I wrote this in 2008...when my life fell apart. My life is still apart, but I'm slowly picking up the pieces. I'm doing OK.... even though I still drop a few pieces now and then. 

For the First Time in 15 years… May, 2008

I did something today that I haven’t done in 15 years. I woke up at 7:30 this morning and my dad was on my mind immediately. I decided right then I was gonna go to the cemetery today. I guess with it being Memorial weekend I thought it was the thing to do. 

I’m not from a family that decorates grave sites at Memorial day like some do and I haven’t gone to that cemetery for specifically that purpose since Daddy died in 1993. I’ve gone over there when I was there for other funerals but haven’t made any special trips. It just never really occurred to me before. So I got up, grabbed some coffee for the 30 minute drive and off I went. 

As I passed the garden center in Tontitown, I said “Oh Crap, you’re supposed to take flowers or something when you do this sort of thing.” So, I did a u turn & headed back into town, then I thought, “Wait a minute, that’s really not what Daddy would have done.” A memory came back that I haven’t ever thought of until now. I don’t think I ever saw him buy flowers for any occasion. He might have, but I don’t ever remember a time. But almost every day, I won’t say every day, but almost everyday, when they were in bloom, he would pick one of those big orange tiger lilies or some other wild flower that grew in the ditch in front of our house and put it on the kitchen table. So…. I did another U-turn and headed back west, deciding I’d pick some wild flowers along the way.

Well, I couldn’t find any wildflowers that were really suitable. For some reason, there weren’t any daisies or coreopsis growing between Tontitown & Robinson Road right now. There were some yellow flowers that were passing away from their blooming stage and had lost the top half of their bloom, so they weren’t very pretty. I passed them by. So, when I got to Robinson Road, instead of heading to the cemetery, I went on west to our old home place. On the drive there, I saw plenty of daisies, honeysuckle and other flowers that would do just fine. At the home place, I found even more growing up on the side of the hill at the back of the yard. I justified taking some of them. I didn’t think anyone would mind, since the house was long gone and after all, Mama planted those flowers… Then I headed back to the cemetery and stopped and got the daisies along our old dirt road. I had a nice little bouquet.

Thinking of Daddy this morning, I was a little melancholy and missing him some. Which is another thing that hasn’t happened in a long time. I’m not sure what I expected when I got to the cemetery. The old country cemetery was beautifully groomed and almost every stone had been decorated. I got around to the very back corner where Daddy’s stone was at. It had a spray of flowers on it, probably from last year. Also, there were a few more stones around his than before. His was the first under that big shade tree back there in the back. It’s a nice place. 

I laid the wild flowers on top of the stone and sat in the damp grass for a while and enjoyed the beautiful morning. I noticed a bobwhite was announcing his presence regularly to the north. It brought back another memory. Daddy knew a lot of bird sounds and the bobwhite and whipporwill were his favorites. He’d always make us come and listen when he heard one outside. The bobwhite kept up his song and kept me company for a long time. 

It was such a pretty morning, I brought out my camera to record the day. Not sure what the outcome would be, but hoping to capture some sense of the day, a small part of the journey to remember. (Bobwhite is to the southwest of me now, a little closer than before, but just as persistent in his song… still talking constantly to me in that soothing rhythmic voice.) I sat on the ground with the camera and tripod and took over 50 shots. I tried different angles and heights with different lenses. 

After a while, I put the camera down. I sat there a while longer taking in everything. (Bobwhite is just over my shoulder in a tree to the south about 20 yards away.) I realized I hadn’t talked to Daddy, nor had any tears here in this place, and none would come. Only good memories and a few shadows and the bobwhite telling me his story. 

I packed my gear back in the car and walked around to look at some of the other stones. Neighbors I knew or had heard of almost all my life or grandparents of friends from the school bus and a few that were so very special to me. When I got back to the shade tree, I noticed bobwhite was silent now. No longer talking to me or making a peep. Before I left, I went & picked up the flowers off the head stone. And put them in a cup of water in my car.

I got in my car and drove to the exit gate, passing all the pretty monuments. I think I came here wanting some answers to questions I have. All I found were functional pieces of granite, serving to preserve dates and names and evidence of past existence. My dad wasn’t here, he never has been. Neither were there any answers. As I reached the gate, I realized this and something told me I had to find the answers on my own. Then the floods came, passionate tears from somewhere deep. Tears for losses and for a desperate longing for losses that I can never have back again. But more than that, tears for the answers that I didn’t find. And tears for that voice that just kept telling me to listen to my heart. 

