A Threshold

Roxy

Making peace with my role as a stay-at-home mom was one idea for a sub-title for this blog. But that didn’t quite say what I wanted it to and the verbiage holds too much of an element of struggle and stress to it for it to feel “right”. Recently, I’ve been thinking about the blog as a place and space that is all mine, and within which I can do all the thrashing I need to at this moment in my life.

When I began writing, in January, I was beginning to feel the overwhelm that came with ramping up the creative part of my life. Writing this blog has in some ways exacerbated that tension, partly because the writing and photography I’m doing for the blog belong more to the moonlighting side of my life than to the stay-at-home mom side. Continue reading

Telling the Truth

Blue Palette

Just before 7am this morning, I sat bolt upright in bed, took one look out the window, grabbed my camera and went outside. Sunshine streamed diagonally across the table on the deck, still low enough in the sky to be lighting the hail/snow crystals from slightly behind them. From my bedroom window, the table top sparkled as if some generous fairy had casually thrown handfuls of gemstones across its frozen surface like dice. Continue reading

Playing with Fire

Still Life with Candles

Most of my life I’ve been accused of playing with fire. I think it was actually a theme in our family when we were growing up, so I guess it should come as no surprise that I always had to tell my children to keep their fingers out of candles when they were young. My mom likes to tell stories of my father blasting her across the room by throwing a bit of gasoline into a fire while she was sitting by the hearth studying before they were married. And she still married the guy! I have clear memories of setting the roots of trees on fire inadvertently due to letting a bonfire go a little too long and exuberantly – with my dad. Continue reading

Reflections on Connections

Editing swimming shots for the college swim team website

It was that kind of day. I spent a chunk of it glued to this screen, along with running up and down the stairs to the laundry room to wash sheets, to the kitchen to make food for a kid and do dishes, and to the car to deliver kids to school and ski stuff to kids, all between tasks at my desk.

Photography today requires a lot of time in front of a computer. That’s probably the area in which I find the biggest challenges. There’s the part where I’m out there in the world, interacting and acting… the physical, more obviously creative part, and then there’s this other part, the sitting part. Some photographers love it, and are amazingly skilled in what they can do with photographic images. I can’t say I dislike it, its just more challenging for me to sit still, and I consider myself a baby in the technology part. For people my age, its a new skill, but some are more technologically savvy than others. All of my younger years were film years, and then there was the hiatus when the kids were little, and I only shot film even though digital was fast becoming the coolest new thing. I couldn’t stand it, so I think I only shot on special occasions or vacations. There were no digital slr’s, and it drove me crazy that the image you thought you were capturing was not the image that you got. So what do you photograph on a day when you are basically parked in front of a computer? Me, parked. I considered, for a moment, driving over to my friend’s house and photographing her. She was sharpening pencils and cleaning out the drawer they live in. She filled half the garbage can with felt tip pens that no longer worked. Instead we decided to make a break for it when neither of us would be missed and met for dinner – without my camera. I considered bringing it when I went to pick up four 13 year-olds at the ski bus drop off, but I couldn’t figure out how to shoot at the same time as carry two pairs of skis and a pair of boots. Another opportunity missed. So instead, its me, glued to the screen, editing swimming shots from last weekend. The coach was anxious to get them. I realized why when I looked at the Athletic portion of the school web site and realized that “Swimming and Diving” was the only sport without a photo gallery link.

I came across the following quote this morning on Phil Borges facebook page:

Women work 2/3 of the worlds working hours. Most labor that sustains life is done by women and universally accorded low status and no pay. ~ Phil Borges

I find it interesting that at this moment in time there is a great deal of attention being paid to the exploitation of women and girls in the developing world. It is amazing to see the progress being made all over the world in awareness about this subject. Personally, I think it is through this new awareness, that women and girls all over the world will come to see their own value and the value in the role of the stay-at-home mom of the developed world. Because, and this is my personal opinion, on a fundamental level, we are doing the same thing. We are tending the hearth and caring for the children. I think that women in the developed world are playing a key part in raising awareness about the plight of women and girls in the developing world because they feel the kinship between them. Because of the way that communications are in the world today, we see the faces and life circumstances of these women. In my comfortable home in Seattle, I know that the biggest difference between a woman who walks miles every day to have enough water for her children and me is circumstances. This awareness make me grateful, but in some way, it allows me to see more clearly that what I do is valuable and that even though no one is going to pay me a penny to do it, it is the most important work. It is the work of sustaining life and the more I am able to value who I am and what I do in the world, the better I am able to support and authentically champion the cause of the exploited and impoverished women and children in other parts of the world. In a nutshell, the more empowered I am as a woman and in the role I have chosen, the more power I have to help empower others.

