Tag Archives: Toyota Center

To the High School Class of 2013

The cap and tassel are ready to go.

The cap and tassel are ready to go.

Three years ago when my older son was preparing to walk across the stage at Houston’s Toyota Center, where he would graduate, I thought about what I would say to his class if I was asked to add a few words of wisdom. Of course, I wasn’t, so I published them in this blog instead.

Now it’s his younger brother’s turn to cross that same stage tomorrow afternoon. In case they need me to fill in for one of the speakers, I’ve still got that speech ready to go:

To my beloved younger son’s graduating class:

Today is a huge milestone in your lives. You are high school graduates! Even though this is a “commencement” ceremony, it’s actually a beginning for all of you. Make what you do in life count!

“Can’t” is the most-negative word in anyone’s vocabulary; don’t let it be part of yours! “Would’ve,” “should’ve,” and “could’ve” are negative traps that prevent you from moving forward with your life. It’s important to stay positive on the road to success. Make your own breaks!

Be sure to pay it forward—be thankful for what you’ve been given and what you’ve earned in life. Gratitude is the best attitude. Be grateful, not hateful.

Don’t forget the Golden Rule—do to others as you’d like done to you. If only everyone lived by this rule, we’d have no wars, no strife, no pushing and shoving in the back seat of the car by certain brothers I know.

second-#2369-(cap-gown-tassel)It doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing! What matters is what you’re doing. Set a good example, be a great role model, inspire others. You know right from wrong—choose to take the right path; don’t follow someone else down the wrong road.

Tell the people in your life how you feel about them, hopefully, in a positive way. It can be too late to say “I love you,” “thanks for all you’ve done for me,” and “you’re my world.” Don’t let important words just hang in the air . . . say them.

Bask in the moment! Remember that your parents and loved ones are extremely proud of you today. This is a fulfillment of a dream, one of many in your lifetime. Enjoy it and look forward to the next one.

e.e. cummings said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Be courageous! Take chances! Reach for the stars!!

Milton Berle said, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Whether you build doors or knock them down, know that we believe in your ability to succeed. Best wishes to the Class of 2013. Continue to make us proud!

And to my precious #2 son, you never fail to make me proud of you. When you started kindergarten, I had tears in my eyes. When you walk across the stage tomorrow, I again will have tears in my eyes. Tears of joy, pride, and wonderment that I’ve had the pleasure of watching you grow up these past 18 years. You are a wonderful young man who will succeed because you have a great heart, sense of humor, spirit, and intelligence.

I’m the luckiest mom in the world! I love you forever and ever plus a day!!

Pomp, Circumstance, and the Photographic Graduation Challenge

My #1 son walks to his seat accompanied by “Pomp and Circumstance.”

As the venerable “Pomp and Circumstance” starts filling the huge cavern known as Houston’s Toyota Center, I feel myself starting to get misty-eyed. Afraid that the awful ugly cry is on my personal horizon, I quietly admonish myself. “Grow a pair!” I think; now isn’t the time to make it hard to focus on taking photos.

#1 stands out for having four years of perfect attendance.

Last Friday was a date that I really hadn’t thought about over the past 18 years . . . until my #1 son and I started looking at colleges his junior year. High school graduation just doesn’t seem real, as you’re working on moving from velcro to learning to tie shoelaces, reading chapter books, learning equations, discovering where the Amazon River is, and understanding chemical reactions.

And then, out of the blue, you’re in the venue where the Houston Rockets play basketball watching your son being honored among only several others of the 520 graduates who had four to six years of perfect attendance (aka, the Mom award). It almost was surreal.

Jessika spots her mom Sue and me in the stands.

As you might expect, I was as worried about meeting the photographic challenge of shooting in a large building after 6 p.m. as I was getting my #1 son to the ceremony on time. I was able to scout out a diagram of the Toyota Center and, knowing that the graduates would walk across the stage from right to left, I pinpointed two sections (119 and 120) that might be best for shooting. The Mister, our #2 son, and I were able to snag seats in 119 next to my good friend Sue, and it proved to be a great angle for snapping pix of the grads.

My “third son” Chase chats up our school district’s superintendent.

Both sections looked fairly far from the stage, though, so I decided to use my beloved Nikon 70-200mm lens with the Nikon 1.4x teleconverter. Because I would be losing a stop of light (from f/2.8 to f/4), I opted for that low-light champ, the Nikon D700, instead of the D300, which has a crop factor that lets you zoom in even closer.

My #1 son is congratulated by our principal.

The D700 turned out to be an excellent choice, because my ISO started at 1600 in order to not blur the action and ended up at 2500. What was disappointing for me was that I failed to account for the keylights shining down on the graduates; it wasn’t until after #1 walked across the stage that I figured out that I needed to use negative exposure compensation to tone them down. Photoshop helped, but too many of my photos were a bit overexposed. Live and learn!

#1 warmly greets our associate principal where the lighting is more even.

I was so busy snapping and chimping that I didn’t have time to get emotional. Which was a good thing given that ever-looming possibility of the ugly cry.

#1’s tassel has moved to the left: It’s official!

The ceremony moved along at a decent-enough clip, given the 500-plus graduates to acknowledge. It was fun watching kids we had known from elementary school looking so grown up as they walked across the stage to fulfill their destiny as high school graduates. Kindergarten graduation was cute and fun, but this was so much more meaningful.

Texas A&M-bound Karan and my #1 son

Speaking of kindergarten, it was great capturing photos of my #1 son after the ceremony with a couple friends he’s had since the beginning of school. One was Karan, who has always been one of our favorites.

Best friends forever! #1 and Chase

The other one, of course, was my “third son,” Chase. What a proud moment for me to see my two “sons” standing side by side with their robes on, looking so darned handsome. Regular readers know that Chase is practically a member of our family; at times he seems to live with us. So it seemed that the right thing to do when my brother-in-law snapped a family photo of us . . .

Our family!

. . . was to include him, too!

Congrats to both of my high school graduates! May the big dreams you hope to accomplish come true. We’re so proud of both of you!!