  Don’t forget to pay attention to them.  In the end, that is really all we have.”

 

Tips: To Document Your Family

One of my favorite things to do since becoming a mom to a little human, is to document our everyday.  I am certainly not good at all ‘domestic mom things,’ but I enjoy documenting our family and it is really important to me.  It takes effort, but if you have a DSLR camera, here are a few tips that might help you document your everyday more easily versus always relying on your phone to take images.  (I still use my iphone to take images).  I want to remember these moments of our life, and I continually make family photo albums, which I cherish.  I print the images I love and I update the photo frames in our home regularly.  I am also working on the magnets on our fridge to reflect Alex’s second year, which has been fun, too!

Have a place where your camera lives.  I have my camera ready to go with a CF memory card loaded, battery charged, along with the lens attached, and it is always in the same place in my office, unless it is in the car as I have brought it somewhere.  So, if I see a moment I would like to capture, I will quickly get the DSLR camera out and it is all ready to go making things easier to use the DSLR camera.  Alex and Victory do not seem to mind the camera, and Doug is usually pretty cooperative, too.  In fact, looking back, Doug says to me sometimes, that he did not even remember Alex looking a certain way without the images as a reference.  Having the camera in the same place and ready to go makes it so much easier to utilize the DSLR camera.

Identify ‘good light’ in your home.  I know where we have good natural light in our house, and I take advantage of those places, which makes it easy to capture our little family.  Knowing where ‘good light’ exists during certain parts of the day, as the light changes, is also good to note.  I also take note of ‘good light’ outside when we are out and about.  So, it is good to know the places in your home where ‘good light’ exists and during what portions of the day that light exists.

Have a designated memory card for family images.  I always keep a large CF memory card in the camera so I am ready to go and hopefully do not miss the moment I hope to capture.  (And, I do my best not to let the CF memory card get full.)  Additionally, I do not take images of anything else on this family CF memory card outside of our family, which makes things much easier as other files/images are not commingled.

Have a designated external drive to save the images and edited images.  I have two large external drives where I keep our family images and edited images, which is organized by year and month, which makes it fairly easy to go back and find images.  I download the images from the camera usually weekly, or when I am able, in order to not fall too far behind on editing of the images.

Know when you have taken enough images.  As time goes on, and Alex gets older, I usually know when I have shot enough to capture what I want to put in a spread of our family photo albums.  And, with a toddler constantly on the go, the moment usually is defined.

Teach your spouse/partner how to use the camera.  I have taught Doug how to use our DSLR camera after setting the settings for him, so he can also help include me in family photos.  This has been very useful.

Remember that you do not have to be perfect.  I have learned that conditions are usually never ideal, but you do your best in order to document your family.  I rather have the images of our little family versus ‘perfect images.’  I love capturing our candid moments, which are so fleeting.

Below are a few images from Valentine’s Day morning with our little loves opening their Valentine’s gifts and cards together.  And, they are getting along again so well now; and I even got a few images of our little loves together now that Alex knows and she has learned that she cannot chase Victory and pull on her fur!  They love each other so much.  Victory is back to licking all over Alex and Alex approaches Victory gently with lots of treats, which makes life so much easier for everyone!

Happy Thursday!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Heart Day!

Happy Heart Day!

“Love recognizes no barriers.  It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.”  — Maya Angelou

 

Dog Rescue: Beer Cans

Have you heard about the recent heartwarming story about a dog, Hazel, shown in the blue bandana below, that was reunited with her family after being discovered on a beer can?

Hazel went missing in Iowa roughly three years ago.  She is reunited with her family after being featured on a beer can in Florida via Motorworks Brewing helping to raise money to build a local shelter in Manatee County.  Hazel, 7, was one of four dogs chosen to have their smiling profile picture featured on the beer cans at Motorworks Brewing in Bradenton, Florida, in hopes that they would get adopted.

Monica Mathis, who now lives in Minnesota, was scrolling through social media when she spotted a story about a Florida brewing company featuring adoptable dogs on their beer cans.  “I was looking at the dogs and I was like oh my gosh, that’s Hazel,” Mathis told CNN.

Hazel left the Mathis’ home one day in 2017.  “She was an escape artist; she was very good at getting loose,” Mathis told CNN.  Hazel known as “Day Day,” entered the shelter in March of 2019 as a stray, Hans Wohlgefahrt, with Manatee County Animal Services, told CNN.

Hazel did have a microchip, however, the contact information for her owner was outdated.  With no method of contacting Hazel’s owners and when no one came forward to claim her, Hazel went up for adoption.

Mathis submitted vet records and photos to the shelter and she was able to claim her long lost dog.  While it is unclear how Hazel made her journey to Florida from the Midwest, Wohlgefahrt said she is healthy and a very happy pup!

What a wonderful story and a unique way to promote dog rescue!

 

Eight Year Blogiversary!

Today is the eight-year Blogiversary of the blog!  It is really difficult to believe that eight years have already passed by so quickly!  Where has the time gone?  Many things have changed recently, but some things remain the same, fortunately.  I am grateful for this little space here.

If it were not for our beloved Biscuit, I am not sure I would have ever started blogging and I know that I would not have started my long-term photography project, which I am, finally, onto the final steps, for which Biscuit and Victory are my inspiration.  Biscuit was such a blessing and gift to us.  Biscuit permanently changed our lives in so many positive ways and Biscuit sent us our precious little rescue sheltie, Victory, who we adore and love, shown below!  And, coincidentally, Victory is as old as the blog!

Thank you for reading this blog for however long or short you have been visiting!  I truly enjoy creating content for the blog to share with all of you, and I hope that you continue to enjoy visiting and reading the blog!

Thank you so very much!

 

 

Finally, below are two recent videos of our girls, who love each other and who are forever bonded!