Owning it

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Lately, I have been taking on too much.

Too many projects. Too much responsibility. Too much drama that doesn't belong to me. I am like a dry sponge just looking for something to soak up right now. And often, that means I am soaking in the wrong things...because to a dry sponge just wants something. Anything.

When I am in that dried up space, I try to pause for a second. Take a breath. And just be wherever I am. I quickly let go of what is not and hold on to what is – air...water...life...love...family..sunrises... sunset. These are the simple things. But they are the essentials that are as life affirming as they are neccessary.

We are all bombarded daily with stuff that doesn't belong to us, yet somehow tries to own us and take us down. Traffic. Deadlines. Money. And even just the simple, day to day activities like having food to eat, clothes to wear, and keeping a roof over your head are really stressful. But they don't have to own us. We have to learn how to own our own selves within this framework. The first place to start - every day for me is to take a simple breath and pause.

It's as easy and complicated as that.

In the middle.

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Cultivating things takes patience. It's a lot of work in the beginning. A lot of planning, nurturing and caring for the eventual lovely harvest that yields all the best parts. But what about the middle part?

The middle is where the work really is getting done, but you can't see it. Sure, you can define the measured growth along the way. Pull a few weeds. Do a little watering. But the parts that are really making things happen are a little undefined. Maybe the fruit hasn't started forming on the vine. Maybe it's happening underground in a place you can't see it. But the magic is in the middle.

The middle part is always so undefined...uncelebrated. It's the part we want to be over, so we can see the fruits of our labor. We want to fast forward through this part when in reality, this is the most needed part. This is where ideas incubate and bloom. Where you build the muscle for the product. It's where you refine and redefine what the final outcome will be and how it will look. It's essential in the end product.

We are all in the middle really. We are all watching patiently. Revising. Revisiting. And just watching patiently to see what comes of it all. Be patient here. This is where the good stuff is happening.

Blooming.

Growing...

 

First the rain...

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I shot a wedding this weekend. It was on a boat that puttered slowly and gently around the lowcountry waters, shifting ever so gently back and forth with the sway of the boat and the shifting tide.

The skies were clear when we started our day - even with some hot sun piercing down on us. And then suddenly, the rain came in. It was a steady rain with no signs of letting up at all. Grey skies all around and a constant, gentle drizzle as we coasted the waterways.

Then as suddenly as the rain came, the clouds began to part just in time for us to see this remarkable sunset, color-filled and awe inspiring. I hustled the bride and groom to the back of the boat where I could get a good photo of them. It was all she wanted - a beautiful sunset photos of her and her husband, ready to start their lives together.

As I was snapping away at the photos, I heard one of her friends holler to them over my shoulder. "First the rain, then the sun..." It stopped my in my tracks. 

Of course.

Of course the rain has to come first. Of course you have to weather the storm first to appreciate the sunshine and the sunset. The thunder is there to shake us and move us. The water is there to nourish and refresh us. And then...the sunshine. To help us grow and bloom.

I have been here. Standing on stormy ground. Always hoping to find a way out. Maybe you are there now. Maybe you are stuck in a storm.  Just know in your heart that the sun will shine soon. It has to. There is no room for only rain. We need both to survive. So settle in and cover up, because this, too, shall pass.

Here is where...

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I have spent the past few years unraveling myself. Gently brushing out the cots and the knots of some pretty colossal perceptions that may or may not have been a reality. While I have done other life-building things like losing myself in the woods for 3 weeks or traveling to the other side of the globe to wander and wonder, the place I have done the most work to get my head straight is right here in a small, humble corner of my bedroom underneath some magical morning light sitting on a folded blue blanket.

This corner brings me more peace and angst than I can express. Some days I have avoided it. Other days, I can't seem to remove myself from just resting here quietly and gently with my breath. Because some days, my breath is all there is to focus on.

One of the hardest things I have ever done is meditation. I remember the first time I tried it. I read about it in a magazine about 15 years ago and decided to give it a whirl. All I could think about at the time was "is my child going to wake up?," or "wow, my head really itches." Like most people do, I spent a lot of time in my head the handful of times I tried it.

