baby

Seventeen

17

Dear Graham.

Seventeen. You are seventeen tomorrow.

The first time I saw you was like a punch right to my chest. A beautiful baby, full of love. I felt it the day you were born. We all felt it. Naked. Wriggling. Quietly wondering. Fully loved.

Today, I stand on the edge of a lifetime of you, deep in the waters of memories of you washing over me, pulling me under like a rip current. My boy, my child, my young and beautiful man. Thoughts of your sweet chubby cheeks and your hands that fit perfectly in mine are overwhelming in my heart. I miss that part - the part where you were little and life was simple. The part where I had the answers, where I could keep you safe.

But now, you are a man…becoming your own person – capable, strong, and oh-so-loving and kind. You have answers all your own that you don’t need me for now. You make the best decisions. You have the kindest heart.

I have watched you evolve this year into something I could have only hoped for a few short years ago. You are beginning to navigate this path of life a little on your own more and more each day, testing the waters while you are still close, while I still have answers to some of those harder questions, and while I can - for a few short moments - still take precious care of you.

I am not sure what the future holds right now, but I know it’s going to be a wild ride. Bends and twists and hopefully plenty of spots to catch your breath. Lean into all of the messiness as you go. Trust that you are on the road you need to be. Even when you get lost. Even when you feel scared. Even when you follow the clear signs that seem like they are written in another language with another alphabet. What makes you the Graham that most people know is that you know how to take it all in stride. But what makes you the Graham that I know is how full of heart you will experience it all. Trust that part.

And steady as you go, my love.

“Confess I'm not quite ready to be left.
Still, I know I gave my level best.
You give, you give, to this I can attest
You made me, you made me.
You and me forever baby.”

Women's Day

mommas

I was remiss at mentioning Mother’s Day on all the usual outlets. I didn’t reach out and wish friends a happy Mother’s Day. And I didn’t write about it or even acknowledge it at all. I am not sure why…I wasn’t sad or depressed or introspective about it. I just…was.

For me, Mother’s Day isn’t a really big deal. I never got into the whole “Hallmark Holiday” thing. Don’t get me wrong…I am happy to be celebrated, but I don’t need a whole ticker tape parade for it. Just some quiet time and maybe a little indulgence….some shopping…a pedicure…or a walk on the beach. Something to honor me and all of us for our incessant hard work.

But honestly, I sort of take issue with us celebrating moms only one day of the year. Because you know what - MOTHERS ARE EVERYTHING. I mean…every. effing. thing.

Mothers are strong and soft. Driven and easeful. They are the duality of all things - as soft as a down bed and as strong as 100 men. They are sage advice givers and tack-sharp fortune tellers. They know how to make cookies, do math homework, plan a meal, do laundry, nurse a baby, and arrange for babysitters so they can attend that work function – all at the same time. Simply put, they are the freaking operating transmission to the functioning world.

I don’t know if it took being a mom to understand what moms do, but friends - it’s a spectacular sight. Women are so amazing. Even my mother, who was imperfect in her way, was the strongest most resilient woman I know.

In the beginning of my lifelong quest of self-exploration and examination, I was initially hurt and frustrated by my Mother’s imperfections. But as I zoomed back and took in more of the picture - the part of her story that wasn’t just about me, but the image of the whole person she was - I sort of marvel at how far she came on her own and how strong she was for us. It was in my darkest moments that my mother took over for me – equal parts comforting and commanding – like a mother goose protecting her little chicks not just ready yet for flight on their own. She was broken, but still had the energy to care for me. Like we ALL do.

It’s amazing when you lean in and really witness to what women do. I am not talking about the perfect image of some cookie cutter June Cleaver-esque mom - there for her husband, food on the table, kids groomed and life running great. But still, that’s effing amazing too. I am talking about the women who struggle to work 3 jobs so they can get their kids out of a life situation they have no control over. I am talking about single moms who have to be everything and everywhere to everyone. I am talking about the foster mom of 6 who sacrifices and fights for those that have less than zero starting out. These are the heroes. They are the ones we need to celebrate. Everyday. Not JUST on Mother’s Day.

So if you are a mom - or really, a woman - hear me out. YOU ARE AWE-INSPIRING. You are strong. You are smart. You are loved. And I see you.

