Friday, June 28, 2013

Battles lost

It's terribly late and I really should be in bed asleep right now, but I just need to write and process, and give a voice to the thoughts in my head.

Tonight was one of those times that mothers with older children warned me about back when Camden was still a baby.  About how motherhood only gets harder as they get older, and how I should enjoy the "easy" days of him being so little.  I remember feeling irritated and a little patronized when women would lecture me (I'm sure with the best of intentions) about all the things I would soon discover as my babies got older.  I felt like they were talking to me like a 5 year old before her first day of kindergarten.  I remember thinking, "Woman, I haven't gotten more than 90 minutes of solid sleep at a time in I don't know how long!  My baby is in a cast that makes him scream in pain almost constantly.  I spend all day wiping up poop and feeling like a dairy cow and you're telling me this is easy compared to having a kid who's self-sufficient and in school most of the day?  Sorry lady, but I'm not buying it!"

But it does get harder, in it's own way.  Tonight I had to hold my ground on an issue with Camden.  In the end it became a matter of principle more than the actual issue at hand, but I've learned that those can be the hardest battles to fight.  The words coming out of my my mouth were firm and undeterred, but in my head I didn't know what to do.  I knew I had to follow through, but was I being too hard on him?  Did I need to back off?  Or hold my ground?  I had no idea.  But it was a battle that in the end I felt I lost.  Sure, I got my way, but I watched him, blinking back angry tears, realizing that at that moment he was probably thinking how much he hated me.  And I felt like I had lost a little piece of him.

Starting from the moment of conception, a woman becomes a mother and a changed being- permanently and fundamentally.  From that moment on, every decision she makes affects another human being in one way or another.  But from the moment the child leaves the womb, that little human begins inching away towards independence from the woman who was once his literal lifeline.  Some days they move away imperceptibly, and other days in leaps.  But no matter how far away they move from us, we are still a mother.  They are still the one who changed us, heart and soul.   They've brought out the very worst in us at times, but they've also brought out the very best that we never knew existed.  A woman can never again become the person she was before she nurtured a life within herself.

As I watched his angry eyes, I had a flash-back of my little man, back when he was a baby and it was just the three of us.  I could do no wrong in his eyes back then.  His eyes lit up every time I came in the room and his smile made my heart melt.  Nine years have gone by and he looks so much like he did when he was a baby, just older, and at the moment, angrier.  

I think the advice from the well-intended, nostalgic women from when Camden was a baby was probably lamentation disguised as lecturing.  Perhaps what they meant to say was, "Relish these days when he is still yours, entirely and completely, because it's hard as hell when he starts to think he's outgrown you.  But don't get too discouraged.  It's worth it.  Not just in the end, but now as well."

And it is worth it.  I love you, my little man.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The calm before the storm

That's how these last few days feel to me.  July is going to be a flurry of non-stop activity.  Every summer I think we're as busy as we've ever been and that surely next summer we'll make it a point to slow down, but we just seem to find ways to keep ourselves as busy as we can possibly be.  The other night I realized that it's probably not as much circumstantial as much as it is both of our personalities.  We seem to have a knack for finding busyness.

A week from today I'll be headed to Ghana for two weeks on a medical mission, followed by one thing after another from then until the end of July. I'm sure I won't be doing much blogging or much of anything really, other than just trying to keep my head above water.  I thought I'd quickly catch up the blog on some of our most recent happenings.

Of all the manly things my husband does, things like this are the most attractive to me- playing 10+ rounds of Princess Candyland with his daughter.
Several months ago another stake in our area asked Dennis if he would help them do a trek like the one our ward did, along the same trail.  In all honesty, I had been a little frustrated that he was going to be taking a week off work to volunteer his time when so much of his time off already goes to church responsibilities.  About a month ago, we decided that instead of me staying home pouting (which is sadly what I probably would have done), that we would take the kids and make it a family activity.  Dennis crafted our own light-weight custom handcart for our family to take along the trail.  He added suspension to the cart which made it surprisingly easier to pull.

It was an amazing week despite the snow and freezing temperatures that we had to brave for a good part of the time.  My children were resilient and strong, and they made me one proud momma.  I was especially proud of my Camden, who on the first day pulled the handcart 9 long miles by my side, along extremely difficult and rocky terrain.  Most of the grown men couldn't pull more than a mile or two before they had to stop and rest, and my little Camden pulled right along side me the entire day.  It chokes me up to think of how my little boy was such a man that day.

