Thursday, January 30, 2014

Best of 2013: Photos

How can I not include my work in my wrap-up of 2013? It feels harsh to call any a favorite without including all of them. These are a sampling of the ones that have stayed with me. I’m going to limit myself to 10 images, each from different sessions and excluding family sessions.

newborn photographer Deirdre O. Keatingnewborn photographer Deirdre O. Keatingbaby and big sister by Deirdre O. Keatingmoab utah newborn photographynewborn photographer Deirdre O Keatingnewborn twins by DOK Photographynewborn yawn by Deirdre O Keatingnewborn toes by DOK Photobaby and dad by DOK photographynewborn in natural light

2013 brought a lot of business changes.

I made the hard decision to leave our local hospital in May. Hard because I worked with incredibly supportive nurses and staff, had learned how the light worked in those rooms so well, and because I am passionate about photographing parents with their newborn child.

Ultimately, it was the best decision I made all year. My hat is off to Connie, our lead OB nurse, and the doctors whose schedules are so unpredictable. I LOVE having sessions scheduled in advanced, being able to bring all my props and blankets, and working with parents who have slept a bit more and are easing into their new family. Having fewer clients has actually been a blessing for my family and me, especially since I actually make more sales now---as my clients already value photography and what I do.

I don’t know where 2014 will lead, but one month in, I’m eager for the journey to continue!

If you or someone you know will be having a baby in 2014, let me know if you are interested in a newborn photo shoot. And you can save money while donating to a great cause (hello Moab’s Teen Red Center & BEACON program!) by bidding on a session with me at the Chocolate Lover’s Fling on February 8th!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Best of 2013: Movies


I’ve been stalling on this post, because 2013 wasn’t a great year for movies for me, at least movies on the big screen. I saw a lot of great movies but they were all movies you saw in 2012 and that I saw on DVD.


Remember those? I loved each of them, but by the time I saw them, everyone else was done talking about them. “Lincoln” was my favorite, probably due to low expectations as my father couldn’t get past Daniel Day Lewis’ affectatious voice, my MIL described it as CSPAN in dark rooms, and others seemed ho-hum. I was mesmerized. The personal suffering along side the national suffering has stayed with me.

Expectations play such a role in our enjoyment of movies and life.

“Gravity” was the best movie I saw in 2013, even if I take into consideration post-New-Year’s movies like “American Hustle” (great fun, which isn’t nothing but not much else). I find it fascinating when reactions to a movie can be on such far extremes, and some people I respect strongly disliked “Gravity.” These best of lists are only helpful if you know the person well enough to know where your tastes overlap and when you’re likely to diverge.

*Spoiler Alert* Stop reading if you haven’t seen it yet! What has stayed with me all these months later (I can’t remember the last time I paid to see the same movie twice since I watched “Say Anything” compulsively the summer of 1989, but I took Aidan and fully enjoyed it again), is the shot of her foot when she first places it on earth’s soil. How perfectly titled is this movie, because I left feeling ever so grateful to gravity.


We saw “The Croods” while in Salt Lake City during Spring Break. I anticipated getting a good nap while the boys laughed but instead we were all literally slapping our legs and falling over from side-splitting laughter. I love that moment when you are laughing hilariously and find your loved one looking over at you laughing just as hard.

Like Nemo’s dad, Grug is an overprotective parent using fear to keep his family safe. “Never *not* be afraid!” is his family slogan. The boys loved the silly side kick, Belt and his proclamations of “Dun-dun-dunnnnnn!” We all loved the family story-telling tradition and Guy’s outsider reaction to the end of Grug’s story, “I did NOT see that coming.”

Eep: Dad, you have to stop worrying about us.
Grug: But it's my job to worry! It's my job to follow the rules.
Eep: The rules don't work out here.
Grug: They kept us alive.
Eep: That wasn't LIVING! That was just.... "Not Dying"! There's a difference.

