Photography

MY BIRTHDAY PARTY

Hi Friends!

I just turned 55 years old and had a fabulous party at Kensington Metropolitan Park in Milford, Michigan with my human bestie, Pat Petroline, and many of my wildlife and barnyard friends. I enjoyed the photographs so much that I compiled them into a video slideshow featuring all the images from the day, set to the song, “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

I just love it and I hope you do too.

All my best to you, friends.

Sweet dreams.

 

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Categories: Animals, Holidays/Birthdays, Nature, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

PURE MICHIGAN MAGIC – Look Closely

Here is my first narrated, 2.30 minute slideshow featuring my voice (eeek!), some beautiful music, and my favorite wintery Michigan photographs.

Please take a moment and share with me. Thank you!

http://youtu.be/DZy-Jd6bBLU.

xoJulia

Categories: Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Inspiration/Motivation, Nature, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

SHOVELING SNOW

On a cold and rainy Sunday morning, and feeling restless, I drive to the park to shoot some photographs. Most times, I try to capture certain images, but usually find that nature has other plans. She can’t be controlled or predicted, but she’s always generous.

Today I hope to photograph the birds, and although they are teasing me with their joyful songs, they are shy and hiding.

But I am gifted other images in their stead:

“View through the Railing of a Bridge”.

great PAGOTA SHORE THRU BRIDGE

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“Fragile Life”. So precious, tentative, and beautifully vulnerable.

GREAT BERRIES SNOW

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“Tender Heart”.  The grey is pretty, but also serves to amplify the brightness and warmth of the sun.

greatRAIN DROP ON BRANCH

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As I’m leaving, something washes over me, overtaking me like a craving or a hunger pain, or nausea, or vertigo. It is Sadness. Acute. Profound. Demanding. It consumes me, pulsates through me, leaves me breathless, and finally rests on my chest.

I drive home, crying.

Christmas week comes and I am quiet. I will not be that person who schedules her grieving for the holidays. I will not be that person who is determined to dwell on everyone who isn’t here. I will not fault those who are blessed with family and festivities. I will stay home and be still. And I will give my grief the space that it needs for just this time. And not one inch more.

The day after Christmas, I awake restless and lonely. And although it’s unpopular to admit such frailty, today it’s filling more of me. I feel the largeness of my emptiness. Who would think that absence could take up so much room?

I cannot sit on the sofa and suffer. I must do something, so I drive to my parent’s house for snow shoveling therapy.

I shovel my parent’s corner lot.

And their Police Officer-next-door-neighbor’s lot.

And the house next to his.

And the one after that.

And the one after that.

I am proof that a cranky, grieving, obsessive, manically driven 54 year old woman can shovel an entire city block of snow by taking it one cement-sidewalk-square at a time.

As I smoothly push forward, I keep catching on the uneven parts of the cement. I am finding those spots where the sidewalk is cracked and lifted and I have jammed my shovel into them, jarring my momentum and hurting myself, as all of my force is unexpectedly and abruptly halted.

It gets me thinking about how we all expect life to be easier.

And how we are surprised when bad things happen. We feel betrayed when our bodies fail us or become diseased; we are dismayed when economies crash, unemployment flourishes, and daily life is a struggle; and we are overwhelmed and grief stricken when someone dies.

I think that life is like this stubborn, long-ass city sidewalk that I’m shoveling. Every couple of squares, some cement will rise up and stop us right in our tracks. We trip over it, we jam our shovels into it, and we cuss at it, wanting it to be smooth.

But we should expect things to be difficult, and inconsistent, and even tragic, and anything else . . . everything joyous, beautiful, or easy . . .  is a gift.

Once we accept that our journey will never be an easy one, it’s just a matter of learning to adjust and maneuver.

I am not performing good deeds today. I am thinking firstly of myself and working off this twisted emptiness. And although I enjoy knowing that someone will be surprised, it is a secondary, happy consequence.  Later though, I will remember and wonder if anyone is curious about who has favored them with this act. Or maybe they will mistakenly think better of their other neighbors for gifting them this labor of love? I hope so.

The best deeds are the ones you can’t be thanked for.

I complete my task, feeling calmer, and go home and put on my sweats and my grungy old greyish-white CVS bathrobe, and pour a cup of coffee.

Now, as I sit here writing, the muscles in my back begin to tighten . . . really, like . . . A LOT. I half-chuckle and open the blinds to let the light in.

It has begun to snow.

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“The Woman, The Warrior.”

