We just finished Maurice & Eleanor's album design and I just love it! Maurice & Eleanor were married a few weeks ago in Tucson and I had such a great time being a part of their wedding. To see the full design, click here! And keep in mind that the finished album is much larger -- 14x10 inches in size.
Since her wedding in April, Kindra has become a dear friend. I just posted about her and Michael modeling for my workshop yesterday. You know they're cute. I'm sure you suspect they're super-cool people. And you would be right. Not only is she cute and cool but Kindra is mega-talented. She's a story-teller by trade and thrives in front of an audience. I'm currently taking a story-telling class with her at a nearby community college (homework is kicking my butt) and I'm so glad I have her friendship. Kindra and Michael are walking on my team for Autism on Sunday. They've both met and interacted with my nephews and Kindra has spent time with my sister listening to her story. Kindra shares her storytelling talent on her blog Kindra Hall Tells All and yesterday she posted a story that she crafted after this time spent with my family. It is unbelievable. I asked her permission and she agreed to let me post her story in full here on my blog. So here it is. The rest of this post is written by Kindra Hall. Thank you Kindra for this tremendous gift.
Walk For A Cause
She was 17 when she met him. A sweet girl with light brown hair and hazel eyes. A nice girl who never did any wrong. A sheltered girl who knew little of the real world, but was hopeful to find her place in it. He was 21 when he saw her. He was a bad boy. He had a reputation. He was a wild one with a sly grin and charming ways. He was gregarious and ready to take on the world.
They met at church. She loved how he reached out to people, even the odd characters; how he saw the good in all of them. He loved her nurturing nature, the wave of calm that followed everywhere she went. They couldn't help it, they fell in love. And though they had intended on marrying the moment she graduated high school, her parents begged them to wait one more year. So, patiently, respectfully, they did. Finally, when that beautiful day came, they committed to love each other, for better or worse, in sickness and in health, as long as they both shall live.
Promises are meant to be tested.
When she was 21, they gave birth to a beautiful baby boy... Noah. Two years later, Elijah followed. Their family was growing, as they had hoped it would.
However, as time went on, they began to notice something ... while Elijah, the younger of the two, was learning his first few words, Noah's development seemed to be slowing, even moving in reverse. They noticed that Noah wasn't like other little boys his age. His behavior was different; some would call it odd, some would call it naughty. Unfortunately, it took far too long for anyone to call it what it was...
According to statistics, 1 in 94 boys are diagnosed with some form of autism. Noah was one of them.
Strangely, with disease diagnosis there is often a level of comfort for the patient -- it is associated with uncertainty reduction. With a diagnosis, those affected often have a better understanding of what to expect. But for this young woman, her young family, and this particular disorder... uncertainty remained. How serious was it? What did this mean for his childhood? What did this mean for his life? Was there anything that could be done? Full attention was given to Noah while they addressed his needs and the experts tried to "fix" him.
Perhaps it was the remodel of the old home and the menacing particles that can slip into the air and sneak into the body of a young mother. Maybe it was the vaccinations recommended to most (trusting) parents who want to do good things for the ongoing health of their children. Whatever it was that caused this, the young couple didn't find out in time to keep it from striking again...
One afternoon, in the middle of the chaos that surrounded her, the young woman noticed that much time had passed since Elijah, the younger of the two, had said the words he had once known. In fact, he rarely said anything. In fact, he never said anything. She held him by the shoulders, stared at him with her hazel eyes and he didn't stare back. In fact, he never made eye contact anymore. The young mother knew what this meant ...
According to statistics, 1 in 94 boys are diagnosed with some form of autism. Elijah was one of them. One of the most severe.
Noah is now 9, Elijah is 7. Their mother celebrated her 30th birthday last year with her husband of 11 years by her side. Though they are brothers, though the disorder they both live with is called by the same name, Noah and Elijah's strengths and their challenges are vastly different.
