Sunflowers among the weeds...International Bereaved Mother's Day 05/05/19

Sunday, May 5th is International Bereaved Mother’s Day. I’ve done blog posts in the past, and after spending some time editing sunflowers that I happened upon here locally, I saw an opportunity to share in part what I saw while photographing these beauties.

Sunflower season here in Solano and Yolo Counties will be sometime in June, and yet I was able to find a few springing up in a field where they were last year. Sunflowers are one of my favorite flowers. I’ve added a few fun facts about them just to give you an understanding of how amazing they are. Sunflowers are used to demonstrate a mathematical term called a Fibonacci sequence. You can also see this sequence in artichokes and cauliflowers. While reading about this sequence in sunflowers researchers have found that the patterns can be inconsistent in sunflowers and quoting the article “real life is messy.” This is a truth that is lived out daily in the life of a bereaved parent and when speaking about loss and grief. It is the only flower to have the word “flower” in its name. Sunflower removes toxins and is a natural decontaminator of soil. They have been used to clean up dirt at some of the biggest environments disasters, including Chernobyl and Fukushima. Sunflowers are native to the Americas. Some of these facts come from this article. As you might now see sunflowers have a medicinal quality to them. They have been used to heal and remove toxins from soil. As I photographed these beautiful flowers, I was struck by the fact that even though they were growing among weeds, they thrived. I saw a few bees although they seemed to be moving slowly and possibly dying. So much about these flowers lead me to see myself and other bereaved mothers the same way.

These flowers were strong. Even though the weeds had dropped some of the seeds to strike down these flowers they still stood firm...strong almost like flower sentinels. They’re looking for the sun and following its course across the sky. They are beautiful. Some of their petals hidden from the sun but just as yellow and brilliant as the noonday sun. Some of these beauties had yet to open, and many of them winking so to speak as only a few of their petals had started to open.

This blog goes out to all of you who mourn the loss of your child/ren. You inspire me. Even amid your loss, you continue to move towards health. You still remind me that you are bright sunflower standing firm in your memories of your child/ren. You are learning that your loss has defined for you those things that are toxic and you move towards removing them from your path. Some of you are still trying to figure out what you need and yet, you persevere opening up just a few of your petals as you follow your path. The loss of your child will continue to shape each move you make. It will define who you are and why you do what you do. I pray that you continue to remain strong and resilient. Standing tall like a sunflower.

Tower Bridge Dinner

Earlier in September, I was asked to do photography for the Farm to Fork Dinner event on the Tower Bridge. It is always exciting to work with Savory Cafe, and I was again asked to assist them this year with photography. My time spent with Juan, Kristin and Toby is always a blessing to me. Their teamwork, love for the community, and work ethic are something to admire. They are true community leaders, and I'm grateful for their friendship. In addition to working with Savory Cafe, I did product photography for the Capay Valley Ranches. CVR produces premium olive oil, nuts, and honey and they partnered with Visit Sacramento to provide olive oil for this event. To capture both parts of this event, that of restauranteur and product provider was exciting as it gives a full picture of what makes this day so incredible.

This year I began at a Meet and Greet for renowned Chef Jeremiah Tower at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel. Savory Cafe chef Toby Barajas was invited to meet Chef Jeremiah along with several other special guests. While waiting for Toby to arrive, I was able to get a quick photo with Denise Reinnoldt and her daughter Lauren with Jeremiah. Denise is the owner of Capay Valley Ranches, and it was great to connect with her before going to the dinner on the bridge. Just before Chef Jeremiah left to prepare for his time with all of the chefs preparing for the dinner, he graciously stopped and allowed me to get a photo with Toby. I then was off to the bridge to capture meal prep for the evening.

I arrived at the commissary kitchen to find Kristin working away preparing for the appetizer that Savory was providing for the meal. What I enjoy the most of about participating at this end of an event like this is the amount of collaborating and teamwork among all of the restaurants. An event like this can't come together without this type of effort on everyone's part. For me, it's the best part of this evening. I enjoy watching people connect and have fun while serving the community. I appreciate the various gifts and talents each person brings to present each course. But the part that is the best is that we live in such an agriculturally productive region and all of the farmers and ranchers who bring their unique piece to the menu. I had the pleasure to represent Capay Valley Ranches and the unique part they played as product sponsor and the provider of olive oil for the dishes that were prepared by the chefs.

It was a day celebrating all the richness, and bounty of the region in and around Sacramento. Thank you, Juan Barajas, Kristin, and Toby for this fun opportunity and Capay Valley Ranches and Denise Reinnoldt. Such a fabulous day celebrating what our various cities bring to the Farm to Fork way of life.

The link below is from the 2017 Tower Bridge Dinner.