Affirming All of It

A photograph from my documentary project "Growing Hope in the Urban Center" appears in this exhibition

The above invitation is for an exhibition in New York. If anyone is reading this blog who has family or friends there, its an open invitation.  Please feel free to tell others or forward it. Note the reception on Feb. 23rd.

Yesterday morning in a writing workshop, I mentioned my blog. Someone asked me why I write this blog. Its a challenging question. I know I’ve addressed it already in some of these entries, because I’ve asked it of myself, but I’ve never had to answer the question coming from another person. Today, someone commented that my focus here is struggle, and that brought yesterday’s question back around again to the forefront of my consciousness. I feel the need to take a step back now and check my tone. The last thing I want to do is carry on about the struggles in my life. This is intended as an exploration and a celebration. I want to write and make pictures from inside my life, as a celebration of all that it brings me. And yes, from time to time that includes struggle… But I do believe that the struggles I encounter on this journey enrich it. They are sometimes bigger than is comfortable, but that stretches me, and I grow. I have always said that my children have been my greatest teachers, and I know that to be true. I have grown and matured as a human being because I have paid attention to their teachings, whether they were comfortable or not. And who chooses discomfort? So yes, sometimes the teachings I receive in the role of stay-at-home mom are a struggle to embrace. But, it is a job that entails amazing rewards. I think high rewards often come with big price tags. I would happily go through the struggles again for the rewards that I have received as a stay-at-home mom. So, why do I write this? Not as an apology for being a stay-at-home mom, but as an exploration. I struggle less now than when my family and I were younger and there no longer seemed to be any me. Now I struggle with trying to find enough hours in the day to be two of me… to make up for all those years when the only me was attached to at least one other, both physically and certainly psychically. I am trying to learn to roll with it, and not to struggle. To allow the new life to unfold, as the one that was full of everything from diapers, to birthday parties, to teaching kids to drive, and finally taking a child to college, starts to fold. I don’t always do it with grace. Sometimes I get terribly anxious that they will all grow up, and I will not have done anything well enough or long enough that I can jump into it, even though I want to with every ounce of my being. I think that maybe I will be too old to be a photographer/writer because it will have taken me so long to hone those skills part time, that by the time I’m good enough to make it, it will be too late.  I do not think I am alone in thinking these kinds of thoughts. I am sure there are women out there who share the same fears. Does that mean that I appreciate my children less? Does that mean I want to be less involved with their lives. No. It just means that dinner is late again, the laundry isn’t done, and I forgot to sign another permission slip. That’s why I write this blog. I also write it for myself. I tread a fine line daily when I look at the WordPress statistics to see if anyone else has read it. Then I ask myself again, “Would you still write it if it said zero?” The answer is yes, because in writing, I affirm this life. I affirm everything I do as valuable and in its own way, beautiful. I go to bed overtired sometimes because I’ve stayed up too late, but I don’t regret those nights even now, as I am paying the price… yes, struggling a bit, to get healthy again. I write this blog for myself and for anyone else, stay-at-home mom or not, who has wondered about the value of what they do, and who they are, because I am sure that I am not alone and I affirm not only my fears, concerns and my choices, but theirs as well. All of these things make up the fabric of my life and it is worth affirming.

At this point, I would actually have to say that, on a day to day basis, my biggest challenge is how to find more hours to do everything I want to do. I have plenty of memories of days when by 10pm I could count on one hand all of the things that I had accomplished that day and most of them would have to be redone the next. Now its different. I get to choose what I do with most of the hours in my day. I flash back to the old days when a child was home sick. It used to be that when the call came from school, I wrote off the rest of the day. Today, both my daughters were not feeling well, and I picked one up at school before lunch. I talked to the other via phone and offered advice. I brought Gillian home, made her some food and she disappeared. I got back to editing photographs and returning email. It felt nice to have her in the house.

Later, I took the dogs and went to the bank. Some days, they need more tending than the kids.

Cody Making a Withdrawal

Sherlock is being punished for pooping on the dining room floor a while back if you missed that post.  He still has to wait to appear here.

Learning About Balance

Swim meet after the sun came out

Last night as I was taking my boots off, I noticed that the sole on one needed re-glueing.  Now, I’m a girl from the Northwest, and I am in southern California wearing sturdy boots that are at least 5 years old and have never shown any sign of damage from the rain. This was unbelievable. So, when I opened the curtains this morning and saw blue sky and snow covered mountains, I was stunned and grateful. The light was shockingly bright and my eyes teared up as I drove to my new favorite hang out to get a cup of chai.  I was wishing I had my sunglasses, but they were in my purse when it was stolen. I found, though, after I got to the pool for the swim meet, that if I was looking through my camera’s lens, it wasn’t too bright.  I got to play around with swimming photos today.  You know that butterfly shot when the swimmer’s head is out of the water and their arms are fully extended?  That’s a hard shot to get unless they’re swimming a long race.  I wanted to get that shot in an outdoor pool under sunny skies, but neither Charlotte nor the other kid I was photographing in the butterfly even took a breath until they were almost to the end of the pool where I was standing. By the time they’re in the third length of the pool or so, they start breathing more often. I got one butterfly shot of Charlotte’s friend that I like (see photographs), and resorted to taking a breast stroke shot of her in the IM.

