meet payden.

She is the first daughter of my oldest brother, and sometimes, I swear she reminds me exactly of myself when I was 17. There is a sweet confidence about her, and she is still a complete smartass. Believe me, in half the shots below, she was making me laugh.

We had so much fun shooting her senior pictures. I am a little biased, I guess, since she is my niece and all. It was probably in my top three favorite shoots ever. Not just because they are of Payden (that girl has got the looks, that’s for sure), but because I found new spots to shoot and tried new poses. And the horse! I’ve never used such a big animal before, but she definitely wanted pictures with her Braveheart.IMG_7652a

IMG_7677aThis shoot gave me a different kind of confidence that I have not felt before. I am much more comfortable with the idea of being someone who can shoot people and capture their personalities. IMG_7731a

IMG_7771aI didn’t have to give her a lot of direction because she had an idea of what we both wanted. She wanted pictures that were pretty and model-y, and I wanted pictures that showed how laid back and relaxed she is. I wanted her pictures to be the most gorgeous ones I’ve ever done, and bingo, I think we nailed it. payden1collage

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IMG_8004aWe shot these on two different evenings, and she wants another spot, which I’ll share later when they are all finished.

tink.

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Oh the 4th, she wanted to do a photo shoot. Her idea, not mine. Somehow I think she was coaxing her way away from the fireworks because she has no interest in blowing things up and loud bangs. Her mom and sisters were doing enough of that anyway.

And somehow they turned out to be some of my favorite pictures of her, ever. I love those accidental facial expressions and full-of-love eye shots that she can give you through lens. Her little innocence is just sitting there, waiting to be lapped up with light. I love that too.
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I hope that she never loses that part of her, that innocent love for life. That as she grows older, she doesn’t have to endure the weird or cruel things other kids can say. I know that someday she will have to stand up for herself, be stronger than everyone else, and brush off negativity, but still, I wish I could protect her little heart from that kind of worry.
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Disability brings scars, in both physical ways and emotional ways. In the 10 years that I have been paralyzed, I have felt myself become stronger, more resilient in many ways, but still, there are parts of me that are gaping wide open with things that I wish I could change, things that still cut me deep. I think it will be the same for Serenity. Her hands may bring attention, and she will either ignore it or she is going to fight it with all the attitude she can muster.

She is still one of the most beautiful people I know, no matter what.

july,

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you, in all your
weighted yellow glory,
are beautiful,
covering my day with
the honey-colored light
that makes me wish
you would never
have to leave.

Fill me up with it
to last me
through winter.

softball.

Mike has been playing on a wheelchair softball team, and every Thursday, they practice near our house. We have gone to watch a few times, and I have to say that dang, it looks fun. Tiring but fun.

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They are all good guys on the team. They have good attitudes and are always joking around. The kind of people I want to be around.

It’s so funny to me to see how much attention they get from people who are jogging or driving by. Wheelchair sports are fascinating to those that can walk apparently. Maybe challenging in their minds.  I like that. They see them doing the same things they can do, only sitting.KuLvoER-NBejJYsqIoE65HQnptqCj-0UJ5PPsyDl0eE[1]
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Whatever it takes, I guess, to get that right kind of attention.

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volunteering.

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Jude had contacted me on Twitter months ago, asking if I would be interested in getting involved with their volunteer activities, and at the time, I just couldn’t make it work. I was planning the wedding, figuring out where we would live, then dealing with Dad’s cancer. It just wasn’t a good time for me, or my obivously unstable emotions.

When he contacted me again, I decided that if now isn’t a good time, there never will be a good time.  I signed up for that next Sunday.

And two days later, off we went. He and Ami had already thought of everything. How I would be transported in my chair so I was a part of the group, not a tagalong. What I could be helping with, along with taking pictures. And Jude and I decided that if we went to the homeless camps near the river, he would be the one pulling me out of the mud.

The people that we handed food and water to were, in a word, interesting. All shapes, colors, types of families. Homelessness does not discriminate. And these people are appreciative. Many of them are proud.  It is so evident in their eyes that they need this and are thankful.

I look forward to doing this again, for them and for me.

 

Find out more about Silverback Kansas and what projects they curerently have going on at the website here.

our wedding: part 3

When we started planning last year, Greg and I agreed that we wanted a fast ceremony. Quick and easy, but still one that meant something to each of us. We planned it out to be 10 minutes or so long. Perfect.

So when people were still showing up at 10 past 5. we knew we had to start. My brother pushed my dad down the aisle in his wheelchair, and my mom pushed me in mine. If there was something that my dad wanted besides being there, it was to give me away. And that’s all I wanted too. My dad was there to do whats dads are supposed to do. (Thank you, Dad.)

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We went through the common vows, the ones that you “repeat.” And immediately, I choked up. I lost all concentration and asked “What? Say that again?” at one point, which turned my happy tears in giggles.

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The train rolled through, blowing its horn, for the entire 30 seconds (or whatever it was) that we exchanged our personal vows for each other. People said later that they couldn’t hear, and suddenly it occured to me, that it was perfect that way. They were our vows, nobody else’s. A lot of them asked me if I had timed the train or timed our vows to be intentionally overpowered, but really, I didn’t. I wish I had been so clever to think of that!

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Something about the way the weather, the train, all of it, went just how it wasn’t supposed to, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.

After the ceremony, we moved into the barn. The greeting line felt like it was neverending. Literally, I thought people were multiplying before my eyes. There was so many people. We had to set up extra tables and chairs even.

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We ate, we cut cake, we did toasts, and we danced.  Perfect day/night. One I will never, ever forget.

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All photos by Chris Gharst. An amazingly talented local photographer and friend.

our wedding: part 2

I loved our wedding party. Small, two a piece. Our best friend and then, sibling. Easy peasy. These 4 people know us almost as well as anyone else, and it was only right that we chose them to stand up (or sit down, actually) with us.

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Everything about our outfits looked just like I wanted. The girls’ dresses didn’t look silly with the Chucks, and the guys’ yellow ties were the same shiny yellow as the tulips in our bouquets. We all coordinated, and there wasn’t too much yellow or too much gray. It looked pretty elegant given that there was lace accenting everything.
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I loved it all.

People often want it to be sunny on their big day, but I knew that sun meant shadows for pictures. I didn’t want that so the overcast through the entire afternoon couldn’t have been any more perfectly timed. The weather gods were looking out for us that day.
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I don’t know how long we spent taking pictures before the ceremony, but it felt like it took forever and no time at all, all at the same time.

All photos by Chris Gharst. An amazingly talented local photographer and friend.