Noah is the brain wizard. Let's say his mother's cell phone rings. Only the number shows in the display screen. No name. BUT, the number is also in his FATHER'S cell phone. In the contact list. WITH the name. Noah will then, seeing only a number, recognize the caller anyway (based on his memory of his father's contact list), and act as his mother's official caller ID.
Noah also enjoys the wonders of other modern technology -- emailing for example. If Noah gets his hands on an email address, be it his mother's friend in book club, his father's business partners, or my husband's for example, he will spend a portion of the day sending each of them this simple message:
"Haha ok man yeh love you."
And another email.
"Haha ok man yeh love you."
And another email.
"Haha ok man yeh love you."
All within 3 minutes. Fortunately Michael (my husband -- Michael Hall as Noah calls him), who is not always the best with email correspondence, set Noah up on auto-responder. That way, Noah is sure to get a response anytime he reaches out. Noah is also very helpful with his younger brother. For example, on Elijah's birthday, Noah opened all the presents. Very helpful. He enjoys making up games they can both play like Jump Off the Bookshelf, one of their favorites.
Elijah has a different set of talents. He is the escape artist. Unusually strong for his age, he has scaled the impossible brick wall in his backyard and ended up in the neighbor's pool more than once... and never with clothing. Elijah is not one for clothing. He prefers (or insists) on being in his most natural state, most of the time. And it really is no surprise that he enjoys the pool, since his other favorite past time is watching Michael Phelps win the gold medal on video tape over, and over, and over again. Standing, staring, watching the long smooth motion and the powerful splashing, and the back and forth and back and forth. No matter what mistakes Michael Phelps may make in his life, Elijah will never lose faith.
Elijah is also very stealthy. You see, with Autism came a variety of extremely restrictive food allergies. The child can basically eat vegetables plus a few additional items. Understandably, he gets frustrated when others are eating food that he cannot. Because he does not speak, he does not express his frustration with words, instead, he DOES something about it. One afternoon at a McDonald's playland the brothers were out for a play date. As their mother visited with some of the other moms, Elijah zoned in on a small girl on the other side of the playground enjoying a Chicken McNugget. Desiring a Chicken McNugget for himself, but knowing he certainly wouldn't be GIVEN one, he went into stealth mode; he snuck up to the little girl's table, waited until the adults were looking the other way, grabbed the nugget out of her little box, shoved it in his mouth, and disappeared behind the slide... all in the blink of an eye. When the little girl cried out "THAT BOY TOOK MY NUGGET," her parents didn't believe her. Elijah's mother however, calmly stood, took her sons by the hand, said goodbye to her friends, and took the boys home.
The stories could go on ...
Being the parents of two autistic boys is challenging. Outsiders wonder why they aren't like "normal kids." People stare accusingly when the child insists on becoming naked in public places. Cleaning the messes of a son who refuses to be potty trained, AND loves the texture of natural items such as mud and poop and feels the need to smear both all over everywhere until the age of seven, is tiring. Feeling isolated and alone can swallow a person whole.
However, this young couple, who is older now than they once were, has developed a strength that most parents will never know. A mother who had to mourn the loss of the lives she expected for her sons, can also celebrate that her son's expectations for a full life is simply to be happy. To feel joy. A father who felt the need to explain himself, or his son, no longer worries about what others think, for he knows that his sons have a purity, a precious innocence, that few can understand. A mother who holds her youngest boy on her lap as he snuggles against her (something 'they' said he would never do) and says, "I know he will, in many ways, always be my little boy..."
And that in the end, what this couple loved most about each other -- him reaching out to the odd characters and seeing the good -- her nurturing nature, the wave of calm that followed everywhere she went -- was exactly what they needed.
