Mar 31, 2015

Saving Sweet Briar College

In September of 1985, I was a freshman at Sweet Briar College (SBC).  I was not the "average" student, as I had been out of high school for 10 years, was married with two young children (5 & 8 yrs old at the time). My husband worked at a factory that made iron castings for cars. We had less than $100 in our savings account; owned a recently purchased truck that didn't run; a well that had caved in so we had no running water for six weeks; my daughter, who had just started 1st grade, ended up in the hospital for almost a week with a severe joint infection the day before my freshman orientation; and my husband's work had been reduced to working only three days a week. Only a school like Sweet Briar would have bent over backwards to help me press on. 
Five years later (yes, it took me 5 years), I graduated Magna Cum Laude with High Honors in Psychology and received a prestigious award for community service. My student loans totaled $10,000, which I paid back in full within 10 years of graduating. I landed a job in local government and have been with the City for 24 years. 
When I walked onto campus for the first time as a 27 year old freshman, I really didn't understand the impact of what my SBC education would do for me. The professors and even the staff at Sweet Briar individually encouraged me to do my best, to excel, and even to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. My fellow students also encouraged me as I did them. Going to an all women's college, we didn't have to compete with men in the classroom or in extra curricular activities, so we had ample opportunities to get involved in leadership on campus. We worked hard and took our education seriously. We also took our fun seriously and enjoyed participating in long standing traditions as well as making new ones. 
While I was a student at Sweet Briar and probably up until six or seven years ago, Sweet Briar was managed very well, financially, educationally, etc. As an alumna I have given back to the college over the years. Yet, until March 3, 2015, I (along with over 7000 living alumnae), had no idea the school was in financial trouble to the extent the (then interim) President eluded to in his bombshell of a message--to close our 114 year old institution. 
You see, I live next door to SBC. My land and SBC land connects. I'm on campus often taking photos for families and couples (I have a part-time photography business in addition to my government career). I have watched new buildings go up over the years, and most recently an $8+ million dollar state of the art library. Why in the world would I even begin to consider SBC was in financial trouble when all I could see was a thriving liberal arts school still graduating amazing young women who can change the world!
As an alumna who understands the unique opportunity Sweet Briar College provides young women, I want to help perpetuate what started 114 years ago. I want to see more young women have the opportunity I did to attend the college of their dreams. I want more young women to understand that there is no obstacle that can stand in their way if they work hard and are persistent in pursuing their goals. I want more young women to experience the amazing fellowship and support that thousands of alumnae can provide graduates as they venture out into the world.  
And I will be damned if I stand by and let a handful of people close the gates on my beloved alma mater without fighting for the opportunity to help bring this college back to a full and better life for future generations of students. 
And just so you know, there are thousands of us who are this passionate about saving Sweet Briar College. 
To borrow a quote from Margaret Meade---Never doubt that small group of thoughtful, committed Sweet Briar Girls can change the world. Indeed, we can!
And we will!

You can help us Save Sweet Briar! Visit to learn more about our efforts and to make a pledge or donation. Any amount is helpful!


Mar 7, 2014

Life has been hectic to say the least. My Mom is now a resident of Fairmont nursing home (along with my Mother-In-Law). It's been a long hard year as I've had to take over all of Mom's finances. We had to sell her home and thankfully my sister was able to buy it. Sherry's been painting, putting in new doors, windows and even floors. She's done an amazing job and Mom's old home is now becoming fresh and new again. New and good memories will continue to be made in the old homeplace!

Now, just for fun... I've recently ordered a Shutterfly book for two of my best Village girlfriends. Last April we went to NYC for a girls getaway and had a glorious time. Of course, I took lots of photos but alas, it's taken me nearly a year to put the book together (I actually did it last week on a snow day from work)! I ordered a book for both Nancy and Betty Sue and I plan to surprise them. They haven't even seen the photos yet either!

Here's the link if you want a sneak peek!

Shutterfly offers exclusive photobook layouts so you can make your book just the way you want.

