Friday, December 31, 2010


The topic of the day is New Year's Resolutions.

Do you make them or not?

Do you keep them or not?

I do not make New Year's Resolutions. I've found that there are too many variables in my life, too many little things that can change the picture every day, to be able to see whether or not some goals can be kept. If I make resolutions that are too specific I feel as though I've failed if I need to change that goal later in the year. If my goals are too general it's hard to tell if I've met them or not and too easy to just not bother trying.

Making New Year's resolutions makes me feel like I'm just setting myself up for failure. And heaven knows I tend to be too hard on myself as it is.

I think we make resolutions every day.

Every day we wake up and decide what kind of person we're going to be.

Will we carry the pains and regret of yesterday's wrongs with us and let them weigh us down?

Or will we start the day with a clean slate and a new determination to do our best?

Will we focus on what makes us angry or afraid?

Or will we focus on the positive and look for ways to make a difference for good?

Will I see in myself the best I have to offer or will I see only my limitations?

Will I see in you only your limitations?

Or will I see your need...

for love...



a second chance....

May our focus improve this year.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Best Christmas Present Ever

Looking around my living room I see bits and pieces of wrapping paper and ribbons still littering the floor. Presents freshly unwrapped are stacked in one corner, waiting to be put away. Holiday candles and Christmas tree lights are glowing as the snow swirls outside my window and a favorite old movie is on TV.

It's almost bedtime on the day after Christmas. Family and friends have come and gone and soon the goodies will be, too, if not the extra pounds.

What was your favorite present this year?

Was it something homemade? Something you'd longed for or something you didn't even realize you wanted?

I've discovered the older I get, the less I remember the gifts I received and the more I remember the gifts I gave. I remember most the planning, the plotting, the saving, the shopping, even the clever wrapping of that perfect gift for someone special. Those are the memories that stick with me, more than what was in those boxes with my name on the label.

The gift is in the giving.

Last year we flew to Texas the week before Christmas for the memorial service for my mother-in-law. My husband, a Baptist minister, led the service. His sister and her daughters sang “It Is Well With My Soul”. I don't know how they managed to hold it together, unless it was the thought that their mother believed they could do anything and would have expected nothing less of them.

My mother-in-law was a great lady who made things happen and who also knew the value of a quiet, unplanned day.

When we visited her she gave us wonderful home cooked meals

whirlwind shopping trips



and time.

Thinking of her I realized what my favorite gift was this Christmas.


Time with my daughter, who no longer lives under my roof. I'm so grateful she's close enough to visit now and then. Time to get to know someone special she brought home with her this year.

Time with my younger daughter who is finishing high school in a few months, to watch glimpses of the little kid she once was before it's her turn to take on the world beyond our door.

Time with my husband, to see his burdens briefly lifted by the presence of our daughters, knowing that for a little while he's not thinking about the job hunt that continues to drag on much too long or a hundred other worries that weigh heavily on his mind during his long commute to his “in-between” part-time job every day.

Time for phone calls full of laughter

with relatives who live too far away for visits,

yet they are always in my heart.

Time to tell my daughters about them and

share memories of my childhood Christmases,

introducing them to family members they never got the chance to meet,

loved ones I sometimes see in their smiles

and hear in their laughter.

You can't wrap that up neatly and stick a bow on it.

Time and love.

I hope your life is full of both in the new year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

NYC October 2010 Part Two

(This continues the account of my weekend in New York City for Crystal Chappell's fan events that I began in NYC October 2010 Part One)

On Sunday, October 24th, my gracious roommate, Valerie, who had attended the Venice luncheon on Saturday, decided to go with me into the city to play tourist for the day. I was very glad she was able to navigate our way on the PATH train from our hotel in Jersey City to a station just a couple of blocks from Brother Jimmy's. We said goodbye there with hugs and many thanks since she was not attending the CCandFriends luncheon .

I checked my bag, got in line for the luncheon and got my CCandFriends tote bag with a nice little button with Crystal's picture on it that looked very familiar (I had made these at the request of @Cubfnatic just a few days earlier). I greeted friends, some old and some new, as I looked around for a place to sit. Then a group of CarBo fans I'd met at the RF Lounge the night before spotted me and waved me over to join their table. My place next to the wall gave me a great vantage point for taking pictures and I tested out some angles and checked exposure settings.

