Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Hometown Workshop

What do you get when you combine twelve camera toting women...sharing three bathrooms for four days?

Toss in this beautiful old cottage, one fabulous hostess...and you have the time of your life.

My timid steps into photography began shortly after I lost TheRed One.  Interest in this new diversion began as a way to see detailed joy and beauty within the murky shadows of loss. Karen’s “Photographer’s Workshop”  taught me aperture, shutter speed, ISO and so much more.

That's how I knew that her Hometown Workshop would be absolutely incredible

and I was absolutely right!

From delicious breakfasts, catered lunches and dinners

to the nightly Treat Fairy.

Karen didn't miss a single detail.

But what I wasn't prepared for was how quickly I would fall in love with the women of this workshop.

I should have anticipated it...

because Karen attracts women with deep souls and huge hearts to her online photography classes.

These women came from all over the world...including Tammy from Canada

and Helena all the way from Rome, Italy.

Some of us had the same name...well just Lisa and I did!

Two of our group were even brave enough to bring babies to the workshop. OK so they were still in their Mamma's tummies, but brave just the same!

My friend Beth is a beautiful pregnant Mamma...we helped her come up with some great baby names.

One of us with a passion for music shared a CD  along with her beautiful smile.

And one of us had gorgeous long red hair just like my girl, of course I was instantly drawn to Nicole and her charm and engaging personality.

Then there was this beautiful woman who lost her precious son just a few months ago. Janette and I had so much to talk about. It makes perfect sense to me that somehow we slid easily into a friendship. Members of our club are like that.

While it might appear we sat around

and played games the entire time...

we actually worked very hard.

Karen is a self-proclaimed task master. And by checked your inhibitions at the door of Hannah House. This workshop is about learning and growing and knocking down walls.

Personally I challenged myself to push my photography to the next level. I was becoming too predictable and stagnant. Which meant that I took plenty of bad photographs the first few days, but it all eventually seemed to come together.

It was inspiring to see Karen's dear friend step into the workshop and assist. Coral is a talented photographer and an amazingly genuine woman.

Karen and Diane's relationship as mother and daughter is so refreshing to witness. Diane was our much beloved mom away from home. Oh how she spoiled us!

Karen's photography and writing on her blog display devotion to family and passion for living a definitive life. Generously, Karen shared her children with us.

And they were sweet enough to play along while we learned candid shooting.

I brought Coley fresh honey from Queen Fatty...he eats it by the spoonfuls!

Annie so adorable, I think we all wanted to slip her in our pocket and take her home.

And this photo taken by Michelle...captured just as Courtney looked toward heaven, waved, and said "Hi Jocie!" Yes...she did! 

Each new shooting session pushed us in a different direction.

This one challenging us to play with lighting during that dreamy golden hour. I had so much fun pushing the limits of the "safe" shot.

And a delightful surprise visit on the last day from my friend Jules...whom I have only met online during our class with Karen. Apparently the shock and surprise on my face was nearly as legendary as my scream!

All too quickly our workshop came to an end,

Not one of us took the exquisite four days in Hannah house for granted. We soaked up every luxurious detail  Karen had outlined.

Friendships were forged that will last a lifetime I'm certain of it.
I truly believe each of us left changed...and changed for the better. Our photography, our friendships, our love, our passion, all of it amped to the next level. Thank you Karen from each of us for the sleepover of a lifetime!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Photos of Us

I don't have a lot of pictures of myself. In fact until recently, just a couple. Usually I'm behind the camera and prefer it that way. Most photographers do. But an amazing workshop experience changed that for me. I'll post more about that later as I have so much to tell and so many images to share.

If I do get a photo of me, it's usually because I'd like to document the fact that I was there. I force the heavy camera and lens into someone else's hands with brief instructions to put the focus point on my eye and press the shutter release.

But this past weekend I was forced to stand on the other side of the camera and watch the lens try to achieve a perfect focus while capturing an image of me. It's hard to be the subject, it's hard to give your most natural smile for ten minutes or longer. And it is extremely difficult to look at your photo and like it...really like it!

Photographers are the WORST critics.

Posing for the camera I learned patience...I learned what it means to be vulnerable. But what I really learned was how wonderful it is to have a photograph that captures my true authentic self. Yes there are things about this photo that I would change, but maybe those are the things that I dislike about myself and wish were different.

So I'm choosing to look at this photo and thank the photographer for capturing this moment for me. This one moment where sad days melt into the background. This one moment where I feel true joy and happiness.

But could I maybe just photoshop those wrinkles away?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Just a Purple Cat

Our instructions were vague to one another...make a purple cat and some other sort of quilt block to help fill in the space and complete the quilt. We had less than a week to finish the task. 

Seven quilters of varying ages and backgrounds, we are just a group of purple cats. It was Ronda who coined our name. And it was Ronda who years ago first made us each the original Purple cat quilt block for another project. The small 3 inch block is completely Ronda...folksy and quirky and whimsical, just like her! This block would be our inspiration.

Together we have married off children, become grandmothers, struggled, laughed and cried through both good times and bad.  But when it happened, the news came abruptly and rudely burst it's way into our midst.

Our dear sweet Ronda is battling an aggressive brain tumor and she is fighting it with all the might and mind of her tiny sweet self. I hate cancer, and there is no other way I can say it! The news spun me around and turned me upside down. Ronda is one of my favorite people in the whole world. When I lost my Jocie...she was there for me. Constantly sending cards and dropping by just to tell me she loved me. At a time when I know I must have been difficult to be around...she was truly there for me.

Naturally we were all stunned and knew we had to do something...anything...everything we can to help her with the fight of her life! Of course she would need a quilt from her feline friends The Purple Cats.

The day arrived quickly and despite our own busy schedules we gathered to turn the individual Purple Cat blocks into something of beauty and meaning for our dear friend.

If you have ever made a quilt, you know it takes precise measuring and sewing to make the quilt square up and lie flat and perfect.

Miraculously the pieces fit together like a puzzle straight from a box. A little snip here or there and before we knew it...

we had this.

A quilt for Ronda to wrap snug around her to feel the warmth of friends during the arduous days of chemo and radiation. We could hardly wait to give it to our friend!

Ronda's house is a treasure trove of present and past objects of beauty. This antique cobbler's bench with her own tiny baby shoes proudly displayed. And she always has the most tempting pieces of candy ready to share.

But the best part about Ronda's home is her spirit...and it is brilliantly alive and radiant as usual.'s a never-ending roller coaster of ups and downs and it is so easy to get lost in the details of the ride. Life comes with no guarantees, and no second chances. Truly this life is about the people you love and your relationships along the way. And I am abundantly grateful for Ronda's presence in my life.

She adored it...completely!

Ronda went through each Purple Cat and tried to guess which of her friends had made it. We all included personal cat has angel wings and a red snowflake. She understood the meaning immediately...that's because she's Ronda!

Jill added a dragonfly to her cat, because Ronda is crazy for dragonflies!

Our hearts full...we said our goodbyes with promises to return soon. In true vintage Ronda form, she had a parting gift for each of us as we left that evening. And a hand-written thank you card arrived just days later.

We love you Ronda and are with you in this fight!