Monday, January 31, 2011

Meet Blair, Brenda, Damien, Doug, Jaelin and Skylar

I've heard stories of people who have neighbors that are horrible. I've heard of feuds and fights and things that can curl your toes but we're lucky. We have neighbors who became family.

We moved into our neighborhood almost 7 years ago. For the first couple of those years, Brenda would turn into her driveway at close to what appeared to be 70 miles per hour and would apply her brakes at the verrry minute that I was sure that she was about to meet the backside of her garage wall. She'd bolt out of her car like a superhero and put the garage door down at lightning speeds. Oh, there were times when she'd be outside doing something or other and we'd get a quick wave before she'd disappear into the house again but for the most part, she kept her distance.

Well, as luck (or divine intervention) would have it, we all ended up talking one day. I'd already talked to Doug on several occasions and knew that I liked him immediately. Once we realized that Brenda could speak audibly, she turned out to be pretty dang nice herself!

Some time passed and it'd end up that we'd have dinner together on Saturdays. When she finally accepted that we weren't kung-fu ninja's or Amway sales people, Brenda began coming over to visit. It didn't take long before the kids learned that they had an allies for any given situation and "Mrs B." and "Dooglas" as we came to call them, began to be members of our family.

Mrs. B and Dooglas never miss a birthday or holiday and the kids know
that they will come to their aid in a second!

We finally got to meet their "other" family after some time and learned that
niceness runs through the entire family line!

Damien and the girls (also known as Jaelin, Blair and Skylar) came for a visit a few years ago and our kids became fast friends with them. Of course, they'd always want to play over at Dooglas and Mrs. B's house because they'd let them get away with murder!

They are the sweetest girls that you could ever meet. Blair walked in and took charge of any situation and you could easily tell that she never meets a stranger.

Jaelin is quick with a giggle and and just a sweet spirit. She has a smile that suggests that she has a mischievous streak but I've yet to actually see it appear.

Then came Skylar....she has a shy giggle and will blush at the drop of hat. She loved telling stories about her puppies and although she tried to keep a serious face, she would giggle if you happened to ask her if she was married or still looking.

The three of them together are just a fun little gang. They amuse each other to no end and they are the kind of kids that you just enjoy being around.

Their mom is a photographer so they were used to mugging it up for the camera. Their Dad, Damien (who seems to be just as sweet as his mother, Brenda) helped round everyone up for some poses that he had in mind so it made my "job" much easier!

I happened to catch Jaelin and Skylar in moments of what appear to be quiet reflection...however, my guess is that they were thinking about some cute little boys.....

I wasn't able to catch Blair alone for one of these moments but I did manage to get everyone all together for a cute sister's shot!

Tanya and I have talked many times about how blessed we are to have friends that we love like family. Damien and the girls don't live close by and all of our family is a little stretch away too so we've made our own little family with Dooglas and Brenda. We know that we have to share them when their "real" family comes to visit and we're good with that as long as they promise not to lure them away!

Is this a good looking group or what????

I threatened to Photoshop Brenda's hair onto Damien and I held off on that for now. Maybe I'll use that for blackmail if they ever try to steal Dooglas and Brenda back from us!

We really love this family and I hope that you all are blessed
 to have a chosen family of your own, too!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Dog Ate My Homework....

We've all heard this excuse and assumed that it was just one of those things that kids say when they didn't remember to do their homework. I'm sure that many a teacher has rolled his/her eyes when kids recounted this poor, sad story of Fido consuming their homework that they'd slaved over for hours. Although I've been out of school for close to 200 years, I'm sure that I've used that old excuse or something equally as out there to get out of an assignment that I was just too dang lazy to complete. Say what you want, I'm now a firm believer that karma truly is the b*tch that she's rumored to be!

It all started yesterday morning. My friend and world's greatest artist/photographer, Amanda Summerlin (of had agreed to accompany me to a photo shoot so that she could impart some knowledge upon me and hopefully bring my photos up a few notches. Never you mind the mindblowingly cold day we were facing, I was excited to take some pictures and to hang out with Amanda because she's unbelievably talented and a heck of a lot of fun! So, we pack up our gear and head to the shoot!

