Help for Hurricane Victims

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus while I try to figure out what I really want to do with this site and with my photography, but I decided to come back for today because this feels important.

I may live in Tennessee now, but I’ve spent most of my life in Texas. I grew up an hour south of Houston, then went to college and started a career in a town about an hour north of Houston. As far as I know, my family and friends are all okay, minus a few vehicles and some damp carpet. But there are others who need help. If I hadn’t totaled my car earlier this month, I would be loading it down with all the supplies I could carry and driving there right now. But since I have no vehicle–and no hope of getting a vehicle for at least another 3 or 4 weeks–this is the best I can do.

I’m sure you’ve all seen links to donate to the Red Cross and other large relief organizations–and that’s fine. Many thanks to everyone who has donated. But I know there are people out there who don’t trust or don’t want to give to big non-profits, so I’m giving you a list of smaller, local organizations that could really use the help.

Note: I’m not receiving any personal benefits from donations made to any of these organizations.

SPCA of Brazoria County–This animal shelter is taking in pets found loose in the flood as well as sheltering animals whose owners have had to evacuate to shelters. Many places that shelter human evacuees will not allow people to bring their pets. The SPCA is currently operating their main shelter, a secondary shelter called The Box, and a large-scale shelter at the county fairgrounds. This will be a long-term effort; they’re still housing several animals that were left homeless in the 2016 floods.

Rita B Huff Humane Society–An animal shelter in Huntsville, TX. Parts of Walker County are flooding, and I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before the shelter is at capacity. If they are not already there.

Houston Food Bank–The Houston Food Bank is currently closed because their facility is inaccessible due to floodwaters. They are the largest distributor of food in the area, and I’m sure they could use any assistance you could provide. Every dollar donated to the Houston Food Bank provides 3 meals to hungry people.

JJ Watt’s Flood Relief Fund–Started by Houston Texans player JJ Watt. Donations surpassed the original goal so quickly that JJ raised the bar.

MD Anderson Cancer Center–Several of their facilities are closed due to the severe weather. Currently only two MD Anderson hospitals are operating, and those are both near the Austin area.

Texas Children’s Hospital–All clinics are currently closed although they are continuing inpatient care at this time. Their Facebook page says they are currently assessing their needs and will release a statement at a later time. I’m assuming financial contributions would be welcome at any time, however, and there is a link on their website for those who wish to donate.

 

This is just what I could come up with off the top of my head. I’m sure there are many, many local churches, food pantries, animal rescues and hospitals that would welcome donations at this time. If you have any information or would like to provide a link, please leave it in the comments below. Also, I’m asking anyone who reads this to please share the heck out of it. Thanks!

Inspiration and regret

There are no pictures in today’s post, but there is a reason for that. I hadn’t planned to write this, because it’s more personal than I had planned to be on this blog, but I feel like it’s somewhat relevant.

I think the reason I fell in love with photography can be attributed to my grandmother. She always had her camera ready to capture all those little moments. She must have filled hundreds of albums over the years, from every holiday and birthday, weddings, school events, childhood milestones, and sometimes just us grandkids on impromptu visits posed in front of her refrigerator so she could finish off a roll of film and take it to be developed.

She was a vibrant, loving person, who traveled the world but always had time for her family and friends. When I was in college, she wrote me a letter every month and enclosed a $20 in each one. Sometimes she’d mail pictures, too. I saved every letter and tucked them away in the back of a photo album.

Alzheimer’s stole her from us. I watched her fade quietly away and tried desperately to find some piece of her that I could hold on to and keep for myself forever. I learned to sew and made blankets for my cousins’ kids, her great-grandchildren, just like the ones she made for us when we were small. I learned to knit and made pretty scarves for my friends (she crocheted a little, but I couldn’t get the hang of that; knitting was the next best thing). I learned her recipes, served her meals at my kitchen table, and baked hundreds of cookies to give away at Christmas.

None of it felt quite right.

And then I picked up my camera. My albums go up on Facebook instead of the hutch in the family room, but they’re there…Every birthday party, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, engagement parties, and welcoming new babies into the family. Weddings when the bride and groom are okay with it. Whenever, wherever, however my family gets together, I’ve got the camera or I’m snapping pictures on my phone.

Grandma didn’t raise me, but she was the person I counted on as a child, my constant. My mom is mentally ill and my dad was always at work. They weren’t affectionate, and there were times when things bordered on abusive; I was frequently pushed aside or ignored. My parents did the best they could, given their personal issues, but Grandma was the one who showed me what it means to be compassionate, selfless and kind, to cultivate friendships, and be a part of a loving extended family.

Alzheimer’s may have stolen my grandma, but it left me with one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Without it, I might never have discovered the capacity I have to love others. I used to think I was cold and heartless, but as the Alzheimer’s ran its course and took her farther and farther away, I tried to hold on to her tighter and tighter, and I realized that I would love her no matter how much she changed. It opened my eyes. It taught me the value in holding on to people unconditionally, which is something I had never fully understood before her diagnosis.

And that brings me to the point of today’s post:

I don’t have any good pictures of the two of us together; somehow we traded places behind the camera and, although I have plenty of pictures of Grandma, I never thought to ask anyone to take a nice, posed photo of Grandma and me.

Until yesterday. She died two days before.

There are some candid shots where we both happen to be in the frame, looking in opposite directions, and one picture of us when she was in the hospital sleeping, but nothing that really captures the bond we had with each other. And now there will never be any.

So make sure you step out from behind your camera sometimes. When you’re busy capturing those family moments, make sure you don’t forget to capture your own because one day you’re going to run out of chances to be with the people who are special to you. Ask someone to take over for a few minutes. Or use a tripod and your camera’s timer, or a shutter remote, or even a selfie stick.

Just don’t make the same mistake I did.

Welcome

Me on my wedding day.
Don’t mind the Carmen Sandiago look. I’m growing out a bad haircut, so a recent photo will have to wait; in the meantime, enjoy this shot from my wedding!

Let’s make this a short story, shall we? I don’t want to bore you guys on my first day.

I’ve always been obsessed with pictures, for as long as I can remember. About five years ago, I finally saved up the money to buy myself a “real” camera–a Canon DSLR–and I’ve spent those five years taking pictures on Auto with a kit lens. For better or for worse, husband and I even took our own wedding photos with it.

I’ve gotten some good pictures out of it, but there was always that thought in the back of my mind that I wasn’t utilizing my camera to the best of its potential. We can’t afford to pay for photography classes, but there is a wealth of information available online for free. I’m between jobs right now thanks to moving halfway across the country for my husband’s career, so I have some time on my hands.

Saga Shots came about as a way to help me keep track of my progress and share some of what I learn with others. I hope you enjoy sharing this journey with me; I’ll do my best to keep it interesting for you. I have a Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, just for giggles. Tumblr is a little more casual than the rest, so don’t be surprised if you see a ton of anime posts. Otherwise I’m trying to just stick with photography.