Oct 2, 2012

The Wedding Dress Christening Quilt

My sister Sherry (white top) lives near Cape Cod, MA. She came to Amherst for a visit and brought along with her a christening quilt for a young lady, Emily whom Sherry had met on an earlier visit to Amherst about a year and half ago. Emily just happened to mention that she wanted a quilt made out of her wedding gown (married 7 years ago). However, everyone she approached in her hometown refused to cut up her wedding gown... they just didn't want the responsibility. So Sherry offered to cut her gown up and make the quilt.

Sherry carted the dress back to Cape Cod and looked at it for about eight months before, as she put it, "I was waiting for the dress to speak to me," and provide the concept for the quilt. She took apart every square inch of the gown, carefully removing the lace, beading and satin. Then she started making the squares using the parts of the gown for embellishment. The result was a beautiful christening quilt that Emily plans on handing down to her son (who's 2 years old now) for her future grandchildren to use.

Needless to say, Emily LOVED the quilt, as did her Mom. If you have a wedding gown that you would like turned into a quilt, pillow, etc. I know someone who won't have any problem cutting it up for you! Depending on the gown and the size of the quilt the cost for a custom designed wedding dress quilt runs about $1000 or more. Just email me if you are interested and I'll pass on Sherry's contact information.

Jan 11, 2012

Photographing an Angel

Today I said goodbye in this life to a precious young woman, Breanna.

I met Breanna in October and spent a couple hours with her and her stepmom taking her casual senior photos. Breanna was 17 and a senior at Lynchburg Christian Academy. She was planning on going to college at the Savannah Art Institute. She told me she was interested in marketing and fashion. Breanna's Mom, Kristi, works at the bank where I do my photography business and personal banking. Kristi has been very supportive of my photography business and I was excited to have the opportunity to take her daughter's senior photos.

From the onset of meeting her, Breanna had a composure that exceeded her 17 years. Her eyes sparkled and her smile lit up my camera's viewfinder. She was a natural in front of the camera, and from the photos her Mom had shown me, Breanna was also a very good photographer.

We waltzed around downtown Lynchburg taking a variety of shots and poses. Breanna was game for sitting on the pavement, jumping high more than once, and at a moment's notice, (knowing she loved shoes), I asked her for a quick pose in front of an old shoe factory, now an art studio. That shot turned out to be her Mom's favorite. We finished up at a closed gas station that had unique black and white graffiti all over it's windows and walls. I asked her to spin so I could capture that flying hair look. She laughed and spun several times. The last photo I took of Breanna was with her stepmom... afterall she had followed us everywhere and was a great audience as we took photos.

On January 6, 2012, Breanna left this world to go in the arms of Jesus. She died as a result of a tragic car accident. Her friend who was driving also died. Little did I know that the photos I took of Breanna would make up the slideshow at her visitation. Little did I know that these photos would be the last professional images taken of Kristi's daughter.

It is so very hard to put into words how this tragedy has affected me. I suppose it reminds me of how precious life is and that our days here on earth are a gift. In just two hours of knowing Breanna, I knew the time I had spent with her that day was a gift; a gift I will treasure.

Sep 30, 2011

The Circle of Life

[click on the date to see the entire post]
Have you ever had one of those days when it's all just too much? Seems I'm having one of those years. I'm not really complaining though. God has poured out his blessings on my family in the midst of the difficulties. But still, things have a way of piling up.

We've seen 2 rainbows in the last two weeks.
God is reminding us he's still here.
My mother-in-law is dying. She's slowly dehydrating. Just the other day when my husband laid his hand on shoulder, she looked up at him and said very clearly (in the midst of her Alzheimer's), "Larry, don't make me eat." That was the first time she's called him by name in weeks. Mama has stopped eating and she's only sipping water or soda sparingly. In her right mind she has decided, "enough." She wants to go home to heaven. Her mom and dad are there as well as a brother and various other relatives and friends. Her beloved kitties, Zing and Max, are there too.

My father-in-law is broken-hearted. He has been married to Mama for 58 years. He has known her for nearly his entire life. He is lonely. We take meals to him, have him over for a glass of wine, listen to him reminiscing, encourage him to continue his coffee mornings with his buddies, but his heart is still breaking.

