One of us. One of the mourners.

Out of the two of them I worried about telling my 11 year old son the most. I dreaded it, in fact, but then I dreaded more the delay in being able to tell him; a delay caused by his spending time with a friend and then unexpected weather. My daughter is only three so I knew telling her her great aunt, who was part of her grandparents home and who we saw almost every weekend, had died would be hard, yet somewhat of a vague concept to someone so young.

But I knew he, at 11, would be hit with the full brunt of the reality of it and I knew his innocence bubble, chipped away at by the death of his dog earlier in the year, would be shattered by the blow. He’d been at a friend’s house when we first heard the news and we left him there to be shielded for a little while longer because we knew that’s what she would have wanted – him having fun instead of at home and grieving. 

Then, when it took longer than we hoped to get to him, so we could break the news, we felt at a loss and like someone else in our family, not just her, was missing. We wanted him with us so we could grieve together, as a family.

When the news was finally given and the tears rushed down and the arms tightened around his small, grieving frame it was a type of release and a new type of prison all at the same time because now he was no longer shielded, but one of us, one of those who knew loss and who mourned

She had been one of the first to hold him, to kiss the top of his soft, fuzzy head the day he was born. She’d rocked him, cuddled him, played games with him and even though she was bossy in her later years, as her health worsened, she was the one who joked, who blew wet kisses with fart noises on his cheeks, and always told him to “get over here and give me some sugar.” She was the one who pulled him close and made him promise to “never stop being the sweet boy you are, baby.”

Goodbyes were never said without a hug and her slobbery kisses. Afternoons were rarely spent without her falling asleep in the chair and then waking up for him to show her his latest project.

Sometimes she was grumpy.

Sometimes he was grumpy.

Sometimes we all were.

Sharp words were blurted, flounces made, doors slammed. But then apologies were made, embraces came and “I love you” was said.

Oh the emptiness felt in that house without her there.

Oh the emptiness felt in our hearts.

The pain of the loss is like hands squeezing hard on our insides.  

We wait for her to come down the stairs and tell us something funny she read online or show us her latest gadget. We think we hear her move above us in her room. We think we will soon hear her sing, as she often did, to be silly, the first few lines of “You Are My Sunshine.”

So we laugh in her honor. 

We sing to remember. 

We embrace and blow fart noises on faces to never forget how she touched our lives and made it better just by being her.  

Photography tips: Never be afraid to raise your ISO to get the shot you want

I recently joined a Facebook documentary group and right before I joined they had a challenge to capture scenes in the evening, after the sun set, at a higher ISO. For non-photographers, taking photos at a higher “film speed” (ISO comes from the day when photographers used film) can create a lot of grain, dots and pixels in an image, so it is often avoided, unless a photographer really needs to set their camera at a high ISO to get the scene before them.

Since I live in a dark house and in the north of the United States, low light situations and the use of high ISO is often required. It’s something I once lamented, having to push my camera to get a photograph I wanted after dark in my dark home. More and more I now embrace the light and dark and the grain but most of all the creative challenge of   finding the right light and the right position to get the shot despite the less than ideal lighting. 

I didn’t get a chance to submit a photo to the album the other photographers had submitted to in the group, but I  tried the challenge myself one night based on their inspiration. 

My daughter was bouncing on the bed with her brother, procrastinating bed time, and I decided capturing the moment was more important that whatever grain resulted in the final image. After all, the image and memory was ultimately for me, not for a project that required a clear, non-grainy photograph. In the end I’m glad I grabbed the photograph because it was a memory that will mean something to me, even if it doesn’t mean anything for anyone else.

The settings for my image were ISO 8000 (the highest I have ever gone), f2.8 and 1/320.

It was shot on a Nikon d750 with a 50 mm 1.8.

Other photographers in the group submitted their favorites from the challenge with a little information about their settings and what they learned from the experience. I hope you enjoy their images and will even visit their blogs to learn more about their art.