Though the sun came out today, its still cold and I am still tired.  I am learning what it means to rest.  I remember this feeling when I was younger.  I used to do this every time we went on vacation.  As soon as I got there, I’d get sick. Maybe I’ll finally learn to slow down after this episode. I am not at all used to feeling physically off my game and I’m not fond of it.  I wish I had a better sense of moderation, but it always seems like there’s more to do than there hours in the day, and I don’t mean that in terms of chores and responsibilities.  I mean after the urgent chores and responsibilities, there are all the things I just want to do. I can fill a spare moment in any one of about 10 pleasurable ways without a second thought.  Its a trap, because I delude myself into thinking that if I am doing what I want to be doing, then my body will find a way to keep up… until it doesn’t. It does this every couple of years – just goes on strike. No matter how much pleading I do, I can’t convince it to get up the energy and enthusiasm to go do whatever it is that I would ordinarily want to do.

In my efforts to create a full and rich life, which contains not only my stay-at-home mom responsibilities and family pleasures, but my creative and adventurous joys, I’ve created something that actually requires an inordinate amount of energy to sustain.  The strain, at this moment in time, is probably the most acute because while I can see that the quantity of energy required by my family responsibilities might be waning, that’s only in relation to the past few years when it was at its peak. That’s my only measuring stick. So, while I am trying to learn to balance these two parts of my life, I’m going to have to learn a new way to do it. When I began this blog, I added it to an already full plate. Now I’m finding that it has its own draw and asks me for time and energy too. My days just got stretched a little longer and I didn’t notice the toll it was taking because I was excited. Lesson learned… I hope. So now my goal, which doesn’t seem a whole lot different than before, but feels different, is to create some balance. I think that means that I will simply give myself deadlines and say “that’s enough”, regardless of what remains to be done. It means I will have to stop kidding myself that doing is more important than being.

Changing Expectations

Knitting in "Some Crust"

If you’d asked me what I expected to do while visiting Charlotte “at College” in southern California, the list would not have included sitting in a cafe for half the day while she swam and went to class… not because I would have expected to hang out with her during those times, but because I thought maybe I’d be out exploring with my camera, going for a run or a walk, maybe sitting by the pool in the sun, or reading on a bench somewhere.  The fact that it is about 42 degrees, that most of Los Angeles county is flooding because it has been pouring for five days straight, and that I arrived here half-sick, makes for another set of circumstances entirely. Apparently, I’m supposed to get some rest, and the Universe is making sure that I do so.  There’s not much to do indoors in a place that gets this much sunshine every year.  The college kids are cooped up in dorms where they aren’t used to hanging out, and getting a little stir-crazy.  They don’t know what to do when the weather’s like this either.  My solution, reading and writing at “Some Crust”, was as good as any, yet sitting there, just “being”, felt very odd and I can’t say that I was entirely comfortable. Ordinarily, I dream of having days like today, where no one and nothing is making any demands on me. It seems like it would be ideal. Yet, when given exactly that, it feels strange and like I’m doing something wrong. If I’m not doing, then who am I?  I sat and wrestled with this in my journal for a while, but when I found myself asking why I take photographs… “what is the point of that?” and I knew the answer, I decided that I had already gone through this too many times and closed my journal.  Introspection had gone too far. “Visual Poetry” took its place and I immersed myself in the wisdom of photographer/author Chris Orwig.  Soon I started thinking about what I could shoot on a day like today, when I didn’t even want to go outside.  I started looking around the cafe and the street outside with different eyes. An older couple asked if they could sit at the end of the large table next to where I was sitting. She started knitting.  There is a grace to the rhythm of knitting and I found myself watching her hands.  I asked her if I could photograph them, and that began a long conversation with the psychology professor and his wife. They live on an island not far from Seattle when not here teaching, so we had many physical touch points for our conversation. In that short interval, I was lifted from my own spinning thoughts, via knitting and my camera, to a vision of thousands of snow geese lifting as one from a field in the Skagit Valley, followed by another of bald eagles at their winter feeding grounds – one a memory that I shared, and one that was shared with me. Both gave me ideas for places to go that I haven’t been at all or for a long time – both close to home.

I’m currently writing this from my daughter’s dorm room sitting on her bed.  College campuses are special places.  They vibrate with positive, youthful energy and enthusiasm. There is guitar music, recorded music and laughter coming from behind doors. Walking around this school and sitting in the town, I am constantly impressed by the conversations I overhear.  These kids are going to change the world.