Sometimes in life you discover something that truly makes you happy. This is the type of happy that causes actual butterflies to flutter in your tummy. It's like that glorious smile that won't leave your face on a cold and rainy day. When you find that special happy place.... it's relaxation, it's comfort, it's your safe haven. For me, it was photography first and bulldogs shortly after. I started "painting with light" late in 2006. In 2007 I got my first bulldog and shortly after in 2009 we got our second. Bulldogs and cameras are like oreos and milk. They are a must. They belong together. They are each other's happy place.
Orion took to the camera like a champ. She loved to be the center of attention and soon, she became the face of my small greeting card company. In November 2010 my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. One of the ways I chose to help myself deal with it was to do something to help her fight. I started photographing both Vegas and Orion in breast cancer themes and putting the images onto cards. Not only did this help me cope but it also helped my mom. Seeing her face light up with each new image I presented encouraged me to do more. I favored Orion for the breast cancer images because Orion was a gift from my mom. Orion was the only surviving puppy from a litter by her two bulldogs.
One of the first breast cancer photos I did was of Orion wearing hot pink wings. Orion may look sweet and innocent in the images I create, but that is far from the truth. Orion would NOT stay still. She was bound and determined to get those wings off her back. She accomplished this by rolling around on set, finally getting one wing into her mouth and ripping a hole into the fabric. I got the image...but it was far from printable. She had managed to cover every square inch of the black backdrop with her white fur. As far as 3 feet up!
Fast forward to June 2014. My mom was re-diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer metastatic brain. Unbeknownst to her children, this was a terminal diagnosis. In January 2015, her children were finally informed that she had been given a terminal diagnosis 6 months prior. What makes a mother want to protect her children so badly as to hide something so awful? This question will weigh on my mind for the rest of my life. She was never coherent enough to ever talk to us about her decision, or if it was her decision. With this heartbreaking news, I wanted to create a compelling image for my mom. I wanted an image that would memorialize her in a way that was special to me. I was able to create a beautiful image of Orion wearing pink feather wings. Sadly, I don't think my mom was ever of sound mind to comprehend what I was giving her.
After this image was created, the studio doors closed. My happy place was now a place of sorrow. I had spent the last 4 years creating images for my mom.... I just couldn't anymore. I needed to find another happy place.
I will always remember what I was doing when I got the call that my mom had lost her battle with cancer. On Sunday April 26th, 2015 at 11:30pm I was trying my hand at a new craft. I was making tutus for infants and toddlers. I had been working on this particular tutu for over 4 hours. I had only 4 rows left until completion and I had just started to weave in a purple piece of tulle when I got the call that she had stopped breathing. That tutu sat untouched and unfinished for over 2 months.
Everyone grieves differently and depending on who you are and what you are grieving determines our coping mechanisms. For me, I wanted it to be Orion. I wanted it to be photography. I lost my dad to cancer 15 years ago and my mom less than 4 months ago. The two cards I have never created are a Mother's Day card or a Father's Day card. I honestly don't know why. Why can't I create a card that celebrates these days?
Last weekend may have changed that for me. I needed to find my happy place again. Not MY happy place...but OUR happy place. Orion and I opened up the studio door for the first time in almost 8 months. The stage was littered with odds and ends. Piled up with auction items, papers.... left over Christmas wrap. Orion did not care. She was on that stage amidst all the junk. Sitting perfectly poised ready for her picture to be taken. Those who know us....you KNOW she can't and won't be ignored. I cleared off the stage. I retrieved my camera from the safe. I set up the studio lights, tripod and cable release. And still she sat. Orion NEVER sits still and here she was waiting patiently for the camera to take her photo.
I gathered the one thing that held the most emotion for me and together....Orion and I created an image that will become our first Mother's Day card in our greeting card line. I haven't decided what the card will say, but Orion would really like the inside to read...
"Happy Mother's Day tutu you"
Orion is wearing what I now refer to as My Mother's tutu. It's perfect. My mom gave me a gift when she gave me Orion. Orion has given me the gift of memorializing my mom.
This is the first year I never got to tell you this.....
Happy Mother's Day mom. We love you to the moon and back and a million times more.