Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tinkle Toes

The second full week of this month was devoted to the large dance studio in the next town. We've done action shots for them for nine years :::gasp::: and all of their costume pictures for the last eight. So you have to figure that we've been watching this year's senior class since they were nine years old. :::gack::::

The costumes are cute, the kids, for the most part, cuter. Even most of the moms shirk the whole stage mother complex - although the ones that have it REALLY have it. Again, they should know that your Goddess is the only entitled one around. Fools.

Some of the older kids, knowing my DH's skill, do very fancy-shmancy jumps. Some of them are freakin' incredible....and some of them take a few shots at it to capture the image. The discards can be a source of much hilarity at times, especially when they involved girls who are champions at the National Level. Yep, these are talented kids.

Every year, on the weekend of recital, we sell the action pictures on the last day. These are shots that we take during the dress rehearsal - very intense shooting, and a lot of emotion, too, as we see the dances for the first time. We set up the tables with books of all the action pictures, arranged by costume, and throw every employee we have into the fray. And it IS a fray, or as we like to call it, The Sharks Are Circling; Every Employee For Themselves. Feeding frenzy commences at 11 and we'll be five deep at every section of the table. The DH and I are off to the side, taking orders from the costume shots. One over-priviledged-in-her-own-mind doctor's wife tries every year to get us to let her look at the pictures earlier than everyone else. Every year she has a new 'reason' why she should be allowed to do so. Every year, I tell her, in far more polite customer-speak, to sod off. It's more fun than I should be allowed...but I manage to deal with it.

So, the hordes come down a long corridor to get to the area in which we're set up, and are now programmed to be blown away. For the last few years, we've taken one of the most stunning jumps, not always by one of the biggest headliners, just to mix it up, and blown it up BIG. Framed and put on an easel, it's our signature image for the year. Yeah, we always sell it, but even so we sometimes keep one in the studio too. Just yesterday a parent commented on last year's shot in pride of place in our reception.

This year's shot is of a young lady who, with her siblings, is one of the most polite kids we get to see. Their parents have done a great job. I thought you might like to see what we selected before all of them get to...don't you feel special? Imagine it as a 20x30 portrait framed in white.

Feelin' like a couch potato now, aren't you? LOL

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

For the Fallen
by Laurence Binyon

They shall grow not old.As we that are left grow old.Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.At the going down of the sun ... and in the morning ...we will remember them.
It's been over 22 years now, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was living in England. My first husband was a fighter pilot, then flying the A-10. It was a follow-on assignment; he had previously been flying F-111s at Lakenheath, a base a little further to the north.
I had two small daughters, one almost four, one not quite two and a half, so you can imagine, mornings were always hectic, especially when their dad was TDY (temporary duty meaning away from home), which was a fair bit. He was gone this morning, April 15, 1986. As I was getting breakfast for the girls, I turned on the BBC news, and saw the picture of a face I knew well. To my shock and horror, I heard the announcer say that the U.S. had bombed Libya the night before, in an operation called El Dorado Canyon. This was in retaliation for the bombing of a nightclub in Berlin, targeting US personnel there. This was arguably the first strike in America's ongoing fight against terrorism, and I urge you to read the first hand account I've linked to.
The shock was the face I saw, that of Capt. Paul F. Lorence, a WSO (pronounce Whizzo, meaning Weapons System Operator) in the F-111. The newsreader's voice was telling me that, incredibly, Paul and the pilot he was flying with, Fernando Ribas-Dominicci, had been lost in the raid. Paul was dead.
I didn't know Capt. Ribas-Dominicci (later posthumously promoted to Maj.), although I knew his wife slightly. God bless the poor woman; her first husband had been lost in Vietnam. But Paul was a dear friend, someone I loved very much. After we'd moved to our new assignment, we hadn't kept in as close touch, as often happens in military life. But that didn't change the devastation I and others who knew him felt at this loss.
You see, Paul was the last man you would have thought would die in this way. I spent ten years living in close proximity to fighter pilots. They are great guys for the most part, decent and brave, and just as cocky as they're shown to be. Top Gun is a bit of an exaggeration of the type, but not by much. Paul was as decent as they come, and just as brave, but I never saw any of the swaggering bravado in him that was in the other pilots. Paul was unique.
I first met Paul when I was only 19, at Cannon AFB in New Mexico. He was training in the F-111 with my then-husband, Mike. I was one of only two wives who had accompanied their husbands to training; most of the guys were bachelors, as was Paul. My memories of him are in snippets; this was a long time ago now, but they are very strong. He was a slight man, dapper in his flight suit, his carriage reminding me a bit of David Niven. I remember being at a toga party with him, both of us far more observers than participants, and the two of us playing a made-up trivia game to amuse ourselves. When I correctly identified who Bobby Sands was, I saw a change come over him. I wasn't just the child-bride of a fellow pilot, but someone with a brain. We started a conversation then that carried on over the next five years - two outsiders brought together by flying - him because he utterly loved the plane, me because I married into the life.
Paul was a history major in college, which he attended already as a member of the Air Force. His eyesight wouldn't permit him to be a pilot, but a WSO was the next best thing. He was cultured in a sense that few of the flyboys were; I remember being youthfully impressed that he had a device to keep his brandy warm in its snifter - certainly not typical for those guys! But emblematic of Paul to me.
After we all got to England, we saw a lot of Paul. It was my policy to invite bachelors we knew over for holiday dinners; it made being away from family at those times a bit easier on all of us. I could always count on Paul for interesting, intelligent conversation, never holding himself aloof even though his interests were more wide-ranging than many of my other guests. Paul was warm, caring and generous. I loved him dearly.
When we moved on to our new assignment at RAF Bentwaters, we heard bits and pieces about the friends we left at Lakenheath. Paul married a British woman, had extended his tour to stay in her country longer, and they had a baby boy, whom I now know was named Peter.
That's who he left behind to serve his country on the night of April 14th, 1986, and that's to whom he never got to return home. His flight helmet was later displayed on Libya television, and remains initially thought to be his were returned three years later, but were actually found to be his pilot's. Paul has never been returned to his family, and they've never had the comfort of seeing him laid to rest. There is a petition for the return of his body; probably a useless gesture, but one I feel is worth making. I hope you will too.
I have read that when the other planes made it home to Lakenheath, they flew over the base in the missing man formation. I cannot help but cry every time I see that formation flown. It will always remind me of all the men we've lost, but especially Paul, who never seemed to be a typical jet jockey, but so loved to fly.
For many of us, Memorial Day is a day off of work, the start of summer, a day for a cookout with friends or to head to the beach. And yes, a lot of us pause to remember those serving today, and those who've gone before. I especially think of two men on this day. One is the oldest living WWI veteran, Frank Buckles, who lives in my county and for whom I've had the honor of restoring photographs. One may be seen at that link.
The other, for whom I'll never cease to mourn, is Paul Lorence - the sweet, quiet, gentle man who gave his country his life. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

