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Meaningful Photos

How to capture more meaningful family photos

Written by Laura Richards, Laura Richards Photography

Every Christmas morning, I would wait at the top of the stairs with my brother and sister until Christmas “started.” This meant that Mom and Dad were downstairs, ready to go with the camcorder (remember those big, bulky things with actual cassette tapes in them?).

“Okay, come down!” Dad would yell. And for the rest of the morning, our Christmas together was documented, even the quiet parts when we were just opening new underwear.

I guess you could say that memory-capturing was a big part of our family, with an antique chest full of photographs to prove it. And I guess you could say that’s why it’s so important in my own family now as well. Documenting my son’s childhood is one of my greatest joys, and knowing that one day he’ll have boxes, albums, frames and videos of all those years gives me a certain kind of peace.

Inspired by these memories of holidays-past and the season ahead, I want to share a few tips on how to more meaningfully document your family. Seek emotion. Real, raw emotion is the secret ingredient to great documentary photography. Try to capture a range of emotion, like the look on your daughter’s face when she takes the first bite of the sugar cookies you made together, or the tears that well in your mom’s eyes when she opens the photo album you made her.

Squat, crawl and climb. Experiencing the holidays from different angles will result in more interesting photos and videos. This is especially fun when photographing children and pets. Get on their level — or way above it.

Let it happen. Think of photography as moment-freezing, not moment-creating. This year, document the holidays exactly as they happen. Don’t force smiles or poses. Our photos speak loudest when we observe quietly.

Embrace the small. Every moment spent with family and friends is a reason to pull out your camera, whether it be the one on your phone or your fancy DSLR. The more photos you take, the more you’ll realize just how many tiny, beautiful moments we let quietly slip by.

Get closer. One of the most important things I’ve learned about photography is that there’s always room to move closer to your subjects. When you see your spouse hugging your son on Christmas morning, move in and capture the way his little head fits perfectly in the nook between neck and shoulder. This intimacy offers such a different and often emotional perspective.

Get in the frame. As moms, we often stand behind the camera. We’re either so focused on our children that our own presence in the image seems trivial, or we don’t feel “perfect” enough to be in the frame. But here’s a secret: You are always worthy enough to be in the photograph. Your children love you more than a bad hair day, more than a holiday-stress blemish, more than the numbers on a scale — and their memories with you will mean the world one day.

Print, print, print. Better photos are tangible photos. Promise yourself you’ll always have more pictures made from ink and paper than pixels. Promise your family they’ll always have albums to hold in their hands and look at on snowy days — or when they long for days gone. Try to print photos very soon after the holidays, so you don’t get overwhelmed or sidetracked. Now why is all this important? Why is documentary photography important to your family? For me, it’s about creating legacy, and the idea that photographs are pieces of that legacy. They’re one of the most precious things we can leave our children. Our traditions and experiences together are so important that we need tangible memories, ones that say, “The life and love we created mattered.”

Laura Richards is a natural-light maternity, newborn and family photographer in Roanoke, who specializes in heirloom-quality albums, wall art, prints and more. When she’s not photographing or editing, she’s chasing after her tod-dler, Tucker.

www.laurarichardsphotography.com

Fall into a Fitness Routine

Take advantage of the changing seasons and commit to healthy habits.

Fall is notorious for comfort foods like pumpkin spice lattes and game day nachos. Combine these tempting seasonal staples with darker, shorter days and it can be hard to maintain an active mindset. Despite the enticement to indulge, you can keep your active lifestyle going or even kick off a new fitness regime. This year, take advantage of the winds of change when the seasons switch and commit to smart habits for a healthy fall.

Dress for success. As the temperatures drop, you may be tempted to bundle up before heading outdoors to exercise, and for your warm-up and cool-down period, that’s not a bad idea. However, while you’re in the midst of your workout, it’s easy to get overheated. Wear layers that you can shed as you begin to sweat and consider moisture-wicking materials that can prevent sweaty clothes from getting cold in the breeze.

