Tag Archives: Daughters

Katie Graduates

4 Apr

Life always come full circle. I know this. I’ve seen it with my very own eyes.

What am I talking like Yoda all the sudden?


This last weekend, I had the honor of photographing my high school English teacher’s daughter for her senior portraits. Yes. You read that correctly. I am now that old.

I had a blast photographing Katie and reconnecting with her mother. Her mother, has always been a huge inspiration to me. Whether she wants to be associated with the credit of teaching me the fundamentals of writing or not, she was the one who pushed me to write even when my writing was the absolute shittiest it has ever been. And to this day, I couldn’t even begin to thank her enough.

Anyway, come take a look at what Katie and I got into at Hodge Park in the good old Liberty, Missouri.

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The Day My Life Changed

17 Jan

As the very first cries came from your tiny lips, I found myself lost in you. Up until this point, I had been nervously and anxiously awaiting your arrival for what seemed like an eternity. All of the sudden, you were here in my arms. I could hear your voice, your screams as they alerted my soul to your long-awaited entrance into this world. With my hands trembling, I brushed aside your whimpers with nothing more than a simple stroke of your hair.  Seconds later, you were asleep. A moment in time, frozen in my mind for the rest of my life.

Five years have passed since that cold winter day. I’ve watched you transform into this brilliant, kind, and loving human being. As eager as I am to teach you everything I know, you have been the one to show me all that is right in this world.

In many ways, you are all me. From the way you get frustrated at the smallest of things, to the way you walk, to the way use your hands when you are trying to illustrate your point. But as we are one in the same, we are different as well. You have taught me things that nobody else could ever even possibly do. I watch you interact and love without fear. I watch you make your mother laugh and cry with happiness in the very same moment. I watch you take your sister’s hand and lead her through this world with a passion and devotion like I have never seen. These not so little things seem to be so natural for you. And that warms the inner most part of my soul.

You don’t know it, but as I watch you, I am learning. With each one of your actions, you teach your father the simplest of things he should have already known. I know in the future, you’ll get frustrated with me. You’ll want me to just understand and pick up the simplicity of life the way you do. Just know that I am working on it. I am a slow learner as far a life is concerned. But I know that I’ll get it sooner or later. I have one of the best teachers a man could ask for.

Five years  ago to this very day my life changed for forever. It’s uncanny and heartwarming for me to witness this perfect human being make his way through life. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am.

Happy Birthday, son. I love you more than these words could ever convey.








The Silence That Torments

4 Jan

The silence in this house screams out the obvious.

I am alone.

Over the years, I thought about what this moment would feel like. Just me. Just me and this old couch. I would fantasize about the silence. I would glorify this very moment over and over in my head, a simple idealized serenity played out in a million daydreams. I’d speed home through rush hour traffic and anxiously count down the seconds while the garage door opened. As my hand turned the knob to the six panel door, I would feel the stillness of the house invade me like a virus. The solitude would invigorate and refresh my soul. Through the silence, I could breath again.

Or so I thought.

No sooner did my worn sneakers cross the threshold, I knew I was wrong. Gone were the scurry of little feet to great me at the door. Gone were the giggles and adoring salutations that coincided with my mere presence on a nightly basis. Gone was that rush of adrenaline that filled my veins as the first “HI DADDY!” graced my ears.


I didn’t even make it to the living room before the first tear rolled down my cheek. The silence that I once coveted, now tormented me more than I thought possible. As I sank my body further and further into the couch, my heart began to pound. I could feel the droplets of panic drip from my brow onto the pillow that I clutched like a lifesaver as if I just abandoned ship. There in the darkness, I was alone.


Paralyzed by the unfamiliarity of my self induced solitude, I closed my eyes. This would be my resting spot for the night. The couch that I dreamt about so many times before, now felt like it was made of concrete. For the first time in thirty years, I was alone.

Just me.

Just this couch.


Baldwin City v2.0

12 Nov

My second shoot in Baldwin City at the Baker University campus. I had the privilege of photographing a good friend of mine and her beautiful family. Come take a look see at what I saw through my lens.

On to the Flickr Machine!

And the Facebook Machine!

The Baldwin City Adventures

9 Nov

A few weeks ago, I spent a day shooting a few families at Baker University in Baldwin City, Kansas. The campus is absolutely beautiful around this time of year and a wonderful backdrop for family portraits. Come take a gander at what we got into.

Wanna see on Flickr?

How about Facebook?

And Elsewhere

5 Nov

Links make the world go ’round. I who am I to stop the world from rotating? So, in the interest of planetary safety, I give you the links!