A few years later, I found myself on the other side of the world. Riddled with jet lag and angst over leaving my life and indulging in something for myself, I found myself sitting on a bolster in the middle of a rice field in Bali. With a gentle breeze floating around us that felt like cotton balls up against my prickly, moist skin, I was told that the first thing we would do was meditate for 20 minutes, sitting in silence, not moving, resisting the urge to itch anything or move very much. I started panicking. Would someone be watching? Would I get in trouble if I had to itch my back/hand/arm/foot? I am good at a lot of things, but sitting still for 20 minutes is not one of those things. I practice for a full week out there and somewhere along the way, off and on, meditation became something I needed. The silence. The stillness. And mostly, the breath. Steady, gentle, constant, deep breath. Fulfilling breath. Life affirming breath.

With much practice over the past years and a lot of trial and error, meditation has become part of my self care routine. While this is a blog about photography (in theory), I cannot stress enough how important self care is. - to my career, my mental health, and my family. It is paramount to the quality of work I put out into the world and the quality of myself I put into my life. Believe me when I say that for years, I have been on auto pilot. I had to be. And truly there is nothing wrong with that. It's about surviving.

But somehow, this time of self reflection, while often painful and resulting in tears, has also been a monumental thing. It had allowed me to grow and change and uncover the things that were shaping me. It has allowed me to rewrite my story. It has been a harbinger of change, and a beacon of light in the most difficult times, gently holding my hand through it all, whispering to my heart "Here is where you belong. Here is where you are whole. Here is where..."

 

Waiting to bloom

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I have lived in fear and self-doubt for most of my life. My story is a wild ride of elements that sound like I should have packed it all in years ago. On paper, most people would have given up. But somehow, here I am, still standing.

Aside from the self doubt, there has always been a gentle undercurrent of hope in my heart. A spot that says "Keep going...you have got this." It's like a gentle hand, softly guiding me through the mud and mire of life. The hand that knows that I have it in me to bloom through it all like a delicate and brightly colored lotus flower rising from the mud.

It's the voice that says - do not give up. It's the voice that says - give it one more try. It's the voice that says - you can do this.

So I keep pushing. I keep persevering. Through the mud and the mire and the muck. Because under it all is a big, bright flowery dream that is just waiting to bloom.

Cultivating Kindness

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Today has been an awfully hard day. The biggest mass shooting in American history just happened. It seems a little disingenuous of me not to mention that out of the gate. People are hurting and in pain. Even the ones not related to the shooting or the victims are carrying a burden today.

And yet...

And yet, all I can think of – all I can muster up the strength for today - is love and kindness. All I know how to do is to give love somehow. All I can say to everyone I know - whether I know them or not - is that I love them. I love them DESPITE our difference of opinion in gun control. I love them DESPITE the fact that we grew up so very differently. I love them DESPITE the fact that I don't know them.

I find that, generally speaking, this is all we ever need: someone to love us, to hear us, to see us. Right where we are in the present moment. And that requires us to get up close and personal with each other. It requires us to get to know one another on a fundamental level. Moreover, it requires us to get to know ourselves on a fundamental level. Live with our truths and speak them. It requires that we live with them, side by side, day in and day out, and accept them for what they are.

I struggle with stating my truth sometimes. Like many of us, I suffer with I-wonder-what-they-will-think-of-me-itis. Will I offend them? Will they "unfriend" me? Will my business suffer because of this? I become the Switzerland of social media. Not commenting. Not voicing what I feel in my bones. Perhaps my silence is not a sign of passivity. Maybe it's not because I feel powerless around you, but more because I feel the visceral contempt you have for my political beliefs is the opposite of that which I seek: LOVE. TRUTH. BEAUTY.  KINDNESS. COMPASSION.

So now each day, I start there. I start with Kindness. I begin with compassion. I seek out love and belonging. And then I let it take fire. I spread it around however I can. Is it perfect? No. But it's a place to begin... a place to breathe into.

