Photo Courtesy of M.Twomey – T.S.S. Photography

This was the view that mom had when she was in her assisted living place. One day (just about a year ago), I arrived early in the morning to find mom uncharacteristically sitting up in bed, staring intensely out of her window looking at this view. She looked like she was deep in thought so I asked: “what’s going on?”.

“Come on over here,” she said, patting the pillow in the bed next to her. As I sat down she quietly said to me “I’m trying to figure out how to tell my friends I don’t drive anymore.”

She told me she had told them that it was because I needed to have the car. “That’s okay, I’ll take the fall for this,” I told her, laughing. But this wasn’t the full truth. The truth was that months before I had arrived in Florida to help her take care of dad, she had been driving him to an appointment one morning when she suddenly felt dizzy.

“Pull over!” dad said. As there was an abundance of fast-moving traffic, she couldn’t and so they pulled into one of those wide turning lanes that they have in Florida to sit “for a minute” (which was the version of this story I had initially heard from dad when he recounted the story to me a few days after it happened).

But as mom recounted the story for me on this day, she said it was more “like 30 minutes” that they sat together in the car – with the engine off and the hazard lights on, in the turning lane of one of the busiest roads in their town. She had a TIA (which usually when I had seen her have them, lasted roughly about 15 – 20 minutes).

When she felt better, she said she was okay to drive but Dad told her “No, not yet” and they sat in the car for a little longer before heading back towards home. As she continued to tell me this story, she told me, definitively, that she didn’t want to drive anymore after that day.  She paused before quietly saying “I would never be able to forgive myself if I hurt anyone”. 

My mom had had a successful career as an acute care nurse for several years. Anyone who has ever grown up with an ER Nurse knows (as I did) what this is like.

Try to tell them you’re sick and you can’t go to school? The response will be “you’re not sick, get dressed and go meet the bus!” Or the time my dad fell down skiing; when he reached up to touch his forehead he pulled his hand back and saw blood. “I’m bleeding!” he told her, to which she replied, “oh don’t worry about it, it’s just a minor abrasion, you’ll be fine.”

Mom had a way of just navigating through illnesses and injuries that (if they were minor), kept us going as a family. If they were major (as in the autoimmune illnesses my father had), she always stayed firmly grounded in her belief that everything was going to be okay.  Throughout my lifetime, I only saw her become rattled once, and even then, as she spoke to me about how she felt, she slowly returned to her belief that everything was going to be okay.

But on this day when she said she would no longer drive as she didn’t want to hurt anyone, in her sadness and concern, I saw the depth of her compassion and caring that I’m sure fostered the great nurse that she was.

“We’ll figure it out,” I told her, “we’ll get you to where you need to be”.  “I know,” she said, and then as if on cue, returned her gaze to the trees outside and said, “aren’t those white birch trees just beautiful?”

Your Summer Vacation In Maine


Were you able to take your summer vacation to Maine this year?


That’s okay, I did and I made this video for you. – Enjoy!

“You Shouldn’t Have To Pay For Cats”

Take Paws Pet Photography

This is Callie – she’s our very fluffy bundle of love.

Callie was born in Lutz, Fl. She was found and brought to a shelter that is not known for keeping little kittens alive if they are not adopted. As luck (or God) would have it, one day a guy walked into the shelter, saw her, learned of her fate if she was not soon adopted and brought her south to a “no-kill” shelter in Sarasota.

An ad was placed in the local paper for “a beautiful calico kitten”.

One morning mom was sitting in her comfortable chair, sipping her morning coffee when she noticed the ad. “Hey Don”, she said to my father, “want to go look at a kitten?”.

“No, not especially” he answered – flatly, “but I will if you want me to.” I think he wanted to go with her but sometimes he would say this as I think he wanted to see how “into the idea” mom really was. And because mom loves cats – she was definitely into this idea.

In their 55ish years of marriage, my dad had come a long way about cats since meeting my mom. He was a dog person who really had no use for cats. Mom was a complete cat nut who loved having one or two cats around the house. The one cat they had at the time was a beautiful Maine coon cat (see post “I’m Trey and I’m going home!”) but mom had always wanted a calico (and unbeknownst to all of us, had been looking for one for quite a while) so she was excited to hop in the car and go to Sarasota.

Initially, when discussing cats, my father would say “you shouldn’t have to pay for cats, people should pay you to take them from them.” But this slowly evolved to “you shouldn’t have to pay for cats – people should give them to you.”