This week at MamaPop:

Tuesday’s Post: HIMYM Season Six Recap: Episode 7 “Canning Randy”

Thursday’s Post: ANTM Cycle 15 Recap: Episode 9 “Margherita Missoni


This week at Draft Day Suit:

Friday’s Post: National Title For Mizzou? It Will Never Happen





And I was very lucky to land on Schmutzie’s Five Star Friday list this week for a personal post. A very good week indeed!

Check out Five Star Friday:

Five Star Friday’s 125th Edition Is Brought To You By John Milton






30 Days Of Truth: Day Seven

3 Nov

Day 07-Someone who has made your life worth living for.

The beeping from this machine grates against my soul. I know it’s coming. Without fail, every ten seconds, the beep will come. It’s no longer an annoyance. It has become something I fear, something I hate. Deep inside, I know it is helping me. The constant flow of chemicals it pumps directly into my body allow me to live one more day. But still, the pain is still indescribable. The sickness fills my body and rapes my soul. I want to quit. I want to just give up. But I can’t.

I know she will be back soon. With her haunting smile and assortment of needles, she’ll have to replace this I.V. again. I know it’s time. I can feel it leaking down my arm. I can see the blood mixing with the saline and pharmaceuticals. She tries to calm me as I start to cry. That’s all I can do anymore. As I drift in and out of consciousness, the tears roll down my cheeks. Here I am, a grown ass man, reduced to tears. It’s the only emotion I have left. Everything else has been taken from me. Tomorrow will come. No matter how much I wish it wouldn’t, there’s no stopping time. So I just cry. The tears are all I have left.

The nights are the worst. My mind is alive with a flurry of terror. I want to scream, but all I can muster is a failing whimper. My eyes strain to focus in the pitch black darkness as I look around to see if I am alone. I’m sure she’ll be back soon. It’s been a few hours since I’ve heard a voice from the stillness of the night. Right on schedule, I hear the click of the door latch. Without warning the blinding darkness is immediately replaced with searing fluorescent light. With a methodical precision, I am poked, prodded, and heavily medicated. As the morphine flows freely through my veins, I let go. Tomorrow will come. As much as I fear it, it will come.

The needles pierce my skin. The numerous cold stethoscopes assault my body. The otoscopes invade my ears. The radiation blasts through my body. No matter what they do to me, I can’t convey the hell I am experiencing. I just cry. My body limp, my soul gone. I just cry. As I lay flat on my back to ensure the spinal fluid doesn’t leak out the hole they placed in my spine, I wonder if this is it. Have I reached my end?

And then I heard his voice.

“Hi, daddy.”

I felt his warm little hand reach out and brush my arm. In that moment, I felt no pain. I could see the bewilderment in his eyes as he tried to make out just what was going on with me. He knew I was sick. That wasn’t a secret to him. But seeing the tubes and machines hooked up to me must have been a shock to his psyche. I wanted dearly to protect him from seeing me like that, but I didn’t need to. The smiles and hugs broke through my medically induced haze. Without hesitation, stories of his past week flooded the room. He wasn’t really phased by a thing. He just wanted to hug me, tell me how much he missed me, and tell me what he did at school last week. For a moment, I forgot about everything. It was just him and me trapped in a moment of normalcy.


It’s a funny word. But when you have gone through hell, you plead for normalcy again. Just a little taste of it was all I needed. I needed to know what was on the other side looking in. His little sister was at home waiting. She was merely months old and I was missing out on precious time. Time I couldn’t get back. I had missed half of her life on this planet. As I heard him say goodbye and close the door behind him, I was at peace. No matter what I had to go through to get home again, I would do it. Instantly, my pain turned into an anger. I knew I was missing out. I wasn’t going to let this thing beat me down any longer. More determined than ever, I sat up in my hospital bed for the first time in days. I knew tomorrow would come. And for once I wasn’t afraid of it.

30 Days Of Truth: Day Six

27 Oct

Day 06- Something you hope you never have to do.

Sure, we all have those things we never want to have to do in life. As a parent, I can’t fathom the thought of buying a bouquet of flowers to lay to rest on the grave of one of my own. I, for one, can’t stand the thought of spending anymore than 37 seconds in a prison. I never want to be set on fire. I never want to drown. And most importantly, I never want to be forced to eat onions. Ugh. I shudder at the thought of a rogue onion attack.

But all of these things combined (the dead kid part excluded),  none of them compare to the ultimate thing I hope I never have to do. Something I am so fearful, so skittish about, I don’t even like to utter the name.

I hope I never have to go to Disney World. Yes. You read that correctly. Motherfucking Disney World.

The happiest place on Earth? No, I don’t fucking think so. The mere thought of having to spend ANY amount of time at that place single-handedly makes me want to hurl all over the place. If you know me well, you know my intense hatred for clowns. Well, imagine this hatred and then multiply it by ten. What do you have? My feelings towards Disney.

The Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, Mickey Mouse? Yeah, that’s what nightmares are made of. I hate the hokiness. I hate the fake smiles, the hidden antisemitism, the pure racial stereotyping.  When the subject of Disney World comes up, I think of the smells of urine and vomit covering the park like a fresh blanket of putrid snow.

Yes. I know. This is some fucked up shit. And I am totally aware this subject probably is better suited for a session with a therapist and a large dose of psychotropics. I get that. But as my children get older and Disney keeps pimping out commercials on Nickelodeon, Sprout, and every other fucking network known to man, I know the subject is going to come up. And you know what I’ll say? “Go ask your grandma.”

30 Days Of Truth: Day Four

20 Oct

Day 04- Something you have to forgive someone for.

My mom said it was cold that day. A typical day for the brutal Midwestern winter climate. As he shut the door, my little sister began to cry. She was only a few months old at the time. At the ripe old age of two, I became the man of the house. With my defenses already up, I knew I had a job to do. My mother and my sister needed me now. It was time to be a man.

I know what you are thinking, “How can a two-year old be a man?” I don’t recall much before the age of  five, but my mother tells the story well. There are pictures to prove it. The old weathered photographs tell the story with an unapologetic bluntness. It’s 3:00am, my pure blond  hair disheveled by hours of resting on my Sesame Street pillowcase. I sit on the couch trying my damnedest to assist my mother with the nightly chore of raising an infant on her own. As she passes my sister to me to rest on my lap, a huge smile breaks through the darkness of the night. My mother, with her heart filled with a wicked balance of hurt, sadness, and unwavering love, brings a tiny camera to her eye. I could hear her count down and direct me to say “cheese!” In an instant, that memory was captured forever. My cheesy grin, my sister on my lap, the happiness I felt inside, all permanently displayed on a 4×6 piece of Kodak paper.

The tiny two bedroom apartment in Davenport, Iowa was more than just a place to rest our heads. In all actuality, it was the beginning of us. The whitewashed walls and  brown shag carpeting had no clue what type of force had just been born. From that point on it was just the three of us. No time to look back at what just happened as he shut the door on us. No time to dwell on things we couldn’t change.

As I got older, I started to ask questions. “Where is he?”, I would sheepishly ask my mother. Her response was always the same. Always lighthearted and straight to the point. “He’s gone. It’s just us now, TJ.” Oddly, this was super comforting to me. I knew that I was in the best hands possible. I knew that no matter what, everything was going to be just fine.

The years passed by and as quickly as he left, my memory of him faded. From time to time I would stumble upon an old box of photos. The smiles were strikingly familiar, a person frozen in time for me to have some basis of my biological history.

By the time I was a teenager, I became more and more forgetful that having a father around wasn’t the social norm. My mother fit the bill quite nicely. She had already taught me how to throw a ball, how to shave, how to spit, how to treat women, and ultimately how to love. Caught up in the intricacies of life, I had already learned from my mother how to be a man. She was my best friend, the one person I could count on, and as I stood up to recite my vows in front of hundreds, she was also my best man.

When I started to write this, I intended to forgive him. Wash away many years of wonder, doubt, and hatred. But as I sit here, pounding on this keyboard, I realize that forgiving him would mean that I was missing something in the first place. Forgiving him would be anointing him a kind of power that he doesn’t deserve. I’ve been privy to heartache, divorce, and all kinds of emotional roller coasters. But I always had stability. No matter the circumstances I always had love. I had a mother and a sister that through thick and thin, would prop me up and idolize me in ways no other human beings could. My childhood was a happy one. I never needed anything else. I always had a roof over my head and a smile on my face. Wanting or craving anything more would just be plain greedy.

And to him, I don’t forgive you. Actually, I thank you. Leaving us was the best thing you could have ever done. Don’t believe me? Well, I have the pictures to prove it.

30 Days of Truth: Day One

11 Oct

I’ve been watching this little “30 Days of Truth” thing making it around the interwebs for a few weeks now. I never really paid much attention to it until some of the people I really admire started writing about this on their own personal blogs. One by one, some of the people I idolize were sharing some pretty involved truths about themselves. As I pondered each and every question, I wondered how this may beneficial to me. Truth is, in itself, a very harsh reality sometimes. We all know that truth can hurt. We’ve had that driven into us since we were children. What a fucked up thing to teach somebody.

“Well, the truth hurts, TJ.”

