Beatitudes of my life

Being grateful for everything in my life…. no matter what…

How I became a Sports Photographer February 22, 2012

It’s the beginning of lacrosse season and one of my favorite times of the year.  I’m grateful to be busy as a photographer and am constantly reminded just how organically  this career path came to be.  As weird as it sounds, it all started with my kids and my husband… as does much of what is right in my life.

E started playing lacrosse in the fall of his 8th grade year.  He had decided not to play his final season of association football and had opted instead to play lacrosse.  We knew nothing about the sport at that point, so we figured this was just his way of choosing to “do his own thing”.  We supported him, but I made the decision to remain with his former football team as their team mom and equipment coach since I had already committed to them for the fall.  Truth be told, I could have quit that job if I’d wanted to do so, but really loved being on the sidelines and helping the team.  I also felt it was important to show the boys that one doesn’t just quit something if you’ve made a commitment.  I pulled back a bit from football, but still did all the typical organizational stuff that I so loved.   That fall was a bit more chaotic than usual, since we were attending all E’s lax games AND I was going to all the association football games.  D was a sophomore in HS and in the marching band, so his activities didn’t really conflict with all that was going on for E and me.

It turned out that E was a natural on the lacrosse field.  We had parents who asked us where he’d been playing before… that surely this kid hadn’t just picked up a stick and figured out how to play in just a few short weeks of rec ball.  When he asked about trying out for the Middle School travel team, we encouraged him again but were sure he’d be passed over for those who had been playing for longer… instead, he was selected and became a stronger player as this second season went along.  He still was in his very first full year of playing lacrosse, but it was obviously becoming his passion.  We jumped in with both feet and began to learn the rules, help behind the scenes, and do whatever we could to help him improve his skill sets.

He tried out for our local travel lacrosse team when he was in 9th grade and, not surprisingly now, made the team.  Schedules were adjusted to accommodate this expensive hobby and both M and I learned where our own skills would be most helpful to the program.  I found that I loved watching the action of a lacrosse game but I missed being on the sidelines.  Having spent four years on the sidelines for football (M called me a “bench Nazi”) it was increasingly difficult to pay attention to the game itself when parents kept shouting their “helpful words of encouragement” to/at their children.  I wanted to get away from them and do something productive… and then I found a camera…

One of the dads had a Nikon D40X.  It was simple… clean… workable… and I wanted one.  My darling husband found one for me for my birthday in 2008 and the rest, as they say, is history.  I fell in love with the idea of capturing the feeling of a game through photographs.  I asked questions… talked with professionals… experimented with different settings… read countless articles and books… and slowly got better.  I never stop learning about photography but I’m significantly better than when I started.

Around this time, a website that M helps to moderate (gomids.com) made mention that they were looking for someone who’d be willing to be their photographer during the fall Navy football season.  My darling hubby sent me a text asking if I was “interested”…. and I almost fell over trying to quickly text my emphatic YES! back to him before he could rescind the offer. Thankfully, they let me start in the fall of 2008…. and what an incredible journey that has been, but I’ll have to touch on that later.  Still trying to focus on explaining how organically my sports photographer career came to be…

E was still playing club travel lacrosse at this point.  He attended a lacrosse Showcase in the fall of 2008 that really drove home the point to him that his skills really were competitive with many higher level players… he stripped the ball from some kid in one of his first shifts on defense that had parents around us gasping and applauding his talent.  I was taking photos of him as often as I could and it got to be a joke that he was “levitating” down the field when he played, since I seemed to catch him in the air more often than not. I kept asking questions and learned how to take better pictures as we continued to follow E’s lacrosse career.

By this time, I had been given many photo opportunities since getting that Nikon for my birthday and, after fighting and questioning my own abilities, had finally started to call myself a “Sports Photographer”.  I’d earned that title… by now I had been on the sidelines of Navy football for two seasons, I had photographed lacrosse for three seasons, including summer travel games, I had shot volleyball photos for two years and covered the event when E’s HS team went and WON the State Championship, and I’d “taken one for the team” and gotten run over by a referee during a lax game, giving me a black eye for a few weeks. Note: you can see the faint purple mark under my eye in this photo, two weeks after I got the black eye.  I was also cautiously photographing D’s college lacrosse games and learning how to share them with the team via Facebook.  It was time to say I was a Sports Photographer.

