• Welcome to the Barefoot ME Photography Blog!

    Hi! I am Mary-Evelyn Starnes and you have found my photography blog. I keep busy trying to do a good job as mother, wife, homemaker, cpa and portrait photographer. Hobbies like gardening, cooking, reading and following football fill in the little time that’s left. Still, there’s a part of me that’s just me and that part doesn’t want to be squeezed out by my over-filled schedule. That part loves Wonder Woman, cheese, commercials with chimpanzees, listening to Dire Straits and Queen (which I can’t explain) and soaking in the sun on a hot day. That part of me can’t stand doing laundry, has never enjoyed January through March, and absolutely despises wearing shoes. Let’s call that part of me “Barefoot M-E”. This is her blog.

    No matter how many hats I wear or roles I play, one constant is photography. Nothing gives me more pleasure than taking pictures of the other things in life that give me pleasure. Truly, for me, no task is completed, no event is enjoyed, no destination is visited, no laughter is shared without an accompanying urge to snap it and save it. This blog is where I hope to share the fruits of my photography passion. It will do a few other things, too. If you are a friend or family member, the blog will be a window for you to peek into our home and check in on our family. If you are considering booking me for a portrait session, it will show you my shooting style and ability. Please click on the “Contact” tab for information about booking a session.

    Thanks for stopping by! Enjoy!

Harbor Island 2013

We returned to Harbor Island this summer – maybe the twelfth year for me, and possibly the thirtieth for Andy.  And the kids are racking up the years there too.  It’s fun to see how that area is becoming familiar and home-like to them as it is to us.   We spent long days on the beach, flew kites, went crabbing, played in the waves and went up the lighthouse on Hunting Island, had shrimpburgers at the shrimp shack, cooked shrimp every which way, rode bikes, watched the Brady Bunch, Little House on the Prairie and the A-Team when we retreated back to the house, and took long walks (the kids ran) on the beach after dinner.  A great trip but, as always, over too quickly.

I’m graduating from preschool!

You just read that and thought, “Man, is Mary-Evelyn self-absorbed or what?  She keeps taking her kids’ milestones and making them about herself.”  (See the First Communion post.)  But let me tell you why this really is more about me than about Woody.  By the time Woody finishes kindergarten next year, preschool will be but a fuzzy memory to him.  He’ll remember a few favorite friends and teachers by name for a while although their faces will start to fade.  A few moments might stick with him for many years; a voice might stir a memory of a teacher, a song he hears will be familiar and his mind will reach for a memory just beyond his consciousness’s grasp.


I have one memory left of preschool.  It’s just a blurred image of nothing really but it had to do with getting an art project out of the kiln.  Maybe it was one of the Christmas ornaments that I still have from preschool, dated when I was two or three years old.  Those ornaments started out as memories of something now long forgotten but morphed into new memories during all those childhood Christmases of which they were a part.  The nostalgia is now there because this is a thing I made, a part of me, that has been here through it all, even though I have no memory of its inception.  Maybe it was that ornament coming out of the kiln that I remember.  But it could as easily have been an ashtray.  (We used to make those for our parents back then, remember?)


This period of Woody’s life, and his graduation from it, will be as unmemorable to him as his infancy or toddlerhood.  Not to say that it hasn’t mattered.  The loving environment of his preschool, the amazing teachers he had and the friendships he has made have molded him, no doubt for the better, into the person he is now.  It’s been such a major part of his life that I can’t begin to imagine how different Woody would be had it not been.


But I digress.  This post is not about Woody.  It’s about me.  I first walked into St Catherine’s preschool in February of 2006 to register Ella Kathryn for the one’s class the following year.  She was six months old that day – once I marked my place in line, I had to go out to the car to nurse her.  The ones class only had a few openings and we got put on the waiting list.  About two weeks before school started I got a call that someone had dropped out.  We were in for two days a week.  It’s hard to remember how I felt that first year.  I remember being amazed by how big the older kids in the school were.  The moms of the older kids got to pick them up at car pool in the afternoons.  Ella Kathryn couldn’t even walk when she started at St. Cat’s so I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept that one day the teachers would just throw the kid in my car and off I’d go.  My dear friend Teri  was an “experienced” preschool mom, with one year on me.  I basically followed her around and did what she did.  I loved preschool.  Ella Kathryn did too.  The next year I signed her up for three days a week, the next two years after that she went for five.


