Saturday, October 22, 2011

Jack and Jill

"For every Jack, there is a Jill," as my friend Julie always says.  I must say, my Jack's pretty smokin'. 

Halloween 2011-Shotgun wedding

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Disclaimer:  Once again this is an attempt to organize some personal thoughts...skip ahead if you are feeling weary.

A few days ago I witnessed an interesting event when I went to see Sister Beck, the General Relief Society President, speak.  When she opened up the floor for questions, in front of thousands of women, a woman stood up to ask a pointed, uncomfortable question that left several women literally squirming in their seats.  There was no clear-cut answer that could have been given.  It left Sister Beck in a catch 22.  No matter how she would have answered the question, she would have been in trouble with someone somewhere.  Gracefully and graciously, she later answered what I imagine was the true issue behind it all in a round-about and loving way. 

I chuckled to myself as I imagined what the conversation would be going on inside of every car leaving the parking lot once that meeting was over.

When I got home I told Dennis what happened.  I got another laugh as I watched him listen with wide eyes, his mouth dropped to the floor. 

Although yes, it was probably inappropriate, especially considering the public setting, I felt sorry for her.  But it was more than an inappropriate question, it was a desperate plea to be validated and heard- and I think Sister Beck saw that. 

I often see reflections of myself in varying shades in the most unexpected places, from this woman's plea to be heard despite her off-colored platform, to the woman standing on the corner with the sign begging for money.  There is so much that that we have in common that connects us regardless of our walk in life.  When we visited the Natural History Museum in Washington D.C., there was an exhibit that showed the similarity in DNA makeup between humans and other living things.   Did you know that humans and bananas are 50% similar in their DNA?  Just as we are 98% similar to chimpanzees in our genetic makeup, it's that mere 2% which takes us from primates to literal children of God.  What separates me from the man living on the street, hearing voices in his head, is even less. 

I felt the woman's pain at that meeting.  I imagine what plagues her is what plagues millions of women throughout the world- and that's an unfulfilled need to be validated and heard.  Facebook, blogging and texting become desperate attempts to gain reassurance that they are in fact being heard by someone somewhere.  I've noticed that the days I feel the loneliest are the days I spend the most time on the internet in an attempt to fill some kind of void.

As I was trying out all of the features on photoshop (again), I played around with one of my images experimenting with the touch-up effects.  The effects of the wrinkle removal, teeth whitening, lipstick, hair highlights, eye brightening, and even thinning effect (I instantly lost about 20 pounds with the click of a button) was startling. 

A few months ago, we had a Relief Society meeting with an activity about the masks we wear, and we all wear them.  These masks are worn for a variety of reasons, mostly for self-preservation.  But they are what prevent us from connecting with each other and remembering how little really separates us.  I often see other people's beautiful and flawless "masks" and think we are worlds apart.  As I looked at my photoshopped image, I thought, "But I like the lines around my eyes.  My children gave those to me!  I like that little triangle of freckles on the edge of my mouth- I've had it since I was a kid.  I wouldn't feel like myself without it."  Perhaps sometimes we feel like what we need is the photoshopped effects of image #2 to be worthy of being heard of validated (yes, I realize the photoshopping is WAY overdone and looks a little creepy actually).
After some much-appreciated, feedback from an honest friend, I realized that I do wear masks, many of them without my realizing it.  The Rita without the mask has wrinkles, stretch marks, a quick temper, a mind that thinks too deep for it's own good, an obsessive/compulsive love for cleanliness and organization, a never-ending concern that I may have offended or hurt someone's feelings,  and so many other things, both lovely and not-so-lovely. 

Surprisingly, I've found that the most treasured interactions I have with others are when all masks are off and I allow myself to be seen as I truly am with all pretences aside.  The door for judgement is left wide open and I am left feeling terribly vulnerable.   What's even more surprising is how often that vulnerability is met with a sigh of relief by the person with whom I've just been so shamelessly candid as they realize that they are not alone- be it in their deep dark secret or insecurities.  A key is turned and we finally, truly connect.

