Along the Suisun Waterfront...Turning 16!

Just a few weeks ago the weather decided to take a break from all this rain, and the long-awaited sun came out. I, of course, could not wait to get outside and take some photos. Luckily for me I had a session already lined up I just needed the weather to cooperate which it did. I have a dear friend whose daughter wanted photos taken for the first part of her birthday celebration.

We met up in Suisun and walked along the waterfront finding spaces that would accommodate 5 happy, beautiful teenagers. We giggled…a lot and saw some great opportunities to enjoy the location and the comradery. Here are just a few of the shots from that day. Happy Birthday, Amaree! Thanks, Shenay for including me on this milestone celebration!
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9 years later...Vacaville Christian High School, Class of 2018

Thursday was the graduation ceremony for the Vacaville Christian High school Class of 2018. I was invited to come by several of the families and I had hoped to take a few shots of the seniors that I had done their portraits. I walked onto the field and headed towards where the seniors were gathering with advisers and administrators in preparation of them walking towards the stadium. I wish I could say that my steps were light and sure…as they were not. I felt an overwhelming sense of disconnection. I felt at odds with my heart and head so after hanging out for a bit longer I left the ceremony with my head winning over my heart. I often have this happen to me. It’s a struggle to let the mind win cause typically the most important people you care about lose. I wish I can say that I’ve mastered “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” but alas I have not.  After countless texts to a friend who had their own struggle, I decided to return and do what I had set out to do. 

This time of year always bringing about feelings of melancholy and nostalgia it also holds great excitement, anticipation, and joy. Most times I have to do a great deal of talking myself through these things as they will continue to be a part of living and loving people. I want to so much to be included and sometimes I don’t always sense that connection. I feel at arm's length from it and maybe that is just the season I’m passing through. 

Congratulations to all of the Class of 2018!! Thank you for allowing me to photograph this chapter of your story. 

I’ve included a few photos from Evan’s graduation in 2009 at VCHS. He was the second graduating class from the new high school.

Cornhole for Cole

I spent Sunday, April 29th, at The Coleman Christensen Memorial Cornhole Tournament and Fundraiser in Winters. The proceeds of which will go to benefit a scholarship in Cole’s name and projects at Vacaville High School. Coleman, a Vaca High graduate, avid sportsman and hunter, son, brother and Daddy...died unexpectedly in February of 2016. He was dearly loved by all who knew him and was always full of life and energy. I had so much fun and it was so nice to see young and old alike come out to support The Christensen’s, Haylie and Colebie.

The tournament started with 64 teams who then competed in single elimination rounds until the final winner was announced. This event really showed so much of Cole's spirit...love of family, laughter, and community...oh, yes and competition. lol... 

 It looks like this will be an annual event so watch for more details. You can follow CornHoleforCole on Instagram to keep up to date on this fun event. Enjoy a glimpse of the event in this photo gallery!!

Reaching Back

As I come to the conclusion of this last week of celebrating my entrance on to the planet I was asked a question that strangely I've been pondering over the last several months, even before these questions were asked. The question was...as you start a new birthday year what were the highs and lows of last year? and what are your goals for this year?  Now as you read this and if you know me you can almost guess the low was/is the death of my son, Evan. This was the lowest time of my life not just of this year. I miss Evan every day but maybe it was the anticipation of the fact that this would be my first birthday without him which made me reflective and heart sick. I honestly don't get why I have to be without him on my birthday...I should be happy I got 26 birthdays. Kinda the glass half full but alas I miss Evan and feel cheated to not have him here. Reflectively as I look back I can say that one of the highs is my last birthday spent together as a family in Napa. I felt pampered and lucky to have such great people who love me....by celebrating and honoring me. In this same way this year Alex gathered many of the people he knew would be a blessing as I celebrate this first birthday without Evan. It was one of my greatest moments as I begin this birthday year. Although Evan's absence is always so real for me the gathering of friends to celebrate help me to feel his presecence in a way that brought great comfort....and just a few tears.

Preserves for my birthday.

Preserves for my birthday.

Love you.

Love you.

More of my tribe...Love you.

More of my tribe...Love you.

My kite flyers and the people that put them together.

My kite flyers and the people that put them together.

