Category Archives: Storytelling

Every December 18th

In just 15 short minutes, it will be December 18th.  A day 5 years ago that will forever be etched in my mind and tattooed on my heart.

Rewind to 12/18/12. It was early evening. John was at work. He had only been assigned to patrol a few months and was fresh out of his training by a couple of weeks.  I was at home with our son, who was a couple days shy of his 2nd birthday. I was also 35 weeks pregnant with our second son. My phone rang. It was John and his words were tumbling out so fast it took me a minute to understand him. It’s difficult to describe, but I could actually hear the adrenaline in his voice.
Do you know what that sounds like?
It’s a sweet mixture of relief, heart thumping fear, exhilaration, gratitude and a tiny bit of disbelief. It took me a minute to understand his words.
The first thing he said was, “I’m okay now.”  I know that hearing those words should provide immediate relief because that would mean that 1) not only is he alive to speak them  and 2) he’s conscious and coherent.  I’ve heard those words before and they have ALWAYS preceded the telling of a scary, dangerous encounter on the job that could have easily ended in a visit to our door by a couple of uniformed sergeants.  
This time, those words were followed by his retelling of responding to a 911 call where a young girl was perched on the edge of an overpass, ready to jump into traffic on Highway 62.  Several motorists  called 911 and he just happened to be nearby.  So he hit the lights and sirens and got there as fast as he could. About the same time, an officer from another agency arrived.  The girl was scared and didn’t understand my husband.  He knows probably 3 phrases in Spanish – none of which were any help that night.  As a true miracle would it, the other officer was bilingual and spoke Spanish.  I have no idea what he said to her.  Whatever it was, it made a difference.
Together, they lowered themselves to her.   Barely hanging on themselves, they bear hugged her to the overpass.  They had no harnesses.  There was nothing to keep them and the girl from falling to the freeway below.  They stayed there like that on that dark and  icy December night until a fire truck with a ladder arrived and got into position below them.  They helped her safely down and then got themselves to safety.
She left in an ambulance.  And my husband came home safely to us that night.  We would still have lots of chances to play, laugh and make memories together.
I cried so many tears that night after that phone call.  Tears of relief that he was ok.  Tears for the family who almost lost a daughter that night. Tears especially for her mama who almost lost her baby.  Tears for the girl herself.  What was so wrong in her life that the only solution she saw would be to end it?
I prayed harder that night than I can remember.  I prayed first for the girl.  I prayed that she would get the help she needed so much. I prayed that she felt the love of those big strong arms that kept her safe on the overpass. I prayed that she would continue to feel love as her journey on this earth continues.  I prayed that God would continue to keep my husband safe in the future.  I prayed that God would continue working through my husband to be a source of service, protection and sacrifice to others.  I prayed he wouldn’t make me a pregnant widow.  I prayed the same for the other officer. I prayed for that other officer’s wife, knowing that she was likely feeling many of same things I was feeling.
I thanked God for not letting the holidays be forever changed for the girl’s family or ours.
Every year on this day, I say a special prayer for the girl and wonder about her.  I never learned any specifics about her.  All I know is that she was a teenager and didn’t speak English.  Tonight, when I pray for her again, I will pray that wherever she is, that she is loved, knows that she is loved and that she is thriving.

As a result of the efforts,  a few months later my husband and the other officer were given Awards of Merit in recognition for their heroism and quick thinking that night.  Going to the ceremony and listening to the story being retold, I felt tears again.   And when my husband walked up to receive his, no one smiled bigger or clapped louder than me.  Well, except maybe his mom!

To say that I am proud of the man and the police officer he is would be an understatement.  He is an amazing father to our three boys, a caring husband and best friend you could ask for.  Whenever he can’t be with us because of work, I am reminded that there are others out he is serving who need him just a tiny bit more than we do at that moment.  And I’m happy to share him if that means another family doesn’t lose a loved one or he can provide comfort to those who need it.  Keeping that perspective helps me keep the home fires burning while he’s at work.
Our boys are growing up knowing their daddy is a police officer.  They are too young to really understand what that means.  We choose to focus on the fact that daddy helps people.  And in the last few weeks, our four year old keeps saying when he grows up, he wants to be a police officer.  And not only that, he also says that he “…wants to be on Daddy’s team with him.”
Having one police officer in the family is quite enough. I’m not sure my heart could handle two.  I know that it’s not my decision to make. And now knowing that he wants to follow in his daddy’s footsteps, I’m going to add a special prayer for him every December 18th.
*Photo credit to Melissa Soto Photography

Why I Keep My Camera Close to Me…

The snowfall last night created a big headache for everyone in the Twin Cities metro who had to be out on the roads today.

