Student Art Exhibition

Art, Photography

Lewis and Clark Community College’s 16th Annual Student Art Exhibition launched last Friday, and three of my pieces were accepted into the juried show. I didn’t win any prizes, but as my first time being a part of an artist’s exhibition, I am so proud to have my work represented.

Look Beyond
“Look Beyond,” Laura Inlow, Expired Lomography Film, 8×10”
Hair
“Hair,” Laura Inlow, Gelatin Silver Print, Satin Finish, 8×10”
Golden Hour
“Golden Hour,” Laura Inlow, Expired Film, Halo-Chrome, Gelatin Silver Print, 8×10”

Check out the entire show at www.lc.edu/art-student.

Alton City Cemetery Pt. 1: Elijah P. Lovejoy

Life, Photography

I grew up hearing about Elijah P. Lovejoy. I guess that’s because I’m from the Riverbend area.

When I got to journalism school at Eastern Illinois University, I was astounded that no one had heard of him. I get that the average Chicagoan was unlikely to know a lot about the town of Alton, but surely they had heard of this abolitionist, who was, after all, a journalist like themselves. Not so much, apparently.

We were on an Opinion Writing field trip to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 2005/2006 when I took several friends on a detour on our way back to Charleston, Illinois. We sat in Robert Wadlow’s chair and visited the Lovejoy Monument, as I had done many times before. But I’d never wandered into the Alton City Cemetery, though, until just recently.

I started at the 110-foot monument, designed by architect R. P. Bringhurst. It was erected in 1897 to honor the memory of Lovejoy, who was the editor of The Alton Observer until his death in 1837, a day before his 35th birthday. Carved near the statue, a quote,

 “I have sworn eternal opposition to slavery, and by the blessing of God, I will never go back.

(Inscription on the Lovejoy Monument in Alton City Cemetery)

Before his death, pro-slavery advocates made a number of attacks on his printing press, trying to quiet the voice of the American abolitionist. Lovejoy was eventually shot and killed by a pro-slavery mob during one of those attacks. According to Wikipedia, he was originally buried in an unmarked grave until 1860, when local newspaper editor Thomas Dimmock located the grave and arranged for a proper marker. Some of his supporters are allegedly buried near him.

This March, I visited his actual gravesite for the first time, and photographed it for my film photography course. There was something special about being there. Today, Lovejoy is considered a martyr for the abolition movement and his gravesite is sacred, especially to a journalist like myself. Even though I no longer work in the field, it was an honor to stand there and reflect on my journey as well as the state of the world today.

Lovejoy’s impact is still a part of the Riverbend. The Telegraph, in Alton, where I worked as a reporter, page designer and web editor for three years right out of college, still bears the image of Lovejoy’s monument on its masthead. A local elementary school is named after him. The library where I studied at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville bears his name as well.

Still, the battle for racial and social justice is an uphill climb and a continuing battle in this community and beyond.

Spring is Coming

Life, Photography

One year ago today – not to the date, but to the day – on the Friday before Spring Break, college leaders met around a huge table in the Foundation Board room and discussed the threat of COVID-19. We would extend spring break by a week, long enough to allow faculty some time to revert their courses to a virtual format. We prepared to hunker down for a month or two, or possibly longer.

Well, we all know how that turned out. Exactly one year later, our community’s positivity metric has finally dipped below, and stayed below 5% for weeks, and there are three vaccines being deployed across the U.S. My dad gets his second Moderna shot on Monday. Mom and I will get our second Pfizer shot in about a week. My husband had the Johnson & Johnson shot, so one and done. And Amelia starts school five days a week on Monday.

The college is preparing to begin reopening, and it’s likely I’ll be back on campus this summer… definitely by August. This thing isn’t over yet, but the end feels like it might finally be in sight. And that’s good, because I’m exhausted. This year, I’m taking spring break off work. I’m going to spend 8 days with my kids and one in the darkroom.

As I settle in tonight to begin said vacation, I can hear the insects and other wildlife singing outside. Time “springs forward” tomorrow night. Spring is almost officially here.

Finding My Inner Artist

Photography

“I am good at a lot of things, but great at very few.” That’s what the voice inside my head always tells me. When it comes to my art, especially, I have a serious case of imposter syndrome. “I’m not good enough.” “Other people can do it better.” “It doesn’t speak to anyone but me.” “People who say they like it are just trying to please me.” “Why don’t more people like it?” The self-doubt runs rampant.