Now Woody has gone for four years too.  Seven years in all for me.  Between dropping off and picking up for the past seven years, I figure I have driven Robinson Road over five thousand times.  (That’s not even an exaggeration- I just did the math and don’t forget I am a CPA.)    And of course I have made a few observations along the way.  The first one that comes to mind is that women really are awful drivers.  It pains me to say it but, as a group, it’s true.  I bet if you’ve ever spent any amount of time in a preschool parking lot the same thought has occurred to you.  I mean, ladies – when backing out your minivan or Suburban you MUST begin to turn BEFORE your car is all the way out of the parking spot if you want to avoid a fifteen point turn.  I better stop on this tangent before I really get going.


An equally pithy observation to make is that there are different “types” of preschool moms.   There are “cute moms” that are fit and wear makeup and have coordinating clothes with no snot or spit-up on them.  There are “work-out moms” who come to drop off ready to hit the gym or the boot camp or whatever.  They are also fit and wear dry fit clothes and matching visors.  Then there are the “frumpy moms.”  Frumpy moms can be fit, but aren’t always.  They don’t wear makeup and their clothes, while they could be exercised in, were probably chosen because of the elastic waistband or because the baby is just going to barf on them anyway.  Once I made these observations, I decided that I definitely did NOT want to be a frumpy mom.  I really wanted to be like the cute moms that I knew.  For a while, I made an effort to shower and at least put on mascara before going in to school.  Then, after Woody was born and it took forever to get my terrible two EK dressed, I wouldn’t shower but I might put on my running shorts, tennis shoes and a hat to give the illusion of being a work-out mom.  And the last few years, well, the last few years have been mostly frumpy mom years with an occasional cute mom attempt and many genuine work-out mom days thrown in for good measure.  After seven years I am now comfortable just coming as I am that day or that season of life, frumpy or cute, made up or not showered.  And what I have come to realize is that all of us fit in all of these categories during our time as preschool moms.  That’s one thing that has been so neat for me over the years – to watch other moms going through the same things I was going through or would go through.  Now when I roll in to pick Woody up at carpool, I often have to stop as some two-year-old darts out into the street, his mother right behind him with a baby, yanking the kid back.  It seems like that was me yesterday and at the same time forever ago.


Preschool teachers must be wired differently- they have to be to choose to spend their hours with preschoolers.  But very few of them were what I imagined preschool teachers to be like  – I suppose I thought they would be some mix of Mrs. Claus, Julie the Cruise Director and Mother Theresa.  Instead, they are all just wonderful women who have such special gifts.  Miss Angela and Miss Suzanne continue to stick it out in the One’s class, definitely the job for a very special person. Sometimes the sounds and smells coming out of that classroom were enough to send me running for the door.  Miss Pat took on both of my kids as “Young 2’s”.  She had to make Ella Kathryn understand that you have to keep your shoes on at school.  She tried to keep Woody from eating sand and wood chips on the playground.  Miss Deanna and Miss Candy were probably my favorite teachers to talk to at a time when motherhood was really getting difficult.   One morning I literally carried Ella Kathryn in kicking and screaming in one arm while holding Woody in his carrier in the other.  She was having a tantrum over who-knows-what and I was literally at the end of my rope.  Miss Deanna saw me coming, met me at the door, grabbed Ella Kathryn and said, “It’s OK now, I’ve got her.  See you in a few hours.”  When Woody hit the 3’s he got Miss Dianne.  If I’ve met one person who embodies love, it’s Miss Dianne.  She’s been loving on kids for a long time and I am so very glad that Woody was one of them.  Ella Kathryn needs structure but also a lot of love in the classroom and that’s what she got with Miss Lisa in pre-k and it really helped prepare her for kindergarten.  Woody needed someone to prepare him as well and that person was Miss Cathy, “The Boy Whisperer” as she is called.  I think Miss Cathy was the first woman that didn’t melt when Woody flashed his $20 smile.  It was a shock to him but just what he needed.   It’s a God-thing, I think.  I look back today and realize that not only did my kids get exactly who they needed, but I did, too.  There are so many others too – Karolyn, Lynne, Barbie, Lyn, Christie, Tiffany, Page, Patsy, Anita, Carrie, Beth – I wish I could better put it in words what they haven meant to us.


