When Photography is a Gift

It did not even cross my mind the first time I picked up my new Nikon D3000 what gifts it might bring to me, and not to just me, but to others as well.

At first the gift of sharing seemed good enough. Share the digital image, record the moment, and bundle those up in albums to display across Google and Facebook.

And that has been fantastic! Maybe they weren’t always the best images or the most technical, but I was learning and sharing and photographing (I still am!).

So I gifted what I could, as much as I could. Gifts I love to give.

But as the years have gone by and my camera has upgraded to the next model and my lenses have upgraded to sharper glass. Well, it got to be something more…

More from the heart. More concrete. More right now.

Maybe it was my first canvas that sparked a new world of photography within. I wrapped it myself at a canvas wrapping class hosted by the Chics Who Click at Arlington Camera.

I made a terrible error while wrapping, but I saved it by re-ordering the way the picture shows. It is only noticeable on the side. I gave the canvas to my mother to put on her wall at the apartment in her Assisted Living Community.

She LOVES it.

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

This is the only photo I have of it from my iPhone.

See, my mom really enjoys gardening more than anyone. She had a tremendous garden filled with a variety of flowers when she lived in her house. Her thumb is fantastically green. She has a small patio container garden where she is now. I think the image helped bring a little more of her gardening love indoors. Plus, she gets to brag to all her friends that the canvas was done by her daughter.

I was disappointed I had messed it up. She beamed with pride.

And so, I stopped being so critical and I accepted the gift for what it is. It’s a choice. A choice to give and a choice to receive. My photography is not a gift of talent, but a gift to gift others with.

So, that is exactly what I did.
© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

© 2014 Angelia's Photography

And when the critic in my head cringes over a hand cut-off, or a color not quite right. When it shakes its ugly mug at the print that didn’t come out exactly as it had envisioned. Or when a big frown emerges over a portion of the photo being slightly blown out.

I tell that critic to get out of here. I don’t need their comments.

The only validation I need is right here in these faces. No matter what I think about these photographs, they think something totally different.

And that…

…makes my heart soar.

I think I will continue to gift my photography.

In every way that I can. As much as I can.

What can you gift of yourself? I promise it will be received and it will be amazing.

A place I return to……

I pulled through the narrow opening of the rusty swing gate. I steered the car carefully down the gravel path making the sharp left turn. I stopped and backed up going off-road, inwardly cringing I could be driving over a grave. I apologized in my head and straightened the car to face back the direction I came. The rusty white gate lay ahead in the distance. I briefly wondered if I could navigate the beast back through without a scratch…then pushed the thought aside.

I was stalling.

This is the hardest part for me. Getting out of the car and walking to the grave.

Most times I like to go alone because, with him, my emotions are raw. Too raw for me to share easily. Plus, I like talk to him. I tell him everything. Oh I know he is not there, not physically, but in my heart, I know he hears me. I know this is what I need.

I exit the car and briefly wonder if I should take my camera, then I think….no, I have my phone. The slam of the car door seems too loud in the small, quiet graveyard. I softly crunch through the yellow grass as I head towards the black stone. I glance at the other stones, and I smile sadly.

This place. Where so many cried, and yearned, and missed someone deeply. It’s not just their loved ones here, but part of them too. The part that died with them.

I approach his grave expecting the brick to hit my chest, and the burning tears to fly as my throat chokes. I wait and I smile my sad smile in remembrance of such a wonderful father and I realize………

I’m not as sad as years past.

In fact, I almost didn’t come this year. So many things to do, at home, and with the kids. Physical ailments – hives, hormones, and the stress of work on top of work.

I needed to get so many things done. I did not have time to drive six hours to Oklahoma and back to visit a grave. A stone. A stone in the ground and that is it.

Yet, here I am………because I couldn’t NOT come.

It was on a Sunday then too…..FOUR years ago……I hugged his neck for the last time.