Alicia Thwaites

    This photo is by the amazingly talented Alicia Thwaites. Learn more about her thoughts on the project at  
  This photo is by the amazingly talented Alicia Thwaites. Learn more about her thoughts on the project at  

http://www.aliciatphoto.ca/

 

Jennifer Blake

This was taken at 6:43pm
ISO 3200, f1.4, 1/200
“I learned that artificial light doesn’t always have to be ugly and I can play with it and get an interesting shot. I can give myself permission to shoot in less than ideal situations and not miss out on moments.” 

www.jenniferblakephotography.com/blog

 

Adriana Silva

ISO 4000 1/160 f2.5 at 8:30PM.

“I learned that I could push my ISO much higher than I usually go for. I’m including routines that were missing on my memories. Grain… I love grain anyways!”

www.momentsbyadriana.com

 

Cara Bettcher

 

6:54pm, ISO 3200, f2.0, 1/100

”While I feel fairly confident working with low light situations (thank you birth photography), I sometimes forget that you can make even the lowest light unique and powerful. This challenge forced me to step outside my comfort zone of just getting a “safe shot” when light is lacking and to embrace it and use it to create something unique and fun.”

www.bornebackphotography.com

 

Tara Lynn Geldart 

Iso 10,000 1/320 f3.5 @6pm.

“We waited all day to decorate this tree. I was going to move it into the living room to get better light but it was still too dark. I was pretty bummed and almost didn’t take my camera out because I couldn’t make my “vision” work. Instead I bumped the iso and waited for the shot I wanted!” 

www.Tarageldart.com

 

Kathleen White

 f1.8, 1/160, ISO 3200 7:04pm

“Stalling before bedtime, but I’m in love with those perfect little eyelashes. There is something about this picture that makes me want him to stay little now more than ever before.
Also can I just say how much I loved this challenge. It completely pushed me out of my comfort zone and helped me see light in new ways. And it was nice to have some of these nighttime memories captured even through the chaos, when I wouldn’t normally be taking pictures!”

 

http://kathleenelizabeth-photography.com/

Jessica Hachey

This was shot at 8:18 pm at ISO 12800. F 3.5, SS 1/200

“My take away was…experiment! I tried really slow shutter speeds, shooting all the way open and cranking up my ISO. The challenge forced me out of my comfort zone…and now my comfort zone is a little bit bigger.”

 www.jessicahachey.ca 

Lori  Hancock McCurdy

F1.8 ISO 10,000
Here’s what I shared about this shot…
“When your husband sits down to play the piano and sing and you think it’s still so cool after 26 years. 
And you want to make a picture of it. 
And then your daughter decides to dance. 
But it’s almost completely dark. 
And then he laughs at you trying to make a picture in the dark. 
But in the end you make the picture that means so much to your heart ❤️”
https://www.instagram.com/loriamcc

 

Nikki Gould

 

Taken at 8:54 pm ISO 6400 16 mm f2.8 1/250

I’m not afraid of taking photos in less than ideal lighting. It’s something I’ve been working on, knowing that I do sessions in homes and I’m not always guaranteed outside light coming in through the windows. This challenge certainly helped me push myself and watch for the lighting that I needed to achieve the photos that I took, and to push my camera to the extremes. Luckily my kids provide plenty of entertainment when it comes to getting ready for bed.

www.oliveshoot.com

www.instagram.com/oliveshootphotography

10 on 10 for July and all that jazz

Today is the day I showcase ten photos from the previous month as part of the 10 on 10 Lifestyle blog circle.

June was a month of discoveries and for me I discovered, or shall I say, finally admitted I am never going to have a photography business. Eight years of rejection is enough. We are told to keep pushing forward on our dreams but sometimes I think we have to know when one dream is dead and gone. That dream I had apparently was not God’s plan for me, at least not while I live where I am living now. 

I have gone over and over in my head, trying to find the correct formula to make this business a success, but none of it has worked. Friends have assured me it’s not me or my photography, but even with price reductions no one would hire me. And without clients there is no budget for advertising so it’s a real catch 22. 

I have even considered maybe I need to change my style, how I edit and what I shoot, but know that changing who I am to fit someone else’s view isn’t healthy for me over all. At that point one has to ask themselves if the dream has become an idol above all else. In my case, it’s possible that has been happening so laying it down is what needs to happen at this time. 