Eventually, it came time for E to graduate HS.  E was selected for the Richmond area’s US Lacrosse All-Star game and I was bound and determined to photograph this accomplishment.  When we got to the event, being held at a nearby college, I introduced myself to the US Lacrosse president and asked if I could shoot the game.  I gave her a brief overview of my abilities and promised to stay out of the ref’s way… no need to get plowed over by another one, right?  I walked away to rejoin my family, happy they were going to allow me this small concession.

Here is the cool part of the whole thing for me.  A little while later, this same woman came up to me and asked if I would consider being their “official photographer” for the game… photograph the remainder of the girls game, all the awards presentations, and then photograph the boys game and awards… that their Official Photographer hadn’t shown up to cover the event.  O M G…. how often does something like this literally fall into someone’s lap?  She then asked me about my event charge and my website address…. I quickly collected myself and asked if I could email that information to her after the game…. I had NOTHING at this point!  Wow… talk about organic?  I looked at M and said “I need to figure out how much to charge for an event and I need a website ASAP.”  FYI:  My website address is www.alisportshots.com.

That was in May of 2010… I’ve since been the photographer for Swim Championships, College lacrosse games, Milestone Family events, Senior Nights for volleyball teams, and of course, Navy Football (and lacrosse) for GoMids.com.  It’s been a whirlwind journey for me.  Each time on the sidelines is truly a gift and I am constantly reminded how much I truly adore this job.  I’m blessed to have an eye for sports action and consider each event I photograph to be the most singularly important thing I do at that very moment.  I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished in such a short time and am grateful that God has seen me worthy of these blessings.  It truly is magical to do what I get to do…

 

Communication is the key… February 20, 2012

My darling husband just left on travel for a few days and I’m already missing him.  Yes, he’ll only be gone for three days.  Yes, we can talk/text/Facetime throughout his trip.  Yes, this is a great opportunity for him in his work life.  Yes, I have made plans for one of the evenings he’ll be gone.  Even so, I know that I’ll miss him terribly.  It’d kinda pathetic that I will miss him so much, but I also see it as a huge blessing in my life.   He chose me back in 1987… and I see that as the greatest blessing of my life and do my best to honor that choice…

Over our 24 years together, we’ve had times where we’ve been separated for much longer.  When he deployed with the Navy, we got the BEST deal the Navy had to offer in that his deployments lasted 14-17 days at a time and he always landed on land (as opposed to landing on an aircraft carrier with spotty to no communication available).  We were one of “those” couples… the ones that called upon arriving, checked in often while away, and gave ETA’s that were as exact as possible.  Never was there a time when I couldn’t figure out how long it’d be til he was able to call and let me know he was ok.  He flew an EC-130 with the squadron, when they were based at NAS Pax River, MD, and I worked as a Drug Addictions Counselor for an area addictions unit.  We had strange schedules and (imagine this) NO CELL PHONES, so “calls home” were literally calls to home.  I had a pager that I carried for work occasionally, but we made our phone calls a priority, especially when he deployed.  I could never have been one of those women who say, “I have no idea where he is… he’s deployed and I won’t hear from him until he comes home in 2 weeks”.  M and I just don’t function that way.  I could do the “flight math” and know that I should expect a “zero-dark-thirty” call on any given deployment…. it was worth the lack of sleep to know that he was ok.  Maybe that seems co-dependent to some, but as long as it worked for us, that’s all that matters.

Since leaving the military, we’ve had other “travel challenges” over the years.  M had a 3-hour daily commute when we lived in MI at one point, which was pretty rough on both of us, especially in the “pre-cell phone” days.  He’s had various travel assignments for work and we’ve always made our communication a priority.   I know many couples who are comfortable with much less communication, but I believe we learned fairly early in our courtship that we can handle anything life throws at us as long as we’re able to talk with one another.

Being friends first certainly helped our communication with one another, but we were definitely blessed when we quickly recognized how well we “work” as a couple.  Finishing each others’ sentences gave us a clue, but those long phone conversations, when we were first dating, really cemented us in my mind.  I’d never felt so emotionally tied to someone, after such a short time, and it both scared and thrilled me.

