What Have You Done Lately?

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Adirondack 46er Finish

Several weeks ago, I posted this photo and caption ‘5 years ago, I became an Adirondack 46er’. The photo came up in my Facebook Memories on July 25th. I remember my emotions when that image was taken. That morning started with a drizzle of cool rain and an overcast sky which did nothing to deter me and my hiking partner from our hike of the day.

The photo is me on Big Slide Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains of New York State, holding a small, circular patch, tears in my eyes and grateful that the moment was finally happening. It’s been said, “They don’t give out that patch just for walking down Main Street”! I did it. I had just hiked my 46th peak. It took me a long time to hike all 46 mountains over 4,000 feet. It was an enormous goal which required a lot of physical strength, a bit of courage and plenty of determination.

I had the most incredible hiking partner who would always show up well-prepared with more enthusiasm for hiking than I knew existed. We knew safety was our priority, yet there wasn’t a hike where we ever turned back. Rain, hail, wind, mud. There was no whining (ok, maybe I whined a little ascending Seward Mountain in a downpour) …no “I can’t do this”, or “why did we do this hike”. I learned a lot about my hiking partner during our miles over the mountains. I learned a lot more about myself.

I posted that photo ‘ 5 years ago I did this…blah blah.’ The question that really needed to be answered was, Wendy, What Have You Done Lately?

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On July 30, 2016, I finished a 5K.

Big Deal.

Well, yes. To me is was a big deal. You see, I made it to the 7am start of the race (a 90 minute drive). My goal was to start it, to finish it and I hoped to complete it in under 45 minutes.

I had finished Radiation treatment for Breast Cancer on July 20, 2016.

When I crossed the finish line with my son along side of me, I was elated, exhausted, ready to burst into tears and laughing – at the same time. I wanted to remember this moment as crossing the finish line of cancer. I wanted to run further than cancer could. I wanted to be done with the appointments, the treatments, the endless discussion and research of cancer. I wanted to go back to my life.

(Honestly, when I have another ‘memorable moment’ photo opportunity–could someone please hand me a towel to wipe my sweat, and kindly mention to me to fix my hair…? Thanks)

The cancer diagnosis to me is like being a waiter in a very busy restaurant. The waiter has a huge tray filled with plates of delicious food and beverages in pretty glasses – and the waiter is about to leave the kitchen – little does the waiter know that someone is coming IN the OUT door of the kitchen. The tray and its contents end up everywhere, mostly broken into pieces on the floor. Nothing looks the same. Nothing will ever be the same. It’s a very big mess and a long time before it’s cleaned up.

I’ve been on the care-giving side of cancer – which really is no picnic. I’ve now seen both sides as care-giver and person diagnosed with cancer.

I was extremely fortunate for many reasons. As I waded through the diagnosis, I came in contact with some amazing humans. A Radiologist who, while most were obsessed with Pokemon GO!, he was diligent in doing what he does really well and was paying close attention to my scan. And a surgeon who is gifted in her craft and even more, in her role as the most caring human I’ve met in a very long time. I’ll write more about her-she deserves her own story.

Three biopsies and two surgeries really didn’t fit into my workout plans very well. Once I received the OK to exercise after the last surgery, I felt better emotionally. (This is by no means medical advice to anyone.). I then faced Radiation treatments. I had to find a way to stay focused and to get through the 21 days marked on my calendar. You see, everything else in the world becomes less of a priority. There’s less energy to complete all the usual tasks of life. My work as a photographer started to expose gaping holes on my calendar.

I made a decision to take some control in a situation where I really had so little control. Every day after radiation treatment, I went to my gym and promised myself I would run on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Every day. Miles didn’t matter. I thought I could do anything for 20 minutes. There were a couple days where I sat in my car in the gym parking lot, doing my best to gather strength to walk across the parking lot and go inside. No one at the gym knew of my cancer. There were a couple days where I felt I was towing a refrigerator behind me. I had to walk some of those minutes. I was grateful I could move forward – one step. The exhaustion from radiation treatment is real. The effects are cumulative. I remember Day 8 on the treadmill was really challenging. Exhausting. The next day I felt better.

