Tag Archives: photography

Welcome to South Carolina!

Yeah, I know, I haven’t written here in over a year. But if you’ve read anything here, you know I struggle with the desire to write and the equally strong desire to keep myself hidden. Okay, maybe not “hidden” – just not out there for the world to see.

But here I am. And “here” is a new state and a new start for us. The past couple months have been a whirlwind for our little family. See, ever since K got his MFA, he’s been working to get a teaching job. The whole reason he went to grad school was so that he could teach photography on the college level, but the jobs don’t come easy. However, in July he got his first teaching gig – teaching 2 classes at the Art Institute in Charleston, SC. At first he was commuting 2 days a week and that was the plan until he knew if there were going to be steady classes in the future. But things kept pointing more and more toward the idea of us moving to Charleston. 

Things are still coming together, but K not only has the teaching gig at AI, but he’s also teaching at The Citadel  and still selling honey for Savannah Bee Company but now at their Charleston store. I’m training at a new job, Wildman is at a new school and will start ice hockey in a couple weeks. We’ve rented a cute little house and while moving SUCKS, we’re enjoying making the house a home.

So welcome to South Carolina, Free family! It’s a new chapter in our lives, and we’re going to make it great. 


Ignorance and Confidence

All you need is ignorance and confidence and the success is sure.
Mark Twain

I’ve always thought my husband Kevin is a smart guy. Except when he’s not. But this post is going to be about when he is. When I met him, he was taking pictures at the local dirt race track on the weekends. He was young and good looking and I was young and had always liked photography as a hobby so I started talking to him. I found out he was a professional photographer and worked in a photo lab. (I also found out he drove a cool truck, which I liked a lot, too.)

Fast forward about 10 years and he’s still working in a photo lab, but now it’s a large commercial lab and he’s pretty much a jack-of-all-trades around the place. We’re married and I also work at the lab, and I’m seriously impressed with his knowledge and confidence at work. A co-worker tells him they are looking for instructors for photographic classes at the local community college and after much prodding and reassurance from friends, co-workers and me, he takes the job.

This might not sound like all that big of a deal, but the fact is Kev hated school when he was in it. When he was in his early 20’s he found out he was dyslexic and had spent his life up to that point struggling with a learning disability that left him thinking he was just too stupid to learn. He found photography in high school and it became the love of his life. But the idea of teaching it to others scared him to death, and I can still remember how nervous he was in the very beginning. I also remember the joy he discovered in teaching the subject he loved to his students. He probably wasn’t halfway through the first session before he started talking about wanting to teach more. He was only teaching evening classes in the Community Education department, but he found it incredibly rewarding.

He continued to teach over the next few years, even as we added our son to our family. In the spring of 2007, he began teaching in the Community Ed department of an art college and immediately fell in love with the school, the facilities and most of all the faculty. With the photo industry in a decline and knowing that there won’t always be jobs for lab techs, he decided to take a major leap and enroll at the school to get his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in order to some day be a full-time college instructor of photography and be able to continue in the field that he loves.

Once again, this probably doesn’t sound like a big deal – people go back to college all the time, right? Sure they do. But Kev was a father to a 3 year old son, worked full-time, has a learning disability and was 40 years old. He hadn’t taken a class in 20 years, and then he had gone to a technical school, not a full-blown college. He was nervous. No, he was scared to death. But with my blessing and support he started school that fall. Even with transferring credits and being given credit for work and life experience, he was only a sophomore when he started. We knew this was going to be a long and winding road, but we decided he was in it for the duration. Because not only would he need to get his BFA, but he would need to have a Master’s degree to teach at the college level.

