Saturday, October 11, 2014

another attempt at a constellation

I read this post over at Renegade Mothering this morning, and I've been thinking about it all day. I think I used to feel what she describes more intensely back when the boys were younger-- my blog archives have many posts, from back when the boys were babies, complaining about my lack of time, lack of sleep, lack of feeling like a human being. A lot of things are so much better now. For example, these days I get to choose my clothes based on what I want to wear vs what provides the easiest access to my boobs-- it's a small but significant thing. But I also think I've gotten better at resigning myself to what life is like with young kids. Which makes it sound bad, when it just is what it is. I get to hang out with my kids all day and really drink in their childhood, which is awesome. I love that, and have chosen it very consciously. But as with everything, there are ups and downs, good stuff and bad stuff, and things that I miss or wish I had more time for.

I miss writing. I like writing. It feels good when I write a post that I'm proud of, even better when it resonates with others. But I can't tell you how many times I sit down at my computer with ideas of something I want to write, and all the thoughts in my head feel so jumbled up and my brain foggy and I stare blankly at the screen trying to make sense of how to say what I want to say, and even what exactly that is to begin with, and eventually give up. One of my favorite lines from The Fault in Our Stars is when Gus says, "My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." That. YES. What he said.

And I feel like I've totally stagnated with photography. You wanna hear something sad? I bought myself Photoshop Elements like a year ago, when it was on sale for half off. I have opened up the program maybe once in that time. ONCE. I keep meaning to look up tutorials for how to use it, wanting to try out ideas and new techniques, but when I get a bit of free time I just can't muster up the energy for it. Zach rarely gets home before the boys' bedtime these days, so I'm solo parenting during the week and frankly I'll say I've gotten pretty good at it, but once the kids are asleep all I wanna do is flop on the couch and just...sit. Maybe with a book, or some tv. And then there's the always-growing list of books I want to read, and the few times I go dancing and suddenly realize how much I've missed it, and on and on it goes.

What's interesting is that usually when parents talk about this stuff there's a yearning for your "former self," a wanting to get back to who you were before having kids. And that, I don't identify with much. I look back on the person I was before having kids, and I don't have much desire to go back to being her. Not that there was anything wrong with me then, but I feel like I've grown to be more ME in the time since then-- not necessarily because of motherhood, but, well, partially, and also because of just other ways in which I've grown or interests I've developed or whatever in that same period of time. So I guess it's more like I do know Me, I'm not yearning for a different self, it would just be nice to have a bit more space for Myself.

And I'm not meaning to complain or make things sound terrible... I am devoting most of my time, energy, attention to my kids, which means other things get less of it, and that's ok. That's the flavor of shit sandwich I'm choosing to eat at this point in all our lives.

(this post made it past the "jumbled mess of thoughts in my head" to published thanks to it being saturday and Zach taking the boys out of the house for a few hours, giving me the time and peace and quiet in the middle of the day for getting this out)

Friday, October 03, 2014

a rambly post about nothing and everything

So now it's October, and it's weird because the weather hasn't changed at all it still feels the same here as it did in the middle of summer, and as incredibly glad and relieved as I feel about not facing another east coast winter I do miss the fall colors. Pros and cons. I will take my beautiful weather and year-round flip flops and quit complaining.

I've been writing a new blog about our homeschooling. I haven't shared it very publicly because for some reason I've been feeling very shy about it... I suppose part of it is that it all still very new and we're figuring our way through, and I know it's so controversial (we're not only homeschooling, but *gasp* unschooling which is even more certain to ruin my kid's future, right?) and perhaps I'm trying to delay whatever clashes that may bring. I think I also don't want it to seem like I'm pushing things in people's faces or anything. Feathers tend to get ruffled when someone goes against the norm, and sometimes people take it as a personal affront of their own choices. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid and overly sensitive to potential negative reactions or hurt feelings.

All that aside, things are going well, and I'm enjoying having a separate space to write about it.

Earlier this week I was feeling bogged down, it feels like there's been so much loss lately. My brother died 3 months ago. Last week we found out that one of my mom's oldest and dearest friends passed away (it was her time, not unexpected, but still. I have vivid memories of playing with Smurf puzzles at her house as a kid). My brother-in-law posted pictures of his parents, both deceased, honoring the one-year anniversary of his mother's passing. So many wonderful people who did wonderful things and were so loved, gone. So it goes. Life is fleeting and all that jazz. And they are dealry missed, leaving the rest of us to ponder on their memories and what they taught us, the ways they influenced us. They all left their scars, and the rest of us are better for it.

