Thankful Thursday – Road Trippin’ the American West

The longest road trip I remember from childhood took me to Disneyland, which seemed So Far Away, though now I have to admit that the hour-and-a-half drive from San Diego to Anaheim doesn’t truly count.

Guy’s family did real road trips: six weeks coast-to-coast in a Volkswagen Vanagon, a different route each way, every summer.

Our family has been road trippin’ since Guy and I honeymooned, driving from the Washington-Canada border to California’s central coast. We set a precedent on that trip, and most every vacation since has involved a drive (or many) of some length.

So. The Big Kid needed to get to college. With All the Stuff. And we wanted every member of our family of four to participate. Of course we drove.

We made a quick trip out, two days, because Kid needed to just get there. On the way back, we made it a vacation for Lil Bro. We made at least one fun/view stop each day, arriving home with barely enough time to pick up our farmed-out pets, do laundry, and regroup for the start of school.

The first few hours of our trip were beautiful, familiar NorCal roads. Guy and I talked. Kids wore headphones and stared at screens. Once we pulled out of Tahoe/Truckee, I realized we were in unfamiliar territory.

Before we left home, I’d done some reading. Years ago we visited Donner Memorial State Park so our kids knew that story. Our route east took us through historic landscapes, like the 40 Mile Desert, a portion of the Emigrant Trail which saw heavy traffic from 1848-1869. I read the linked article aloud as we drove, a humbling reality as we looked out our windows to the parched landscape.

What surprised me was the beauty. I hear the smack of “boring,” “desolate,” “lonely,” “bleak,” but I appreciated the changes in color and texture. I am so intrigued by the unheard stories of those who live here and there, by circumstance or choice.

Spontaneously, I began taking pictures. Hightailing it down the highway, through my spotty passenger window, click click click. The view, to me, seemed continually remarkable.

The view mesmerized me.

I know, taken via iPhone at speed through a dirty window, that these won’t be great pictures. But they help me remember how much I like road trips, and our country.

The Good Ol’ US of A may be a friggin’ hot mess. But I saw beauty as we drove, and kindness in the smiles and small talk of strangers. Beauty inspires hope. As a people, we are as diverse as our landscape. Others may see us–ahem, we may see each other–as “boring,” “desolate,” “lonely,” “bleak,” [insert your adjective here…]. But we are so much more than labels.

Fallon, NV

Lovelock, NV

Coalville, UT

Fort Bridger, WY

Hannah, WY

Idaho Springs, CO

Rangely, UT – and yes, the “highway” became a dirt road!

Talmadge, UT

Wendover, UT – The Bonneville Salt Flats/Speedway. Snapped as the minivan hit 100mph!

Truckee, CA

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Leap of Faith

You know those people you esteem at a distance? Shirley is one of those women in my life. Our kids have traveled together through elementary school and now into middle school, but she has a daughter and I have a son and so our social overlap has lacked. Yet I have watched with deep respect as Shirley has invested in her passion and launched her business. She inspires me, and I’m sure she will inspire you as well.

Create Challenge #7 – Shirley DeFrancisciDef-2

I took a leap of faith on November 11, 2014, which resulted in me receiving an amazing gift. Within days after a family photo session I said, “I can and want to do that, too!” and I decided to start a photography business of my own.

Why do this? Photography has been my passion for as long as I can remember. I started with Kodak Instachrome and Polaroid photos in elementary school and I carried around a Nikon SLR during most of my junior and senior years in high school. I never stopped loving photography in my twenties but becoming an aunt and then a parent inspired me to pursue photography more intensely.Def-1

So when the opportunity came about to share my skills and art with others in a more official capacity, I seized the chance. It felt like the most logical thing to do. I am grateful and have no doubt that God’s hand provided the bit of push I needed to pursue this dream. With giddiness, nervous excitement, prayer and with my family’s full support, I launched DeF-Stop Photography. My announcement was a simple email sent to a collection of friends/acquaintances with a link to a Sign-up Genius. Hitting send made me feel so vulnerable! However, within four days I received over 30 confirmed bookings for Christmas mini-photo sessions. I felt humbled, surprised, honored, energized and beyond grateful for everyone who trusted me out of the gate to capture their images. It was a win-win as my clients started to report how thrilled they were with the results.

Why do this? Since then, I have constantly questioned myself: Is this what I want? Is this God’s intent for me? Is this relevant to who I am?Def-3

Why do this? I also do mental sanity and capacity checks. I work full-time at a great company. I am the mother of three, incredibly beautiful-yet-busy children. I am a wife, daughter, sister, friend and I need at least some time for myself! There are only 24 hours in a day! In order for this venture to be successful long-term, I had to frame it in a way that was relevant and resonated with me, my husband and family while aligning to our goals and, sometimes, just logistics. Being creative makes me happy. Happy mommy = happy home = happy family. Okay, keep going!Def-4

Why do this? To pursue my love for photography and share it with others. My goal is to express myself as an artist but also communicate what is true. The camera doesn’t lie (Photoshop does if you need it to). I listen and strive to provide what my clients ask for but I take risks and show them angles they might not have considered. I see one thing but do they see it, too? They show me things I did not see at first. I am learning and growing my craft. I am rewarded when images pleasantly surprise me and are better than I imagined.

Why do this? I capture God’s beauty and I capture life as it happens, either outside in open space, at a local event, inside for a party or in a nursery for a newborn shoot. I see people in beautiful light, playing and, most often, happy (even teenagers). I want my clients to enjoy the experience and love the results. I am inspired to capture with my lens the emotions of family interactions, sports and other activities. During shoots, I sometimes remind my clients to look around since they are often with people they love the most. I remind them to pause, take a deep a breath and treasure this moment. I do this too. When we can collectively stop and realize that nothing else matters but these people around us, it is a priceless gift. I am always in the pursuit of capturing this moment with my lens. This is why I do this.Def-5

 

Def-Shirley

 

Shirley lives in Moraga, California, with her husband, three children, mom, and a very old, fat cat. She volunteers whenever she can. In her free time she loves music, reading and, of course, photography! To see more of her work and schedule your photo session, see her website: https://defstopblog.wordpress.com/