Yes. I know this. But what else can truth do? Can it heal? Can it allow you to feel happiness for once? Can it allow yourself to let go and allow yourself to love? Can it weed out the bullshit and lies to show your true colors for once? Or does it, indeed, just hurt and maim? I don’t know the answers to those questions. And I am willing to bet I may never truly know. But as I sit here pounding on this keyboard, I am trying to find out. Even if this never goes beyond a bunch of blog posts, I am going to try my best to give this a go. So here, in aggregate, is part of my truth. Do with it as you please.

Day 1: Something You Hate About Yourself

Hate: [heyt] noun, often attributive

a: intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury

b: extreme dislike or antipathy

When you look up the definition of hate and try to apply if to something you feel about your own mind, body, soul, etc, you realize just how harsh you can be on yourself. Hate is learned. You learn to hate by watching others hate. I don’t know where and when in my thirty years on this planet I learned this behavior, but it’s definitely been there for some time. When does something you generally dislike about yourself get to the level of pure hatred? I always knew there were certain things about myself I didn’t like. But to stop and think about what I hated, well that’s entirely different.

Singling out the very most important thing I hate about myself is tough. Letting your mind think freely about things you find so negative is really an exercise futility. I mean, at the age of thirty, you’d think that I would have changed the things I truly “hated” about myself by now. But what if you can’t change these things? What if they have become part of your being?

And there it was. Something so very apparent, so very real and entrenched in hatred that it actually affects others around me. I lack the very basic function that most people tend to have in abundance. I cannot, for the life of me, verbalize honest emotions. Other than laughter, the people around me rarely know just how I am feeling on the inside. The people I love the most often have to guess and wonder just how much I actually love them. I have written about this many times before over the last year. Each time I promised to resolve this matter. To try my best to progress as a human being. With each attempt, I failed miserably. Within days, I would revert back to my so-called place of emotionally retarded “normalcy”. In fact, I would actually get worse in some ways. No matter how hard I tried, nothing would ever work.

So, at the age of thirty, I possess less ability to convey emotion than my four-year old son. There are days where I wish I could trade places with him. I always know what he is feeling or thinking. He wears his emotions on his sleeves, out in the open for me and the world to see. I know when he is sad. I know when he is in fear. I know when his happiness outweighs everything in his world. As a parent, you try to teach your children these certain wonderful things about life. But as I watch my own, I see them actually teaching me instead. I sit and watch his every move, stopping short of asking him just how to love, fear, and display emotion. I see my daughter’s face light up with a giggle that can cure even the darkest of days. She’s hasn’t even reached the ripe old age of one yet and she’s teaching me more than I have learned over three decades.

With my children, I can be anyone I want to be. I smother them with “I love you’s” and kisses galore. Am I overcompensating for things I haven’t done in the past? Most likely. But maybe I have proved my hatred for myself at little bit wrong. Maybe, just maybe, I have watch and learned from their abilities. Maybe I have collected enough knowledge to actually change, even if it’s just a little bit. I’d like to think so. Who knows, maybe I have found a little bit of truth that doesn’t hurt. And if that’s the case, I’ve already won half the battle.

In case you are following at home, these are the topics I will be covering:

Day 01 → Something you hate about yourself.
Day 02 → Something you love about yourself.
Day 03 → Something you have to forgive yourself for.
Day 04 → Something you have to forgive someone for.
Day 05 → Something you hope to do in your life.
Day 06 → Something you hope you never have to do.
Day 07 → Someone who has made your life worth living for.
Day 08 → Someone who made your life hell, or treated you like shit.
Day 09 → Someone you didn’t want to let go, but just drifted.
Day 10 → Someone you need to let go, or wish you didn’t know.
Day 11 → Something people seem to compliment you the most on.
Day 12 → Something you never get compliments on.
Day 13 → A band or artist that has gotten you through some tough ass days. (write a letter.)
Day 14 → A hero that has let you down. (letter)
Day 15 → Something or someone you couldn’t live without, because you’ve tried living without it.
Day 16 → Someone or something you definitely could live without.
Day 17 → A book you’ve read that changed your views on something.
Day 18 → Your views on gay marriage.
Day 19 → What do you think of religion? Or what do you think of politics?
Day 20 → Your views on drugs and alcohol.
Day 21 → (scenario) Your best friend is in a car accident and you two got into a fight an hour before. What do you do?
Day 22 → Something you wish you hadn’t done in your life.
Day 23 → Something you wish you had done in your life.
Day 24 → Make a playlist to someone, and explain why you chose all the songs. (Just post the titles and artists and letter)
Day 25 → The reason you believe you’re still alive today.
Day 26 → Have you ever thought about giving up on life? If so, when and why?
Day 27 → What’s the best thing going for you right now?
Day 28 → What if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant, what would you do?
Day 29 → Something you hope to change about yourself. And why.
Day 30 → A letter to yourself, tell yourself EVERYTHING you love about yourself

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