WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn
‘the things you are passionate about are not random, they are your calling’
~fabienne frederickson

I know a young man who has passion.
Passion in how he learns, the quantity of knowledge he has, his joy in sharing his gift with the world.

This young man is a drummer who was born with rhythm coursing through his veins and always a steady heartbeat, barely able to contain his drumming fingers…always at the dinner table, frequently on a drum set.

I know this drummer. I gave birth to him.

‘Passionate’ is the perfect description of his enthusiasm of all things percussion. As a barely two year old trying to configure a drum set using a coffee can, tape, paper plates & a barbecue skewer, frustration mounting as the high-hat cymbals wouldn’t open & close like he saw in a Beatles video.

Shortly after, a December holiday brought an entire drum set–and at his birthday party only 3 weeks later he shared his drumming passion with the world. Ok…maybe to most of his first grade class and all the neighbors.

What I admired about his performance was he didn’t know if he was a great drummer or an ok drummer. He just wanted to play. And he played along with the Beatles music and he started the party.

WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn

So this passion continues and gets deeper (as does his song selection) over the years to include all genres of music. It’s a pleasure to watch the evolution of his style and skill as he proceeds through each phase. I am grateful that heavy-metal was relatively short lived and that jazz is in the heavy rotation.

When I see passion in a young person, it’s not forced. It’s an inner drive, strength, motivation. An athlete on the practice field before the team, the artist who has filled every page of the sketchbook before the semester begins, the mountain climber who has studied the map well before the hike. The drummer who is on the stage for every performance that involves music: the pit musical, the symphonic & orchestra concerts, the student showcase, marching band & jazz bands. And then playing through his selections for hours at a time on his set in the basement. Without applause. Drumming is the blood that keeps him alive.WAVphoto Chris VonDerLinn

Where does it come from? I’d like to take a little credit – for the 9 months I carried him I taught step aerobics to a perfect 8 count…

…but that doesn’t explain why, on one of the coldest days in winter, he packed up his set (breaking down drums, stands, cymbals, amps), loaded the pieces into his car – unloaded them at school, set up the drum set, rocked the stage for his Tri-M (music honor society) recital, then took the whole kit apart, in the car, home & back into the basement. It was well below zero degrees F. I know because I was ‘helping’ him get it packed into his car at the school, when everyone else was gone. The janitor was already cleaning the hallway outside the room. There was no applause, just frostbite. Frostbite and passion.

the artist


Creativity is not the finding
of a thing,
but the making something
out of it
after it is found.
~James Russell Lowell

Months ago I had a vision & a dream to heal my sad heart.
I hoped I would find an artist who had a creative mind and a sense of history. Someone who saw new life in the wood of a old barn.

One evening, I had come across a beautiful barn holding onto its last breath. By sunrise the next morning I was wading through knee-high grass with my camera in full creative mode and in love with the moment.


I passed the same location soon afterward, a big pile of rubble was all that remained. I was devastated and wondered what would happen with the barn wood that had been harvested? My imagination ran wild with endless possiblities: barn wood flooring? dining tables? rustic walls inside a city studio? bonfires? My heart was heavy as I wrote a blog. *

You see, I have a ‘thing’ for barns, especially really old barns. I feel a quiet energy in the history of what remains after years and years of snow, rain, sun, sweat, heart aches and celebrations. I feel the same about old doorways and window frames with ancient paint peeling off and rusted hinges trying to hold them together. I love to have my camera with me when I come upon a barn – it’s usually the perfect model, well lit and full of emotion.


So, back to my search for an artist.

The rain was just starting and we were still a 20 minute walk back to the car. It was my first visit to the Cranberry Festival–a mixture of creativity and humanity. We were taking in just one more aisle of craft booths when I came around a corner and saw barn wood. Actually, a rustic booth of barnwood trays on display. I did a double-take. I evesdropped on a conversation already underway and couldn’t believe my ears…barn wood trays…made from reclaimed…barn wood!

In my soul I was so content – I found someone who has masterfully crafted beautiful and functional art work. Someone understands the beauty & energy of the wood and is preserving it’s history.

In my excitement, I tried to explain to the artist how happy I was to see Barnwood Trays and tried to tell him that I just wrote a blog, yadda-yadda–was looking for an artist…and you are it! I’m certain my words were just a jumble of incoherent thoughts as the rain fell more steadily and I attempted to find the perfect tray to purchase.