Yet, I feel the need to create. I’m a good writer, but I don’t have the attention span to maintain interest in a story long enough to write a novel. I love to paint and draw, but – and I’m not being self deprecating here, just honest – I don’t know what the heck I am doing with a paintbrush or a pencil. I am not tone deaf and have a pretty good ear for music, but my voice cannot carry a tune to match and I never successfully stuck with learning an instrument.

My one constant has been my love of photos. Nothing lasts forever, you see, except a photograph. It started with home photos, snapshots and selfies throughout my formative years – a way to remember the moments and the people who helped make me who I am today. I never took much stock in the quality of the photos or the process of creating them, but I documented everything so I would have it forever.

In college, I took the requisite visual communication classes for my journalism degree, and held my first DSLR in the student newsroom. I admired my friends on the photo staff and marveled at the way they portrayed the things that were happening around us. When I graduated, photography became a component of my job – but it was less about the process and more about the subject of the photos that went with the stories I wrote as a local journalist.

A photographer friend and mentor of mine used to tell me I had a good eye, and ever since then, I’ve worked to improve my camera skills so I could make the pictures I see in my head of the beauty in ordinary things and in the people I love that make my life worth living. I’m still learning, and I always will be.

After the crazy year that was 2020, I needed an outlet. In January 2021, I began taking a film photography class at Lewis and Clark Community College, and I fell in love. The hands-on process of taking a photo without the crutch of the digital screen, and the tactile process of developing the film, then enlarging, printing and perfecting the photos in the darkroom, fed a part of my soul that has been starving for a long time.

I can’t wait to keep creating.

Back from Photography Hiatus

Photography

Laura Inlow darkYears ago, I stepped away from client photography to concentrate on my full time job and having a family – but I never really left the photo life. It’s just that most of my work these days centers around Lewis and Clark Community College and my two beautiful girls <3.

I’ve grown a lot over the years, and my work speaks for itself. I feel more at home with a camera in my hand than ever, and I’m eager to continue sharing my work with others.

After 5+ years of finding my identity as a mommy, it’s time to get back to me just a little.

So I’m relaunching my Facebook page today under a new brand, and a new name – my own. I’m open to working with clients again on a limited basis, but mostly I just want to put my work out there and get back to doing something I love. Thank you for sharing in my journey.

Our Sugar Belle is Also Our Hippy Baby

Hip Dysplasia, Motherhood

I hoped that once pregnancy was over that things would be easier, and they totally are in many ways. (Still no diabetes, folks!) In other ways, we face new challenges as we continue to press on. It could always be worse.

The latest in our family’s saga is that sweet baby Violet has hip dysplasia.

The first thing people ask when they see her is, “what’s wrong with her legs?” The answer is, nothing – but her left hip socket is a little shallow, so she’s spending a total of 6 weeks in a Pavlik harness to correct a mild form of Developmental Dysplasia of the Hip (DDH). Some children have it so severely that their hips are dislocated, but luckily, she doesn’t have any of that, so we are hopeful that this will resolve easily.

It started when her pediatrician noticed a click in her hips at her one week well baby appointment and told us she’d be watching them at one month to screen for hip dysplasia. Many babies are born with some hip instability, but over time, it typically goes away. With hip dysplasia, a child may require treatment before this can happen. It’s a screen they do for every newborn baby because it’s one of those things that can be fixed fairly easily if caught early, but if gone undiagnosed,can cause trouble in early adolescence and adulthood.

The term was familiar to me, but I didn’t knew what a diagnosis would mean for us immediately. I remember, when Amelia was born, checking to see that the creases in her leg rolls were even – because if they aren’t, that can be a sign. But Amelia never had DDH, or at least it was never diagnosed if she did.

It didn’t even cross my mind this time. [I read far fewer books to prepare (none) than I did when I was a noob, and stayed off the baby forums.]

At one month, Vi’s clicky hip hadn’t resolved, so they sent us to St. Louis Children’s Hospital for an ultrasound to confirm their suspicions. I found out the next day from Vi’s pedi that we were being referred to a children’s orthopedist, and that she would likely need to wear the soft brace (Pavlik) for 2-3 months.

