Taking a Deep Breath

Chillin'

Its always a challenge to choose a photograph for my blog on days when I’ve been shooting for Soulumination. Nothing seems quite as compelling as the photographs I’m not using. Soulumination, if you aren’t familiar with the organization, takes photographs of children and parents with life-threatening illnesses. Free of charge, they put together a photographic record of love for the families of those who are ill.

Today the image posted here is one of those that was shot after “the shoot”. I photographed this guy because I loved the idea of sitting there in the late afternoon sun reading a book. Continue reading

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Why do People Think I’m Idealistic?

My Imagination

“Our greatest failure is not one of politics but of imagination. We need to imagine a world at peace and work backwards from there.” ~ Marianne Williamson in The Age of Miracles

You know how it is when someone says something that you “get” intellectually; you’ve heard it before, and its not a new concept, but suddenly, you hear it and get it viscerally. It has meaning at a cellular level. I was driving home from Robby’s soccer game this afternoon, having been gone with Charlotte most of the day, and I was stuck in traffic.

Listening, again, to the audio version of Marianne Williamson’s book, which I have found uplifting and inspiring (not bad when one is stuck in a traffic jam), I heard the above sentence and the light went on. Not in my head, but deep inside I felt and saw what she was talking about. Continue reading

Vows

At Robby's Game

The writing of this blog post tonight has been quite a journey. This is actually the last part of the writing, but since its most related to the photograph, I’m putting it here.

This evening I received a message from an old babysitter who writes a blog about her life as a stay-at-home mom to one little boy (so far!). She mentions in her blog, that she first started babysitting when Charlotte, now home from college for spring break, was two years old. She asked if she could quote my blog in hers. I was honored and flattered. I am also delighted to see the ease with which manages her role. I hope that more young women who have chosen this will find this ease, and I sincerely hope, even more, that they will never answer the question “What do you do?” with the statement, “I’m JUST a stay-at-home mom.” Continue reading

“Seeing” me

Blooming for Valentine's Day

I got a little damp practicing my macro photo skills on rhododendron buds when the rain came back this afternoon. It seemed appropriate to post something springy, pinky, and pretty for Valentine’s Day. I can’t say that this is my photographic strong suit, but I love the results, and immersing oneself in flowers on a rainy afternoon seems to be a very pleasant way to spend a bit of time alone.

Valentine’s Day is one of those occasions that often makes me a little bit uncomfortable. There are all those EXPECTATIONS that lurk around the day and put a lot of pressure on people. But, I kind of liked it this year. Since I’m home all alone, I decided to practice being in love with myself. Not in some kind of give myself presents, eat lots of chocolate or take myself out to dinner kind of way, but in an appreciative sort of way. I found this quote early in the day, which set the tone: Continue reading

Irreconcilable Differences

Deciding what to do with the afternoon

They came in and threw themselves on my bed. All of six of them. I was sitting working at my computer when they arrived, but climbed up on my desk with my camera after a few minutes. They didn’t even notice. In these moments, all is right with the world. I know that if six young teenagers can feel comfortable sprawled out across my bed with me in the room, discussing their plans for the afternoon, I’m doing ok in the parenting department. Continue reading

Circling back

After last night’s sorting through 20 years of thinking, on a string of topics that are finally all coming together, I needed a good night’s sleep. This morning it occurred to me, as I sat down with my notebook and pen, that what I had finally done was to make sense of my own journey through life to date. I rambled my way from being captivated by the french language as a high school student by a particularly inspiring teacher, which ultimately led me to live in France, and finally end up with not only a Bachelor’s degree, but a Master’s degree in french literature.  Along that journey, I spent 5 years working at a job as a stock broker at the height of capitalistic frenzy, the 80’s. I abandoned that job when I went back to school to get my graduate degree.  There was something even then that I found deeply disturbing about the pure lust for more and more money that led up to the 1987 epic market crash. In graduate school, though I was ostensibly there to study french literature, I dove headlong into the philosophical and anthropological questions of the moment. I found captivating the radical ideas I discovered in french post-modern thought. I considered continuing in the PhD program, but for some reason the practical part of me won that argument.  If I had three degrees in french literature from one institution, what were the chances that I would ever find employment living in the same city with that same institution.  Not only that, but really, in my heart of hearts, I knew that I did not have the makings of a career Academic.  So, I did the only thing that made sense at that moment in time. I had a baby. Right… Of course… That follows… But of course it does… Because I had to, in order to fully grasp the things that finally made sense last night and this morning.  I had to experience what it feels like to have a job that is incredibly financially lucrative, followed by one which is barely financially adequate (graduate student/french teacher), followed by one in which I am paid nothing at all (stay-at-home mom). The only thing that has changed about who I am is what I am doing. But, was I a more or less valuable person at any point in time because of the job I held, or the number of digits on my paycheck? I’ve struggled with that question, even though I really do know the answer.

The other thing that was suddenly clear this morning is that I hold two paradigms as fundamental to the human experience that are uneasy bedfellows. A number of years ago, a friend said to me, “you know, there really are only 2 emotions and all the others come from them: Fear and Love.”  I pondered that for a while, and came to believe that it is true.  As I explained to my children, fear is the one that makes your heart constrict.  Love is the one that makes your heart expand.  Fear makes me feel protective of myself and the things I hold of value.  Love allows me to give of myself and of my substance.  What I realized is that market economies are related to fear and gift economies are related to love.  The feeling of abundance accompanies love in a gift economy, and scarcity accompanies fear in a market economy.  As long as human beings believe that the only way to feel safe (no fear) is by accumulation (market economy) they will be denied access to that which they truly desire: Love.

