Day 314- “A Little Sparkle”

Today at marching band, we were recording our music for the UNC Bands CD in Foundation Hall. Afterwards, I was talking to Aubrey, and became fascinated by a single red piece of glitter on the carpet. So I pulled out my camera, and got a picture of it.

As a side note, happy birthday to my Little, Ben!

Day 296- “The Silver Crest”

I recently ordered a necklace with the Kappa Kappa Psi crest, and today it came in the mail! I also ordered a colored member pin, so as opposed to having the tiny, standard gold pin we’re given when we become active members, it’s a larger gold pin with blue and black on it. Anyway, the necklace! The parts of it that are silver on the necklace are gold on our actual crest (and the membership pin). But, I’m a huge fan of silver, and fell in love with it when I visited Kappa’s national website. I had actually originally gone to our website to make a copy of something for our prospective members, and this happened instead. Oh well. It’s very awesome.

Oh yeah, the picture itself. I love the contrast and the composition.

Day 282- “The Spider”

Okay, so first off, I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a week. After Day 281, I just had to take a break, because, well….. Emotions were running high for me and I had to take a hiatus. If you haven’t read it, I highly encourage you to, because it gives you a lot of insight into why I do photography.

So, in the days following, I was feeling a bit blue, so I called up my Little, Ben, to hang out. We ended up back at the barn that I love so much. We went into one of the smaller sheds and found THIS HUGE SPIDER. If I had to guess, I would say this guy was about half the length of my thumb. We both snapped pictures like crazy (He also has a Canon, a smaller point-and-shoot one), and it was so cool. This guy just sat there and let us take pictures. It was so awesome!


Day 281- “Radiance”


Today is not a normal day. It may be, to most of the world; but it’s simply not, and it never will be again. A year ago today, we lost a musician, a scientist, a counselor, a friend, and my fraternal Brother, Alicia. I’ve mentioned her in a few posts on my blog and thought about her while posting a few others, but this post is dedicated solely to the memory of her, how I feel about her death, and how it affected and is still affecting my life.

This post is not like my other ones, which deal with light hearted matters, Star Wars, my everyday life, and occasionally have me pondering deeper things. This post dives into my soul, my part in this story bigger than myself, and deals with death, one of the hardest topics for people to discuss. If it makes you uncomfortable to read about death, handle raw emotions, hear about religion, or listen to my rambling, the rest of the post may be difficult. It’s a lot of things, though, that have been bottled up for far too long, things I couldn’t say, and things that I couldn’t put into words until now. Understand my need to get some of it out. If you don’t read it, I understand. But…. I would like for you to.

September 14, 2011.

We had marching band rehearsal that Wednesday. Something was just… off. It was cloudy, which wasn’t too unusual. Slackers were not in rehearsal, as usual. But… Some people weren’t there. I noticed the absence of my friend and Brother Matt because he played saxophone with me. It weighed on my mind and worried me, because he never missed rehearsal. After band, Kappa Kappa Psi was holding interviews to get to know some of the prospective members. Matt was not there, and neither was Alicia. It was highly, highly unusual. But I didn’t think much of it, and neither did anyone else.

Later that night, I was practicing tenor sax. I was playing Auld Lange Syne, I remember. Something…. I don’t even recall what it was…. Made me leave my practice room and go into the practice room hallway. I saw my friend Stirling, also a sax player. He had a grim look.

“Hey Stirling, what’s wrong?”

“I know why Matt wasn’t in rehearsal today.”


Oh no. He’s sick. He’s hurt. He was in a car accident. Someone happened with his family. Something’s wrong. Oh no….

“…Alicia died….”

I will never forget my first thought. ‘Thank God, Matt’s okay.’

Immediately following. ‘No. No. Oh God, no!’



I walked into the main hallway. Stirling followed. Tears streaming down my face, I asked how. He didn’t know. I asked to be left alone, and he left. I couldn’t stay there though. I walked, then hurried, then sprinted out the door into the pouring rain. I ran out, around the corner of Frasier, leaned against the wall, and sobbed.

‘It’s not true. It can’t be. She’s… She’s going to come here, right now, put her arms around me and ask what’s wrong. She will. She’s going to. Where is she? Dead… Oh God, no, this isn’t happening….’

‘Matt… That’s where he was today. They are- were- best friends.’

‘I can’t… Believe it….’

‘Sitting out here in the rain crying…. This is probably the most cinematic moment that has ever happened in my life.’

‘This can’t be happening.’