I needed to focus on finishing and being done with cancer. I signed up my son and I for the ‘Runway 5K’ – an opportunity to run the world’s busiest runway at EAA in Oshkosh, WI. If you’re an airplane buff you’ve heard of EAA. It’s an amazing event. My son asked if I wanted him to run with me. Usually I run alone with music but was grateful for his offer, his company. He kept up a steady commentary pointing out some of the thousands of planes parked on the grass, taxiing and taking off on that overcast morning. I mentioned to him before the start that if I stopped running, to just say “keep moving forward, mom”. We ran the whole way. OK, that’s not a fair assessment. Like a thoroughbred under rein, he was doing a slow jog, I was just trying to keep my feet moving.

We were coming up on the last mile. I was exhausted. I was grateful that the sun was not out. My skin was still hot. I wanted to stop.

I had to dig very deep to keep moving. I needed a positive thought in my head but came up empty. I briefly recalled my 46er finish, but that was too much energy to summon. And in one instant, something came over me that it’s not about me. I could do this last mile for someone who can’t. Immediately I found energy inside. I dedicated the last mile to a woman I met during radiation. We had started radiation the same day. Her cancer story has been non-stop, 24/7 since last October. She’s had chemo, double mastectomy surgery and wasn’t finished with radiation yet. I carried her in my heart across the finish line.

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The waiter’s tray is a mess on the floor of the busy restaurant. There’s some yelling and screaming and lots of chaos. I calmly stand up, take a deep breath, I inhale and exhale. I pick up the tray and decide what to place back onto it, if anything.

Most people don’t know I had Breast Cancer. Apparently, as my hair was still intact, people thought I ‘looked great’! Cancer hair loss is usually related to chemotherapy. In a future post, I’ll write more about my chemo story. I’m very fortunate.

I thought I was going to pick up my life where I left off after my ‘6 month Vacation’…(ugh, predictive type always fixes that)…after my ‘cancer treatment of 6 months & Radiation’ – that world doesn’t exist anymore.

Sadly, there are a lot of cancer stories. Many are painful stories with unfortunate endings. Mine is filled with amazing people, mountains of kindness and incredible moments.
I’d like to share them with you.

A photograph. A lifetime.

“We take photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone”

I’m a photographer.
I see differently. I feel differently.
I kick myself in the rear end almost daily for not using my gifts earlier in my life.
You see, I show people that they are beautiful. That they exist. And, in a photograph they will exist for all time.

So one day years from the day that I deliver the printed images, someone can spend an afternoon studying that image, trying to make their heart whole again, trying to recall a voice forever gone, to rediscover a missing touch,  the image in a portrait will forever be staring back at them. A photograph. Tangible proof that they existed.

Her image is only a snapshot on my cell phone. A memory I want to treasure for all time. The rare moment of connection. She is my mom. The woman who picked me up from my first day of kindergarten in our red Volkswagen Beetle with a sunroof, a surprise waiting on the back seat–a kitten! She was the person who gathered our small family at the round kitchen table for meals. The one who took me to the doctor after my best friend, Mary Beth and I each came down with a fever at the movie theater while watching Mary Poppins. I watched my mom care for her step mother until her death. I watched my mother cry when she held my newborn infants. I watched my mother during my father’s grave side service. I watched her complete the New York Times crossword puzzle in pen.

My mother slips further away each day. A strong, beautiful woman is being replaced by the affects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

iphone selfie

July 9, 2014.  iPhone selfie

One summer day we sat outdoors in the warm sunshine. It was a good day. There were a few moments where she worked out a memory from several of my prompts. It was a flicker. A cell phone selfie moment. I wanted so desperately to remember my mother. I should have been taking photos all along. I should have made her portrait. I should have made her portrait every year to show her how beautiful she was to the world.  It’s truly selfish to admit that I wish I had those memories of my mother to recall her beauty, her joy, her smile, her love.

August 4, 2014 iphone image

August 4, 2014
iphone image

I have only cell phone images of my mother.

My mother who deserved to exist in photographs. Forever.

When the decision was made to sell her home, my childhood home, and I had the very adult job to clean out her memories, the first thing I searched for was my parent’s wedding album. I hadn’t seen it in decades. As a daughter, as a mother myself and as a photographer, I had to locate the album. Eventually I found it, wrapped it carefully and secured it in my carry on luggage. I carried it to my home as if it were gold, a precious gift. It would be years before I had the time and strength, and allowed myself the luxury of turning it’s pages.

