The Blog-versation

Some parents would never consider blogging about their kids

If you didn’t catch the beginning of our blog-versation, and you’re just “tuning in” now. Here’s what’s up:  Alle (link to her blog) and I are having a “healthy, respectful debate” about the virtue or vice of writing/blogging about one’s children. It started a month ago or so when I saw a post she wrote on this topic.

I have to admit that its kind of weird to see something written about me, my blogging and my parenting! And, I want to immediately express my gratitude to Alle for her kind comments about the latter. Continue reading

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Two Different Lenses

Friday Afternoon

After dragging my camera all over town with me today, it wasn’t until late this afternoon on my way home from a long list of errands that I found anything that inspired me. The warmth of real spring sunshine was distracting and I just wanted to wander aimlessly. I wasn’t really interested in finding the “great shot” for the blog.

After yesterday’s photographic excitement of the Aquarium with its coral and jellyfish, even the Arboretum, in the full glory of spring’s blossoming trees, wasn’t doing it. I love the Arboretum. Its a comfortable, familiar place. I loved walking through with my camera this afternoon, but its like being in the mountains, the photos never seem to quite capture the magnificence of the scene. Continue reading

It started with an Omelette

Spinach and Feta Omelette

This was so beautiful that I actually couldn’t continue eating it without shooting a handful of photos beforehand. And yes, it tasted as good as it looked. Rarely do I go to the trouble of making an omelette.  My family knows that my stand-by, quick and easy meal, often eaten half-sitting, half-standing, and usually before I run out the door somewhere, is some mixture of leftover brown rice, leftover greens, eggs, and cheese. It looks like a big messy pile. It has passed as both lunch and dinner on many occasions. I actually can’t eat eggs for breakfast. I make exceptions to that rule when breakfast comes at noon, after going for a long walk with Cody and Sherlock. Today my mouth was already watering as I attempted to fold the barely browned, still soft egg over freshly cooked spinach and real sheep’s milk feta from bulgaria. There were little bubbles of olive oil sizzling at the edges, and I was so hungry that I almost didn’t run and get my camera. Then Gillian and I played with the light hitting the plate on the kitchen table for a moment, deciding which angle flattered the brilliant green, bright white, and golden yellow best. She’s allergic to eggs and has never eaten one. She thinks feta is gross, and doesn’t like spinach, yet she was captivated by how pretty the omelette looked. Maybe I should be a food photographer after all…

I was actually fortifying myself to go on a shoot this afternoon. I felt like I needed good solid food. Fortunately, I was going with another photographer because I was really nervous. I was going to shoot for Soulumination, an organization started by a local photographer who I’ve known for a long time.  The organization provides photographs for families with children facing life-threatening illnesses. Most of the photographers have businesses where they do a lot of portrait work and are used to working with families. When Lynette asked me if I would consider shooting for her organization, my first reaction was that I don’t do that kind of photography… I really didn’t even have the confidence to say that I could do that kind of work. Within a couple of days of that conversation, I discovered that I needed to prepare myself to say good-bye to my closest long-term friend. I wanted to be with her and couldn’t. I looked back through my old pictures from years gone by, and wished that I could shoot some more photos of her. I was deeply immersed in thinking about her and her family and already missing her. Later that week another friend reminded me about the conversation that I had had with Lynette. It had completely slipped my mind. I realized then that I was being asked to do something to which I could not say no. Lynette had asked me to step up, and it was only my insecurity that was holding me back. I know that I can do the portraits, I did a whole bunch of senior pictures of my daughter’s friends last spring. It was just such a scary idea to face the possibility of stepping into a family where the photographs I was about to shoot might be the last ones taken of a child. What if I screwed it up?  So today I was grateful to be the second photographer on a shoot for Soulumination. I know I will be nervous again when the time comes for me to go by myself, but at least I have done it once now and I know at least a little bit about what it could be like.

I said yes to Lynette because I had too. The timing made it very clear that I was actually being called to do something out of my comfort zone. Behind that yes was something that I reflected on again this afternoon driving home. Life is a fragile thing. I have three very healthy children. Theirs is a life full of the beauty and vitality of youth. This is the life we like to celebrate in our culture. The young, the strong and the beautiful… we all aspire to this, and have a hard time accepting that our bodies age and change, that some bodies aren’t whole and strong, that sometimes our bodies fail us. I have come to believe, and this blog is a part of that journey, that every moment in life has value and is worth celebrating. To photograph people in old age, illness, or physical decrepitude of any kind does for them what this blog is intended to do, to place value, to honor, and to mark that moment as equally valuable to the journey of being human as are the moments we more typically celebrate.

“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”.

Behind the scenes

As I wrote the title for today’s entry I was considering discussing the topic that lies behind the title of this blog, that is, the internal, personal struggles that women who choose to stay home raising children face around the idea of “value”. It occurred to me that this is also an apt title for the work that stay-at-home mom’s do, so it serves this posting on two levels.

I actually don’t want to launch into a lengthy apology about why its valuable for women to raise their own kids, nor do I want to condemn our culture for the fact that stay-at-home mom’s often feel that the work they do is under-appreciated because they don’t bring home a paycheck.  Those arguments and discussions are for another writer.  My own experience is no different, except, as a friend of mine laughingly informed me today, I have gone to greater lengths than most to “prove” my worth.  I think the most unfortunate part of this whole issue is that not only do many women struggle with the value of the work they do – which is not confined to hours or days, or validated monetarily – but the spillover from their perceived lack of value about the work they do affects their self esteem.  While I write this in the third person, I am no stranger to this experience.  In fact, this blog is in some ways an effort to exorcise those demons once and for all.  I won’t regale you with a list of all of my personal achievements, accomplishments, education or other stories, because ultimately none of those matter if I need them to be comfortable in my own skin.  I hope to speak to a more universal experience by talking about my personal experience with this struggle.  In part, this blog is intended to call my awareness to the places and moments when I am focused on doing rather than being. When its all said and done, maybe I’ll finally be capable, as my 16 year old son says, of  “deep chillin”, that is resting comfortably, in friendship with myself, just “being”.

So now we’ve got that out on the table… I think I’ll save other topics for other days and go eat.  It seems that details like food and sleep have been shorted a little this week as I’ve learned the ins and outs of WordPress.

Today’s photographs, and yes, there are two, were taken as the 7th graders (including mine) were about to set off on the first Friday evening ski bus of the winter.  The parents all converge on the school delivering food, clothes and gear.

7th grade girls headed off to ski bus

"Creeping" on the 7th graders through the window of the bus

I’ll be headed back to retrieve her in an hour or so.