"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Friday, August 31, 2012

breast cancer survivors

It is that time of the year again for me to photograph twelve selected breast cancer survivors for Shawnee Mission Medical Center. The portraits will be displayed in the hospital during Breast Cancer Awareness month (October), and the subjects will be featured as "calendar girls" in a nicely designed and printed piece that is given to newly diagnosed patients.

This year, we asked each subject to bring to the photo shoot something that was really important to them throughout their diagnosis and treatment - a treasure, if you will.... something that helped them get through it all.

I've done this project for many years and love working with Meg and Charlene at SMMC. One year, they even asked me to participate. That was 2008, the year I reluctantly became a member of the "club." (I am happy to report that with regular follow-up mammograms and check-ups, I remain in tip-top shape.) 

I am grateful to SMMC for asking me to shoot the portraits yet another time. They specifically asked that I do the pictures in the same style as my "Estate Sale Portraits." The colors are wild and whacky, but I think the pictures work.

These two happen to be among my favorites. Thanks, ReBecca and Pam, for letting me share them, along with what you wrote, here on the blog.

I am a mother, daughter, sister, auntie and friend... I am a breast cancer survivor.

My treasures through this life changing journey were GOD and my parents. I know God is always with me, but through this He has been working overtime, and I thank Him every day for that.

My parents raised me to be a strong individual, and this was a true test of how much of my childhood I took with me into adulthood. My mom, Mae, is my life rock. When I got the dreaded phone call, she was the first person I called. Her exact words were, 'WE will get through this.' We did just that. I LOVE YOU MAMA.

We spend our entire lives taking care of others. Please, ladies, take time out to take care of yourselves. Go to the doctor. Get your mammograms every year. I would never have thought this would happen to me, but early detection definitely makes a world of difference." - ReBecca

"I am a wife, mother, grammie, daughter, sister, aunt, mother-in-law, friend, co-worker... I am a breast cancer survivor.

My friends at my job supported me in every aspect. One of them made a stuffed, hot pink fabric bunny. Staff signed it with words of encouragement. I was overwhelmed that they did that for me. I took it to the hospital for every surgery, and it never left my side during recuperation. Her name is 'BooBee Bunny.'  My granddaughter gave me a smaller one at my one-year anniversary.

My mother says I light up a room when I walk in, so she's always called me her sunshine. My advice is to NEVER let your sunshine dim, because you are proof that there is light and hope." - Pam

Thursday, August 30, 2012


The concert organized by our very own Monique Udo (CTT Team 5) from the Netherlands was a huge success! The much heralded performance (it was widely advertised in the Kajjansi community, and tickets were sold) was a terrific opportunity to highlight the talented young painters, jewelry makers, dancers, drummers and marching band musicians who are part of the St. Mary Kevin Orphanage family.

This was Monique's third trip to the orphanage. She has accomplished an unbelievable amount of good work there, and for that we are most grateful. She has been responsible for providing a plethora of additional instruments. She has added an entire set of recorders for beginning music students. She has taught the children (and more important - their Ugandan teacher) how to read music. Monique has ramped up the horn section (she's a sax player) in a big way. She has instilled confidence in the kids as performers. And last, but certainly not least, she purchased brand new uniforms for the marching band!! The kids feel smart (that's the word used in Uganda for stylish) and look smart, and this makes them feel pretty darn good about themselves.

Here are some pictures (thanks to Melissa and Monique) from the big day. I only wish we could find a way to bring this event to the Kauffman Center in Kansas City. Just imagine!

Paintings, tie-dyed fabrics and beaded jewelry for sale outside the venue.
All items were made by the kids from SMK.

The musicians arrived and posed in front of the concert banner

Ivan has been the music teacher at SMK for many years and has worked with the
marching band from the very beginning. His dedication to the kids is admirable, to say the very least.

The SMK dancers!

Special focus on everyone's darling, the amazing Claire Faith

The very smart members of the SMK Marching Band

Monique with the horn section

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

suzanne, my sister and a gorilla trek

I am now busy packing duffel bags for my upcoming trip to Uganda. Got my prescription for Malarone yesterday.  Bought some Imodium. Found a great pair of gardening gloves and rain pants (will explain later). Seems like I should be able to do this in my sleep now and that the preparation would be boring, but each visit to the Pearl of Africa is different for me… especially this one.

So, let me explain.

Team 6 will be going to Uganda in December. It’s a fantastic group of volunteers, each of whom I will introduce to you as the date draws nearer.  CTT is incredibly lucky to have yet another enthusiastic, caring cadre of individuals who have stepped up and said, “We want to help, and we can’t wait to meet the children at St. Mary Kevin Orphanage!”

