October 29, 2011

Locks of Love

I love Paris! It boasts itself as the most romantic city in the world. One would be hard pressed to challenge its claim.. I discovered a spot that manifested couples declarations of love in a vibrant and brilliant way. On the Ponte de l’Archeveche’, a bridge  which crosses the Seine from Notre-Dame Cathedral, thousands of padlocks attached to its railings create a brightly colored mosaic that glimmers in the sunlight.
Lovers from around the world have come to add their testimony of true love, engraving their initials on the padlocks, in a glitzy plethora of styles, fastening it to the railings, and then tossing the keys into the Seine in declaration of undying love. 
The locks, the bridge, all of Paris are beautiful. Paris is, as Woody Allen said, “drop dead gorgeous!” But I found myself unable to fully enjoy this romantic city without my true love, Doug. I needed a lock of my own to clasp to the railing symbolizing that my heart belongs to him. 
Every romantic scene; every tree lined boulevard, every cafĂ© filled with couples sharing a cappuccino, every captivating cathedral, every cobblestone road, every beautifully bare-breasted sculpture, every magical glowing light at night somehow lost some of its magic for me because I didn’t have my true love. I missed him!
True Love: what every heart desires, what every soul needs. And I was missing mine. How thankful I am that he is home waiting for me. How thankful I am that he fills my heart and completes my soul. And my heart is locked forever with his. 

October 15, 2011

Strength of a Father

When speaking about fathers, American author Clarence Budington Kelland said “He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” While in Germany we met two fathers who lived this way!
Each new country brings new families, new children and new mothers and fathers. I was especially touched by this family and I loved the fathers here. They lived on a small farm in a little town. The farm was built in 1856 and had been in their family for three generations. The Father’s name is Danny. His adorable farmer father, who the boys affectionately call Opa, was there with us as well. Danny had learned to be a farmer from his father. And he had learned from his father before. Strong father’s teaching their sons how to work and love was passed from one generation to another in this family. And now Danny was a father of two sons.
We had to hurry to keep up with these two darling young boys. We watched as they climbed up on their big red tractor. We raced to follow them into the pig pen, and then rushed to keep up as they ran out to the garden. We photographed them as they played among pumpkins, zucchini and squash. 
Then we hurried to keep up as they ran off to pick apples from their tree. Danny lifted his youngest son so he could reach the apples. Felix picked an apple for each of us. It was a delightful experience to eat apples with them on their beautiful farm. The apples were crisp, sweet and juicy!
I could tell Danny was a great father. He thoughtfully plowed the rich, dark soil with his son Max. He carefully lifted Felix onto the tractor. He gently helped Max collect eggs from the chicken coop. When I met Danny and shook his hands they were large and strong and I noticed his firm grip. These father’s hands work hard every day. But they are also caring and gentle as he teaches and loves his sons on their beautiful farm in Germany. Just like his father had taught him.
What a blessing and privilege to meet these wonderful fathers and these darling boys. They live in such a way that their sons watch and learn. They were a great example to me of the kind of wonderful, loving  families one kind find all around the world. 
This is me with Felix and Opa! So fun!! 

October 10, 2011

When In Rome

We were lucky enough to have some free time in Rome so we could do a little sightseeing! So, when in Rome...

The famous Scalinata Spagna (Spanish Steps) named after the Holy See, lead up to the French church, Trinita dei Monti. In the 18th century the most beautiful women and men of Italy would gather here hoping and waiting to be chosen as an artist’s model. 
Today it is filled with locals and tourists alike, and many beautiful people. However, no one asked me to model for them.J 

Peters Basilica! “The first burst of the interior, in all its expansive majesty and glory: and, most of all, the looking up into the Dome; is a sensation never to be forgotten” Charles Dickens, 1846. I, obviously, couldn’t say it better than Dickens! 

The Colosseum! (That’s how the Romans spell it) Construction began in 72AD and was completed in 80AD. Capable of seating 50,000 spectators this massive ancient structure is impressive! 
When my son, James, visited Rome several years ago he sent home photos and he was flexing his muscles in all of them. We wondered why. Then he said “I don’t know what it is, but everything about this city makes me want to flex!” J Now I know why! I couldn’t help but feel the excitement that must have filled this Colosseum 2000 years ago. I imagined myself being there as crowds of thousands of Romans pushed their way through the great entrance gates. The wealthy finding their place in seats of marble. Others hiking to the upper levels with benches made of wood. But, honestly, there are no bad seats in this Colosseum. I imagined the excited, riotous cheers as exotic, wild animals were let out into the arena. I imagined the thunderous shouts and shrills as Gladiators fought for their lives. So long ago and yet distance echoes of it all seem to still float in the air.

The Sistine Chapel leaves me speechless. I know, hard to believe. But words cannot describe it. It is truly one of the most, if not THE MOST incredible pieces of artwork ever created. Michelangelo is pure genius. 
The entire Vatican Museum is filled with spectacular works of art from paintings to sculptures to frescos, draperies and more. However, the hundreds of artworks you see on the way through the Vatican Museum to the chapel pale to a distant, bland recollection as soon as you see the ceiling. Like everything else in this extraordinarily exquisite city the photo does NOT do it justice.

