Photographing Facebook – What’s The Weather for the Weekend Going to Be?

When I was in 7th grade, my friend Dana Evans (another Facebook friend, to be photographed later, of course) and I devised a plan for me to transfer the school at which she was going – Sts. Peter and Paul School – instead of going to school at the public middle school in the town in which we lived. It didn’t take much convincing of my parents that this was a good idea. And starting in September 1986, my Catholic school career began. It was definitely one of the best moves I made – perhaps academically, definitely socially. Some of my dearest friends today are the ones I made during grade school and high school at Sts. Peter and Paul School.

My friend MacNeil Lyons was in my class starting that September in 1986. You see, Sts. Peter and Paul (SSPP) was a small (SMALL) school and there were about 20 kids in my class. We were a tight-knit group and we spent every day, every class, all day – together.

MacNeil’s job in 7th grade was to report the weekend weather. Each Friday our teacher Mr. Fellows had MacNeil stand in front of the class and report the weather. We even had a song that we would sing in unison before MacNeil would give us the weather report. And I still remember it today – after all these years:  “what’s the weather for the weekend going to be? Will it be hot? Cold? Rain? Snow? Only MacNeil. Knows!” Neil would then proceed to give us an in-depth weather report. It was great.

Something happened, though,and Neil started missing school quite a bit. No one really knew why, but we all knew Neil wasn’t there like he always was. Eventually we found out that he had been diagnosed with cancer – T-Cell Lymphoma. The doctor had found a tumor around his esophagus the size of a book and had informed Neil that if he had waited only 5 more days, he would no longer be able to breathe. [editor’s note – the type of cancer has been updated from esphogeal to T-Cell Lymphoma.Sorry about that Neil!]

I remember the day Neil stood in front of the class and told us like it happened yesterday. It shook me to the core. That kind of stuff doesn’t happen to 7th graders. And it doesn’t happen to 7th graders who are my friends.

After intensive chemotherapy, MacNeil was declared cancer-free in 9th grade. And just like that, Neil was back to being Neil again (to this gal, anyway).

Neil and I have always had similar interests that have fueled – and maintained – our friendship. For instance, we both love music … while in college, Neil and our friend – Adam (Riddleberger, my boyfriend in kindergarten! Weird, right?!?) – drove down to Lexington to drive to Cleveland with my friend Erin and I for a Grateful Dead show. The number of mix tapes we’ve made for each other is countless. I wish I knew where those were. They’d be awesome to listen to now …

Nowadays Neil is a successful nature guide at Yellowstone National Park in Montana … and he’s a dad. And a husband. He’s an amazing photographer (http://www.macneillyonsimages.com/). And he’s my friend. Still.

It’s unfortunate that Neil doesn’t make it home too often anymore. He and his wife Lucy have a beautiful daughter Kaia and a busy life far away from the Land of Pleasant Living. But it’s funny – when they do make it back east, we seem to find the time to see each other. We’ve gone to a show at the 9:30 Club. We’ve gone out for beers – legally! – in Easton with all of our old friends … and what’s so great is that when we’re all together, it’s like we’ve never stopped hanging out. The laughter has never stopped.

This photograph was taken 1 year ago – in November 2012. It’s the last time I saw MacNeil and Lucy while they were home. We all met for drinks in Easton. I captured this photograph as they were walking out the door – I like to think they’re not saying goodbye, they’re just saying “catch ya later!”

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Photographing Facebook (finally!)

DSC_0481Earlier this year I set out to photograph ALL of my Facebook friends. I took a break from working on this for some reason. Today – I’m feeling inspired, and that’s probably because this Facebook friend inspires me. A LOT.

When I first met Jennifer Holdgreve, I didn’t know much about Type 1 diabetes. Today, I’m much more informed. I’m much more aware. And I’m much more sympathetic.

Jennifer’s family lives with Type 1 diabetes every day. Nine-year-old Allison Holdgreve was diagnosed with the disease when she was in kindergarten. And instead of allowing this disease to take over their lives, they educated themselves and have set about educating everyone else with whom they come into contact.

What’s so great about the Holdgreves is that they also live their lives. Allison, Samantha, and Ryan are happy, active children with fulfilling lives. Instead of allowing this diagnosis to ruin their happiness, they’ve embraced it and done whatever they can to help others with the disease. Diabetes isn’t a dirty word. It’s a disease that can allow one to live a life without letting it take you down.allie.throwin

Of course, there are days when Jennifer, her husband Chris, and Allison all want to throw in the towel. Allison has to think about everything she’s eating. She has to ask her parents if it’s ok for her to have a snack. And she has to stop her normal 3rd-grade life to prick her finger multiple times a day. She has to take breaks from the fun the other kids are having to ensure she stays alive. That’s pretty scary shit. And for a 3rd grader to have that responsibility is daunting. But Allison? She does it. And she does it well. And sometimes, she does it with a smile on her face even.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month and I wore to work a ribbon to commemorate given to me by the Holdgreves. I was stopped multiple times and asked about my ribbon. And it was refreshing to talk to someone about the disease, and why I’m wearing that ribbon. And all the knowledge I had came from my friend Jennifer and her daughter Allison. And I love that. Instead of hiding behind it, they are out there helping others to understand. And that’s amazing.

Jennifer and I are very close friends. I would probably go crazy without her companionship. She keeps me sane. She keeps me laughing. And sometimes she keeps me drunk. Just like a very good friend should do.
The picture I’ve chosen of Jennifer and her husband Chris (NOT on Facebook, but still my friend) is one of my favorites. Their laughter is so real. Their happiness is so real. And that’s so refreshing.