Another kite flyers

Another kite flyers

As I mentioned above some of the highs from last year and this year for me was the collective group of community that surrounded our family during and through this last year of loss. I can say that many have stayed connected to us and have walked beside us. I have forged new friendship with others who have lost their children and that has been a welcomed refuge for me. To have others who have walked this road a head of me and are reaching back to me and encouraging me forward has been truly a blessing that I wouldn't want to overlook. They have helped this journey to not be so lonely as many who grieve do so alone as grief is very personal and most just can't go there.  Many of Evan's friends have reached out and have stayed connected to us and have been a source of such connection and hope for me. I know that on some level many of them still feel such sadness and grief related to Evan and I want them to know that I can and will go there if they need to have a space for their grief.

So the other question that was asked of me was about my goals for the coming year...my goals as I move into a new birthday year is I want to continue to move in a healthy direction with my grief. I feel confident that this journey is one that can be hard to figure out. Once you think your moving forward something comes along to shake your very foundation and it takes you two steps back.  I will continue to read books, participate in groups, and continue to connect with those in my influence who need to see Hope in the sadness of grief. Because with Jesus nothing is wasted and this life that He has given to me is valuable.

I've set some goals about my photography that I can only hope will be positive for me. I want to give more time to the building of that area of my career life so that means change is on the horizon. I'm also wanting to look at more way to come along side those who are having difficult circumstances to capture moments that for them might otherwise go un-captured with those precious memories lost. I'm trying some new things and seeing what fits for me. I want to also spend time exploring Evan's writings. I really wanted to collaborate with him on a project that combines my art/photography with his writing but he is not here to work beside me. So in his absence I hope to bring life to his words that always seemed to have such depth and insight. 

It has been a good birthday week. I miss Evan and there is never, ever a moment that he isn't on my mind. My heart is broken but I'm not broken. Evan gives me the courage to forge ahead. #11

We Back the Blue.

Earlier in June we had the great honor to celebrate as a dear friend graduated from the police academy. His hard work and determination paid off as he walked across the stage and was presented his badge. It had been a long 6 months and one that was marked by great accomplishment but also great sadness. Christopher had been accepted into the program about the time our son, his dear friend, was in an auto accident that left him brain dead. It was a difficult time for all of us and yet in it a great thing emerged. Christoper started the program and 6 months later he is starting his job as a police officer. 

I'm grateful to be included in such a time of celebration and I look forward to the great things he will accomplish in the months and years ahead. Best Wishes, Christopher! We love you! 

Snapshots and Memories.....

Today as I do every day I'm always looking...watching to see what the Lord has for me. Sometimes it's something very small. Sometimes it's more of a feeling or a calm that comes to me in the midst of a crazy day filled with busyness. The thing that I find so comforting is that there is always something. This last weekend has been filled with running. Graduations, proms, parades, celebrations and BBQ's. As I've moved through all of these "life" events I was amazed at how often you came to mind, Evan. It was as if you traveled with me to all of these events. If you had been here I know you probably would have had your own things that you would have done. You wouldn't have gone to all of the same things I did but the great thing about now is that you're ever present with me. Even in places that you wouldn't normally be. As I stepped on to the field to watch the graduation of a dear friend from Vacaville Christian Schools; I couldn't help but sense....the senior sunrise and all of the other things that I was so privileged as your mom to experience with you. How lucky I am that I was available to be in those moment with you and Alex. So thankful for your Dad who has always allowed me such freedom to be fully engaged with you guys as you were growing up. To walk along the pathway were your name is forever placed with your class. It was a bundle of emotions and tears but Jesus met me and carried me. He placed me in the path of those who knew you and had fond memories of you. It was a great comfort.

From there to kick off the Memorial Day holiday with the Fiesta Day Parade.....again not someplace you would have hung out with me but I saw and connected with so many people and in those moments of connection and friendship I saw you there. I can remember so many parades you would have been marching for band at VCS and I would walk along with the group screaming and yelling. Such great memories....I treasure them...holding them so tightly. I went from the parade to Prom to photograph some of the seniors as they embarked on their last formal gathering before graduation. It was filled with silly traditions and beautiful guys and gals and it brought about such feelings of nostalgia for me that I thought my breath would catch. So many great memories I have from your high school season....limo rides....gathering of friends...laughter that was heard through out. It was rather melancholy. I was glad that Dad took me out for dinner at Mikunis so I didn't spend too much time in my head. 