Stay hydrated. You may not feel as thirsty when you exercise in cooler weather, but it’s just as important to keep your body well hydrated. When you sweat, you lose more than just water. An option like Propel Electrolyte Water helps you replace what’s lost in sweat through its key electrolyte – sodium – and supports hydration by stimulating thirst and aiding in fluid balance. With the same level of electrolytes as Gatorade, zero calories and no sugar, it can be a perfect choice to support your active lifestyle. (Learn more at propelwater.com.)

Opt for early workouts. When dark comes early, it can trick your mind into thinking it’s time to wind down for the night. Avoid that motivation pitfall by planning your workout earlier in the day, such as first thing in the morning or during your lunch break. If early mornings are daunting, remember that it won’t take long to shift your sleep schedule and early exercise is a caffeine-free way to put some energy into your day.

Find exercises you enjoy. Forcing yourself through exercises you despise will only backfire in the long run. If you’re not a runner, look for other ways to get your cardio pumping. Interval walking with varied paces and elevation can be an effective alternative or look at ideas like kickboxing or aerobics that you can have fun with while working up a sweat.

Indulge in moderation. Virtually every expert agrees that an occasional indulgence is perfectly acceptable, but use caution when the fall goodies start tempting. Those warm, rich desserts and drinks are filled with empty calories that can make all your hard work go to waste.

Set realistic goals. Having a long-term goal is a good idea, but be sure to set attainable expectations for yourself, including some milestones you can celebrate along the way to keep your motivation strong. Be realistic about how much time you can dedicate to fitness with your other life demands so you can set your goals accordingly.

Don’t skimp on skin care. The sun may not be as hot, but if you’re exercising outdoors, you’re still at risk for sunburn. Protect any exposed skin with sunscreen before working out.

Young Female Writers Club

Lifting Girls Up Through Sports Literature

Meet 16-year-old author Paige Brotherton  Written by K.L. Kranes

When it comes to girls and sports, the times have changed. In 1972, after the landmark Title IX legislation passed, only one in 27 girls participated in high school sports. Over 45 years later, that number has increased to two in five. Although the playing field is still not equal, women have 1.3 million fewer high school and over 60,000 fewer college sports participation opportunities than men, more girls than ever actively participate in sports.

But as often happens, particularly with stories for children and young adults, literature has not kept up with the times. 

“There are girls who like to slide in the mud and get dirty, but there are not a lot of books for girls who like to do these sports,” says 16-year-old Paige Brotherton of Williamsburg, Virginia, author of Avery Appreciates True Friendship, the fourth installment of the Lady Tigers book series. 

The series, started by her mother Dawn Brotherton, adds a relatable representation of girls in sports to the middle grade literature genre, expanding beyond the overarching subject to explore how athletics can shape a girl’s internal and external world. 

“I find it important to represent female athletes because there aren’t as many out there,” says Paige, who I speak with while she waits for rowing practice to begin. “The best way to prove girls are physically strong and capable is to fill the world with such women.”

Sports played a large role in Paige’s life from a young age. In elementary school during free time, she chose participating in races over chatting with friends. Both the competition and the team camaraderie of sports appeal to Paige.

“I’ve learned the benefits of being on a team. I’m not just working hard because I want to win. I’m working hard because I want my teammates in the boat next to me to win as well,” Paige says.

Her passion for writing, however, bloomed later than her passion for sports. In 7th grade, while writing a story based on her experiences at school, she discovered her love for creating characters and bringing them through conflicts. Having been an avid reader her whole life, Paige immediately understood the importance of making characters authentic, no matter the setting.  

“My favorite part of stories are the characters. It’s even more powerful when the characters are relatable and speak to the readership on some level. The nuances of human nature are universal, whether they’re found at Tatooine, in Middle Earth or on a softball field,” she says.

Therefore, when it came time to develop the next book in the Lady Tigers series, Paige had an idea. Having already tackled themes such as honesty, military deployment and sportsmanship, Paige felt the series should explore a more introspective topic for young girls—positive self-image. Concerned whether an adult writer could accurately depict the struggles girls face today in the tangled web of social media, Paige suggested she write the book and the publisher agreed. 