We get there to find all six family members looking fantastic and ready to go! The kids look like little fashion models and it wouldn't have been possible for them to behave any better than what they did. They sweetly obliged our every posing request and held sweet smiles when I knew that they had to be entertaining the thoughts of just exactly what would constitute "justifiable homicide". We were outside in 38 degree weather and we'd all lost feeling in our extremities. Still, beauty knows no pain, you have to sacrifice for your craft, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, etc, etc, etc.....and all of that stuff that people say when they are trying to sound smart...bottom line was we'd frozen our butts off but we had some DANG good pictures to show for it!

Amanda and I headed back to my house to start working on our masterpieces. I could barely wait to get all of the pictures loaded because I knew that we'd nailed this one! I actually entertained the thought of skipping our stop to meet Tanya and the kids to eat some mexican food but then remembered nothing short of a flesh eating virus or some terrible natural disaster could keep me from eating. There's no need to go all crazy just because you're excited. What lesson would that possibly teach the kids??? We ate quickly and headed back to the old homestead!

I fired up the computer, unpacked my gear and was preparing to be amazed. I remembered that Jason had some birthday cake left on the counter so I quickly sliced a piece for Amanda and I because everyone knows that your creative juices flow more freely with massive doses of sugar. I walked back over to pop in my SD card and it was gone. I quickly shot a glance Amanda's way because I was sure she was playing some sort of horrible joke on me. She looked as blank as could be so I began scanning the surroundings. I looked under the keyboard. I checked the camera again. I checked the kitchen counter. At about the same moment that Amanda said, "you don't think that the dog has it, do you?", I heard a CRUNCH!!

It felt like ice or acid was running through my veins. My head started to spin and I was sure that this was all a dream. I knew that there was no way that anything THIS ridiculous could really happen. I mean, I'd worked outside in 38 degree weather for THREE HOURS in jeans that didn't allow me to fully breathe out because they were a bit too snug. I'd followed all the proper picture shooting rules. I just had no idea how mad the universe was at me.

If tears would have helped, I would have cried. I said words that would NOT have pleased my mother or Jesus. The thoughts that crossed my mind would never be ones that I would openly share because I'm pretty sure that there are laws against the actions that I was considering. Amanda and Tanya offered sweet, reassuing words and tried to give me some comfort.

After a few minutes (hours) passed, I regained my composure. I put it all in perspective and realized that it wasn't the end of the world. It was a family shoot for one of the nicest families in the world and I was reasonably sure that they would be ok with me re-shooting the pictures again. But, I can't tell you that I felt a great deal of love for our "sweet puppy" right then.

He comes across as all sweet and innocent but I told all of you that he was a homewrecker and no one believed me. I hope that this serves as proof of my claims.

He's plotting against me. No one can convince me otherwise.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Can Honestly Say That I Never Saw It Coming....

I assumed that after all of this time together, Tanya and I were pretty solid. I guess I just took it for granted that we were the real deal and didn't give a lot of thought to anything coming between us. That was my biggest mistake.

When talk first surfaced about the prospect of him coming, it wasn't something that I thought a lot about most of the time. There were a couple of red flags that I overlooked when she'd talk about how much she'd enjoy having him here. She rattled on and on about them jogging together and taking long walks. But, after he was here.....I realized that I should have never let my guard down.

He came walking in with those puppy dog eyes.....

She was constantly looking for excuses to spend time with him. She was coming home during lunch and racing home after work. She thinks that everything that he does is cute and wonderful.

I wasn't the only one blindsided by his arrival. I don't think that any of us could know the impact that he'd have on our lives. We've gotten together and talked about how to handle this situation but it's hard to find an assassin that will work for dog treats. Our fearless leader, Muffy, has promised me, Cupcake and Bella that all bets are off if she can get a few minutes alone with this home wrecker!

It's obvious that you can't stop love. The kisses, the glances and the constant giggles torture me.

There is little that I can do now...the damage is done. These two are inseparable. I've decided to wait it out and hope that she comes back. If not, I can't say that I wasn't warned.

I just always thought if I lost her to anyone, it'd be Jillian from The Biggest Loser. I feel like such a fool!

If all else fails, maybe I'll eat out of the trash can and pee on the floor. It's seemed to endear him to her even more so I may give it a shot. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

After Much Begging and Pleading....