My husband is frustrated and sad. He is watching his mother die from Alzheimer's. He is watching his father die of a broken heart. My husband is sad over this and understandably so. He's frustrated about the legalities of the health care system (or lack there of). He's frustrated with Social Services, his father's bank, and various other things he's now required to manage due to his mother's illness. He's irritated with our politcal system because those in power who can make positive changes to the health care system are more concerned with getting votes instead of helping the elderly die with dignity.

Yet among the difficulties, blessings flow. Our granddaughter Olivia is now 5 months old and is a joy to behold. My granddaughter Halle believed me when I told her that the swooshing noises she was hearing just before she fell asleep were really her guardian angel's wings (my son said it was the air conditioner turning on, but Halle wasn't buying that). My grandson Josh is growing from toddlerhood to little boy and can focus on swinging at a baseball for hours.

The Village (7 couples who are our closest friends) gets together every so often for a good meal and has a great time telling stories and laughing over old stories.

Both my husband and I have dealt with several health issues, but as it turns out, we've either healed or it turned out not to be a major issue. We're both very healthy (minus a few aches and pains that come with mid-life), and for that I am so grateful.

Our faith is in tact. Quite possibly even stronger because of all we are facing right now. The love of God is the one thing in our world that we can count on to never change nor ever leave. God is the glue that keeps our lives from breaking apart. God's love for us gives us hope and joy no matter the cicumstance we face. I can't imagine life without Him, and I don't have to.

Though life is ending for some in our lives, it's beginning in others. It's all just a part of the circle of life. It's a gift that keeps on giving, and for those of us who believe in God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit, the circle of life will be forever and ever.

Jul 5, 2011

Va Va Voom!

This photo and the one after it are just two images from a set of photos I did over the weekend. It was a very special photoshoot, and one I had not done before. It was a boudoir shoot. The 43 year old woman I took the pictures of is a very special friend who used to work in my office. About 5 years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer and it was pretty bad. It turned out she has the genetic form of this type of cancer, and she's since learned that one of her daughters has the gene as well. Lisa had to have a double masectomy then underwent a lot of chemo. She is currently cancer free, praise the Lord! She's also had breast reconstruction surgery.

Well, her husband is going to be deployed to Afghanastan for a year at the end of July, and she has a 4-day pass to see him before he leaves. Lisa wanted to give him a CD with a slideshow of photos of her in sexy little (and I mean little) outfits. I did some research and looked at a training video on this type of photography and agreed to do it for her. Last night she saw the slideshow for the first time and she said she cried. She didn't know she could look that beautiful. And she had told me when I arrived at her home that she was not photogenic at all... I totally disagreed.

What I really liked most of all doing this photoshoot was that I had an opportunity to show someone who's been poked, prodded, cut apart, sewed up, and scarred that she truly is still beautiful and now even more so. God doesn't make bad stuff and he always gives each of us something beautiful. I had the pure blessing of helping her see that beauty again.

I'll post a couple more photos after I hear how Lisa's husband responded to this special gift, and I'll let you know what he said.

After talking with Lisa today I'm considering talking to our local cancer hospital to let them know that I'm willing and able to take special photos of women who have had this type of cancer (or any for that matter). It will be an honor and a privilidge to re-reveal a woman's true beauty to her.

May 26, 2011

Blue Angels

The Navy & Marine's Blue Angels team performed in the Lynchburg Airshow on May 21 & 22. They had an awesome show! Unfortunately, the second day's show was cut short about 10 mins. as the Angels did a lower than normal maneuver. They were told by their commanding officer to "knock it off" which basically means, stop the show and land now! After looking at someones video on YouTube, I do remember the exact moment that occurred but didn't realize that they had come dangerously close to the ground. They were btw 50 & 60 feet over the runway in a diamond formation! It could have been disasterous. The Angels are on a Safety Standdown right now and have canceled performances in MD this weekend. They are in FL working on safety and practicing so that that never happens again.

Blue Angels, my set on Flickr.