Bonus-Daughters

I really should be doing homework right now. I needed to come home to take care of a few things anyway, but the primary reason was so I could get this Psych paper done. The sooner I get it finished, the sooner I can go back to ‘home away from home’ and the man (who I miss terribly), but I’ve had the stirrings of this thought rattling around in my brain for a few weeks now, and it really wants to come out. So I’m taking five to assuage the distraction and will get back to my paper in a minute.

Most of you know that I lost a daughter, Isabel Elyse; she was stillborn at five months. She would be turning 23 this coming summer if she were still here. I don’t know why God decided to call her home before we even had the chance to meet; that was most assuredly the hardest thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. I do, however, know that He used that tragedy for good. Her death is what fueled my work with the non-profit organization, Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. It gave me the experience and intestinal fortitude to draw from to help thousands of hurting families in similar situations and gift them family portraits to honor and remember their children. I genuinely believe that was something I was meant to do.

A year after I said ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ to Isabel on the same day, my son, Jacob, was born. I think I would have been a good girl-mom, but I think I was a pretty great boy-mom. (Everyone knows what a huge sports fan I am. LOL)

Having lost my daughter left a hole in my heart, though, that nothing could fill.

The second way that God used that situation for good was less expected. In some way, I suppose it is in an effort to fill that void, but I have found that I tend to pour myself into the young women in my life. I may not have a daughter of my own, but I have been blessed with beautiful, intelligent, bonus-daughters that mean the world to me. Some have been in the form of my nieces, Ashley & Kati. Some are the daughters of my best friend in the world, my soul-nieces, Britney, Ravyn, & Jai’Dee. Some have worked for me, Emily, Cayce, & Claire (or indirectly with me, Becky). And some have come to me through loving another, Jana, Naomi, Annie, & Amber. These girls are all so unique and different, yet they share a strength and resilience it took me well into adulthood to find. I adore each one of them and couldn’t love them more if they were my own. Some of these relationships have been life-long, others are newer; some are more consistent, others sporadic; but I’m inspired by each of them and my life is richer for having them in it. Whether lessons about life (what we think, we become), school (keep going), work/career (perception is reality), love (yes, boys are often dumb, but love is worth it – ok, in all honesty, I might just now finally believe this one myself), recipes/cooking (Homerun Chicken, my specialty), or simply providing a listening ear or shoulder to cry on, they are open and receptive, and I feel honored that they trust me and see value in the wisdom I have to offer. I want only the best for these stunning creatures, and if I have contributed, in any way, to them leading happy, healthy, productive lives, then my time on earth was not in vain.  

I don’t know why God decided to call Isabel home before I had a chance to pour myself into her, but I am forever grateful that He gave me these strong, beautiful bonus-daughters with whom I’ve been able to share my life.

I consider it a privilege that you have allowed me to be a part of your journey.

You are part of my legacy.

I love you, girls.

I Know How to Rise

I was taught from a very early age to keep up appearances regardless of how I felt at the time. My needs were not as important as other people’s perceptions. “Don’t you dare embarrass me, little girl.” So I learned how to rise.

I rise to the occasion whenever necessary… I have a job to do, I have people who depend on me, I have responsibilities to which I’m committed, so I rise, even when I don’t feel ok.

I do the things and I take care of the people because that’s what I do; I look ok from the outside because I rise, but sometimes I run out of steam, sometimes I fall, sometimes I’m not ok.

Science and Religion

We are instructed to be ‘in’ the world, not ‘of’ the world. That means that while we are here, we are to remember whence we came. Due to the fall, the world is an imperfect place, but that does not mean it is all bad. There is most assuredly evil in this world, but there is also much that is ‘of’ the world to be enjoyed and appreciated. Science and art are but two. Sigmund Freud, Paul Lauterbur and Neil deGrasse Tyson were all blessed by God with extraordinary intellect; they all were/are gifted scientists who have made tremendous advances in their respective fields and are considered some of the greatest minds of their times. Monet, Matisse, Picasso, and van Gogh were all gifted by God with the talent to create exquisite art. The fact that none of the aforementioned men believed in the existence of God does not diminish the validity of the science, the beauty of the art, nor the origin of the hand from which their brilliance came.

