Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Official Rutledge Family Christmas Letter

Dear Friends and Family:

It is time once again for the annual Christmas letter. We are in the process of moving to a more electronic format but I will continue to send a paper copy to those who have not yet fully bought in to the electronic world. I actually like the hard copy myself. I have all of our letters from years past along with all of the letters we have gotten from friends and family in a large three ring binder (actually, we have had to split them into two three ring binders). It has become an interesting sort of family journal tracking the highs and the lows each year.

If you have been reading my blog you know that this has not been an easy year in many ways and the last quarter of the year has been particularly difficult. I will refer you to other posts for details on that and will focus here on more of a year in review. In spite of the difficulties, we were still quite successful in making many happy memories. Some of the highlights include:

  • Strengthening relationships through our home school group; Daniel is somewhere between 3rd and 4th grade now and we are in our second year of more academic classes with our home school group. We meet three Fridays a month for about 6 months of the year. In 2010 he had classes on rockets, weapons, writing, biology, and literature. He also does history with a couple other families once a week and at home we focus on math, spelling and reading in addition to his home school group classes. All in all his education is coming along nicely and the relationships we are building with the other families in our group are priceless
  • Two gatherings with the Rutledge Family; In April we spent several days together in Florida at Burt's sister's place and in November we made our traditional trip to Nashville. It was wonderful to all be together. Daniel really enjoys his cousins!
  • While we were in Florida we also got to spend a little time with my dad & Jeanie.
  • More Michigan vacationing with my family; In May we spent a week in Michigan's Upper Peninsula with my mom & Harold, my brother (Tim) and my niece, Leslie. We found a fabulous cabin to rent and really had a wonderful time. If you want to see pictures you can check them out at our Shutterfly share site.
  • Daniel had his first camp experience in July at Michigan Christian Youth Camp (MCYC) and he absolutely loved it. I really had not considered sending him yet but someone at church mentioned it in March and he said he wanted to so we did it and it worked out so well. We are thinking about doing one of the winter camp weekends in January or February.
  • We spent a fair amount of time in the summer attending weddings (and photographing a few as well) of former students. One of the highlights for Daniel and I was a trip to Kentucky / Virginia with some good friends for the wedding of Lydia & Mitch Ruter. They got married at Cumberland Gap and the whole trip was really a very special experience.
I know we did many other things but it just is not coming back to me right now and I really want to get this letter out. I pray that whatever your circumstance this Christmas you will find peace, joy and comfort and that you will make the most of every moment you have.

May the Lord bless you and keep you until we meet again!

Sunday, December 12 we had a big snow and my son, niece & nephew spent a couple hours enjoying the first snowfall of the season. It was pretty wicked by this point in the day and the kids were headed in from the cold.
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The next day Daniel continued to enjoy the snow. I love the view with the barn behind him!


I am not sure how to write my annual Christmas letter. The last two months have been filled with such pain that I cannot, in good conscience, write a shiny happy "oh everything is wonderful" letter because really, it's not. The lows of 2010 have felt lower than any I have known and yet there were highs also. If nothing else, I want my letter every year to be real and I am just not sure how to capture all of this. Perhaps this is a start ...

This year has been a tough one emotionally. In March Burt got an infection through his pic line and was hospitalized for 10 days or so (honestly, I don't remember ... I do my best to let go of any details like this that are necessary to retain). What I do remember is that it was horrendous and the scariest thing we have encountered during the entire course of this illness. He was running a fever around 105, completely lost touch with reality for 2 or 3 days and, whether it was rational or not, I really did not think he was going to make it for a couple of days.

And yet, in that, God made his presence known through two dear friends who basically did not leave my side for 3 days and countless others who either came by, brought food, or donated money to help cover unexpected expenses and make up for the salary that I lost when I had to drop a class. It was probably the worst experience of my life so far but God was still there and still good.