SHOES ZOOMD ME  ME BOOTS ICEa

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Grief/Healing, Holidays/Birthdays, Photography | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

I STOLE FROM YOU

I stole from you. Way back then.  I was an addict and a thief. I’m not making excuses; it’s who I turned into. It was wrong. I was wrong. And then I lied about it. I was supposed to be your friend.  So I’m owning it now. It’s all part of walking in this clear new world of mine. I have to close the door on my past in the right way. So I’m saying it now, ‘I am so sorry that I did that to you’.”

I had wanted to say those words for over 20 years, and in just one single humiliating and emotional moment, they are humbly spoken and graciously accepted.

I feel a weight lift off my chest . . . as another part of me is set free.

FLYING IN MIST

Categories: Mental Health, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

MY WILD BDAY PARTY

Something is brewing around here and I suspect that it is related to my upcoming birthday.

When I enter the room I catch my homies, Allie and Baxter, whispering.

WHISPERG

“What are you two up to?” I ask.

They suddenly sit up, go silent, and put on their best striving-to-look-innocent faces.

ALLIE BAX SIDEBYSIDE CROPPED

“Who . . . us? They answer.

Remembering last year’s birthday celebration and the chaos that ensued, I push.

“You wouldn’t be hiding anything, would you, Miss Allie?” I ask.

She says nothing, but gets defensive and shoots me that impatient, intense look of hers.

ALLIE BAX INTENSEcropped

But I know my homies. And several hours later my suspicions are confirmed and I am surprised with a birthday party.

FIREWORKS BDAYBALLOONS IN TREEME SURPRISE FACE

There is food and  drink.

CHEESE N CRACKERS DRINK ALLIE

I receive cards, and flowers, and lots of kisses.

BAX DELIVERS MAIL blogPLANTKISSES

Then Allie sings. And boy, she really gets into it.

SINGING

Then Baxter sings along with an Ecard. He’s a star! Click on the link below and watch him sing on YouTube!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FfBzaJMyAw8

We play lots of party games.

GAMES BAX DOMSGAMES ALLIE DOMINOESGAMES ALLIE SCRABBGAMES ALLIE BAG

But quickly things get out of hand.

OUT OF CONTROLOUT OF CONTROL BLUR

What happens in Vegas . . . ? ha ha ha.

OUT OF CONTROL ALLIE LAMPOUT OF CONTROL ME

The next morning we are quiet and lazy.

LATER ALLIELATER BAXNEXT DAY ME

And for the most part, unscathed.

Well, kind of.

You know what they say:

“It’s all fun and games until someone ends up in a cone!”

ME CONE GLASSES SHRUGtheone

Categories: Animals, Holidays/Birthdays, Humor, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments

WALK OUT OF THE DARKNESS

This poem was inspired by last year’s experience at the “Out of The Darkness Community Walk”, which benefits The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, (see my blog: http://wp.me/p2ckKM-gC). FOR INFORMATION ABOUT THIS YEAR’S WALK (OCT 13th, 2013) OR TO MAKE A DONATION, PLEASE VISIT: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358. Thank you.

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You’re hurt and bruised, feeling empty and used

You think you’re lost and you know you’re confused

Your problems are different from mine

But if you need it, I’ll give you my time.

*

You’ve found your voice, but you don’t know the words

You’re screaming for help, but you still feel unheard

You just want your pain to end

Come take my hand, my friend.

*

And Out of The Darkness together we’ll walk

I’ll be the listener who hears when you talk

We’ll reach out for comfort and learn how to cope

We’ll walk Out of The Darkness . . . and into the hope.

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For more information on the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, or the Out of the Darkness Community Walk, or to make a donation, visit: http://afsp.donordrive.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=donorDrive.event&eventID=2358.

GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter, Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.

If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss

*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 1-800-273-TALK (8255)*

Because everyone matters.

Categories: Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Photography, Poetry, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , | 13 Comments

A HALLOWEEN DREAM

(I don’t care much for Halloween. But in the spirit of going with the flow and learning to laugh at life, I decided to try to make the best of it this year. All of the pics in this blog were taken while out driving yesterday with Patti Petroline; dear friend, great adventurer, and carver of pumpkins).

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We’ll have a full moon the TV said 

but I stayed home cuz I was dead

I watched a movie called Pumpkin Head

and then I ate and went to bed.

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My B.L.T. caused crazy dreams

and transported me it seems

to scary skies with sugar beams

I’m just not sure what it all means.


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I saw a tree


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a goat


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a sign


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Was this all caused by how I dined?
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And then a barn


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my dog


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a friend of mine?


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Whew! It all ended just in time.
*

Thankfully, I did awake . . . or did I make a bad mistake?