I went back in a few minutes later, after I had pulled myself together a bit. I found Andrea, who had also found out. I couldn’t process what was happening.  Andrea asked to be taken to her boyfriend’s house because she wanted to be with him. Numbly I drove her there through the rain, dropped her off, and drove aimlessly. Eventually I parked near a park and sat quietly, numb and shocked, until almost midnight. Then I did what most people do when they’re upset- I called my parents.

The phone rang, rang, rang, rang. Then my mother spoke, groggy and confused.


“Hi Mom!” I was surprised at how calm I sounded.

“Oh… hi Rachel… What’s up?”

“I love you.”


“I- I love you.”

“Rachel, what’s wrong?”

I broke again, and my poor parents were forced to listen to me crying with no way of comforting me. I talked to them for nearly a half an hour, intermittently crying and talking about Alicia. They surfed the internet, trying to see if there were any articles or anything to indicate what happened. There was nothing.

During my talk with them, Ashley texted me and told me to come over to her house. When I was done talking to my parents, I drove over there and found half of our chapter already there. We all hugged, cried, and when more of us came over, it was the same thing. The tears, shock, denial, everything. Most of our chapter ended up being there for a few minutes, until most of us split and went back to respective houses, dorms and apartments. If one good thing came out of this, it was our Brotherhood. We all called, texted, and checked to make sure everyone had someone with them for the days and weeks following.

What you need to understand before this next part in the story is that at the time of Alicia’s death, I was not religious. I have identified as agnostic for most of my life, acknowledging a higher power but not “God” per say. After most of the chapter left, Rose and I stayed at Ashley and Aryn’s house. My head was hurting from lack of sleep and stress, so I went out to my car to get some Advil from my glove box. I sat at the wheel for a few minutes. With no warning at all, I threw my head back and started screaming at God. How could he take Alicia away from us? How the hell could he take someone away who had so much going for her? The agony ripped through me as I screamed at Him. And then…. Do you know the feeling you get when you’re upset with someone and yelling at them, but they still hug you and try to make you feel better anyway, even when they know they hurt you? I felt it inside me, like I was being hugged and comforted through my outburst. I calmed down and cried, and Ashley came out to find me a few minutes later. I have no logical explanation for what happened then.

I couldn’t bear to go to classes Thursday, my longest, hardest day of the week. I emailed my teachers about the situation, and they were all understanding, which I’ll always be thankful for. I spent the next day with Ashley and Aryn mostly, and Andrea. But then I went to concert band. Our director somberly told the band about Alicia, and I began to cry again. And again at marching band, when he told us then. I have never cried this much in all of my life.

At marching band, it was rainy, bleak, and grey. But at the end of rehearsal, the clouds parted, and over our field was a huge, beautiful double rainbow. We all said, and I believe it’s true, that Alicia sent us the rainbow to let us know that she is okay.

As the days and the weeks passed, I could feel myself going through the stages of grief that psychologists always talk about. It was actually kind of amusing when I realized that’s exactly what was happening to me, that I was healing through my pain. I went through all of the stages and found myself about to reach acceptance….


I suddenly regressed back into the stage of guilt.

When she passed, we all went and changed our Facebook profile pictures to ones of us with her. And then that’s when I realized that there were two pictures of us together- one where we’re marching and you can’t really see either of us, and our Kappa class picture, where she and I are standing next to each other, and mostly everyone in our class is arm in arm with each other. The only two photos. I started hunting through my computer for any pictures of us together. The guy who did the marching band video at the end of the season also asked me for any pictures of her that I had, so I also hunted for those. I tore Andrea’s and my room apart looking for memory cards that didn’t exist. At the end, I came up with ten photos of her, and none of us together. None at all. Like we weren’t friends. There really wasn’t a way of being able to tell, not through pictures at least, my medium of art. I had failed at my job as the marching band photographer, the unofficial KKPsi photographer, and I had failed Alicia.

I hated myself for it.

Over the following months, I began obsessing over my photographer’s job. I took 50+ pictures a day for marching band rehearsals, and literally thousands of pictures over the course of the season. I obsessed with getting pictures of groups together. If I forgot my camera, I would be angry with myself. I obsessively took pictures of myself with my friends. I took pictures all the time. And lots of them turned out pretty well. There was always a need, this crazy need, to be taking photos when I was with a group of people, to document all of our lives together. During marching band, when the band would play in the stands during breaks, I would be running up and down the stands with my camera. I was completely disregarding that I should have devoted some time to the saxophone, and playing it while in the stands or at rehearsals.

