Kieso family

I was honored to not only get to capture this family, but to capture the biggest family I’ve ever done.  I took into account that kids will be kids and have zero patience for a lady trying to get that right picture.  So, I just snapped as many pictures as possible.
When Tiffany and I discussed what she was looking for, she mentioned that she wanted some of her and her husband together. Knowing that this was something she really wanted, I made sure to get some for them and them alone. I hope I delivered to what she was looking for.

I loved doing this session and capturing this wonderful family. It was a fun evening!

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Canon EOS Rebel T5 SLR
Wichita, KS
Photographer: Cassie Stephens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixty years later.

August 5, 1956 was a sunny day filled with, a slight warm breeze of smiles and cheer in a little small town in western Kansas.  Of course, I may just be starting this with complete fiction, but isn’t most fiction just a wonderful telling of what may have been? Besides all that, it was the day my grandparents did the big ‘I Do’.  Since my grandpa is a young buck, my grandma had to wait until he graduated high school until they got married, that and well he also had surgery done as well.  They grew up in the same town, went to high school together and the whole relationship began with a blind date.  She was all that was good, sweet and followed the rules.  He was the jock, rebel and all that she wasn’t.  But, I think that is what makes a couple. Maybe back then they were the complete opposites, however sixty years later they are still married.  It wasn’t easy at times I’m sure, but they grew stronger in their marriage and adding God helped a great deal too.  She was growing in her faith and he remained, however sometimes it takes a great push for the stubborn to fall to their knees and find God, that was him.  Now after one daughter and two sons, three grand girls and one great grand girl, they can see the accomplishments of what their love did.

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I’m in complete adoration of their relationship and what it looks like.  I love them to the moon and back and grateful that I spent all those summers with them and still able to spend time with them as an adult.   I love you both and I’m honored that I was not only able to witness your sixtieth anniversary but to capture it with photos, love and tears.

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Congrats you crazy kids!

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Canon EOS Rebel T5 SLR
Derby, KS
Photographer: Cassie Stephens

David and Tia and everything wonderful.

I’m always honored when someone asks me to take pictures for them, I’m even more honored when asked to do their wedding… Even if I have a slight panic attack.
Taking pictures of weddings always makes me go into panic mode, simply because I have one shot at it, no do overs.  Every wedding I have done, which hasn’t been many, was a bag full of stress.  Except this one.  Maybe it’s because I’ve known Tia for awhile, or I’ve taken pictures of her kids over the years, or maybe just maybe it was laid back because that’s what it was.

I knew I could do it alone, but having a friend help out is better.  So, Camissa came along with me and my three camera bags to Paola, KS.  Once settled, we scoped out the town, the venue and went to eat dinner for $11… for two! Small towns, if nothing else, offer cheap food.
The morning of the wedding came early, with coffee.  Once we made it to the venue, looked it all over and made introductions, we got to work.  Throughout the entire wedding I kept thinking how right this was.  I was happy to see Tia smile brightly, David looking upon her with complete adoration, Sydni and Joe gaining a new family and close friends and family in happy tears.  It was simple, stunning and wonderful.

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Taken on 4.24.2016
Canon EOS Rebel T5 SLR/Canon EOS
Paola, KS
Photographer: Cassie Stephens
Assistant/General all around funny person: Camissa Dater

 

A tale about a Lightsaber.

Like with any good story, you should always start at the beginning.