“Self-image has been transformed rapidly to such an extent it’s a subject that needs young authors to tell other young readers they’re perfect and here’s why,” Paige explains. 

Using sports as a springboard for a deeper discussion of self-perception and stereotypes, the book focuses on how girls compare themselves to their friends and often feel they come up lacking. 

“As social media, general picture posting, and makeup reach ever-younger audiences, girls begin to compare themselves to the girls around them,” says Paige. “I want to explain how every girl has something special about themselves that the rest of the world wishes they had.”

Paige felt the backdrop of sports provided the perfect avenue to explore this topic. She witnessed first-hand girls lose interest in sports or become demotivated as the athletic gap between girls and boys widened, thus further affecting self-image.

“When I was in elementary school, a girl could match a guy in running and lifting. Now in high school, no matter how much I train will never be as fast as the guys,” she explains. “After elementary school, it only gets harder and makes girls feel inferior.” 

Paige believes demonstrating how sports encompass more than just athleticism is critical. Through sports, girls can gain self-esteem and counteract the negative pressures and societal expectations often perpetuated by social media.

“We have to look at things girls are better at,” Paige says. As an example, Paige describes her experience in rowing, explaining how synchronization and communication are just as critical as strength. In her experience, when boys and girls first learn to row, the girls’ teams often perform better because the girls intuitively work together. It takes longer for the boys to catch up. 

As Paige so aptly demonstrates both in her writing and herself, girls can derive a positive self-image from sports, if only they can break through the social cage and embrace the strength within. 

“Aggressiveness is often seen as a negative trait, for girls at least,” Paige says, describing the stereotypes often associated with girls in sports and in life. “Which I believe is incredibly unfortunate as aggressiveness can also be described as a drive to seek out and earn what you want. I believe more women should wear this trait proudly as we step into the spotlight on the world platform.”

With young women like Paige Brotherton in the world, I think that just might happen.

K.L. Kranes is a blogger and author of young adult novels. Her debut novel, The Travelers, was published in 2016 by Saguaro Books, LLC. See more from K.L. at www.klkranes.com/blog.

Profile

A Writer & Her Garden

 A granddaughter helps her grandmother’s legacy continue to flourish.

Written by Hayleigh Worgan   Photos courtesy of Anne Spencer House & Garden MuseumIn early 2008, Shaun Spencer Hester sat on her mother’s porch contemplating where her career would take her next. She caught sight of her grandmother’s home across the street, and an idea began to take shape. A historic landmark, the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum (part of the Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation, Inc.), was maintained by Hester’s parents, but closed to the public. A historian, preservationist, and writer, Hester decided to reopen the museum in time for Virginia’s Annual Garden Day. 

When she stepped inside, she was struck by the feeling that she had stepped back in time. In that moment, she recalls, she knew that it was imperative to preserve as many of the original features of the home and garden as she could. With the windows clean and the floor swept, she opened the doors in time for spring that year. She became the museum’s curator, and introduced a new generation to the life and work of her grandmother, Anne Spencer. 

(photo: Anne Spencer in 1940)

Every inch of the Spencer property tells a story. In her time, Spencer used her garden as a sanctuary and gathering place, hosting intellectuals and African American travelers during years when our country was deeply segregated. Both inside the home and out in her community, she understood the value of planting seeds and helping them grow. An important figure in the literary and cultural movement of the 1920s and Harlem Renaissance, Spencer left quite a legacy. Her many accomplishments include being the second African American published in the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry (1973), assisting in the foundation of the Lynchburg chapter of the NAACP, and working as a librarian for the all-black Dunbar High School for twenty years. 

“The whole reason she wanted that job was because, at the time, there were no libraries in Lynchburg open to African Americans,” Hester says. “She thought, if she got the job, she would be able to allow access—not necessarily physical access—but she would be able to check out books for people in her community.”

