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My nephew, Ryder Lee, had a spinal surgery on Thursday. He isn’t even three yet and has proven to his whole world just how strong and resilient he is. Ry is definitely a hero of mine. He, of course, isn’t the only one. Zack is a pillar of strength for my sister and nephew. I am so proud to call him a brother. Rach is so calm and comforting for her little boy. The way she is with him is beautiful.

My whole family constantly astonishes me with their courage, strength, and perseverance. I love each of them deeply and it brings me so much happiness when others comment on our closeness. It has been an exciting journey to watch our family grow as we dated, married, and had children. With each new brother-in-law that joined, we inherited their families as well. I was reminded on Thursday and Friday of how blessed we are that we all have this huge “adopted” family that keeps supporting each other through all that comes our way.

Ryder has had so many people in his life who have helped him progress to where he is today. A lot of them, he may never know. Nurses. Doctors. Friends. Family. I have thought of them a lot over the past few days. I have been overwhelmed by the many people who have sent well wishes and said prayers. They mean so much to my sister, my brother-in-law, and to the rest of us who love Ryder so very much. I hope you all continue to do so in the coming years as Ry has more surgeries grows into an even stronger young man.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Will and I took a trip to the YMCA Trout Lodge near Potosi, MO two weeks ago. We were arriving in celebration of Will’s parents’ anniversary. It was just what we needed. We were able to see his wonderful family and disconnect from our everyday lives for a couple days. It was beautiful at this lodge!

The first day was spent just enjoying the family and focusing on what is most important. The next day was spent saying goodbyes and then exploring a little with our cameras before going back to Nashville. It was the first time in quite a while that I picked up my film camera. It was the first time that I really worked hard at learning how to use it. I used some “play” film I bought at Urban Outfitters and a light meter to try things out. I also wrote the camera settings I used for each photograph I took. [The main goal with this roll was exposure. I wanted to focus on learning that because I already knew this camera had its issues. This was my dad's camera for many, many years (He loves photography, too!). He gave it to me as a Christmas gift two years ago. While it is my only camera right now and a prized possession, there is something wrong with the focus. Yes, I realize that it is all manual but my Dad and I have both noticed something off about it. Also, there are light leaks. Anyway, I say all this to acknowledge the fact that some of these photographs are just not focused right. However, they still make me so happy when I look at them. This is what I have to look back on from our trip. Focused or not, they are special. :)]

Will was there to help me a bit. He is so patient and has been great about answering even the silliest questions I have.

We spent about an hour at the lodge and then started making our way toward TN.

I didn’t finish the whole roll. I’ll be honest, I don’t like wasting exposures just to finish a roll. I want to really work on my skill (I totally said that in a Napoleon Dynamite voice.) and taking no-good photos just to be done with a roll seems silly to me. Anyway, I waited to use up the rest of the film until a trip out to a lake area near our apartment a few days later. It was rainy and everything seemed to have a fog to it.

I felt completely at peace. I realized that afternoon that I didn’t have to drive hours away to get the same feeling I had at that lodge. I could rest at home, too. :) 

Today would have been my mother’s 54th birthday. My family, spread throughout the country, released balloons in celebration of her life. Below are some photos from my release.

 

While shopping, one balloon stuck out among the many “birthday” others. It screamed Carmen. I know she would have picked this one out herself. I could fill up pages about her struggles, her triumphs, and all the memories I shared with her. I love her so very much. While I selfishly wish I could still have her here, I am so thankful I had her for 16 years of my life.

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