Monday, December 31, 2012

Aunt Ruth and Father Kevin O'Neil

Yes, you were right.  Aunt Ruth and I wanted to say something about the end of 2012.

 As blog followers, you know this has been a difficult year for us.  Maybe, it has been for you as well.  We thank you for believing in Loving Aunt Ruth ( earnestly being marketed  at a time when publishing photo/inspirational books is tricky).  We were anxious about expressing year-end thoughts, until we read Father O'Neil's words in  Maureen Dowd's column in the December 26th edition of The New York Times. Father O'Neil addressed the "why" question in the context of Christmas and Newtown.

 I wish Father O'Neil and Aunt Ruth could share some of my grandmother's soup in Aunt Ruth's kitchen, because as Father O'Neil says (and Aunt Ruth has taught me), "Loving presence brings us back, makes us belong."

Father O'Neil wrote:

One true thing is this:  Faith is lived in family and community...

I will never satisfactorily answer the question "Why?" because no matter what response I give, it will always fall short.  What I do know is that an unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds and renews us in life.  This is a gift we can all give...

Aunt Ruth, an ordinary woman of ordinary means had 165 people to her 90th birthday party of all ages, faiths, ethnicities, and political beliefs, because she understands that love is the greatest gift of all.  I am grateful to my father, an amazing photographer, whose piles of photographs taught and inspired me to document my own family.  Photographing Aunt Ruth and her loving presence has definitely brought me back, and so have each of you.  

 From my ever-loving Aunt Ruth and me, remember to make sure you always have love in your life...thank you, Father O'Neil for reminding us that it "brings us back, makes us belong." 

Happy New Year to you All!

love, Aunt Ruth and me

Monday, September 3, 2012


I just returned from Connecticut and sorting through my recently deceased sister's universe of things.  As you might imagine, the process of sifting through a lifetime of letters, photographs, perfumes, and earrings is not an easy one.

Which brings me to Aunt Ruth....of course.  Aunt Ruth never disappoints with her concise and precise wisdom.  Yesterday, I visited Aunt Ruth who despite feeling more tired at 93, despite feeling her own sorrow over losing her nieces, my sisters, and despite burying many friends and her own siblings, greeted me with a hug, laughter, and the need to mark our calendars for sharing the upcoming Jewish holidays.  She has already made the kreplach.

Imagine having so much love and life experience on which to rely?  I am quite fortunate.

This visit ended with Aunt Ruth holding my head gently in her hands and saying, "Honey, things change."

Fortunately, for me, Aunt Ruth's love hasn't.

It is our hope, that Loving Aunt Ruth and this blog inspire you to reach out to your own Aunt Ruth or become someone else's Aunt Ruth, because....well....things change, and when they do, love keeps us whole.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Aunt Ruth and I have been waiting for a publisher.  It is a hard time to sell a book of photographs and thoughts about love, life, aging, and ideas of how ordinary people can make a difference in the world.

Aunt Ruth is used to waiting.  She survived the loss of her husband, her children, and all of her siblings.  She waited for 3 years for me to finish photographing her.  We waited for my son's wedding this past May, to see my sister, Jane.  Aunt Ruth hadn't seen her niece in 3 years.  Travel is hard for both of them.  Aunt Ruth is 93, and Jane's 30-year siege with rheumatoid arthritis confined her to a wheelchair.

The wedding was beautiful; the reunion incredible.  The wait was over.

 My sister, Jane, died recently, and I have now lost both of my sisters within the last 10 months. Phyllis passed away in October.  I didn't wait for Aunt Ruth's arms to hold me. She offered them immediately.  She understands what my friend, the artist, Karen Sandstrom, wrote to me:

It is a humbling and reeling thing to lose the witnesses to your childhood, and to feel the shrinking of family. I have no wisdom for you -- not that you expected it. But I send hugs. 

Aunt Ruth and I are each other's witnesses.    The richness of Loving Aunt Ruth is deeper for me the longer we wait for publication.  We thank all of you readers for waiting with us and hope that the recipes for a life well-lived have meaning for you as well.

As Aunt Ruth says, Life is for the Living.  

Stop waiting...

(photo taken in Aunt Ruth's temple, where she was honored this past summer for being the President on the tenple's 100th anniversary  when Aunt Ruth was in her 40's. she is still an active member)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What's It About?

Dear Readers,

I was recently asked why I began photographing Aunt Ruth.  The answer requires a little history.  My dad died when I was 3.  Lucky for me that he was a professional photographer, leaving behind the history of what he saw.  As long as I had his pictures, I had my dad.

