Thursday, September 19, 2013

Eight Things I Learned From Uncle Frank

According to legend, Uncle Frank was born and developed normally until around age four when he was hit by a car and spent a month in a coma.  As the story goes, he was never the same after that.  I often wonder if there was more to it, but times were different and in any case, by the time I knew him, he was officially diagnosed as schizophrenic and on permanent disability, living with my grandmother in their apartment in the projects.  I spent a lot of time around Uncle Frank.  Even in the midst of my teenage angst, I recognized that he was teaching me more than I could possibly appreciate.  Here are some of the things I learned from having Uncle Frank in my life.

1.  People with disabilities are people too.  Nothing more, nothing less.  I was so used to being with him, it never occurred to me to treat him any differently than my other aunts and uncles.   I didn't need to talk slowly, or extra loudly.  No need to be afraid of him (except maybe that one time when he went off his meds and threw all the furniture off the fire escape).  No need to be extra nice and sickly sweet.  Just treat him like everyone else.

2.  People with disabilities are smart.  Uncle Frank was pretty famous for calling his doctors and talking to them about his meds, fooling them into thinking he was another doctor.  Eventually he would crack up on the phone and give himself away, but the man was smart about what he knew.  Not everyone "got" that and he was good at taking advantage of those kinds of folks.  Which brings me to my next point ...

3.  People with disabilities are funny.  Uncle Frank's sense of humor was epic.  He would pounce on unsuspecting "regular" people and take them down.  It was always great when someone new came to the house.  They would always be a little nervous and tentative.  One poor guy saw Frank standing near the lake and got all worried that he might jump in.  Of course Frank pretended he was going to jump.  And then laughed at the guy.  He laughed really hard.  We all laughed at him too.  Which was mean, but ya know, he kinda deserved it.  And if Frank laughed, you just kinda had to laugh too.

4.  It doesn't matter if you have the latest, bestest camera gear from Radio Shack.  Your pictures are still going to be crappy if you don't know what you are doing.  But on the other hand, crappy pictures are better than none at all.  Seriously, Uncle Frank had so many cameras.  When I was little, he had Polaroids.  Like, 7 of them.  He had disc cameras.  Fancy film cameras.  More recently he was enjoying video cameras.  Quality of his work?  Not so great.  But ya know what, he enjoyed what he did, and I'll bet he has some memories that the rest of us missed.  

5.  Its good to love animals.  And rescue them if you can.  Uncle Frank always had a cat.  Usually some feral cat that he found outside.  He'd feed the cat, sometimes he'd trap the cat and bring it inside and try to force it to live with him, and I think he named them all "Baby".   Whether the cats were thankful or not, who knows?  But he did his best to give them a nice life and he loved them.  He recognized that some of them needed help and he did what he could to save them.

6.  Sometimes people show love differently than we expect.  Uncle Frank loved his family.  He didn't go around hugging people or blowing kisses.  But when he was younger and having a bad day, he would calm right down when my tiny self would tell him to quit it.  When he was older, he'd watch the news and worry about me.  If he heard of anything bad happening anywhere in the state of New Jersey, he'd start asking if I was ok.  Just last week, my mom told me that he was fretting about the boardwalk fires at Seaside Heights.  I told her to reassure him that I was very far away from the danger, and I appreciated that he was worrying about me.   Because I know that it was his way of showing how much he loved me.  And I know he felt the same way about the rest of his family.

7.  Don't judge a book by its cover.  The man looked like the Uni-Bomber half the time.  And in winter, he looked like the Uni-Bomber ALL the time.  But he was the gentlest soul on the planet.  He'd raise his voice to argue with my mom (his sister) over things like feeding the pets and cleaning up the coffee grinds on the floor, but generally he was just a sweet person.   He was happy to just show you his latest video or tell you about his cat.  He made the world more interesting and we would have missed out on a lot if we let his appearance scare us away.

8.  It doesn't matter how much of a mess you make in the kitchen, as long as you can make me a cup of coffee.  The man could make a mess.  Pretty sure he tracked coffee grinds from one end of the house to another.  But he knew how to make coffee.  And I can forgive pretty much anything if you apologize with a cup of coffee in your hands.

So here I am, a full fledged grown up with kids of my own.  One of them is disabled, and I am thankful every day that I learned how to treat him like a human being and value his intelligence and humor.  Even when he jumps out of our row-boat and into a lake to scare a grownup friend (and yes, he did), I have the ability to just laugh, because I know what's funny. Thanks Uncle Frank.  I am thankful that your love of cameras and technology sparked a love of photography in me.  I am capturing our memories in a way that makes me smile.  Thanks Uncle Frank.  I am thankful that I love animals and work with animal rescue groups when I can find the time.  Thanks Uncle Frank.  I am thankful that I learned to recognize all the ways that people show me love, even the ways that aren't "regular."  It makes the world a warmer and fuzzier place.  Thanks Uncle Frank.  I'm thankful that I am not afraid of people who look a little rough on the outside because I know that there is a good chance they are sweethearts on the inside.  Thanks Uncle Frank.  And I am thankful that I love coffee, and that my husband will probably continue to spill coffee grinds on the counter every single day - because it will make me think of you.  And I will smile and say, "Thank you Uncle Frank."