My amazing children trekked 28 miles over 4 days, with the two oldest walking almost the entire way.

June 2013 001
One of the leaders, whose job was to set the pace, let Lauren ride along on his horse.  It was the highlight of the trip for her.  She asked me to tie her bandana around her neck like a "real cowgirl."
June 2013 007

June 2013 046
My little Lauren's birthday party with three of her little buddies.

Sawtooth Relay 035
A group of friends and I ran the Sawtooth Relay in early June- 62 miles from Stanley to Ketchum, along the breath-taking Sawtooth Mountain Range.  

Gross 006
My little Calista turned 2.  As we sang her the "Happy Birthday" song, she shushed us the entire time.  

Zach and Calista 089
My little Luke graduated from kindergarten.  That kid... I have a feeling I'm in big trouble when he hits his teens.

May 2013 024
As much as Dennis loves how much Calista is a daddy's girl, it gets a little frustrating for him when he can't even  use the restroom without her wailing outside the door.  These two have a very sweet and special bond.
And last but not least, I have to share a quick funny from Luke.  On one of the days during the trek when it was particularly cold, with a constant downpour of rain and snow, I sat in the tent with the kids trying to pass the time.  I took turns asking them what their ideal Saturday would be.  Camden said he would want a breakfast of eggs and toast, followed by a trip to the toy store.  In the afternoon he would have a friend over, and then he would end the day with a family movie night.  

I asked Luke next and he said simply, "I'd rob a bank." Then he corrected himself.  "Well first, I guess I'd tie up the policeman and then rob the bank.  Then I'd spend all the money on Pokemon cards." Oh my goodness... should I be worried???

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dear Rita

I know this is weird, me writing a letter to myself, but I want you read this five years from now.  Promise?  I want you to remember a few things, because frankly, I’m afraid you’ll forget, and you’ll become that person you swore you’d never be. 

About a month after Calista was born, in 2011, you stood at Best Buy, sweating over the fact that you were ready to spend $500 on a camera that you had no idea how to use.  Until then you had never used anything but a point and shoot, and that hadn’t been replaced in 7 years.  I laugh as I imagine the sales guy rolling his eyes at this lady who paced the aisle, fretting over what seemed like a monumental investment.  He explained what ISO was and you were floored that a camera could take a picture in the dark, without flash.  It was earth-shattering!

Here you are, two years later, and I think it’s safe to say you’ve learned a fair amount, especially considering that you didn’t even know what shutter speed was.  You’ve spent countless hours up to this point studying, taking classes, and attending conferences.  Discovering this new passion has changed you.  It really has.  You’ve discovered the magic of light and the subtle contours of a face.  You’ve never looked at a sunset or the laughing face of a child the same again.  It’s like a veil has been lifted and you suddenly see beauty all around that you had never seen before.   You still have a long way to go though, and no one knows that better than you do.  I hope someday you’ll learn to not be so hard on yourself. 

I imagine in five years from now, you’ll have learned a great deal more.  I imagine you’ll have purchased some fancy shmancy, top-the-line camera along with an arsenal of new lenses and gadgets.  I hope your image quality and artistic eye will have drastically improved, and hopefully you’ll be pursuing your true niche in photography.  You know... the stuff that makes your heart soar and the endorphins flow when you work on it.

But it pains and frightens me to think of you becoming another game piece in this super-saturated and at times vicious industry.  I’ve seen it happen to the best of people.

If you’re tempted to sneer at a rookie photographer who shows up with a cheap or out-dated camera, I want you to remember what it was like for you in the months just after you bought your camera, when you were just starting to get your feet wet.  I want you to remember how humiliating it was to call a photographer and ask for help on a simple technical question, only to be ignored or treated like an annoying child.  I want you to remember what it was like to cry into your pillow at night because of something hurtful someone said about your pictures or lack of experience.  I want you to remember how terrified you were before every photo shoot, and how you prayed silently the whole time you were shooting, that you wouldn’t screw it up too badly.  And then how devastated you were when you did.  As painful as it was, I want you to remember… all of it.  And as vividly as possible. 

