The Chard Family.

Erin and I have been friends for close to 8 years now, and it’s been an eight years that has brought us from our early twenties, which were full of parties and going out and sneaking cigarettes, to our decidedly more calm early thirties. Over that time, Erin has also started a family, one that I find to be most charming. Erin is a stay-at-home Supermom to Jacob, who just started kindergarten and celebrated his fifth birthday this month, and Cooper who is a year and a half. She and her husband Chris are two of the most engaging, involved parents I’ve met, and it shows in the happiness of their boys. So when they asked me to photograph their family, I was super excited.
It goes without saying that young children can be difficult to photograph, and honestly, I understand. How boring that must be for small children. Add to that a blazing sun and warm weather, and well, you’ve got a very short window of opportunity. But luckily for me, I tend to be more comfortable shooting the candid moments, the things that give you a glimpse into who people are, and their personalities. And I think it worked out perfectly, because we got some fantastic shots of them! And, an activity involving children wouldn’t be the same without the proverbial bribe-with-sugar, so the boys got to end their day with some awesome Cookie Monster cupcakes, courtesy of my sister Kate. Here are a few shots of our time together-enjoy!

I don’t know, something about books or mattresses…

Last week, we had a work picnic and my colleague A and I were trying to be good seeds and put up the volleyball net, along with a member of our staff. Turns out, those things are not the simple unpack-and-use items I thought they were. We decided to, ahem, read the directions. And it goes a little something like this:

Jenn: Let’s look at the directions. Let’s “go to the books”, as they say in ‘The Godfather.’

A: Um, I think that was, ‘Let’s go to the mattresses.’ Yeah, it was definitely ‘Let’s go to the mattresses.

Jenn: Oh. Um. Oh.
Laughter ensues on everyone’s part, except the confused staff member who has not seen this movie, yet is smiling politely anyway.

Jenn: God, that movie would’ve had such a different outcome, had they gone to the books, right? I mean, really. Also, I’m a moron. And a terrible Italian.

A: Hey, where did THIS cord come from?, motioning to yellow mystery cord with attached lawn spike. A smooth transition, indeed.

Looks like even I’m not immune to overconfident misquotations. Maybe I should get into politics.

"This volleyball net is impossible to put up, sir. Can you help?" "No, who the hell do I look like, Ask Jeeves? Go to the books, er...mattresses."

What’s the real cost of food?

My friend Marc and I were discussing this NY Times article earlier this week, that purports that despite what many people believe, junk food is not necessarily cheaper than its healthy alternative, particularly for those living with lower-income. While I think that there were some unfair assumptions made about those living in low-income homes (which for brevity, I will not get into here), I do think that author Mark Bittman illustrates wonderfully the two-sided responsibility that is being shirked – by consumers, for making choices not to cook, not to slow down and choose better options (because cooking now equals work), and not demanding more of their food sources and suppliers; and by the corporate food industry, for playing into every opportunity to literally shove their product down people’s throats, making them crave more, and think less, with no regard for consequences.

Many arguments for food reform are one-sided, but if we’re to ever to make any progress, we need to hold everyone responsible for their role in doing what is right. People have a right to healthy, accessible, safe food choices, but as long as we’ve got food being chemically engineered to spur addictive tendencies, marketing strategies designed to manipulate people into repeated consumption, and representatives of food corporations lobbying on the hill, with politicians in their back pockets, the only interests protected are those of big business food. Like Bittman said, we DO have a choice. We not only have a choice to decide to plan and cook our meals, but we also have a choice to demand better from our food, its origins, and our government. We’re ultimately what makes that system thrive, not the other way around.

At the end of the day, it’s not about financial cost. It’s about what it’s costing our bodies and health, our lives, our future generations, and our planet. Sustenance is a right, not a privilege, and it certainly shouldn’t be about putting money in the pockets of those who aren’t concerned with any of the aforementioned consequences. We all have a right and responsibility to understand what’s truly at stake, and to send the message that it’s no longer tolerable.

In Case You Haven’t Heard: Amos Lee.

Music is a very visceral thing for me, and Amos Lee’s voice makes my heart turn over. Lame, yes, but there’s no other articulation for it. Shut up. Anyway, I chose this song to share with you, because it’s one of my all-time favorites in the world. It reminds me of a very sweet, but very sad time in my life, and it fills me up every time I hear it. How beautiful that music is such a full sensory experience in our lives. Check him out-I think you’ll dig him as much as I do.

He Said, She Said: GOP Edition.

It’s no secret that the GOP hopefuls have already managed to turn Campaign 2012 into a complete three-ring circus. Everyday, I shudder to think that anyone would even take them seriously. But for now, all I can do is laugh (sort of), and hope that the smoke clears next year. Here are a couple of my favorites from the “Are they serious?” file:

Rick Perry says: “I don’t know how you would do this, but if you could take Herman Cain and mate him up with Newt Gingrich, I think you would have a couple of really interesting guys to work with.”
Jenn says: I hope this resulting super-spawn is better at math than you are. Also, be careful with statements like that, lest people start believing you’re pro gay marriage.

