Hope I Measured Up

I just attended my first book festival. I met other writers, learned how it all works, and got my name out there. Although I did not sell any books, I had no expectations, and there was not much traffic at this event anyway. Just getting the invitation was enough of a reward. I am getting my name out there slowly—baby steps—but that’s fine. I am in no rush.

My hope is that you are proud of me for following through on this project. So many times I wanted to give up, but then I thought of Grandpa, who faced far more difficult challenges and never gave up, so I kept going.

You all know that I feel like I have been an inadequate role model as your mother. While I graduated college with a degree in a decent major—math and computer science—my professional career was limited, particularly after becoming a mother.

While I wouldn’t change anything given the opportunity, I feel like I didn’t do enough. Was volunteering for all those committees enough: Field Day, Fun Fair, yearbook, library, brownies, class mother many times, and the lunches—hotdog and pizza lunch? Then there was the Senior Citizens Lunch and printing of the Lazar newspaper with Margaret during middle school, PTC vice president in high school, organizing the town fish fry, and the judging of the forensics tournament as well as organizing the food at the East Chapel Hill Tournament with Dad.

Daddy traveled during his career, so we made the decision together for me to stay home with you. I was never unhappy, but I always felt like you should have had a mother with a career to inspire all of you.

So now I wrote a book. I am not selling a lot, but still, there are strangers purchasing it. While I never undertook this project for any accolades, I still feel a tremendous sense of personal accomplishment. It was a lot of work. I took time to research every aspect of the book.

I hope that besides learning about Grandpa and his family, you look at me in a different way. I want you to feel proud of me.


In the Eye of the Beholder

I don’t have the advantage of Kelly’s memory box to learn what six or eight year old Kelly chose as her future career, so I have to fast forward to year sixteen—the summer of the Paris trip.

Kelly, you approached Dad and me about spending five weeks studying abroad with the American University in Paris. The deal we struck was that while we would help with some expenses, you were responsible for the majority of the cost. You spent about a year working as a babysitting machine. You found a few clients who liked to go out A LOT, and you rarely socialized with your friends that year. You had a goal and you worked hard to reach it.

I researched the program to be certain you were chaperoned enough to make Dad and I comfortable, so in late June 2001, you packed your bags and we drove you to JFK airport. As your mom, it was not easy to send you to Europe alone, but you lived up to your end of the bargain in raising the money, proving yourself to be responsible and worthy of the experience.

You took two courses while in the City of Lights—The History of Fashion and Photography in Paris— and came home hooked on photography. Armed with a heavy dinosaur of a 35 mm camera that belonged to Dad’s father, you learned how to take and develop film pictures. I believe you set up a dark room in the bathroom of the hotel where the students were housed.

What a wonderful place to learn that craft! When you returned home, one month before 9-11, you exited the plane with confidence, very thin from walking everywhere, and with a red tint in your hair which we didn’t notice until later that day.

During your final two years in high school, you exhausted the photography curriculum at your school. You entered photography contests, and much to our amusement, you won an award for a photo of the garbage under our pool deck. I guess someone thought it was very artsy!

When you left for college and decided to study journalism, Dad and I were convinced you would be traveling the world as a photojournalist for a magazine like National Geographic. This prediction grew stronger when you became a photographer for the Daily Gamecock, allowing you to take pictures of entertainers, politicians and sports figures such as Billy Joel, John Mayer, President Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton, Pete Rose, and the Gamecock football games. (Knowing you were running down the field chasing the perfect shot, I worried that you would get smashed by a big tight end.)

Meeting your future husband squashed your traveling-the-world career. (Did you ever consider it, or was it just an unwarranted fear on our part?) Instead, you launched your business, taking beautiful pictures of weddings, graduations, families, and newborn babies. Like your sisters, you have a great work ethic resulting in many happy customers and referrals to their friends.

Dad and I do not have to worry about you traveling to the Amazon jungle or the African Serengeti. Still, we couldn’t help being anxious when you drove off to shoot a wedding during our “Thousand-Year Storm.” You must understand our angst now that you are a parent. So keep up the good work. Perhaps someday our coffee table will contain a book of your photos including the garbage under the deck.

The photos below are not the best but are among your first. All your fans are familiar with the beauty of your work now, but I thought it would be nice to show how it all began.

Street in Paris-2001- The Artsy Eye Way Back When
Street in Paris-2001- The Artsy Eye Way Back When
And the Winner is -Garbage Under the Deck
And the Winner is -Garbage Under the Deck

Wrapped Up in Grade 3

Today I explored Casey’s memory box, where I learned that she also wanted to be a teacher in first grade. Could that be a common career aspiration for young children who want to emulate their teachers?

Casey, by third grade, you dropped your wish to be a teacher and focused on acting and writing. Your journal that year repeatedly mentioned that dream.

If I were older I would write a movie and star in it. Then I’d write a few books. After that, I’d star in more movies. Then maybe I’d write a book…. I ADORE writing.

Luckily you had your reading and writing to get you through third grade, because unlike Jamie, you were not a fan of that year. In fact, your final journal entry said:

The best thing about third grade is it’s almost over. There is no best thing about third grade.

Whoa, Casey!

Your career in acting never happened although you were in several plays over the years—both at school and after school activities in surrounding towns. You were always holed up in your room reading books and writing stories. When you would disappear, we would usually find you in your closet reading a book. Casey, do you remember the year Kelly and I created a special place for you in the gnome closet in our house in Atlanta, complete with glow-in-the-dark stars on the ceiling?

During college, you wrote a wonderful column for the Daily Gamecock which you abandoned too soon—in my opinion. I loved reading your opinion about sports, politics, happenings on campus, and the entertainment world. Your column gave me some insight into what made you tick which is why I missed it.  I learned that much of the trivia you learned was from reading about the stars, and your boredom was sometimes cured by watching CNN. You are definitely a complex person, and as a wise woman once said,

I’m not going to toot my own horn enough to say I’m as deep as an ocean, but I’m hardly a puddle, either.

Your major/minor was a blend of your passions—public relations and speech. You graduated with a job working in admissions at a satellite campus of USC. It was not a thrilling job for you, but Dad and I were proud that you were employed so quickly.

Less than two years later, you were off to Baltimore working at a job which enabled you to speak Dad’s lingo—working at an engineering/architectural company using your skills as a writer. Now your firm is moving closer to DC, which is so appropriate for you because of your interest in politics. I learned that in third grade, not only did your crystal ball see a career related to writing, it also knew, at that moment, you would be a Democrat.

If I could be president, I’d have an activity week at school. I’d make sure everyone had a fair life. I’d try to pass a law that on the second Monday, every month, we’d give to the poor.

So the question is Casey, where will your road take you in life? Will you stay at this job because, well, you have never liked change and are well-liked at work? Or will I see you working at an organization like Make-a-Wish someday, granting dreams to children who have been dealt a very tough card? Will you write that book? I will just sit back and watch the Casey show. Perhaps I will read about you in the newspapers or see you on CNN.