To understand what this was like for me you have to know that I worked years ago as a freelance photographer. Besides casual portraits and stock photography, I worked for the Public Relations department at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, taking pictures of campus events for the alumni magazine and the local newspapers and doing all their black & white darkroom work. As a volunteer I did the same thing for my church. I love shooting an event, getting a feel for the interactions between people, anticipating expressions and watching for the shots that will tell the story. It had been a long time since I'd been able to do that and I finally had the right camera for it. I had appreciated pictures others had shared of fan events I was unable to attend and I really wanted to be able to return the favor this time.

It wasn't long before Crystal & Kimmy arrived. @Cubfnatic welcomed everybody and started us off with an emotional toast to Cathie Wagner, Crystal's long-time fan club president who passed away last year. Crystal got a little choked up as she said a few words about Cathie, too, and thanked us all for coming.

I watched Crystal start making her way from table to table, greeting everyone in turn, having her picture taken with them and signing autographs and I began to take pictures. I noticed that with each person in turn, she listened intently and spoke to them as if there was no one else in the room. Some people had brought things for her to sign and she was happy to do that for them and shared lots of hugs and laughter with everyone. Crystal never seemed rushed or distracted as she gave each person her full attention, always thanking them for coming and for their continued support.

Kimmy was also moving through the room and everyone was excited to meet her. She did her share of signing autographs and posing for pictures, too. She liked the special graphic I'd made for her to autograph that said "My Life Is a Soap Opera... What Would Kimmy Tweet?"  I gave her the gift I'd brought for her: a “Team WeBreakSh*t” t-shirt and she threw back her head and laughed! I think she was having as much fun meeting everybody there as they were having meeting her.

Let me say a special thank you to my table-mates, the CarBo crew, for being so tolerant of me and my crazy photographer ways. They were very understanding when I'd stop practically in mid-sentence (mine or theirs) to snap a photo, then pick up right where we'd left off or just wander off randomly to get a better angle. Thank you, ladies, I enjoyed talking about soaps and getting to know you! Save me a seat next year!

When Crystal got to our table it was easy to see how much she appreciated all the efforts of the CarBo fans on her behalf. I loved photographing all those smiles! When it was my turn to talk to her I gave her a “My Life Is a Soap Opera...What Would Gina Do?” t-shirt and she laughed and said she loved it! There's so much I would love to have said to her, but I felt like I'd already gotten a wonderful “Crystal moment”, complete with hug, when I saw her as she first arrived at the RF Lounge the night before and with so many others waiting I didn't want to take up any more of her time.

Some of the best pictures I got all day came when @OliviaGotJokes stopped by our table. She arrived just in time to sample the appetizers and picked up one, thinking it was a hush puppy. It was a fried pickle slice and I captured that moment of discovery in a stunning series of close-ups! Unfortunately, she's more than a little shy about having her picture shared, so I can't show them to you!

After Crystal had worked her way around the room and back again there was a great commotion near the entrance and we saw that Jessica Leccia had arrived. I looked up and saw Kimmy greeting Brian, Jessica's husband, with a big hug and I turned on my flash and fired off a few shots. I like shooting without flash better but I wasn't going to take a chance on missing that moment!

People began to line up to get Jessica's autograph and have their picture taken with her and Crystal. I finally gave in to my instincts and climbed up on a chair to get a good angle and I'm glad I did. That's when I got what I think was one of my best shots of the day, this picture of Jessica:

I was watching for the moments just after a posed shot is taken because that's when people relax and you can often catch some great expressions and interactions then. I also got a couple of shots I liked of Crystal and Jessica during quiet moments here and there.

At one point I saw Brian tap Jessica on the shoulder and she turned to hear what he was saying. I just happened to have my camera focused on Jessica at the time and I'm guessing that he must have pointed out to her that the crazy lady standing on that chair over there was the one who made the purple teddy bear and the “Dimples” design because she turned around quickly and looked right at me. Click! She smiled and waved at me and said, “Hi, Donna!” I knew I'd get a chance to talk with her later because Brian had told me she'd stick around for me to get an autograph if there wasn't a chance during the luncheon.

The line for autographs and pictures was dwindling so I stopped shooting and got in line myself, handing my camera to @Cubfnatic to get a picture of me with Jessica and Crystal (Thanks, Cubbie!). I'd printed out some of my graphics to be autographed and Crystal signed the “What Would Olivia” do one. I told her I had some ideas about using those designs for fund raisers and she said that was great, that they'd be doing more of that in the Spring.