As a rule, we don’t buy movies---just more stuff. But this one, this was one we needed to own.


Above are other movies we saw on the big screen, which says less about my taste than it does about what movies actually play here. I don’t recommend any of them unless you’re a Star Trek/Minion/Katnis fan, in which case, you’ve already seen them.

It seems in remaking The Great Gatsby, they mistook Nick’s line that Gatsby was “worth the whole damn bunch put together” to be high praise. Maybe opulence, like violence, is hard to portray without glamorizing it.


I want to leave you with at least a few titles to add to your Netflix queue. “The Spectacular Now” is at Redbox now. I thought it was going to be a very different movie---and I hope someone still makes that other movie I was hoping to see---but this one is very good. “The Way Way Back” was excellent, though it was physically painful to see Steven Carell be a jerk. Sam Rockwell should have been nominated in my opinion, as the whole film depends on the specific tone he achieves with his character. I liked “Perks of a Wallflower” even better than the book, and since it was written and directed by Stephen Chbosky, the original author, I think he would agree too.

“Searching for Sugar Man” was a delightful surprise, and left us full of questions about artists and tenacity and how art finds its own audience. In many ways, it left too many questions out of the picture but that shouldn’t stop you from asking them. “Looper” was a time-travel action picture, out of my comfort zone, but thanks to Brian, I’ve seen quite a few and found it well done. “42” may have played it safe, but was still incredibly powerful.

Least I forget, some of the best movie moments of 2013 were sharing old favorites with my boys. Aidan and I watched “Untouchables” and “The Bicycle Thief” over the summer. “It’s a Wonderful Life” played while we trimmed our tree, but Sean actually watched it for the first time. And all three boys fell in love with the madness of Jake and Elwood in “The Blues Brothers.”

The list of what we want to see (“Her,” “Before Midnight,” “Philomena,” “12 Years a Slave”) is predictable, but I’d love to hear of a sleeper film, the independent pick we should go rent now. Let me know.

Friday, January 17, 2014

letters to our sons | January 2014

I have great intentions, but without deadlines most of those don’t come to fruition. One of the reasons I created a blog was to capture this time when my sons are young. So I’m excited to join a group of friends, moms, and fellow photographers as we share about the boys in our lives on the third Friday of each month. We will be writing a letter to our sons each month. You can follow our blog circle to Leslie Norgren  of Loving What We Live Photography next, and continue all the way back here.

2013 05 06_For Mary Alice

Dear Aidan, Sean, and Nolan,

Thanks for making Christmas and New Year’s and every holiday and every ordinary day a gift. No one exhausts me, infuriates me, or delights me as much as you three. You’ve seen the worst of me, and the best of me. Your smiling faces, your crazy stories, your hilarious asides, your enthusiasm and affection are all the best part of my day.

Inspired by Ali Edwards’ post, here are 10 things about all three of you right now.

1. You are on the cusp of turning 12, 9, and 6, and already making big plans (and attempts at negotiations) based on your new number.

Aidan, you tell your Dad and me that 12 is when you should finally be allowed to watch “Jaws” and “The Terminator.” My response: Jaws, maybe…Terminator, not yet.

Sean, you tell me 9 is when your bedtime should finally be extended to 8 PM. My response: you’re right. We probably should have done that a while ago but it’s been nice having you so close to Nolie’s bedtime.

Nolan, you assure us that 6 is when you should be able to see “Star Wars: A New Hope” and be allowed to play Minecraft outside of creative-mode. We’ll prepare a Star Wars celebration this summer, but Minecraft is staying on creative-mode for a good, long while.

2. For breakfast you like a bowl filled to the brim with as many as three different types of cereal all at the same time (Aidan), toast with peanut butter (Nolan), and everything that anyone else is having (Sean). Sean, you’re the only thirsty one in the morning, and I appreciate that you actually finish your juice.

No matter how much you eat at breakfast, you all still take apples and granola bars “for that long walk to the bus” one block away!