I finally got Tanya to agree to go out with me to find some places to shoot pictures. It was cold and we had a fire in the fireplace so leaving the house didn't sound like an exciting prospect for her. I think it was the possibility of spending time in my presence (and not my incessant pleading) that did it for her but we headed out and scoured around the big city of Jefferson. We got a few odd looks here and there but that may have had more to do with my choice of wardrobe than us out shooting pictures in the cold. I've always considered jogging pants and halter top appropriate for most any outing but everybody has their own opinion. Anyyyyyway, we trudged on and had
lots of laughs......

We were riding along and Tanya spotted a pretty field that I'd passed close to 100 times without even giving it a second glance. We pulled up to the house and asked if they'd mind if we shot a few pictures. The guy that lived there was super nice and told us to feel free to wander around and take as many as we wanted. We could have spent a ton of time there but I didn't want to take advantage of his kindness so we just took a few shots and moved on...

We headed to a couple of obvious spots that we'd passed many times but were too lazy to stop. This time, we actually got out and took the pictures that we'd been wanting to take forever. It's amazing how much fun it actually is to get off the couch. Don't get me wrong....I'm not going to go all crazy and do it on a regular basis or anything but it was nice to live on the edge for a while...

We had hit our limit of 38 minutes away from the house and headed home. We decided on one more quick stop to snap a few more...

All in all, I'd say that it was a good day out! I've tortured everyone in my family so much about taking pictures that they now just roll up into the fetal position when they hear me unzipping my camera bag. For that reason, I appreciate Tanya for humoring me even more than I would have ordinarily!
It was worth that kidney that I promised her.

Stay warm everybody!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Meet Jason, Rachel, Tanya & Victoria

also known family.

Tanya and I met online. I know, I know, I've heard all of the stories of serial killers and child molesters stalking people online but it's been my experience that most people that I've met online are just nice, down to earth people who are out to kill some time. You can have great conversations and I'm actually lucky enough to have met some of my very best friends in the world online. But, meeting Tanya was more than luck. I had a great life before but the absolute best part of it began when I met her. I think that she's the most beautiful woman in the world and she's got the sweetest heart of anyone that I know.

We talked online for months and progressed on to telephone conversations of epic lengths. She'd usually call me when the kids went to sleep and we'd start off the conversation saying that we could only talk for a few minutes. Several hours and some life stories later, we'd finally hang up the phone. From the very first conversation that we had, I felt like I had known her my entire life. Then came the first visit and the rest, they say, is history. (not quite sure who "they" are but I've always heard that they said that
so I'm going to go with it!)

Later she came back for a visit and these little people started popping out of the car when she pulled up. I'd heard about these little people for a long, long time but meeting them in person was a whole other story! They got out of the car and those little mouths started running ninety to nothing. Those little mouths haven't stopped running since! They all had these beautiful eyes, big smiles and the most inquisitive minds
that you could imagine!

Rachel was the most quiet of the three. She was more serious about the world. Jason and Victoria would be climbing the walls and giggling and Rachel would be sitting quietly beside you soaking up every little tidbit of conversation that she could take in! You'd barely notice that she was in the room and then she'd hit you up with a long list of questions that she had about the conversation that you'd just exchanged with someone else. After a while, this quiet little girl grew up to be one of the sweetest souls that you could ever meet. She's got a calmness about her and a dang good head on her shoulders. I enjoy her conversations, her infectious laughter and her strong sense of right and wrong. She may be quiet but she can hold her own with the best of them when she thinks that she's right! She's a stunning beauty on the outside
and a sweetheart of a human being on the inside.
Then, there was Jason....the lone male of the bunch. He stepped out of the car with a grin on his face, a plethora of jokes to tell and a mouth that never stopped running. He was twice as loud as Rachel was quiet and had the quickest wit that I've ever seen on a kid his age. He has a smile that can absolutely light up a room. He's gotten older and it's much less cool to appear to enjoy hanging out with your family but every now and then...if the wind is blowing just right, you'll actually see that smile and it's usually followed by a giggle. Oftentimes, the giggles are prompted by the joke he's making about mine or Tanya's dorkiness but he's still one of the nicest kids that I know.
He's pretending to not want to give his mommy a kiss but I know better.....
Just when I thought that the clown car had emptied entirely, out popped this scrappy little girl with HUGE blue eyes! She laughed at every single word that her hysterically funny big brother said and she was constantly up to trying to find mischief of her own to get into! Again, little has changed since that day. She walks into the room and you can't help but brace yourself because you know she's about to work you. Whether it's an iPod app that she wants or a trip to Dairy Queen, this kids got an angle that she's working
at all times! She knows that those blue eyes can help her move mountains.....