By then it was time to leave and folks were gathering upstairs to hang out or say goodbye. I'd seen Jill Lorie Hurst slip in and say hello to Crystal (wish I'd gotten a good shot of the two of them together!) just before they started moving everybody back upstairs. Jill assured me she was content to wait for me while I spoke with Jessica and bid farewell to everybody. I talked with Jessica for a minute and got her autograph on my “Dimples” design and said goodbye to Twitter friends I'd finally met face to face.

Jill had mentioned, as we were making plans for the weekend, that she had another friend coming to town the same weekend, a former writer for Soap Opera Digest. But when my Twitter friend, Donna (@shallotpeel) introduced me to her partner, Melissa, during the luncheon I had no idea that Melissa was the friend Jill had been talking about! The four of us had a great time as we wandered around the streets of New York. As always I had not a clue where we were headed but it didn't matter because I loved the company!

Donna and I have had some interesting discussions online and never run out of things to talk about. She lives in a town where my mother grew up and where I used to visit my grandparents. We both have roots in the Southern Baptist church so we had fun talking about faith and Otalia and our personal journeys relating to both while Jill and Melissa got reacquainted. After a while we found a little cafe and decided that it was as good a time as any to have dessert, so we did. What happened next was the cherry atop my wonderful weekend!

The four of us had a fascinating discussion about Melissa's dissertation …sociology... social media... soap opera trends and the discussion veered into their personal memories of the soaps, too. (I understand she's written a chapter in a new book, The Survival of Soap Opera: Transformations for a New Media Era.) I've been watching soaps for over 45 years so I loved hearing their memories of working on and around soaps and knew all the shows and actors they mentioned and couldn't resist jumping into the discussion from time to time. I even asked Melissa about something I'd always been curious about. Has the increasing serialization of primetime shows had an impact on the viewership of daytime soaps? That's one she hadn't thought about but I'd love to see if there's a correlation.

After a while they decided to call an old friend of theirs to come join us, Tom Casiello. Tom has two Emmys for writing for As The World Turns, a Writer's Guild Award for the Young and the Restless, Emmy and WGA Award nominations for his work on One Life To Live, was Associate Headwriter for Days Of Our Lives and is currently writing for the Y&R (I think I got all that right!) . So I found myself caught up in their shared memories and discussion of current soaps and friends who were coming and going. When they talked about their friend, “Danny” Cosgrove joining the cast of All My Children again, I loved being able to tell them that I had watched him as Scott Chandler years before and was looking forward to having him return to that role. Since none of them are watching AMC these days I told them a bit about what the character had gone through and the way they are writing the transition to bring him in. They were very interested to know what I thought about the soaps I watched and I was delighted to share my opinions and talk about the changes I'd seen over the years.

After a while I took a deep breath, sat back and thought to myself, “How the heck did I end up HERE?” Sitting around a table in a little cafe in New York City with the former Guiding Light editor of Soap Opera Digest, the Emmy and WGA Award winning former Headwriter of Guiding Light, and a multi-Emmy winning writer who is currently writing one of the soaps I watch! At the same time, I felt like I was hanging out with a few old friends that I'd just met. It boggles the mind. I felt very blessed to be in their company and was in no hurry to leave. But I had a train to catch.

As Jill and I were saying our goodbyes to the others I told Tom that I was on the leadership team for Eden Riegel's official fan club, Absolute Eden. He had some very nice things to say about Eden and said they had good things in store for her. Before we left I asked if I could take a picture of the four of them together. It seemed only fitting that we document this reunion of old friends and they were delighted to pose for me. I think this last picture I took was one of my best shots of the weekend!

When @KiaRene contacted me about using some of my photos in a video she was making about the weekend's events I was honored and delighted and of course gave my permission. She did a wonderful job with the video and if there's such a thing as whipped cream or sprinkles up there with the cherry atop my wonderful weekend in New York City that's how I'd have to describe seeing my photos in the video and my name included in the credits at the end!

You can see more of my photos of these events here:  

You can watch the video that includes my photos here:

Thank you, Crystal. Thank you, Kimmy. Thank you Jessica & Brian. Thank you @Cubfnatic and @OliviaGotJokes and @LesliePenny and all of Crystal's Team Venice! And thank you to all of my friends who shared the weekend with me!

Let's do it again soon!