I cried. It seemed like the end of squishy newborn cuddles way before I was ready to let them go, and however silly (compared to much worse things a family can deal with), I needed to mourn.

At the ortho appointment, they actually gave us the option to not treat it because it was mild, and see if it would resolve on its own. However, he said the harness would give her the best chance at not experiencing future problems, so we dove right in.

We are on Week 3 of the harness, and halfway through as of today. She wears it 23/7, with an hour off after dinner every night for cuddles, stretching time, tummy time and a bath, if needed. Most of the time, she doesn’t seem to be bothered by it, and is not in any pain, but we can tell by the smiles and baby chatter during her hour off that it feels nice to be free. She’s a trooper who rarely complains (except when she’s starving and wants to nurse), and I’m so proud of her.

Ideally, the harness is holding her femur firmly in the hip socket while her bones and cartilage mature. We won’t know until we have her follow up ultrasound at 6 weeks (September 30) if it worked or if there are more steps we need to take. So, fingers crossed.

For any mom or dad or guardian beginning this journey, let me tell you – it’s a pain in the butt, but totally worth it to avoid hip pain and/or surgery in her teens or early adulthood. There is a slight risk of nerve damage if the angles aren’t right (some doctors will do the adjusting as the baby grows, but we have been instructed to do this ourselves). You’ll know if you get any time out of the brace (some don’t get an hour off at all) and she can’t move her legs, like one or both have fallen asleep. If that happens, it’s called femoral nerve palsy, and the harness has to be removed. It’s not very common though, so the risk is probably worth the reward.

Diaper changes can be difficult, having to tuck the tabs under the harness straps in the back. Sometimes the Velcro gets stuck to the harness itself. Sometimes the harness Velcro sticks to her clothes. We sized up her diapers a little early to get as much back coverage as possible to avoid up the back blowouts that might get on the harness, and that’s been successful thus far. If anything gets on the harness, we usually have to leave it – only twice in three weeks have I used some of her time out of it to wash baby vomit out and make it smell a bit more fresh. My husband and I relish our sweet baby cuddles every night, because the harness makes her stiff, and somehow heavier (like dead weight almost) – not at all like the cuddly newborn ball she is without it. I know those days are fading quickly, and it makes me sad. Her bedtime onesies don’t fit at the moment, and some of her cute outfits had to be retired early bc of this. She pretty much can only wear onesies under the thing, so we are looking forward to getting her back into some cute stuff in a few weeks. For now, convertible jammies and a sleep sack are getting us through the nights.

We will share an update at the end of the month when she has her follow up ultrasound. For now, I’ll leave you with this pic of my brave little 2 month old :).

I Have Gestational Diabetes

Pregnancy

In the midst of what was already a difficult pregnancy, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes (GD) on April 25, 2019, around 29 weeks. The news wasn’t exactly surprising, but the lifestyle change has been very difficult.

Although I’m new to this journey, I’ve found some solidarity and support on multiple Gestational Diabetes Support groups on Facebook, and I thought blogging about my experience here might be cathartic as well. Plus, so much education is needed on this subject. Bear with me as I continue to learn more.

The important thing to know is we’re not alone, even though it can often feel like we are.

“Every year, 2% to 10% of pregnancies in the United States are affected by gestational diabetes.” – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Last pregnancy, I flunked my one-hour glucose test, but just barely, and went on to pass the three-hour like a champ. This time, my score of 214 was bad enough to serve as a diagnostic without the three hour.

By April 27, I was testing my blood sugar and watching my carbs. Until I could see a diabetic counselor, my OB nurse advised me to follow the American Diabetes Association 2,000-calorie diet, pending further education.

In the days that followed, my mood suffered drastically as I adjusted my lifestyle and felt increasingly alone. I wrote in my digital journal on Journey:

I am absolutely miserable. I know I should just be thankful for this pregnancy, and I am – but it’s hard to see at this point how I am going to make it another 11 weeks. 😦

And I wasn’t being overdramatic. My precious, growing baby had set up camp low in my pelvis, in breech position next to a still low-lying placenta, making the pressure on my lower belly and hips intense. Belly button pain and pressure made my clothes – even underwear – painful to wear. Restless legs and an increased need to pee all night long did their part to make sure I wasn’t getting any sleep. It hurt to walk. And depression was hitting me hard.