On November 9 my community suffered the tragic loss of a wonderful young man, father, husband and leader in the church when Jeremy King suffered cardiac arrest and died while hunting. Jeremy was a wonderful man and he was fiercely devoted to his wife and children. He served as the worship leader for the Rochester church of Christ and was the grounds supervisor at Rochester College. He and his wife, Veronica were students at Rochester nearly 10 years ago and Burt and I actually did some pre-marital counseling with them. The really were a wonderful couple. Veronica has been very open in sharing her grief. If you want to know more about her and her family, check out His loss hit the entire community like a Mack truck and has left a gaping hole.

And yet, his funeral on Saturday and worship service at Rochester on Sunday were among the most intensely spiritual experiences I have had. The presence of God was so strong in that room as hundreds of people gathered, still in shock, to grieve and celebrate Jeremy's life and offer support to Veronica and her kids. My words cannot adequately capture the moment but, through it all, God was there and He was still good. In the days that have followed, Veronica and the kids have been showered with blessings and Jeremy's life and sudden death have inspired many people to do more, appreciate what they have, and make the most of each moment.

Today, Burt is in Pennsylvania with his best friend from high school, Shane Cox, and his family. Shane is losing his battle with brain cancer. He was diagnosed in August of 2009 and fought hard but his journey is nearly over. His 14 year old daughter posted this on Facebook last night: "I'm never going to walk down the isle with daddy when I get married.He is dying maybe 2 more days.Tonite I read the whole book of Job to daddy because daddy is like Job.He NEVER doubts God.Daddy is so week he can't talk.As I was reading to him he squeezed my hand & looked at me.I will never forget the look he gave me.Hes the only father I have & no child should have to lose their father at our ages.I ♥ u daddy" I cannot wrap my mind around this pain. She is the oldest of 4.

Burt has had the opportunity to spend the last few days there with them and to talk some with Shane as well as spend time with the kids. When I say that Burt and Shane were best friends, I don't think that adequately captures the depth of their relationship. As is true of many of us, that adolescent transition time of high school was a bit rocky for Burt. He and Shane were closer than brothers. They did everything together and Shane's parents, Rick and Judy, were like second parents to him. Indeed, Burt and I only met because Rick, Judy, and Shane convinced him to leave sunny Florida and come to cold, frigid Michigan to a little place called Michigan Christian College after high school. Although we have not been in close contact over the years since then, Shane is very much part of the fabric of who we are. Burt has suffered loss through death before. His brother, Chris, died when they were kids and both of his parents have already passed on but this is so intense and so difficult.

And yet, God is present and He is still good. He has provided Burt with the stamina to be able to make three trips in the last 15 months to spend time with Shane and his family and to be a support. This has been as important for Burt as it has been for them. He has provided resources that have helped Burt to be able to process his grief over this in a more healthy way than he ever has before. Weeping may not be fun. Hurt does not feel good. But it is healthy and it is a part of life.

And so, in this 2010 holiday season, I am burdened with deep sadness and grief. And yet, I will move forward with more commitment to love those who are dear to me and to give the best that I have. How can I not when I have been given this time and others have not? I will grieve when it is time to grieve and I will dance when it is time to dance. I will do my best to be a living tribute and to be the hands and feet for those who are not able to be here now. I pray that my faith, and yours, will continue to be strengthened by the inspiration of people like Jeremy and Shane and by God's presence in the midst of such difficult times.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thoughts from Black Friday 2010

Every year we spend Thanksgiving with Burt's family. Generally we all meet in Tennessee because that is basically in the middle between Florida (where his sister and her family live) and Michigan (where we live and his brother and his family live). We have a tradition that every year the women get up early and go shopping on Black Friday. It is a long standing tradition and the highlight of the trip for some. Not so much for me as I really don't enjoy shopping unless I have a specific goal in mind. My sisters in law and my oldest niece all know this and are always patient with me as I try to get myself mentally prepared for several hours of shopping with crazy shoppers. In spite of the fact that I don't enjoy shopping for the sake of shopping, I do value the time spent with my sisters and niece.

