Wednesday, April 16, 2014

daring to be different


As I mentioned the other day, I've been reading Karen Walrond's The Beauty of Different. The first chapter is about individuality-- on the struggle so many of us face of trying to "fit in" to some imagined standard, and hiding or even feeling shame at the things about us that make us feel different, awkward, weird. So many bells in my head went off. I kept thinking of all the time and energy I have wasted over the years questioning and doubting myself, wondering what others must think, keeping quiet for fear of others thinking what I had to share was dumb or silly. Looking to others for guidance on How You Do Things because I didn't trust my own instincts or perceptions. Feeling embarrassed about things I liked or ways I did things. A while back I read something about impostor syndrome, that fear of being discovered as a fraud, and felt that overwhelming sense of oh my god that is so me. It is part of why after years of devoting much of my free time to photography I still hesitate to call myself a "photographer" (god forbid I dare use the term "artist") because well it's not what I do for a living or whatever so I can't really call myself that, as if what brings an income is what defines us. It is also part of why, to this day, I still honestly feel a little surprised to find that people genuinely like me or find me interesting, unsure of what it is they see in me. That creeping self-doubt is something I've gotten better at shaking off over the years, my own confidence and self-assurance slowly growing, and yet it still rears up too often. I still worry way too much about "looking dumb."

What a fucking waste, isn't it?

It is a waste of time and energy, of which I don't exactly have a ton to spare. But it's also been a waste of opportunities-- of discovery, of learning, of connecting with others, all because of fear of some imagined judgment that would probably never even come, or if it did would come from people whose judgement doesn't really matter anyway.

The funny thing is I have always felt more drawn to those who wear their quirks on their sleeve, unapologetically. Those who know they are different and embrace it. I admire that courage and strive for it. I'm much closer to that now than I was years ago, but I'm realizing just how much of that self-doubt and self-consciousness I still have that I can let go of.

In the book Karen, the author, interviews her friend Helen, and one part of their conversation really struck me:
I asked Helen if she noticed whether her newfound focus on authenticity and individuality had an effect on those around her-- for example, did she notice a difference at work? 
"I believe, as a result, my career took off" she said..."it's very energy-intensive to constantly try to second-guess what it is people-- bosses, managers, coworkers or even friends-- are expecting of you, or how they want you to behave, or how you should look or act. I found that by focusing on my own inner strength, I was able to determine with far more clarity what I wanted out of my own career and my own life....By staying true to what felt authentic to me, I was able to focus on things around which I had a passion, and therefore I was more successful." 
"Do you think people respected you more because of it?" 
"I have no idea if people respected me more," she responded without hesitation. "The point is, I respected me more. And really, that's what counts, for me."

I've also picked up Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, which is about vulnerability and very much goes hand-in-hand with everything here, and which also feels like it will be filled with many lightbulb moments. These are lessons that are one thing to "know" on an intellectual level and a whole other beast to incorporate wholeheartedly. I also have a feeling that, if one can manage it, the payoff is very worth it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

the carousel horse


We found this little musical carousel toy in a small toy store in Lyon, France, back in 2008. D was 6 months old at the time, and we were rapidly approaching the end of our expat days and our return to the US, and wanted to take a last weekend trip to a city we had been so taken by on our previous visit. The store had a series of these wooden carousels, each playing a different song. We discovered this one which played, of all things, Dixieland...the cultural clash was too much for us to take and we had to buy it. The toy is adorable and I have tried to photograph it many times but have never quite been able to capture it the way I want to, the way I want the picture to look like in my head.

Then recently as I was searching the house for subjects for my latest roll of film I saw the carousel and tried again. That vintagey/nostalgic feel of film must have been what I've been missing all this time, because I think I finally nailed it.

***

In other news, I recently heard about this new website called Exposure that's like a photoblog platform on steroids-- they provide a beautiful and simple way to showcase photo essays. You can publish up to 3 posts on their free account, so I played around with it some. Then yesterday I got an email from the Exposure team saying they had chosen one of my posts to be featured s a staff pick! The other featured posts are so incredibly stunning, I feel a bit shocked and honored to have my own photos chosen to sit alongside theirs. It's a pretty cool feeling.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

the joys of porch snacks




Do you guys see this? Do you see the sunshine? The lack of snow all over the ground? The boys sitting on the porch, NOT wearing 1000 layers and ginormous jackets? The weather has been GORGEOUS here the past few days, and all but a last few remnants of snow have melted away. It's been warm enough for open windows and short sleeves and snacks enjoyed out on the porch. I have been waiting months for this, and it is glorious.