Now I need to give credit to Dave, who wrote a comment today about how much he loves the Beatles lyrics that I quoted a week ago, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”, because, I realized when I read his comment, that this is what I’ve been circling back to through all of this philosophical gibberish (which isn’t really gibberish).  But to understand it fully, and for me that means tracking back through the whys and why nots, I had to go through it all, and suddenly the last 30 years of my life do not look like a chaotic mess… a hairball of paths through life… a series of passionate interests overlapping and veering off in different directions.

I started writing this blog, telling myself it was for me and that it didn’t matter who read it or even if no one read it.  Then I found out there were actually people reading it and I got hooked by the graphs that showed how many!  Now, after little more than a week, I know that I really am writing for myself.  At least today.

I’m not sure how any of this can be represented photographically, but since it jelled after I was out with the dogs, maybe an image from my walk is the best answer. And since today was the first day in what seems like eternity that I enjoyed just being outside, I took my time.  Everywhere is water. Droplets cling to the tips of new growth as well as to the battered remains of the fall:

A rain-soaked world

And maybe now, after all this sorting, I will just get on with being… and continue on my merry way through the hair ball of paths that seem to all be mine to travel and just enjoy the myriad experiences that this crazy journey offers. Stay tuned…

I posted this several hours ago, and as I was cleaning out the overflowing inbox in my email, I came across a link that I had forgotten about.  I’d seen before, but after working through all of this today I watched it again and wanted to share it:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42E2fAWM6rAjust in case anyone was reading this.

“Make the Thing that Makes Your Heart Beat Faster”

“And in the end
The love you take
Is equal to the love you make.”  – The Beatles

These are the lyrics that came to mind this afternoon on my way home from a friend’s memorial service while thinking about what I might write this evening.  They followed after recalling the comments of a favorite poet reflecting on death. He notes that what ultimately brings those who grieve together is recounting memories of the things the deceased person loved.  I can’t quote exactly as I don’t remember the specific source, but my own take on this is that the only thing we really have to leave behind of any value is love.

In the last few months I have witnessed the passing of too many, both people and animals, close to me either through friendship or kinship. Grief has been a teacher. It doesn’t go away just because I’d rather feel differently.  And for my friends and family members grieving, there seems to be nothing I can do other than to stand by and honor the way they need to deal with these losses.  What is clear is that through these experiences what we retain of our relationships with those who are no longer with us is love.  And to follow on my thoughts from yesterday about value; the value we place on what we do and who we are in life; and how we ascribe value; the question I have is, how can we use any measure other than love?  And how can we possibly measure another’s experience of love?  How is it that we have such a difficult time just “being”, and spend so much time “doing” in order to fulfill some elusive idea of value which lies hidden in the mysteries of love?

I can’t answer those questions at 11:54 pm.  And I probably won’t get this posted by midnight, so my version of today will end up being tomorrow… January 10. I guess there will be two January 10ths in my version of reality TV.  I wonder how many times that will happen in the course of this 365 day journey…

It seems perfectly appropriate that the photographs I took today were landscapes. When I was in first college, I enrolled in business classes thinking that I should be a business major so I could get a good job.  I hated them. One day my father, after listening to me complain, said, “Do what you love because you will do a better job of it.” And, “I would much rather hire someone who knows how to learn than someone who’s learned a bunch of stuff.” I switched tracks and ended up with degrees in French Literature, which I enjoyed every moment of. I have always remembered those words, but I was young and didn’t see the big picture until later.  A number of years ago, in a jewelry workshop, I had an instructor who said, “Make the thing that makes your heart beat faster”.  It struck me that what he was referring to was really one of the great lessons in life.  Since then, I have often heard those words in my ears, but now I translate them as “DO the thing that makes your heart beat faster”.  To further translate, “Do the thing that you love”.  Its come full circle, but now I “get it”. I have a thing for mountains, they make my heart beat faster. I shoot lots of photographs of mountains. This one is not a “photographer’s photo”. It wasn’t shot within an hour of sunrise or sunset.  Its just an ordinary mid-afternoon view of our beloved Mt. Rainier, the mountain that I look at almost every day as I walk my dogs. It always makes my heart beat faster.  I brought my camera today because this was the window of time I had to take Sherlock and Cody out for a walk and shoot something for my blog (I discovered that you can click on the photo to enlarge it if you want to see it better). I shot photos of the sun shining through curls of birch bark and glowing moss on forked branches.  I shot a photo of a couple picnicking at the end of path on a bench with the mountains in the background, but in the end, I had to post the thing that makes my heart beat faster.  Not the “best” photo maybe, but the one of the view that feeds my soul.

Mt. Rainier and Lake Washington while out for a walk

Today, as I sat listening to stories about my friend’s life, I heard stories about what she loved.  Leaving the service, the friends and family who had arrived in ones and twos left together, bonded by the shared experience of our friend’s love for us and by the stories we heard about what else she loved. En route to the reception, we got a bit lost and found ourselves on an upper skybridge looking out over Puget Sound instead of the lower skybridge which led to the elevator. I didn’t have my camera, but the view was so beautiful that I had to see what I could do with my Blackberry.

Mt. Rainier in the distance and Elliot Bay

When I started writing this blog earlier this week, I thought I was writing about being a stay-at-home mom and finding value in that role.  I thought I was writing about learning to honor the mundane in life as highly as those moments and things which are more often considered interesting and exciting.  I think I’m still writing about that same journey, but I believe that the stay-at-home mom “lens” is only one lens.  I had a conversation early this morning with a young male friend which convinced me that my role, with its lens, has its pitfalls, but it would be narrow-minded and perhaps arrogant of me to think that I, and even we (stay-at-home moms) struggle more than others with questions about our self-worth when we place ourselves in the context of our culture with its emphasis on “doing” and “having” rather than “being”.