Monday, November 14, 2016

Focus on Friendship

by Dotti

[Not all these photos are mine; they are the result of a collaborative effort by all of our wonderful writers/photographers here at FOL.]

There's a lot to cover this morning so go get a cup of tea or coffee, make yourselves comfortable. There are a lot of pictures but I hope you'll stick with me. The punch line is at the end.

Ready? Let's begin.

Part One

The first internet friend that I met “for reals” was Terri. We were both attending the Shutter Sisters Oasis in Palm Springs. Air connections from Kentucky to Palm Springs were, well, a nightmare so I flew to Phoenix to make the four hour drive with Terri and some other women. Terri and I had been friends in Picture classes for several years, and, in fact, this is how all of us initially met. FOL is the culmination of these relationships. My friendship with Terri progressed to that of “partners in crime” as we  served as moderators for the Prompt Addicts Flickr group, a path which led directly to the beginning of Focusing on Life in January 2012.

Terri picked me up at my hotel the morning of our trip. I saw her coming down the sidewalk in her measured “Terri walking pace” and couldn’t believe that this was finally happening. We embraced in a big, heartfelt hug and shed a few tears as well. Well, as luck would have it, my travel plans from Palm Springs home to Kentucky got royally messed up. I found myself in need of a place to stay overnight and Terri kindly took me home with her, like a little lost puppy. Is it any wonder I count her among my dearest friends?

The second person I met that morning was Deanna, who immediately grabbed me in a big bear hug that made me feel like I’d come home to a long lost friend, which in a way, I had. Now, I want to tell you a couple of things about Deanna.

First, I think it’s fair to say Deanna might be the spiritual center of our FOL group. We all know from our conversations together how important her church and her faith are to her. But even more telling is how we watch, day in and day out, how her faith informs her daily path as she deals with the “Long Goodbye” life dumped in  her lap.  It hasn’t been easy; it never is. But now she is in a place where her faith and her naturally sunny temperament steer her through life’s confusing maze. 

Lest you think our Deanna is a saint, I’ll hasten to add that she’s not, even if she is our inspiration. She has a wicked sense of humor and when we least expect it, she will come out with a comment that will have us all in gales of laughter. Yup. That’s our Deanna.

Linda and I were roommates at Oasis so I think I probably next met her. It didn’t take me long to realize how nifty she was with a computer and post-processing or how she quietly claims her space in the world. Linda also has a quiet, yet potent sense of humor and a positive attitude toward life. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed it from time to time in her posts. Since Linda and I were both morning walkers, we shared our early morning walks around Palm Springs as we talked about our families, our all-encompassing love for our granddaughters – we’re both granny caregivers – and life in general. Linda was the easiest roomie I’ve ever known and I wouldn’t hesitate to be her roomie again.

I think Leigh might have been my next real live in person meet up. What I noticed first about Leigh was her radiant smile. It says, “Hi, Friend!” and it immediately draws you into her orbit. Leigh is one of our nature lovers here at FOL. Well, we’re all nature lovers but some of us are more serious about it. I think her passion for nature might just have something to do with her chosen profession: landscape architecture. In addition to her passion for nature and photography, Leigh is passionate about her family life and has two wonderful children.

(There were other wonderful gals that I met in Palm Springs but in the interest of time, I’m sticking to our active collaborators today.)

I finally met Carol in Chicago in 2013 and I absolutely adore her (as I do all our girls). She’s a fabulous photographer and writer but she is also a very kind and compassionate person; she really recognizes the other person’s needs. She is also an attentive listener. I think she sees the good in most everybody and, like most of us, she’s a real animal person. Stands to reason since her dad was a veterinarian. In all the time I’ve spent with her, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her without a smile on her face and her “let’s go” attitude. She’s always up for an adventure. And she's always looking to raise the bar higher and achieve yet more.

Kelly also joined the party at our very first FOL gathering in Chicago. As luck would have it, we were all arriving at the airport within minutes of each other and when we had a group hug, Kelly immediately dissolved into tears. Those who know Kelly won't be surprised.

Kelly is our thinker, our resident philosopher. Many’s the time when she's brought up a topic leading us into a deep discussion of life’s most pressing questions. And we love her for it! Life is not all pretty pictures and beautiful light. There are some serious issues that, as women, we all have in common. Kelly seems to be perpetually cheerful and optimistic and that attitude is highly contagious.