Suzanne with some of her adoring SMK friends

This year, the leader of the team will not be me. Instead, it will be Suzanne Garr, a very loyal and true friend to CTT. Suzanne was a member of both Team 4 and 5, and she has done so much to raise funds and awareness throughout the years. In fact, at her recent 50th birthday party, she asked her guests to bring gifts – not for her, but for the kids at the orphanage. Suzanne just does things like that, again and again! She will be an able leader of the group, and she is looking forward to taking on the responsibility. Much more on Team 6’s trip will follow.

As for me, I am going in September. Being on my own will give me more time to work with the orphanage administration and more time to spend with the children on an individual basis. It will also allow me more time to shoot. And, finally, it will give me time to do something I’ve been wanting to do since my first visit to Uganda in 2006: go on a gorilla trek!!!!!!

And, the cool thing is, I’m only going to be on my own for a few days. My beloved sister, Bobbie, who has been listening to me go on and on about the kids, the smells, the sounds, the red earth, the delicious matoke and the welcoming spirit of the Ugandan people, is finally going to experience it all for herself. She will join me for a good portion of the trip, including the trek (bring on the garden gloves and rain pants). We are so excited!

So, please stay tuned for more details as they unfold. If anyone has pen pal letters or small gifts for sponsored students, please get them to me by the 10th of next month so I can find a spot in these duffels I’m packing.

Much more to come…

Monday, August 27, 2012


I think this is my favorite portrait of grandson Henry so far. It was taken by his mother. I think only his mother could have/would have captured this look, this moment. It really illustrates Henry's curiosity, his sensitivity, his innocence, his old-soul kind of wisdom and his calm and kind demeanor in a way maybe only his parent could portray. I am very lucky to have a daughter who sends me photos like this.

And I am very lucky to have a grandson like this.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

12,334 pencils

Rebecca, Atem and John

Yesterday I attended Atem’s birthday party. It was a lot of fun.  A bit different than most 8th birthday parties, though.

Sure, the guests brought presents. There were sandwiches and lemonade. We clapped and sang happy birthday. There was a birthday cake.

But there were also speeches and presentations. At the microphone, introducing each speaker, was a very tall, very black man dressed in white. He was Atem’s dad. He also happens to have been one of the Lost Boys of Sudan.

You may recall reading about Atem, either on this blog or in the news. He’s the one who decided (at age 6) to help the children back in his father’s village in South Sudan by collecting pencils for them. You see, he had been shown a picture on You Tube of some kids sitting outside under a tree, making their school notes in the dirt with their fingers or with sticks. He couldn’t believe that was their classroom and that they had no supplies. Atem’s father, John, had begun the painful process of explaining his own past, and Atem decided to take action. He went into his bedroom and soon emerged holding ten pencils. “Will these help the kids in Southern Sudan?”

John knew then he had to broaden his explanation. Rebecca, Atem’s mother, also realized it was time to tell their precocious child the story of the Lost Boys and Girls of Sudan and the facts concerning continued conflict, displacement and extreme poverty. So they did.

Atem decided to try and collect 1,000 pencils from his friends at school. Soon, the plan mushroomed, and people from all over the place were gathering pencils for the darling little boy with the winning smile, big heart and tenacious personality.

Before long, a woman at their church caught wind of what was going on. In time, she started a foundation to provide assistance to the children back in John’s village. The goal has moved beyond pencils to purchasing rainwater collection tanks so the children can be healthy enough to even go to school. After that, she wants to build an actual building to house the students.

Atem still remains the centerpiece of the foundation. He still collects his pencils. But now there are lots of adults who are working toward a project to benefit people living in a place they probably hadn’t even heard of two years ago. Progress is being made.

And Atem, who has surpassed his second goal of 10,000 pencils, announced at his party that his new goal is 20,000. After all, he’s collected 12,334 pencils now. He believes he can go higher.

The director of the foundation announced she is hoping to raise enough money to buy an airplane ticket for young Atem so that he can personally deliver the pencils to the kids in his father’s village.

By cake time, people were rising up out of their seats and dropping ten and twenty dollar bills into a basket that John and Rebecca had propped up on a chair. Atem, dressed in a suit and bow tie, was beaming.

The cake was in the shape of a pencil. Atem’s eyes danced around the crowd as we gathered in a circle and sang to him. His smile grew bigger and bigger. He knows something special has happened in his young life - that he has innocently become a catalyst for change.

It’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a third grader. But when one thinks of the situation his father was in at this very age, it begins to make sense that things are happening this way.

Both John and Rebecca are very tall. So is Atem. He looks more like a ten year old.  Yesterday, though, during those moments when speakers were praising his name, he really did look like a man – a mighty one at that.

[If you would like to help Atem achieve his goal, or if you would like to make a donation of school supplies or money to purchase supplies, you can send your tax deductible donation to JOURNEY OF HOPE, c/o Gashland United Methodist Church, 7715 N. Oak Trafficway, Kansas City, MO 64118, attention: Linda Wansing.]