I didn’t know it would be the last time. How could I? He was fine. He was my rock. He was always going to be there…..at least for many more years.

But in an instant. A blocked artery. A fateful night. He was gone. So suddenly.

So I come. I come on the Sunday I saw him last. I come to remember, and to thank him for all his years.

I bend down. Surprised by the peace I feel. Surprised that the years passing really do make it easier. My hand rests on the hot stone.

We talk.

And it ends as it always ends. My heart emptying out my thankfulness for his goodness, for his love, and for his shining example of strength. His handicap taught me so much about always pushing forward with your head up – no matter what.

My God, if a crippled man could do life so well. I could too. I could learn from my mistakes. I could love myself in spite of my failures….in spite of my anxieties…..in spite of my overwhelming stress of doing too much, seeking too hard, and falling over my dreams in a rush.

I feel his pride in my soul. My strength. The reason I keep my head up.

Maybe he is gone. Maybe he isn’t.

The tears drop as I turn away. In a blur, the dry dirt swallows them.

I turn to see his view and I think…how perfect.

A beautiful setting for a beautiful soul.

I whisper as I walk away….I’ll see you again…..real soon. And I smile.

A Christmas Tree Story

Growing up, our family always had an artificial tree. My brother had asthma and we couldn’t have a real tree.

Every year, it would come down from the attic to be set up branch by branch. I loved our tree. I didn’t know what it was like otherwise.

So, for me, that tradition continued year after year.

And as I grew older, and my daughter grew older, we had many special ornaments collected either by gift, made, or handed down. We displayed them on our family’s artificial tree.

I, also, had ornaments from when Sydney was born – baby first’s Christmas. And even, our first year married ornament with her Dad. I kept them all. And we put them all up on the tree every year.

It is rich to remember what each ornament means, or who it came from. Not to mention all those knickknacks collected; a lighted gingerbread house, an advent calendar made of cloth in the shape of a tree, and all my snowmen.

You know what I’m talking about. Those things that mean so much, and make so many memories every year.

In 2007, on a snowy day in April, when I, and some very dear friends helped me move away from a very abusive man I was married to. A man who nearly broke me mentally. Not to mention all the pain he caused my young daughter as she saw her mom’s sanity flee from his verbal beatings and paranoia.

We moved in two hours (while he was away), and should have had more time, but he changed his plans and came home early. He caught us moving my things out and he was not too happy about that. He showed his displeasure by carrying around a baseball bat, screaming at me, glaring at the kind people helping, and then proceeding to rip the garage door off its hinges in effort to keep us out. He stood at that bent garage door with rage in his eyes, telling me… I BROKE THE DOOR. I was paying for that! I’m not sure if it dawned on him at least ten witnesses watched him break the door.

I will never forget how he looked as the car backed out of my driveway for the last time. He looked crazy.

I never got back in that house, nor anything else from it. We realized too late, all my Christmas stuff was left in the attic. ALL of it. Every single piece from my childhood, from Sydney’s childhood, from my mom, and my dad. All gone.

That hurt.

It really did. I risked contacting him to plead for it back. I risked meeting him somewhere public to get those things. Things I could never replace.

He would promise to meet me, but never show up.


April turned to May, May raced to October when my dream house he lived in was foreclosed on. He moved to whoknowswhere, and my Christmas things were gone for good.

Christmas rolled around that year, we didn’t have a tree or any decorations. I couldn’t afford to buy any more. It took all the money I had to move out that previous spring.

A sweet co-worker brought some ornaments from her deceased mother’s house to give to me. My mother started gifting me new things to collect. And someone else at work said they thought they might have an extra tree.

That Christmas was so hard. I was free. My daughter was free, but the losses weighed heavy on us.

One of my childhood friends was very concerned. Every time I talked to her, she said, “Do you have a tree yet?” I’d sadly answer, “Not yet, but we’ll get one. I promise.” I knew she wanted to help, but how can you get over something like that?

