Because you love me.

This year I am 31 years old. 31 years of living, of learning, of mistakes and try again’s – of growing and experiencing and loving. I have seen so much change, and my life has at times been unstable…in true gypsy fashion; the path of a wanderer is often uncertain. Of the things in my life that have held strong and true however, at the top of it all is one person. My dad. Today is his birthday, and I’ve spent the morning thinking about what I can do from 2,000 miles away to let him know that there is no word that could be printed in a card to convey how special he is, and to thank him for the love and support he has given me.

My dad and I, we have done some living together. Adventuring, I like to call it. We have seen highs and down and dirty lows, he has shopped for prom dresses and horse trailers and sifted shavings and shoveled poop and built me a barn, he has picked me up from the holes I have dug myself into and dusted me off, telling me to keep at it and push forward. “Heath, you’re not a quitter.” No, I am not a quitter…because I am, in so many ways, my father. Dad started his life over after he and my mom divorced; and started his own business. If you ask my father today, he makes very little of the things he has done; but I know where he started, and now people come from all over the country to have him build their homes – not only because he is a gifted builder and designer, but because he is a good man, the best man; and people can see it from the moment they shake his hand. My father is so, so strong. One of the things I remember from my earliest years was my dads huge arms, and his tattoos. He used to have this big eagle on his arm, and I always thought that it made him look so tough, tougher than the other dads. He always, and still does, wear his hat backwards when he works, and every single one of my friends had a crush on him and thought he was the coolest dad ever. I watched my dad work midnights at the paper mill, and then get up and work construction by day so that we could have a beautiful home (that he built), so that I could have horses, so that my brother could have a four wheeler and play hockey, so that every year we could go school shopping and Dad and I could go to the Gap and he could pick out my wardrobe…because quite honestly, for the first 25 years of my life (and still at times, though I’ve finally got the hang of dressing myself), my father had better fashion sense than I did. My dad has always driven a great truck – a Ford truck. I learned how to drive in my dad’s white F-150 flare side; ‘White Lightening’. He let me drive the truck up and down the roads of the Acres were we lived, after picking me up from my grandparents house downtown where I would hang out during the afternoons – watching Days of Our Lives with my Gram and Gramp. He is a mirror of my Grandfather in so many ways, and after losing my Gramp over 10 years ago, and my Gram this year, it only stands out to me more how important my Dad’s strength is to my entire family. That strength that I thought was all in his arms when I was a little girl is so, so much more. Even though he is the youngest by far, the family calls him for advice, they call him to handle things, they look at him when things are falling apart…and he is always there, standing, unwavering, even when he has every right to fall to pieces. Whenever the Earth begins to shake, he stands strong.

Over the past few years I’ve taken to calling the long conversations Dad and I have, like clockwork, every time I’m home – ‘Jod-erventions’ – and quite honestly, if you’re stumbling in life…you should look him up and sign yourself up for one. They work. Some of my most frustrating and enlightening times are 1am conversations with my father about work, about kids, about marriage, about where my life is going and what I want for it. He thinks that they’re just a pain in my tail, but what he doesn’t know is that I actually look forward to them, and what he has to say. People often survive hardship in life, because we are, as a rule, much more resilient than we give ourselves credit for. The key, however, is what you do with that aftermath. Will you continue to just survive, or will you flourish? My Dad chose the latter. He came through hardship and stood on a crumbled foundation, and made a decision to rebuild. He rebuilt a life, not only for himself, but in that rebuilding, he laid the foundation for me in ways he’ll never fully know. He rebuilt, and he always pushed forward. He did not quit, and never opted for the easy road, for no rewards worth having come from traveling the easy road. He taught me to be truthful, with myself first, and with others. When friends were telling their parents elaborate stories to get out of the house on the weekends, I was asking for exactly what I wanted to do, and having conversations about good choices and being safe and drinking and drugs and consequences while others were locking those talks with their parents away in the furthest corners of their closets. We were being honest, because it was just us…and we couldn’t afford not to be. As I have moved forward in life, my dad has continued to be honest with me, telling me when he thinks I’ve made a bad decision (even when I’d rather not hear it), telling me when he thinks I need to make a change, when I’ve done well, telling me he doesn’t understand how people afford to live their crazy Californian lifestyles, while I tell him I don’t know how people can survive the frozen north and driving 40 minutes to the grocery store. I can tell him anything, I call him for everything, and he has never failed me, from giving me the groundwork for life to talking me through changing out the skill saw blade over the phone because I didn’t know I needed an allen wrench instead of a screw driver. Brillant, I know. He loves his life, does exactly as he pleases, and apologizes for nothing he isn’t genuinely sorry for. He is Papa to my baby boy, the most handsome man in the North Country, ‘Big Perk’ to all of the guys, baby brother to my Aunts and Uncle, the defender of our family, the keeper of promises and my heart of hearts…and when you say ‘Jody Perkins’ around town, people all smile and have something good to say. My dad is a man’s man, a daughter’s hero, and the best friend a person could ask to have. The older I get, the more my father comes out in me; and the more I am grateful for each and every difficult day, every time he has told me my idea isn’t great, and every time he has been quietly proud when I’ve been successful, because I don’t need him to say much. I can tell, and I hope that he can as well.