Two years ago, my friend and roommate was off traveling in Italy, which left me home alone.  One evening I couldn’t sleep, so it was decided I would rearrange the furniture at two in the morning. Put in my ear buds and got to work.  Have you ever been in the shower and heard loud banging? Instead of investigating, you just slowly pull the curtain back and continue your shower, praying you don’t get murdered.  I wasn’t in the shower, but I kept hearing a loud banging noise. Yet, whenever I took out my ear buds, it didn’t happen.  Shrugging my shoulders, I continued on.  Almost an hour later, I pulled out my ear buds to someone banging on my door.  I jumped and held back my scream… That’s a lie, I screamed like a five year old girl, who got a pony for Christmas.
As it continued, I heard someone yell some inaudible words. In a slight panic, I slowly walked over to the top of my stairs and tried to look who could be banging on my door. Not seeing anything, I went into my room and grabbed the first thing…. It was my Lightsaber.
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This was the most ‘nerd’ I’ve ever been.  Ever so slowly I walked down the steps until I reached the landing.  My front door is glass with wood trim, so anyone could look right in.  In the corner however, that’s the safe spot.  There is a window and next to the door is more glass, but on the inside I can see out, you can’t see in.  So in that corner I looked out the window and noticed a shadow next to my house.  Quietly reaching up, I unlocked the door and started to open it.  That’s when the person heard me, they started to walk back over to the door; it was now or never.  I hit the button, my Lightsaber glowed the brightest green and I ran out and hit the person on the head.
Their are moments in a person’s life, that the only thing you can say is ‘shit’.  This was my shit moment.  As the adrenaline within me slowly faded, I got a good look at the person I hit.  The person was a man, a man in a uniform, a man in a cop uniform.  I just hit a cop over the head with a Lightsaber…. Shiiiittttt.  Nothing was said, for what felt like an eternity. He and I just stared at one another, I finally hit the button and turned off my saber.  He finally reacted and said the only logical thing you could say in this situation; “did you just hit me with a toy Lightsaber?”
“Yes… I thought it was a murderer or something.” I replied.  He laughed, he laughed harder than I expected him to.  Once he calmed down, he went on to tell me that my neighbors tried knocking, because they thought I was getting attacked.  I explained what I was really doing and the reason for not hearing, was because I play music loudly.
“It’s a shame I can’t tell the others about this.. They’d never believe me anyways.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry again.  I should probably reconsider my options of weaponry.”
“Yeah, but you have a story now.”

A story indeed…

Yesterday, a friend of mine sent me a link to a sermon.  When I arrived home late last night, I watched it.  I’m not usually a yell out loud, ‘AMEN’ type of girl, but I was on fire last night.  This sermon was basically killing it, don’t worry, I’m working on writing a blog.  I was so into this sermon and yelling amen, that I forgot my windows were open.  I also forgot I have neighbors.
Once I was done watching the sermon, I started to get ready for bed.  That’s when I heard it, a tapping noise.  I’m no stranger to people tapping on windows or doors. I recall a Halloween years ago, were a lady by the name of Samantha tapped on a window and it freaked myself and my BF Camissa out.  Like, Camissa had to have a hand over her mouth to stop from screaming and I just held onto her like a pillow. It’s safe to say, tapping isn’t my favorite.
The tapping continued on my front door and I found myself in the exact same situation. The only difference, I heard what the person was saying outside.  As they continued to tap, he spoke up and said; “I know you’re up.”  Now, that doesn’t sound creepy or horrible, but his voice was saying otherwise.  He sounded like Emperor Palpatine with a heavy breathing problem.  That’s NO BUENO! I tried to look and see who it was, but all I saw was feet.  So, I went ahead and did that good ol’ nerd thing, I grabbed my Lightsaber.  Once I started walking down, I didn’t see anybody, so I thought I was in the clear. I still wanted to make sure, so I looked out the window and he was standing right there.  He was looking up and said in his heavy Palpatine voice; “Your lights are on. I know you can hear me.”
This was my chance again, I unlocked the door, opened it and walked outside. He had his back to me, when I turned on my saber he turned around and that’s when I attacked another male with my Lightsaber.  This was another shit moment.
Not only am I using a toy to defend myself, I’m also hitting innocent men… This man happened to be my next door neighbor.  Once again I was asked the only logical question; “Did you hit me with a Lightsaber?”
“Yeah.. Sorry.” I replied
“Have you done this before?” He asked
“Umm yeah. A cop.”
“Hot damn! Really?!?”
“Yeah. I’m sorry again. Did you need something?” I finally asked
“Huh? Oh yeah, are you okay? I kept hearing you yell ‘amen’ and ‘yes’. I mean, I know why other girls may yell those. But you aren’t most girls.”
I laughed harder than necessary and told him why.
If you happened to drive by my place last night, you would have seen two adults laughing like children and one adult with a Lightsaber still on.
Before he bid me goodnight, I had to ask why his voice sounded off.
“I’m sick. I know I sound like a groundhog while in heat. Sorry if that scared you.” He replied.
I didn’t ask how he knew about groundhogs in heat.