_________________________

I woke up this morning feeling helpless for the world. People were already arguing on Facebook about our President reacting or not reacting. They were already slinging insults over their rights for guns and their panic over gun control as they watched their kids walk into school, some wondering if they were safe today. Was it going to be their baby next? Their concert going teenager? The conversation was already heavy. And I hadn't even had a cup of coffee.

As I sat in traffic after dropping my tired and grumpy teenager off at school, I took a giant deep breath into my heart and I let it go. I envisioned micro packets of love and kindness riding dancing around like little dandelion seeds. They circled me, my car, and swirled around outside of me into the universe, dropping microdrops of love everywhere. Maybe they landed on the grass, or a windshield, or just floated aimlessly up into the sky. Dancing freely, looking for something to plant themselves into...looking for fertile ground to take root.

 

Breathe.

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Working as a full time photographer is not for the faint of heart. With long (and very odd) hours of shooting and hauling gear around paired with even longer hours of sitting at a desk editing photos, it can be taxing on your body. Big meetings with board members, cancelled conference calls, and some seriously cut throat competition in the world can only add to the stress of an already taxing career.  On top of this, there is gear to keep up with, technology to sort through, and a craft that requires a lot of your heart and soul and energy.

In order to show up for a demanding career (and let's face it...life as a full-time, single parent), I have learned over the years that I have to show up for myself first.

Let me be clear for a moment.

I have lived under the notion for years that the only way for me to be a successful photographer or designer (or anything, really) was for me to work so hard at it that I had no energy left for anything at the end of the day. I was collapse-into-bed-tired all the time. And for a long time, that worked...to a degree. For 15 years of a career on my own, I hustled and hid behind a shroud of what I like to call "bizzyness." During that time, I had a toddler to manage by myself, 2 dying parents to tend, and a sister who passed away somewhat unexpectedly. Needless to say, I crashed.

A few years after my sister died, I bottomed out. Around the time of her death, I hit an all time low. It crept in slowly at first, like a rising tide. And then suddenly and swiftly, I was pulled under. I was depressed, anxious, sad and suddenly - alone. And I didn't know how to fix it this time. I was left with no energy to face the dance of each day, let alone a career I had worked my ass off to establish.

My body, mind, and soul was forcing me into a stillness I hadn't known before. I had no energy for anything. So I listened by being still and listening. And in that space, all I kept hearing was "This plane is going down. Put your oxygen mask on first, Libby."

The interesting part is that the oxygen mask looks different for all of us. It's disguised a little. My mask won't fit you. It only fits me. It fits me in the shape of getting right with my body, mind and soul. It fits me by shedding layers that don't belong to me...they belong to someone else.

Truth be told, it simply boils down to the essential practice of self care, doesn't it? Practice....because it takes a lot of repetition before you actually see results. It's like weight loss and skin care and anything you do to shed the layers or transform yourself. It's a practice. A routine. And it's life saving.

So if you are bizzy, or busy, or anxious, or depressed, if you are looking for an answer or a way out of your current situation, or if you just need to regroup...Stop. Pause. And put your mask on first. Because truthfully, the main thing you need to do is to slowly catch your breath and pull that oxygen mask over your own face first... and breathe.

Just breathe.


If you need help, someone to talk to, or just have questions about what all this looks like for me, please feel free to reach out. I am not going to sell you a product or sign you up for anything. I am just here to share my story and journey with anyone who needs help.

The Aftermath

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For the past few days, we have been in hurricane preparedness mode around here as Hurricane Irma barrels towards the southeast. Fortunately for us, it's taken a turn. Unfortunately, it looks like Florida is in the cross hairs at the moment.

I would be lying if I said I hadn't shed a tear over this, both for me and for those in the path of this. Let me clarify...

I am well aware that there is nothing I can do about a storm barreling in my direction. You have to be prepared and do the work. Outside of that, it's just time to buckle up and brace yourself for the ride ahead. I know this. But still...reasoning and logic rarely come into play when you are faced with trauma.

You see, for about 3 years (actually more like 10 if I am being real), we had some very sick people in our family. My mother was on dialysis and my father was on chemo...sometimes simultaneously. At the same time, my son was pretty young...around 3 years old. I also had 2 dogs and a cat that I had to worry about.

