Tag Archives: Photography

Around the World in 80 Years! – Mom Turns 80 – Part 2

Mom realizing she was having a surprise party last year on her 80th birthday!

This is Part 2 of Around the World in 80 Years – Mom Turns 80 – sharing the story of my mother’s surprise 80th birthday party last year.  

As with any event being planned, last minute details and unexpected situations pop up and you deal with them the best way you can!  In this case, someone told mom about the surprise party!!!  Here is what happened…

The week of the event, we had a lot going on including my youngest daughters birthday on May 31, her performance in The Little Mermaid in Tuscaloosa and a wedding in Auburn.  It was on our way back from my daughter’s show (June 1) that my mother dropped a bomb on me and my husband.  She told me that a cousin (elderly) had called her to wish her a happy birthday and said “your kids are planning a surprise party for you, but don’t tell them I told you!”  I’m thankful I was sitting in the front seat and mom couldn’t see my face!!!  I could see my husband’s face and he was just as panicked looking as I was right then!  That’s when I went into “spin mode,” aka LYING!!!

Mom was puzzled as to why our cousin would say this to her, of course.  I told mom that I had talked to our elderly cousin’s daughter the week before (this is true – I had texted with her when she told me her mother had mild dementia.) and she revealed her mother had mild dementia.  I went on to spin that I had run into our cousins a few weeks before and mentioned mom’s birthday was coming up.  I actually ran into my elderly cousin and two of her daughters the previous fall. Of course, the reason my cousin knew about the party is because she had received an invitation.  I told mom that maybe she got confused with her birthday and something else.  Mom then admitted she felt something was different when she spoke to her.

Once we dropped mom off, I went into damage control!  I texted my sisters and told them that mom may be “thinking” she was getting a party even after all my “spinning” and I needed their help.  My sister Laurie called her the next day to check in with her and mention she and her husband had out of town guests coming that weekend.  This was to throw mom off if she suspected my sisters were coming into town for a surprise party.  Then, I told mom we would go out to dinner for her birthday on Saturday to give her friend Jenine time to arrive from Colorado so she could join us.  I said it would be just family and she seemed happy about it.  I’m pretty sure mom didn’t think I had time to plan anything elaborate because I had spent the last 8 weeks helping her clean out her house!  So…my sisters and I all crossed our fingers and hoped for the best!

I spent the next few days creating photo collages to display around my house as well as putting finishing touches on the photo slideshow.  I found an old hardbound Atlas at a thrift store many years ago and it definitely came in handy for the theme!  The last party prop created was a hot air balloon.  I mean, I did the best that I could with a tri-fold, brown contact paper, burlap and some burlap bags stuffed with newspaper and some helium balloons.  This was to be the photo prop for the party.  (Oh…and it rained after everyone arrived at the party so we didn’t get to use the prop until Sunday!)

Meanwhile…the weekend of the party, family began arriving.  The last to arrive were my daughter, Anna Marie and my nephew, Adam, both from Colorado.  The plan was for me to pick up mom and Jenine at her house and bring them to my house.  I told mom that we needed to stop back by the house and pick up Charlie because he was driving in from Wetumpka, AL, so he would be riding with us.  I pretended to get a text from Charlie and respond but I was really letting everyone at the house know we were on our way!  Of course, when we pulled up there were cars everywhere!  Mom said something about all the cars and I told her our neighbor was having a party.  I said he let us know earlier that day because cars that were going to be all over the cul de sac.  She seemed to accept that.  I pulled up right in front of the house and suggested we go inside where it was cooler to wait for Charlie to arrive.

I walked into the house first and stepped out of the way.  Mom followed and turned toward the living room where everyone had gathered.   As they shouted all “SURPRISE!”  it took mom a minute before she realized what was happening.  The photos my daughters took say it all and I love that they captured this exact moment!  That’s when my sisters all came up to her for hugs.  Mom was clearly overwhelmed, especially when she saw everyone who had gathered to celebrate her milestone day!  Later we asked about whether she suspected we were throwing her a surprise party and she said she had no idea.  I think if she had, she would have said something to her friend Jenine…and Jenine would have called me!

To say we took a lot of photos would be an understatement.  As I said in Part 1 of this story, it had been four years since we had all been together and we weren’t going to let the chance get away from us.  And while the party was the perfect reason to bring us all together, I loved that my sisters , our husbands, and five of my mother’s eight grandchildren, were able to come back to my house on Sunday and spend the day together.  We had plenty of food left over from the party, thanks to Chef Wendy, and even more to catch up on with one another.

