My grandpa will always be my favorite Santa…

Christmas has always been my grandfather’s favorite holiday and because of all the love he puts in to it year after year, he has made it our favorite holiday too. It is all about the traditions.

Every year all 14 of us roll in from where ever we live and move in to their house for the week.

Every year I wrap my presents for my family in newspapers, hoping maybe one year it will catch on.

Every year my grandfather gives my grandmother at least one gift she doesn’t like.

Every year my mom really likes to sing Christmas carols.

Every year my vegetarian brother eats fake bacon and my grandfather refers to it as his eating disorder.

Every year we wear crowns on our heads, say grace and eat lots of food.

And every year, after is all said and done, we pack up our new loot and return to our respective states and my grandparents once again have their house back. But this year there was a small but significant change in tradition…

This year my grandfather waited and let us decorate the Christmas tree.

But it wasn’t an easy thing for my grandparents to watch. 65 years of marriage means they know how they like their Christmas tree to be decorated and they weren’t so sure we were doing it right.

And although we enjoyed ourselves, despite our lack of Christmas tree decorating style, it was hard for us to let them sit there.

It was breaking tradition. It was my grandfather taking a step back and giving away a little control. And the reason for his step back is a hard thing to think about. So we do our best not to think about it.

Instead we are so grateful for every day and every tradition we have and we hope with all our hearts that it will all be exactly the same next year.

Apple Dumplings, Root Beer Saloon, My Grandparents and Me…

It has been over 15 years since my last solo trip to visit my grandparents… and that is 15 years too long.

I am very lucky. I get to see my grandparents, who live 2,173 miles away from me, at least twice a year. But those visits usually include at least 12 other relatives as well, making one-on-one time highly unlikely.

So when I knew I was going to Missouri for the fiber arts book I am working on, I decided to make a special trip to see my grandparents, who live in the next state over. And it was wonderful.

As I drove our usual route to their house, the endless fields of corn and soybeans were the first difference that I noticed. Because in December, when we usually go to their house, the endless fields of corn and soybeans just look like endless fields of flat brown-ness. They laughed when I told them about my astute observation.

So the next day, my grandparents took me on a drive to see more of their farm and wine country.


The first stop on our adventure was an old apple orchard where we got to watch the machinery sort and bag the apples. Watching the machine put the twist-ties on the bags was the most surprising part. I never thought about how the twist-ties got on to bags of apples before.


We met the patriarch of a 4th generation apple farm. He told us their farm started with 42 acres, but now it has grown to over 2,000 acres, and a lot of their apples go to Wal-Mart. He doesn’t think his grandchildren have any interest in taking over the farm.


I had my very first apple dumpling. Although, I couldn’t tell much difference between it and apple pie. It tasted the same, but just a little more gooey. Next time I think I will stick with the pie, like my Grandma.


After filling up on pie and dumplings, we drove through a small town that is home of the Root Beer Saloon. Honestly, I was so full from sweet stuff already, I couldn’t imagine having a root beer… but how could I not?

I told them we had to go in, because Arann would have wanted us too, and I was glad we did.


Not only is it a Root Beer Saloon, but the husband/owner also makes custom guitars and is a taxidermist. So the place was covered head to toe with amazing dead things to look at. Sadly, I was told no photographs, but I managed to get this one in, before I was politely asked to refrain.


To make me feel better, the wife/owner offered to take our picture. At the time, I reluctantly agreed to, in a humoring sort of way. But now I am so glad I did. It was such a special occasion and I am grateful to have a photo remind me of our adventure together… just the three of us.


65 Years (part II): with the Holga

I made a decision to document one of the most important trips I may ever take, with two cameras: my Rolleiflex and my Holga. The Rolleiflex, I love, so that was an easy decision. But the Holga, I was not so sure about. I knew it could be wonderful, but I also knew it could be unpredictable, and I knew there was a chance that I might not get anything that was worthwhile. But because we did a lot of activities that did not make it easy to use a twin lens reflex (hiking, biking, kayaking) the Holga became my default.

And so, today when I picked up my film from the lab, I had no idea what to expect… and I had no idea that I was going to have a new camera love…









Here it is… simple, fun and wonderful. A camera that takes photos that make me excited about photography again.


the family beach trip to ocean isle, nc

every year we say “this will probably be the last year”


the last year of putt-putt (miniature golf) with the dilapidated safari animals and smurf-blue water.


the last year of standing outside restaurants waiting hours for really bad fried seafood, which no one orders anyway since the majority of our group does not eat seafood (but we do regretfully eat the hush-puppies with honey butter by the dozens which inevitably gives us an overfull feeling as we drive out of the parking lot.)


the last year of my grandfather making at least one grocery trip a day to ensure that the kitchen is stocked with as much junk food and sodas as we can possibly consume.


the last year of at least one person playing solitaire at any given time


the last year of silently reading and rocking back and forth on the porch through thousands of words together


the last year of swimming in the ocean that on most days, feels like a lukewarm bath tub with waves that are almost too small to be called waves but are still too much work for my 83 year old grandparents, my grandparents who keep these 30 year old traditions alive, the traditions that we travel thousands of miles for and that we simultaneously complain about and secretly relish.

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