I won over a million dollars playing slots today!!!

Now, if I could just figure out how to get my phone game to pay out.

A lot of us would like to be millionaires. I've given this a lot of thought, usually when I should be doing something that would actually be making me money. I wouldn't mind being well-off, that's for sure. Don't know that I would want to be, say, Bill Gates rich. I think I'd have to start sending nasty things in the mail to people sending me begging letters.

As an aside here, I am never, NEVER, NEVER donating to a charity again where they can harvest my address. A dear friend very unselfishly asked people who normally send her a birthday gift to please donate to a charity helping those in Darfur. Feeling very good about her, and myself for sending a check rather than going shopping, I did. I also donated a bit to the American Diabetes Association, a very worthy cause, especially since my dad's entire family had it and now I do too. Amazing how important a charity becomes when you HAVE the disease, isn't it? Anyway, I cannot go to my mailbox now without some begging letter trying to guilt me into donating. Or bribe me. Yes, your cheesy labels make me yearn to send money to help you give gorillas combs so they won't have to pick nits anymore. Or maybe I just use your labels and send you nothing. I donate where I can, what I can, when I can. I feel good about that. I feel pissed at the nags trying to make me do more.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog, not rich. But well-off enough that my mom wouldn't have to worry that her retirement after thirty years serving as a police officer won't let her visit a doctor in her own state, but instead she has to use half a tank of gas to drive to one in the neighboring state. Well-off enough that my kids wouldn't need to, yes, worry, no. My grandson could attend the college that his four-year-old level of intelligence tells me he'll be smart enough to attend. Maybe even get my sister and her DH an office they'd own for their business. Nothing exorbitant, no moon launches, just simple stuff.

And I am praying I'm on my way there. We've been rushed off our feet the last two weeks, first shooting the big dance studio we do annually, then starting to get calls for senior portraits. We've already booked almost double the number of seniors we've ever done in a year, and that's in just over a week since our mailing hit. The DH has set a goal of doing 100 this year; not unreasonable given that this studio location has averaged well over 200 in the years past. So I'm hoping we get that 100. Get to where we don't have to worry about the next mortgage payment ever again. Get to where I CAN help my favorite charities and family more.

I'm also hoping that having to actually work all day won't have any lasting effects on my quintessential laziness. But I won't lie to you, my faithful readers. The prospect worries me.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

A very happy Mother's Day to all out there who know what it is to wipe a snotty nose, tuck in a scarf, and stay awake worried for all kinds of reasons, whether for your child or someone else's.

I should be paying tribute to my mom today, but I think you'll all excuse me if I do something a bit different. I want to honor my late father-in-law, Bill.

I know it's been awhile since I wrote, and that's for a good reason. Last Monday, we got a call that Bill had developed pneumonia, his heart was racing at an alarming rate, and he was being admitted to the hospital. We flew to get ready and drove down there, spending eight hours at his side, and supporting his wife of 51 years, Dorothy.

To make a long, sad story short, Bill passed on Wednesday afternoon, with his wife and daughter at his side. The hospital staff let him remain until those of us who live locally could see him. The nurses were all wonderful. I'm fairly sure most nurses have starter wings hiding under their scrubs, and these women were no exception.
In the middle of all of this, I had to write a paper, and take the final exam for my course. To say that was hard to do is an understatement, but my instructor knew what was happening, and will hopefully cut me a break. He's a sweetheart - a big bear of a man whose sympathy was very genuine. So you'll all understand that I had a great deal on my plate, and blogging was the least of my concerns.

Bill's visitation was yesterday, his funeral service tomorrow. As the family gathered prior to the admittance of guests, there were many tears. But there was so much more laughter! In addition to his wife, Bill leaves behind three sons, one daughter and their spouses, nine grandchildren and one great-grandson. All of us were sharing stories and reminiscences - a true celebration of the life of a quiet man, who served his country, his church and his family with dignity and love. I watched them all, seeing Bill's hands on my husband, a gesture of his on another son, his voice from his brother. When the visitors arrived, over and over we were told what a wonderful man Bill had been, how many lives he'd touched. I was honored to stand with his family and hear the tributes.

After visitation, we all gathered at the family house, ate and talked...and laughed some more. Dorothy said that Bill had dictated there were to be no tears, but a celebration of his life. We couldn't quite manage the no tears, but we certainly managed the celebration. There was so much warmth in that house last night!

I have a feeling Bill was doing what he always did when the clan gathered...sitting, watching, and smiling quietly, enjoying the family.