Although she was one of our early collaborators, we didn’t get to meet Judy until our 2014 trip to Galveston. True confession: Judy wasn’t at all who I thought she would be. I knew she was a Cracker Jack photographer but I’d somehow made myself believe she was rather quiet. Wrong! Judy has a wonderfully warm and outgoing personality that immediately envelops you. As our week together unfolded, I found myself becoming more and more fond of Judy. After her leave of absence, she emailed Terri and me to see if she could rejoin our team. We didn’t miss a beat in saying "YES!" and are so glad she’s home!

And finally, I come to Cathy. Sadly, Cathy was not able to make the trip to Rhode Island this year so none of us has had the pleasure of meeting her. But again, I feel like I’ve known Cathy for eons since we all started our intersecting photo journeys through Tracey Clark’s Picture classes. I’m so eager to meet Cathy. I know she has a love of nature and that it is her photographic muse. She also loves to take daylong photo trips and is a passionate researcher so she can tell you all about the places she’s traveled in Arkansas. I’m beginning to think we might have to go to Arkansas to meet up with her!

Of course, we always say “once an FOL sister, always an FOL sister”, so let me just give a shout out to our FOL alums: Claudia Wrightson (a co-founder), Carol Hart, Cathy Sly, Kate Austin, Kim Stevens, Stephanie Mull, and Susan Case.

Part Two

I know I’ve gone on too long here but bear with me just a minute longer while I share some of what we do when we’re together. It won't take long, I promise.

Well, we eat.

We talk.

We teach each other new tricks.

We shop …

And sometimes we even buy.

We  pose.

We take photos.

We laugh – and we hug – a lot.

But mostly, we just savor the joy of hanging out with one another, a joy so real, it's palpable.

Thank you for sticking with me through this lengthy post but I really wanted to share these stories and pictures with you. You see, each of these women – and each of you – is so special to me - each holds such a big space in my heart, I wanted to share with you my gratitude for them as we all celebrate Gratitude Month.

There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate.
                                                                        ~ Linda Grayson

With love and gratitude,

FYI: In case you missed it over the weekend, check out this post with information about tonight's super supermoon. It is a rare photo op so you won't want to miss it.


terriporter said...

I wish you were here to see me laughing, crying, smiling, and crying some more as I read your post. These women and these memories are so precious! I really don't know how we got so lucky as to have grouped these beautiful souls together to become our FOL sisters. When I look at the photos you have posted, I see many different personalities and life experiences but the thing I see that we all have in common is our love and respect for each other. You have described each of us to a "T" and your kindness and powers of observation make you the glue that holds us all together. I hope we have many more years of togetherness ahead! Thank you for the gift that this post is to all of us. <3 <3 <3

heyjudephotography said...

I love this Dotti! This really made me smile this morning. I look forward to spending more time with all of you. Terri's right, this is a gift to us all

Rhadonda Sedgwick said...

What a beautiful read!!! Yes I read the whole thing ( : Beautiful young women. What a blessing for sure.

Rosie Grey said...

❤️ what a wonderful post! I'm grateful for all of you!

Focusing on Life said...

Wow, Dotti! What a wonderful post! I am blessed with the BEST friends! Who would have thought that all those years ago at Picture Classes we would have met and stayed such close friends. And yes, Dotti, someday, someway I'm going to meet you. I'm already working on my bravery!!

leigh said...

I am smiling ear to ear! What a wonderful post Dotti! I love you all!

Ellen D. said...

Thank you for this post. It was great to learn more about each of you. Very enjoyable! I need smiles these days!

AFishGirl said...

What a joy to read this, Dotti. The love shines in this post, it shines big. Supermoon big. oxoxoxxo

Carol said...

OH -YOU! Now I'm with Kelly -in tears ! what a wonderful post! I treasure you all and all that you have added to my life!

kelly said...

oh my heart dotti. when I think about this journey and having your part of my is one of the greatest, unexpected joys of photography. xoxo

Sarah Huizenga said...

You are all so special! And I feel that I know many of you, and of course I have met Deanna in real life twice, she is a spiritual rock to all. If you gals go to Arkansas I want to go!

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