Friday, December 28, 2012

A Very Merry Christmas Eve Surprise!

Two words: surprise wedding.

No joke.

Fifteen days before Christmas Eve, one of my oldest and dearest friends and her then-boyfriend asked me to photograph their SURPRISE wedding.  Hannah and Ben had been dating for years, living together forever and already owned a house together.  The obvious next step was to get married but a surprise wedding?  She assured me it was ok to say no to the holiday request; I don't think I could have felt more honored.

Hannah and I go way back.  We met at figure skating lessons in elementary school, skated competitively through high school and then stayed in touch during college.  We didn't attend any of the same schools yet always knew what was going on in each other's lives.  These days we don't talk weekly or even monthly but we always pick right back up where we left off.

We spent Christmas Eve afternoon holed up in the Daniel Stone Inn, getting her make-up and hair done, moonlighting as florists and calming those typical pre-nuptial nerves with some bubbly.  The plan was elaborate but went off seamlessly; one of her family's closest friends was to officiate (turns out he had married her parents 30+ years prior unbeknownst to Hannah) and it was to happen right there in her mom's living room immediately after we arrived.  The surprise was incredibly fun to witness - there were tears, a myriad of "what is going on?  will someone fill me in?!" and shear disbelief.  Hannah's mom, Patty, didn't figure it out until she saw her stunning daughter come in the front door to Pachelbel's Canon adorned in a wedding gown.

For all the happiness, there was one thing missing: Hannah's dad.  Dick passed away suddenly during our junior year in college and I'll never forget how devastating that news was to me.  He was one of the most kind and wonderful people I've ever known.  He never raised his voice, was always happy to give us a ride anywhere or give up the phone so we could talk for hours about nothing.  The skating world was dominated by the mother/daughter duo but Dick was always in the stands, whether that be just another practice, show or competition.  Patty and Hannah were the light of his life; as Hannah put it, we knew he was there in spirit as everything went so perfectly all day.

Hannah and Ben, thank you SO MUCH for the opportunity to document your wedding day (my first wedding gig!!).  I can't tell you how flattered and honored I was to play that role in your day and I hope you love the pictures as much as I do.  I wish you all the happiness in the world and can't wait to celebrate with you again this summer!  Love you both xoxo

Here are more than a few of my favorites!

The well thought out agenda next to some champagne and some nervous bride fingers on her phone!

Going over the plan one more time...

A proud and thrilled mama!

Re-living all the lies leading up to the big moment!

A proud family!

Luckily we could track Santa online!

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Beautiful Thursday in December

One thousand people.  Do you know a thousand people?  I definitely don't.  But that's the estimated attendance for Kate's funeral.  They say a picture says a thousand words but in this case, I think a thousand people show much more than that.

Two weeks to the day that I posted about the fight that Truax was putting up, I was attending her funeral services in Baltimore.  Those two weeks both flew by and dragged, were full of raw emotion, exhaustion and gratitude that her friends and family could be together to celebrate her life.  We had gone from the high of a successful consult at Sloan-Kettering in NYC Thanksgiving week to hospice care in a matter of days.  When my phone rang on Sunday night the 2nd, I knew it probably wasn't good news, and it wasn't.  Truax's heart had finally given into the disease and she passed away with her best friend and mom by her side.

We spent the next few days crying, traveling and organizing.  We missed many hours of sleep while laughing about how she would react to all of this attention, what she might love and what she might hate.  I found myself wanting to tell her about things that were happening, things that we had talked about before she died.  I hated seeing her text messages drop down the list of most recents knowing that it wasn't ever going to pop back up to the top.

But goodness, was the service beautiful and truly reflective of the person that Kate Truax was.  The cathedral was absolutely packed.  Her school shut down and bussed every single student and faculty member, even the assistant superintendent attended.  They closed the service with the student body singing "This Little Light of Mine" which needless to say, was a tearjerker.

While there were PLENTY of tears shed over the course of the week that I spent in Baltimore/Annapolis/DC, there were also a lot of laughs.  My cheeks were aching by Thursday night from all of the laughing.  Every photo album we could find had come out and every ridiculous story had been told.  As our friend Dan put it, it was an amazing show of the caliber of people that Kate had attracted in her life.  We were all so grateful to have each other to celebrate Kate's life and how she touched us all.

Getting back to "normal" life is certainly feeling like a challenge.  She's been gone for a week now and every single second of that week has felt nothing short of surreal.  Her beloved Ravens played the Redskins this past Sunday and I had to stop myself from shooting her a harassing text about Joe Flacco.  I feel truly blessed to have been able to visit Kate the weekend before Thanksgiving and while I never thought it would be the last time I'd see her, I'm feeling so lucky to have gotten that time together.  People who both knew Kate and had never met her have been so incredibly kind and thoughtful, I can't begin to thank everyone enough.

We spent Friday afternoon walking around DC, hitting the monuments for the first time in years.  We used to take these walks with Truax - she loved the history of DC and sharing her city with us.  We ate at one of her favorite restaurants that night and talked about the week that was along with plans for the future.  I know we'll never get over losing Kate but I know that her memory will live on forever.