Woodland's Dinner on Main 2018

Sunday I had the pleasure of photographing the Woodland Dinner on Main. This event brings together the entire community from the downtown business district to ranchers and farmers. The many hands that come along are always such a blessing for me. I’ve done event planner for most of my career so to go to an event like this and to see the extent of teamwork and community spirit is just amazing. Watching chefs from several different restaurants work in harmony with one another is how this event can feed over 500+ guests, but that is the way they do it in Woodland. 

So many added details this year from the flower wall by the Sacramento Flower Collective to the Welcome to Woodland’s Dinner on Main threshold. There were gift bags from The Food Front with tables set with local vegetables and wines. I also notice a great selection of local beers.

This year a VIP event was held at the new Edible Learning Garden which hosted a lovely learning area, appetizers, wines and splashes of local music by youth in the community. Guests walked the garden and chatted with friends as music and laughter filled the early evening air. It was quite nice. 

After the VIP event, guests started towards Heritage Plaza for the evening presentations and the farm style meal. If you have not attended this event be sure to watch for it. It is the highlight of the year and this year was no exception. Well done to all who had a hand in making this event the success that it is. To all of the board member for Woodland’s Dinner on Main, thank you for allowing to capture this event. It is really is so much fun!! 

I especially what to thank Juan Barajas, his wife, Kristin and his brother, Toby from Savory Cafe for always being so welcoming and for representing Slow Food Yolo. You are the best!!

You can find further information at

Sunflowers and what they're teaching me...

We are just a few weeks away from the start of Fall. It’s hard to imagine that when we have days that the temperature is close to 100 degrees but by the ticking of time the calendar inches closer to the date that signifies to us that cooler weather and falling leaves is around the corner. There is something that always tugs in me as we say so long to summer and welcome the coming of fall. I’m kinda a big fan of most of the seasons but fall and spring are usually my favorites. Spring as it brings the beauty of new birth after a winter of loss. Summer is filled with long days in the sun and warm evenings of smooth conversations. Fall brings with it the vibrant changes in nature and for me it was always a time to plan for significant milestones as it is my birthday season and the birth dates for my boys. 

Much of the joy and excitement of fall has changed for me since Evan’s death. There is almost this resistance/hesitance to slow down the movement of time. I can’t really explain it other than fall was always such a great season for me but I have sustain such a significant amount of loss during this season I want to stay parked in summer indefinitly. The reason being is maybe not so obvious to most but summer is easier. There are no time constraints. The days are longer the nights are shorter and the sunflowers are blooming. All of it doesn’t remind me that soon you will need to start walking towards fall. Because fall holds with its beauty a measure of pain. 

This year in my travels the process of this beauty for ashes was much more evident for me as I watched the transformation of my beloved sunflowers. If you follow me even a little you know I start my search for sunflowers in early May as they are just starting the growing season here locally. I try hard to extend my watch through the summer but this year I went out to some of the fields as they were dying. The significance of the dying process for sunflowers is just as important as the beauty they bring to us as we drive by the fields. It permitted me to be fully part of the loss of these flowers and to understand the great impact they have in their beauty and in their dying. 

Today, September 9th. 2018,  which is 22 months since Evan's death and is a few months shy of what would be his 28th birthday. Alex and I will celebrate our birthdays next month. The Earth will keep spinning. The trees will change and days will get shorter. But what I wonder does the significance of Evan’s life that was so vibrant when he was living continue in his dying?? Does the impact he made continue even though he isn’t here to have his voice heard? As I ponder those things I think of the beautiful sunflowers.

The Gift of a Family Through Adoption

Just about a week ago I had the unique opportunity to capture the adoption proceedings for a new friend. This particular adoption was unique in that the family of the adopted child was part of the process and it was something I have always wanted to participate in. The adopting family, The Hemsley's, have two biological children and now with this adoption, they have three adoptive children two of which are siblings. The whole family took an oath of commitment and it truly was an awesome experience. 

One of the sweetest parts for me...well there were a few really...was that UC Davis has this program called Princess Pals at UC Davis check them out on Facebook. These are undergrad med students who dress up and attend special events for kiddos. I've posted the Facebook link here:

The other sweet thing is that Renee Hemsley, Executive Director, of which is a group that Encourage, Equip, Educate, Engage the Foster and Adoptive communities in Yolo County. She is passionate and fully engaged. Putting hands and feet to the needs of foster and adoptive families. It was a blessing and honor to serve their family as they do what they are called to do. Yolo County has been doing some great things and I'm grateful for my connections in this community.   

Lastly, what made this extra special for me is that this all happened on the day that would have marked my Dad's 89th birthday. It was pretty amazing!!