Bradford Bachrach 1955

Bradford Bachrach 1955

One day recently, I sat down with the large, white album on my lap. Heavy with black & white prints. Substantial. Important.

Slowly I opened the cover and removed the yellowed velum page. I wanted to savor it’s contents like the perfect cup of coffee yet also anxious to flip the pages quickly in anticipation of seeing my parents again. My parents in love. My parents beginning their lives together, years ago, waiting for me on the album pages.

Bradford Bachrach 1955

Bradford Bachrach 1955

As I slowly devoured the pages, I fell in love the with photographer. How did he see such perfection? The black and white images, captured so beautifully, a wedding of two important people. My mother and my father. And looking on with pride, my grandparents, all of whom I would never  have the opportunity to know. They exist. They exist in photographs in this album. I study the posing in each photograph. The details. My mother’s hands gentle on her father’s arm, her smile and kindness that I often see in my own daughter. I remember the stories of each one of her bridesmaids and their importance in her life. I smile at the candid images. I am moved at the loving glance between my grandmother and my father on his wedding day. I am in awe of the talented photographer, shooting black & white film on an August afternoon in 1955 that he had the remarkable ability to press the shutter at exactly the precise moment.

Bradford Bachrach 1955

Bradford Bachrach 1955

I will admit tears were streaming across my cheeks, caught on my sleeve before dampening the pages of the album, open and heavy on my lap. Each page told me a story of my beginning. This work of art, created over fifty years ago was a gift. A gift to the future. There was no way to have known when this album was created and purchased, that I would be studying each image so intimately so many years later, completely affected. Influenced by it’s existence. Humbled by the weight of history it contains.


Bradford Bachrach 1955

Original album: Bradford Bachrach 1955 Same dress. Same vanity. 1990

As a portrait photographer, my regret is the portrait I didn’t take.

I sat with my mother recently as she tried to piece together a melody. There were many missing parts in her endless humming and the song quickly changed. I’ve read her story, I know her songs and can help fill in some of the parts. There was a pocket-sized moment where she said, “I think I might know you, I love you”.

I think I may know you. I love you. Photo credit Kelsey. iphone

I think I might know you. I love you.
credit Kelsey. iPhone  January 1, 2016

My beautiful mother is just a photo on my iPhone.

How did I not see that I had to make her exist in photographs?

I should at least print these photographs. They will then become real, tangible.

It is life lessons like mine that I try to bring into each session with my portrait clients. I’m so honored to photograph them. They will exist in photographs. Maybe not only as a gift now, but maybe someday, someone will cherish that printed image, gently trace their familiar profile, wanting deep in heart and soul, to remember them for all time.

 

We all deserve to feel beautiful-

During her photo experience, she was a natural beauty in the street clothes she had selected just for her photo shoot. She changed into her softball uniform and swung her bat like a pro. Each pose and expression easily achieved with her electrifying smiles, her eyes sparkling, her personality bubbling.

Toward the end, we left her mom and grandmother at a picnic table in the shade as we went back into the woods. She gave me more expression, energy & if it were even possible, more enthusiasm. We laughed a lot. 

When she thought our session was about to wrap up, I pulled out her flower crown. (During our consultation and wardrobe follow-up messages, I found out her favorite colors & then I hand-made a crown to compliment her personality). It’s sometimes a gamble–a flower crown and a tulle skirt by surprise.

This client had given me her trust and allowed me to place the crown on her head, and just went for it. She transformed from the girl in street clothes, to the athlete ready to play ball to a princess in the woods. 

During her photo reveal where she saw her slide show and images for the first time, I know she felt special. She felt seen. She got a chance to see herself the way the world sees her.  Full of life. Beautiful. 

Women who trust me

A strong woman is one who feels deeply & loves fiercely.

Her tears flow just as abundantly as her laughter.

A strong woman is both soft & powerful.

She is both practical & spiritual.

A strong woman in her essence is a gift to the world.

-unknown

I see strength & beauty.