In between the sadness of finally giving up on photographing clients, there has been fun with the children-water hose fights and pool time at their grandparents and simply exploring in general.  

Be sure to follow the circle around by visiting Lauren Cypher next! 

Tuesday tips for mom: Avoid saying ‘Look at the camera’

Every other Tuesday I will be offering practical photography tips for  moms who don’t consider themselves a photographer but still want to visually record the everyday lives of their children. These are merely tips or suggestions, not rules to follow. You should record your photographic memories for you in your own way and hopefully these suggestions will help give you ideas on how to do that.

For more photography tips see my What to Capture series. Other articles in the Tuesday Photography Tips for moms can be found in the Tips link at the top of the page or by clicking HERE.

If you are hoping to grab realistic, authentic images of your children, one tip I have is to avoid always asking them to look at the camera. 

I very rarely ask my children to look at the camera when I am photographing them. I prefer any image I take of a child to be as natural as possible, capturing their real personality. From my experience, children who are asked to look at a camera become self conscious or goofy, which sometimes is the enemy of authenticity.

Think about all the thoughts that race through your mind when someone suggests you look at a camera. Do you find your smiles and reaction forced? That reaction can be the same for children, though they might not think as much about what their hair looks like or how fat they look in their jeans. Instead, children think about putting on a show or being as silly as possible. Silly photographs and expressions are fun for a few photographs, but they won’t always show your child’s true personality.

You will actually find in most cases that a child will look at you even without you asking and that’s when you click the shutter.

Always be ready for the perfect photograph and perfect moment when you’re taking time to try to capture photographs of your children. 

Photographing them as they are engaged in an activity they enjoy, or interacting with someone they love, can create more authentic images of your children and also keep them more relaxed.  Their expressions when they do look at you will be less forced and more natural. 

Some ideas for activities to  help keep your child relaxed and capture authentic images,  maybe even a few looking at the camera, include:

  • Taking a walk in a park;
  • playing at a playground
  • jumping in the Fall leaves
  • interacting with their friends or a family member
  • place a loved one behind you as you photograph
  • swimming
  • hiking

 

 

 

Lisa R. Howeler is a wife and mom living in a small town located in northern Pennsylvania, less than a mile from the New York State border. She is a photographer, writer, chocolate lover, and one of those Jesus freaks your mama warned you about. Find her online at http://www.lisahoweler.com; www.instagram.com/lisahoweler; and Facebook, www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

 

How social media sucks my life from me and why detoxes from it are needed

I’m sure some will say I’m being over dramatic and maybe they will say I just need some will power but each day I find myself having to admit what I’ve read about the addictive nature of social media is true.

One day this week, I found myself obsessed with why my blog posts weren’t updating to my business page but instead to my personal page. I was searching support pages, asking in a photography group and becoming moyre and more agitated. In the meantime my dog had slipped out of the back fence and was wandering the neighborhood and the time table for us to leave for my parents before my daughter hit nuclear meltdown before nap time was shrinking.

I had to retrieve the dog from across the street, where he could have been hit. Our plans for the rest of the day were scrapped in exchange for a nap for the almost 2- year old tornado  when we might could have left earlier and snagged the nap at my parents if I had been focused on dressing us and getting out the door and not social media. I had also been checking my Instagram account.

My obsession with my Facebook page and social media in general, not too mention my attempt to promote my photography business, was throwing my day and life off schedule, I told myself. That’s when I set up the extension on Google Chrome that lets me block sites and promptly blocked Facebook.

Enough is enough I decided. I needed my life back. I needed to get my priorities straight. One of the first ways for me to do this was to quiet all the voices yelling at me through my newsfeed. Are all those voices bad? Not all, no. Many of the messages I read on Facebook and social media are positive.

The issue is the volume of voices. They twist my head back and forth and speed up my heart as I always feel I am a step behind in my faith, my health, my parenting, my life in general.