Photography as my Canvas...Painting My World

It was four years ago this last week that I wrote the following post on Facebook:

"I have been thinking a lot about this season that God has placed me....from leaving a job that has been the source of ministry and connection for me for over 12 years, to a position that stretched me in ways that I did not think possible....being allowed to spend time with a dear friend before her home going, to feeling the emptiness of not only the holidays but many areas of life without that dear friend....visiting my ailing parents, return from that visit only to have my mom fall and injury herself, celebrating the holidays with my husband and kids, turning around and going back to my parents only to return to say good-bye to my father in law...Monday I step into a new job...with new possibilities and opportunities that are far reaching...Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!!! I am very grateful for this time that God has reached down and given comfort in a way that has changed me.

Those life events set me on the path to photography as I began taking lessons and to see the world through the lens of my camera. It was honestly a hard season. I had no firm purpose. I was without direction. Many of those feeling came from a place of fear...lack of experience...and pride. I was starting a new job and a new hobby both of which I lacked the experience but my enthusiasm was unbridled. I have never gone into situations where I didn't have some knowledge of what I was doing and although I had a great deal of experience with my new job the environment was new and unexplored by me. My thoughts in that were I can love people anywhere so as long as I had that mindset I'd do my very best to love people. How could I go wrong??? The photography was just something I thought I would do to pass the time. To be reflective and it didn't cost much but time and brain matter. I jumped in with both feet and I've not looked back.

Which brings me back to the original Facebook post...Evan has been gone 1 year, 3 months, and 4 days ~ my Dad 1 year. During this time but really just recently I've felt a lack of purpose and direction. Reflectively, as I look back at that post many of the same feelings of that time come back to me as I've taken this "pause" to just ponder what God is calling me to do in this season of grief, loss, and reflection??? I know that there are several things that have been made clear in regards to both my vocation and photography but until that time that it is all made clearer I will continue to pause, ponder and pursue. How are you seeing your world???? What canvas are you using??? I'd love to hear from you.

Chasing Sunflowers....

Many times when I am out photographing I don't always realize what I have truly captured until I see it through the process of culling and editing. It is during this process that photographs really speak to my soul. Nearly every time I’m editing I am moved to tears as I see what the Creator has allowed me to capture. Creation has always, for me, spoken of the existence of Christ. Even before I came to know Him the sound of the wind blowing, the blue of the sky, the beauty in a flowers, the moon and the stars...all of it moved me. 

Tonight I ended my evening in Davis and stopped just before sunset at the sunflower field off of Pedrick Road. Oh so many sunflowers all blowing in the wind. Some with large faces, some with medium faces, some with dried up faces, some tall, some small, some short and some just beginning to get ready to open. What I was struck by was how all of each stage of  growth was encouraging the other to grow, to dance, to sprout. I know it seems funny but that is what I is this beautiful dance of shine their faces on all of the different stages and say..."Come can do it" "You are so beautiful...just keep growing!". Oh how lovely are the faces of those sunflowers. The comfort even of knowing that even the ones that are dying are going to be used for a greater purpose. It was really lovely. 

It made think of each of us....what stage of growth are we in? Can you call out with your beautiful face and be like these sunflowers? Come can do it!! 

Putting Your Art Out There...The Story Continues.

So after much encouragement from friends and family, I placed some of my photos in several art shows.  Those shows are the California State Fair, The Juried Art Show at the Vacaville Art Gallery and The Mother Lode Art Exhibition in Placerville. I wasn't sure it was something I wanted to do, as I had shared in a previous blog post before about Putting Your Art Out There..... it is somewhat of a vulnerable place for artists and it is also a bit of a task as you have to decide what pieces you have and what will be show worthy. So I did that and found I had about 16 photos that after talking it through with an online group I felt good about the choices and how they inspired the type of emotion that made me along with others enjoy them....I entered a few landscapes, a few portraits of others, some event photos and just a few with no specific designation other then they were photos that friends had enjoyed.

The first show I was suppose to hear from was the California State Fair. To make a long story short I did not hear from the coordinator on the designated day that was given to me so I thought I did not get into the Fair. As this was my first time putting art pieces in a show I didn't realizing that a formal email would be sent if you were accepted or rejected. I was a a lot discouraged. Fortunately, for me, I was able to process with an online group of friends who had helped me decide the photos that I should place in these shows. They encouraged me and I pressed on to go out that evening and photograph sunflowers. (I LOVE Sunflowers) Then two day later I got this email "Welcome Exhibitors" which informed me that my photo "So Many Things to Ponder" got accepted into the California State Fair. In addition to finding out about the California State Fair. this last weekend I also found out that four of my photos had been accepted to the Juried Art Show in Vacaville and two accepted to the Mother Lode Art Exhibition. To say that this has been challenging would be an under statement. I have felt the sting of rejection but also the overwhelming joy of having something I have created be appreciated. So many thanks to all of my friends and family who encouraged me and helped me get to this point. You are my inspiration!! Thank you!!