Sources have described Spencer as a recluse because of the many hours she spent, day and night, working in her garden. Although she enjoyed her time alone, this accusation is unsubstantiated. Not only did she welcome people into her garden and home, she listened to their stories.

“For my grandmother,” Hester explains, “her garden was a place she could entertain visitors and guests. It was a way for her to connect to people, but it was also a place for her to get away from people, and she used it in both of those ways.”

The cottage in Spencer’s garden was built by her husband, Edward. There, she would escape to write poetry and prose that continues to be published in anthologies today. 

“It was a place to think and just be quiet. I think that is important for everyone, writer or not, and what better place to be than with nature?” Hester adds.

By preserving her grandmother’s home and gardens, Hester, the Anne Spencer Memorial Foundation’s Board of Directors, and the advisory board, are doing much more than providing another lovely stop on a garden tour. They are sharing part of the African American experience in American history.

“I tell people on these tours, when you think about my grandparents who met when they were young, in the 1800s, they were the first generation of their family to be freely educated just over 100 years ago. It’s really not that long ago. To see how we’ve grown, and understand the African American story over all of those periods of time is just starting to be told and of interest to all people. These stories aren’t written down in our history books, and if we don’t write them down they will all be lost. It’s now time for people to tell their story, whether it’s good or bad,” Hester says. 

Hester is currently working on a book detailing the history of her family, including the many ways they impacted the Civil Rights Movement and integration. Follow her on Instagram (@shaun.hester) for current information on the project. 

Visitation to the Anne Spencer House and Garden Museum slows down in October, but the garden is an unforgettable sight, even in the fall. From mid-October to March, Hester encourages those interested in a tour to book it two weeks in advance through the museum’s website. For more information visit www.annespencermuseum.com.

Hayleigh is a freelance writer, independent author, and writing consultant. In 2017, she published her first novel, The Huntsman: A modern retelling of Red Riding Hood. She spends a lot of time traveling and exploring new regions for inspiration, but Roanoke will always be her home. www.hayleighworgan.com.

Save Smarter

Four Reasons to Buddy Up with a Credit Card

Combined with responsible spending, these tips could help improve your financial wellness.
Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union

High-interest rates, nasty fees, or the inability to pay back debt—all can leave you feeling glum when it comes to credit cards. Cheer up! Credit cards don’t have to be your worst financial enemy. If you educate yourself, you’ll discover how befriending your credit card, while spending responsibly, could actually benefit your overall financial health. 

Build and/or improve your credit. Are you planning to get a loan for a car or a home? That loan will depend on your credit score. By using a credit card and making monthly payments (or better yet, paying off the entire balance each month), you’re helping to establish good credit. You’ll also want to consider your credit utilization ratio—the amount you owe compared to your credit limit. Keeping this ratio low, usually below 10 percent, will make you more appealing to lenders.

Maximize the value of your dollar. If you use your credit card wisely, rewards can be a good way to maximize the value of every dollar you spend by earning cash back, points, or miles that you can later redeem. Why not benefit from purchases you’re already making? Just be cautious—don’t charge more to your credit card just to earn a certain reward, such as an airfare ticket or hotel stay. This could lead to significant debt if it gets out of control. One way to keep track of spending is to use your credit card for specific things like groceries and gas.

Keep your budget in check. Credit cards can be a great way to consolidate your debt. You can save yourself some money over time by rolling all of your debt onto a single credit card; however, make sure the card you’re putting debt onto has a lower interest rate than your other cards. This could make your life simpler by paying one bill each month instead of several, and the lower interest rate could help you save money.

Protect your money. With credit and debit card fraud on the rise, using a credit card as opposed to a debit card could help protect you and your funds. Debit cards are linked to your checking account, so fraudsters could drain your account quickly if your card is compromised. With credit cards, you have the advantage of fraud protection. Review your credit card provider’s fraud protection policy to learn more. Another great feature of credit cards is purchase alerts that notify you when your card is used. 