Somewhere in this time frame, I officially decided to become an art major, and do photography. It made sense. Total sense. There were so many pictures to be taken. As I pushed forward, compiling a portfolio, writing essays, and such, I couldn’t help but feel a bit depressed. I had hoped to re-audition for the saxophone studio, because I hadn’t made it in the first two times I had auditioned…. Simply because of my lack of confidence, and lack of experience. But no big deal. Photography was my calling now.

One day that sticks out to me was the day I went on a hike. I wanted to take some good quality photos, so I borrowed Andrea’s Nikon (this was before my Canon) and headed up into the good old Rocky Mountains. I took pictures of the river, of the Aspen leaves that were changing, all sorts of things. There was a calmness in my mind that I hadn’t felt in a while when I was taking pictures. There was no pressure for the pictures; they were fun to take. As I look back now, I realize that I wasn’t feeling pressured to take pictures of anyone, but I was doing it for fun. I hadn’t done that in a long time.

Another day that sticks out to me…. It was the end of the marching band season banquet. Our band director took a compilation of my pictures, our video editor’s pictures, and a friend of the band’s pictures and printed several of them out. They were laid out on a table, and as people ate and waited for the awards to start, they could go over and find pictures of themselves to take and keep. I couldn’t go over there. I had seen most of the pictures already, seeing as I took about 90% of them. Everyone complimented me on the quality of my photos, but all of the praise was ruined by two comments. One that was directed at me, and one that I wasn’t supposed to hear. The one that I wasn’t supposed to hear was someone mentioning to her friend that she was disappointed that there was only one photo of her out there. The other was an acquaintance of mine half-jokingly saying that she had only found two pictures of herself on the table and that I probably should have taken more. I nodded, smiled and apologized, then headed for the door. Adam and Drew both saw me and tried to stop me to ask what was wrong. I pushed past them, went into the bathroom, and cried for ten minutes straight. If that’s not an indication that I was not entirely stable while making my decision to be an art major, then I don’t know what is.

November 27, 2011.

My parents, sister, brother-in-law and I were driving back up from Denver, where we were visiting my grandparents for their 50th wedding anniversary. My parents were talking, Becky and Colt were asleep, and I was staring out the window towards the sun, which would be setting in a few minutes. The rays burst through the clouds, illuminating the air gold where it touched. It is much like the photo that I have posted for today, only more golden, glorious… radiant.

My mom told me when I was a kid that she always felt like those rays was God bringing people’s souls into Heaven. I sat there and wondered who had died, whose soul was being raised. Then, almost like a whisper, in my mind….“It’s not your fault.” It was almost like I had thought it, but I hadn’t been consciously thinking of Alicia. I have no logical explanation to offer for that, except that Alicia was telling me that it was okay. It truly wasn’t my fault that I hadn’t gotten many pictures of her, and none of us together. She wasn’t mad at me for it, so I should stop being mad at myself.

I realized then that I had chosen photography as my major as a way to compensate for not having enough pictures of Alicia. I also realized it was okay for me to get over the guilt, and yet, I couldn’t let go. I got it, I understood it, but I wasn’t getting over it. Months later, I still was, and sometimes still am, suffering from the effects of my irrational guilt.

However, I fully recognize the point that I realized that this was why I had chosen to be photography major, and what I did to get back on track to my dream of being a band director. I emailed the saxophone professor at UNC and asked to take lessons with his grad assistant, and chose to play bari in Lab IV and tenor in Lab V. The significance of this is that usually people don’t double lab bands because of the work load that comes with it, unless they’re really devoted. A more important aspect of this is that I dropped an art class that I need to take for my art major, in order to be a member of Lab IV. I spent a lot of last semester wondering if I was going to do art or music, and stalled on registering for classes. But, I figured it out and made my decision. I went to my class schedule, dropped my art classes, and added the music classes I need to take. I’m not in the music school… yet. But I am working on it. And I will get in this time. And she would be glad for me.

I can’t say that I’m over Alicia’s death. I don’t know if I will ever be able to say I am. Someone that you love dying is not something that you can just “get over,” even though it would be easier and less painful. It’s something that you learn to live with, and in a way becomes part of who you are.

….Alicia, I miss you. It’s like I said on your Facebook wall, just a few weeks ago… Sometimes it’s easier, and sometimes it’s as hard as it was in the week after you left us. What bugs me now is that we were just about to become so much closer. I could feel it. When I left Old Chicago’s after we all hung out the Sunday before you left us, I remember thinking…. ‘She and I are going to get so much closer this year. And I’m so excited.’ It was the last time I saw you, and I treasure it and all of our other times together. I’m also sorry we never got to make our lasagna cupcakes! Thank you so much for always being my friend and making sure that I was okay, before you really knew me, and even after you left us. I love you and I miss you, Alicia.