I recently came across a blog post that posed 7 weird questions to help you find your life purpose. The questions are actually pretty good at making you think about what matters to you, and how you want to shape your life. The last one asks what would you do if you knew you were going to die one year from today? A grim question, but one that seems very fitting.  I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and while there are plenty of things I can wish were different about my life right now (friends and family who I wish weren't so far away; personality quirks in myself and my family that I wish were a little different; etc), when it comes down to it if this were my last year on this earth there's not much I would be doing differently. I like living in California, having so many great things so close by. Zach's working a good job that supports our family and that he's enjoying, even if it does mean long hours away from us. Homeschooling isn't perfect, I still get frustrated with my kids and everything, but I really like getting to spend my days with them and having D at home with me. I love having the freedom and flexibility to enjoy our time hanging out together, to be able to drive 2 hours to see a good friend on a random thursday, to spend our time exploring cool things together. I realize we are incredibly lucky to even have this option, and I'm glad we get to take advantage of it.

Monday, September 29, 2014


We went on a family trek to see a nearby grove of coastal redwoods yesterday morning. It was a good time, and I brought my big camera along, and then stayed up way too late last night working a photo post on exposure. So here are just a handful of pics, head on over here to see more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

adding to my camera collection

I had a birthday last week, I am now a ripe ole 34 years old. Following a few strong hints Zach got me a vintage twin lens reflex (tlr) camera... or, well, two actually, thanks to a little mixup on ebay. So on my birthday (or really, on the night before, apparently I'm not the only one who gets antsy about giving gifts early) he surprised me with them, along with a pack of rolls of Portra 400 film.

Hello there, gorgeous. Both of you.

I gleefully check them over, and quickly realized what foreign beasts they are, and promptly headed over to the google and youtube to figure out how you even load film into these things. The buttons all seemed to work, but neither camera was film-tested so I wasn't even sure the photos would turn out. Which, of course, means you HAVE to try out a roll in each just to check if they work, right? The rolls only hold 12 exposures so it's not that difficult to burn through them...which I did, in just a few short hours. 

Old meets new

Shooting with a tlr is like a completely, totally different experience than with even my film slr. I'm used to having a fixed focal length (no zoom) and prefer it anyway, but I don't usually shoot in fully manual mode. The cameras both have light meters that seem to work (they respond to changes in light and settings) but I don't trust the readings, so I downloaded a light meter app on my phone and have used that to figure out the right settings. The ISO is set by the film-- there is no adjusting it for a dark room or bright sunlight. The apertures are a fairly standard f/3.5 to f/22, but the fastest shutter speed is 1/500th of a second (and each shutter speed interval is a full stop-- my "fast" shutter speed options are 1/125, 1/250, and 1/ inbetweens). I have to manually crank the film after taking each picture, and then wind the lever back to prep the shutter for the next one. And then there's the viewfinder, which is much larger but is on top of the camera, and a reversed image which makes it really really weird to try to adjust the frame (there is a nifty magnifying glass that I can pop out to better see close-up details in the viewfinder, for easier manual focusing). Lastly, the minimal focusing distance is something like 3 feet. Shooting with these babies made it really obvious how often I like getting up close to my subject. 

Even D got in on the vintage action.

All these things impose some serious limits on what kinds of photographs you can take, and how. Eg-  indoors is a bit too dark without faster film, while outside I can't take a dreamy wide-open photo if it's too bright.. and that's kind of the fun of it. It's awesome to have a super nice dslr that can handle almost any situation I can throw at it (the limits there are my own skill and knowledge), and it's a whole different experience to have to stretch my creativity and skill to work within the parameters of these oldies. I have to see and think very differently than with any of my other cameras (film slr, dslr, iphone).

So, I shot a roll of film in each of the Yashicas and took them in to get developed, and just today got the results back. I am happy to report that both cameras seem to work fabulously. The first two shots in each roll didn't turn out, which is probably from a mistake I made while loading the film? But the others turned out fine. They're not super great pics or anything, as most of my focus (heh) was seeing what they could do and getting a feel for them. 

