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Touch

touch

Touch.

Perhaps the most often overlooked of the 5 senses, but on so many levels, the most necessary. Physical touch is crucial to survival. It helps things like healing, development and overall wellness. There have been studies to show that babies, if left in orphanages unheld and unconnected, suffer from physical and emotional development problems that can take a lifetime to unravel.

It is as essential as the air we breathe, the water we drink. And yet, we deprive ourselves…starving our souls of this important need.

Touch becomes such a part of the fabric of our days, it often gets overlooked or unnoticed. Wet hair. Slippery soap. Silky sheets. Velvety doggy ears. Creamy, wet clay. Pokey grass under our bare feet. They are all a part of something we take for granted as we navigate a busy day. We pass by kids and lovers with a pat on the head or tousle of the hair not realizing the impact of that one simple gesture of touch, texture, and connection.

There is nothing quite like collapsing into a loved ones arms at the end of a long day. There is nothing as essentially life giving as picking up a newborn baby and cradling them close as they melt into sleep, comfort and calm. It’s connection. It’s love. It’s belonging.

The act of touch is requires us to be present in something that happens every day. It’s so simple to take a moment and mindfully lean into this simple sense. I try to be present with pause as I touch the familiar, feeling the subtle nuances in my body. Soft. Cold. Warm. Fuzzy. Sharp. Smooth. Hard. The touch of a lover changes our body chemistry almost immediately. Notice it next time. Notice the subtle feeling when your bare feet are touching the soft, warm sand on the beach. Feel the difference when you stroke your cat’s fuzzy head. Lean into the moment a little more.

Because I am certain that if we all felt our way through life more than we are - if we just leaned into all our senses - we would lean into all those soft, juicy, delicious feelings a little more easily.

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.

After the Storm...

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And after the storm,
I run and run as the rains come
And I look up,
I look up,
on my knees and out of luck,
I look up.

After The Storm, by Mumford + Sons

* I have posted the lyrics to this song before. It’s one of my most favorite ballads of all times by one of my most favorite bands ever. I listened to this music during a very hard time for me and remember feeling like it was a life jacket that some threw me in a wild, stormy sea. It still brings me to my knees when I hear it.

This is depression.

benji lee

I recently got to shoot some very special portraits for a music feature in the Charleston City Paper on local comeback musician, Benji Lee. The weird part, however, was the shoot and the article really weren't focused at all on his music, his drumming, or even his comeback to the local music scene. The article focused acutely and specifically on his depression.

In my all-too-short time with Benji, we were on a fast track to get to know each other (shooting editorial will do that to you). I don't think there would have been any other way for either of us, though. We became immediate friends. I picked Benji up north on the peninsula of Charleston and we took as short drive to some old, rusty storage shed for the horse drawn carriages near the waterfront. I needed a spot that was a little imperfect. Not the "South of Broad" facade my typical clients request. I needed something real and honest and gritty. I needed something to reflect what I was about to see spilled open in front of my very eyes.

In so many ways, I feel more connected to this shoot I did with Benji than any other shoot I have done in a while. His pure candor and sheer honesty made me want to show more. His humility and gentle spirit made me want to linger all afternoon - asking questions and picking his brain.  I wanted to photograph his insides. His heart and soul. I wanted to show his truth.

So on that steamy afternoon, I found a shady spot to spend a short time with my new hero. He would most likely shun that label, but I think Benji is a brave soldier - fighting the battle every day with depression...slugging it out with himself and still standing strong in the face of one of the worst diseases of all.

If you care to ready about Benji and his battle, check out the Charleston City Paper this week.

In the mean time, warrior on, brave souls. Warrior on.

 

Throwback

beach boy

I took this photo towards the beginning of the summer. My son came with me on a family shoot I had scheduled weeks prior and the weather was too nice to leave him at home - even though he wasn't super interested in coming with me.

I love stumbling across photos you forgot about...old ones and new ones. It sharpens the memories a little more so they aren't lost in the back of my mind as I shop for groceries or schedule vet appointments. These overlooked little gems are like tiny diamonds, once again cutting open that forgotten pathway to my heart.

Looking back at this photo, I can almost smell the ocean. I can feel the humid evening wind as it gently tousles his hair to and fro. I can remember the milky light that evening and the warmth of the sea. It all just comes back - melting into one memory and sealing it's way into my heart once again.

 

Baby Love

baby love

Baby love. On the beach.

Sweet, sweet baby love. This shoot with Monica and her sweet family seems surreal in a way. I knew her when we were both single, young professionals and our lives were much, much different. Now here we are, years later, with kids of our own and families to take care of. It seems like a lifetime has gone by in a few short years.