So here we are almost 5 years later. It certainly has been a long and winding road. Since he enrolled we’ve both lost jobs due to the decline of the economy and had to make some significant changes. Kev took a job working nights in order to be at school during the day, and in addition to attending school he’s worked there for the last few years as well. Our son is now 8 years old and is active in many things, including playing ice hockey. So Kev strapped on skates for the first time when he was 40 years old and is now a certified hockey coach. There are some days when he doesn’t sleep any more than a power-nap here and there for over 30 hours. But he’s never missed an important event of our son’s, he’s been on the Dean’s list at school since he enrolled, and I’m proud to say he’s graduating Cum Laude in a month.

Tomorrow night is his Senior Thesis Exhibition reception. His show is an amazing collection of images he has captured at our son – The Wildman’s – school over the course of the current school year. Again he’s a bundle of nerves and I’m anxiously crossing things off the list to try to make his night as memorable as possible. I want this night to be special for him, because he’s earned it. I’ve never seen someone work so hard and sacrifice so much to real a goal.

Words can’t express the admiration I have for what he’s accomplished. And this is still just the first step. We’re not sure what happens next as we wait to hear from graduate programs, but whatever it is we’ll approach it with the same ignorance and confidence as we did on the first step. I’m sure the success will continue to follow.

It’s not the how, it’s the why

The photographer at work

Whenever someone hears me talking about our typical schedule with Kev working two jobs (with one at night) and all the things we’re involved with, I’m usually asked how we do it. My answer typically has something to do with lots of coffee and my Google calendar. But lately I’ve been thinking more about why we do what we do than the how of making it work.

Why does Kev work 4 nights a week at the airport and 3 days a week at the school? So that he can finish his bachelor’s degree this spring and at the same time remain involved in the work he loves in the photo lab at the school. Why does he go without sleep for almost 24 hrs straight some days? So that he could work in his classes into the shortest time possible and coach the Wildman’s Mite hockey team. Why do we leave the house at 7am every morning to drive the Wildman to school all the way on the other side of town? To give him the opportunity to fall in love with school and learning. (Which he has!) Why does Kev dedicate hours a week to hockey and I dedicate hours a week to Scouting? Because we believe in these programs and what they (and us by our involvement) can offer not only our child but many other children whose parents may not be able to commit the time.

But even without breaking it down to the individual elements, I can look at it like this – why do we do all the things we do, sacrificing our time together (mostly Kev and I’s time together as a couple) for various obligations? Because in the end we’ll all be better for it. Wildman and I miss spending time with Kev when he’s at work or sleeping, but we know it’s only temporary until he graduates, gets his Master’s and then gets to focus on the career of his dreams – teaching and working in the photography department at a college. It’s crazy running from place to place, always meeting up somewhere and barely getting there on time, but we’re managing to make the activities our son loves a priority for both him and us.

And in all of this, it makes the time we do get to spend together a little more special, and I appreciate it more now than I did when we lived the opposite life – Kev and I worked for the same company for almost 8 years and were almost always together when Wildman was an infant. It would be nice to somehow fall a little more in between the two extremes, where we have the time and the chance to have our time together as a family but also have time to pursue our own interests, but I know that day will come.  Until then, I’ll continue to spend most of my time in the car driving from one place to another, drinking coffee and checking my calendar on the phone. Or doing laundry at 10pm when I’m home and Kev’s at work. Is it ideal? Not at all. Is it going to be worth it some day? Yes, I absolutely believe it will be.

How We Got Here, Part II

One step at a time. Photo by Kevin Free

So to back up just a little, Kev was working at a full time job during the day, taking classes, and (this is the part I left out) working teaching in the community education department of the school as well.  In the fall of 2008, he was started working the job at the airport which eventually ended up being 3rd shift. I know this sounds terrible, but for our schedules it really works out for the best.

Kev works the airport 4 nights a week. He works in the photo lab at the school around his class schedule, usually about 10-12 hours a week. This semester he’s taking 2 classes and is a teaching assistant in another. On days after he works nights he sleeps a few hours in the morning when he gets home, and also naps in the evening.