Because he has loved me, I am strong. I live boldly and without fear, I am willing to work and sweat for the things I want, and I am never, every sorry. Because my Dad has loved me, I know how to love unconditionally. Because my Dad has loved me, I value my strength as well as my mind, and am not afraid to go toe to toe for what I believe in. Because my Dad has loved me, I live each day hoping to be a better version of myself…I hope that one day my son looks at me and see’s the same strength, the same conviction and character, and the same unfaltering love that I see in my father.

Happy Birthday Pops. You’re my shining star.
Forever,
Sport

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Deborah - April 14, 2014 - 7:00 pm

A beautiful letter of love.

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Open for….

Life.
Love.
Hurt.
Possibility.
Passion.
Pain.
Ideas.
God.
Sunshine.
Touch.
Laughter.
Talk.
Fear.

Truth.

The last one. Truth.

I heard a line the other night; ‘The world is too fragile for people to be untrue. There’s too much at stake and life is too short for lies.’

I lie. Often.

I lie about how my day is going. I lie about what I think, about how I feel, about what I want, about where I’ve been, about where I wish I was. Not all of the time, not everyday, but I do it. I think we all do it. I did last week; after I dropped my son off at preschool. After one of the worst morning drop offs in the history of our 4 and a half years together, complete with leg clinging and lying on the ground and “Why don’t you love me, I just want to be with you, Everyone leaves me, and Please don’t leave me here”, I left feeling dejected. I walked to my truck with my 4 year old screaming in the background, looked in the rearview mirror to ensure he wasn’t scaling the fence to follow me…and I pulled out of the parking lot. I drove down the street, parked, and cried so hard that I instigated the headache from hell as well as ‘who’s that crazy woman with her blinker on’ looks from about 8 other parents leaving the school. I cried, because I was not in control. I could not fix this feeling of sadness and abandonment for my baby, and I hated myself for it. I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and avoid my life until, I don’t know…forever. I had originally planned out a beautiful, productive day – and now I was paralyzed with anger, with bitterness, sadness, and plain, butter knife to your heart grief. However, I had coffee to get and clients to email, there was work that needed to be done and a life that needed tending to…and I had no time for honesty about my feelings or what I was going to do with them. So I lied. I lied to myself and said ‘it’s no big deal’. I lied to the girl making my coffee and said “I’m great!”, and I lied to my best friend and said that the morning was going perfectly, because quite honestly, there are people around the world without clean water, and who the fuck am I to complain? While I don’t feel that, in a moment of clarity, I will kick this habit and become some beautiful beacon of truth and crystal clear transparency in my existence…I will, in the best way I know how, give it a whirl, because I have been inspired. I have been shown that honesty can be a safe place, a place where I can bare my most raw wounds and not be shunned; where I can dream out loud and be appreciated – a place where I can listen; be seen AND heard.

So in a day when I know there is so much uncertainty floating around me; when I know there are hearts and minds wondering, ‘what next’ – I want to share my honest answer.

I have no idea.

And for the first time in my life, that feels alright. In fact, it’s even starting to feel good, and I wish that sort of feel good for everyone wondering in the world tonight. In this place of love and honesty, I have been able to finally connect. To bring myself to the table with all that I am; a creator, a writer, a struggling, sometimes tearful, almost always joyful mom, a lover, a friend, a dreamer, a partner, a woman. As I sit at that table, with my being laid out in plain view; I am vulnerable. One day, I may get hurt. My uncovered self may end up wounded, and I will feel broken. What I will not be, however, is sorry. I will not be sorry, for life is too short for lies. There is too much at stake in this life to carry around our hopes and truths in a basket secured on our back under lock and key. There is too much at stake to allow a single person to stay in our lives that does not deserve to be there. To the ones that leave us, we will not be sorry for the lessons they have left us with. For everyone leaves us with a lesson, and to say otherwise is a lie – and life is too short for lies.

So tonight I will tell you my truth…and that truth is that I am sure of very few things; except for these.

A smile can change your day, and your life.

When in doubt, buy yourself some flowers.

Comparison truly IS the thief of joy. There will always be someone with more. This is called life.

When you least feel like it, hug someone. (when you most feel like it too)

Clean sheets are a game changer. So is a clean closet. And a clean desk. (I have none of these right now)

Sitting in silence can be greatest reset button in the universe.

Make time everyday for something that brings you great joy.

Appreciate other people’s strengths and accomplishments. Putting other people down is an ugly thing to do. Period.

Never miss an opportunity to kiss your lover and tell them why you adore them.

Stand in the rain (face to the sky) whenever possible.

Feed your body, your soul, your heart, and your animals (including your children) with equal enthusiasm.

Forgive.

Be. Present.

with heart,
H

ps. These two are getting married next weekend!:)

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Cowgirls for James

Open Pinterest. Search ‘cowgirl’. Here…I’ll do it for you.