So today, on my mother’s 81st birthday, I will take her to lunch and spend the afternoon with her.  I know we will talk about the party and look at the photos together.  Then on Sunday, I’ll treat her to brunch and a show – Red Mountain Theatre’s production of My Fair Lady.

Happy 81st birthday, mom!  I’m glad we were able to surprise you last year!

Loving her birthday sash sent by cousin Lisa Ramirez for mom to enjoy!

Remembering Easter 2008

Easter 2008 Mimi’s swing photo – this year including Ryan and Lucy!

Easter is meant to be a symbol of hope, renewal, and new life.  Janine di Giovanni

This week I’ve been putting our family’s Easter plans together.  We’ll have lunch at our house on Sunday afternoon, so family members have all been notified about what time to arrive for our traditional Easter spread.  The “big cookie cake” has been ordered as well as the Honeybaked ham.  The dining room table and buffet have been decorated in bright spring colors and on Saturday Eddie and I will try to clean off the deck from all the pollen and other spring “gifts” the trees are sharing this week!

I don’t know what made me look back on photos from past Odom family gatherings.  I was thinking about the Easter egg hunts we used to have with all three of my kids in the house.  Charlie, Anna Marie and Emily would all start at the top of their stairs with a basket and when Eddie and I would give the signal, they’d come running down to see how many eggs they could find that had been hidden in the house the night before.  Every year, we’d find a candy filled egg or two that wasn’t discovered during the hunt a few weeks later.  And every year, Emily would be the one who would win with the most found eggs.

But for some reason, I opened up the 2008 Easter gallery and as I looked through the photos I was filled with so many emotions.  Little did I know what types of stories I was photographing that day only to discover them all these years later.  If memory serves me correctly, it was our last Easter at my in-laws home in Jasper.  The year before, my father-in-law, Glen Odom, passed away in March.  Eddie and his brothers were working on getting their mother, Johnnie, into a newer house with less property to manage.  Most of the photos I took that day revolved around a game of touch football in the backyard that the “kids” were playing.  They first did this at Thanksgiving a few months earlier and wanted to recreate the fun they had that day.  These photographs prove they did just that!

My now son-in-law, Ryan, was with us that Easter.  I think it was his first time to spend a holiday with us in Jasper and the first time to be included in the traditional Odom grandkids swing photo.  My pup, Lucy was also with us that day too!  We had just gotten her and at this point she was only about 6 months old and looked like a fuzzy house slipper!  She was so fluffy!  It was fun to see her in all her fluff and I had honestly forgotten she went with us that year!  It was also her first time to meet the family, including Rhonda, my sister-in-law, and her dog, Bentley.  Lucy and Bentley would have a love-hate relationship for years to come.  Mainly, Bentley hated Lucy to chase him around the house but she did it anyway!

We celebrated two birthdays that day too.  My son, Charlie turned 19 and Rhonda’s grandson, Jonathan, turned 12, if I’m counting the candles on his cake correctly!  My mother is standing behind Charlie in a few of the photos and she looks so happy.  Her hair was finally getting thicker after having lost it due to chemotherapy the year before.  Easter 2008 marked one year since she had been diagnosed with breast cancer reminding me how fragile life can be.

It’s ten years later now and if this trip back through my family photos has taught me anything today, it’s that I need to take even more photos when the family is together.  For instance, I regret that I didn’t get a photo of my mother-in-law that Easter.  She’s in a couple of photos from a distance but I don’t have anything close up that day.  I also wish I had asked my husband to take a few photos of me with both my sisters-in-law that day.   Looking back on these photos, I see opportunities that I missed but I also see what I was able to capture too.  In the photo of Rhonda holding Lucy, my sister-in-law has her head thrown back and is laughing.  I can actually hear her laugh when I see this photo!  Ten years isn’t that long ago but in this short time, we’ve lost several family members from these photos…Johnnie, Rhonda, my nephew, Aaron, and just recently, Bentley.

These photographs remind me of our family story.  They also tell me that our family story will continue.  It will have highs and lows, good times and not so good times.  Through it all…we will come together each Easter for our own hope and renewal.  And we will remember every family member and keep their stories with us.