The odds really were stacked against us… I was living in MD and M was in flight school in TX when we first started dating.  In our first year together, we lived through my job change and subsequent move home, M’s first duty station assignment, M’s winging, M’s move to Little Rock, AR for training, deciding that this was IT and trying to figure out how to tell our parents, losing my job and searching for something to do, and then helping M move into a temporary place until we could get married and get base housing.  Thinking back on all those events now, I’m reminded that we made it through everything because we continued to talk as often as we possibly could.  M would call when he got back from a functional flight or off duty… I would call when I got to whatever hotel I was living in when working as an Admissions Counselor for Wilson College… we talked about everything and anything, just like we do now.  It was expensive then; there were no cell phone plans with unlimited minutes, but worth every penny.

There are so many people these days who say that they don’t like talking on the phone.  They’d much prefer to text or email than carry on a conversation.  In our case, this simply wouldn’t have worked.  Hearing the nuances in M’s voice can change my response in a heartbeat.  I know how his words sound in my head when I read a text, but that’s not always how he meant for them to sound.

I know that our way of communication isn’t ideal for everyone.  Heck, it’s probably not ideal for many, but it’s exactly the right amount for us.  M has left for a few days of travel, but I know I’ll be able to handle it because I have faith that he’s going to call and text so we can stay connected.   After 24 years together, we both know that we need that connection to make it through the day.  I’ve left a note for him in his backpack that he’ll find shortly.  I’m sure he’ll call and laugh at me for putting it in there, but he’ll have yet another tangible way of knowing that I’ll miss him and that I love him.

Communication, however you make it work in your relationship, is the key.  It may be hard to figure out the balance needed for both of you, but once you do, the rewards are priceless.  I’m married to the man who is my best friend, my better half, and my soul mate… he’s my forever Valentine and I will never stop telling him how much I love him, cherish him, adore him, and appreciate him.

Communication…. that’s what it takes these days…

 

A Post-Valentine Menu February 15, 2012

A few months ago, I was asked to write an article and create four recipes, using wines from the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail wineries, that would be sent out with the February VA Wine Lovers e-newsletter.  I got to work on both very quickly and soon had an upbeat article to accompany my recipes (AND photos) of food suggestions for a soup, salad, dinner, and dessert to make for Valentine’s Day.  Imagine my disappointment when the e-newsletter was posted without the article… and missing an important piece of one of the recipes.  Sheesh!  In light of this frustration, I decided to simply post my efforts here, for all to enjoy.

USE VIRGINIA WINE FOR YOUR VALENTINE!

Let’s face it… it’s easy to go to a store to pick up chocolates and a card for your sweetheart for Valentine’s Day.  It’s what many people will do this February 14th.  A more personal idea is to make a meal for your special one instead… and here are some suggestions, using wines from the wineries on the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail.

Start with a deliciously wintery soup…. a Butternut Squash Crab Bisque.   Even if you delete the crab, this bisque has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor that combines well with the James River Cellars Vidal Blanc wine used in this recipe.

For your main course, I suggest making a light Salad and an Italian Pot Roast.   A simple salad of chopped romaine, dried cranberries, and toasted slivered almonds compliments the white wine vinaigrette, using Lake Anna Totally White wine and becomes the perfect introduction to a simple dinner.  If you cannot find Lake Anna’s wine, any dry or semi-sweet white wine will do.  Something crisp will pair well with the mixture of berries and nuts, so I’d suggest James River Cellars Chardonnay (or even a grocery store brand).   The Italian Pot Roast is hearty and homey… a meal that can be made in the oven OR crock pot. This one pairs well with mashed potatoes to warm you up from the inside out, using Grayhaven Sojourn wine.   I’ve made this recipe with James River Cellars’ Cabernet Franc and it’s equally good with a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Mertitage (word rhymes with “heritage”).  Any dry, heavy red wine will do.

Plan to end your special evening with a wonderfully decadent dessert.  Cooper Vineyard makes a Noche wine that yields a lovely reduction which you can make days ahead to top a light cake and make it incredibly special.  Pictured is a sponge cake, topped with fresh berries and drizzled with this richly sweet treat.  A sprinkle of powdered sugar just adds a touch of “snow” to this Valentine dessert.  I’ve also made this sponge cake and topped the berries with Cool Whip before drizzling the reduction to make the effect that much more dramatic.  It’s absolutely stunning.  Add some chocolates and you’ve got the perfect meal.

Since you’ve been so kind as to read all this, I’ll also include the recipes here.  I hope you enjoy trying these simple and timeless recipes as much as I did creating them.  As Julia Child would have said… “Bon Appetit!”