I work at an office job from about 8am to 5:30pm. I say about because I can get there as late as 8:30 and still be on time, and sometimes it’s later than 5:30 when I get out of there. Kevin and I have our schedules carefully orchestrated so that he can be available to pick Wildman up from school most days, and we share the responsibility of getting him dropped off. We also get some help occasionally from our neighbor, Tante.

Since we still had a couple hours left in each day, we’ve also managed to volunteer a few places. Kev is a youth hockey coach, and was assistant coach of Wildman’s basketball team. He’s also currently helping with a mentoring program through the college. I am secretary of the PTA at the little guy’s elementary school as well as the Assistant Den Leader with his Cub Scout den. I also sometimes work weekends as the Merchandise Coordinator for the Nashville Children’s Theatre. I hesitate to call this a job, because I really would go do it even if they didn’t pay me. (Just don’t tell them that!) I took the position last fall to make a little money before Christmas, but I really just love it there. We’re currently putting on “Goodnight, Moon” and it’s just precious!

So, in a nutshell, that’s how we got to have such a crazy busy schedule. We love to do things for and with the Wildman, so it’s hard to say no to anything that needs help that involves him. The older he gets and the more he’s into the more hectic it becomes, but we’ll somehow figure out how to make it work. That’s what we always seem to do.

So the goal is to get Kev through his BFA by Spring 2012. The next challenge will be grad school, because he can’t teach at the college level until he has an MFA. One step at a time…

How We Got Here, Part I

Photo by Kevin Free

So how did we get here? That question could have lots of meaning and lots of answers. How did we get to Middle TN from the homeland of Ohio? That one is easy. I was in college here when Kev and I got married and he fell in love with the place and never wants to leave. How did we get this far in life? That one I ask myself everyday and still don’t have an answer for. How did we get to this crazy, hectic, funny, full and sometimes overwhelming kind of existence? That’s what I’m going to try to answer, and it’s a bit of a winding tale.

A little background is needed to set the stage. Kev is a photography expert. No really, he is. I don’t want to limit him by calling him a photographer, because while he can create gorgeous images that’s not the only talent he has in this area. For 21 years he worked as a photographic lab technician, doing everything from processing film, shooting copies of artwork, printing award winning prints in a darkroom, and running state-of-the art photoimaging equipment. He knows just about everything there is to know about the entire photographic process, from shooting a camera (either with film or digital) to printing the old fashioned way, to manipulating and creating images on the computer and outputting them on various media. I know it sounds like I’m bragging, but I too worked in the photo industry for a number of years and this guy knows his stuff.

Unfortunately in the digital age where everyone has a camera and a computer and a printer at home, there’s not a big need for photography experts. Commercial photo labs are shutting down or seriously downsizing their offerings. This has been happening over the last decade, but more so in the last 5 years.  Fortunately, Kev found a new way of practicing his art and continuing in the field he loves through teaching at the college level. I think it was about 10 years ago when he taught his first community education class at Nashville State Community College, and he instantly fell in love. So when it became inevitable that there wouldn’t be a place in the job market for a photo lab rat forever, he and I together made the decision that he would go back to school with the goal of becoming a full-time college fine arts instructor.

The dates are all jumbled in my head now, but I know it was not long after we rather quickly and unexpectedly became parents (that’s a story for another time) the Kev started taking classes. At first it was a bit tricky (because what we do now is a piece of cake, right?) because he was still working a full-time, daylight hours job. Now he already had an associates’ degree, but it was from a technical college and it was 18 years old at the time so even with transferring those credits he had quite a bit of work to do. Not only was there going to be a lot of work, but he also had to work on his artistic expression. I wouldn’t have called him an artist before he started school. He was and is an extremely technical shooter, but I always thought his work lacked expression. This is what he needed to learn to capture in his images.