Credit cards don’t have to be a foe. With a little willpower and a bit of know-how, they can help you achieve financial ease and security. 

Join Member One here each month for more money-saving tips and financial advice! Be sure to visit their website, www.memberonefcu.com, for more info on their products and services. Member One Federal Credit Union is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration.

Celebrating Bike Month

Okay, Virginia, it’s time to dust off your bike and explore our region!

Written by Kristine McCormick

For decades learning to ride a bicycle was the quintessential experience for American kids. Just part of being a kid in cities, suburbs & rural America alike. Long summer days filled with the freedom to ride away from your house, and your parents, maybe siblings too. Do you remember your first bicycle? Mine was a sparkly purple number with a banana seat and handle bar streamers.

The majority of Americans stop riding a bicycle sometime in their childhood. For most, it is during the teenage years when the hallowed right of passage known as “Driving” occurs. Bicycles get left in the garage or basement to collect dust as teenagers gallivant around town in cars. As adults we favor cars because we perceive ourselves as simply too busy. We absolutely must get from one thing to the next and then the next with lightening speed.

The benefits of riding a bicycle are enormous; it produces quantifiable heath benefits, it is a good non-impact way to build cardiovascular health while still being easy on joints and has a wonderful calming, almost meditative effect on the brain. A person who rides a bicycle is also simply more engaged with the community as they ride around town. Traveling at a slower pace gives one time to notice what is going on in the neighborhood. Bicyclists have the opportunity to look at their surroundings as they pass instead of zipping by in a car with all attention focused on the road ahead.

My bicycle got left behind at my parent’s house when I moved to D.C. and it was 18 years before I was on two wheels again. I can’t recall how I first decided to start riding a bicycle after all that time, I’m just very happy I did. Cycling in general makes me happy. I look forward to it. Cycling has a way of making my whole day easier, I’ve lost weight and I find myself to be a more patient person. I owe these changes to riding a bicycle.

In celebration of Bike Month you are invited to dust off that bicycle hiding in your garage or basement and start exploring your neighborhood via our Greenways. It may feel a little awkward at first but the old adage is true, you never forget how to ride a bicycle. You can find info about Roanoke’s Bikeshare program at: https://ridesolutions.org/bikeshareand info about our wonderful network of Greenways here: http://greenways.org/?page_id=21

Kristine McCormick is a Marketing Consultant and busy mom to three girls who after living in eight different cities has adopted Roanoke as her “hometown” because she loves riding bikes in Virginia’s Blue Ridge. 

Women’s History Month: Notable Women Inductees in the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Women’s History Month: Notable Women Inductees in the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Since the founding of the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF), nearly 550 innovators have been honored for their contributions to making our world a better place through their patented inventions. In conjunction with Women’s History Month in March, NIHF celebrates the accomplishments of women Inductees in the Hall of Fame.

NIHF is Inducting three women inventors in its 2018 Class. On May 3, Sumita Mitra (Nanocomposite Dental Materials), Jacqueline Quinn (Emulsified Zero-Valent Iron), and Mary Engle Pennington (Food Preservation and Storage) will be Inducted as part of The Greatest Celebration of American Innovation®.

(l to r: Jaqueline Quinn, Mary Engle Pennington, Sumita Mitra)

Other notable past women Inductees include:

Mary Anderson, Windshield Wiper (1866-1953; Inducted in 2011)  While touring New York City in a trolley car on a snowy day in the early 1900s, Anderson conceived her idea of a windshield wiper blade that could be operated from the inside by the trolley driver. Her idea consisted of a lever inside the vehicle that controlled a spring-loaded arm with a rubber blade. With her 1903 patent, Anderson’s invention proved to be the first windshield-clearing device to be effective.

Frances Arnold, Directed Evolution of Enzymes (Inducted in 2014)  Arnold is a pioneer of directed evolution, a process for “breeding” scientifically interesting or technologically useful proteins by mutating and recombining their DNA sequences and screening for desired properties. Arnold’s methods are used for developing new biological routes to making pharmaceuticals, industrial chemicals, consumer chemicals and biofuels.