Happy Easter from my family to yours…

 

 

 

Memories Matter…Never Forget – International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Eternal Flame at the Holocaust Museum’s Hall of Remembrance

Memories Matter.  Never Forget.  Those were the words that Holocaust Museum volunteer, Harold “Hal” Wittman spoke to me and asked me to repeat when I visited the Holocaust Museum in May 2014.

I was in Washington DC for a conference and visiting the National Holocaust Museum was high on my list.  I arrived right when the museum opened on my last full day in DC,  thinking I would only stay for a short while and then walk on to the Washington monument.   Four hours later, I left the museum feeling so saddened by what I had seen there but also determined to share my experience and the words that Hal repeated to me as I was preparing to see the permanent exhibit.

When I arrived that morning, there was a Holocaust Survivor scheduled to speak in the auditorium.  Volunteers were encouraging people to go and hear the survivor speak so I walked in and an elderly gentleman was seating people.  As I walked toward this man, he directed me to a seat and then told me to keep the seat next to me – on the aisle – free for him.  He needed quick access on the aisle so I did as he asked.  As the program started, he took his seat next to me.  We didn’t speak until the presentation was over and I began a conversation with him.  I really don’t remember what I said to him but he thanked me later for “taking the initiative to stop and talk.”  Hal and I continued talking for quite a while and we shared many stories and opinions during this short time.  I talked about Hispanic issues in Alabama and he talked about things to see at the museum that resonated with him.  We stood in the auditorium for so long that the moderator for the presentation with the Holocaust survivor joined us.  I don’t remember his name but he was a local newscaster and he knew Hal and easily joined into our conversation.  Both were very interested in what was happening in Alabama surrounding immigration issues which I wasn’t expecting.  After the moderator left and we were walking out of the auditorium together, Hal suddenly stopped, turned to me and said he wanted me to repeat something he was about to say.  That’s when he said to me “Memories Matter and Never Forget.”  I repeated these words back to him and he smiled at me.  It became my mantra that day.

It was getting close to time for me to go through the permanent exhibit but Hal wanted to show me around the main floor.  It was great having my own personal guide through the museum.  We walked through Daniel’s Story, an exhibition for children,  as well as the Wall of Remembrance filled with tiles made by children and dedicated in 1993 to remember the children who lost their lives in the holocaust.  We spoke for so long that I missed my tour time but Hal walked me through the long line of people and straight to the elevator so I could get through.  Before I got on the elevator, he gave me his card with his phone number and said, “I don’t want to be forward but I’ve so enjoyed speaking with you. After you go through the exhibits, I would like to hear your thoughts on what you see.”  I told him I would be happy to share my thoughts with him and took the card.  Then, before the doors closed he said to me again – “Memories matter – never forget!”  I repeated those words back to him…

With those words freshly planted in my mind, I went through the exhibit.  I will tell you that it isn’t an easy museum to go through.  I had moments where I had to just stop and sit for a while because it was so overwhelming.  There were several times where what I saw just took my breath away. One of those times was when I walked through the “Shoe Room.”  As you walk through, you don’t see much at first but you are hit by a smell…a smell of mustiness.  Then as you look closer, your eyes are overwhelmed by a sea of shoes – thousands and thousands of shoes on either side of you.  As I looked closer, I was moved to tears.  There were shoes for all walks of life – men’s shoes, women’s high heels, slippers, children’s shoes…and there were baby shoes.  When I saw the baby shoes it made me think of a young mother carrying her child, getting on a train and not knowing what was to come of their lives.  I was looking at the soles of these shoes and sensing the souls of the people who once wore them.  Then I read the quote on the wall…

“We are the shoes, we are the last witnesses.  We are shoes from grandchildren and grandfathers from Prague, Paris and Amsterdam, and because we are only made of fabric and leather and not of blood and flesh, each one of us avoided the hellfire.” – Moshe Szulsztein

I ended my visit at the Hall of Remembrance.  An Eternal Flame burns on a black marble block which contains dirt from 38 of the concentrations camps in Europe.  Also included is dirt from a cemetery in Europe where American soldiers are buried to honor the American liberators of the Dachau and Buchenwald concentration camps.  The quote on the wall is from Deuteronomy – “only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life.  And you shall make them known to your children, and to your children’s children.”

This is where the words “memory matters” really made sense to me.  These words from Deuteronomy are about the responsibility of memory.  My visit had come full circle thanks to Hal and the words he asked me to repeat.