Here are posts that relate to Alicia.

Not the same rainbow as Alicia’s, but still makes me think of her:

Kappa’s memorial ribbon:

The balloon release photos:

Our newest Kappa class makes me think of Alicia, and how involved she would have been:

At the Summit:

This was taken at the park where her memorial service was held:

Reflecting on my obsessive desire to take photos:

A rainbow at band, and appreciating the little things in life:

My memorial ribbon on my camera bag:



Day 264- “Boot”


Well, I’ve landed in a tough spot. I’ve injured my left ankle yet again. Let me tell you the story of it.

My sophomore year of high school, a few weeks before the marching band state championship, I rolled my ankle inward during a rehearsal. I remember the exact move too, I was marching forward and to the left, and for the next move I had to snap the lower half of my body around and head straight to the right. On the snap, my ankle rolled. Me being me of course, continued to march the next few weeks, icing my ankle and loading up on Advil. But it wasn’t getting any better after that. The next year, my junior year, it got worse and worse. I finally went to the doctor, and he gave me this boot to wear and informed me that I had a small stress fracture. (I affectionately call it my Stormtrooper Boot.) After we were done marching, I was put in an actual cast and on crutches for three weeks, and then did six weeks of physical therapy. It hurt on and off after that, but I learned to deal with it. My senior year, it got worse and worse again, so I restricted myself back to the boot for the last month of the marching season. I’ll never forget the moments immediately following our final championship performance. One person grabbed my bari sax from me, two other people grabbed onto me and half carried me back to the buses because I could hardly walk. (I couldn’t march with the boot in performances because it wouldn’t fit under my uniform pant leg.) I suffered a few more weeks after the season was over, and returned to a mild pain most days.

Come college, the marching wasn’t too bad, but in the spring of my freshman year it got bad enough that I went to a doctor here in Greeley. He informed me that my arch was too high and I got inserts for my shoes, which only helped a little. My sophomore year was another year of mild to moderate pain. This brings us to this summer, and my junior year. Working on grounds was very intense work. I stressed my ankle out to the point of me having to take Advil twice a day at work. I sprained it twice while mowing a hill. Luckily for me though, the guys I worked with were great about it and would take over mowing if they saw I was in pain, and would give me priority when riding in the vehicles and there wasn’t enough room for all of us.

This brings us to now. Band camp, of course, is where we teach the new kids how to march and go over it all ourselves again, eight hours a day. That didn’t include, of course, me running around running social events. My ankle grew more and more weak and stressed, and finally it happened. On the day of Band Olympics, the most important event I ran during band camp, my foot caught in a hole in the field. In the spring, when trying to aerate the field south of Gunter, the sprinkler lines were all cut by mistake, so the grounds crew had to fix them all. As a result, there are awkward holes and trenches all over the field. My foot caught in one, and that was it, I was done marching. I stepped out and took photos for the remainder of the day until Olympics, when I could hardly walk around the fields to watch the games. And now, I haven’t been able to finish out a rehearsal without having to bow out because of the pain.

So, long story short, my ankle hurts, first world problems suck, and I’m going to get it checked out soon.

Day 262- “Boh”

The name “Boh” encompasses two very important figures in Kappa Kappa Psi. It was the nickname given to Bohumil Makovsky, the first sponsor and the Guiding Spirit of Kappa, who was crucial to the creation of the fraternity as the Director of Bands at Oklahoma A&M College. It also refers to the cuddly teddy bear that is my chapter’s mascot.

For the purposes of this photo, I am referring to the teddy bear, obviously. Boh has a long, long history with our chapter and has been around for years. And, for years, he has been accumulating trinkets from members who have had him. Keychains from conventions, bandannas, a broken time turner, a ribbon for our Brother who passed away,  assorted necklaces and bracelets, and for a while even had a foam pig tied into his arm. He is passed around from member to member, sometimes if someone just wants him for the next few weeks, or if they need him (the chapter gave him to me the night before my second attempt at the music school… Which was unsuccessful, but it’s the thought that counts). He’s been there for the happy times in the chapter and the sad times.

Taylor had him over the summer, and when she was staying with me we decided that Boh was loooooong overdue for a bath. So, we stuck him in my sink, poured laundry soap in, and scrubbed his fur until he was a completely different color (imagine seeing your loveable bear turn brown after you’ve known him as a grey-brown… yuck). We made the decision to not put his adornments back on, and start archiving them (we’ve all been saying it for years anyway). He had a pound’s worth of stuff on him! Crazy, right?