You left us today.  You got on your bike and went for a ride and you never came back.  The world is forever a less interesting place without you.  Thank you Uncle Frank.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

July 17th

Here we are with another big update since the months of May, June and half of July have flown by.  I've been working on my 365 project and saving up the photos but just too busy to post here.

The months have been filled with end of school year activities, a recital, tennis banquet, gymnastic classes, doctors appointments, trips to the beach, pool and theme parks.  Here are the photos from the 365 project, officially bringing us up to day 198 today.  And I am not going to promise to post more since that doesn't seem to work out.  But I'll be back eventually, lol.  

Starting out with the super moon!  And some pictures in the park:

Then we had trips to Great Adventure, Fernbrook Farms, Sesame Place (fireworks!) and a really cute princess themed party.

Here we have recital pictures, last day of 6th grade for Mr. O, more farm, Sesame Place and there's Mr. O's new socks!

Dancing in the rain, the Safari at Great Adventure, more from the farm and a rare shot of me reading by the pool.  Sitting in a chair and relaxing?  What is that?  And the last one is the professor with a Horseshoe crab he caught at the Jersey Shore.

Ahhh, summer - another princess party, more farm, photos from a visit with another mama photographer, our Pop Chef watermelon, The Go-Go's concert (!) and my favorite new recipe for chicken.  Oh, and my favorite snail.

We got a new hammock, went to the beach again, had a sad face for the last day of school and hey, look a that cute dog!  I got to photograph dogs for the Animal Orphanage of Voorhees - if you need a pet, check them out, they have awesome dogs and cats available!

And then we spent a lot of time in the pool and more time at the beach and hubby's company had an event to see Kid Rock and we were in the front row! Eeeep.

So there's the 365 update and the next thing I have to discuss is my new "baby."  Yes, I have a new baby, a photography website and hopefully a small business at some point.  

For now I am just building my portfolio and practicing, studying and learning about what I need to be legitimate.  Things like tax number i.d.'s and business licensing, insurance and networking - not sure if I will ever be ready for all of that.  

So for now I have the website and the bulk of my photography posting will eventually migrate over there.  I'll be finishing my 365 here and on Facebook, and saving this blog for talking about the family, kids fashion,  autism, clean eating and all the other things that float through my brain.

If you have the time, check out my new website:

Monday, May 20, 2013

Big Time Flake Out

Yes, I know.  I flaked out.  I have been taking photos but nothing is getting posted here.  Shhhh, it is ok.  I am going to just post some collages from my 365 project and call it a day, ok?  I decided on collages because I am almost exactly 2 months behind and I know you don't want to scroll through 60 full size photos, right?  
I know I'm right.  

The last few months have been a blur, starting with strep throat, continuing on through spring break, my first photography "job", my cousin's wedding, tennis season, a class trip, an autism walk and finally some really bad allergies.  Lots of really great stuff, some not so great stuff, and one brand new baby that I am hoping to spoil terribly.  And no, not MY brand new baby, phew.

I do have a new baby though, sort of.  I'll post about that next time.  Because catching up on two months of photos is enough for one day.  For now, here are my photo project collages.  And we'll just say I am all caught up and starting with day 140 tomorrow, ok? 


Thursday, March 21, 2013

365 ~ 71 to 77

Another round of catch up photos for my 365 project.  I've been so busy and getting lots of things done around here, but never the things I am *supposed* to get done.  This last week I got to do a maternity shoot and take photos for my daughter's yearbook collages.  Great experience and so much fun for me!   It is amazing to go into the school and have random kids hug you - and I felt a bit like the Pied Piper because they all followed me around when they saw the camera.  Quite a change from my own kids who like to hide when they see my Nikon.

Now let's see the photos.  Day 71 ~ Messy.  Perfect theme for me this week since we are putting away some winter clothes, pulling out some spring clothes, and as I mentioned a second ago, I'm not doing much of what I am *supposed to* do, which translates into a messy house.  Here's a pile that is headed for the ebay bin.  And yes, it is still there, a week later.

Day 72 ~ Branches
This one was easy, sunrise over the lake always features a lot of branches.

Day 73 ~ Field of Green

Here's a "field" of green from my maternity shoot.