3. Aidan has basketball three nights a week, Sean has one practice and one or two games a week. We love watching you both running back and forth across the court. Such great exercise, such great teams. However, I’m really looking forward to the season being over and not planning dinner around how little time we have to sit down together.

4. Nolan, hang in there. Spring soccer starts in less than three weeks. And your dad is coaching!

5. Today is parent-teacher conferences. We’re already planning a celebratory dinner at the Diner (before Sean’s game tonight). Aidan, you have straight A’s except for math. We’re sure you’d have an A in there too, if you just remembered to actually turn in the homework assignments after you’ve spent a good part of the evening on them. Yesterday you came home beaming with a medal around your neck, declaring yourself Spelling Bee Champ:

aidan spelling bee

You didn’t even tell us you had signed up in December, and were a bit too proud of the fact that you “didn’t even study.” I’m happy for you, dude. We know you’re a good speller, but you know I’d love to see you study and work hard for something and get a medal for that.

Sean, if your teacher ends this conference suggesting that you will someday rule the world, I’m gonna cut him off. We’ve learned from past experiences!

Nolan, your big news from school these days is who is sitting at your table now and then going on to describe the entire class’ seating arrangement. I love when you bring songs or stories from your classroom into our family.

6. All three of you refuse to eat the hot lunch at school and instead take a packed lunch every day. But Nolie has reported that he’d like to have the dessert he’s seen the “hotlunchkids” having, specifically that cinnamon roll. So we’re keeping our eyes on the menu calendar for its next appearance.

7. A couple weeks ago Sean found Aidan’s glasses in a drawer of LEGOs. Last week Nolan found them on a pile of snow three houses down (apparently lost while running with Duke). Yesterday your dad found them under our bed. We are all getting a little too much practice at finding your glasses, Aidan.

8. Even though the Comic Creators club is for grades 4-6, all three of you are participating and even Nolan is intent on submitting a final draft for the anthology. Love how you cheer each other on and share your creations with each other.

9. I took all three of you to the pool last Friday. I’m mentioning it in case you forget. The pool, in January, where it’s humid and loud and very far from my list of favorite places to be in January. You’re welcome.

boys in snowpants

10. I came home from the pool feeling sick, and finally had to admit I had the flu. You three were the best helpers a mom could ask for, even though I was breaking rule #1: Mom is not allowed to get sick. Aidan, you asked if you could make me a cup of tea, and it was easily the best cup I’ve ever had. Sean, you told me stories (the best cure for anything) and brought me Penny Guinny to hold. Nolan, every day you’d say, “How ‘bout we snuggle?” and since I’m pretty sure you already had this very bug, I was more than happy to snuggle up with you. Some days you said, “How ‘bout we snuggle and learn Spanish?” (i.e. play a Spanish app on the iPad). You’ve left every morning excited with your plan to say, “Adios, Amigo” to your pal Jose at the end of the day, and so far, you come home every day and slap your forehead saying, “I forgot again!”

That’s a small glimpse of what is happening around here right now. Things are always changing, but one thing remains constant: I’m so very glad I get to be your mom.

More than all the stars,


Monday, January 13, 2014

Best of 2013: Music


songs of 2013

A great year for music at the Keating house. Thanks to Google music (like iTunes only your playlists don’t disappear randomly and you can access it on anything anywhere), Moab’s KZMU and Chicago’s XRT and Denver’s KCBO,  a quirky documentary, an amazing concert at the Red Rocks, and three boys who still love to blast music in the kitchen.

Granted, some of the music they blast is torture (yes, Ylvis, I’m talking about you). Yet I’m happier seeing their allowance spent on $1.99 songs than on packs of bubblegum.