I finally had to tell myself…….they were just things. Nothing else. I had Sydney, and Sydney had me, and we were HAPPY. The material things we could live without. The important thing is we had each other, and we were healthy.

The next day, there was a knock at my door. It was my childhood friend and her husband. Her husband was carrying a big box, and bags to the front door.

Staring out through the open door, I was so surprised to see them. “Merry Christmas!” he hollered and set down the box with a brand new seven foot pre-lit tree. The bags contained decorations for the tree, and a wreath for the front door.

I was stunned.

They insisted it was some old tree they dragged out of their attic, but the box was brand new, and unopened.

I am not sure if they know just how deeply their kindness touched our lives that Christmas. It wasn’t just a Christmas tree that walked in the door. Hope walked through, and set up in our living room. Hope opened it’s branches to new traditions, and new ornaments. And a new life for us.

The first thing I bought was an ornament from Hallmark. It read Our first Christmas 2007 , for me and Sydney that is what it was. We started over and started new traditions. One of those was to make new ornaments for the tree.

The first year we made little stained glass ornaments.

The second year we drew on ceramic balls. The third year we painted snowmen.

We worked and worked to create new meanings, and new ornaments. We used a lot of crafts, but we used our love most of all.

I still have that tree, and I put it up every year with all the ornaments we made, and collected.

I no longer think of all I lost on Christmas, but I embrace all that I gained.

Mama’s Losin’ It Linking up to Mama Kat’s writing prompt 2) Best gift ever….

Mom’s Homemade Peanut Brittle

We are back to cooking at Mom’s and this time it is the most delicious homemade peanut brittle you can put your hands on.

If you are a sugar addict like me, this will be right up your candy-coated highway.

This is a great gift for teachers, neighbors, or anyone else that is appreciated. Just grab a $1 tin and fill. It’s the perfect present – yummy and homemade.

Warning, this recipe is not diet, or diabetic friendly.

You need a lot of sugar, and then some corn syrup. Which? I believe is sugar? Ahem.

And let me give you the key to this whole thing.

Timing is most important.

Preparation is second.

Have everything laid out and measured BEFORE you start. This is important. We made two batches at the same time, so above recipe is doubled. But for the purpose of this blog, I will list as one.

Have the super greasy (buttered) pans laid out as well. You don’t want the brittle to stick to the pan at the end (you’ll see why).

Like I said, preparation is key to the whole operation.

So start with water, sugar, and corn syrup (1/2 cup water, 2 cups sugar, 1 cup light Karo syrup). Mix up and cook to boiling. This is the longest part. If you have two people, the other can be measuring out the rest of the recipe so it’s ready.

After it is boiling for a while and the mixture spins a thread, it is time for the peanuts, but not before it does that sew thing. This is a tricky step. In other words, it’s not a drip. It stiffens like a sharp shard. Hold the spoon up, it may drip, then spin. You have to watch real close.

When you see it spin, then you add your raw spanish peanuts – not roasted, salted, or cooked – raw.

Stir the sugar mixture and the peanuts while boiling until it is a golden brown. Did I mention there is a lot of stirring? I noticed the brown more on the edges than in the mixture itself.

Once it is golden brown, remove from heat, and add the last set of ingredients – 1 t vanilla, 2 t of baking soda, and 2 T of butter.

Stir, and watch closely.

The more watchers the better.

The mixture turns, and I missed it. It was that quick, but when it happens (quick!).

Pour into the greasy pans.

Then you want to spread it out with a wooden spoon, so you have thinner peanut brittle (unless you don’t).

Let it cool, and harden (maybe 30mins in a cool room).

Then, lift up the brittle with a knife.

And break into pieces (it’s great anger management).

Then put into bags, or tins for gifts.

Or better yet, eat it like we did.

This is probably the best Peanut Brittle I have ever tasted. Truly…. homemade is the greatest.

I am so glad Jason’s Mom took the time to show us how and pass the tradition on.