From the beginning of my life, I have always had pets. As a child, we always had variety of dogs and cats, and I loved them dearly, as did our entire family. Each came with their own stories and personalities. From our dog who would escape and steal stuffed animals from neighbourhood children (we had over 20 in our front garden one time!) to our cat who would bulldoze his way through our central heating ducts - they always made us laugh with their ridiculous antics. They are as individual as all the people I have met, and they all brought joy and enriched my life.
Sharing our lives with an animal is one of the most amazing experiences we can have. Our pets help us to develop empathy and compassion. The friendship a pet provides can make a person feel more relaxed and decrease stress, sometimes even more so than friendships with people. I’m sure we’ve all experienced stressful interpersonal relationships, whereas pets rarely cause stress.
Walking your dog might also encourage more social interactions with new people, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness. I recall walking a friend’s dog (the gorgeous Siberian Husky - Shadow) and not a single person walked by without stopping to pet him, and have a chat.
Our pets make us healthier, kinder, happier and smarter. The love and friendship between people and pets is indescribable. We have a mutual dependency upon each other and there is nothing more rewarding to anyone than knowing that you are needed and loved. This is what makes life rich and relevant.
I’m not a wedding photographer. There are several reasons for this - most of my weekends are filled with my children’s activities, peak wedding season is when I go home to Canada every year, and I’m scared I might meet a bridezilla.
Then again all rules have exceptions. Natalie and Terry’s wedding was one. When I first met them a year ago (ish) they were not looking for the overly posed (though magazine worthy) shots. You know the photos I mean? Often they are shot in some beautiful location, but have nothing to do with the actual wedding. They are more of a stylized session than wedding photography. To me these photos don’t convey the emotion of a wedding, nor do they commemorate the events of that special day.
To coin a phrase that another photographer used: I wanted to be a photographer at a wedding, not a wedding photographer. (It was Mike Riley if you want to check him out! I don’t know him but admire his work.) Natalie and Terry wanted to capture the interactions between people, and evoke emotions. They wanted to have photos to look back on that would take them back to their day. This is exactly how wedding photos should be, so I said yes, I would be honoured.
The ceremony took place in Windsor’s Guildhall, designed by Christopher Wren. (It is the same venue where Charles and Camilla were married, and also Elton John and David Furnish.) It is a beautiful place steeped in history. Lucky for me there was space in one of the two wedding cars (hired from Always Chauffeur in Sonning) because parking in Windsor on a Saturday in late November is not easy! The cars were a real attraction, everyone waving and honking horns - it was fun!
The reception took place at the beautiful Birds Hill Golf Centre. Due to the time of year it was already getting dark when we arrived, so we didn’t venture outside although I’m sure it is surrounded by picturesque countryside. The interior was full of period charm and the food was lovely.
Natalie and Terry - thanks so much for putting your trust in me to document your wedding day. I had an absolutely fabulous time and I hope these photos will help to treasure the memories for years to come.
Highlights of the day in under 3 minutes - be sure your sound is turned on!
I was stunned. Sixty years of a life full of marriages and children, laughter and loss. She was the most important woman in the world to me, but the photographic evidence of her existence didn’t even exceed the maximum attachment file size of a single email. I looked closely at the photos of a grinning toddler in a red Flyer wagon, a prom photo of a whisper of a smile in a blue velvet dress. There was a woman with curly hair and dimples who I remembered well, her face pressed close to my gap-toothed grin. This handful of photos seemed so meager compared to the space she had filled in my life.
The further ahead I looked, the bigger the empty space grew. There was an entire decade of her life in which we had only four photos of her. She was never fond of having her picture taken, always shirking from the frame with excuses about her hair. And often she was on the other side of the lens, creating a record of the memories we’d cherish later. But as I looked through the photographic pieces of our life together, I was struck by what was missing. She had been there for every award ceremony, packed every lunch, applied every Band-Aid, and yet, in these pictures she was gone—reduced to nothing more than a ghost standing just over my shoulder, whispering lovingly in my ear.
When I went to bed that night, I lay awake for a long time, thinking about what my own kids might see if they were to page through our family photos. And I came to the uncomfortable conclusion that they might have a very similar experience. They’d have to search long and hard for pictures of our faces filling the same frame. There would only be a handful, carefully posed and taken at specific moments. It wouldn’t be the mom they loved, that wild-haired pajama-clad woman who preferred a sneer to a smile. If I continued along the same path as my own mother, I’d leave very little evidence behind that the mom my kids knew had existed at all.
I cobbled the book together as best I could, and when it came time to choose the cover, the answer was obvious. I’d entitled the book “A Life in Pictures” with my mom’s name as a subtitle. But there was really only one photo I wanted to put on the front. It’s an old, blurry, bleached-out shot in tones of sepia. My mom is sitting at a table in a kitchen, flowered wallpaper behind her. I think my sister and I decided she’s likely about 17 in the picture, brown hair flowing down her back in gentle waves. You can’t see her face because she’s lowered it toward the tabletop and screened herself from view with her hands, interlaced in front of her forehead. You can see a long stretch of bare arm, the glint of a watch—clues of a woman but never the whole story. This is the way I know her best, hidden from view, always at a distance. I’ll spend my whole life longing for her to look up from that photo and smile at me so that I can see the mother I know.
A few weeks later, I snapped a pic of my daughter and I as she snuggled in my lap. It was definitely not my finest personal hygiene moment. Pajama-clad with messy hair and face still swollen from sleep, we stared into the lens without censure. And I did something I’d never done before—I posted that messy, imperfect photo on Facebook with a comment encouraging other mothers to do the same.
The response was overwhelming.