When they arrived in Sarasota and mom held her little bundle of joy, dad asked the inevitable question. “How much?”

“A hundred dollars”.

“Are you kidding?” dad asked (okay so, he may not have said it in exactly that matter but you get the point right? I mean, this is a kid-friendly blog is all I’m sayin’)

Mom explained to him about shots and needing to support no-kill shelters so he gave in and succumbed to his wife and Callie went home with them.

Callie’s little kitten intuition was so keen that she immediately “got it” that dad was not into cats. Every day she would sit in his lap with a loving look while he petted her and discussed cats “not being all that bad”.

Take Paws Pet Photography

When dad died of cancer a few years later, she was lying right next to him.

It’s never an easy thing to see how much cats grieve when their owners die. Callie and Trey had stayed with mom until she died. The two of them received an abundance of attention in the assisted living place where she was; but now, she is here with me – my little bundle of love.

I’m a firm believer in the fact that we don’t rescue cats; they rescue us.

S.A.Leys Photography

Nate Is Sleeping

S.A.Leys Photography

It’s the situation here in New Hampshire right about now. Yep, it’s my guy Nate – named after the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne (don’t ask – it’s a thing).

Nate was rescued a little over 10 years ago. He is by far, one of the most affectionate little guys I have ever had and is quite masterful at head bonking, He is a brown-noser in the truest sense and also snores when he sleeps – but it is the most soothing sound ever.

Love, whether newly born, or aroused from a deathlike slumber, must always create sunshine, filling the heart so full of radiance, this it overflows upon the outward world.

Nathaniel Hawthorne


S.A. Leys Photography

This is one of my many photos taken in Maine last weekend. I now have a nice little cold as a result of spending too much time lying on this very wet rock without a warm enough coat or hat to protect me from the cold, rainy day that it was.

This is how I learn…

My mom was the one who first taught me about the different ways you can frame a shot. On a sunny day back in 2009, we were sitting on the lawn of the Narragansett hotel on Block Island. As she sat in one of the Adirondack chairs, she would coach me while I walked back and forth trying to figure out how to get the best shot. I remember that day like it was yesterday and lying there on the rocks this past weekend, trying to get the nicest shot brought all of these memories back full force.

(This is the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse in Maine – it’s beautiful)

The thing I have been trying to remember lately (in life and in photography) is to make sure I always have all of my perspectives covered – to get the shot in front of me (which Is the photo above), while also taking the time to remember to turn around and see if there’s a picture behind me as well.

The photo below is what was behind me. To me this is funny as when some of my parents’ friends passed away the joke was they were going to come back as seagulls (don’t ask, it’s a long story). So looking up and seeing this one was sort of treat.

S.A. Leys Photography

But as I sat there taking a picture of the one seagull who was spending a lot of time looking directly at me, this wave came along… And you know, there’s a lesson here: Life is going to throw a few cold waves your way on these dreary, rainy days. And when they do, stand firm, just like this little guy.

Newport, Rhode Island

When you grow up in Newport, Rhode Island, it’s impossible to forget how beautiful it is. This is a short black and white video of some of my favorite places to visit. Photographs are of Newport Harbor (taken from Fort Adams) and then around Ocean Drive.

Ever been to Newport? No? You should go –

It’s A Flag; Or A Guy

S.A.Leys Photography

It’s such an embarrassing story that it just needs to be shared in a “Don’t ever let this happen to you” sort of way.

Let me start by saying how much I love (LOVE!) looking at pictures of clipper ships. This is something I have loved since I was really little. I loved looking at the designs, the sails, all of the lines on the ship, the flags and my favorite part, the bowsprit.

I am so passionate about clipper ships that several years ago, when I was in Graduate school and attending a Student Personnel Conference in Washington DC, I asked my graduate school advisor (we had an extra day) to go to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum so I could look at everything related to American History as well as… yes, the Clipper Ships.

I didn’t realize I had been looking at all of the ships for an extended period of time – my professor, Dr. Champagne, came up to me and asked: “so how are you doing?” When I looked at my watch, I was astounded because it had been almost two hours that I had been in the same area, looking at all of the ships. Thankfully, she was an amazing and very patient professor. I loved (and still love..) clipper ships as well as old classic yachts. It’s a thing – when you grow up in Newport, RI, this is just a thing….