I’ve done all the preschool mom things.  I’ve made the peanut-free lunches.  I packed “book bags” with diapers labeled “EK” and “Woody” and later bags with a change of underpants, just in case.  I drew Elmo on EK’s brown lunch bag every day until I finally bought a Sesame Street lunch bag that we then used for years.  I’ve been mystery reader.  I’ve supplied snacks for the snack bags, items for the preschool auction basket, “side items” for the thanksgiving “feasts”.  I’ve worked with other moms to throw holiday parties and end-of year parties for kids much too young to appreciate that the cookie snack was on-theme and homemade.  I’ve ponied up $5 here and $10 there for various collections.  I’ve signed permission slips for all kinds of things – the most unusual was to have Woody’s head inspected for lice when it was going around his class.  (BTW, I bet every teacher and parent in that class had their money on Woody as the culprit but he came out of the inspection with a clean scalp.)  The top right corner of my dashboard has had the number 85 taped to it for five years.  I’ve watched two Valentine’s shows (I‘M A  GREAT BIG VALENTINE FOR YOU!), two Mother’s Day shows (“there was a kid at St Catherine’s who loved a special person –M-O-M-M-Y, M-O-M-M-Y,  M-O-M-M-Y,  and Mommy was her name-o.”) and four Christmas shows.  I think I can tell you the order of the Christmas show songs and even the remarks that the principal makes before each song right off the top of my head.  But somehow I enjoy the show exponentially more every time I see it.  We always have punch and cookies in the Parrish Hall afterwards.  (After one performance, Woody told me we were going to punch some cookies.)


I made some friends at preschool and got to know some existing friends better.  The moms in Ella Kathryn’s two-year-old class were great and we would often go to the park after school.  Most of them had older kids and I would just soak up what they told me like words from a guru.  By about four years in, I felt like I knew everyone at school, if not by name then by face or child’s name.  Sometimes after dropping Woody off in the morning, I wouldn’t get home until after 10 because I had stood in the parking lot chatting.  I bet over these last seven years, especially before Ella Kathryn started elementary school, if you took away the interactions I had with the moms and teachers at preschool, there would be days at a time when I didn’t speak in person to anyone besides the kids and Andy.


But this year Senioritis set in big time.  On the first day of school I drove in and thought “man, there are a lot of nannies dropping these kids off.”  Then I realized that what I thought were nannies were just young mothers.  Did I look that fresh-faced seven years ago?  I don’t know what happened but I blinked and all of the sudden I didn’t know everyone again.  It was the same way with my sorority in college – I went from knowing everyone as a junior to no one when I was on the way out.  But it made the friendships I still had there more important and instead of meeting the new people, I just concentrated on enjoying the old friends while we were still together.


And that’s how this feels.  Bittersweet, just like any other graduation.  Like a senior in high school, I have an almost irrepressible urge to jump up and down because the parts I didn’t love are almost over and exciting things are coming.  And I know it’s time –I haven’t really even been a “preschool mom” for a while, but instead a clumsily balanced “mom of elementary and preschool kids”.  But there’s a sadness there.  I love the teachers here and I love my pals and I know that even if I see them in the future, the nature of our relationship will be changed.  There’s such a sweetness about preschool, too.  Woody climbing into the car, smelling of kid-sweat, with marker on his shirt and streaks of Cheetos orange on his cheeks, insisting on showing me his art (while I steal a peanut-butter-and-jelly kiss) before buckling his seatbelt.  The hour before and after school when it’s just the two of us will be coming to an end, as well.  I am so excited for the change and space that may come when both of the kids are in school for a full day.  But, I wonder, when 1pm rolls around next fall, will I start to get up from my desk and grab my phone before realizing that I don’t have to drive down Robinson Rd again?   I wonder if I’ll feel a little tug of nostalgia when I realize I don’t have to go.  Or maybe I’ll just laugh hysterically.  I’ll let ya know.


Until then, feel free to congratulate the graduate.  I made it!