Butternut Squash Crab Bisque (with James River Cellars Vidal Blanc wine)

½ onion, diced

1t olive oil

1 ½ c Vidal Blanc (semi-dry white wine)

1 ½ c chicken or vegetable stock (or water with 2 bouillon packets)

1 butternut squash (peeled and cubed, approximately 4 cups)

1t dried marjoram

1 t Old Bay seasonings

Cracked black pepper, to taste

½ recipe Crab Dip **

  1. In large saucepan, sauté onions in oil until translucent.  Add liquid, squash and seasonings to onions. Bring to a boil and cook 20 minutes or until squash is very tender.
  2. Puree squash in pan with stick blender (can also use blender or food processor in batches) until smooth.
  3. Add crab dip and heat through but do not allow to boil.

Note:  This recipe can be a tad sweet.  Feel free to add more Old Bay or some Tabasco for a bit of heat.

**Crab Dip Recipe:

1 block cream cheese

1 stick butter

1 lb crab meat (I prefer lump crabmeat)

1T parsley

1t Old Bay seasoning (to taste)

Melt in butter and cream cheese in double boiler, add remaining ingredients and serve warm with crackers.  I like to heat this in the oven for 20 minutes to get it a bit bubbly.

White Wine Vinaigrette (with Lake Anna Totally White Wine)

2T Semi-dry White Wine (suggested:  Lake Anna Totally White)

2T lemon juice

½ t honey

1 T agave nectar

½ t mustard

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground pepper

¼ c extra virgin olive oil

Mix all ingredients together and serve over a salad of crisp romaine, craisins, and toasted slivered almonds.

Italian Pot Roast (with Grayhaven Sojourn wine)   

Ingredients:

2 ½-pound London broil

1 t salt

½ t pepper

1 t extra virgin olive oil

2 onions, sliced or chopped

½ -pound fresh mushrooms, sliced

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes

1t dried basil

½ cup dry red wine (Suggested: Grayhaven Sojourn, a blend of Touriga and Cabernet Franc)

Directions:

  1. Cut beef into large chunks, then sprinkle with ½ t salt and ¼ t pepper.  Heat oil in large stock pot over medium high heat and cook until browned, about 6 minutes.
  2. Remove beef.  Add onions, mushrooms and garlic to pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally until the vegetables begin to brown and soften, about 6-7 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil and wine along with remaining salt and pepper.  Cook until mixture begins to thicken, about 5-6 minutes.  Replace the beef in the stock pot and place in oven, at 250 degrees.  Cook for 4-5 hours.
  3. Remove beef once fork-tender and keep warm.  Cook all remaining ingredients on stovetop until thickened, 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Serve beef and sauce with mashed potatoes and a crisp, green salad.

Note:  Can use Crock pot and cook on high for 4-5 hours OR on low for 6-8 hours

Noche Chocolate Reduction (with Cooper’s Noche wine)

Bottle of Cooper’s Vineyard Noche Chocolate wine

1/8-1/4 c sugar

1T butter

Simmer wine in a saucepan over medium low heat until reduced by half.  Add sugar and butter and allow to reduce again.  You’ll know it’s reduced enough when the spatula leaves a slight wake when drawn across the bottom of the saucepan.

This is lovely when served with a sponge cake topped with fruit.  Would also be yummy over ice cream.

Cheers!

 

Random Acts of Kindness… will you remember? February 13, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beatitudesofmylife @ 7:55 am
Tags: , , ,

I offered up a challenge to everyone who reads or follows my blog… will you choose to join me?

I’m addressing Valentines today… To You, From Me. I’ll be handing them out all day, wherever I go, to whomever I meet. I’ll probably start today, since I’ll be at work, and will slip on into the bank tube for the cashier… hand one to all the guests who visit the winery today… pass one to all my co-workers… and do my best to spread a little happiness in my corner of the world. Will you do the same?

It doesn’t cost a lot, but I promise that you’ll get back much more than you can ever imagine. That one true smile… that stunned look of happiness… it makes going out of your way and stepping out of your comfort zone absolutely worth it.

It’s almost Valentine’s Day…. are YOU ready?

 

Random Acts of Kindness – a Challenge for all February 2, 2012

Filed under: Blessings,Holidays,Parenting — beatitudesofmylife @ 10:03 am
Tags: , , , ,

One of my favorite things in the world is seeing the look on someone’s face when something kind is done for them… with no expectation of anything in return.  It’s the way a harried mom looks when you return her grocery cart for her… it’s the smile that lights up someone’s eyes when you compliment them… it’s the happiness that registers, after the shock wears off, that someone has just done something purely for kindness’ sake.  It’s just so soul-uplifting.