To say that the preparing for an event like that was stressful would be an understatement. Thinking of all these moving parts completely overwhelmed me. Have you ever tried to find shelter from a storm inland where there was a dialysis center? Hospitals? Hotels/shelters that took pets? Even with resources, help and support, this was monumental. Every moment between August and October felt like I was in panic mode in those days.

To this day, I get amped up over storms. I am one of the people searching for water early. I am calling hotels that take dogs. I am buying batteries and making sure we have coolers stocked with essentials.  I worry and fret and stay glued to the TV, despite not wanting any part of it all.

And then...

Then it happens. It hits. Or it doesn't (because this time, you were lucky.)  And, just like that... it's all over. The aftermath is what you are left with. You are left with the cleaning up and the sorting back out and putting things back where they belong and sorting through all the broken things that you either need to throw away or repair or keep even though it's broken and bruised as a reminder of where you've been and just how much you are capable of all on your own. 

The big storms come through our lives for a reason. They are hard. They are harrowing. They are horrific. But they are their to teach you...to be prepared, to always have a plan, to know where to ask for help, and to always ALWAYS have some tools on hand to do the dirty work of the aftermath.

 

Sending love and light to everyone in the path of this storm.

You can donate now to the American Red Cross.

Happy Birthday

Birthday cake

In honor of another year around the sun, I have a list of 47 things I learned at each stage in my life. Enjoy!

1. Take baby steps.  It's not worth worrying about the magnitude of what has to get done. Take it in all in little baby steps and before you know it, you'll be on the other side.

2. Throw a tantrum. Not really...but every now and again, it's okay to just blow off a little steam and tell the world how you really feel.

3. Find comfort in your momma... or anyone that you are close to.

4. Get dirty. Eat Mud pies (okay, maybe not really). But get dirty. It's the only way to experience life. Hands muddy. Face marred.

5. Never stop learning - Learning is key to growing. Always keep a wide open mind and learn to say "I don't know" more often than you feel comfortable with.

6. Keep showing up. Even when you don't want to. Whether it's in first grade or just being a parent, sometimes showing up is the hardest part.

7. Always try to create something. Being creative isn't just for kids. It's for everyone. Finger painting, drawing, getting messy are just a part of how we learn and open out minds.

8. Be kind. Compliment someone. Help people who aren't as fortunate. Stand up for someone being picked on. Help someone who is struggling. A little kindness goes a long way.

9. Don't always listen. Sometimes tuning out the world is the best thing you can do. Turn off the news. Tune out the bullies. And keep marching your little march.

10. Grow gracefully. Getting older is no joke. But relish in it. Stop worrying about the number and just be you!

11. Realize your strengths. You have your own set of gifts. Use them.

12. Don't abuse yourself. Don't say bad things about yourself. Don't mistreat your body. And don't let anyone else do either.

13. Change is inevitable. It's been proven. You will change. Your body will change. Don't fight it. Just roll with it.

14. Handle pitfalls with pride. Sure, sometimes you make a fool of yourself.

15. Change is good. Even when it doesn't seem like it, change is a good thing.

16. Fall recklessly in love. Trust me on this.

17. Understand your true beauty. Not physical, but the beauty that makes up the whole you. See the you your family and friends see.

18. You are always just beginning. That's the beauty of life.

19. Follow your drumbeat. This can be hard to do. Especially when it's out of rhythm with those around you. But listen closely to that beat. It's trying to tell you something.

20. Slow down. Seriously. Stop rushing life.

21. Party like it's 1999.

22. Be proud of your accomplishments. They are always bigger than you give yourself credit for.

23. Hard work pays off....most of the time. This isn't always true. But most of the time, hard work pays off. You will always feel better knowing you put in the effort.

24. Shed that which no longer serves you. Friendships. Relationships. Weight. Things. Get rid of it if it doesn't fit you.

25. Stand your ground. No matter what others say, think or feel, make sure you are unwavering in your beliefs.

26. Love deeply. Sometimes it won't be reciprocated. That's okay. Because even though deep, feeling, big love is scary, It's the only way.