My closest family has been so supportive, and their actions – like making diet changes with me, or being patient with me when I’m in a terrible mood – have been what has really mattered. Actions speak louder than words.

It’s words, in particular, that hurt me. Perfectly well-meaning comments about how 11 weeks isn’t a very long time, and how GD is common, how it commonly results in a positive outcome when controlled (like I have a choice if I end up needing insulin), and/or that I somehow caused this to happen to myself land on me as dismissive and callous.

There are scary complications connected to GD, for both mother and baby! I have plenty of reasons to be stressed.

Complications that may affect your baby

If you have gestational diabetes, your baby may be at increased risk of:

  • Excessive birth weight.
  • Early (preterm) birth and respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
  • Type 2 diabetes later in life.
  • **Untreated gestational diabetes can result in a baby’s death either before or shortly after birth.

Complications that may affect you

Gestational diabetes may also increase the mother’s risk of:

  • High blood pressure and preeclampsia.
  • Future Type 2 diabetes.

Mayo Clinic

Sure, good control and careful monitoring by my doctor can mitigate a lot of that, but that doesn’t make it easy.

Not only that, but making drastic lifestyle changes is tough! Especially a few days after Easter, with Easter candy spread all over my house!

Although some women can control GD with their diet, that’s not true for all. Some just don’t have enough insulin to work with, as insulin needs in pregnancy continue to rise between 24-36 weeks.

I finally saw the diabetic counselor on May 1, who explained this to me and said my food logs looked great. Then she proceeded to adjust my diet slightly based on higher morning glucose readings. She recommended:

Blood Sugar Targets

  • Fasting (first thing in the morning) – 65-95
  • 1 hour after Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner – <130

Food Recommendations
*Balanced meals with plenty of fruits and veggies, protein at every meal/snack, emphasis on carb targets
**Try to add 30 minutes of exercise a day (not all at once, it adds up)

  • Breakfast – 30g carbs with protein, no fruit
  • Morning Snack – 30g carbs
  • Lunch – 30-60g carbs
  • Afternoon Snack – 0-30g carbs
  • Dinner – 30-60g carbs
  • Evening/Nighttime Snack – 0-30g carbs

That’s what I’m going on now.

The food choices are monotonous when you’re picky like me. You have to eat a lot of things you might not like (I’ve convinced myself when this is the case that the food is just medicine.) And you have to eat A LOT (which is hard, especially when you’d really rather not eat). It really cuts into one’s schedule. Every moment of every day is about food when you’ve got GD.

At my OB appointment Friday, they made copies of my log, and said my numbers look to be improving, but that my morning number needs to get better or I’m looking at insulin injections at night. I’m supposed to send my numbers in after today for a re-evaluation. As time goes by, I’ll need to be re-evaluated again and again to make sure my body is handing things well and that baby Violet is doing well also.

I swapped my regular nighttime snack of crackers and cheese with a glass of Fairlife chocolate milk (13g carbs, 13g protein – one of the few joys I’ve found during this process) and gave up both fruit and milk for breakfast (pre-10:30 a.m.), which seems to be helping. But my numbers are still on the high end, so one slip and I’m over.

(UPDATE: Now my evening numbers are spiking, and there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it. 😦 Skipping a snack (which I try to avoid) appears to affect me negatively, and more protein probably can’t hurt, but otherwise, I’m at a loss.)

I’m still figuring it out. My mood is improving as I’ve found women in similar situations online to commiserate with, but the struggle continues, with 9-10 weeks to go.

Celestial Narratives is Out of This World

Recommended

Amelia3yo 8H0B2439

Amelia and I stopped into the “Celestial Narratives” exhibit while on campus taking her 3-year portraits in the Monticello Sculpture Gardens.

There’s an art exhibit at Lewis and Clark Community College that you don’t want to miss.

“Celestial Narratives” by Artist Michiko Itatani is open now through Sept. 22, 2017 at the Hatheway Cultural Center Gallery on L&C’s Godfrey Campus, 5800 Godfrey Rd., Godfrey, Illinois. The exhibit is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturday.

www.lc.edu/michikoitatani