Friday, April 11, 2014

grace in small things #5

This week was not the best, but hey that's an even bigger reason to look for the good, right?
  • In the past week or two I've had two friends contact me out of the blue asking for advice on a parenting issue. I'm not entirely convinced that I deserve it, but it feels really nice to know they trust me and respect my opinion enough to want to come to me for advice. 
  • Somewhat related and possibly proving my skepticism from above, this week I was invited into a facebook parenting groups called Lazy Parenting FTW. The "welcome" post included this: 'We are the anti-helicopter parents, and our motto is "meh, they'll be fine".'  I think I will totally <3 this group. 
  • I finally got my hands on a copy of Karen Walrond's The Beauty of Different. I've only read the first chapter so far, which is about individuality and embracing your quirkiness, and while the text and ideas are relatively simple they also felt incredibly profound and really spoke to me. I want to write a whole post about it (I did, actually, just in my head, and haven't gotten around to typing it out yet... it's always so much easier when it's just in my own head) but it's worth a mention here.
  • The trailer for an indie documentary called American Blogger hit the interweb this week, which was interesting and somewhat baffling in its own right, but it inspired Neil Kramer and several other bloggers to come up with this brilliant masterpiece which is totally worth watching. I giggled through the whole thing. 
  • The photo above is from a couple days ago, when Quinn and I stopped over at Ethan's house in the afternoon. Ethan wasn't feeling so great, but invited Q to watch him play games on their kindle (Quinn's reaction: "YES PLEASE OH YES ZOMG!!!!!"). With those guys entertained, I got to hang out downstairs with Jody and little Sam. When we arrived at their house I had been feeling tired and just...loaded down. We hung out for a couple hours and when Q and I got back home again I realized I was feeling a lot better, lighter. This is not an uncommon occurrence, spending time with Jody and/or Jeremy often does wonders for my mood, but I still like to notice and appreciate it. Friends like these are worth their weight in gold. 

Monday, April 07, 2014

spring thaw reveals grass, a mess of emotions

Nev the cat, very much enjoying the sunshine and warmer weather.

We've had a string of warm, sunny days and all of a sudden the ratio has switched so you can not only see the grass that's been hiding all winter, but there is now more grass than snow visible on the ground. It changes everything. This evening after dinner Zach took the boys down to the playground where they ran around and played for a few minutes in the fading (but not so long ago would have been completely dark) daylight, with a few last patches on snow still dotting the ground where mere weeks ago everything was submerged in like 2 feet of snow. I'm tempted to put my big puffy down coat for sale, though I will wait a few more weeks for fear of jinxing us (Murphy's Law dictates if I get rid of it too soon, there will of course be a big cold snap to follow. Yes, magical thinking is completely irrational... and yet....well I guess I never claimed to be that rational...).

There is dirt all over the sidewalks (since this winter it kept getting cold enough that salt wouldn't melt the ice, so they'd have to put down dirt for traction), and somehow tons of it has migrated onto our porch. I swept it all off tonight, in an act that felt symbolic. As did moving the snow shovel into the storage closet. A minor but important little bit of spring cleaning... Preparing the porch for using our outside toys again, for spending time playing out there and sitting on the front steps for snack, actually enjoying being outside rather than gritting our (or just my) teeth against the bitter cold. I am looking forward to lots and lots of time playing out of doors, in the sun, the kids all playing and chasing each other, flowers blooming, and yes maybe even eventually complaining about it being a bit too warm outside, one day when this godforsaken cold winter feels like a distant memory.

...and yet. Each passing day on the calendar brings not only spring and warmth and wonderfulness, but also brings us closer to the day when we will leave here, when we will move back to California. This move arises in me such a mess of emotions it's hard to know how to deal with it all. Relief and gratefulness for Zach having a job that is not only secure, but was highly desired; excitement and comfort at going back to the bay area, with familiar people and places (...and weather I won't constantly bitch about); stress and anxiety over figuring out the actual details and logistics of our move- finding housing, selling and buying cars, transporting ourselves, our stuff, the cats, etc etc etc; and then there is the gut-wrenching heartbreak over having to say goodbye to our very dear friends who have become like family. That one is gonna be....tough.

I expect to spend the next few months oscillating among all of these emotions, trying to make sense of it all, trying to make the most of these last couple of months here. Trying to focus on the good and make the most of the bad. I want to honor and respect the sadness and other not-so-fun feelings (vs trying to diminish or ignore them), while also remembering that it is proof of how lucky we are, how great our life has been (and hopefully continues to be) that we've gotten to live in these wonderful places and meet these incredible people who enrich our lives and touch our souls, and who I know will continue to be an indelible part of our lives even when we no longer live down the street (or in the same city, or same state) from each other. It sucks to have to say goodbye to people and places you have loved, but it's pretty awesome that we got to know them and love them to begin with.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go get something to dry off my keyboard...

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