Genuine Smiles

Genuine Smiles

I have the hardest time getting good shots of my daughter these days. When she sees me coming with the camera, she either hides, makes a face, or she pastes on a fake smile that just doesn’t look like her at all.

I can relate. I have a hard time looking natural in front of a camera as well. I get all self-conscious, and end up looking awkward, or weirdly intense, or both.

My favorite photos are the ones where the subject is going about their business, so caught up in what they are doing that the photographer, whether they’re aware of her or not, is irrelevant to the moment.

Lately, I’ve been going through some old family photos, many from the mid-century and earlier. This is well past those days when every photo looked stoic because the people in them had to freeze for long periods of time, but most of these photos still have a staged formality to them.

Then I stumbled across this photo:


Doc McKinley Family


This was my mom’s family, she’s second from the left in the front. This would have been in the 50s, I believe, and probably in Palmer or Anchorage, Alaska. It looks like a celebratory night out, and everyone looks so happy together.  Such natural, genuine smiles. I wonder what the story was.

Show me your photos.

Building personal connections through social media #ShareAwesome

Building personal connections through social media #ShareAwesome

My daughter doesn’t have a baby keepsake book, she has my blog. For the past decade, social media has been the family scrapbook, recording the bumps and bubbles along the way, with a bit of introspection here and there to frame, add context, and derive meaning from the stories.

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Five years ago we celebrated the 20-year reunion of my high school graduation. I wasn’t able to attend the gathering, but still, it gave me pause…  My friendships with many of my classmates are more robust and meaningful now that we live thousands of miles apart than the were when we saw each other every day in school. Social media helped us to leap-frog over superficial variables like social status, that extra 40 pounds, or even proximity, and we began to connect over conversations, shared values, and even our differences.

When I was diagnosed with cancer, social media played another role in my life. One of the devastating impacts of cancer is the way it isolates us from the rest of the world: long, dark hours holed up in the bedroom, too tired for company, yet still lonely. Social media allowed me to chat with others and keep up with my friends at my own pace. Facebook and my blog allowed me to maintain contact with the outside world, update loved ones on my condition, and even coordinate some of the help around the house I so desperately needed. Now that I have completed cancer treatment, I use social media to help and encourage others who are dealing with cancer and it’s lingering side-effects.

McKinley Family Alaska 1947

McKinley family after the move to Alaska. 1947 – My mom is the little one in braids, peeking out from under her grandfather’s elbow.

This wonderful interconnected age also helps me explore my family history. Old photos brought down from dusty attics can be scanned in and broadcast to family members around the world, and the comments return with fascinating stories. Collectively, my family’s understanding of our past is enriched as we each participate in sharing these photos and stories. And as they are recorded, in the blog and elsewhere, they will be a resource for future generations as well.

With all this awesome of social media and digital technology comes some responsibility. We need to be smart about what we share about ourselves and others.  National PTA has partnered with LifeLock to share awesome ways families can create an open, evolving conversation about positive, safe decisions when using digital tools. It’s all part of having a happy, healthy lifestyle. For you, your family, your friends, and the whole world – everyone benefits when you #ShareAwesome!

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Snap a photo of an awesome moment in your day and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram with the #ShareAwesome hashtag!

Students who enter the #ShareAwesome contest between September 15 – November 30, 2014 will have a chance to win fantastic prizes, including tablets and a $2,500 scholarship!ShareAwesome Clever Gram

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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls Collective and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

The scanning project

My Dad was a shutterbug; he loved to take photographs, and he took a lot of them. That’s where I get it from. This is a wonderful thing for collecting a treasure trove of family memories. On the other hand, neither he nor my mom were the organizing type who enjoyed putting together photo albums. As a result, I’ve inherited about 30+ boxes packed full of random family photos and other mementos.

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Add to that, I’ve got the world’s  S L O W E S T  scanner.

Yes, yes, I know. I can pack them all up and ship them off to a service that will scan them all in for me, quickly, and for a nominal fee. Nominal being defined as an arm and a leg, and my first-born child. But I’ve already lost a few body parts in the past couple years so I have none to spare, and I wouldn’t give up my first born for my life; that option is not on the table.

So back to the slow scanner, and my ADHD.

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[That’s Grandpa. He was a dentist. I’m sure his patient there would be thrilled to know he’s been immortalized in my blog. Just doing my part here, helping everyone live forever.]

ADHD? Oh, yeah.  I get distracted easily. Especially when going through old pictures.  I was that kid who could never complete cleaning her room because I KEPT FINDING THE COOLEST STUFF IN THERE. Sorry for yelling, but you have no idea just how cool some of your own stuff can be. Especially when you’re supposed to be cleaning.

There’s just so much to see in here.

There’s proof that my dad once had a mustache


There are good times





garage bands


and precious memories


What am I going to do with all these pictures? I’m really not sure yet.  For starters, I’ve got to get them scanned in quickly because they are starting to fade, and some are falling apart.  Also, storage space is becoming a problem; my husband has accused me of being a photo-hoarder, and he’s not entirely wrong.

But once they’re scanned in, what next?  I’m going to upload them to our family Flickr page, and hopefully family members will help with tagging names, dates, and locations, and then at least we will have the photographs in one central location that is accessible to everyone. After that? Well, that’s a few years out yet. I’m telling you, it’s a lot of photos. They have their own closet in our home.

So, now it’s time to get back to work. I’ve got some skeletons to dig out of my family’s closet

Mom & Aunt Anita at Our Point of View

Grandma’s House

This is the house in which I grew up. It was my grandparents house, but it was my Grandmother who made it a home.

The Farm

In 1948, my Grandmother packed up her children, and left her beautiful home in Michigan, to join her husband in Alaska where he had moved his dental practice.



She moved from this:


To a 32′ by 32′ log cabin
McKinley log home

Her youngest child was 7 months old.

This wasn’t just a house in Alaska. This was a house in an area that was, at the time, the middle of nowhere, Alaska. My grandfather commuted to work in Anchorage by airplane.

Of course, they needed to embiggen the house a bit to accommodate all those kids

adding on to the farm

And Grandma made sure their newly enlarged home was lovely. Just because they were in the middle of nowhere, Alaska, didn’t mean they were going to live like country bumpkins. Grandma had standards.

This was dinner.

family dinner

And after dinner

livingroom with fireplace

Notice Grandpa’s commuter plane out the left window…

Sure they had chores, a fully operational farm, in fact. But those boys mucked out the pig pen in jeans that were ironed.

Years later I came to live with Grandma and Grandpa, on my own at first so I could attend the local kindergarten, my parents and brothers joined us later. This is the house that comes to mind when I think of my childhood. I think of the wind that blew right through those walls bringing with them the glacial silt from not one, but two nearby glaciers. We dusted every single day. And every week we baked bread, with wheat we ground ourselves in a heavy, loud, wood and metal flour making contraption. Then when the loaves came out of the oven, she’d cut me a thick slice, still steaming, slather it with homemade butter from our cow, and then sprinkle a little brown sugar on top. Heaven.

I think of myself as being busy now, but truly, Grandma got some work done.

Grandma lived to be 99 years old, and she was beautifully pulled together every time I saw her.

Oh, my, I’m glad Grandma can’t see my home right now. I’ve fallen a bit short of her standards.

I’ve written a few more posts about my Grandma, and at her request, published a few of her own memories as well.


Mama’s Losin’ It