Lobo in the painting studio

21 03 2021

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Anniversary

23 07 2020
Dad & My Hands
Today is the first anniversary of my father’s passing (7.22.2019). I captured this shot of me holding his hand a few days before. Dad wasn’t much for hand holding or physical affection, and he probably would have been irritated had he been aware that we were holding vigil for him by his bedside. He was asleep when my sister Kelley and I arrived at hospice that Friday. He never woke up during the next four days, so we did what families usually do—cry, laugh, and tell stories. I read some entries to him from his blog. He was a gifted writer and took a lot of pride in his essays.

In the photo, I’m wearing one of mom’s gold rings. I never take it off. It has five tiny diamonds set into a gold band that crosses another band. I like to think she bought it because each diamond represents the five members of our little family. I have been surprised at just how comforting it is to wear it and then in the same moment, I am made painfully aware that it is no longer gracing her hands. It is just one of many rings she wore faithfully, earning my father’s lifelong nickname for her—Diamond Lil.

That spring, I gathered my favorite essays from his blog and my sister Debbie printed them out and created a binder for him. I presented it to him on a field trip to his favorite place—the Museum of Western Art in Kerrville, Texas. His sweet friend Patty and my sweet high school friend Tom accompanied us that day. Dad and Patty sat in the backseat, holding hands, and perusing the binder. My dad, who never rode with me without admonishing something to do with my driving, said nothing. He was content with Miss Patty and happy to be out of his assisted living facility. At lunch, I told Patty that this was the first time ever that he didn’t criticize my driving, so she must be a good influence on him. Dad just smiled.

A few days later I visited, and even with his failing memory, he brought up that trip and said he really enjoyed it. I fervently had hoped that we would have many more days like that, but that was not to be. I asked him if he wanted me to read a few of his blog posts out loud. I read a couple of my favorites, and with a surprised look, he asked, “I wrote that?” He had been diagnosed with vascular dementia a few years earlier and the blog was a distant memory for him, as were many other things, including my name. I could still see glimpses of my sometimes ornery, often witty father. I missed the existential conversations we had through the years. I missed calling him when I wanted his sound advice or feedback on something happening in my life. He was my sounding board on so many things in my life. He was my go-to guy. Got a problem? I’ll call dad. He’ll know just what to do. He’ll tell me to weigh the pros and cons. He will help me assemble the disjointed puzzle I’ve created out of my life at any given juncture.

Our conversations were very limited once the dementia took away much of his ability to form complete sentences. I could see his frustration in conversing, and I often tried to help him finish a sentence. Sometimes he appreciated the effort, other times there was that familiar look of irritation. No matter. I found patience that I didn’t know I had during those times. I always left there sad, though. Helpless. Sad for his struggle with his thoughts. Sad that he sometimes didn’t know why he wasn’t home, but knowing he was right where he needed to be. I worried a lot. I worried just as he did with mom when she was ill.

Then he found someone to love—Miss Patty. His first three months living in a very nice assisted living apartment were full of angst and anger, railing against his daughters for “putting him there.” He wanted to go home. Then he met Patty. We had met Patty earlier at an Alzheimer’s Support Group meeting, so we recognized her immediately when he introduced us to her. She is so much like our mother—soft-spoken, patient, and kind. She tempered him when he was upset. When he would tell her he wanted to go home, she would remind him that he was home, and that they lived in a really nice place and were well taken care of—and aren’t we the luckiest? She would tell him what wonderful daughters he had, and eventually he came to agree (much to our delight). He was no longer angry with us. Patty had given him a reason to stay. We thought we had longer with him…that he had longer.

He was my rock. My go-to guy. My road trip buddy. He was the ultimate cheerleader on the sidelines. He was smart, witty, and well-educated. We shared a never-ending love of books and art. He could also be very, very difficult. And it was often unpredictable. But even in the most difficult of times, from childhood to now, I felt loved. I always felt loved.

He told me that when I was born, despite the doctor turning me around three times, I came into the world feet first, setting the example for my life as an artist. When he told the story, he finished with, “It figures. You’re still marching to the beat of your own drum.” That was a really nice way of saying that I’m stubborn. I came by it honestly—he was, too.

He was endlessly supportive of my creative abilities, fostering them with guidance, supplies, and art lessons. With his prodding, I started drawing in kindergarten, painting in junior high, and photojournalism in high school. When my teacher asked if anyone could photograph a game for the yearbook, I cajoled my dad into letting me borrow his Yashica 35mm and off I went, instructed by him to not lose it, break it, or put it down. This was my first experience with a 35mm camera, and when the contact sheets came in, it was crystal clear he would never get it back. I started Dyer Photography in our paneled den in Donna, Texas, while I was still in high school, shooting portraits and parties, and after graduation, I moved on to wedding and quinceaneras.

Naturally, I decided to major in art when I entered college, but my practical and wise father asked me how I would make a living as an artist; there began the switch from fine art to graphic design. My career started with winning first prize for a jeans pocket design, and progressed to designing retail window displays that paid mostly in clothes and shoes. Before long, however, I was doing portrait and wedding photography again (and earning real money to my dad’s delight), then fashion illustration, graphic design, layout, copy writing, and creating newspaper and radio ads.