Is Facebook evil? I don’t believe so but I do believe it can take over our life if we let it and even without us realizing it. Before we know it voices whisper to us we are not as good as someone else in our circle of friends or our chosen profession because we see their highlights day after day in our newsfeed. We don’t see the sad days, the tough moments, their feelings of failure, their insecurities, unless we read between the lines of their shares of elaborate vacations, school accomplishments, and career successes. We know they have those bad days but somehow all we can see is the good and for some reason all we can hear is someone telling us we don’t measure up and we never will.

Even if I am not feeling inadequate by what I read, I do feel like I miss out on a lot of important and in between moments in my life by wasting time scrolling through news feeds and images of the lives of others. While reading about how to improve traffic to my site and therefore my business, I may have missed my daughter smiling at me and trying to get me to smile back or maybe I made my 9 year old son feel like he shouldn’t interrupt me for a hug and a story about his school day.

Lately I’ve been thinking about all the moments I’ve missed in the lives of my children because of my addiction to likes. I enter photo contests on Facebook and find myself disappointed if I didn’t receive as many likes on my photo as someone else did on theirs. How many times have I subconsciously based my worth as a photographer, and as a person, on how many fewer likes or comments I have? Too many times is the answer.

Prior to this latest wake up call, I had been having other wake up calls to the pitfalls of social media and about a month ago I detoxed from all social media for four days. When I came back on I reduced the time I spent on it and also implemented a new personal policy that I would only check social media after I had done my devotions in the morning. My devotions consist of reading my The Upper Room and Joseph Prince devotional apps.

I also removed the Facebook and Twitter applications from my phone and blocked Facebook through my phone internet browser settings. I kept Instagram because the interaction I have with fellow photographers there is positive and less about comparison. To me it feels more like a community than Facebook.

At that time I decided if I was going to be on Facebook at all I would use that time not to just click like on posts or photographs by family and friends and those in photography groups or pages but instead work to leave encouraging comments whenever possible. Not only would this take the focus off the negative and the underlying feelings of comparison for me but I hoped, and still do hope, it will force me to look beyond myself, my tendency to whine about situations, and help others to feel like they aren’t alone and that their words and art matter. Anyone who knows me personally knows

I failed at this challenge recently when I used an entire paragraph to whine about my failed photography business so I am, by no means, perfect. I take solace in knowing I am not alone in falling to the temptation Facebook naturally creates to complain. In addition I recognize we all have bad days, sometimes feel the need to vent and share our bad times with our friends. We can’t barf rainbows all day long after all.

If you have read this far, I hope you will understand that I am not suggesting you need to change your social media habits simply because I am. I don’t believe every person who signs up for a social media account is or will become, addicted. I do believe some of us have more addictive personalities than others and therefore need to put stop gaps in place to prevent ourselves from losing sight of what is truly important in our life.

Tips for a social media break or reduction that I’ve gathered personally or from others :

  • Turn off notifications in the settings of the social media aps on your phone to keep you from feeling the need to check your social media all day long (if it’s an emergency I would hope family and friends would call instead of text);
  • Turn off the notifications you receive in your email from social media outlets, which are another way they are trying to pull you into their world and subsequently push advertising at you, for one, but also keep you addicted. Again, not saying they are evil, but it’s necessary for their business to keep people coming back. It’s more of a business strategy than a malicious one, in other words
  • Set a timer whenever you use social media so you won’t find yourself wasting time on it. Do what you want to do there and get out, in other words
  • Set up two accounts on your computer, one for personal use and one for work and use a site blocking extension like Blocksite to block social media sites on your work account.
  • Remove your social media applications from your phones and digital devices. If you simply can’t stop wasting time on Facebook or Twitter when you should be doing something else, then it is time to go cold turkey and drop the aps completely. Yes, you will experience withdrawal but you will make it. There is a good possibility what you wanted to share wasn’t that important after all.
  • Replace your online “socializing” with in person socializing. Call some friends and ask to meet some of them for lunch. Maybe you and your spouse could use all that free time you now have to reconnect (emotionally and *wink* physically)
  • Fill the time you used to spend on Facebook with a hobby, journaling, reading, exercising, cooking, earning a degree at your local college

You don’t have to quit social media cold turkey or all together. There are benefits in simply setting time limits or enacting week long detoxing sessions. Some of the benefits I noticed after even my short detox:

 