Top five songs from Aidan’s playlist that survived overplay:

  1. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
  2. Lego House by Ed Sheeran
  3. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
  4. Holding on for Life by Broken Bells
  5. We Are Young and Carry On by Fun

One of the highlights of the year was taking the boys to see a concert at the Red Rocks Auditorium in Colorado. They were already big fans of Michael Franti’s “The Sound of Sunshine” and “Say Hey (I love you)” but his new album All People became the soundtrack to our whole year.

Top three Michael Franti songs (and my top 3 of 2013):

  1. Life Is Better With You
  2. Closer to You
  3. On and On

The boys would disagree and say 11:59 is the best track, along with the title song and Earth From Outerspace. You might as well just buy the whole CD.

Brian and I watched “Searching for Sugar Man” last January, and bought the CD the same week. I don’t think the boys really got on board with that one, though they were excited to hear “Sugar Man” playing at Zax, their favorite pizzeria.

My favorites by Sugar Man Rodriguez: Crucify Your Mind and I Think of You


Other favorites this year (even if they weren’t new this year, they were new to us):

  1. Royals by Lorde
  2. Let Her Go by Passenger
  3. Shine by Christa Wells
  4. Home by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes
  5. The Magic Clap by the Coup
  6. I Never Knew You by the Avett Brothers
  7. Classy Girls by the Lumineers
  8. Let It Go by Fossil Collective
  9. Lightning Bolt by Jake Bugg
  10. Glorious by Melissa Ethridge
  11. Skinny Love by Bon Iver
  12. From a Window Seat by Dawes
  13. Sirens by Pearl Jam
  14. When I Go by Brett Dennen
  15. Sing by Travis (Mary Alice, you’ll appreciate this---only after Aidan bought this song did I realize we already had it from a 2006 MA mix!)

These great oldies made a comeback in our kitchen in 2013:

  1. “The Blues Brothers” soundtrack (late 2013, carrying over to 2014 thanks to Erin & family)
  2. The Weight by the Band
  3. What’s Up by 4NonBlondes
  4. Everlasting Love by U2
  5. Giving It Up for Your Love by Delbert McClinton
  6. For the Good Times by Ray Price (sighs of relief from the boys when I got over that one)
  7. Asleep by the Smiths and all their good ones (thanks to reading Perks of a Wallflower)

We are always in need of new tunes, so if you discover a great song, send it our way!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Best of 2013: Books

reads of 2013

Thanks to goodreads for the above image of the books I read in 2013.

My friend Lara created a Book BINGO group on FB, and while I stopped filling in my Bingo card sometime around June, I loved having a bit of book talk pop up on my Facebook feed. I’m playing again this year, though I am very wary of any “obligatory” feelings toward reading---as soon as I “have to” read a book, I’ll read anything but that book.

Favorite Fiction reads of 2013

Home by Marilyn Robinson

I was prepared for disappointment because how could it possibly be as good as Gilead. Yet it was. Robinson’s writing is cerebral and spiritual, but her real power---to me---is her dialogue.  Eventually it felt like every word the characters spoke was exactly theirs---I can't describe it any better, but that sense of yes---that is exactly what he or she would have said and with the best of intentions and then, see how it wounds, how terribly wrong it was to have said. Three people who clearly love each other and nonetheless hurt each other so easily. That sounds terrible, but it was beautiful and true.

"My life became your life, like lighting one candle from another. Isn't that a mystery? I've thought about it many times. And yet you always did the opposite of what I hoped for, the exact opposite. So I tried not to hope for anything at all, except that we wouldn't lose you. So of course we did. That was the one hope I couldn't put aside."

Not just a best book of 2013 but one of my all-time favorites now. I want my professor-sister to teach a class on siblings in American literature with this beside A River Runs Through It.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy

A thoroughly enjoyable read. I love when I am so pulled into a story, when the characterization and language and plot are all three strong and I am too invested in the story to stand by and wonder about how the author is doing all this. I had no interest in peering behind the wizard’s curtain while reading this book, but enjoyed it all.

“It would be a hard life, but it would be theirs alone. Here at the world's edge, far from everything familiar and safe, they would build a new home in the wilderness and do it as partners.”