Science and religion are more connected than they are disconnected. It is incumbent on those of us who live in both worlds to help people to realize and understand that.

Pavlova

Pavlova is a meringue, cream, and fruit dessert that originated in New Zealand in the early 1920s after Prima Ballerina Anna Pavlova visited there. I have always wanted to make a Pavlova, they seemed so complex, delicate, and exotic. With some downtime over the holidays, I decided to give it a go. While it is definitely delicate and exotic, it wasn’t nearly as complex as I had imagined. I even made 2 different ones, a single large Pavlova and a batch of mini Pavlovas. Piece of cake, I should have attempted this ages ago!

First I gathered together the ingredients; egg whites (they are in a container because they need to be separated and at room temperature, sugar, cornstarch, & vanilla. (amounts & actual recipe will be at the end) and preheat the oven to 250 degrees for the large single Pavlova or 225 for the smaller individual Pavlovas.

Next, I whipped the egg whites on high until they were frothy & formed soft peaks, this means the peak will fall over. I then added the sugar, one tablespoon at a time while continuing to beat the mixture.

Once all the sugar was completely incorporated into the egg white mixture, I continued to beat for about 3 more minutes until the mixture was shiny and formed stiff peaks, where they stand up on their own. Just look at those peaks! Next, I added the cornstarch through a sifter to make sure it was super fine and the vanilla, and folded those ingredients into the mixture.

For the single, large Pavlova, I put parchment paper (or you can use a Silpat mat) on a baking sheet and used a spatula to form a roughly 8-inch circle. It should be about 2-3 inches high. You can use a cake pan and draw a circle on the parchment paper with a pencil, but I just eyeballed it. Also, some parchment paper has squares to mark off the inches. Either way, don’t stress too much over this part.

For the individual Pavlovas, I put the meringue mixture into a piping bag with a star tip and piped them onto a Silpat mat. Admittedly, it took a few tries before I got the hang up getting the shape just right. There was more meringue but not more room so I shaped the 7th and final one sort of oblong and put it in the middle. LOL

Next, it’s time to CAREFULLY put the Pavlova into the preheated oven and GENTLY close the door. Bake for an hour and a half (an hour and 15 minutes for the individual ones), no peeking! Then turn the oven off and leave the Pavlova(s) in the oven with the door closed overnight.

Just before serving, carefully move the Pavlova to a serving platter. Take the back of a large spoon and gently ‘tap’ the center of the top of the Pavlova to crack it a little, it is very airy inside. Then top with whipped cream (you can either whip heavy cream yourself or use Cool Whip, but you do not want to use the canned whipped topping) and the fruit of your choice. I had some frozen mixed berries that I macerated with a little sugar prior to putting them on.

Ingredients:
4-5 room temp egg whites (depending on egg size- you want 150 ml)
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch (sifted)
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Separate whites from yolks and set whites aside until room temperature.
Preheat oven to 250 for large single (or 225 for individual minis).
Place whites in a bowl and beat until soft peaks form.
Add sugar 1 tbsp at a time continuing to beat as you go.
Once all sugar has been incorporated, beat another 3 minutes until thick and glossy and stiff peaks form. Another test is to rub some between your thumb and forefinger, it should not feel gritty.
Sift in cornstarch and add vanilla, mix on low or fold in with a spatula just until mixed through, 5-10 seconds.
Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper and form meringue in a roughly 8-inch circle that is 2-3 inches high and slightly concave in the center.
Bake for 1 hour 30 minutes for large single (or 1 hour 15 mins for ind minis)
Turn oven off and leave in oven with door closed overnight
Just before serving, transfer to serving platter, crack top with back of spoon, and top with whipped topping and fruit of your choice.
Serve and enjoy all the accolades you’re going to get!