Truax, I love you and already miss you dearly.

"It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree.  The wounds remain.  In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens.  But it is never gone." -Rose Kennedy.

While it seemed a little weird to take a picture at the reception, it also seemed like the right thing to do (thank you, Morgan, for taking it!).  Not everyone that wanted to attend was able to but I know we represented Union College well.  You can read Kate's beautiful obituary from the Baltimore Sun here. 

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Dedicated: Ms. Kathryn Truax

Inspiration comes in many forms and I needed MANY of them to start this blog.  One of the most influential was my dear friend, Kate Truax, whom I met freshman year in college.  I had a fairly large group of girlfriends at school and my mom always referred to Kate as, "that's the artist, right?" spurred by the art show she had up on campus during graduation week.  There were no fewer than NINE (nine!!!) Kate/Katie/Katherine/Kathryn/Catherine/Kaitlyns on my floor freshman year so needless to say, last names stuck as a way to keep everyone straight.

Truax was diagnosed with breast cancer in the spring of 2009 and then leukemia in the spring of 2011.  It's been three and a half years of highs and lows, pain and exhaustion coupled with hope and optimism.  Throughout all of it Truax has been stronger than I know I ever could be.  While I'm sure she has her moments in private, she is nothing but her quirky, stubborn, compassionate, loving, always-wants-to-know-what's-going-on-with-you self.  When I catch her on the phone we're not talking about her sickness; we're gossiping, getting updates on work and life and families, and at least pretending for a moment that there isn't a big fat pink cancer elephant in the room.

One thing about friends is that you typically never see them in their work environment.  Kate is a teacher and one of the most touching things I've ever witnessed was the outpouring of love and support from her students.  I visited her school once a few years back and even though she's relatively new to teaching, she's without a doubt a beloved member of their faculty.  So it wasn't surprising when the local media picked up her story - this article and this clip from the local news station indicate just how great a teacher Truax really is. 

From the moment Truax was diagnosed back in 2009, my perspective on life changed dramatically.  The annoyances of daily life are put into perspective pretty quickly when someone close to you gets this kind of diagnosis.  While I've certainly learned the obvious - to take nothing for granted and that things can change in the blink of an eye - I've also learned that we're all a little stronger than we think we are, whether that be as a patient, friend, parent, sibling or colleague.

Kate, I admire you for your strength, humility, courage and most importantly, for your bravery.  I've never considered myself an "artist" before (I can't even write it without using quotes!) but there's no doubt that you helped me start seeing myself that way.  I miss our long walks around DC/Boston, shopping excursions and late night sweaty dancing to cover bands.   Luckily I'm positive that all of those activities will be part of our future as well.  From your friends and family to your students, you have touched many many lives and I know you will have opportunities to do so down the road.  On this Thanksgiving day, I'm so thankful for you and I love you dearly.

This picture of Truax was from her 28th birthday weekend in DC back in 2010.  We spent the better part of the evening in the basement of a sweaty bar dancing to White Ford Bronco (Kate is a legitimate groupie) pretending we were still 20 years old on the dance floor at Sig Phi at Union College.

In true class of 2004 style I think Dave Matthews said it best: "I'll lean on you and you lean on me and we'll be okay."

Lots of love, woms xoxo

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A little facelift

If there's one thing I think I could play with forever, its the layout and design of this blog.  The options are basically endless and being content with just one feels impossible!  So after one post I'm already giving it a facelift.  I'm a fan of super clean design that is still interesting so finding that balance is definitely a challenge.

I'm sort of loving the idea of a rotating picture up top; for now I'm pretty happy looking at Popham Beach in Phippsburg, Maine.  While I was lucky enough to grow up on the water in nearby West Bath, we didn't live on the beach - more like swimming at high tide and rocks and mud at low tide.  While Popham has changed quite a bit over the years, it's still my favorite beach in Maine!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Taking the plunge!

Starting a blog along with the millions of other people who have decided to do so really shouldn't be that big a deal.   I mean come on, doesn't seem scary, right?  I tend to disagree.

For the past couple of years friends and family have been urging me to start a blog.  Facebook seemed like a reasonable enough place to post my pictures and be done with it.  Recently I realized I was making entire albums "public" on Facebook because I wanted them to reach a broader audience.

So here I am, ready to join the blogosphere.  My goal isn't overly ambitious: shoot enough to post monthly.  That's it.  Doable.  I think.  Here goes nothing!

A couple of weekends ago I was given the privilege to shoot engagement photographs for Meghan, my best friend from high school and her fiance, Marc.  Since this little session is finally getting me to start this blog, it only felt fair to give them the first post!  Meghan and Marc are getting married in Maine next July and I can't wait to stand up next to her as maid of honor.  Lots of thanks to my sister (and fellow bridesmaid) for helping loosen things up throughout the afternoon!

Save the date: Meghan & Marc

I love the way Marc peaks over his shoulder in this one!

And as I mentioned, the assistant...!