Happy Woman’s World, friends. Keep kicking ass.

My Best Life

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Shooting on farm with sunflowers and toddlers...this is my best life.

Right now, I am living my best life.

Wait...I take that back.

I am living my 95% life.

The reason for the 95%...because I always hope there is room for improvement. I hope there is always space in my life for the phrase, "I can do better." If I think about it, that IS my best life. Always striving for something greater. Otherwise we become complacent, right? We become comfortable. And that is where we stop growing.

I have had an amazing year this past year. I have worked in situations I only thought would exist in my dreams. I have worked with clients who share my vision and style. I have worked with missions that I truly and whole-heartedly believe in. I have photographed things I only fantasized over. I have told stories and taken photos of people, places, and things that make me pinch myself in hopes that I really won't wake up from this incredible dream.

I never thought the possibility was real for me to live my best life. Somewhere along the line, I stopped believing. I believed I wasn't enough - good enough, strong enough, thoughtful enough, skinny enough, pretty enough. But somewhere deep in my soul, I believed there was more waiting for me. There was a little ember of hope burning on my belly, not put out by the wet blanket of self criticism. I believed those dreams could actually happen. I stopped hearing the voice that said "give up...you can't do this." I leaned in to trust. I leaned into the fear. I pushed through. I gave it one more try.

Every day I wake up and am happy to do what I do. Don't get me wrong, this is still a job. It has it's moments. And it has come with it's own set of massive sacrifices (ohhhhh...the sacrifices). But I am happy...at least 95% happy.

It has taken a long time to get here. I have made mistakes. I have lived with crippling anxiety and depression. I have failed miserably...wow, have I failed. But all of that has brought me to this place where I can appreciate the complexity of what makes life feel good.

Will I screw up again? Most definitely. Will I be afraid and paralyzed? Absolutely! Will I know how to get up and dust myself off again? You can count on it!

Today, I am opening myself up to possibility. The possibility of hope, failure, success, despair, highs, lows. All of it. Because without all of that, I am not growing or challenging myself. I am not changing. I am not moving forward, knocking off that last 5%.

But if I have to be honest, I will be happy to settle in where I am... Always pushing. Always dreaming. Never settling.

 

 

Muddling through

This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

This new momma has got this motherhood thing down.

We all want to look like pros at whatever task we are handling - work, make up, dinner, motherhood. But in reality, most of us are faking it along the way - sort of like we do those first few weeks with our brand new baby. It's excited, exhausting, and exhilarating, but in reality, we are just winging it all hoping for the best outcome. Even though it all looks happy and easy on the outside, we are still on shaky feet behind closed doors.

Truly, I think it mostly works when we "fake it 'til we make it"... that is until something big comes along and gently reminds us that, in truth, it's all overwhelming. 

Just remember...the moment you feel like you are out of your league, stop, look around, and remember that you've already gotten this far in life and done just fine. All you have to do now is keep going. And truly, while it may not always look like this on the outside, nobody else really knows what they are doing either. Take comfort in knowing you have muddled your way through more than one time in your life and I am certain you can do it again.

 

On feeling safe

I think there is an element to all of us that wants to feel protected, safe and embraced. Somehow, though, the older we get, the harder this is to achieve - or at least admit outloud. We are supposed to protect ourselves and be strong enough to hold ourselves up. We shouldn't need the strong arms of protection wrapped around us at 14 or 44 or 84. There is this unspoken expectation that we should just automatically feel that we can deal with anything life throws at us no matter what.

But life is scary and hard and overwhelming when you go it alone - trust me, I know. And truthfully – on some level – I think we all want to feel safe. So how can we feel safe and embraced and protected where we are? What are the things that ground us into feeling this way? Is it money in the bank? Friends that have your back? A strong family support? Is it love? Does love simply by definition make us feel safe?

The more we talk about this, the easier it seems. Showing vulnerability makes lots of (but not all of) those we love come out and show empathy. We find our tribe when we become vulnerable. We find those that say "me too" and "you've got this" and "I have your back." Perhaps that's all we really need - to feel a sense of belonging in the world. And every so gently, the strong arms that protected us when we were oh so little turn into simple phrases like "I love you." "I am here for you." "I have got your back." "You've got this."