Anyway, I went home this weekend to pick some stuff up, and Boh came with me. I stopped and cut some sunflowers for my mom, and placed them in Boh’s lap. The image of him being buckled into my car while holding flowers was so cute that I had to take a picture of it. There’s not much going on here artistically, but it’s an adorable photo.



Day 255- “Stick”

This year, I organized and ran this year’s annual Band Olympics, of course with the help of my Brothers running the games while I meandered around monitoring everything and taking photos. To me, the purpose of Band Olympics  is to promote band unity and to give everyone a chance to get to know each other, and relax after a few tough days.

The game of stick is a simple game. Each team has a dowel rod. They must firmly plant the stick on the ground, place their forehead on the stick, and spin around it seven times. Then, they throw the stick onto the ground, jump over it, and then tag the next person in line. It’s usually one of the most favorite games, and it was pretty successful this year too.


Day 253- “Tag!”

The staff of the Pride of the Rockies marching band and the officers of the Alpha Theta chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi got together and had a bonding day at the UNC ropes course. It was a complete blast! We did a lot of ground- level activities at first, and then went on to the higher stuff. It was so awesome! Most of the photos from the day were taken by one of our graduate assistants who strained her back and couldn’t participate, but she seemed to be having fun taking photos with my camera.

I am, however, proud to call this photo mine. We were playing a game called “elbow tag,” which has a runner, a chaser, and groups of two people standing in a designated area. The chaser obviously is “it.” The runner needs to grab onto the elbow of someone standing in a group of two, and the person on the other side becomes the runner. It’s a pretty fantastic game.

In this photo, Melanie is chasing the director of bands at UNC, Dr. Singleton, also affectionately known as “Doc.” We didn’t know he could move that fast, since he’s got two “bionic knees”! I love how happy they both are, and Kevin (one of the ropes course assistant guys) in the background laughing with us.

This is one of the low level challenges my team faced- we all had to move from a sitting position on a large, suspended log without touching the ground. It took us at least 20 tries- and the incredible thing is, no one was getting angry. We all encouraged each other, shared frustration but perseverance in our failed attempts, and finally sang the world’s fastest version of “Row Row Row Your Boat” before all jumping off of the log together and screaming in our victory. The other half of our staff stopped the activity that they were doing and cheered for us as well. I loved this activity because we all had a voice in the brainstorming, and we were all looking out for each other. The group elected to move me closer to the outside of the log because it was an easier position for me with my bad ankle. And we had an unbroken chain of us linking arms, holding hands, and holding each other up. What a great bonding experience.

Look, there’s me! Just hanging out at the top of a huge pole, which was forty feet or something. (I don’t remember, and I wasn’t exactly trying to figure out how high it was when I was up there!) I was enjoying the view a little bit (“Hey guys I can see my house from here!” I really could was the funny part.), and also freaking out about being up so high. I finally managed to swing up and sit on top of the pole, and looked down to my belaying team holding my rope- a friend, a mentor, and two strangers who literally held my life in their hands.

“You guys got me?”

“Yeah!” “We got you!” “You can do it!”

“Okay… One…! Two…! THREE!” And I jumped from the pole as they pulled the rope, leaving me suspended in midair until I stopped swinging enough for them lower me safely down to the ground. Talk about trust! That has to be one of the coolest experiences of my life.

Julia jumping off of the pole…. No big deal…. 😉

Day 243- “First Dance”


On Sunday, my friends Kirsten and Scott were married. And guess what? I showed up late to this wedding too. (Like Diana and Ben’s: I was there in time to see them exchange vows and rings. The part of the ceremony I saw was beautiful, as was the reception, and as is their love. Not to be too cheesy, but the first time I saw them together I had a feeling about them.

Their story is really cool. Kirsten is one of my Brothers, and Scott was also a member of Kappa at a different school. They met when the two chapters got together to hang out, and the rest of course if history.

I love that the photo was black and white (I’m becoming a pretty big fan of it recently), and I love the light and lens flare.

Day 232- “Dr. Mayne”

Featured here is a photo of one of the UNC band directors and Kappa Kappa Psi sponsors, Dr. Mayne. This year the UNC band program had an alumni concert, in which our  alumni came together and played (kind of obvious, whatever though). We had alumni who had graduated last year to some who graduated in the 60s, even 50s! Dr. Mayne asked me to take photos of the concert, which I was more than happy to do. I had so much fun!

I was confronted with a problem as the sky grew darker (it was an outdoor concert), and that was the colors of my photos. The lights are the awkward orange ones, and I was having issues getting everybody to stop looking orange. So, I simply started taking black and white photos!