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

Friday, August 29, 2014

end of summer

My summer in Portland is coming to an end. Dangit.

At the end of Sunday School each June - when I was a kid - our rabbi would give us students a summer vacation charge:

Make at least one new friend.
Read at least one good book.
Take at least one long walk alone.

It always stuck with me. And I guess I've always followed his advice.

I made a new friend in Portland this summer. I read several good books, and I added so many steps to my Fitbit that it keeps dinging me with heartfelt congratulations. So I did good. The rabbi would be proud of me.

Being in Portland gives me space to breathe and think and wander and rejuvenate.  It also gives me long stretches of time to work on personal projects. This summer I wrote a children's book. I trashed it and started over several times. I learned a lot about patience and perseverance and how important the creative "process" is. I made some drawings and some photographs. I rented and played with a different lens. I tried watercolor pencils for the first time.

I am going to be 60 next week, but in so many ways I feel like I'm just getting started.  There's so much to learn.

I'm sorry to see the summer go. It was a good one for me. I hope yours was good, too.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

charlie and susan

Charlie and Susan

Meet the Hoerners! In Susan's own words:

"I am fast approaching an age that I remember my grandparents being, so my goal is to get the most LIFE out of every day. It has been a life-long dream to visit Africa, walk where our ancient ancestors walked and see elephants, lions and giraffes in their natural habitat. It’s amazing to think that it will actually be happening very soon! Charlie and I were married many, many years ago and much to the surprise of both of us we just celebrated our 46th anniversary. I’m originally from Michigan, attended Ferris State University, then married and lived for 30 years in Sonoma County, California, where we raised our two daughters, now grown. We moved to Portland, Oregon seven years ago and started a whole new chapter of our lives. We love Portland and spend our leisure time hiking and biking and enjoying concerts and plays with new friends. I was a graphic designer for over 20 years in California, but since moving to Portland have retired. My most favorite thing to do now is pottery. Sitting at a wheel, hands covered in clay, is like heaven to me - meditative, very relaxing and creative. Charlie and I divide our time between Kauai and Portland. We feel very fortunate to have a little piece of paradise to call our own and relish our time there kayaking, biking, snorkeling, hiking and spending time with friends. My latest fun thing was spending 3 days with a friend experimenting with indigo tie dying in her back yard. My hands and fingernails were blue for a week!"

Charlie will teach photography, and Susan has a very cool sewing project in mind. She is going to end each day with a yoga class. I know they will have a terrific time, and I know the children who get to work with them will be so happy!

I thank the Hoerners and Grossmans for committing to the journey to SMK. Hopefully, they will write about their experience to share here on the blog. I know they will have lots of photos!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

captain freddie returns!

Cheryl and Fred

Few things makes me happier than when friends and/or family decide to take the trip to Uganda to meet, work with, play with and fall in love with the children at St. Mary Kevin Children's Home. 

Back in 2008, my good friend Fred Grossman watched one of the CTT films while sitting in my living room. As soon as it ended, he said he wanted to go with me on the next trip. I hear that a lot, but something in Fred's voice told me he really meant it. And he did. He joined Team 2 and was on his way!

Once he landed at SMK, Fred quickly became known as "Captain Freddie." He has a wonderful way with kids; it didn't take him long to become a Pied Piper of sorts. The older boys who painted the dorms with Fred even dubbed themselves "Freddie's Team." He loved his time in Uganda and told me, once we got back to Kansas City, that he would return someday. 

I hear that a lot, too

Fred is once again on his way to SMK! He's not going with a December team; he sort of made up his own team this time. He, his wife Cheryl and their two close friends, Susan and Charlie, will plant their feet on the red dirt soon. They have plans to help the kids with their computer, sewing, photography and reading skills. Melissa is even working on reassembling  "Freddie's Team" for a reunion (those older boys are now young men out in the world attending University or working.) For Fred, Cheryl, Susan and Charlie, this will be an unforgettable experience  For the kids who get to spend time with them, it will mean the world.

Here is some biographical information on Fred and Cheryl. Up next, you'll meet Susan and Charlie. 

Cheryl is a retired college professor. She taught courses in integrated arts, children’s literature and language arts at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She spends her time now volunteering for SMART, a literacy program for the Portland Public Schools, hiking, biking and enjoying all the outdoor opportunities that her new home, Portland, Oregon has to offer. She loves being near her adult children who also live in Portland. Cheryl is very excited about visiting SMK and interacting with children there.

Fred is a clinical psychologist who specializes in pain management. He has been in practice for over 34 years. His hobbies include reading, active travel adventures with his wife, Cheryl, and culinary adventures in his home state and abroad. Fred recounts his first trip to SMK as one of the highlights in his life. He is so happy return to see old friends and to make new ones.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Check out this adorable little doll. I had such fun working playing with her and her folks in Forest Park recently. I have the best job. Period.