Collectively..and individually...these people have completely transformed what I knew as my world. I am forever grateful for that change. I never had a clue how much I could love another human being until I met them. We aren't a "traditional" family but I can assure you
that we are a family all the same!

These little people have a father and mother who adore them....grandparents who would probably swear that they could walk on water and me, who absolutely loves them beyond measure. Wouldn't you like to say that you had this many people in your corner?

So, that's it....that's my family. Am I the luckiest person
in the world or what???

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Meet Destiny, Grace & Melissa

Ok, ok....I admit it! I've been painfully slow in getting things posted on here but New Year, new chances to redeem myself, right? I truly have the best of intentions to get things posted but then Grey's Anatomy is a new episode and the couch just feels SO warm and cozy and I'm sure that you can piece together the rest of this story. If not, I'll clue you in to it ending with me eating popcorn and hoping that Christina will just get back to surgery already!

But my lazy days are officially behind me now. My wonderful friend (and in my opinion, one of THE greatest photographers/artists in the WORLD) Amanda Summerlin of managed to throw up a multitude of posts while refinishing her office so my lame excuses just won't cut it anymore.

I want you to meet my friends.....Melissa, Destiny and Grace. I call them my friends because I truly like each one of them individually. This isn't one of those deals when you meet a family and you take some of the not-so-nice ones because you really like the other one(s). You can just tell by looking at them that they are sweet people.

We met Des first (affectionately referred to as "Des" or "Dorstiny" by our family) when she came to Rachel's 9th birthday party. She was as quiet as a church mouse. In fact, we weren't sure that she could speak for the first two or three years that we knew her. She and Rachel quickly became fast friends and she was a chosen member of our family whether she wanted to be or not! We've watched her grow and we looked up one day and realized that this sweet, quiet little girl had turned into a gorgeous young lady (I sound like my grandmother calling someone a "young lady" but that's all that I can adequately say to describe how much she's changed!). The even more cool thing about her is that she's as sweet and wonderful on the inside as she is on the outside. She's proven to be a wonderful, trusted friend and we absolutely love her!
Rachel and Des were pretty much inseparable from the birthday party on so Melissa started hanging out and we quickly learned to be thankful for the fact that Rachel wasn't the only one who made a friend in this deal. She's a great mom and her kids are full of fun and laughter. It's never a chore to have friends like that. She's the friend who will glady keep your kids when you call at the last minute, she'll feed your dogs, and she'll run a check to you at the recreation department when you're dumb enough to leave without your checkbook on picture day (I think she's that kind of friend because I'd NEVER be absentminded enough to do something like that....wink, wink!). Anyway, as you can tell....we feel pretty lucky to have her friendship!
When Melissa and Des showed up, this cute little blue-eyed girl trailed along with them. She was the loud to Destiny's quiet and she just oozed personality when she walked into the room. She brought a big smile and a funny streak a mile wide! She and Victoria hit it off despite a few year's difference in age and like her big sister before her, she became a member of the family too!
The whole "photo shoot" started out as Melissa's request for me to do a few pictures for their Christmas card. As soon as I saw how fun they were going to be, we went with it and Grace incorporated some of her ideas for poses. That's when the real fun started!

I'm sure that you've heard of "sisterly love" but I decided to throw in a few shots to demonstrate it in action!

And just when you thought that the fighting was about to begin, here is the sisterly love that I was talking about......
Don't ever doubt that there's love at this house!

Here's more proof that beauty runs in the family...

We're hoping to find a day soon to get Dad in some pictures so stay tuned for more of these guys to come!

Who would have ever guessed that one quiet little girl at a birthday party would have brought such wonderful friends into our lives and our hearts?

I hope that all of this family's wishes come true!

Thanks for everything guys! We love you!