Gelato! Did I mention how incredible the food is here? Did I mention that we indulged in the deliciousness of Gelato every single day!

I must confess, I like ice cream in all its wonderful varieties, but the Italians have created something purely magical with their Gelato. It is Heavenly. The best part is you get three flavors at once! My favorite combo: cioccolato al latte(milk chocolate), Coco(coconut), and Caramello(caramel). A trip to Italy would not be complete without this tasty treat.

Everyone should visit Rome. And when in Rome… enjoy the beauty, the grandeur and the delicious cuisine! 

October 08, 2011

Amo Roma!

After seven diverse countries, dozens of crazy foods, 25 hot humid days, and 33 straight hours of flights I found myself in the center of the universe! At least that is what the Romans thought this city was 2000 years ago. Amo Roma =I love Rome! It felt like I had gone to heaven. Don’t get me wrong, I have loved all the countries we have visited. Each has offered a new fascinating culture, different foods, beautiful country sides and incredible people. But, many have also been a bit challenging. Rome is full of beauty, architecture, history, art and mouthwatering, tummy filling, superbly satisfying food! This is a place I could move to and live happily ever after.
When we arrived we had three families set up to photograph. Two of the families were related. Then tragedy struck and the father of one of our families passed away! Our hearts were broken for this sweet young family. We no longer had families to meet so we needed help. We prayed for the young family who lost their father. And we prayed that we might find other families to photograph. 
We set out to visit the parks and the piazzas around Rome. We had no idea where to go and who we might meet. We did our best to follow our hearts. We discovered that many people in Italy are very suspicious of others and especially anything that has to do with photographs, internet and their children. We understand. We do our best to explain who we are and that our intentions are good and honest. But, it was a great obstacle to overcome. Just when we were feeling a bit discouraged we were guided to two darling families and we were able to take some adorable photographs!
These two little girls: Livia and Giula are some of my favorite children we have photographed so far. We found this family happily sitting on the curb eating their gelatos. They were so sweet and happy to help us. The girls were adorable, funny, happy and cooperative!
It was another great lesson of how to trust the spirit and follow one’s heart. Even when tragedy strikes and challenges come we will be blessed as we work diligently to help and serve others. It is genuinely satisfying to find these amazing, sweet, wonderful families everywhere we go. 

October 02, 2011

Nepal - A Father's Hope

One of the countries I was most looking forward to visiting was Nepal. It did not disappoint me. What a plethora of sites, sounds, smells, colors, and people! I wish we could have stayed longer, but alas, we are not here for vacation or site seeing. We come, meet our families, take our photographs and rush off to the next destination. It certainly is not the way to see the world, but it is an amazing way to meet many, many incredible diverse people. Nepal has 29 million people. 20 million of them live in poverty. 56% of them are illiterate. They need books! We are anxious to have them completed so we can begin giving them to people, just like the people in Nepal.
We had an interesting experience while on one of our shoots in Nepal. We arrived at our second family’s home. We drove through the crazy, crowded, streets of Kathmandu until we arrived at the narrow, windy, dirt roads about an hour out of the city. Their home was a small, stone structure. They had two cows in the yard, several chickens, a small garden, and a relentless barking dog. We began our photo shoot and got several good pictures taken. As we were setting up our next shot an old man, the grandfather of the home, came barging into the yard yelling and waving his arms. He was clearly very angry about something. About us.
Our interpreter tried speaking to him, but the grandfather only became angrier. We do not want to upset anyone so we quickly packed up our things and left. The young mother was embarrassed and kept apologizing. We told her it was okay, not to worry. We are here to create peace and understanding not to make people feel angry. Our interpreter explained that the grandfather was shouting “Why do they come to take pictures? We are poor. So many come and take pictures but do not help us! Why do they take pictures of my family?” If only we could explain to him that we will help his family.I truly hope someday to return and bring books to his village in Nepal. If only he had known.  
As we hiked back down the dirt path toward the road we came across another family in their small yard. The young father and mother anxiously came out to greet us and show off their beautiful little boy. We dipped our heads in the common Nepali way and greeted them with a smile and “Namaste”.  It’s amazing how universal a smile is. It brings warm, kind feelings. They were happy to have their photograph taken. As we were leaving the father had just one request. “Please help my son for his education” was his simply, heartfelt plea. This father has concerns like fathers around the world. He wants what is best for his son. He wants his son to have an education. This young poor father, in the hills of Nepal, understands that his son’s future will be better if he is educated. I also recognize the powerful truth in this. That is why I look for opportunities to serve and help these sweet people. 
I hope, somehow through my work, and the things I do, that I can make a difference in this young Nepali boy’s life. I hope we can honor his father’s hopes and wishes. I hope we can honor the wishes of the upset grandfather, as well, and help his village. I hope we can fulfill this same hope for many, many fathers and grandfathers and for many, many children.