This year, Target had a door buster sale on something that I really wanted to get Daniel for Christmas so my niece, Christen, volunteered to get up with me and be at Target when the doors opened at 4 a.m. Although I was advised against going at that time we were up and out at 3:40 anyway. The line to get in stretched to the of the building and it was chilly so Christen and I drove around the parking lot in her Mini Cooper a couple of times and got out to get in line at about 3:59. It took about three minutes for us to get in the doors and we fast walked to the toy department. There were two lego sets on sale and we quickly found the lego aisle and began looking for the one we wanted. Sadly, we were greeted by a big empty space where, I presume, the item should have been. We carefully looked all around with no luck. Christen commented that she could not believe that they were sold out at ten after 4. I decided that since we had put all the effort into getting there so ridiculously early we should probably ask someone before we gave up and left. I found a young man standing near the zoo that was the electronics department (there was some huge deal on TVs) and explained what I was looking for. He walked to the aisle where we had spent 5 minutes looking at every box of legos, turned to the other side, reached to the top and pulled down the only remaining set. He commented that he had been there since 2 a.m. and had stuck it up there because he could not find any other place for it. I nearly wept I was so happy! Not only was it significantly on sale but it also is part of a discontinued set that Daniel really wanted.

Having had such stellar success in our first outing, Christen and I got in the car and were home by 4:45. I could have been done for the day but we had plans to go to the mall at 8:00 with everyone else so I got ready when I got home and then just chilled for a couple of hours. Christen went back to sleep :o)

The rest of Black Friday shopping was pretty typical. We started at Starbucks, as is our tradition, and then hit the mall. I really was not looking for anything, as I had already gotten my prize earlier, so I just browsed and hung out with the girls. We shopped for about 4 and a half hours and near the end of it I bought some perfume. With that purchase I got a free bag. It was a BIG bag and bright red, faux alligator print. Initially I thought it was kind of neat but quickly I decided that it really was not my style and that, while some people would look very chic with it, it looked a bit gaudy with me.

As the mall trip drew to a close I went outside to get some fresh air. I was tired, a bit grumpy, and getting a little stressed because it was nearly 12:30, we had not had lunch yet and Burt, Daniel and I had planned to be on the road to Indiana by 2:00. As I started back into the mall to meet up with the rest of my party a woman probably in her 50s came out with another woman who looked to be her mother. The older woman admired my red bag and asked where I got it. I explained that it was a gift with a purchase and then, on a whim, asked her if she would like to have the bag. She looked a bit surprised and said that, yes, she would love to have it so I quickly removed my perfume and wallet, gave her the bag, and wished her a Merry Christmas. My mood was considerably better and my step a bit lighter as I went back into the mall and rejoined my girls. It was a wonderful reminder that doing something kind for someone else can do wonders for one's mood and disposition!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Part II

It's Thanksgiving morning in Nolensville, TN. I am enjoying the sounds of the house waking up around me ... boys playing in the hall, breakfast being prepared downstairs. As I sit in the quiet and listen I reflect on Thanksgivings past. I think about how the kids have grown. The oldest kids in Burt's extended families are adults now. As I came in from walking the dog earlier I could not help but think that in just a few short years even the youngest ones won't be children any more.

I think about how I have changed. About how weary I am. The last 9 years have been a battlefield as my life has taken turns that I never would have anticipated. I have been blessed beyond measure with an amazing son, a great job (two, really), an enduring marriage, wonderful family and friends and an incredibly supportive church community. I want so much to dwell in the positive and I think that most of the time I do. At the same time, I struggle and lately I have been realizing that, in the last two or three years I think I have lost some of my ability to be patient and forgiving of others. I am bothered by this.

I know that my life is not what I expected. Having a chronically ill spouse with no answers to the physical issues and no end in sight is draining. I have had to let go of many of my dreams and ideas of what my life would be like. Mostly they are silly little things ... like going camping on weekends and taking road trips and serving together with my husband ... but those little things seem to touch every area of my life.