  • better focus and a clearer mind
  • accomplished more during by the day on a personal and business level
  • less stressed. when I avoided getting sucked in to mindless scrolling it kept me on schedule for tasks that needed to be done at certain times, like waking the baby up early so she naps before I have to pick my son up at the bus stop or starting dinner so it will be done before my son’s karate class.
  • my children were less stressed because I was not only less rushed but more focused on them and their needs
  • less anxiety. I wasn’t bombarded with either political negativity or articles reminding me what foods and medicines are going to kill me or my children or even articles suggesting I need to pray more (those articles are not bad but I have a guilty personality and feel constantly condemned. Yes I am aware that’s not good and yes, it is an issue God is addressing in me and yes, I’ll probably write a blog post about it someday. You’ve been warned.)

In case you need even more incentive to break your social media addiction, articles about breaking social media addictions which encouraged (naysayers will say brainwashed) me:

http://jasondoesstuff.com/social-media-detox-recap/

http://mashable.com/2014/08/09/summer-social-media-detox/#5K29iHxoqiqT

 

https://stevecorona.com/how-30-days-without-social-media-changed-my-life

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/social-media-addiction/

A book for moms that really encouraged me to back away from social media, though I apparently forgot its’ points recently, was The UnWired Mom – Choosing to Live Free in an Internet Addicted World

Lisa R. Howeler is a wife and mom living in a small town located in northern Pennsylvania, less than a mile from the New York State border. She is a photographer, writer, chocolate lover, and one of those Jesus freaks your mama warned you about. Find her online at http://www.lisahoweler.com; www.instagram.com/lisahoweler; and Facebook, when she’s not detoxing from it,  www.facebook.com/lisahoweler.

Summer’s End and Weekly Favorites| Sayre, PA Photographer

Summer’s end rushed at us so fast we ended up a bit confused sitting smack dab in the middle of the first week of school. I felt like I had been carried far away from summer, all the while holding on to rocks and branches and anything to stop us, hold us in the carefree days of summer.

I hate when my son goes back to school. My soul fights against the schedules and organizations and time limits it brings. I abhor early bedtimes and early mornings and trying to cram my daughter’s nap time in earlier so I can pick my son up from the bus stop. I hate stopping play to make him do homework.

But I know it has to be done and I’m glad he attends a school where I’m welcome to visit and encouraged to volunteer and visit him.

Now we find ourselves sliding into Fall and me trying to hold on to the little bit of warmth we have left before the snow begins to fall.

I thought I would share a few of our end of summer fun and a collection of my favorites from the last week.

Denial is the first step to not admitting we’re in the toddler years

I wasn’t ready for it, I’m not going to lie.

The attitude. The firm shakes of the head and the cry of “no!”

The folded arms. The tantrums. 

The deep scowls and body flops to the floor.

She’s not even two. 

Yet these are the reactions I have had as I stare in horror at the Terrible Twos rushing at us like an out of control train. I am being pulled into these years that some moms cutely call “ the testing years”, kicking and screaming. 

Seriously, what is with her hitting the stubborn stage before she’s even 2? All the books say two is when it all goes to hell in a hand basket. She is not two so she is not allowed to refuse to let me help her wash her hands and do it herself.

She is not allowed to try to jump into the deep end of the pool without adult supervision because she lacks fear. She is not allowed to sit in the floor and cry because mommy put on her shoes and she wanted to do it on her own.

She is not allowed to squish her face up in indignant annoyance when I try to hold a cup for her to drink from or slap my hand away in apparent insistence that she be allowed to do it ON HER OWN!

It’s not fair! 

I was supposed to have more time to prepare!

But, she’s been developmentally early in so many other areas, I should have expected this. 

I really should have been preparing for the worst. 

The worst being that my little princess really is a smaller version of me. 

Oh, Lord, give me strength, she has my independent attitude, my stubborn streak and, I can barely manage to write this, my temper. 

This is it.

This is the payback I was warned about. 

And yes, the saying is true. The saying I won’t repeat because I am a good Christian mama blogger. The saying that essentially says, “you are feeling the pain you caused so many others. Enjoy the ride, sucker.”