Stephanie Kwolek, Kevlar® Fiber (1923-2014; Inducted in 1995)  Thousands of police officers and armed forces members can attest to the value of Kwolek’s breakthrough research in para-aramid fibers. The fruits of her work can be found in lightweight bullet-resistant vests, mooring ropes, fiber-optic cables, aircraft parts and canoes. Kevlar is a polymer fiber five times stronger than the same weight of steel.

Frances Ligler, Portable Optical Biosensors (Inducted in 2017)  A biosensor is a device using biological molecules to detect a chemical or biological target. Ligler is recognized for her innovative application of emerging technologies in a variety of fields to make optical biosensors smaller, more versatile and more automated. Thanks to her work, biosensors have moved out of the laboratory and into use for food safety, disease diagnosis, pollution control and homeland security.

More information on Inductees of the National Inventors Hall of Fame is available at www.invent.org/honor/ .

About the National Inventors Hall of Fame
The National Inventors Hall of Fame (NIHF) is the premier nonprofit organization in America dedicated to recognizing inventors and invention, promoting creativity, and advancing the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship. Founded in 1973 in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, NIHF is committed to not only honoring the individuals whose inventions have made the world a better place, but to ensuring American ingenuity continues to thrive in the hands of coming generations through its national, hands-on educational programming and collegiate competitions focused on the exploration of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum is a Smithsonian Affiliate. For more information, visit invent.org. To nominate an inventor for Induction, visitinvent.org/nominate.

Woven for Mutts Helps Local Dogs

Ariel Lev has always loved dogs. She and her husband were able to rescue two, but they found that they were not in a place to have more than that at the same time. Still, like many animal lovers, she knew she wanted to do more.

Photo Jan 04, 12 33 53 PM“Donating money was one thing, but I couldn’t always do as much as I wanted to,” Ariel explains. “Volunteering and fostering are dangerous for me because I know that would mean a third dog for us, and we are unable to do that right now. Walking away from those dogs in need would be heartbreaking.”

With all of these things resting in the back of her mind, Ariel sat down last summer to watch a friend weave. Her friend let her try it out, and shortly thereafter, Ariel bought her first loom.

Ariel began posting pictures of her creations on social media and received an onslaught of support from her friends. The interest generated a new set of questions.

Photo Jan 04, 12 32 36 PM“I have a full-time job, and I didn’t want to commit myself to making a profit or selling my weavings to friends,” she says. “What would I charge them? What would I do with the money? At that point, I realized that I could sell them, but donate the money to senior dogs in shelters. Donating the money keeps the acting fun and fulfilling for me.”

As many of us already know, a lot of shelter dogs are seniors. People decide they can’t keep them, they move, or sometimes, unfortunately, owners die and the pets don’t have anywhere to go. Puppies are quickly adopted out of shelters because they are an easy sell. Potential adoptive families often avoid the dogs who already have someone else’s habits or illnesses. They forget that the dogs who are not always the most appealing also need and deserve a loving, safe, and warm environment.

“Senior dogs have lived their entire lives with a human and, all of a sudden, find themselves in a concrete cell wondering what happened,” Ariel adds. “As our dogs have gotten older, I’ve fallen more in love with their greying faces. When I see other little grey faces in shelters, it breaks my heart.”

Photo Jan 04, 12 31 46 PMLast month, Ariel hit her first thousand dollar mark and donated the money to Angels of Assisi. She has committed to donating every one thousand dollars she makes from her creations to a different shelter, and the next beneficiary will be Franklin County Humane Society Planned Pethood. Currently, she chooses shelters out of her interest in them. However, if the business continues to grow, she will be accepting nominations.

Ariel will also begin teaching weaving to the public this month in a series of classes at the Taubman Museum of Art on February 5, 12, and 19. Visit www.taubmanmuseum.org for more information on the class, and check out Ariel’s Etsy shop at www.etsy.com/woven4mutts.