Friday, August 24, 2012

lucky number seven and a rescued photo

In three short weeks I'll be finding my way to a comfortable coach seat on KLM to wing my way to Uganda for the seventh time. Now that my summer vacation has ended, it's time to start finalizing the details surrounding my trip.

Rather than doing the logistical things I really should be doing, I am sifting through old images. That's how I get inspired. I've always loved and believed in Imogen Cunningham's mantra: "Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow."

So, I'm psyched to get to Uganda and start shooting again. 

Over the course of the next few posts, I'll fill you in on what I'll be doing in east Africa this time around. For now, I'd like to share a photo I rescued from the editing room floor late last night. This was shot last December when I was working on photographing the grandmothers (and great grandmothers) who live near the orphanage.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

the smk marching band has come a very long way

"During this holiday break, the sounds of music, singing, and drumming constantly provide background noise. From morning until evening, the performers of SMK are training to prepare for a special public concert event.

Music programming has really blossomed at SMK over the past few years. The school has always had an outstanding vocal choir and traditional dancing/drumming troop. But Mama Rosemary also had visions of a school marching band, which would provide both musical training for the children and a small income for the school. Little did she know that when she whispered her vision to Mama Gloria that CTT supporters would respond by fully funding and purchasing musical band instruments and uniforms.

I distinctly recall the day that the musical instruments were unveiled during CTT’s Team 3 trip. It was highly amusing to watch the children try to figure out how their mouth should form to make the trumpet blow or get the flute to tweet. The children were quick learners, though, and before long musicians were born. They loved learning to play strange new instruments like the trombone, trumpet, flute, and saxophone.

Fast forward a couple of years under the outstanding musical direction of Sir Ivan, who has taught the marching band since its inception. The band of young players had a playlist of several marching songs where the same couple of stanzas could be played repeatedly.

Just last summer through CTT’s website, Monique Udo learned about SMK's marching band. As a music educator (and very talented saxophone player), she displayed great interest in traveling to Uganda from the Netherlands to teach the band members to read sheet music and train the saxophone section of the band. Working alongside Ivan, Monique has been an invaluable resource and friend to the musicians in the marching band. She has offered teaching, encouragement, new instruments and uniforms, as well as fabulous jam sessions! She is currently at the orphanage for her third visit.

And now the excitement is about to culminate with SMK’s special public concert, which will be held at a local secondary school in a large hall that holds over 300 guests. Local community members, family and neighbors have been invited. There will be a little of all things musical that day: the band will showcase its vast repertoire of musical selections; Monique will astonish the crowd with her own solo saxophone performance; the vocal choir will serenade with their songs containing messages that uplift, sadden, and give pause for the plight of the African child; the dancers/drummers will delight with traditional Ugandan dances from every region of the country.

On August 26th Come one, come all… You won’t want to miss a minute, and everyone is most welcome!"

- Melissa Mosher, CTT/SMK Social Worker and Liaison

Thursday, August 16, 2012

from 35,000 feet

I finished Patti Smith's book Just Kids on the flight from Portland to Boulder today.

While considering Robert Mapplethorpe's untimely death (and the deaths of so many other artistic geniuses during the 1980's) I got caught up in the views from my window seat. Ruminating and feeling sad about the losses. Realizing how small we really are in the scheme of things.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

portland parting shots

I wandered around my Portland neighborhood today to take a few parting shots. Today was our last full day here this summer.

Did you know that Portland is one of the most well-read cities in America?

And one of the most tattooed?

There is a huge transient population of homeless men, women and teenagers.

If you keep your eyes open, you can find entertaining and inspiring messages all around town.

There are miles and miles of hikes through urban forested parks. This one, Forest Park, is just a twenty minute walk from our neighborhood.

Here's the view from our little balcony as the lights of the city begin to twinkle after sundown.

Til next time, Portlanders, you know what to do...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

some of my favorite color pics from portland

A couple of the best things about Portland are the gorgeous land and seascapes and the delicious food.  The former can be found right in the city (Forest Park and Washington Park) or within a short drive (the Columbia River Gorge or on to the coast). The food can be found at one of many, many superb restaurants or at one of many incredible farmer's markets.

Some of my favorite snapshots from our summer in Portland have to do with the landscape and the food.

Near Manzanita

Near Manzanita

Forest Park 

Lavender field near Yamhill



Cannon Beach


The Rose Garden

Near Manzanita

Near Manzanita

View of the coast near Manzanita

Forest Park

Cannon Beach



Near Manzanita

Near Manzanita

Winery near Yamhill

Near Manzanita

Willamette River (Burnside Bridge)

Willamette River (Biking/Hiking Esplanade)

Saturday Farmer's Market

Saturday Farmer's Market

Near Manzanita

Saturday Farmer's Market

Squash Blossoms, Saturday Farmer's Market

Small plate from the Jamison Restaurant

Fish dish from Caffe Mingo

Saturday Farmer's Market

Saturday Farmer's Market