The tray selection process was tough because there were so many sizes and styles to choose from. Each tray seemed to have a unique personality of grain and knots and each one was simply beautiful. The best part? On the bottom of every BarnwoodTray is a photograph of the original barn with a story of it’s history. A birth certificate, of sorts.


Finally I made my selection, and carried it under my raincoat to protect it…giddy with the thrill of finally finding the artist. My heart smiled for days.

I look back and laugh at myself…wouldn’t the barnwood survive a little rain?

* (link to ‘second time’ my original post)

Dan and his family are the barnwood artists who create beautiful trays, coffee tables, wine racks and preserve history. You can find BarnwoodTrays at shows in the mid-west (USA), Midwest Living Magazine, facebook & Pinterest. Please visit to read their story &
to see their work!


book club

A book club isn’t about the books.
Sure, sure. We read, we gather, we discuss.wavphotobooks.jpg

We’ve been known to open a bottle of wine.

Things that really happen at our book club? Sharing ideas, challenging our own view of the world, listening to each other’s stories–the struggles, the celebrations and everything in between, laughing that kind of wet-your-pants, tears-streaming-from-your-eyes, can’t-stand-up laughter, and crying when no words are needed – only hugs, and bonds of friendship begin to take hold.
Oh yes, and we eat.

All this doesn’t happen in one night, but over time.
Except for the eating part. That part happens each time.

I was in a book club and even after moving across the country, joined that group on a trip to celebrate our 100th book. Oprah started a wonderful trend both in getting people to read and in creating a special gathering to share thoughts. After I moved, I missed my girlfriends and book group and started to ask people I met about book clubs…”are you in one?” The responses I heard were across the board–some groups had a waiting list for entry (I was amazed), one woman told me she gets stressed-out a week prior to her meeting – each member was required to write a book report and present it to the group (no…no, thank you). Many groups limited their selections to one genre – historical fiction is very popular.

I was on my own — until I wasn’t. I met some interesting women and invited them. The requirements: you must be smart, fun and like to read. Pretty simple. Any one of us could invite others…most of us kept coming back. We share hosting in our homes and everyone brings “something small to nibble on” (but that’s it’s own story). And there’s wine.

Over the years the confines of book group expanded from just once a month to gathering as friends. We’ve celebrated graduations (not only the kids’), art shows, holiday sweaters, teen agers doing well and the home team winning it all. We’ve shared in sympathy the struggles of losing a parent. Together we learned new things like how thrilling it is to launch a potato into a crisp Fall evening, that watching a baseball game played in football weather can create lasting memories and that when magic happens on ice we share “good curling” and celebrate with the opponent.

Book club isn’t really about the books for me.

It’s about people who touch my soul and make me a better person.

I honor and celebrate one of those special people today. Ali came to book club highly recommended (and rightfully so!) with a wonderful sense of humor and a Scottish accent which made everything she said even more endearing. One Valentine’s Day, Ali shared with us her love and expertise of curling, coaching us onto (and off of) the ice. Her enthusiasm for hunting down the perfect prop for a high school drama performance was contagious. She helped us all learn a little more when she studied for and passed her USA citizenship test. Every time I color my hair at home I hear her voice in her beautiful accent, “you’re doing yourself a box job“. It always brings a smile to my face, and yet, a tug on my heart. Ali would smile all the time which just made her even more beautiful as a woman.

One year ago tonight we gathered again at book club. Everyone intuitively brought chocolate. Our hugs were longer, tears flowing gently. I have no idea what the book was. It didn’t matter. We were all numb. Ali’s struggle ended in the early morning hours, one year ago today.

Our book club gathered at her funeral. There were no words.
It wasn’t about the books.

Today I will celebrate all the good things that Ali brought into my world as I mourn the loss of a beautiful person. I will remember the happiness she brought wherever she went. I will remind her children of how much she talked about them and how proud she is of each of them as they find their way in the world. I know they miss her and I can’t imagine the void. For her husband, we will be there to share memories and try to help fill the empty day.