Later that evening, I called Hal and shared my thoughts on the Holocaust Museum.  I told him I wished I could have spent even more time there because there was so much more I wanted to read and learn.  He was pleased with what I shared and repeated those very important words again as we finished our conversation.  After we hung up, I wondered if Hal had family impacted by this time in history.  I’ll never know but as a volunteer for the museum, he was so invested in sharing the story of the Holocaust and making sure that people who visit understand what happened and share their experiences in their corners of the world.  I’m forever grateful that I met Hal that day…and I’ll always remember those words he shared…Memories Matter / Never Forget.

 

Spirits of Thanksvings Past

Thanksgiving 2012 – Odom Family photo

This time of year, I do a lot of reminiscing and looking at old photographs.  Thanksgiving has always been “the” holiday in our family – both Zuniga and Odom.  When my dad, Aunt Gail, and grandmother were still alive, we always had Thanksgiving on the actual day at my house.  And we would have the Odom family Thanksgiving in Jasper the Sunday before.  Soon, we were having our gathering on the actual day in Jasper.

One of the things that remained constant for many years was the annual family photo on the Odom family swing.  We have been taking a grand-kids photos for years on the swing but we really didn’t start taking a family photo until 2006.  My niece, Kate became our “family photographer” for these photos and we used these photos for our Christmas card too.  We were pretty consistent with this for many years until we switched to Christmas in 2015-2016.  But for this Thanksgiving, I thought an Odom Family pictorial over the years was in order.  Meanwhile, I always like to encourage everyone to take photos so you can reflect back on these times later in life.  I’m finding time goes by very quickly and these photos and memories are so priceless.

Here are our photos over the years…beginning with 2006.  We were all seated on the family swing and Allen and Rhonda’s dog, Ozzie decided he wanted to get into the picture!

In 2007 – Our 2007 photo was taken after a major family football game in my in-law’s backyard!  I’m surprised we were all so put together after all that!  Then in 2008, everyone sympathized with Anna Marie by puffing up their cheeks.  She had her wisdom teeth taken out a day earlier and was a bit swollen!  We didn’t use any of these photos for our family photo, of course, but she was a good sport and posed for photos regardless of how big her cheeks were that year!

I couldn’t locate the photo from 2009.  But here are the ones from 2010 and 2011.  We included Lucy in the 2010 photo.

Here are the photos fro 2012 and 2013.  In 2013, we hosted Thanksgiving in Hoover so we took the photo on our deck.

In 2014, we took our last family photo on the Jasper swing.  After that, we had to change to taking the photo after decorating the Christmas tree at our house in order to have everyone together.  I’m sure this will continue to change over the years but if we can manage one family photo together a year, I’ll be happy!

Nov 2014 – last family photo on the swing in Jasper at Thanksgiving

 

 

Odom Thanksgiving at Kate and David’s House!

The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!

 The Big Thanksgiving Cookie – it’s a family tradition!Thanksgiving doesn’t officially happen until November 23rd, but this year the Odom family had the gathering a little earlier than usual.  As all of our kids get older and everyone moves out of the general Birmingham/Jasper area, we are getting creative with how we celebrate and where!

Kate and David outside their new home in Athens, AL!

This year, my niece Kate and her husband David wanted to host the family at their new home in Athens, Alabama.  Kate and I kept in touch the week of the gathering via text message down to Kate making sure we had pumpkin pie covered for my daughter Emily.  (I thought it was so sweet that Kate remembered how much her cousin loves pumpkin pie!)  Their home is beautiful and there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out and enjoy each other’s company.  But you know where everyone gathered, right?  Yep…the kitchen!  I told Kate that they have the same situation we have at our house…the end of the island is right in front of the refrigerator and that’s where everyone wants to stand!  Of course, I said this as I was standing there opening a bottle of wine!!

Everyone was able to be there this year except for my daughter Anna Marie and her hubby Ryan.  They were in town last weekend from Colorado for a family wedding so couldn’t return again this weekend.  We were also missing my nephew Dustin and his daughter Maddie.  They always make the gathering more lively!  We missed them all.  But we are working on a cousin reunion in December when everyone is back in town so stay tuned!

Our gathering was just what this family needed…great food, great wine (thank you Perry’s Steakhouse!), the tradition of our Thankful Tree, group photos and of course, the big cookie!  I didn’t take as many photos as I normally do…surprise…but here are several I took throughout the day.  Happy “early” Thanksgiving, everyone!

 

 

 

HICA and the Fun of Tamale Pick Up Day

Doors of HICA last December – welcoming tamale sale supporters!