On my way back home, I stopped & picked some of those damaged flowers with their blooms missing. I realized, they were a lot like Daddy. Not the prettiest, a little damaged, but still with a lot to give. They are on my kitchen table with the rest of the wild flowers.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you were touched by it 

I think I heard a snap. It wasn’t it was a literal snap but more a figurative snap from within me.  Something was markedly different the moment it happened.

What is a defining moment?  We all have them in our lives.  Those moments that mark time in our life.  Those moments you reference before or after that moment because things are never the same after that as they were before that.

I’ve always thought there are two kinds of defining moments. The first kind, many times we are fortunate enough to anticipate & prepare for such as the start of a new career, the birth of a child or a wedding day. The second, are those we have no control or anticipation of. Those are things like a uncontrollable accident, loss of a loved one or sudden end of a relationship.

Then there’s possibly the third kind.  The kind that slowly creep up on you. You feel the change happening or the moment coming, but you try to pray, hope or bargain it away. Even resulting to begging or arguing, out of weakness and fear you try everything in your power to rescue your current state of being.  Inside, you think that the moment will not come, always believing your efforts were successful or that they soon would be. You simply wait.  In denial.

Then the snap happens.  The defining moment has been prolonged in a stretched and bent state for so long that something finally gives. The outward forces directing the change were too strong…and all your efforts were too weak to stop that moment from finally snapping into a clear definition.

When the snap came for me it was as tangible as breaking a dish…but more like losing a treasured friendship.  It was immediate, concise and extremely significant. But very strangely, it was freeing.  After a short second of wondering how I could undo the snap and regain my loss, came a clear peace of mind reminding me how amazing my life is. That I am healthy, intelligent, successful, funny, attractive, talented and I am loved.  Why did I fight this? Why did I fear this? I don’t deserve to have my intensity, need for clarity or curiosity squelched.  No longer will I have my insistence on understanding and fairness ignored.  I wanted to compromise & bargain… I gladly would have…but that wasn’t wanted or accepted. But that is Okay. It’s perfectly Okay. I was sad for a moment, but I was not broken.

With clarity, I can say that after today, things will be different.  Today, I am different… and today, I am OK.

    You might ask why my website called gemandrock.com...  Well, it's a very special story to me.  I still smile when I think of it.  That day has taught me to look for little gems & rocks in everything I do. Look for and focus 
    A while back I was driving to Missouri, with a very special friend & shooting buddy.  We were headed to a photography field trip to meet several other photographers, we stopped for gas in a small town..not even a town really, just a little community.  Next door was a flea market that looked kind of interesting.  We both love old stuff so we decided to go inside & see what they had.  As we neared the building, we noticed a small sign on the side of the building that said... "Gem and Rock Store".  Now, when you see a sign like this, It conjurs up a lot of different images in the mind.  I was imagining all kinds of things like big shiny glasslike rocks, fossils, precious gemstones...you get the idea.  As we walked past the cool entry made of two old wagon wheels & a neat wooden bench. I commented on the sign that I really wanted to see some Gems & Rocks.... and that my niece, Kannah, LOVES rocks and in fact, I love rocks.  Rocks, rock! Maybe I'll find a cool rock on this day.
    So inside, what appeared to be a married couple greeted us as they talked to a young woman who had come in to chat.  There are small rooms & areas that you kind of meander through looking at the flea market wares that were mostly stuff like worn out foot stools and old juice glasses (the kind your grandma saved from jelly jars when you were a kid) .  There was one section that was old office furniture from the 70's.  It was a hodge podge of what appeared to be the remnants from old garage sales.  There weren't really any true collectibles that I saw...although believe me, we looked & looked for some redeaming quality of this store.
    But where were the gems and rocks????  Normally, in a store like this, I would have probably left after just a few minutes, especially given our timeline.  But the lure of the gems & rocks kept us going. We went through every room. Every time we saw something shiny from a distance, or a display case tucked in a corner, we hurried over thinking...."Ahh maybe this is where the gems & rocks are."  ...but we were disappointed each time. We even went through the large store room in the back where they kept the overflow jelly jars & foot stools that weren't quite the higher quality of the ones displayed in the front rooms.  There were no gems & no rocks.  
    We made our way back to the entry, thinking we would ask the proprieters.... "Sir, Ma'am, where do you keep the gems & rocks."  But as we got to the front, we found a small gathering of people drinking coffee and engrossed in what seemed a very important conversation about a happening down the road & why a nearby farmer was wanting to sell off some of his land.  They seemed to hardly notice us. But not because they were rude. It was almost as if they expected us to sit down & join in the conversation. The woman smiled & kind of waved as we left.  
    Back on the road, neither of us said anything for a while....just staring in silence. I think we were both perplexed.  Finally, I said. "What do you think that sign meant?  I mean, there were no gems or rocks anywhere."  My friend said.. "Maybe that was the couple's name...Gem and Rock I mean."  Hmmmmm..... "...maybe." Then laughingly I said, "I wonder what a morning conversation is like as they start their day?"   Then the dialog began. The whole rest of the drive, we jokingly talked as if we were Gem & Rock preparing to open the store each day. 
"Good Morning, Gem. I've got the coffee brewing." Rock said,
"It smells delicious.  Say, Rock, what is that you have there?"
"Well, Gem, it's nother shipment of jelly jars."
"Ooooh, nice ones." Gem replied.
"Where do you think I should put them?" Rock asked.
"Well in the Jelly Jar section, of course.  I cleared off a shelf just yesterday."
"I'll get to it just as soon as we have another cup of coffee & finish this newspaper."