Wait for it…
scroll.

Keep scrolling.

I sometimes search random words on Pinterest…this evening I searched ‘cowgirl’. To my..putting it lightly…dismay; I was bombarded by image after image of half dressed women showcasing everything BUT their horsemanship. This can’t be right! I know so many beautiful, strong, dedicated horsewomen…where were those photos of them doing what they loved? Where were the photos of dusty spurs and windblown hair sitting on the horse they had been practicing with for months, if not years? Those images were few and far, far between. I find this disheartening, and I intend to create some change here.

All the while I am Pinteresting, I was also looking through some photos from a benefit we attended a few weekends ago. A 6 year old cowboy, James Dukes, is battling cancer. Honestly, I don’t know James personally. I’ve photographed his family roping…and I follow his journey via his family’s Facebook page for him…but James and I…we’ve never met. I don’t think that matters – because at the end of it, if we’re not all here to help each other, what are we here for anyway? I started roping earlier this year; and this community of people – this insanely large, sometimes rowdy, always supportive, forever full of laughs FAMILY of people have made me feel like I’ve found a home. They have cheered for me, talked me through the rough days, given my little boy new friends to get dirty with, hugged us hello, and warmed our hearts. The showing of support at the benefit put together by Robyn Gorham, California Can Chasers, and R4R was overwhelming…yet not at all surprising. There is no strength like that of horsemen and women, and I am so fortunate to be a part of it. So here I sat…wondering what I could offer this young cowboy who was inspiring me and countless others without even knowing it.

Then I had an idea.

What if I put together a shoot to both benefit James, and create images of REAL cowgirls to share with the world and battle these stereotypes? What if I invited every roping, barrel racing, trail riding, horse loving, dirty boot having woman (and man!) I know – and they made a donation…any donation they wanted…to James. In return, they would spend the day having the time of their lives being photographed in their element with other strong, inspiring women who, much like young James, will not be made a stereotype.

What if. What if. What if.

Why not?

So I’m placing it on the calendar. Saturday, April 12th, 2014. Our host will be the beautiful San Pascual Valley Ranch. I’ll be pinging inboxes, sharing invites, and encouraging all of my horsewomen friends to come out. Bring your horses, your (friendly) dogs, your men (if you like), your rodeo attire and your favorite boots, hats, and chaps. My fellow photographers – I haven’t forgotten you!! If you would like to come and take part in the action for stock images, or just good ole’ practice; join us! A minimum donation of $50 for photographers, $100 for participants. Participants in the shoot will receive 10 fully retouched images in digital format for personal use. Email me at heathergallaher@gmail.com to sign up; or contact me at www.heathergallaher.com

If we raise $20, it will be well worth it. If we raise $2,000, or $20,000 well…I’ll cry tears of joy. And then I’ll send our big awesome pot of gold to the Dukes family along with a photo of our cowgirls – because we are here to help each other. We are here to love and support one another. We are here to ensure that no one, especially no child, fights a big dumb monster like cancer alone; and there is no community of people more capable of lifting up someone in need than this one.

Join me.

Cowgirls for James

Cowgirls for JamesCowgirls for James

Cowgirls for James

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Lake Arrowhead Engagement // Claire + Ted

I love to travel. Specifically, I like to drive. Flying is lovely, but driving is just…a certain freedom that I can never properly quantify. When Claire told me that she and Ted wanted to do their engagement session where he proposed in Lake Arrowhead, all I heard was ‘mountain air, cooler weather, 2 hours in the truck’. Glo.Ri.Ous.

Funny enough, though we planned a late February engagement sesh; which would normally be a snowy one up in Arrowhead, the warm winter we’ve had left us with nothing but beautiful greenery and blue skies – the terrible hardships we endure here. Claire and Ted brought the magic for me – they got me EXCITED about their wedding. The way they move together, the way he holds her hand…the way she calls him Teddy (though he’s likely to kill me for writing that). They’re beautiful – and their wedding at Lake Oak Meadows this summer is going to be amazing.

ps. Claire’s amazing commercial worthy hair and makeup by Rumors Salon, Lake Arrowhead Village.

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Sandy // Maternity + Lifestyle Session

If anyone (including my dear Sandy) follows my work; you might notice that these images are actually from a while back. I went through a little blogging drought when it came to sessions; between FB posting and print ordering…I just got behind. Laaaaaaaaaaame…..I know. But I also believe that late is always better than not at all. Sooo.

Sandy is so special to me, for a great many reasons. She is a fellow vagabond; a gypsy wanderer who understands me as a friend, as a mom, as a human. When she told me her ideas for her maternity session; I was inspired. It was organic, and even now, looking back through her images; I can FEEL them, the way you can feel fresh linen between your fingers, or cashmere against your cheek. I can feel them in my heart; in
my soul…in my bones. These are the days friends…don’t miss them. Capture them.

And check out Sandy at Sandy McPadden Animal Training…. Because she’s awesome…and your pets deserve it.

xo,
HG

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