My Family: 2014 Edition

“A happy family is but an earlier heaven,” quote George Bernard Shaw.  And how true is that?  We used to enjoy joking that “if Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy,” but the joke isn’t as funny as Mr. Shaw is true:  a happy family is that blessed glimmer of heaven’s glory. And it’s marvelous.

We’ve grown a lot in the past few years.  Not only in age, but in numbers:  I married John, Jacob married Ashleigh, Ella was born, and Joanna is getting married in a few months. We’ve also aged in life experiences: Jacob got a job using his engineering degree and moved to Arizona, Joanna finished college (we’re all DONE!) and that’s not mentioning all the “little” milestones along the way that aren’t really worth mentioning but add life experiences and increased wisdom to this little family of ours.

Planning for a family photo session at the Grand Canyon was no small endeavor.  We emailed back and forth across the country, coordinating outfits and requesting photos.  We planned an entire day at the Canyon around the time just before sunset when we wanted to start shooting.  We carried my entire Pelican Case camera bag on a crowded shuttle bus just to be able to create the photos we wanted.

But there we were: standing on the Canyon’s rim, being watched by an entire tour bus of internationals (who presumably enjoyed the spectacle), trying not to look too cold, and relishing in our togetherness and happiness.

I cherish these photos, each and every one of them.  We are at our best, our prettiest, our happiest.   We came from Georgia and North Carolina and British Columbia to descend upon Arizona for a blissful few days of escapades and adventures.  We baby talked Ella, gasped at the bride-to-be as she tried on wedding gowns, shredded the trails on ATVs, and hiked mountains. Together.  We had spent the day in awe of the Grand Canyon, had hiked down with the burros, had eaten overpriced sandwiches for Thanksgiving lunch, and were on our way to a Thanksgiving dinner of Mexican food. Together.

Basically, we glimpsed a little bit of heaven on earth. Dramatic, maybe?  But amazing, nonetheless.

Oh, don’t get me wrong: it wasn’t perfect.  Au contraire: it was full of foibles and failures, idiosyncrasies and challenges.  Putting seven adults on the road together for 700 miles of roadtripping and decision making is no easy feat.  Add a six month old? It’s an adventure!

But what a blissful adventure it was:  I will long cherish these  photos, those memories, and that season of thankfulness.

I’ve been under strict orders not to share these photos until after Mom’s Christmas cards made their way into the important mailboxes, so here they are – finally – for your viewing delight: our family in 2014.

Tips for selfie family portraits:

Yes, I photographed these photos and was in them.  It’s challenging, but not impossible. (And, full disclosure, my brother took over the camera while John & I were the center of attention.)

– Pick a color scheme and let it flow from there.  I sent my family this Pinterest image and instructed them to choose outfits that included colors that would be in an Arizona sunset.  Nothing specific, nothing restrictive: just a general pallette.  The finished product wasn’t exactly as I had outlined, but it worked perfectly: everyone’s uniqueness shown through without clashing.

-Use a tripod!  Winner winner chicken dinner, Ashleigh had an excellent tripod so I didn’t have to pack mine on the airplane.

-My camera has a “multi-shot”  setting: I told my camera to take 60 images, one every three seconds, and then pressed “start.” I only had to make one trip back and forth across the rocky ground in my Aldo heels.  Every couple clicks, I would instruct a position change and the camera did it’s job without any additional input from me. (I had adjusted settings and focal point before setting up the multi-shot.)  So much easier than chugging back and forth for EVERY image.


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