Michele Bachmann says: “I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that vaccine{HPV}, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.”
And the follow-up: “I have no idea. I am not a doctor, I’m not a scientist, I’m not a physician. All I was doing is reporting what this woman told me at the debate.”
Jenn says: Right, so, shut up. And stop fear mongering. Tossing factually incorrect, marginalizing statements out into the world like that is dangerous, and ethically reprehensible.

Rick Santorum says: “[Gay marriage] threatens my marriage. It threatens all marriages. It threatens the traditional values of this country.”
Jenn says: And I believe that threat to your marriage involves answering a personals ad, and a subsequent pants-down situation in an airport bathroom. Let’s face it, anyone that perseverates on one issue the way you do about gay rights, has something to hide.

Mitt Romney: “The president’s party wants to try and take from some people and give to the others. That isn’t the way to lift America.”
Jenn says: You’re right, Mitt. Because if there’s one thing this country was NEVER founded on, it’s the idea that people should come to the aid of others in need. Also, it’s interesting you take this stance as a member of the LDS church, where you gladly fork over your required tithe, for the exact purpose of distribution to others (or the hateful campaigns they launch- support of Prop 8, anyone?).

These people want to run our country, my friends (although, I think Santorum’s out now, thankfully). Yes, these people, the ones who rail against the idea of federal government, yet are campaigning for the presidency. So, as I’ve said before, pay attention to the issues and the platforms, and for the love of Ted Kennedy, VOTE.

Walking the Beat.

My niece showed up at my parent’s house this weekend, toting a pair of plastic handcuffs and this makeshift police badge that her father made for her. She was so happy showing the badge off, and repeatedly handcuffing my dad to his chair. I love the joy that children get from that sort of imaginary play. And it worked out for me, because apparently all I need to get her to look at the camera (and not stick her tongue out) is an accessory worth displaying.

Put the wine down, Alice.

My parents hosted us for dinner last night, to celebrate the seven million birthdays in our immediate family, in ONE WEEK. Over the course of 8 days every September, we have the birthdays of my father, my two brothers, and my sister. So, a bunch of us gathered, and Grandma Alice was there, too. My sister’s boyfriend brought a jug o’ vino over, and before I know it, he’s pouring Alice some of the sticky sweet wine into a red Solo cup. Oh, God, I think. She’s going to go nuts. If she lacks a filter when sober, then all hopes of acceptable behavior go out the window when there’s wine involved. And, she’s off. She drank that first glass as if there was bucket of 20 dollar bills at the bottom, giggling, yelling, performing for what she perceives as her audience. It wasn’t too bad, more or less just Alice on a megaphone, if you will. Stuff we can handle.

Now she’s being poured a second glass, and I’m a bit nervous. She’s 80, never drinks, and has arteries that have proven inaccessible by even the most advanced cardiac interventions. Probably not the best candidate for “just one more.” I’m across the room, talking with my father, and then I hear it-“…and that OBAMA!” I freeze, looking at my dad. She’s going to start talking about politics. She’s trying to start a conversation with Kate’s boyfriend, who is giving her virtually nothing to go on, yet she’s undeterred. “You know Obama’s a Muslim, right?” and “He’s ruining our economy. I LOVED George W. Bush-now THERE was a president. He always did what was right.” Now, I don’t need to explain to you, dear readers, what statements like this do to my heart. It’s especially difficult hearing this come from someone I share blood with. It’s also worth noting that everything she thinks she believes is straight parroted from Fox News, or other equally uninformed people that tell her these things as truth. Being 80 however, means that trying to encourage her to see the light, tell her how wrong she is, is a fruitless activity. But, it’s also impossible for me to keep my mouth shut, no matter how hard I try. Sensing this, my father and brother interject with distracting, off topic jokes. In this moment, I couldn’t love them more. I look, and notice that Alice’s wine is only half gone.

A few minutes later, I’m sitting next to her, and she’s looking up at Kate’s boyfriend, who is playing with Squish. Suddenly, Alice says, “Dominick, take your shorts off!{*Insert horrified head snaps from all across the room, here*} I mean, your shirt! Take your SHIRT OFF!” This doesn’t make anyone in the room feel better, especially Dominick, who awkwardly smiles, not sure what to do. “Grandma!” I say, “Why are you saying that?” “What? Look at him, he’s hot,” she says, referring to him lightly dabbing his forehead with a napkin. “Don’t ask people to take their clothes off at a party, it makes them feel weird,” I tell her, and she laughs, as if I’m kidding. It’s not that kind of party, Alice.

Over the next few hours, she calms down (sobers up?), but not without first telling someone (who shall remain anonymous, for privacy reasons) what a weirdo she always thought their brother was, staring and creeping around all the time. She says all this, despite my mother’s attempts to tell her to stop, saying “Oh, no, Mom-not that again. We’re not going there.” Apparently, this a tale she likes to tell repeatedly. Not a big fan of socially-appropriate conversations, that one. She is, however, a fan of jugged wine, and the calamity that invariably ensues when she’s had some. But hey, she’s 80…I guess she can do what she wants. And she should (minus the political talk-that’s just a no-fly zone). I say go big, or go home…but only if you’ve got a DD.

Cheers, Alice.

Glassware fit for a frat boy.