I’m grateful for a woman’s trust on the other side of my camera and wonder how she interprets my gestures when I see THE shot. Often I wipe a tear from my eye when things line up and I have the photograph to show her how beautiful she is to the world.

I see a woman’s strength, not in skinny, perfect make-up or designer clothes. I see strength in her journey up to the moment I press my shutter. I see her beauty shine when the wind messes her hair, laughing with her girlfriend, on a mountain, in the woods.

She’s the woman I love to photograph, her stories, pain, resolve, laugh lines and
all the reasons she is who she is today.

That is real. She is a beautiful woman.

She will exist in my photographs for all time.

I will show you how beautiful you are.
©Wendy Andrews Photography

 

 

The journey

©WAVphoto
Maybe
the journey
isn’t so much about
becoming anything.

Maybe
it’s unbecoming everything
that isn’t you
so you can
be
who you were meant to be
in the first place.

I found this quote on #jfindsyoga/sexyfoodtherapy.com on Instagram.
Thought it worked well for this photograph I took during a yoga retreat. The retreat was filled with incredible moments: women bonding, laughing, supporting. Nourishing food and wine, Forrest bathing, meditation, aromatherapy, singing bowls, bowing practice, hikes in the woods and on the beach, perfect weather, yoga and beautiful souls.

More photographs to follow.

Namaste.

 

The light within

©WAVphoto

Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.
-Maya Angelou

You know when you meet a person who lights up the world – when they speak it’s easy to listen to them, when they move, it’s with much grace, when they laugh you know it’s genuine.

I had the privilege to spend time with this young woman, to get to know her and most importantly, I had the opportunity to capture these moments for her and her family.

She was only this age for a day. She wanted to be a kid again & have her high school portrait experience on the farm where she spends time with the animals. So, that’s exactly what we did!

Here’s a link to the custom slide presentation from her portrait experience.

I really love to photograph kids in their last year of high school, full of energy, promise and ideas. I know the world will be a better place because of these kids.

It was a great way to spend a day.

Beautiful women

  
A strong woman is one who feels deeply & loves fiercely. Her tears flow just as abundantly as her laughter. A strong woman is both soft & powerful. She is both practical & spiritual. A strong woman in her essence is a gift to the world. -unknown author

I’m always grateful for a woman’s trust when she’s on the other side of my camera. While I attempt to make her feel relaxed & beautiful, I wonder how she interprets my gestures, especially when I see THE shot. (I’ve been told) I sometimes make sounds – like an audible smile noise, sometimes just “yesyesyes”, quite often a tear forms in my eye when everything lines up & I hope the photograph looks something like my vision! 

I see a woman’s strength. Its not in the form of skinny, in perfect makeup, in designer clothes. I see strength in what she’s been through on her journey up to when I press the shutter. I see her beauty shine when the wind messes her hair, when she laughs with her girlfriend, when her feet are bare, in the earth, on a mountain, splashing in the shallow water of a chilly lake. 

She’s the woman I love to photograph. With her stories, with her pain, with her resolve & her laugh lines and all the reasons she is who she is today. That is real. That is a beautiful woman. 

I couldn’t wait

©WAVphoto
I had a fantastic photo session last month. The kind that was booked far in advance that left little to chance. Except the weather.

©WAVphoto
The day arrived and brought a beautiful summer day, not a cloud in the sky (which is often a morale booster, unless you need a little shade for photos!)

©WAVphoto
The kids were very well behaved and I noticed such beautiful love between everyone. The way the parents spoke to the kids & the way the kids responded made the photo session flow effortlessly.

©WAVphoto
I couldn’t wait to share these images today. The slide presentation needed two tissues the first time she watched it. I could see the love for her family in her eyes as the photos turned with the music I selected. The little moments of her kids, giggling with anticipation when mom and dad kissed (for the photographer), the fairy dust blowing images like turning pages in a story book of her kids’ lives….the complete joy on their faces – if you looked in between the drops – as they stood in the lake and splashed (the photographer).

©WAVphotoWhen we originally spoke about having me photograph her family, we both wiped tears from our faces. She wanted a printed memory of her kids, the way they are today. She values a printed image to hang in her home that will remind her of the love she shared on a bright, sunny summer day with her family and a photographer who saw that love and made beautiful images for her.

I’m honored to be invited into the lives of others with my camera.