Today, I found these in my mail box….
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With this note…
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It reads: Sorry I scared you, so much so you hit me on the head with a Lightsaber.  Good arm, however.
Stay strong lady.
Your friendly neighbor!

P.S. Got you these. We cool?

Yeah, we cool.

How retail made me the worst person.

Last week, I had the pleasure of listening to a person tell me that they would like to work retail because, “it looks easy”… They even did the hand air quotations! Before I laughed in their face, I stabbed them with a fork. Just kidding, that’s psychic and I’m not their; yet. The thing is, it’s not. Retail is a soul sucking, take all, give me your first born type of job. I didn’t hop and skip my way into retail willingly, I needed a job after my first job shut the doors FOR-EV-ER. I’m still in the business, nine years later and I’ve gotten worse.
Before retail, I saw the good in everybody, no one could do wrong and if they did, I’d like to think they’d get up and do well after. I use to enjoy weekends off, run down hills like Laura Ingalls, pick daisies, enjoy Thanksgiving and Christmas. I do none of those things any more, rather I dislike humans and nurse a glass of whiskey every night. When I began this wondrous journey of retail, I didn’t think I’d still be in it; but alas I am. Nothing surprises me any more, I think the last time I was surprised by what a customer said, was when he came up to me and said; “someone crapped down your aisle.” Sure enough, someone did indeed crap in my aisle… Someone walked and pooped at the same time… Pooped.

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Now I know what you may be thinking; “why doesn’t she get a new job?”  I’ve already tired that avenue, and the problem is simple. I like the company I work for, Shoe Carnival is truly the best company I’ve worked for in my short retail span. Old Navy was meh, even though one manager was slightly crazy and how I found out I was loosing my job with Steve & Berry’s was instead of the company telling us, the company in which we called to fill our vending machines said; “Uh, this store is closing right?….”

Working with great people help that as well. The peeps I work with are a mixed bag of interesting, boss looks just like Simon Pegg and the laugh out loud type.  Plus, let’s be real.. The pay is choice and the benefits for my heath is rad. But it is because of these crazies that I get through my day a little better, mainly because we all agree on one thing… People are the worst.

 

I’ve painfully tired to understand people and why they think it’s okay to leave out 50 shoes,  have the balls to walk up with a smile and say, “I didn’t want those.”  I’ve tired to understand all the stupid jokes they seem to think I’ve never heard before, “my card isn’t scanning…. I guess my shoes are free!” I’ve tired to understand all of the dumb questions I get asked everyday, one in particular is about our BOGO… I guess people forego reading the sign, that’s right in front of their face.   The worst thing someone has ever said to me, (and I’ve told some), was just last year on Thanksgiving day. Lady came up to me with a sad face and said, “I really hate that you all have to work and miss your families.”  Inside my mind exploded with full anger, almost to the point of having aneurysm…

I could go on and on, for those who are friends with me on Facebook get the random status from me on which these random situations happen.  Honestly it’s because of those everyday situations, that I truly do dislike humans. I’m quick to an angry attitude, I’m way to sarcastic for my own good, I’ve perfected the fake laugh, I sigh the minute I hear someone yell, “help!?”, and I look at the people shopping in my store and wonder how on earth they think it’s okay to be rude, messy and lazy.  What has happen to you humans?  Is it because I’m just working in retail,  that automatically makes me garbage? What is it? Why?