Monday, August 25, 2014


A beautiful boy, his mom, his ball and his dog = a very fun photo shoot in Portland.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

looking at 60

Having a fun evening in Portland the night before I got sick

For my 40th birthday, I asked my friends to dress as cowboys and cowgirls and join me at a local ranch for line dancing and bar-b-que.  I wasn’t very good at public speaking back then; in fact it terrified and practically paralyzed me. But, after a couple glasses of wine, I managed to stand on the stage and tell my friends how great it felt to be 40.  I wasn’t lying. Neither my brother-in-law nor a very close girlfriend had made it; both had died that year, and their absences weighed heavily on my mind that night. I believed I finally understood the fragility of life, and I felt grateful and happy to be alive.

Now I’m looking at 60. Yep, it’s there – just up ahead. Twelve days ahead, to be exact. And once again, I’m not going to be quiet about my big birthday.  (To be fair, it’s just not in my nature anyway. My sister can tell you that the entire year leading up to my 30th was a fairly obnoxious one; I couldn’t stop talking about the fact that I was getting so old, blah, blah, blah.)

For many years I have suffered from vestibular migraines. They suck. Sometimes I have a nasty headache, but that’s the least of it. The worst of it is that I get vertigo. Even a short bout of vertigo knocks me out for at least two days (once I was out of commission for several weeks). I’m down for the count, in a quiet darkened room, unable to do more than get myself to the bathroom every now and then. The attacks are nearly impossible to predict, and when they occur I am always in the middle of doing something far more interesting than lying in bed feeling like I might never be able to get up again.

I just lost two days this week in Portland. I had far better things to do, of course, than lie still with a cold washcloth on my face. But it did give me a lot of time to think about turning 60.

So many things can change our perspective on life. Being sick is a big one. All I can say, on this morning of finally feeling better, is that I’m thankful for yet another reprieve and ready to grab today - and the next decade of my life – by the horns. As they say, you have no idea what tomorrow might bring. Yeah, it's trite, but oh so important to remember. 

Now pardon me while I get out of my slippers and back into my cowboy boots. With gusto.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

gordon parks

“Going to church. Playing around the house. Window shopping. These are the types of everyday, seemingly innocuous activities that wound up before the lens of iconic civil rights photographer Gordon Parks. Parks, a self-taught artist, believed in the photographic medium as a weapon of change, capable of awakening people's hearts and undoing prejudice.
An exhibition of Parks' rare color photographs, entitled ‘Gordon Parks: Segregation Story,’ will go on view this fall at The High Museum of Art in Atlanta. The photos capture a particularly disturbing moment in American history, captured via the lives of an African American family, the Thorntons, living under Jim Crow segregation in 1950s Alabama.
The images, originally titled ‘The Restraints: Open and Hidden,’ were first taken for a photo essay for Life Magazine in 1956. The essay chronicles the lesser-seen daily effects of racial discrimination, revealing how prejudice pervades even the most banal and personal of daily occurrences. Parks doesn't photograph protests, rallies, acts of violence or momentous milestones in civil rights history. No, he prefers the quieter moments in and around the home.
Some photos focus on inequality -- a ‘colored’ line at an ice cream stand or black children window shopping amongst all white mannequins. Others hint ominously at violence, as one child plays with a gun and another examines it solemnly. Such images are especially haunting in retrospect, considering the recent death toll of American black men in this country, over half a century after these photographs were taken.
Yet the majority of Parks' photos focus on the positive over the negative, showing a different breed of civil rights documentation. Instead of highlighting discrimination here, Parks emphasizes the similarities that bind all Americans: spending time in the home, being with family, exploring nature. Parks' images revealed what so many Americans struggled to understand: the human link that connects us all.

More than anything, the Segregation Series challenged the abiding myth of racism: that the races are innately unequal, a delusion that allows one group to declare its superiority over another by capriciously ascribing to it negative traits, abnormalities or pathologies,’ Maurice Berger wrote in The New York Times. ‘It is the very fullness, even ordinariness, of the lives of the Thornton family that most effectively contests these notions of difference, which had flourished in a popular culture that offered no more than an incomplete or distorted view of African-American life.’
Parks' photographs pick away at a dark moment in history in bright colors, spreading knowledge and hope simultaneously with the click of a camera. Although we wish these photographs depicted a world entirely different than the one we live in today, recent events show differently. The deaths of unarmed black men all over America reveal we may need Parks' visual essay more today than we would have expected, or hoped.
Now is as good a time as ever to remind each other that every human life matters.
‘I've been asked if I think there will ever come a time when all people come together,’ Parks once said. ‘I would like to think there will. All we can do is hope and dream and work toward that end. And that's what I've tried to do all my life.’
‘Gordon Parks: Segregation Story’ will be on view from November 15, 2014 until June 7, 2015 at The High Museum in Atlanta.

- article by Priscilla Frank for the Huffington Post

Monday, August 18, 2014

mount st. helens

There are countless ways to spend time in the Pacific Northwest, countless places to go. Yesterday we went to Mount St. Helens. It's been almost 35 years since the volcano erupted.