My body hurts and my head sure aches. Oh, my gosh . . . for goodness sakes!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, GOBLINS! Xoxo

Categories: Adventures, Humor, Photography, Poetry | Tags: , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

OUT OF THE DARKNESS

On Sunday, October 7, 2012, I attend a community walk called, “Out of the Darkness”, at Lake Erie Metro Park in Brownstown, Michigan.

“Proceeds from this event benefit the AMERICAN FOUNDATION FOR SUICIDE PREVENTION (AFSP), the leading national not-for-profit organization dedicated exclusively to the understanding and prevention of suicide through research, education, and advocacy, and to reaching out to those suffering with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.”


SUICIDE CLAIMS MORE THAN 38,000 LIVES A YEAR. Did you know that? Think about that number for a minute . . . 38,000 lives every year.

Every 14.2 minutes, a person successfully takes their own life. And every minute of the day, a person attempts to take their own life. It is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. And it is the 3rd leading cause of death among those 15-24 years old.

This event is personal to me because in 1996, my sister, Chris, took her own life. She was 38 years old. I still struggle with this loss, and the grief and torment that accompany it. And due to my struggles with bipolar disorder, I have come dangerously close to losing myself (1 of every 5 people suffering with bipolar disorder takes their own life).

From left: My sister, Chris, and me, as children.

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Intelligent and compassionate Gerri Asam Trager is the organizer of the “Out of the Darkness Community Walk” for the downriver area. She and her amazing band of beautiful volunteers are the primary reason for this event’s huge success.

Gerri Asam Trager, on right. (Photo taken from AFSP Downriver Out of the Darkness Walk, Facebook event page, by Bob Eccles).

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It is a cloudy, chilly day, but attendance is high, as are the spirits of the organizers, volunteers, and walkers.

  

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This beautiful woman, Jaqueline Worthey, a poetry reader, graces the stage by reading a special poem every year at this event.

 

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We are blessed with the kind and compassionate, former Detroit Lion’s football player, Eric Hipple, who speaks to us straight from the heart.

 

After losing his own 15-year-old son in 2000 to suicide, Hipple now travels the country and gives speeches to High Schools, Youth Groups, the U.S. Military, and Corporations, on suicide prevention and Mental Illness. His book, “Real Men Do Cry”, published in 2009, discusses his playing career with the Lions and his experiences with depression, grief, and suicide prevention.

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We are then introduced to the lovely and extremely talented, NEENUH. There are no words to describe her beautiful voice.

Connect with Neenuh on Facebook. She performs solo shows (vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica) around Downriver, MI. Search “Neenuh” on YouTube and you will find uploads of her videos.

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And we are delighted by the amazing talent of Fiddler, Mick Gavin, who plays onstage AND along our walking path. Wonderful!

Gavin was born in Co. Clare, Ireland. Since the 1970’s, he has performed concerts with many traditional Irish performers in the Chicago and Detroit areas. Mick now teaches Irish fiddle throughout the Detroit metropolitan area. Three of his students took 2nd at the All-Ireland in Listowel, Co. Kerry in 2002.

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The 3.5-mile walk begins on this gorgeous Autumn afternoon.

 

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Even the canines walk the walk!

  

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Afterwards, we are treated to hot food and refreshing beverages, and a safe place for good conversation. There is also a raffle which offers terrific prizes of food and services generously donated by some of our local restaurateurs and merchants.

We bond over our losses and experiences, but join together to celebrate life . . . and bring about change.

AND OUT OF THE DARKNESS . . .

. . . COMES HOPE.

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For information or to make a donation, (donations for walks can be made thru 12/31/12 for this year), contact:

GERRI ASAM TRAGER, AFSP Board Member, AFSP Community Outreach Volunteer, Metro Detroit/Ann Arbor Chapter. Phone: 810-229-4266. The American Foundation For Suicide Prevention: www.afsp.org . Also see: www.outofthedarkness.org and survivoroutreachMI@gmail.

If you have lost someone you love to suicide: www.afsp.org/survivingsuicideloss

*IF YOU ARE IN SUICIDAL CRISIS, PLEASE CALL 800-273-TALK 8255)*

Categories: Addiction, Bipolar/Depression, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Kindness & Compassion, Mental Health, Photography, Physical Health, Suicide | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

NEW YORK CITY **IS** ART!

I just returned from my first visit to New York City. It was wonderful and brief and I fell in love and somehow, I managed to miss out on every single art gallery and museum. Sheesh.

Why, you ask me? What happened?

I will now confirm the airheaded-ness that most of you have always suspected I possess, by telling you the truth. I forgot. I forgot all about the museums I have waited most of my life to see, because she seduced me.