27. Lose yourself for a while. Free fall. You never know what could come of it.

28. Find your tribe. This is important. Your people know you. They come in the strangest forms.

29. Live on your terms. It's gonna piss some people off. But do it. Trust me.

30. Try new things.

31. Be ready for unexpected magic. It comes when we least expect it.

32. Dig deep. Sometimes we have to dig deep... even during the best parts of life.

33. Love unconditionally.

34. Buckle your seat belt. Life is a bumpy ride. Make sure you are buckled up for all it's twists and turns.

35. You can do hard things. You can. You have. And you will.

36. Listen. The best thing you can do for yourself and others is to listen intently.

37. Don't be afraid of letting go. Everything comes to an end, whther we want it to or not. Seasons end. Life ends. It's all a cycle. Try to embrace it.

38. Give yourself some breathing room. We are not meant to push through with limitless energy. Take a step back. Catch your breath.

39. Get close to God. Or the universe. Or karma. Whatever it is you believe in.

40. Rest. Or pause. Or just watch Netflix. Just remember to recharge. 

41. Go back to your roots. Know where you come from. It will answer a multitude of questions. Trust me on this.

42. Travel. A lot. See the world. Experience as much newness as you can. It's the best part of life.

43. Nourish yourself. Eat well. Sleep. Move. Drink water.

44. Trust your gut.

45. Ask for help. There are people out there who want to help you. Just look around. They are so very close.

46. Understand what you suck at. And stop trying to do it.

47. Lean in.

 

Summer Storms

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When the storms roll around, what do you do? Do you hide in the corner shaking like a scared puppy? Do you retreat as far away as possible so you can get out of the path of destruction? Or are you a "wait it out and see what happens" kind of person?

The other day, when this storm rolled in, I was ready to retreat. I was done with storms (it's been a long, rainy summer) both literally and figuratively. But watching this spectacle change by the second was compelling me to stay. These quick storms that move through are firey and fast, but they can be some of the most beautiful things to witness with their continuously morphing clouds and their intense colors and shapes shifting right before you.

As the storm came through, we waited it out an watched the mesmerizing clouds. I could have watched all day until the threat of lightening became more real than imagined and we all packed up and headed for home - wet chicken packed tightly back into our coolers. I was happy to be in the car, headed safely home with all my people in check.

I learned something though as I watched this storm and the people around me navigate it's perceived threat. I am quick to flee any crisis. Maybe I have had enough of tempting fate in my life or maybe I am just a chicken, but this storm looked ominous and imposing, and frankly I have had enough of that to last a lifetime - emotionally speaking. Honestly, I have never liked storms. Thunder scared me as a little girl and the rain always makes me feel like something is going to need repairing (hazard of living in the south in the summer and through hurricane season).

But maybe the storms are really just what I need. A big, fat reminder. Something to shake me up...challenge me to think and stop running away from problems that will be there with or without the storm. Or maybe the storms are there to remind me that sometimes things blow through quicker and easier than we think. That it isn't always about destruction. That sometimes facing it all is really what we need, so we can be present and be witness to all of it.

Whatever the case, I am glad I watched this morph, shift and change my view. Because honestly, a little storm might be all I need to face the reality of life.

Fifteen.

Fifteen.

How did we get here?

You are now well into in high school. A full-blown teenager. A rising sophomore. You are a rugby player and really close to becoming a full blown adult black belt – a true testimony to your grit. You are almost driving now - which scares the heck out of me. You are 6 feet tall (or more) and truly more beautiful than anyone I know - inside and out. You are kind and compassionate. You are braver and far more daring than most people I know. You are more patient than anyone I know - despite what your last name indicates. And you are so gentle and sweet with animals that it truly melts me.

I can't believe what an amazing human being you are. As much as I hate the passage of time and mourn that little baby that grew up way too fast, I am inspired and full of awe at who you are becoming. It's such an incredible thing to witness from this side of life.