But for one little boy, waking up to that soft white blanket covering our yard and street was nothing short of a dream come true for him.

His bus was over an hour late.  So while we waited for it to arrive, he played in the snow and I snapped a few frames so that I could always remember how intensely happy he was this morning.

“Mama! I’m gonna get you!”

He’s the boy who made me a mama almost seven years ago.  And today? Today we played.  He crawled around the yard on all fours, roaring like a polar bear.  He made snowballs and lobbed them at me while grinning away.  He picked up handfuls of (clean!) snow and ate it, leaving a white goatee on his chin.

And in a moment of unscripted and pure glee, he dropped to the ground on his back and flapped his arms and legs and made the most perfect snow angel I have ever seen.

When he closed his eyes and tried to catch snowflakes with his tongue, I laughed out loud with him and clicked away.  I alternated between watching him through my lens and just simply watching him.  Trying to take it all in and tattoo this moment on my heart forever.

Rosy cheeks and lips are a sure sign of winter fun.

I’ll never forget how special this morning was to me.  While some people may be irritated at how awful the commute was or how inconvenient a late bus was, I sit here thinking about how lucky I was to be home today and experience this.  I hope that he always remembers that fun morning the first time it snowed in December 2017.  And if he doesn’t, I’ll show him these photos of himself and tell him all about it.  Having these photos is my insurance that I won’t forget the details when we talk about it.

“Mama, I wanna go back outside and be a polar bear again.”

While my mama heart is feeling all the feels about the emotions of the morning’s memory making mini adventure, my photographer heart heart is doing a happy little jig over the beautiful morning light.

All the photos were taken within 20 minutes of each other within a 10 foot circle.  They look so different depending on what direction I was facing.  As I watched him, I thought about different ways to capture both what I was seeing and trying to see it through his eyes too.  I’m so glad that I took the time to step back and consider both the scene and be intentional about what I was capturing.

Someday, long after I’m gone, I hope he looks at these photos of himself and knows without a doubt how very much I love him.

I love him for who he is now and who he will become in the future.  I love him for how he sees the world, even if I don’t yet understand it.  I love him for how he’s changed me for the better.  I love him for his big feelings. I love him for him.

I love him infinity…

Dear Mama – Get in the Photo

Dear Mama:
Don’t worry if you are hot and sweaty.
Don’t mind the color of your shirt against the trees.
Don’t think about the fact that you skipped a shower earlier.
Color photo of a dark haired woman holding a young boy on her lap.
Photo credit: my husband
Just grab your kiddo and get in the picture.
Your little ones won’t stay little long.  
Color photo of a mother reading to a small boy sitting on her lap.
Photo credit: my husband
And you know what?
They don’t care how you smell or what you are wearing.
They just want to be with you.
They just want to crawl up on your lap and share their excitement about snakes and other creepy critters with you.
So stop worrying so much about what to wear and spending too much time planning.
Just get in the photo.
I dare you to look at it later without getting teary eyed.
I know I can’t.
You see, the hot and stinky mama in this photo is actually me.
Color photo of a mom with a young boy on her lap looking at a book together.
Photo credit: my husband
I handed my camera to my husband today while we were picnicking in the woods today.
And you know what?
Hours later as I look at this, I don’t see the dark circles under my eyes. I can only see the love and for my baby here.  
And, if I close my eyes, I can smell the pine trees that whispered their secrets to us while we feasted on french fries and chicken nuggets.
Stop worrying mamas, and get in the photo with your babies.
Years and years from now, when you are but a memory to your little ones, they will need to feel your arms around them one more time.
And when they pull out a photo of you like this, they will feel your presence again.  Wrapping them in a love so strong, it transcends time and space.

The Gift of Storytelling Photography

Photo of a small boy's hands holding a yelllow bucket with a tangle of earthworms inside

To you, it may look like a gross bucket of worms.

To me, it’s something completely different.
To me, it’s a precious gift from a sweet, blue eyed four year old boy who calls me mama.

I never want to forget his ever present curiosity.
His innate tenderness towards tiny creatures.
His love of playing in the dirt for hours on end.
His big imagination casting him as the hero saving the day.

When I look at this photo years from now, I want to remember the spring of 2017 with a smile.
All those days and early evenings playing in the backyard together.
The excited little voice giving a play by play of each new find.
The inch think layer of mud in the bathtub afterwards.
And yes, even the muddy footprints on the wood floors.

So look further. See past the tangle of earthworms.

The best gifts don’t come in big packages. Sometimes they aren’t even wrapped. They sing to our souls and lighten our hearts.