    Since then, we have had a lot of Gem & Rock conversations and I smile every time.  I still wonder at that store out in a rural community. I think the gems & rocks were a metaphor for the retired couple living a little dream & enjoying their  gathering place for locals to have some great coffee. That store probably means a lot more that just the flea market. It was a way for them to stay connected to their community.   I've come to think that we  found some Gems and Rocks there also and we are still picking them up along the way.
    At Christmas this year, Rock gave me a very well thought out gift.  Ingenious really.  He gave this, my very own domain name.  Now, catchy domain names aren't always easy to get.  Most of the good ones are already taken. But the first & only name he tried to get for my gift was the one your viewing now.  gemandrock.com  The customer service people he talked to in registering it were shocked that it hadn't been snapped up a long time ago.  I'm shocked as well. Especially considering there are Gem and Rock stores all over the world!   That's just proof to me that it was meant to be my site. 
    So, I've spent the last few weeks learning & understanding a little about how websites work & building what you see here today. A big shout out and very special THANK YOU to Rock for this!  You Rock!
    To the rest....I hope you enjoy seeing my little part of the world as I view it through the lens. 

Welcome to gemandrock.com!
I am from an incredibly talented family.   While standing in  the shadows of Musicians, Pencil Artists, Artistic Quilt makers, Seamstresses, Wedding Cake Baker’s, Floral, Interior Designer’s and the like, I realized at a
very young age I had a creative side. It started with a needle and thread as a young girl making baby doll clothes and continued with inspiration from my mother until as an adult I was designing an elaborate hand-beaded heirloom wedding gown for my sister that will be worn by generations.  This came  naturally to me….Or so it seemed (more on that in a minute).
    In 1999, after admiring photography for several years, I took the leap into and invested in an SLR camera. I promptly began to study books and videos about photography and soon I was taking beginner’s workshops and classes.   I spent a lot of time and money only to produce mediocre results.  I was trying so hard to concentrate on the outcome that I was placing such an expectations on myself that a lot of the creative process was blocked.   The disappointment of not finding a natural talent, along with a busy work schedule and keeping up with two teenagers, I put the camera down in 2001. But even though I wasn’t shooting, there was still a longing for this art.  I continued to admire photographic art, but only from a distance.
    As my sons grew up and moved out on their own, and the nest has emptied, the longing to pursue this art grew and grew.  It could no longer be ignored. In May, 2006 I reached for the camera again. Although when I picked it up this time, it was a very different story!  I realized that making that first wedding gown had nothing to do with natural talent.  It only seemed like it, because I had spent literally 25 years developing the skills. Those skills, with a passion for it is what made it possible.   For me, natural talent is overrated… the passion for photography is what will make the art possible.
    While I’m still studying and developing the skills and my time is still limited,  I sure am enjoying the journey. Many  times while I’m out shooting,  I find myself putting up the camera and just enjoying what’s going on around me.  Now when I shoot, I’m disconnected from the outcome, I’m only concentrating on the journey. I have no fear of failing now because I know the skills will marry with the passion when the time is right…just like the day I saw my sister walk down the aisle, a picture of beauty, in a magnificent gown.    
.......Being labeled as talented only means that we survived  being untalented." Quote by Craig Tanner, The Radiant Vista