New York City seduced me. And I loved every single crazy, magical moment of it.

How did she do it? With lights and colors and flashing billboards and music and vibrant electric people-energy! Here, let me give you a small glimpse.

I thought my seizures would have kicked in with all these colorful, flashing lights, but they didn’t. I only had one seizure, and that was during a performance of the Lion King. I hardly noticed though; I was having a panic attack because I was stuck in the middle of a row, and with all my sweating and deep breathing, it came and went unnoticed by anyone but me. What a case.

But a show unlike anything I have ever seen! The sets, costumes, music, and performances were off the charts! It transformed me to Africa!

And the biggest surprise? The City of New York herself is the most unique and stunning display of art I have ever seen!

I forgot all about galleries and museums because everywhere I looked I saw amazing things.

It started with the view from my room.

And the people on the streets. AS art. And making music.

 

 

NYC is the fashion capital of the world because even her buildings are the best dressed anywhere!

 

 

Even Mother Nature gets in on the act.

 

Sometimes her buildings are clad only in red, white, and blue.

 

 

Rockefeller Center.

 

I never imagined buildings as being beautiful. Until now. These unadorned and magnificent buildings decorate the skies.

 

 

 

Reflections of buildings.

Reflections of a child. (Do you see me?)

I even made a few creative new friends!

(Yikes! It looks as if I’m being groped! Lol).

But NYC is not limited to artful people and buildings. No, there are also plenty of wonderful sculptures!

 

 

 

 

And the message is everywhere.

We must not forget to . . .

Checkout time is 12:00 noon.

Gosh, I love this city. Until next time, New York . . .

Categories: Adventures, Art, Love, Patriotic/Political, Photography | Tags: , , , , , , | 30 Comments

ART HEALS

I don’t know a thing about art. All I know is how it makes me feel. But I haven’t let that stop me from exploring this aw-inspiring means of expression. No way. In the last few years I have been attending art shows and gallery receptions, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that art is always about so much more than art.

Regardless of the name of the exhibit, the theme of the show, or even the title of a painting, creative expression far exceeds any label we may attach to it.

Art is all about life.

And boy did I learn that this past week. I hardly know where to begin, so I’ll start at the start.

Meet Patricia Izzo, award-winning Fine Arts Photographer and painter.

Patricia’s a pretty heavy hitter in the art world. Her fine art photography has been featured in numerous national publications like American Photo Magazine, Home Décor, and Woman’s Day, just to name a few. And her images can be seen in the 2010 Harold and Kumar III movie. She’s had extensive exhibits throughout the Detroit Metropolitan area, the East Coast, and Traverse City Museums, and she published a fine art photography book called, “FRAGILE AWAKENINGS” in 2008. She’s a board member or is active in, just about anything that promotes the arts. She creates it, teaches it, promotes it, changes it, advances it, and shares it with children. And she is the artist-in-residence at River’s Edge Gallery, right here in Wyandotte, Michigan.

I see her as a compassionate woman, a creative genius, and a . . . well, a sort of spiritual guide.

I run into Patricia at the DOWNRIVER COUNCIL FOR THE ARTS (DCA), in Wyandotte, and she tells me about her involvement in an upcoming art show there, called, “ART HEALS”.

She mentions something about some art classes, some kids, and the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, and I eagerly agree to meet her there the following week.

I think I’m just going to watch a couple of art classes and, then at the end of the week, go to an art show. But Patricia is a little bit sneaky . . . she is going to take me on a life changing journey instead. I just don’t know it yet.

As I drive to meet her the following Tuesday, I am flooded in memories of my small encounter with cervical cancer over 20 years ago, my subsequent surgery and cure, and the fear that I still feel all these years later when going for a pap test. I think of my sister who passed away six years ago from lung cancer, of my friend who lost her breasts, and my other dear friend who lost her mom. I think of my childhood friend who is currently undergoing chemotherapy right here at this facility, and how I’ve never visited her during her treatment. Sheesh. How did I not think of all of this earlier? I blink back the tears and swallow hard to get the lump in my throat . . . down.

I arrive at my first visit to the Josephine Ford Cancer Center to observe the Children’s Support Group as they gather to make paintings for the upcoming art show.

My photographs are limited to the art and the creative process, so I hope you enjoy them! And hospital gowns are worn as smocks so the acrylic paints won’t stain clothes.

The room isn’t gloomy and dark with talk of pain or cancer. The kids lighten me and I am blown away by their incredible wisdom and insight, and their uncanny ability to remain silly and playful. I take their full impact head-on and heart-full.

Hands this small should never need to know the word cancer.