I don't worry now about the the things that regular parents think about – the trouble you'll get into and the mistakes you'll make. That's how we learn, grow, evolve and become. What keeps me up at night now is whether this world will break you. I worry that it will convince you to be something you are not, or stifle that which you are. Because what you are is truly one of the most beautiful spectacles I have ever witnessed.

Your gifts are great, Graham. Your heart is huge. On your birthday this year, all I wish for as you blow out the candles is that you keep that with you forever. Don't let this world break you. Don't let them take you over. Own YOU... because what you are is a beautiful soul.

Fifteen is big. Take precious care of this age. But mostly, enjoy every last second.

Love,
Momma

 

Below my feet

Taken on the magical trail to Rainbow Falls in North Carolina.

Taken on the magical trail to Rainbow Falls in North Carolina.

I have always been magnetically pulled to the forest and the mountains, drawn in to their mystery, their intrigue, their strength, their magic.

I have forever been comforted by the trees, standing tall and holding out their arms, protecting me from the harsh realities of life.

As I walk down the forest paths, I hear the familiar sound of my feet hitting the ground, crunching leaves, kicking rocks and snapping twigs. It reminds me once again to be present and grounded – heart beating, lungs breathing, moving forward.

The further I get from myself, the more I need the forest to hold me up. I need it to ground me. But mostly, I need it to remind me that I am equally as overwhelmingly important and humbly insignificant as each tree, each leaf, each twig on the ground below my feet.

The adventure of being alive...

One of my most favorite photos ever. I dream of this day every day.

One of my most favorite photos ever. I dream of this day every day.

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for – and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing. It' doesn't interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool – for love – for your dreams – for the adventure of being alive.

Oriah Mountain Dreamer

The summit

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

Raven Rock Falls. Lake Toxaway, NC

I just got back from a three week escape to the mountains of North Carolina, just off of Lake Toxaway in a cabin in the woods. While that may sound like a luxury to many people, I think it was completely necessary for me at this point in my life/career/year. I had reached the pinnacle of burnout. I was tired, cynical, doubtful and hurt. Being a photographer isn't for the faint of heart - especially in a market like Charleston where you can't swing a cat without hitting someone who carries the moniker around with them. It was time for a break. 

While I did break a little, I also did a lot of work. Not in the traditional sense of the word, but I did a lot of work on me...goals, dreams, values, and overall wellness. I meditated. I wrote. I thought. I slept...boy, did I sleep. And I challenged myself...physically, mentally and spiritually.

One of the most memorable moments on the trip for me was this hike to Raven Rock Falls on theToxaway River Trail. It's a special hike that takes you back and forth over the river to ultimately end up at this spectacular site - a towering 60+ foot waterfall that cascades and ends in a frigid pool by your feet. It wasn't my first time hiking this trail, but let's just say after 20 years, it felt like my first time hiking anything.

I expected to be challenged physically, but what I wasn't expecting is the emotional ways in which the hike would challenge me. I struggled, always last in line in the group. My footing was unsure. My body was cumbersome. I was sweaty and hot and hungry and nothing felt right. And to be honest, I felt downright mad about it all. I wanted to turn around and go home. I wanted to stop...to just sit there, like a stubborn mule on the rock, refusing to move forward. I felt as frustrated as a little child in my skin.  But the group pushed me to forge ahead to the final summit.

During the second half of our hike, I noticed something shifting. With each step forward, I saw us working together as a group. We looked out for each other. We took our time. We shared stories and laughter and our water rations. Suddenly, my perspective changed. Pushing through the hard parts encouraged me more. I wasn't thinking of how miserable I felt. I was thinking of how much fun I was having, how beautiful this was, how healthy and strong I felt. I stopped worrying and started just living in the reality of the moment. I stopped fighting the currents and let it take me where it was going to.

It is said that nothing good comes easefully. And I have to agree with that. Life's greatest moments are challenging - sometimes even when you are on vacation. While I took some time off this month from work, I was still working. My "work" became checking in with myself. My hike was a reminder that while there may be challenges and slippery rocks underfoot, you just have to keep on going. You may fall. You will stumble. You will sweat and maybe even cry a little. But you have to keep going. It doesn't have to be pretty. But you do have to finish what you started. 