Good Curling, Ali~



My soul honors your soul.
I honor the place in you where
the entire universe resides.
I honor the light, love, truth,
beauty & peace within you,
because it is also within me.
In sharing these things
we are united, we are the same,
we are one.


expect a miracle

“Those who have suffered understand suffering and therefore extend their hand”.

~Patti Smith

I’m scratching my head, wondering how I missed the signs? How did I not get it? What had I been thinking?

I’m confused.
You see, I thought I was the giver of a gift.
Now I realize I’ve been wrong this whole time. Instead, I have been on the receiving end of a beautiful treasure. There were no streaming ribbons, no pretty gift wrap or colorful tissue paper arranged a certain way, no special delivery.

I should explain. Last week I was given an invitation to photograph a beautiful woman one week before she passed away. She had cancer and was in hospice care. Several years ago as a fledging-photographer-wanna-be, I offered to take her twins’ high school photographs. I was grateful for the experience and provided the rookie “shoot & burn” experience. She loved the photographs and talked about having family portraits taken “some day”.
I learned a lot.

Fast forward a couple years. I received a tear-filled, barely audible phone call about family portraits:

…”are you available this weekend?…the cancer is back…in my spine…everywhere”…

She wanted more than anything to leave a legacy for her kids. She wanted them to remember her, smiling and happy, healthy-looking and laughing.

The gift-giver in me said, ‘yes, of course’.

Two frigid, winter days later, I drove to their apartment with my heart in my throat. I felt such pressure and nerves, hoping I could do an acceptable job for this family. I arrived to find everyone in their boxy white shirts, little available light and a woman with the pain of cancer so bad that she could not manage to sit down.
We shared a lot of special moments that day.

The good news was she didn’t pass away.


I learned a lot.

My photography business continued to evolve and on occasion I ran into her in town.
I saw her in March this year and asked if she would help me. I was adding a different style of portraiture, would she bring dress up clothes and would she mind curling her hair…I wanted to practice the posing, natural lighting and more importantly, the connection with the eyes.

She shared with me how good she felt trying on outfits the prior night. Her husband enjoyed her enthusiasm, she said. She was thrilled to dress up and moved into various poses easily, willingly giving me what I asked of her. I asked her to connect with my camera. To connect with me.

It was a wonderful session.


I learned a lot.

Her kids wanted to surprise her for a mother’s day photo this year–the surprise was getting two 20 year olds and a 7 year old in the same room! She laughed and enjoyed each frame with her children. I noticed their relationships differed slightly. Her son who towered over her made her laugh easily. His twin sister brought out the honest beauty of her mom, while the 7 year old mostly devoured the hugs. I remember her presence and laughter behind me when I asked her kids to jump on the trampoline that frigid day in May. She loved every second as we created memories. Her final Mother’s Day on earth.

Mother's Day

Photographs make moments freeze in time. Assembling the people and allowing the experience to unfold then capturing it at the right moment is extremely powerful.

August. After a few weeks away from an internet connection, I wrote a blog post…hesitated for one split second then changed the entire thing*. I wanted to add a portrait and chose one of her and wrote about our session. I pressed ‘publish’ then sent her a message….

“hi! check out my new blog post, you’ll recognize a beautiful woman on it!”

Then I looked at her facebook postings. I called her. The cancer was everywhere.

She read my blog post then cried as she read it again. At 48 years old, she told me she finally felt beautiful. She didn’t have to hide behind someone else’s idea of “beauty”. She is beautiful and carries it with her. I was able to show her. She believed it one month before she passed away.

I visited with her in the last days of her life. She thanked me for all the photos over the years and mostly for the words I had written on my blog. She invited me to take more photos of her. I returned the following day to her hospice bed with my camera and a full heart.

She was exhausted, yet looked into my lens with the same invitation to “come in–visit my soul”. I went willingly and respectfully.

Later that night, a sense of urgency flooded me. I realized I had to go thank her for the gift she has given to me.

We hugged. We laughed and cried.

I thanked her from the bottom of my grateful heart.

I felt honored tonight as I left the funeral home. Her portrait – the one where she gave me that connection to her soul, the one I intuitively put on my blog, was enlarged and prominently displayed next to her ashes at her request. Her eyes invited everyone in that room to see her beautiful soul. My words about her were read as a eulogy.

beautiful, happy

My original post: *the invitation,, August 14, 2013