Why Every Civilian Should Witness A Homecoming At Least Once In Their Life

I have mentioned it before. I grew up in San Diego while my stepdad served and eventually retired from navy life. Now that I am raising my own family in this heavily populated military town I see it from a completely different perspective–from the parent-left-at-home’s point of view, especially through deployment.

I see the struggle of the night time routine knowing that there is no one to help with getting the kids in the bath while I make dinner from whatever fell out of the freezer and help with homework. I see these women and men deal with broken refrigerators, cars, and water heaters. They do it all! They comfort their children when they are upset. They find comfort in each other when the news headlines mean there will be a change of plan. 

It’s traumatic to go without this deeply loved parent and spouse. They find a way to get through it, manage without them, fill in the space where they stood. Then they come back and the difficult but managable routine that has been established for the last eight months has this deeply missed parent trying to figure out how to fit back in.

I know I’m not saying anything that these men and women don’t already know, but I think as civilains we don’t know what it really means. 

I am reminded of this at every military homecoming. They are a joy to witness. Now as a civilian, it is an eye opening experience, a joyous reminder of what these families give up to keep us safe. Yes, they signed up and yes they got home safely. But they were missed, and that hurts. There is a reason there are tears at these reunions. 

I think being in the presence of all the families that come together to welcome their service member home is an experience every civilian should witness at least once. For one thing, it will give you the warm and fuzzys. And it will also give you a deep sense of respect for how the whole family serves, not just the men and women in uniform.

 I’d love to witness your next military homecoming in anywhere in San Diego, and of course I’ll bring my camera. 😉

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What We Can Learn From The LGBTQ Community

I always come to the same conclusion–it’s not my story to tell. Every time I sit down to write about a session I ask myself, “Do I make this about myself or about them?”  I am honored to have the pleasure of meeting each and every one of my clients and getting to know them in my attempts to make them comfortable in front of my camera and in front of me–sometimes a complete stranger.

I figure this story I am telling is being told from my perspective. Afterall, it’s my eye that made these photographs, therefore the writing should also come from my understanding. These clients, friends, families, kids are trusting me to tell their story. I want nothing more than to honor that.

My personal experience with people who are gay and lesbian is rather limited. I don’t have any friends in the LGBTQ community and I have no explanation for why not. It was never an issue for me. I’m all for being the person you were meant to be and be with the person you were meant to be with! Friendships just never happened. I recently had the privilege to work with two different couples and they taught me so much probably without knowing it. I just wish I knew it sooner. 

Gender roles are just a ridiculous social construct. Yep. With LGBTQ couples, the “roles” are just more fluid. I cannot assume who will lead the dip or whose hand will land on top. But as I was preparing for these sessions it occurred to me that the roles in my heterosexual house are fluid too. In fact, many traditional poses can go either way. Once I embraced this and got over the fear of saying something offensive, I was able to get to work and capture the love these couples have for each other. And it was nothing but beautiful!

I can’t wait to do more of these! With any luck, I’ll be seeing more of these two. They are over the moon for each other. Their happiness is contagious.

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Welcome Home USS San Diego

Every military homecoming is different. It’s fun for me. It keeps me on my toes. One thing is for certain though, the service person due to arrive is adored by their friends and family.

Matt was serving aboard the USS San Diego and the aniticipation of his arrival was a heavy one. He would be arriving the day before his daughter’s 2nd birthday. He had been deployed in October so he missed all the big holidays that would normally bring family together. They also have a seven-year-old named Jack, who understood what it was to miss his dad and was very excited that the wait was soon to be over. 

I’m always honored to document military homecomings because they take care of me. I was so happy to be asked to be part of their big day because I absolutely fell in love with this family. Some families just have this energy about them that is just sweet and fun. These guys fit that bill to a T. Matt, his wife Alyssa, Jack and Jada are all smiles. To sweeten the day, Matt’s mom and dad flew in from Alabama just for the occation. It was a beautiful family affair.

This homecoming is particually happy one since this will be the last for this family. That is certainly something to celebrate. As a local San Diegan I know I these families are on loan until new orders come down. I hope I get to hang on this family for a little while.

Welcome home and thank you for your service! 

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If you’d like to document the joy that your family expereinces at your next family homecoming, let me know about it! I’d love to be there for you!

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The Family Dog

I had a pet cotton ball when I was a kid. I understand now why my mom didn’t need an added responsibilty on top of raising three girls under the age of five. No matter how much I begged, it wasn’t going to happen.

Oliver, the cotton ball, was cute and fuzzy, and he lived in a baby food jar. I even poked holes in the lid so he could breathe. I’d even go as far as tying a string around him and take him for walks. Sounds desperate, right?

Eventhough Oliver didn’t lick my face or require much of my affection, he was big part of my childhood. That can go without saying because here I am over thirty years later still talking about him. 

If this is how I feel about a cotton ball, I can only imagine how family pets are a huge part of our childhood memories. This is why I warn to include them in family pictures too. But enough about me.

This family has had Snickers before they had the kids. As ineveitable, the dachsund is getting up there in years. He was obvisouly not feeling well when they called to see if I could come by and get a family picture that would include their four legged family member. I wanted to convey how they felt about him. I came over immediately because things were, afterall, uncertain. We were all afraid what the vet was going to say.

I gladly snapped away, getting close ups of their hands on him. I wanted the family pulling together around him. I wanted him to look soft and loved. Since Snickers wasn’t his usual self we let him dictate what he wanted to do. Yes, the dog ran the show that day. After all, it’s all about him, right? We didn’t do a lot of posing or moving things to get an immacutlate background. This is not an application to get into Home & Gardens magazine. I love the kids art work in the background. This is childhood! Back up…this is FAMILYHOOD! 

Snickers went to the vet the same day. I was so glad to hear that it was just an ear infection! Nothing but some rest and antibiotic drops were needed. Happy happy ending! I’m so glad this wasn’t a good bye session. It woke us all up to making sure that we photograph what is important to us. 

If your kid has an inanimate pet as awesome as my pet cotton ball or if you want to make sure you capture your family pet, please let me know. I’d love to capture that magic!

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Family Dreams

I remember when I was dreaming of what it would be like when I started a family. I thought about what that would look like when they were little. It was romantic with a bit of reality mixed in. It included cleaning the mess from the kids having too much fun in the tub, watching my dedicated husband teach the kids about football, and reading bedtime stories in all the funny voices. 

I forgot to dream of what that family looked like as we all got older. I didn’t think about the laugh lines my husband and I would share around our eyes and mouth or the early Saturday mornings we’d be piling into the mini van for a soccer tournament. I had no idea that my kids could trigger so many emotions and so deeply. I knew I would love these kids like no other on the planet but there are other emotions that I did not expect. This includes but certainly not limited to parternal pride, fear, protectiveness, and indicisiveness. It’s all a bit overwhelming.  

I had no idea that working with families with older kids–who have been doing this “parenting thing” a bit longer than I have–would give me such a sense that everything will be okay! It has given me new dreams as to what my family may look like. It is possible to raise teens that are polite to adults and love each other (to a point, haha!); that are confident and accept that they need guidence; that have their own interests and are independent thinkers. I know that my dream and it may be completley unrealistic–as unrealistic as an calm morning before school starts. But I saw it. I saw it in this family and it reminded me that it is possible to raise my kids this way. 

Now don’t go a pop my bubble. I taught junior high and high school for 3 years. I have stories. Let me dream and the kids, whoever they end up to be, will be just fine. 

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