My mom friends posted their makeup-free selfies with their kids, tagging me in the comments, glad to simply share a slice of life that was real and meaningful. I think we all began to recognize that if we want our kids to be confident, we’re going to have to practice a little self-acceptance in front of the lens. My mother remains a ghost in the photographic memories of my childhood, but I’m determined not to pull the same vanishing act.
This story was originally published on Scary Mommy.
It was written by Kaz Weida. You really should read her blog www.asweetlittlelife.com.
“It’s the most..wonderful time...of the year!” I always love that Staples commercial, even if I don’t agree with the sentiment! (I wish summer holidays would never end!) However they are going back and for us in Wokingham tomorrow is the day!
Same Time, Same Place
If you can, take a photo in the same place each year. This could be by your front door (very popular), under a favourite tree, or the end of the driveway. When you look back you can really see how much your child has grown and changed each year!
Try a Shot from a Different Angle
Most portraits are taken at eye level, but another flattering angle to try is from above. This emphasizes their smallness and (we should be so lucky!) if the sun is out you’ll capture some lovely catch lights in their eyes.
Talk to Them
If your kids are anything like mine, they are not exactly co-operative when it comes to natural smiles for photos. So try to make them laugh! Pretend you’re an OTT fashion photographer, think Austin Powers - “Yeah baby!” Or come up with your own silly ideas! Also if they are at all nervous about going to school this may help them relax.
Take a Close Up
Focus on their eyes, you’ll see how much their features change as they get older each year.
That’s it! Good luck to all the kidlets, hope you have a fantastic year!
It’s the summer! The kids are now off school, and whether you are going away or having water fights in your back garden you may want to take a few snaps to remember it all! Here’s a few tips (and a few rather old snaps of mine! Good thing my kids don't read this or they might be slightly miffed with me!).
2. Take More Than One Photo
The beauty of digital photography is that you can take several similar photos and select the one you like best to keep. Burst mode is great for action shots too. Just remember to delete the extra ones, they do eat up the memory!
3. Take Photos of Your Everyday
Baking cookies. Playing games. Chasing each other. All of the things that make your family unique are the most important things to look back on, not the fact that you visited a famous landmark and took a selfie there.
4. Shoot from Their Eye Level
My eldest is now about 6” taller than me but while they are still shorter than you, get down to your child’s eye level to take their photo.
5. Get In Some Photos Too
Don’t be the ghost. I’m very guilty of this one myself but get in some photos too, whether you use a tripod, a dreaded selfie-stick or get someone else to take the photo. It’s important.
Do you ever wonder if all the hassle of organizing a vacation is worth it, or is it just me? From checking passport dates and renewing them, trolling the internet for the perfect location, then there’s packing for everyone...UGHHH!! Plus this world we now live in safety is also a big consideration. There are several places we’ve taken the kids that I’d think twice about now (Egypt and Turkey for example).
In some ways it is getting easier as the kids are a bit older. (They are now almost 14, just turned 12, and almost 10.) They don’t need car seats and other toddler paraphernalia anymore, and they would be perfectly happy to wear the same clothes over and over all week! In other ways it is more difficult. They all want to do different things and us parents are just embarrassing.
Either way, a change of scenery is always good and travel broadens our horizons, so off we go. The best thing though - doing absolutely nothing productive. Sitting reading a book all afternoon (in between siestas), eating food bought and prepared by someone else. When you’re at home there’s always so many things that need doing that you never really relax and unwind. Plus the memories of adventures last a lifetime.
Actually, it is worth the hassle. You come back well rested and ready to take on life...and the unpacking!
Every year by the end of June I’m ready for everything to stop. School and all the other activities that consume our lives stretch that bit too long. The helping with homework. Constant taxiing to clarinet, rugby, football and swimming. We still have 4 weeks of school! Imagine how the kids feel!
Another year of milestones reached, time slipping by. People say all the time about how fast time goes, and definitely certain things I look back on fondly but I honestly wouldn’t want to go back to broken sleep, constant diaper changing and all the demands of having babies for anything in the world. We’ve certainly moved on from little people issues and on to much bigger, scarier issues. (Am I the only one that didn’t know that laughing gas is a thing? And let’s not talk about those fruity, child-attracting e-cigarette flavours!)
I consider my kids to be tweens now. My middle one just turned 12 last week, eldest and youngest turn 14 and 10 in about 3 weeks. We’ve all survived another year and more than that they’ve all made real progress with their various pursuits. I am very proud of them all, and I can’t wait for the school year to finish to celebrate!
I’ve got family visiting from Canada at the moment - my mom’s annual visit and my second cousin’s first European tour. A couple of days ago I took them both to Windsor Castle. While we were there I couldn’t help but notice that so many people were going through the motions of what they thought they should be seeing, without actually experiencing it. Several (rather rude) tourists pushed to the front to get a photo of the changing of the guard without listening to the band, or really understanding what was happening. Even more people brushed past Queen Mary’s Doll House without more than a tertiary glance. They had no appreciation for the details and work put into it by the many designers and craftsmen of their day.
Why do people feel the need to tick the box to say they’ve been somewhere without actually taking any of it in? What is more important - ticking a box or living an experience? We all need to embrace life while we can, because who knows what’s around the corner.
“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” - Viktor E Frankl
Today in the UK we are facing change. Sometimes change brings about great things that we never thought would be possible. Conversely when change is not for the better, just enduring the challenges makes us stronger in the end. Whichever side you fall on from today’s outcome we can all agree we are facing some turbulence in the coming months (or longer) before a firm plan replaces today’s uncertainty. I’m reminded of another quote that I think is very apt (not sure where I first heard it): “Things always work out in the end. If they haven’t worked out, you’re not at the end yet.”