I know there are many who actually make money suggesting ways for people to participate in Random Acts of Kindness.  There’s an official website (www.randomactsofkindness.org) and a group (RAOK.group) as well as countless links to help everyone be more kind to our fellow man.  I’d like to suggest a way for everyone to get in on the act this year.

It doesn’t take a lot of money… it doesn’t take a great deal of time… and it doesn’t take much imagination or skill… it just takes the desire to step out of your comfort zone for a few seconds and be brave enough to approach another person to hand them a Valentine and wish them a happy day.  Yes, I’m suggesting that everyone take a moment on Valentine’s Day to give a Valentine to someone you don’t know. A Random Act of Valentine-ing, if you will.

A manager from Starbucks did this for me about 8 years ago and it inspired me to continue his wonderful idea ever since.  It really IS simple.  Each year, after Valentine’s Day, I purchase a few boxes of goofy, childish, silly Valentines and put them away for the following year.  A few days prior, I choose the box I’ll use that year and label every single card, “To YOU, From Me” and fold them up.  On February 14th, I really don’t plan anything special.  I go about my normal day traveling to the grocery, the drug store, the bank… anywhere I’d typically go on that day.  The only difference is that I look for people to whom I can hand a Valentine.  It might be that older person who seems a little sad… it might be the greeter at WalMart… it might be the cashiers I meet or the people stocking shelves… it might just be someone who doesn’t seem to be having a good day.   Look each person in the eye and simply say, “Happy Valentine’s Day!” as you hand them a card.  You may never know how this simple act will affect the other person, but you’ll be astounded at just how wonderful it makes you feel.

Everyone deserves to have a Valentine’s Card to make them feel special.  Who knows if your moment with them will be their only bright spot on an otherwise dreary and lonely day.  The ripple effect of this small, simple, yet incredibly kind gesture might never be known to you, but I was blessed last year to find that my younger son had been watching me and used this idea as the basis for one of his admissions essays.  Please indulge a proud mama by reading his essay below:

Mankind is not perfect. We constantly instigate warfare, hatred, and discrimination against our own people. However, despite the evils that plague our planet, fundamental kindness still conquers evil. Humans are capable of showing an immense amount of kindness for their brethren. This kindness is defined as an act of compassion without expecting personal benefit. Every day, people commit to making others just a little happier through small favors, held open doors, and a handful of pocket change in an empty cup. The purest of all the random acts of kindness, however, is an anonymous one. Therefore, to represent the human race I would choose an anonymous valentine.

Every year on Valentine’s Day, my mother buys a box of cheap valentines and writes “To: You, From: Me” on them. She then hands them out to anyone she sees simply to brighten his or her day. She realizes that her flimsy piece of cardboard may be the only loving gesture that many people get on a day meant to celebrate one another, so she never misses a year. She just wants to make sure everyone has a chance to feel loved. To me, this represents mankind’s incredible power to care for others without personal gain.

Humans have endured century upon century of torment. Natural disasters have ravaged our lands and disease has killed our families. Guns have found their way into our hands and our minds have been poisoned with intentions of murder. However, in spite of these increasingly difficult times, we continue to function together as a family and be kind to our fellow man. We hold our heads high, looking past all of the negatives, and we still strive for a better future. We hoard our valentines from the people dearest to us, and from the people that we don’t even know, to remind us that we all deserve to be loved.

It is hard to overlook the hardships that we humans go through when finding something to embody mankind. However, I have seen the effects of an anonymous valentine firsthand. The smiles on strangers’ faces, the friends my mother makes, and the hope she gives to people all restore my faith that at its core, mankind is compassionate and kind.  – EBA 2/11

That “Ripple Effect”?  It can be pretty awesome when it comes back to you.

As we approach Valentine’s Day this year, let’s not just try and shower our loved ones with chocolates and presents.  These are wonderful, but let’s all try and share a little bit of happiness with the world around us.  Buy a box of Valentines, like you got in grade school… sign each one “To YOU, From Me”… and hand them out on Valentine’s Day to everyone in whom you come in contact.  It just may make this special day one of the best you’ve ever had.

Random Acts of Kindness in the form of an anonymous Valentine… how easy, yet how monumental…

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

 

 
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