I think I’ve lost count as to the number of HICA tamale sales I’ve been a part of all these years!  It’s the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama’s signature fundraiser and a labor of love each year to put together and pull off.  It’s gone from a group of people making tamales in a church kitchen, to volunteers making them at the Culinard kitchen to outsourcing to restaurants one year when the demand got so great.  Over the years I like to think we’ve finally perfected the sale, the way we market the sale and most of all, the tamale pick up day!  On a personal note, I rolled off the HICA board in December last year, but this organization is close to my heart and I’ll always use the word “we” when talking about it.

I’ve written a lot about the sale over the years but I don’t know that I’ve really talked about tamale pick up day.  It always takes place on a Friday in December and it’s the day set aside for people who have bought tamales to stop by the HICA office and pick them up.  We always ask HICA board members to be on hand to help with the pick up day in shifts.  Of course, the HICA staff is always on hand to make sure there is a good flow to everything and the orders are fulfilled.

Holly Hilton makes calls to people who purchased tamales to remind them to pick up!

Calls are placed to people who placed large orders to remind them to come by and pick up.  Over the past few years, Tamale Captains were created to help with this.  When you order, you can select a tamale captain that you know and request for them to be delivered to you through this person.

For me, tamale pick up day is my favorite part of this fundraiser.  I don’t sign up for a shift because I like being there all day!  I love seeing all the people who come by and support HICA by buying tamales and listen to their stories.  That’s one of the best parts.  These stories are often unsolicited too.  As they are waiting for their tamales to be bagged, they offer stories on what they will be doing with the tamales, when they will enjoy them and how often they’ve been buying them from HICA!  It’s become such a tradition for so many people in the Birmingham area.

In the past, I’ve brought Christmas music to play and also a box of goofy  Christmas headbands – antlers, santa hats, elf ears, etc. – for the board and staff to wear and greet everyone.  This past year, I had a blinking Christmas light necklace that I wore.   I bought it at Walgreens and several of the staff members loved it and wanted one.   So after I went to make a tamale drop off downtown, I hit up several Walgreens stores looking for a few more to share with the staff with no luck!  I’m hoping I can find a few in the next few weeks to take with me this year!!!  It just adds to the fun of the day!

Because of my love for “pick up” day,  I have recorded it with photos over the years.  Here are a few of my favorites and some of my friends who continue to support HICA by buying tamales every year.

If you are in the Birmingham area and want to experience the HICA tamale sale this year, like HICA’s Facebook page to keep up with the updates.  The sale begins on Thanksgiving day (Nov 23rd) and ends Dec 10.  Pick up day is on Friday, Dec 14th at the HICA offices.  I’ll be there so let me know you read this blog post and let’s take a photo together!

Happy Fall Y’all!

My first picture of my favorite tree this year…still a little green but beginning its fall color show.

It’s finally fall!  This morning while I was walking my pup Lucy, it was a cool 50 degrees, sunny and the wind would blow just ever so slightly.  A few times, while we were walking the leaves would fall off the tree and float by us.  Listening to the wind and the rustle of the leaves was so calming.

It’s been a little rainy and dreary these past few weeks.  Around the end of October, I always start to watch my favorite tree in my neighborhood.  I wrote about it last year in a post called,  My Favorite Tree.  It’s just such a gorgeous tree and when the leaves start changing, they change quickly and then before you know it, they’re gone.

Two weeks ago, I noticed a spot on the top of the tree that was beginning to turn orange.  I knew the tree would begin its color change soon.  This past week, I began taking a photo of the tree everyday as I left my neighborhood.  The first day was a brilliantly blue and sunny day, much like last year when I photographed the tree.  I stopped my car just across the street and took my first photo of the tree this year.

Over the next three days, the colors kept changing against a gray sky.  We had some rain and wind so I began seeing more and more leaves falling and covering the ground below the tree like a gold blanket.  I was so hoping the tree would be able to turn completely orange and gold before the leaves began falling.  But still…this tree is beautiful to me no matter what stage it is in.

Today, I was coming home from running errands around 4 p.m.  The sun was starting to set  and was catching the gold and yellow of the tree as I drove up.  I stopped briefly to capture one final photo this year.  I know in the next few days, all the leaves will fall and the tree will settle in for a long winter’s nap.

Today’s photo of the tree – it has already lost most of the leaves from the back side. In a few days, it will be bare.