Lucky for both of us, it's a lifetime of love and memories.

 

Time for Summer

Time to sleep in and catch up. Time to stay up late and sleep in even later. Time to soak up the sunshine, let the wind blow our wild hair and smell the salty air for a few minutes more.

Time to read a book, eat some ice cream, watch a movie, and sleep in later than I should. Time for more sunsets on the beach with wine and warm water, laughter and love. Time for doing a little bit of nothing and a lot of everything.

Time for rest.

It's time for Summer.

 

Love After Love

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LOVE AFTER LOVE
by Derek Walcott

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Discipline

homework

We have learned a lot around here these days on the topic of discipline. Not the "you are in trouble" kind. But the "get it done" kind of discipline. It's been a topic of conversation lately. I am no stickler for grades because I think we have an archaic system. Whose to say that grades are actually a measure of what you are learning. But we live in a system that doesn't want to change and seems to keep measuring our kids by the same standard we know doesn't work.

I digress.

When I noticed Graham's grades starting to slip, I decided to dig a little deeper. Turns out, my child has the same disorder most of the world suffers from - lack of discipline. His grades have been slipping because he lacks the discipline most 12 year old boys lack. He's distracted with hormones and friends and electronics and life. Because being 12 is actually harder than it looks.

So our work together these days is in getting the hard work done first...for both of us. I have to make the calls I don't want to or deal with the my looming and inevitable taxes. He has to read that extra chapter and study for those quizzes he knows are coming. In turn, I report to him about my struggles with work and he reports to me about his where his struggles are with school. End result: we both have a cheerleader and we both crossed crappy tasks off our lists of things to do.

I think kids need to learn early on that their struggles are real. However, I think they need to realize they aren't alone in them. I never knew my parents struggled. Or other kids. I think it's okay to tell them a little bit of that. Mostly, I think it's important for them to know they are not alone in their battles. They have support.

So we are learning a lot about discipline right now. And elbow grease. And grit. And hard, hard work. Sweaty work. Getting your hands dirty work. Not just here. But all over our lives. And the result is going to be the harvest he reaps come report card day.

And if it all works out, we just might celebrate with a little gelato!

 

Auntie Libby

BabyV

Besides being a mother, one of my favorite things in the world is to be an Auntie. It's full of all kinds of perks. You get to play with them without any of the hardships of parenting. There is really no discipline or punishing. There are no bedtimes to stress about or mealtimes to angst over. It's just play. Fun. Adventure. Love.

This week, I got to play Auntie for a few short and precious hours. We threw balls and colored. We played Bubble Guppies and read books. We even sang and danced (well, not so much me with the singing and the dancing. But this one sure put on a show!) It's always an adventure being the Auntie.

I also got to meet this cutie pie and be a totally different kind of Auntie...more like squishy pillow Auntie.

These newborns get me every time. The baby smells and the sounds and the gummy smiles. I am all a melted puddle of love after holding a newborn. I always thought it was a such a treat having a little one around of my own - albeit too brief.

For now, though, I will love being the Auntie. The play and fun and treats all make for feeling a little bit like Mary Poppins in the life of your friends and family. I know when momma needs help and rest. But I also know when it's time to step down and let momma do the work she needs to do.

Because nothing - and I really mean NOTHING - can replace your mom in this world.

The Intern

So... my son has to do an internship for a week with his school. They have to show up at a real-life job and do real-life job things. Today was my little guy's first day on the job as photographer's assistant. And since we couldn't find other friends/family/suckers to take him, I am the boss.

Here he is...Day 1. Reporting for duty!  "Seriously dude. Wake up already. Its 8:00 AM and I have accomplished about 40 things already."

I kid...this is what my intern really looked like today:

Just a few hours in and he was editing photos in a program he had never used before. He mastered that software like he'd been doing it all his life - LIKE A BOSS. What's even more awesome is that he is a perfectionist (Mom...that's not in focus! *sigh*) and a good worker! I am super proud of him today.

Tomorrow, we have an exciting shoot and some additional fun things on the books for the rest of the week. So I am looking forward to a fun and fruitful week with my main man.

Stay tuned for more adventures this week in interning.

 

Weather the storm.


Some days that water comes in strong,
washing the secure foundation
out from around you
and leaving you on shaky, unfamiliar grounds.

Nothing between you and the sea anymore.
Nothing to hold you up.
Nothing to catch your fall.

But still, there you are.
Standing strong in the face of it all.
Ready to weather it again.

Ready to rebuild whenever needed.