So now that I have a bit of a feel for how they work and how the resulting images may look, I get to stretch myself further trying to think of what subjects are best suited for them and how to use their limitations to my advantage. It's not a style that comes naturally to me, but I do think it could be pretty fun to try. 

BTW I really don't need to keep both cameras, and will likely be selling one of them soon... let me know if you happen to be interested. ; ) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Photos from my brother's funeral, and other thoughts

About mid-afternoon today the boys were playing a video game together, and getting along pretty well doing so, so I took a chance and sat down at my computer. I opened up Lightroom, and remembering the pictures I had taken at my brother's funeral, almost 3 months ago, but had till today been avoiding doing anything with, I went ahead and opened those up. It was bittersweet, remembering that day and seeing the sadness in everyone's faces captured in the photos. I didn't take many, but at the time I felt a strong urge to capture the moments and was trying to do at least a bit of that. Most of them, of course, aren't of the actual funeral, but of my family setting things up at the church beforehand-- putting up pictures, and the kids running around as a welcome distraction and reason to smile here and there.

I think I have a nearly identical shot from our wedding, which was held at this same church. 

JC's birthday came and went last month, the 20th of August. He would have been 40 years old. The boys and I re-watched Star Wars episodes 4 and 5 together, in his honor (I finished up with Return of the Jedi after the boys were asleep). Tears came and went throughout the day, but overall it was ok.  A few friends left sweet birthday messages on his facebook wall, mostly imagining him celebrating his birthday up in Heaven. I don't share their views of Heaven as a place or what happens to us after we die, but I still found their words comforting as the love they had for him shone through. One of the hardest parts for me is thinking of the missed opportunities, watching Dono get so into playing Star Wars games and trying to make his own movies, how much they could have bonded over those things in the years ahead. D reminds me a lot of him, actually, in small ways.

A few weeks ago my dear friend Jeremy, who so often seems to know what it is I need to hear, referred me to a song by the Avett Brothers called Murder in the City. I had heard the song in passing before, but never really listened to the words. So I pulled it up on spotify and listened to it, and instantly felt like it was speaking right to me.  There's the last verse about the love shared among siblings, that I can't stop thinking about. But also at the beginning, the song starts out with If I get murdered in the city/ Don't go revenging in my name. The best explanation we got for why he died was that it was long belated after-effects of the brain tumor he had battled and beaten something like 15 years before, but had left behind enough damage in his immune system and finally did him in. I had been feeling so angry at cancer, that insidious bastard that somehow still managed to kill him, but when I heard that line of the song it's like I could hear JC telling me to let that go, that it's no use being angry. To not waste my energy on being mad at things that can't be changed but instead to "pay attention to the list," to the way he lived life and things he found important-- family, community, making other people's lives better in whatever ways he could-- and do the same in his honor. I've been listening to that song a lot lately, and the Avett Brothers in general. I fear they are doomed to be one of those bands whose music becomes forever associated with a particular point in my life, where it may later on be difficult to hear that music on its own (or maybe not... maybe that connection will always be bittersweet with a slight emphasis on the sweet over the bitter), but there's just something about them that feels soothing these days. 

There are so many little things that just feel so strange now. Like there was an email going back and forth among my sisters and mom and I, and when I looked at the address field it seemed so short, his email so obviously missing. Our family just feels so much smaller all of a sudden. 

We spent those days leading up to the funeral looking through all our pictures, new and old, for good ones of JC to share and display. We all know the joke of how our generation has so few pictures from our childhoods because film was expensive, but I was impressed by how despite the cost of film, and despite a global move where so many other things were lost or left behind, we still had a plethora of family photos to look through and re-discover. We even found a bunch of photos JC had taken himself, as a kid, of his action figures posed around the backyard in different fight scenes (again, so many similarities with my kids now). We filled that sanctuary with JC through the ages. There were so many different sides of him present that day, as each of us-- his family, new and old; a few of his childhood friends who attended; all his church friends who knew him as a adult and through his involvement with the child programs and the audio equipment; etc-- we each knew a slightly different version of him, and were able to give the gift of sharing our knowledge of him with each other, to broaden each of our understandings of just who he was. 

And lastly, there is one of my favorite pictures of the day-- JC's funeral portrait, with a running Quinn photobomb. He would definitely have smiled at this picture.


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