Right to be Wrong

I sat one morning, contemplating choices over my vanilla spice latte.  I had struggled through a particular situation for years because I felt strongly that I was called to it, that this particular path I strode in my middle years and every pebble on it was a significant part of the journey that God lay before me the moment I was conceived.  I believe in free will and that God allows us choices, but I also believe I owe Him my best so I continually endeavored to find success with the monumental task I had at hand.  Friends implored me to reevaluate my circumstances as they couldn’t fathom that God would intentionally have me carry on and continue to suffer in such mire.  I, like they, believed He wants His best for me yet I felt strongly compelled, so compelled in fact that on some level I didn’t feel free to choose to turn away from that place.  This self-imposed calling became an obligation and the obligation bordered on obsession.  I felt bound to stay, fight, work, do the ‘right’ thing even as I was wronged in the process.

That led me to wonder… Why is it that we as women, particularly southern women, seem to be born with an innate need to do what’s ‘right’ at any cost – ‘right’ by society, ‘right’ by our families – even at times to our own detriment?  Who decides what is ‘right’?  And is what’s ‘right’ for you, ‘right’ for me?  It’s drummed into us practically from birth that this is what is required of us to be a proper lady, and by that let me be clear that I mean “accepted”, we must always consider others first.  Men don’t seem to suffer from this affliction.  Is it really ‘right’ to always put others before yourself?  The FAA would beg to differ.  Flight Attendants specifically tell you that in case of emergency to put the mask on yourself first so that you can then tend to those around you.  God forbid though that a woman take time for herself and put family, friends, work, etc. on the back burner for a bit.  We’re supposed to be utterly selfless or we’re…  we’re… what?  What are we if we put ourselves first for a change?  A social pariah, a bitch, at the very least selfish, right?  And what happens if we dare cross that social line of proper etiquette?  Will we be sucked off the planet, have our ‘lady card’ revoked, be shunned by society??  Pishaw.

How ‘right’ is it to do what’s expected for the wrong reason?  Shouldn’t we do that which we have a genuine heartfelt compassion for doing, not just what someone else thinks we should?  If it’s in your heart to have dinner waiting on the table for your husband when he gets home from work, then, by all means, do so.  But if you begrudgingly prepare his meal while pondering which poison might be least likely detected in an autopsy, then I’m thinking you should reconsider your efforts.  If we don’t do what’s ‘right’, does that make us ‘wrong’?  I don’t necessarily think so.

But, if we don’t do what’s ‘right’, then what’s left?  What’s left of society’s ideal that we’ve been trained and expected to live up to?  What’s left of our self-image, and hasn’t that been bruised enough?  We might actually have to decide for ourselves what ‘right’ is.  Seems like a simple enough concept.  Yet I think, for me anyway, I allowed the ease of having ‘right’ defined for me guide my path.  We’re ‘supposed’ to do this or that because our culture, society, families dictate it.  My grief should only last so long and then I’m supposed to move on or I’m looked down upon as weak for wallowing in self-pity.  My successes are great, but I’m not supposed to celebrate them and/or myself too much or I’m seen as self-centered or conceited.  I can’t possibly say no to any request or I’m not a good friend because a good friend always says yes.  And God forbid I should stand up for myself lest I be labeled a bitch.  Following those societal constructs is certainly easier than blazing one’s own trail.  But is that ‘right’?

I found my way out of that situation all those years ago and came to the conclusion that maybe what God had in mind when he charted this path for me way back then was for me to find my own ‘right’, even if others think it’s wrong, and whole-heartedly choose it regardless of what other’s think.  As I continue to contemplate my own choices with maybe a little greater insight, I beseech you; determine what’s ‘right’ for you, shake off the fear of being labeled ‘wrong’, hold true to what’s left, and define your own path, because that, my friend, is what’s ‘right’.

Musings

I was reminded yesterday (thanks, Kate) how much I like to write, and how much I miss it.  My photography is still over at my business site, http://www.msstudios.net, but I thought I would dust off this old site for some of my long forgotten ‘musings’ that have been bouncing around in my head for years longing to find their way into print.