One thing that is always certain with you and Alex is that when it comes to family you always are present. This weekend was no different. On Sunday we celebrated your cousin's graduation from high school. Interestingly when I looked up to see people arriving I thought for a split second that I saw you....same hair color...same facial hair...even a shirt the same color as you had but to my great disappointment it was not you. It caught me for a moment and in the hope that others not deem me crazy....it was only my mind taking me to places that it often does only to slam me back to the world in which I am here and you are not. I like for just that brief time to believe....to be in that moment of thinking maybe....... After we got home I went out driving as that is always when I find the most beautiful things...just before sunrise or sunset. Earlier this month Alex took me out to see the sunflowers and although they hadn't bloomed they had sprouted. I was checking on them to see their progress. Just a few more weeks and they will be ready.

Monday was a day of remembering...Memorial Day. We went to see grandpa at the cemetery and I can't help that when I go see him that a piece of you is also with him. The services at the cemetery were lovely...moving...honoring and I'm grateful for all who gave their lives for our freedom. So many emotions as I thought of my dad and really thought a lot about you. I think of so many similarities between you and my dad. As I come to the end of this month I am really filled with a lot of emotion. I've cried so many tears and I don't really see an end to that anytime soon. I keep them in check more...the world is not ready for all this emotion...when tears are tied to sadness and grief there isn't much room for that in this world.  So for now I will continue to be looking...watching....and waiting for the God of comfort to give me purpose in my pain. 

Sharing her story from long ago.....

Just a few week ago I was invited to come to Napa to hear the parent of a dear friend give a talk about being a holocaust survivor. I've known this family for well over 20 years but I had never heard this story in its entirety. We joined them and for our first time heard her tell the story. These snapshots are what I captured during The Holocaust Remembrance Day, Beit Abba at The Father's House in Napa. Nadine Sacha http://artistsacha.com is an artist and was originally from Paris, France but now resides in San Francisco. Her story of survival was moving and I'm so glad to have been able to hear it. She has written a book that you can read more about her story.  http://artistsacha.com/my-book/

Tristan William Lee.....the smallest gifts bring such great joy.

I've been fortunate to have several dear friends who have had babies in the last month. Oh my goodness how I love watching new families move through the welcoming of an infant into their lives. So many new things to see and figure out not the least of which is feeding schedules and sleeping...oh precious sleep. 

I had the pleasure to go over to Blake and Chelsea's home to photography Tristan. He was just as sweet as when I saw him briefly in the hospital. He was already forming his own personality and was being watched over by his precious parents and grandparents. I'm grateful to Blake and Chelsea for allowing me to come over and be a part of such a major life event for their family. I've known Blake and his family for most of the 25+ years that I've lived in Vacaville and the fact that Blake and Evan have been friend through most of that time made this time of connection very special to me. 

Here are just a few of my favorites from the hospital and my home visit at about 10 days old with little Tristan William Lee Pullin....born three weeks early on January 25th, weighing 5 lbs. 11 ozs. and 18.5 inches long. 

First of many family photos. Much love to all of you. 

The most beautiful memories are made in the kitchen.....

Photography has given me such great opportunities to meet new people and explore different cultures. I'm fortunate to have a great friend who is a volunteer for Slow Food Yolo http://www.slowfoodyolo.com. She includes me in all of the events that they sponsor and allows me to use my photograph skills for a useful and I believe greater purpose, in the case of Slow Food, to promote healthy eating and to purchase your food locally whenever possible. 

Earlier in the spring she invited me to come to a dinner that was being prepared by Meera Klein https://meeraklein.com. Meera is a local author whose first novel "My Mother's Kitchen: A Novel with Recipes" is a beautiful combination of her great storyteller and her love of cooking. Meera had the group that gathered for this meal captivated with her stories of family and her home in India. She is a beautiful person whose love for her family and traditions was so evident in the stories she shared with us. 

I was able to capture the meal prep, as everyone had a part to play. Meera is so comfortable explaining the stories behind all of the food items that were prepared. It was a lovely evening and I look forward to enjoying another evening of stories and food by this precious lady. If you are interested in learning more about Meera I've included her website (above) and her Facebook link. https://www.facebook.com/meerakleinauthor/