So as I keep climbing through life - sweating on the path, slipping on the rocks - I will remember it's not always easy. But it is always worth it in the end.

 

A Father's Day Tribute

My crazy, mixed up, loving crew.

My crazy, mixed up, loving crew.

By all accounts, this shouldn't work.

We are the most unlikely family, filled to the brim with our own set of colossally hard issues and significant problems. Together, through this thing called parenting, we have raced against a losing current and hurdled over more obstacles than an Olympic horse jumping event. 

Yet, somehow...

Somehow, against all odds, the better advice of therapists, friends and our families, with a lot of time, effort and communication, something sticks us together like bonding glue. Through it all, we have we cobbled together a family and a history that normal people wouldn't stand a chance with. Some days I am surprised we are still standing here in the middle of this life together.

But that's us. Against all odds. Different. Like a mix of ingredients for a dish that sounds really bad on paper... until suddenly you taste it and you are transported to a new world, full of flavor, character and spice. We are an unusual blend of flavors that somehow fits together.

So now we stand, shoulder to shoulder, 15 years into this game changing thing called parenting. It's been back breaking work together and apart. (Or at the very least, wine glass breaking). Some days, I really don't know how we have made it this far.

What I do know is that listening has worked. Hard work has worked. Bloody, sweaty, tear-filled hard work. Gut-wrenching hard work.

But mostly, Love has worked. Unlikely, unconventional, unrelenting Love.

Happy Father's Day.

 

Summer Benchmarks

sleep

It's always been strange to me that we live in a world that values busyness over self care. We boast about work hours, job accomplishments and GPAs only to ignore the fact that we are simply undernourished and exhausted.

For me, summertime is the best time to actually allow yourself to unplug. It's the perfect time to let your body wake up when it needs to, eat what you hunger for, and really get some good quality soul time in. It's a perfect time to reset your self care routine and start fresh. Take a vacation. Start an exercise program. Cook fresh foods. Read a new book. And, of course, sleep in until mid morning (or, as in the example above, very late morning).

For me, summer is about changing those benchmarks you have been trying to accomplish. It's not about hours worked or grades made....it's about how you feel. Are you recharged? Rested? Refreshed? Do you feel healthy? Did you exercise you mind, body and soul today? These are my benchmarks of successful summer.

And by the looks of things, I think we are well on our way there!

 

Fly your own plane.

When I was a little girl, the only religious teachings I can remember were those from the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull that my mom used to read to me at bedtime. At that time in my life,  the book felt mind-numbingly boring to me - a then 4 or 5 year old little girl. But try as she might to give us some spiritual guidance, it just wasn't getting in.

Or at least so I thought.

Honestly, the book is a really interesting fable of a seagull bored by life's conformity and the daily grind of finding food. He needed more out of life and for him, flying was his passion. Unlike the others scrounging for food, all he wanted to do was to soar easefully above the clouds. He was a different soul - an outcast in a world that just didn't fit him.

As this little seagull soars to new heights, he transcends some of these earthly ideals and finds himself in a higher level of existence. As he climbs higher in the book, he climbs closer to his true self, and closer to his purpose.

My mom and I rarely spoke of religion or God. We didn't speak of setting goals or moving into a higher level of anything. But somehow, this book - despite my toddler sized boredom with hearing her reading it each night at bedtime - is something I have returned to in my life over and over again. Maybe it made an impression on mebecause it was so significant to her. Or maybe it's message of pushing boundaries somehow seeped into my being. Regardless of how it got there, somehow it got in. And to this day, this book something I refer to time and time again.

Out of anyone in our little family, I veered off all the prescribed paths. I did the unexpected. I kept trying to be the person the world expected me to be, but it never quite fit - like a pair of tight underwear, it just wasn't comfortable on me.

So away I fly (in my own plane, as my brother-in-law says to me all the time). Up in the sky. Working hard each day at being the person nobody expects me to be. But just seeing the world below from this deep and endless blue sky.

"You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way."