Fast forward to ten years ago. It’s my birthday and my partner and I are now living in the Washington DC metro area and are headed to the National Gallery of Art. – I am just so excited because.. whelp… two words – “clipper ships”.

As we walk through the gallery I see a beautiful, very majestic picture of a magnificent clipper ship. The intricate lines of the ship are beautiful, as are the sails and the waves around the ship. I move forward to look at the bowsprit where there looks to be a flag..or a guy..I couldn’t really tell because it was so small and delicately painted..that I had to move closer. Guy or flag? I leaned in a little closer…

That’s when all hell broke loose.

A loud voice from behind me “Ma’am!! YOU STEPPED OVER THE LINE!!”

I turned to see him glaring at me. He picked up his radio, pressed the button and responded: “yes, it’s me, I see her”.  Now vigilant of my every move. People in the gallery all stopped and watched. There was drama, intrigue … he said, “You touched the picture!!”

“No, I didn’t,” I said.

“Yes, you did!” he responded, “and you stepped over the line!”

“No… I didn’t,” I said. Like the flag above says, when you’re passionate about something and being wrongfully accused, you don’t give up the ship…EVER!

I watched as more security guards entered the gallery area which included his supervisor. He pointed at me and told him “she stepped over the line and she touched the painting!”

“Why would I do that?” I asked, “I was just trying to see if it was a flag or a guy?”

They looked at me; puzzled.

At that point, I felt a hand grabbing my shoulder. “Come on, let’s go.” It was my partner who had been a few galleries ahead of me because.. yup… again, I had spent too much time looking at the clipper ships.

“But…” I answered. I felt this strong need to remain and guard my honor (as any yachtsman would do if they were EVER questioned in this manner).

“No, let’s go.” my partner said, leading me to the exit.

At least two security guards were following us and one of them clicked the button to his walkie-talkie and said: “they’re headed towards the east exit!”

“Okay, we got ’em”. My partner and I had just rounded the corner to head for the door and saw the other two security guards glaring at us, ready to pounce..or um.. whatever the heck it is they do at the National Gallery of Art.

“Come on”, my partner said. And we exited the museum and headed out to walk along the mall to Legal Seafoods where we had reservations for dinner (and yeah, because that’s where you go when you’re a yachtie who has just been kicked out of the National Gallery).

I was flummoxed and defiant and just really very sad.

The baked stuffed lobster almost made all of my frustration go away. Seriously – who gets kicked out of the National Gallery on their birthday? And – I didn’t touch the painting or step over the line and sadly, I will never know if it that small thing at the end of the bowsprit of the beautifully and intricately painted clipper ship was a flag or a guy.

Not my best birthday, but definitely one of the most memorable.

Don’t ever let this happen to you.

The Tide

I grew up in Newport, Rhode Island. It was a great place to live – a beautiful community surrounded by the Atlantic ocean, Narragansett Bay and the Sakonnet River. One of the lessons I learned early on was that, like the tides, there is ebb and flow to life.

Until February of this year, I had spent just over three years caring for my mom. It was great to have the time to spend with her. After she died – I kept thinking I wasn’t ready for her to go; it was too soon.

But my mind kept coming back to the lesson I learned from growing up on “the island”.

There is an ebb and flow to life.

Loons and Ducklings and Ducks Oh My!

S.A.Leys Photography

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to spend time frolicking with friends on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire. After a great lunch and spending time talking and reminiscing, we hopped onto their boat and went for a swim.

It was so great to be on (and in) the water on such a beautiful, summer day in New Hampshire.

Sitting in the boat while drying off, we engaged a few ducks who swam by to say hello. This was followed by several ducklings skimming above the water as they seemed to chase each other towards shore.

There was an eagle… followed by a seagull… (this is the point where I wish I could make this rhyme but.. nope, not today)… followed by a loon who was poised masterfully in the middle of the lake.

While I would like to say that this photo above is of the loon we saw, it is not because somebody (aka me) left their brand new Olympus Tough TG-5 – made exactly for moments and days just like these.. sitting in their bag back at the house.

The picture above was taken on a day when I was walking along the beach in Sarasota, FL. Not the same city, not the same duck.

So yesterday’s lesson was that sometimes you just have to look – not through the view finder but by opening your own eyes and just watching and capturing the moment in your mind. It was a beautiful, you should’ve seen it.

You can read more about “A Day In The Life of Common Loons” posted by the Loon Preservation Committee by clicking here.

And don’t forget your camera.

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