Now I can pretty much read your mind while reading this, “man, she must be crap at customer service.”  False.  I may mentally curse and wish death upon all, but outwardly I’ll charm the pants off you.  I will make sure you find the right shoes, you’ll leave satisfied and will want to come back because of that excellent service! (that’s what she said)  Yeah, people will yell at me, tell me I’m an idiot and proceeded to say they should get what they want…  But I’ll always make sure to let you, the customer speak your mind, all the while I’ll make sure to have my mouth slightly open and a ‘bored’ look upon my face. Or maybe this face….

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But once you turn your back…

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On the flip side, every once in a while I will get a sweet, nice and the most loveliest customer ever.  When that does happen I almost want to give them a free pair of shoes and take them out for a steak dinner!  It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it seriously makes my day.

In the end retail has changed me, it’s given me talents along the way and I get to be apart of people’s lives I never thought possible.  I’m a black belt at folding shirts (without the shirt folder!), I’ve become friends with a wide variety of people and I’ve taken that next step into my management career.  Yes, retail sucks the life out of me and I’m fairly certain I’ll have to give my first born to Shoe Carnival…  But, I can say with full honesty after all that being said, working retail is the most satisfying way to see how much people has changed over the years and it’s also the kind of job that I love to hate.

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Hippie weirdo.

A strange occurrence happened in Kansas, we had a spring! It was a tiny one, granted, but I’m still counting it and yet that didn’t stop the blasted, hateful, annoying, and worst hair stylist trademark of my state… The wind.   Even though a mighty wind was a blowin’, I took any opportunity to go out and walk around a park or find a new one! Literally, I found one, that I’m pretty sure your not to go to.. Ah well, have to find some kind of adventure in Wichita.

On one such walk, I went to a park/disc golf course that is very close to my house. If your not a local, mind your head.. If you are a local,  make sure to know who threw their disc in the most whimsical way possible.  After one hit me square on the head, that seemingly came from the sky, I yelled: “OUCH!” Soon followed by, (thanks to Jeff Goldblum in Life Aquatic): “I’m so pissed, I want to spit.”  All the things I wanted to say soon vanished, when out comes a little boy from behind a tree saying sorry over and over. I couldn’t stay mad, but my head was angry the rest of my walk.  Continuing my little walk through the little path, I took pictures here and there.  While taking a picture of some leafs, a group of high school boys were walking up towards me.  Basically I knew what was going to happen next…

Boy: “Hey you hippie weirdo. What do you think your doing?”

His friends laugh.

I just thought, much like my quote from Life Aquatic, he just took something Louis C.K once said in a joke. So.. Not original.

Me: “Um.. It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it. I have a camera in my hand and I’m taking a picture…How does that exactly make me a ‘hippie weirdo’?”
Boy: “Yeah, well your taking a picture of some dumb leafs.”
Me: “Good come back , man.”

He and his friends laugh, high five and then walk away. It’s adorable.

Here are some of my hippie weirdo photos I took. Hope you enjoy.

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A short story.

Thomas.
By. Cassie Stephens

Downtown is the heart of any city, busy and full of life. As a photographer it’s where you end up. There, you’ll always get that one picture that captures this small Midwestern town. Like I mentioned it’s where you end up and as do I almost everyday. I walk the same sidewalk on the right side. Everyday right in front of that old thrift store sits a man on a bench, just staring out towards the street like he’s waiting on something. After seeing this day after day I finally got the courage to go over to him. What I didn’t expect was for him to tell me his life story.

“Sir? Excuse me sir, may I sit here?”
After a long pause he finally talked never looking in my direction. “Why are you asking me? It’s the city’s.”
“You have a point, but I just wanted to ask if that’s alright with you.”
Smiling he said, “It’s alright.” Looking in the same direction like he always does he continued, “I’ve seen you out here before, but you usually have a camera. What happened? All out of ideas or do you have something else in store?”

I sat there in silence looking at him while he still continued to look in the other direction, nothing changed for him I thought. No matter who talks to him or what distracts him, he will never stop staring in the direction of the street.

“Well sir….”
“Thomas, my name is Thomas. You can stop with this sir business.”
“Okay… Thomas I always see you sitting here and wondered why.”
Chuckling a little bit he smiled from the side of his face. “Waiting.”