 

Below is a photo of each child’s artwork both in progress, and as displayed at the “ART HEALS” exhibition. I will let the art speak for itself.

  

Painting: “STRENGTH”, by artist Alex Rupp.

 

  

Painting: “FLOWER CHILD”, by artist Amanda Rupp.

 

  

Painting: “ME”, by artist Chad Donahue.

  

Painting: “PLAY”, by artist Evan McKeith.

 

  

Painting: “POSITIVE”, by artist Jadem McKeith.

  

Painting: “FIGHT CANCER”, by artist Jared Sturdz.

 

  

Painting: “GO TEAM CANCER”, by artist Marissa Lewandowski.

 

  

Painting: “REACH YOUR GOLE”, by artist Melissa Rupp.

 

  

Painting: “VICTORY”, by artist Rachel Sturdz.

The oldest artist in the class is 18 years old and wears this message on her t-shirt (front and back):

  

She also creates the “FLOWER CHILD” painting. I just adore this girl! I think we are soul sisters!

As the day draws to a close, Patricia casually invites me to a Women’s Art Therapy Class that is meeting on Thursday.  Their art will also be displayed at Thursday night’s show. Of course, I am interested and once again, I agree to meet her at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center.

And once again, I am unprepared for the creativity of the artists, and the spirituality and power of very wise and humorous women. The short time I spend with them is enough to cause marvel at their uniqueness, and be affected by all .

I title this photograph, “Beautiful Warriors”. True strength does not have to be loud and hard; these women are kind, compassionate, and incredibly strong. “It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”

Artists, Left to right: Sue Spotts, Ruth Ann Brayman, Nancy Pitel (artist who subs as teacher), Patricia Izzo, Shirley McBroom, Brenda Kahn, (not pictured, Deborah Helton).

 

The artists and their work at the “ART HEALS” exhibition:

Painting: “PEARL EARRINGS”, by artist Sue Spotts.  Sue has discovered her enormous talent only in recent years and is humble and casual about it. She says of my writing craft, “you’re just using a different brush”. I love that. A very gentle and humorous warrior.

 

Painting: “MEDITATION GARDEN”, by artist Ruth Ann Brayman.  Ruth gives glory to God by hiding a cross in each of her beautifully detailed paintings. She has the most lovely eyes; painted like an early summer morning blue sky misted by a light fog.  A sweet and loving warrior.

 

Painting: “CABIN IN THE MEADOW”, by artist Shirley McBroom.  Shirley’s incredible artwork shows perception, depth, and a wonderful natural talent with shadows. She reluctantly agrees to this photo, although she is as lovely as her painting. A warm and gracious warrior.

 

Painting: “EXHALING HOPE”, by artist Brenda Kahn. Brenda hiked 8.5 miles around the mountainous trails shown in this painting. We talk briefly, but intimately, and I realize that I, too, am a cancer survivor. My eyes brim with tears. She welcomes me warmly and somehow, I feel honored to be included in such elegant company. A gentle and graceful warrior.

 

Painting: “KAYAK CALLING”, by artist Deborah Helton.  Debbie is currently working on a painting of a cabin she has up north in the woods. We bond in agreement that it, “looks like a small piece of Heaven!”  She herself is like a delicate, but strong flower that one might find growing in the shade of a beautifully wooded piece of paradise. A soft and kind warrior.

 

Completing the “ART HEALS” exhibition, are paintings created by the children of the SandCastles Children’s Grief Support Group.

And from the mouths of babes . . .

  

  

After visiting with the artists and with other admirers such as myself, I go home with my creative hungers satisfied and my heart full. I feel blessed and grateful.

On Friday morning I rise, tired, but still basking in the afterglow and glory of an incredible week and amazing people.

But my day begins early today.

Once again I walk into the Josephine Ford Cancer Center. My friend smiles and says, “Oh, Julia, you made it! It’s so good to see you!”

I swear she’s got the elegance of Grace Kelly.

Soon, we celebrate that her lab numbers are up and while she is getting her chemo, we spend the time in intimate chat and laughter. I treasure the moment and mark it as forever precious.

I look over at her and smile.

I have come full circle. What a journey.

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A special thank you to Patricia Izzo, all the artists, the Downriver Council for the Arts, and the wonderful staff at the Josephine Ford Cancer Center, for welcoming me and graciously allowing me to share in your magic. You are all a treasured surprise and have deeply touched me. I hope that I have done you justice; I fear that I have not.

The words have yet to be created for those as wonderful as you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Art, Downriver/Detroit, Michigan, Grief/Healing, Inspiration/Motivation, Mental Health, Photography, Physical Health | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

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