Beautiful Ruins by Jess Waters

There are moments when JW seemed too clever for his own good, and I felt I could almost see him smile over his keyboard. But can I blame him? He is clever---Adequate View and his self-absorbed screenwriter who is addicted to epiphanies (best text-exchange in a novel). Has the over-worked face of a Hollywood producer ever been described as well? I loved his Hemingway-esque Albus chapter and even the Donner pitch. Dee Moray is great name, but she was the one character who remained flat for much of the book. So many unexpected riches in this book---love Pasquale’s reply to "What took you so long?" And Claire’s acceptance of less than museum-sterile perfection, whether in the collaborative art of movie-making, or in accepting the heart wants what it wants.

“He thought it might be the most intimate thing possible, to fall asleep next to someone in the afternoon.”

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Book 7) by J.K. Rowling

I’m about five years late to this party, but still reeling in admiration of the world Rowling created, and how she carried her vision to fruition. True to the story she’s been telling, Rowling’s story doesn’t end with a battle of brute strength, though the film tried to create that kind of epic show-down. Rather, Voldemort, who has split his soul in an effort to defy mortality, is destroyed by his own killing curse; Harry’s final curse is a disarming one. I never was a great fan of Rowling’s prose but she more than made up for it in characterization and plot. I loved the story of the hallows, how each character had to face their greatest weaknesses, and the overall theme of parental love. I’d been annoyed at Dumbledore many times throughout the series and now, even that made sense as his brother Aberforth explains: “Secrets and lies, that's how we grew up, and Albus ... he was a natural.”

Sean and I raced through the final two books this year, and our last day reading the final three chapters together is one of my favorite memories from this year. Thank you, J.K. Rowling.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

When You Reach Me  by Rebecca Stead

 I had commented to Aidan what a clever cover I thought this was, and he surprised me with a copy at Christmas. It’s not a YA novel nor a picture book---it’s the genre I didn’t have a name for before now: juvenile fiction (hat tip to Elizabeth Dillow). So many lovely touches---Richard was just right, and the moment at the door with her mother when she realizes her mother sees the dinginess too---or at the school, that moment with the girl who always needed to pee. The puzzle pieces fit so perfectly without being too obvious. A wonder. Aidan is intent on making a movie version of it when he’s older. I hope someone doesn’t beat him to it.

“Mom says each of us has a veil between ourselves and the rest of the world, like a bride wears on her wedding day, except this kind of veil is invisible. We walk around happily with these invisible veils hanging down over our faces. The world is kind of blurry, and we like it that way. But sometimes our veils are pushed away for a few moments, like there’s a wind blowing it from our faces. And when the veil lifts, we can see the world as it really is, just for those few seconds before it settles down again. We see all the beauty, and cruelty, and sadness, and love.”

Favorite Nonfiction reads of 2013


My nightstand sometime in January 2013. Two of the same books remain this January: The Secret Garden because Sean and I read it (between HP 5 and HP 6 last winter) and now Nolan and I are reading it (three chapters to go!) and Magical Journey, because I wasn’t ready to be finished with it even when I finished it.

Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison

I feel grateful to have Katrina Kenison as a guidepost and companion throughout my years as a mother. My friend Angie gave me her first book, Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry, the year Aidan was born. I loved The Gift of an Ordinary Day, which was less didactic and breathtakingly vulnerable. Her latest memoir was my reading companion throughout the year. It’s a story of parenting children on the brink of adulthood, of marriage shared with more honesty than I’ve seen elsewhere, and of a journey within that is both personal in detail but universal in its truth. I started it in January and didn’t finish until December. Not a fast read, but a lovely one, one I’m glad to own and revisit again.

“I wanted to hold on tight to everything and everyone I cherished and, at the same time, saw in a way I never had before that living on this earth, growing older, and growing up in the true sense of the word is really about learning how to let go.”