Lesley SMay 14, 2013 - 3:52 am

ME, love this post. I can so relate. I feel exactly the same way. Knew everyone when Caroline was there and embraced being a preschool mom. Chip was a whole different story. Teachers were just as loving and wonderful. I was just at a different stage in my life. I’m sure going to miss it though….L 🙂

First Communion

I realize I am not Catholic anymore.  Actually, that statement itself is totally false.  The truth is, I am not a practicing Catholic anymore.  Whether I am actually Catholic or whether I realize that I am not, is another thing.  Pat Conroy once wrote that you can no more be an ex-Catholic than you can be an ex-Oriental.  I have thought back on that quote so many times over the years.  Then again, he uses the word “Oriental” so you be the judge of whether you take him seriously.  I haven’t practiced Catholicism in about twenty years and, when I look back, I don’t remember ever enjoying being a Catholic the way I enjoy being a part of my current church community.  Still, there are times that I miss it.  On tough days, I imagine sneaking into a Catholic church, dark and cool and quiet, sliding into a pew, and quietly pulling down the kneeler.  I am not sure there are a lot of Catholic churches that fit that description anymore but the point is that I miss having a place to go to pray.  I miss confession.  I hated it as a kid but I think I would eat that up as an adult.  To be able to just spill it all out to an actual person and walk away lighter – well, prayers of confession just don’t do that for me.  I miss Good Friday in the church.  And Ash Wednesday.  No one else does incense and light and song together to such effect.  And I miss the sacraments being miracles.  In the “Reformed Tradition” (which I currently am a part of but I am not entirely sure what it means), the few sacraments that we do are symbolic.  I get it from a theology standpoint.  But the Catholic in me longs for the miracles of sin being removed at baptism, of transubstantiation of the Eucharist, you get the picture.


One thing is for sure.  My kids and husband are all dyed in the wool protestants.  And I have never wanted anything else for our family.  But old habits die hard and old traditions, too.  When Ella Kathryn took her first communion this week at church as part of a first communion class she has been attending, my heart felt broken and filled at the same time.  There she was in her school play clothes, hair everywhere, and I was so happy that she was where she was, physically and spiritually.  But I was still sad for me and my mom and for the fact that the tradition of Catholic first communions in our families has ended.  To ease the transition, I figured they won’t kick me out of my church if I act just a little bit Catholic this week.  I ordered some first communion prayer cards to commemorate the event – I now have one for Ella Kathryn’s first communion as well as for myself, my mom, my grandmother (whose is beautiful and aged and in French).  And I asked Ella Kathryn to humor me and try on my first communion dress.  I wore it thirty years ago and my mother and aunt wore it before me.  The dress is the same in the pictures below – maybe a little family resemblance, too.

Sara DilworthApril 25, 2013 - 5:27 pm

Wow, M-E, what a beautiful post. Although I grew up Protestant, I went to Catholic school for 6 years so I get the beautiful mystery of Catholicism and the magic of the First Holy Communion. Oh, the “veil envy” I experienced in 2nd grade when all my Catholic girlfriends got to dress up!

One question: why are you wearing a brown curly wig in that one picture of you in the red dress?

adminApril 27, 2013 - 4:11 pm

Hah! I “slightly” resemble my mom, right? Have you ever seen my sister? We’ve gotten mistaken for twins!

JanMay 1, 2013 - 8:13 pm

Beautiful post. We (my husband and I) also are no longer a part of the Catholic church. I have similar feelings about not feeling the fulfillment that I do now in the Anglican church.( I know, I didn’t move far belief wise !) Part of not feeling fulfilled may have had something to do with keeping 4 children quiet and occupied in the back pew!! I personally DO NOT miss confession and feel that I do a better job keeping it between God and me.
Thanks for such a thought provoking post.

vicki scottMay 5, 2013 - 9:20 pm

Gail – loved this! Being that I,ve been Catholic since birth, have attended catholic schools from kindergarten thru college & still belong to st thomas more here in
Chapel Hill, I love the tradition & spirit that holds me securely there! This was a
lovely of faith – yours – and really there is only one God for us all! Thank you for
sharing your thoughts! Vicki

Beth Auman VisserMay 9, 2013 - 1:37 am

Wow, thank you for including me in this post, Gail. I feel like I shared a very intimate moment in your life. I LOVE the pictures and I too love faith traditions. Thank you!

Happy Birthday, Woody!


Woody turned FIVE today!  It seriously feels like it was just a month or two ago when I wrote about him on his fourth birthday.  There are so many things I could write about but I think I will limit my comments to two new Woody developments: Star Wars and Oedipus complex.


Let’s start with the Oedipus complex.  According to google, its totally normal for a boy of Woody’s age to   be, shall we say, infatuated with his mother and resentful of his father.  I’ll give you some examples:


Woody, recently:  Mommy, do you know who the greatest super hero is?