So he’s working full time, going to school a couple classes a week, and is a new dad. Then he started working some half days in order to take more classes. Then a little over 2 years ago, he was laid off from the photo lab. At first we weren’t sure how to move forward. At that point he was already a few semesters (and more than a few thousand dollars) into his second college career. There were no jobs to be had in the photo industry. So he decided to find a job that would allow him enough flexibility to continue his education while working as close to full time as possible. That job turned out to be working 3rd shift at the airport.

This post is getting really long, so I guess I’ll make this part one of two. I’ll pick up with the night job, and add in all the various other things we ended up committed to. I’m sure when it’s all done you’ll think we just need to BE committed!

Wait…What day is it?

Our schedule during a normal week is nuts. This past week and weekend have been anything normal, even by our standards. We have been going non-stop since – well, since forever – and it’s gotten to the point that I really don’t know what day it is. I spent all day today thinking it was Wednesday already, but in fact it’s only Tuesday. This is good in that I’ve still got a lot to get done this week, it’s bad in that it means there’s one more day in the week than my mind and body thinks there should be.

Things started getting a little out of hand last week. Yet again, for the 9th and 10th times this year, school was out for snow. This has been such an unusual winter here in Middle Tennessee, and the kids have only managed to have one or two complete weeks of school since before Christmas break. So my Wildman had a short week, but I sure didn’t. In fact, since it started snowing at 3 pm on Wednesday and I didn’t leave work until 5 pm that day and didn’t get home until almost 8pm after a harrowing drive, it seemed quite a bit longer than usual.

The weekend was anything but restful. Saturday morning Wildman had a hockey game at 8:10. We usually try to get to the rink about 40 minutes before he’s supposed to be on the ice, so that means getting to the rink by 7:30. Oh and this is an inter-league game and we weren’t the home team, so it was a 40 minute drive to the rink instead of the usual 20 minutes. So I was awake earlier than I am during the week getting a sleepy little boy ready for a hockey game. It was even worse for Kev. He got home from the night shift and didn’t even get to go to bed. He had about 20 minutes to get himself ready to coach and to get all the gear together and packed in the truck.

The games went well and we were back home a little after 10am after grabbing some fast food breakfast. Kev went to bed and I tried to get Wildman to go to sleep so I could catch a little nap, but that wasn’t to be. We did take it easy for a little while. That is until it was time to get ready for basketball. We had not one but two basketball games this Saturday, one at 3m and the second at 5pm. Needless to say, both Coach Dad and Wildman were very tired boys after 3 games in two sports in the same day. Lucky for us, Tante offered to make dinner. Wildman was almost too tired to eat but he got a little nourishment is him before finally crashing.

Sunday was almost as bad. Wildman and I did take it slow that morning, but then there was a trip to the store to get supplies for a school project, a quick lunch and then making sure Daddy was up and awake and again getting ready for hockey practice. After practice was a trip to the grocery store, and since it was such a nice day Kevin fired up the grill while I helped Wildman get started on his project.

Monday brought another week, homework for Wildman, finishing the project, and making dinner. Kev had classes during the day and a meeting after class for yet another activity he’s volunteered for. That man really needs to learn to say no. Need someone to teach a photography class? Just ask, he’ll end up saying yes. Need a youth sports coach? Sure, why not. His heart is as big as anything – I think maybe his brain is just a little too small. (Yes he reads this. He knows I mean that in the nicest possible way.)

Yes, it was Valentine’s Day. The boys bought me some wonderful locally made chocolate that I absolutely adore. Kev and I might try to find a date to go out to dinner sometime this month, but I won’t hold my breath. Tonight is his night to sleep for a couple hours in the evening to prepare  for going back to work nights after a couple days off. Tomorrow night the hockey team has a special session for the young players with members of the Nashville Predators team. Thursday night is the Pinewood Derby for the Cub Scouts. Friday night will be basketball practice and Saturday my non-weekend has more shopping, sports and who knows what else to keep me going non-stop.

Oh wait, that’s right, Kev is coaching another hockey clinic on Saturday…sigh. One day, I might have an actual day off. I just don’t know when that might be.