 That's one of many magical and beautiful thing about families.  For mothers, there are no masks with our children, no matter how hard we try to tighten the strings to keep that mask in place.  They've seen me at my very best and at my very worst, and to them, I am still mother.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photoshop Fun

I've been on a picture-taking kick lately.  Although the new camera provides a good foundation to work with, I've found that photoshop is where the real fun is.  I got the pumpkin idea from Pinterest, took Miss Calista out back into our garden, and then played around with the picture on the computer.  I just wanted to show the difference photoshop can make! Pictures do look "cleaner" without so much photoshopping, but when there are things that need fixed, I think it's a great option.  I didn't like the vinyl fence in the background but the pumpkin patch was planted right along it, so I just edited it out.  I feel a little shameless that I airbrushed my four month old,  brightened her eyes, and trimmed her hair fuzzies- all done artifically on photoshop.  Mothers nowadays....

Here are some other pictures- before and after- that I've had fun with on photoshop.  I realize I still have a LONG way to go in learning what I'm doing, but I'm having a good time along the way.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Many Faces of Lauren

As I watch Lauren, so much of her little personality reminds me of myself when I was a kid from the way she out-eats her brothers at every meal to the way she crinkles her little nose when she smiles.  How I love this sassy, sweet, happy-go-lucky, fesity little girl. 

While Dennis and I were deep in conversation while driving, we turned around to see Lauren watching us like this.
Her rubber snake that she loves to haul around with her blankie.
It creeps me out.

In her favorite hiding place as she sports the swimming suit and rainboots she insisted on wearing on a cold and rainy fall day.

Waiting for me to let her in from the backyard.

One of the things I know I'll miss the most when my kids grow up is their little voices and the way they say things.  Here's a quick guide for understanding Lauren's most common words:

Nana: Camden
Dute: Luke
Tita:  Calista
Neenee: Lauren
Mamox: Grandma Hawkes
Bop it: Stop it (this is usually screeched and can be heard around the entire house)

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Sometimes this picture is how I feel- like a kid raising kids.  Man, I screw up a lot.  I find myself laying awake at night wondering how my screw ups of the day will affect my children in the long run.  Then I remembered something a very wise friend told me (as you can see, I have many wise friends who I continually draw wisdom and strength from).  She said that the Lord judges us simply on what our best is.  And that best fluctuates throughout the day, the weeks, the years.  Our best at 8am may not be our best at 10pm and we shouldn't beat ourselves up if we aren't at 10pm what we were at 8am when we were bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, as long as it's still our best.  A lot happens throughout the day which affects what our best is at each moment, as is the case with the passing of the years.  My best when Camden was a newborn is much different than my best with Calista as a newborn.  In some ways that best is better, in some ways it's not.

As I was thinking about this again yesterday, I wondered if as the Lord was making family assingments in the pre-existence, he took into consideration what each person's best would be.  Perhaps (hopefully...) he gave me children with whom my best would be enough.  Enough for them to still be good, kind people despite those screw ups that keep me awake at night.  

Thank goodness for children who see me and still love me for who I am, even when I'm at my weakest best.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Washington D.C.

This past week Dennis and I went to Washington D.C. to celebrate our 10th anniversary.  Even though we were married in May, I was ready to pop with Calista on the actual day of our anniversary.  A few weeks later we saw a screamin' deal on airline tickets to D.C. and I told Dennis that he could make it up to me for having taken me waddling from dealership to dealership pick-up shopping on our actual anniversary.  
We stayed with my brother, Alex, and his family who are stationed in D.C. while he is learning Persian.  When it comes to politics and world events, Alex is hands-down the smartest person I know.  Since he works for the State Department and is usually over-seas on assignment with his family, we don't get to see them often so this was a treat for us.

This is the Ford theater where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated.  What an awe-inspiring and sobering place. 

My favorite display at the American History Musueum: the first ladies' innagural ball dresses.  Can you tell I love Michelle Obama since this is the only dress I took a picture of?  Such a classy lady.  Yes, this is a potentially lethal thing to admit to when you live in Idaho.  :)

This flag that was laying on the ground in front of the Vietnam Memorial was one of the most touching things I saw while in  D.C. 

Can you tell we were cold and soggy?  I love Dennis' face in this picture with the chattering teeth.

These last few pictures are of Mount Vernon, possibly one of my favorite places in the whole United States.  What a wonderful place to honor and reflect such a giant of a man.  There are so many remarkable things about George Washington that make me want so badly to have been a fly on the wall when he roamed these grounds.  I told Dennis that one of the things I look forward to the most after I die is to hopefully see the scenes of history, especially those of early America.  It was quite romantic to walk around Mt. Vernon, huddled together under an umbrella.