Invisible

I fell in love with him for many reasons, but the one that stands out to me the most was that he saw me when it seemed no one else did.  I was shy, and quiet, and unsure, and uncomfortable in my own skin then.  It was like I didn’t exist until he walked into the room, glanced my way, or spoke to me – even if it was to say something ugly.  When he acknowledged me in some way, in any way, that’s when I would come alive.  He was like the spot of color in a black and white photograph.  When things were right between us, the air was sweeter, food tasted better, and everything just felt ‘more’.  Loving and being loved by him defined who I was.

Don’t get me wrong, I had interests of my own, but I was perfectly content to push them aside to put him first and be at his beck and call.  If my friends or interests bothered him I would simply relegate engaging them to only those times when he was not around.  It was just easier than fighting about it and risk losing him.  The fear of him leaving was far greater than my desire to maintain or obtain anything else.  Little did I know ‘I’ was among the things I was not maintaining.  I’ve heard women say that they lost themselves in a relationship before but the thing about that phrase that I didn’t fully grasp is that not only do you lose who you are at that moment, you risk losing who you might have become.

Like I said, I was more than happy to just take care of him.  It did make me happy.  I didn’t feel like I was losing anything, and I am convinced I would have gone on doing it until the day I died.  Except, obviously, that’s not how things worked out or you wouldn’t be reading this.

I loved him because he saw me when I was invisible… but I’m not invisible anymore.

Ms. T

The first of the 2 part shoot was held on the campus of Lamar University where she is graduating with her RN, see here.  For this session, we rented a fabulous studio in the Heights (Houston), with exposed brick and stunning light, where we cranked up her favorite tunes and had a grand time.  You’re not limited to a particular geographic area with Ms. Studios, being a South Texas Photographer, we are happy to serve a variety of areas and we love to travel!

I asked Taylor, as I do most of my female clients, “what makes you fierce?”  I loved her response, “I’m fierce because I am confident.”  I don’t know about you, but I see her confidence in every one of these images.  Her confidence, her playful side, her softness, and her #FiercelyFeminine side – all rolled into one amazing young woman – came out in this shoot.

I love Taylor’s reason for wanting to do this glamour session because it epitomizes the mission of Ms. Studios, “empowering women through the art of photography.”  She wanted to do this session for HER, she didn’t do it for anyone else, she did it to celebrate HERSELF and her success.  I am honored and delighted that she allowed me to capture this time in her life and to help her tell her story.

If you would like to enjoy a custom Ms. Studios experience for yourself and let us help you tell YOUR story, click here to learn more and see if we’d be a good fit.  Or feel free to call (936-463-5893) or e-mail (tammy@msstudios.net) to speak to me directly.  Looking forward to hearing from you soon!
x’s and oooh’s,
Tammy

 

Remembering daddy at Easter

Easter is a bittersweet time for me.  It’s an important and joyous holiday for all Christians as we celebrate the risen Christ and His victory over death.  Death could not hold Him and it has no power over me either because He paid the price for my sin.  I, and my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, have been washed clean by the blood of the Lamb.

It is said that, ‘justice’ is getting what you deserve, ‘mercy’ is not getting what you deserve, and ‘grace’ is getting what you don’t deserve.  As a child of God, I have been given the ultimate gift of His holy grace.  Christ was crucified and died to give me, and you, that gift of grace.  There is no greater blessing.

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Christ is not the only great man that died on Easter weekend.  Unlike Christmas, Easter doesn’t always fall on the same day each year.  I can’t tell you what day Easter fell on in 1998; my memory of that weekend is full of holes.  I have only spotty recollections of moments here and there from that time.  I remember a call from my sister-in-law, I remember singing ‘Torn’ with Tina as she drove me from… from somewhere to the church with a detour around the ‘Y’, and I remember saying goodbye to the greatest man whoever loved me.

While there isn’t a day that passes that I don’t think of him and miss him terribly, I take solace in knowing that my beloved daddy was also a blessed child of God and because of that he was a recipient of that gift of grace as well; death holds no power over him either.  He too lives and I rejoice in knowing that he is with the Father and one day I will see him again.

Love you, daddy.