Me: Superman?

W: No, you!

Me: Ahh, thanks but Im not a super hero, just a mommy.

Woody: You’re the superhero of love.


Then a few days later he says…

Do you know what your super powers are?

Kissing, loving, hugging and cuddling


How bout this one…When we say our blessing before dinner, we end by each person at the table saying one thing they are thankful for and one person they ask God to bless.  The other night this was Woody’s: “I am thankful for that I love Mommy and I hope God will bless me loving Mommy.”


Woody is my defender and protector.  When the three of us race to do something, he intentionally comes in last so that I don’t.  Or even if he beats me he will declare that I have won.  He gets upset if he perceives someone else doing something that hurts me or even touches me and he throws himself in front of me.  A few nights ago at bedtime Andy pointed a nerf gun at me.  Woody cried out and put himself between me and Andy.  When Andy told him that he didnt have to protect me from him, Woody said he did have to because “Mommy is my love.”


Another day we were making a family sandwich.  You know how it works, Andy lays down and is the bread, I plop on top of him to be the meat.  Ella Kathryn, giggling, gets on top of me to be the cheese and then Woody sees what’s going on.   All laughing, we tell Woody to come pile on and be the top piece of bread.  Instead, all of the sudden Ella Kathryn cries out and is lifted off of me by Woody who apparently now has the strength of the Incredible Hulk, or Incredible Hawk as Woody calls him.  Talk about ruining the fun family moment.  A few minutes later, I told Woody that it’s OK if we make a family sandwich and that he doesn’t have to worry about anyone in our family hurting me or touching me.  He said, “It’s not OK, I have to PROTECT YOU!”  I have to admit, I have always liked the chivalrous, over-protective type, so it was hard for me to argue with him.   Especially when later that night I got this sweetness:  I am tucking him into bed and he sits up and gives me a tender hug and kiss, both unsolicited.  Then he says, “Do you know what I was doing?  I was showing you God’s love.  That’s how you do it, right?”  I tell you, he’s hard to argue with.


As for my second topic, Star Wars has gone from being a passing interest to a borderline obsession.  The kids have watched the original Star Wars movie multiple times and for family movie nights over the last year we have also watched episodes 5, 6 and, sigh, 1.  We’ve also added to the Star Wars toys with a “Darf” Vader action figure, a couple costumes, a couple light sabers and a blaster.  Woody loves to play Angry Birds Star Wars and that game gives him a lot of exposure to the  characters and locations.  All of these things combined have resulted in a little boy who goes through his days imagining all kinds of Star Wars situations, all while humming his own soundtrack.  Mostly he goes around singing the Darth Vader “duh duh duh duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh” song but he also mixes in the main Star Wars theme as well as sometimes the HeMan and Superman tunes.


As Woody’s birthday approached, it was obvious to me that his party should be a Star Wars theme.  He and I considered some great ideas courtesy of pinterest.  Woody got really excited about his party and then all of the sudden declared that he didnt want a party at all.  After some prodding he explained that he wanted to do all of the party activities we had planned but just not with all of his classmates.  Apparently he has one buddy at school who also shares his love of Star Wars and he wanted to limit the fun to this one boy.  I guess he figured that none of the other kids could fully appreciate the Star Wars stuff.  So, despite the fact that I had already designed the invitation and purchased a box of Star Wars party supplies, we decided to have a Star Wars birthday playdate instead of a party.  Woody’s friend Chip came over and they had a big time.  Sometimes they dressed up as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader and had light saber battles, sometimes they both were good guys fighting imaginary bad guys, and sometimes they were bad guys fighting imaginiary good guys.  They ran through the house fully entertaining themselves all the while singing duh duh duh duh-duh-duh duh-duh-duh.  They had lunch followed by Star Wars cookies and wrapped it up with a few games of Angry Birds Star Wars. A good day.


As we decided not to have a party and instead settled on plans for the play date, I said something about how it’s too bad that we weren’t having the party because I had bought all that stuff including a Princess Leia costume for me to wear.  Woody took both of my hands in his and looked solemnly into my eyes.  He said, “Maybe you could dress up like Princess Leia and I could, like, marry you, …just to pretend.  But we wouldn’t do it during the play date or the party. Maybe tomorrow?”


Like I said, I’ve read that this is normal so I am not worried.  But Andy probably should be.