“May I ask on what?”
Finally turning to look at me he gave me this look like I should have known already. Looking into his eyes for the first time scared me. They were haunting and dark. What seemed like hours of just us staring at one another, he turned back around muttering, “My ride.”
Confused by his answer I pressed on, “Your ride? So you’re waiting for your ride…From whom?”
“What is your name?” he asked, ignoring my question completely.
“Julie.”
“Well Julie, you may know this but I’m homeless. I have nothing to hope for, gave that up years ago. What hope I have left resigns in a ride that I have been waiting for…”
He paused for a minute and I stayed quiet giving him time to collect his thoughts.
“Nearly twenty years now. Sitting and waiting, growing old, rain or shine…”
He kept talking but I didn’t understand him, he mumbled and talked quietly after that. But it didn’t add up. How can one wait on something for twenty years? He didn’t look that old.
“I’m seventy by the way.” And it appears he can also read minds.
“Why have you waited for so long? I mean whoever you’re waiting for isn’t coming back.”
“Yes they will!” Getting upset he continued. “A promise is a promise. She said she would come back!”
“So you’re waiting on a she? Well one mystery solved.” Ignoring my last comment he asked for the time, I told him it was seven o’ clock. He got up and stared to walk off.
Getting up too I asked, “Where are you going?”
“Home” was all he said and continued to walk off.

The next day I went back to the bench to finish my conversation with Thomas. The bench was empty. I did this for a week and the result was the same. Going back the next day I hoped he would be there. Turning the corner on the sidewalk I looked up and like he’d never left sat Thomas. Growing with excitement I walked towards him and without saying a word to him I sat down next to him.

“What, not asking now?”
“It’s the city’s.”
Smirking he said, “Right you are.” We didn’t talk for a while, a part of me wanted to ask where he was but I also had the feeling he knew I was going to ask it. Still I wanted to know.
“So… Where were you last week?”
“The she I was referring to last week is my wife, Ellie is her name. We met at a barn dance in Arkansas. I fell in love with her that night, one beautiful lady.”
“That’s sweet Thomas, and do you have a habit of ignoring my questions? Or is that just me?”
“Just you Julie, I never ignore just some things are better left unsaid.” Glancing at me for a moment he turned around again looking the opposite way. I just sat there in silence remembering his eyes again, they no longer scared me.

“We married the next month, yes we were in a hurry but in love. Also very young…Sixteen. All a blur now, but we had five kids, three boys two girls. Beautiful children. All got her good looks.” Saying with a proud smile across his face he continued. “We lived in Benton Arkansas forever, perfect spot for fishing. I love fishing, do you?”
Not letting me answer he kept talking like I wasn’t even there. “That’s how he died, my oldest son Thomas Jr. he fell in the lake, such a wonderful boy…But horrible swimmer. Never got around to teach him, I went in after him but it was to late. He was ten. That left Ellie depressed for a while, so we moved away to here. And here is where we stayed.” Thinking that would be all he sucked in a breath and went on, never once looking at me. “Ellie got better over time and we were happy, good jobs and good kids. Never once did they get in trouble. Ellie found God a little later… Have you found God?”
I was so transfixed on his story looking out into the street I didn’t know he even asked me a question. Shaken from my stare I looked over at him and he was staring at me and started to ask again. Before he could finish his question again I answered.
“Yes I have.”

Still looking at me he smiled and his eyes changed. They no longer were dark but sad. “Good. Good for you, I’m still looking for Him, but I think I’m close. I wish I could find Him right now and ask one question. Why did you let my little girl die?” Still looking at me I noticed after he said that a single tear rolled down his cheek. Wiping his face he turned his face away from me and I wanted to tell him not to blame God, but he started talking again. “Ellie never got depressed or mad. She never questioned God like I did, she knew Mary was going to be okay and pain free. Mary my youngest got sick one year with some fever, never got better just dying everyday.” At this more tears were going down his face. Wiping them away with his dirty hands he sucked in another breath. “Hell, maybe she is better off.”