This month I have been surrounded by grief and, although it has only touched me in a somewhat peripheral way, it has permeated my life the last few weeks and brought my own grief over what I have "lost" into sharper focus. Even in the midst of this heavy and unpleasant angst, however, I am inspired to be better; to do better. I am inspired by Becky Milligan who, in spite of the loss of her mother to a long struggle with cancer, is positive and encouraging. I am inspired by Veronica King who has been so open in her grief over the loss of her husband and, without realizing it, is ministering to so many people as they grieve his loss also. I am inspired by Jeremy King and by Katie Kirkpatrick who left this life so early ... far before we were ready let them go ... and who left such amazing examples of living for Christ.

I am here. I have good health and am blessed in so many ways. Katie and Jeremy are not. They have no more opportunities in the flesh. I cannot waste my life wishing that things were different. I must move forward and embrace all that is good and do what I can to make the world better for those in my immediate circle and those who the Lord puts in my path.

So, on this Thanksgiving day, 2010, in spite of a heavy heart, I will move forward with thankfulness and endeavor to make the most of every moment. The Lord is my strength and my comfort. He will provide the way and He will bring joy out of sorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2010


This November has been a challenging one. The community I live in has faced tremendous loss and yet God is near and, in spite of pain and suffering, we have so much to be thankful for. Tomorrow morning I will be at God's Helping Hands for the annual Christmas shopping Saturday. This will be the third or fourth year that I have taken my Diversity and Cross Cultural Psychology class to participate in this incredible day as a service project. The need is great and I anticipate a big crowd tomorrow ... both of shoppers and volunteers. Lisa Cain posted on Facebook an hour or two ago that people were already lining up ... not many people in my world can probably relate to staying all night in the cold to make sure that you have an opportunity to "shop" for Christmas gifts. It's ironic perhaps, that this amazing work was born of tragedy. So, tonight I am thankful for Brian, Lisa, Darren, Kevin and Devin Cain. I am thankful for Jeremy and Veronica King and their children. And I am so thankful that God continually resurrects joy, peace, and hope from tragedy and despair!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Rutledge Photography Philosophy, Services & Price List

I have always enjoyed taking pictures. I like to capture special moments and the personalities of those who I photograph. Over the years people have suggested that I could shoot professionally. When I began to look into that (and even when I priced my own wedding pictures nearly 20 years ago) I was astonished by how much it costs to have someone capture those special moments. As I have begun to develop my own business my goal has been to cater to families on a budget who want to capture those special events but my not be able to afford to work with some of the higher priced premiere studios and photographers.

My style is simple and straightforward. I prefer natural lighting and settings but will also work with indoor lighting when requested. My goal is to catch a glimpse into the heart of my subjects and to go deeper than standard posed portraits. For this reason a family portrait sitting will generally take between 45 and 60 minutes. When the session is done and the photos have been edited I want you to have full access to your photos not for a limited time but forever. This is why I leave the prints up to you and prepare for you a DVD with your full resolution images complete with a copyright release. I also will post your images online and provide a link you can share with your family and friends.

My general rates are as follows:

Rates & Pricing
Prices are for sitting and CD with digital images. No prints are included in the pricing. The purchaser will own the rights to the photos and may make prints and copies as desired. If you wish to order prints through me you may also do that for an additional fee.
Homeschool School Pictures $30 / child
Includes 3-5 poses

Senior Pictures (up to 90 minutes) $200.00
One location, up to three wardrobe changes
Additional hour $100.00

Family Portrait Sitting, single family (up to 1 hour) $150.00
May Include individual poses of each family member, full family poses and subgroups as desired by the family.
Additional hour $75.00

Family Portrait Sitting, multiple families (up to 90 minutes) $250.00
May Include poses of each family group, full family poses, subgroups and / or individual shots as desired by the family.
Additional hour $75.00

Event Photography (up to 3 hours) $400.00
Additional hours $150 / hour

Wedding photography (up to 8 hours on location) $1500
Additional hours $150 / hour

If you want more details, have questions, are are interested in booking something please contact me through facebook or via email at