As I wrote earlier, my dad was a gifted writer. When my mom was dealing with ovarian cancer (over 11 years), I knew he needed an outlet because he often couldn’t sleep. He was worried about her. I introduced him to the world of blogging, and once he got started, he was off and running. My friend Debbi gave me a handmade illustrated book as a gift one Christmas. It was in honor of me creating the Runnymeade Garden Club. I was deemed the Head Weed, and my members were the Weedettes. The storybook cast me as Princess of Runnymeade, and my mom and dad were the King and Queen of Texas. Dad was delighted to claim that title, and it instantly became the title of his blog. He began it in March 2009 and wrote until early December 2013. Perhaps his memory loss began around that time, and that’s why he wouldn’t continue or lost interest. I’ll never really know.

My mother passed in November 2010. Dad was lost without her. He was the best caregiver all those years. He said he wanted his “job” back. He was lost without a purpose. After she passed, those years leading up to his dementia diagnosis were often difficult. He was depressed. He pushed us away so many times. We didn’t understand. We hung on, because that’s what families do. That’s what mom would have wanted us to do.

In the last few years, the erratic behavior wasn’t explainable until it was—dementia. Time to reframe our assessments. Redirect our anger, and sadness, and disappointment. He needed us, even if he didn’t think so.

I miss his cheerleading. I miss his insight and advice. I miss his fun comments on my blog postings. I miss being able to call him to tell him about something exciting happening in my life. I miss going to Half Price Books with him. I even miss the stream of consciousness jokes, even the unsavory ones.

I am so grateful to my sisters for making hard decisions, for being there when I couldn’t. I am so grateful to our friend William for being his caregiver after his diagnosis. and most of all, being his friend. We knew dad was safe with him in his life, watching over him. In the end, we all know we did the right thing for dad. We did it all with love. And I do believe he had the happiest last year of his life. He was well cared for. He was safe. He was surrounded by friends. He was loved. He had someone to love. In the end, that’s all that matters.

I love you, dad. Give mom a hug for me.




Hydrangea blues

22 06 2020

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.  (iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode)

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Cricket on mums

2 10 2019

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Indian corn closeup

2 10 2019

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Mums

2 10 2019

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Indian corn

2 10 2019

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Siberian iris ‘Blue Moon’

7 05 2019

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Nasturtium

18 02 2019

Nasturtium (iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Bearded iris

18 02 2019

Bearded iris (iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed2 app border)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Texas mountain laurel

18 02 2019

Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)

(iPhone 8Plus, Camera+2 app in macro mode)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Blooming aloe vera

13 02 2019

Photographed at Mission Concepcíon in San Antonio, Texas (iPhone 8Plus, Camera+2 app in macro mode)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Mission Concepcíon

12 02 2019

On the San Antonio Mission Trail this sunny day (the first in more than a week!) First stop: Mission Concepcíon (this was shot inside the church). Dedicated in 1755, the mission appears very much as it did over two centuries ago. It is the oldest unrestored stone church in America. (iPhone 8Plus, Snapseed 2 app border)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Still life with Lobo

11 01 2019

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. (iPhone 8Plus, Snapseed2 app border)

lobo on paint table





iPhoneography: Lobo in the light

4 12 2018

My beautiful gray boy Lobo in the morning sunlight—I was coming out of the bedroom and looked down to see him there. (This is why I love my iPhone camera—it allows me to capture shots like this anytime, anywhere…a no-fuss, speedy, unlimited creative tool.) iPhone 8Plus in portrait mode, Snapseed2 app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Ginkgo canopy

5 11 2018

Ginkgo grove at the Blandy Experimental Farm and State Arboretum in Boyce, VA

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. (iPhone 8Plus, Snapseed app border)

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iPhoneography: Fly on PowWow Wild Berry Coneflower

11 09 2018

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+2 app in macro mode

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: PowWow Wild Berry Coneflower

11 09 2018

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app borders

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Coneflower Wild Berry WEB

Wild Berry Coneflowers WEB





iPhoneography: Springfield Farmer’s Market

11 09 2018

iPhone 8Plus, Snapseed app borders

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Zinnias

23 08 2018

Zinnias (iPhone 8Plus, Camera+2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border applied)

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Bumblebee on Coneflower ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

14 08 2018

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Coneflower ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

14 08 2018

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Lantana

14 08 2018

iPhone 8Plus, Camera+ 2 app in macro mode, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Queso

9 06 2018

iPhone 7Plus, Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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iPhoneography: Orchids

30 04 2018

iPhone 7+ with the Camera+ app in macro mode / Snapseed app border

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

 

Pink Orchids hirez





Lily Rose

16 03 2018

This is my sister Kelley’s cat, Lily Rose, atop her throne.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone 7Plus, Snapseed app border

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iPhoneography: Sunday sky in Texas

5 03 2018

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone 7plus / Snapseed app border

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Smart Phone Nature Photography Workshop at Green Spring Gardens

4 03 2018

Here’s the info on my first smart phone nature photography workshop at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, VA (Saturday, May 5, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm). The class will cover smart phones in general (Android and iPhones welcome)!

Smart Phone Nature Photography
(Adults) Learn techniques to improve your smart phone nature photography with the help of professional photographer Cindy Dyer. Get a better understanding of composition, color and lighting and how to use your camera settings to capture what you intend. Practice what you learned with an in-class garden photography shoot, critique and lesson on editing. $52/person. Code 290 232 6001.

Register at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/parktakes or call 703-642-5173.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone photos / Snapseed app borders

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Road trip to Texas

21 01 2018

South 281 near Harrisonburg, VA

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone 7plus, Snapseed app border

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iPhoneography: Last of the fall leaves

8 12 2017

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. iPhone 6s / Snapseed app border

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