The rest of that afternoon I heard his life story. How his other kids grew up, went to college, got married and how he himself is a proud grandfather. But one thing still puzzled me. What happened to his wife? Throughout his entire story he never mentioned how or what happened to her, I even tried to ask him once in a while. Yet all he said was she was coming for him, which then led to other questions in my head. Did she leave him? How did he become homeless? Is he crazy? But the answers to my questions would have to wait. It was getting late, I got up to leave and turned to Thomas.
“Well thank you for a lovely day of story telling, maybe I can hear more later?” Waiting for a response from him lead to minutes felt like hours at times. Never turning towards me just kept on staring out into that same direction, he never said anything to me. Growing impatient I finally spoke.
“Okay then, have a good night see you later.”

As I turned to walk towards my car I could have sworn I heard him mumble something, but I’ll never know what. Life for me got pretty busy after that day. New job and new responsibilities kept me from going back to the corner bench, to see Thomas. A month later I went back to his spot to see if he was there, he wasn’t. Walking over I sat down and just stared in the same direction he always did when I met him. I sat there silent and looking on as the time passed, I don’t know how long I sat there till I heard someone from behind me asked if they could sit down.
“It’s the city’s, why are you asking me?” I replied dryly without looking at the person.
“My husband said the same thing.”
“What?!?” Turning to look at the person sat a very beautiful woman. She looked content with life, aging very well and her eyes spoke for her at times.
“Your husband?” I finally said after staring at her.
“Yes dear, my husband. You act as if that is impossible.” She said smirking.
“Well actually I do because I met a guy…”
“Thomas?” Asking me but she knew the answer already, so she continued.
“Thomas, a great man. Died too young though, been twenty years now.”
Shocked by her statement I didn’t believe it, I just saw him last month! Asking her nicely if we were talking about the same man, she simply replied with a yes. Getting upset I went on.

“Ma’am I mean absolutely no disrespect to you, but last month I saw him, there is no way he is dead! In fact he has been waiting for you! How come you never came back? Where did you go anyway? Assuming you are in fact the real wife of Thomas!” Stopping finally to catch my breath, I looked over at the woman. She sat there staring at me and started to smile. Giving me a wink she began to talk.

“Thomas my husband was a brilliant man, he would be 70. He would do anything for anybody, pleasant and caring also very stubborn. But when our first child died, something inside him died that day too. Years later when our youngest died, he went with her. I knew a better plan was going to happen to me and the rest of our children. I’m Ellie by the way…”
“So wait…You’re really Ellie? The same Ellie Thomas was telling me about just last month. So you’re lying to me because how could he have possibly told me if he was dead.”

Anger was growing inside my body to the point of me starting to shake, how could this lady just come up to me and tell me some lie. Not wanting to hear anymore I started to get up to leave, but she reached out and lightly grabbed my hand. Looking down, her eyes calmed me, I then felt something I haven’t felt in years, peace and trust.

“My dear you didn’t let me finish, may I finish my story so you will better understand?”
Sitting back down I nodded my head. Still holding onto my hand she continued looking at me.
“Our story continues, everything he told you is what he knows. You see he did die, actually we all died a week after our youngest died, car accident. But he was so stubborn and my children and I knew God, so now he thinks we are coming to get him. When in fact we are waiting for him.” Signing she looked away from me for a moment.

I was confused, I’m sure my faced showed it. No longer able to stay silent I asked the one question anyone else would have asked.
“So does this mean I’ve been talking to a ghost and now another?
Smirking she turned her head to look at me again.
“Sweetheart you’re talking to me because you’re stubborn too. You’re like Thomas..”
“I’m sorry to interrupt, but I’m not following you. How can I be like Thomas?”
“You didn’t let me finish again. You have a thing for that. My dear, you are dead too.”

Letting go of her hand I stood up quickly. I wasn’t scared just shocked, looking down at Ellie she gave me a comforting smile. She stood to looking in the distance, and began to speak.
“So tell me, who are you waiting for?”