Million Little Ways, A: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman

Emily’s blog, Chatting at the Sky, is one of my favorites. Sometimes I feel like an imposter there, as Emily’s audience is mostly (I assume) Evangelical Christians. But I feel the same way on the blog of my favorite Buddhist writer. Like Pi Patel, I am curious about the mystery of God and creation, and eager to learn from everyone.

I remember being shocked when a friend, raised in the same faith as I, expressed her understanding of “made in God’s image” to mean that God had arms and legs like us. I was taught to be wary of re-making God “in our own image” and understood that we, of all God’s creation, were made with the ability to create. We are closest to our creator when we too create.

Emily’s book treats our life as the canvas. This is another read that won’t go onto a shelf in my bookcase but remain on my bedside table. “The miracle, upside-down work of God is that our failure isn’t an obstacle, it’s an opportunity to remember to sink into God. Not having what it takes is not a liability, it’s a prerequisite…I’m looking for dry ground, but God gives me water and tells me to sink. But this is not a sinking into worry or self-help. This is sacred sinking into knowing he is God.”

2013 04 26_1257 nightstand books

Same nightstand, different books, some time in April. Three of those books remain unfinished (Teddy Roosevelt, Pushcart and Dogs of Babel, though I hope to revisit all three). ETA: for the record, the book at the top of that pile is the worst book I read in 2013.

Until I Say Good-Bye: My Year of Living with Joy by Susan Spencer-Wendel

I heard of Susan via one of my favorite features in The Week Magazine---a spotlight on a specific author and their favorite books. I liked her choices, and her own memoir was described as being about "making the most of her remaining time" after her diagnosis of ALS at age 44.

Here's what I appreciated most: that she was frank about the time spent in denial, frank about her own weaknesses and vanity and that she shared her own story without sentimentality (in a way only a former beat reporter could).

Many of her planned "memories" didn't turn out the way she had hoped/planned, but by the end (when she is writing the book painstakingly with only her thumbs on her iphone), she has learned to not have expectations, and she treats us the reader to her intense awareness of what she does have access to---being alive, and her senses---such beautiful and sensual descriptions of Greek dishes, and the ocean and the sky. I can still picture her, poolside under the tiki hut with her Goldie nearby.

I only cried twice---when she got the book deal, because if I were sick, that relief would be the greatest gift to me, and again, at the very end, as she typed her children's names. I can't fathom all that she has surrendered, but, whether you read this book or not, you and I will one day have to give up all of it too, and it was a generous gift for Susan to share with all of us her journey of letting go.

Best Books of Previous Years:




2007 Fiction and 2007 Nonfiction

You can find all of our (the boys and mine) posts about books here.

Monday, January 6, 2014

One Little Word

Deirdre O. Keating blog One Little Word: Let Go

I love Ali Edwards’ One Little Word concept and have been participating, some years more than others, since 2007. As with many things, I looked to my soul sisters, Mary Alice and Angie, to play along with me. Basically we each choose one word to focus on for the year, a simple form of meditation or investigation.

Back in 2012, when this website was more private, I challenged myself to post weekly about my word for that year, Light. I stopped once I started using this site for work, but I hope to shift that balance a bit in 2014. As much as I love sharing photography sessions, my motivation to blog stems from my own desire to either capture memories or figure out what I think through writing.

I have a series of blog posts wrapping up 2013 in the works, but wanted to kick off 2014 by looking forward. For the first time, I’m taking Ali’s workshop that helps you stay in touch with the word you chose and make it more visible in your daily life. I’m excited to actually play with paper and words again---it’s been too long!


At the end of each month, I hope to blog about my experience with Let Go as the phrase accompanying me through 2014 (yes, I realize my “one little word” is actually two, but I’m okay with that). I’ll explain why I chose it and more at the end of January. Meanwhile, I’d love to hear if you’ve chosen a word for the year and what year-end traditions you have.

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