Most of my childhood was spent in an attic crawl space pouring over his prints.  I  believed that photographs were magical.  They kept people from leaving , so it is no wonder that I picked up a camera, a Brownie Starflash, and began photographing everyone in my life!   Later, the camera  meant a great deal more to me, but its basic premise, keeping people close to me has remained a big part of why I take pictures.

My eldest sister decided to move to another city to be close to her daughters and granddaughters, and because Aunt Ruth was the only member of my mother's family nearby, I reflexively picked up the camera.  The magical thinking I had as a child, the desire to make certain Aunt Ruth didn't leave kicked into place.  Of course, I believed that it was my adult wish for intimacy that had me ordering bricks of film, but I think it is that fear of loss that started this project.

It was that simple.   Along the way, a story of my aunt's life wove itself into the photographs and in my heart which became pages in a book, Loving Aunt Ruth.  

Aunt Ruth is with me in photos wherever I go and whatever I face, and in this process, I learned guideposts to aging that I need as an adult.  Sometimes, the best moments with Aunt Ruth happened when I put the camera down.

It is my hope that our story resonates with you, because you have your own Aunt Ruth, are an Aunt Ruth to someone, or like me, want to become more like Aunt Ruth, something I would have missed without the hundreds of black-and-white photographs made at parties, holidays, and sleepovers.

Aunt Ruth and I end every phone conversation with, "I love you forever."  You see, taking pictures worked!

the beautiful photo of Aunt Ruth and me was taken by the very talented

Monday, April 30, 2012

"What's So Funny?"

As talks with our book's agent heat up and queries are made, I find myself wistful about this photographic odyssey.  I spent years on an Amish project, even more time taking pictures of women and the things they carry in their bras, purses, pants, pockets, and hands, as well as several years with talented ephemeral artists. I love being a photographer.

One of the reasons I take pictures is to keep what I am photographing with me forever.  This is childish, but I got this crazy idea from losing my Dad when I was three.  His photographs breathed, gave him immortality.  I started to love Aunt Ruth with my camera in response to my oldest sister moving away from me.  It was really that simple.  I couldn't lose anyone else who watched over me.

This picture was taken at Aunt Ruth's 92nd birthday, and in two weeks, she will be 93.  I don't think she ever really thought my pictures would turn into a book, but she never laughed at me.  She did what elders are supposed to do.  She supported my idea, praised the progress, and told me I was great.  She loves me unconditionally.

And, so far, I was right about taking pictures.  She is still with me.

Photography is magic!  Aunt Ruth and I say, "Go take some pictures!"

(I would like to thank all those who love this blog and Aunt Ruth.  As she has said many times, "The will to live comes from loving people."  Happy 93rd Birthday, my always loving Aunt Ruth.)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What It's All About, Ruthie?

What's it all about, Honey?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Ruthie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
or are we meant to be kind?
And if only fools are kind, Ruthie,
then I guess it's wise to be cruel.
And if life belongs only to the strong, Ruthie,
what will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Ruthie,
I know there's something much more,
something even non-believers can believe in.
I believe in love, Honey.
Without true love we just exist, Honey.
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Honey.
When you walk let your heart lead the way
and you'll find love any day, Honey, Honey

While our youngest son was visiting from Boston this past weekend, we spent the afternoon with our wise and loving Aunt Ruth.  With excitement, our son showed his Great Aunt Ruth videos of weddings that occurred at the venue where he will marry this May, one day after his great aunt turns 93.  (Yes, those are Aunt Ruth's laptops.  What did you think?!)  

During wedding show-and-tell, my husband inched his way along Aunt Ruth's "great wall."  As he meandered down her photographic life, Aunt Ruth would look up from the laptop's visual of our family's future to recount a memory from her rich past.  

I picked up my camera to take some snapshots, to freeze a moment that joined our past and present with the promise of a future and found myself humming that Burt Bacharach and Hal David song from 1965, Alfie, and replacing Alfie with Aunt Ruth's name and mine as an anthem for the lessons I have learned from this beautiful woman who always knew "without true love we just exist."  I think I am catching on....

Are you?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Loving Aunt Ruth is Easy

(please click on the image to enlarge)

Valentine's Day is an ideal time to share another page of the forthcoming, Loving Aunt Ruth.  Aunt Ruth has given her unconditional love to so many, and at 92 1/2, as she likes to say, she is still sharing her compassion.  Whenever our time together ends, we hug and say, "Forever."  

My husband and I started a tradition when our children were small of saying "Good night.  I love you," every single night.  Okay, most nights.  With our children grown and living away, the tradition has distilled into the acronym, GNILY, as our way of ending phone calls and visits.  Definitely, a ritual that gets the Aunt Ruth Seal of Love Approval!

Aunt Ruth and I would love to know what you do.  Tell us your love story!  

Happy Valentine's, honey and Aunt Ruth