This Sunday, while most of the country is resetting their clocks to enjoy an extra hour of sleep, I will be setting my alarm. Partly because Arizona does not participate in the clock turning ritual, but more importantly because Michael and I will be joining Natalie (the young mother), Josh (her husband), and Melissa (my wedding photographer -- and Natalie's sister), Noah and Elijah, for the 2009 WALK NOW FOR AUTISM 5k. It may seem strange, as Michael and I do not yet have any children of our own, however as hopeful future parents, we want to do what we can to find a cure, find a cause.
If you would like to do what you can, it is not too late to donate. Our team leader set a goal of $1,000.00 and we are just halfway there... Click here to give.
I would like to thank Natalie and Josh and the boys for allowing me to tell a very small portion of their story to raise awareness and support for this event. If you would like to read more about Autism and the various forms it takes, you can read more on Melissa's blog. Finally, please pass this story on if you know anyone who has been touched by Autism and might be willing to donate to the cause. Every dollar of support is a step closer to the answers so many are seeking.
On Monday I took my group of 12 MJ 2 Day attendees out on the streets of Old Town Gilbert to demonstrate how I run an engagement shoot. Earlier that day we had talked about shooting techniques, lighting, choosing locations and interacting with clients and so actually going out and demonstrating some of these things in a real shoot was a great way to end the day.
I asked Kindra & Michael, whose wedding I shot back in April on Coronado Island (part 1) (part 2) to be our models. The were total troopers. It's tough enough being in front of one camera but modeling for 13 cameras at once is a whole different ball game. I knew these two would have fun with it and look amazing to boot.
These are some of my favorite images from the shoot:
Kindra and Michael were up for anything so when I asked them to stand in the middle of a fountain, they willingly obliged. Gotta love the results:
The Arizona sun uncharacteristically refused to come out from behind the clouds, so I wasn't able to demonstrate my favorite natural lighting technique. But I picked a boring location in the middle of a parking lot and demonstrated how you can get these next three shots in the same location just by using different settings on your camera:
Kindra is such a cutie-patootie. I love these next two shots of her:
Thanks for being great models guys! I know the attendees loved you. They accused me of only having good-looking clients. Guilty as charged :).
Special props go to Bruce Clarke who was the lone male to brave the MJ 2 Day. He can testify that there's nothing girly about it :).
On Monday we started at 9am talking about photography: shooting techniques, lighting, interacting with clients, posing, picking shooting locations, shooting in between the lines, post-processing, and off-camera flash. We did a mock engagement shoot in Old Town Gilbert that I'll share more with you about tomorrow in which I demonstrated how I interact with clients during a shoot, and what I look for in locations and lighting. We toped the day off with dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant -- Serranos.
On day 2 we had sessions on various business-related topics: workflow, album design & sales, vendor relations & networking, blogging & social media, initial client meetings, pricing, website & branding and getting published. We spent more time in Old Town Gilbert shooting one another and everyone went home with some headshots of themselves to use in their marketing. The day was topped off with an opportunity for each of the attendees to meet with me individually for 15 minute consultations to talk about their next steps and any remaining questions they had. Each day was 12 to 13 hours long but the long hours paid off! It was fun and rewarding for me to see the attendees get excited about taking their photography and businesses to the next level. I can't wait to see what the future has in store for them!
The dates of the next MJ 2 Day are yet to be determined. But stay tuned -- I will announce them soon right here on the blog!
Alright people. The time is NOW. In less than a week my team will be walking for Autism and we're seriously short of our goal of raising $2,500. I know many of you have probably had good intentions in the past and just somehow navigated away from the page before giving, so I wanted to remind you that you still have a chance to make a difference! I know hundreds of people read and benefit from my blog year round and if each of you would give only $5 or $10 we would easily exceed our goal. I know I bug you about this EVERY YEAR and maybe you're just totally annoyed with me. But I can't give up. Autism is a HUGE problem and one that seriously impacts my life and the lives of the people I love -- specifically my two precious nephews. So I'm going to keep walking and keep asking for people to contribute to this important cause every year until we get some answers. Click here to give. Thank you SO much for your generosity and I can't wait to share with you about this year's walk next week!!