Day 74 ~ Green

Not a lot of springtime around her (yet) but the onion grass is coming up. 

Day 75 ~ Wearing of the Green
The green thing was getting old, so I went off theme and I am going to share more from my maternity shoot.  Because my model was so cute. 

Day 76 ~ Spots
How about bubbles instead?

Day 77~ Play a Game
Same bubbles, but playing a game with the dog this time.  I think the dog won, she popped them all!

Day 78 ~ Plant Something
Too early to plant anything here, but my magnolia tree is starting to show some buds.  Yay.


And finally - March 21st - day 79 ~ Hiding

Once more, going back to the maternity shoot, since that little baby is "hiding" in there.  We all can't wait to meet her.  I love the look on dad's face here - I think he is excited to meet his baby girl too, ya think?  These guys are just way too cute.

The next few themes will be nurture, texture, a landmark and a pine cone.   A pine cone?  Really?   

365 ~ Days 66-70

Here we go again!!  A whole bunch at once! 

Day 66 ~ Hobby
She likes to model, I like photography, two hobbies in one.

Day 67 - Me
Here I am in the mirrors at the Franklin Institute.

Day 68 - off theme, I just liked this one, it makes me happy.

And here's one I shot for my 52 project, "movement."

Day 69 ~ Liquid
Something we have been seeing a lot lately - rain!

Day 70 ~ Shamrock
No shamrocks here, but we have some green moss, how about that? 

I have more to post to catch up - coming soon, messy, branches, green, plant someting and more!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

365 Days 57 to 65

Happy March everyone!  The days are getting longer and spring is on the way, but here it has been as cold as ever.  My mind knows that it really doesn't start to get warm until mid April, but something about flipping that calendar over to March makes me hopeful.

Once again, posting a lot of photos from my 365 project, seems I can get in the photos each day but the time to post them is harder to manage. 

355 ~ 57 ~ Essential Equipment

All the essentials for gluten free Chicken Francaise.  Seems like one of my biggest jobs around here is keeping the people fed, so this is about as essential as it gets.  I was shooting late at night, low light and all that jazz.

365 ~ 58 ~ Up Close and Personal

We were a little too cranky to get up close and personal that day, but here's a quick snap of my girl on her way to school for "dress like your favorite Disney character day" at school.  She chose Belle from Beauty and the Beast.  After 2 days with a stomach virus, I was just glad she could go to school. Not my best work, lol. I think the camera was on auto.  D'oh.

365 ~ 59 ~ Sweet Rest

Seems like the only one resting around here is the cat.  Hiding out in the play kitchen.  He looks good in black and white, doesn't he?

365 ~ 60 ~ Whimsical

Spent some time at the Garden State Discovery Museum and it was definitely whimsical.  Proud to say that Mr. O was the only kid I saw who managed to get the bubble entirely over his head. 
Hint - you have to pull it up really fast. 

And I got a little whimsical myself.

365 ~ 61 ~ Upside Down. 

Yeah, I skipped that theme.  Instead, here's my beautiful niece. 

365 ~ 62 ~ Two

No living creatures wanted to cooperate for this one, so here's what I was left with.

365 ~ 63 ~ Lucky

Well, I skipped that theme too.  And again, very little cooperation and lots of yucky weather so here's the girl eating a chicken wing after school. I was happy that she fit into this outfit one last time, one of my all time favorites from Gap. 

365 ~ 64 ~ Full Speed

It was a cold and rainy day.  Nor'easter blew through our neck of the woods.  Nothing was moving at full speed except the wind, and every time I tried to take a shot of the trees blowing, I got wet.  So instead, here's a shot of the rain on my car windshield.  I enjoyed editing this one.

And finally, today.  March 7th.  Day 65


I kept my camera around my neck for our entire morning routine.  Here's an idea of how it goes.

My 14 year old is already gone, kitchen is empty.  Weather channel on, coffee brewing, backpacks and lunchboxes on the table waiting to be packed.  Nice light coming in through the back door.

16 year old is always happy to be up early.

And hamming it up - showing disappointment that there was no snow last night.  We were all really hoping for one snow day this year.

Mr. O. takes his vitamins.  This kid is amazing, he swallows down all of that nasty stuff every day.  I know he knows it makes him feel better.  

After the boys leave for school, the girl wakes up.  Here she is chasing the dog around the kitchen.  Try not to look at the wires all over my kitchen counter.  It has become our family charging station, even though I bought a charging station and put it in the family room. (sigh)

And then she hid under the table to get away from my camera.  Too bad,  I got her anyway.

That is the end of my big catch up post.  Tomorrow the theme is "a hobby."  And Saturday it is "ME."   Let's see if I can get better at posting, at least every other day instead of every other week.