If a client cannot afford you or books with a cheaper photographer, for heaven’s sake don’t assume (or tell them!) that they don’t value memories, art, or their family, like you hear some photographers say.  In the end, a picture is just that- a picture.  People shouldn’t have to cancel their summer vacation or forgo buying their children school clothes to afford you.  Think back on the days when Camden was a baby and you took him to JCPenney to have his portraits done.  You paid $3.99 per sheet with no sitting fee.  Are they less valuable than the pictures you take now with your new-found knowledge and fancy shmancy camera?  Of course not.  Think of the blurry, washed out pictures of your parents when they were children.  They are worth more than all the gold in the world to you, and I guarantee there wasn’t a Canon 5D Mark III in sight when they were taken. 

If you become successful, get over yourself.  You are taking pictures, not curing cancer.  The knowledge you’ve acquired, while time-consuming and hard-earned, is not rocket science. Encourage and empower new photographers by offering your knowledge as freely as possible.  Withholding encouragement and knowledge does not elevate you into a better photographer, it only isolates you and embitters others.  But value your time.  Remember that your time is not only yours, it is also your husband's and your children's.  When you give your time away, you give away theirs as well.  

I hope you’ll never feel as though “you’ve arrived.”  I hope you always feel the yearning to improve, but I sure hope you’ll have grown thicker skin by now.  But not too much.  Your sensitivity (as I write this, you call it wussiness) is part of what makes you you.  But I hope you’ll have learned to take criticism better, and not so personally.  Your hobbies and talents do not define you, or at least they shouldn’t.  If you fail in photography, you are still you.  Your value as a mother, a wife, a daughter, sister, and friend, are not diminished.  And ultimately, that’s what’s the most important.  I’ve never seen a headstone that read, “Beloved photographer.”  Perhaps you should remember to read the captions on headstones more often because they remind us what really matters in the end. 

So I guess what I’m trying to say is keep moving forward, but keep an eye peeled on lessons learned in the past.  Remember what it was like to be where I am now. 

With love,

A picture from my childhood of my beautiful mother

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

12 Years

A little over a week ago we celebrated our 12 year anniversary.  I would be an ingrate if I didn't acknowledge one of the greatest blessings and joys in my life.  

"Marriage is hard."  I hear it all the time on TV and among friends, and grew up thinking marriage would be nothing but endless cumbersome years.  I remember as a kid thinking of marriage something like a long vacation: fun and exciting at first, but tiresome and more of an inconvenience at the end.   

I remember when I met Dennis thinking that while I wasn't immediately attracted to him in the romantic sense, that he would someday be married to one of the luckiest women in the world.  I had no idea that woman would be me.

After 12 years, I can not agree with the phrase, "marriage is hard." At least not in my case.  Sure, we've had our moments of frustration, impatience, and even anger with each other, but overall, marriage to this man has been one of the greatest delights of my life.

I love that we disagree, and actually quite often we do, but rarely do we quarrel.  The longer we're married, the more differences I see between us as far political and social views go.  But the longer we're married, the closer we become in the things that bind us together.

I think of the advice that is often given to new brides- to become one with their husband.  I think perhaps that advice is taken too literally at times.  As a new bride, I remember thinking that if I were to be a good wife I needed to brand cows and shoot guns with my husband, and become a unified front in all of our views. In an attempt to please him, I started listening to country music and even I even chose blue as my wedding color when my favorite color was red.

What a wonderful surprise it has been in my adult years to find my own identity, so very different from his, and to discover that if anything, our differences have drawn us closer.  I rarely listen to country music anymore, I don't hide the fact from him that I don't like guns, and haven't branded cows with him since we were dating.  Politically we have discovered even more significant differences, but we have agreed to disagree, and leave it be.

But we share our faith, the love of our country, the love of learning, the love of our children, and in quiet moments, we share our insecurities and confidences with each other.

If I could give some advice to my children in choosing their spouse, ultimately I would say don't choose based on commanlities, choose on compatibilities.

I love this man more with every passing day.
One of our treasured traditions.  Early on in our marriage we started leaving notes for each other on our bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker.  Sometimes the notes are loving, and at times they are apologies for angry words said the night before.   Either way, I love them.   Dennis left this note for me a few days ago and I haven't been able to erase it.